Time to break the silence on Palestine

Relatives of a Palestinian nurse, Razan al-Najjar, 21, mourning in June after she was shot dead in Gaza by Israeli soldiers. (photo: Hosam Salem / The New York Times)
Martin Luther King Jr. courageously spoke out about the Vietnam War — we must do the same when it comes to this grave injustice of our time.

By Michelle Alexander | The New York Times | Jan 19, 2019

I want to say, as clearly as I know how, that the humanity and the dignity of any person or people cannot in any way diminish the humanity and dignity of another person or another people. To hold fast to the image of God in every person is to insist that the Palestinian child is as precious as the Jewish child.
— Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II

On April 4, 1967, exactly one year before his assassination, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stepped up to the lectern at the Riverside Church in Manhattan. The United States had been in active combat in Vietnam for two years and tens of thousands of people had been killed, including some 10,000 American troops. The political establishment — from left to right — backed the war, and more than 400,000 American service members were in Vietnam, their lives on the line.

Many of King’s strongest allies urged him to remain silent about the war or at least to soft-pedal any criticism. They knew that if he told the whole truth about the unjust and disastrous war he would be falsely labeled a Communist, suffer retaliation and severe backlash, alienate supporters and threaten the fragile progress of the civil rights movement.

King rejected all the well-meaning advice and said, “I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice.” Quoting a statement by the Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam, he said, “A time comes when silence is betrayal” and added, “that time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.”

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GOP lawmaker really doesn’t want Rep. Rashida Tlaib to let lawmakers know what life Is like in occupied West Bank

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.). (Photo: Rashida Tlaib)
Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) thinks the “mere prospect” of Tlaib’s proposed congressional delegation is dangerous to the status quo

By Andrea Germanos | Common Dreams |  Jan 18, 2019

I don’t think AIPAC provides a real, fair lens into this issue as it glosses over the side that I know is real, which is what’s happening to my grandmother and what’s happening to my family there.
— Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.)

Newly-elected Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) wants to offer members of Congress an alternative to the “sugar-coated” junket to Israel the American Israel Public Affairs Committee-affiliated group offers members of Congress by leading a delegation to the West Bank. For a Republican lawmaker, however, giving lawmakers a view of life in the occupied territory is an “exceedingly dangerous” plan that must be stopped.

In letters he sent Thursday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Democratic House committee heads, Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) laid out his “extreme concern” with Tlaib’s proposal, first reported by The Intercept in December.

Unlike the rite of passage for new Republican and Democratic congress members that some dub the “Jewish Disneyland trip”—sponsored by American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF)—the proposed congressional delegation by the first Palestinian-American woman to serve in Congress would focus on “Israel’s detention of Palestinian children, education, access to clean water, and poverty,” the news outlet reported at the time.

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Beyond free speech

People marched to New York Gov. Cuomo house to tell him they demand the Right to Boycott for Palestinian human rights. (photo: Jake Ratner / Jul 6, 2016 )
Concerns about restricting free speech may have shut down current anti-BDS legislation, but important not to lose sight of BDS goals: the human rights of the Palestinian people.

By Nadia Elia | Mondoweiss | Jan 14, 2019

We must now use the national platform we have, as the Senate debates anti-BDS legislation, to make the case that solidarity with Palestine, and heeding the call for a global campaign to boycott, divest from, and impose sanctions on Israel, are the moral thing to do, regardless of whether they are a form of free speech or not.

When a delegation of pro-justice activists and community leaders met with Washington state governor Jay Inslee in 2017, to urge him not to endorse the “Governors United against BDS” letter (which, sadly, he signed onto, like every single US state governor, as well as the mayor of Washington, DC), he spoke of it as a foreign policy matter. I strategically “corrected” him, pointing out that the right to boycott was not a foreign policy issue, but one of American free speech. As a member of Washington Freedom to Boycott (which we have since renamed Washington Advocates for Palestinian Rights), I helped circulate the following call to action to thousands, asking them to tell Inslee that “whatever your views on Israel, Palestine, or the BDS movement, anti-BDS legislation is anti-freedom of speech…”

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Civil rights icon won’t be honored by civil rights group because she supports civil rights

Angela Davis
Davis at the University of Alberta, Mar 28, 2006. (photo: Nick Wiebe / Wikipedia)
Many unanswered questions about the withdrawal of human rights award to Angela Davis.

By Alex Bollinger | LGBTQ Nation | Jan 8, 2019

Local activist Sophie Ellman-Golan said that it’s unlikely that Jewish people in Alabama forced the decision to rescind . . .

A civil rights institute is rescinding an award it was going to give to Angela Davis, possibly because of her criticisms of human rights violations in Israel.

In September, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI) announced that it would give its Fred Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award to Davis at its gala this February. That award is its highest honor and it would have been the center of the yearly event.

Davis seemed like a logical choice for the award. Not only is she one of the most prominent human rights activists in the United States — advocating for decades for the rights of Black people, workers, women, LGBTQ people, Muslims, and immigrants — and she was a member of the Black Panther party, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and the Communist Party, but she’s also originally from Birmingham, Alabama.

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Republicans push recognition of Israeli annexation of Golan

Israeli occupation forces on patrol outside Majdal Shams, a Syrian town in the Golan Heights, in May 2011. (photo: Oren Ziv / ActiveStills)
US officials move to recognize Israel’s annexation of territory ignores international law.

By Maureen Clare Murphy | The Electronic Intifada | Jan 8, 2019

Israel’s occupation has forced native Syrians onto just 5 percent of the land they once owned and ruined virtually all native industries except for some basic agriculture.

As the Senate considers a bipartisan defense of the Israeli government from boycotts, senior Republicans are urging the Trump administration to recognize Israel’s claims of sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights.

As recognized by international law, the Golan Heights is Syrian territory captured by Israel in 1967 along with the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip, and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, from which Israel eventually withdrew.

After Israel claimed to annex the Golan Heights in 1981, the UN Security Council declared the move “null and void and without international legal effect.”

Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Tom Cotton of Arkansas issued a joint statement on Sunday referring to what Israel says are recently destroyed Hizballah tunnels along the Israel-Lebanon border, as well as Iranian forces in Syria.

“To support Israel’s right to self-defense, Washington should take the long overdue step of affirming Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights,” the senators state.

The two senators had introduced a resolution to Congress last year making the same demand while emphasizing the purported threat to Israel’s security posed by Iran.

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Amos Oz warned of “eternal annexation” after the Six-Day War

Amos Oz reading from one of his books in 2011. (photo: Tomer Neuberg / Flash90)
Having recently returned from the battlefield, the writer penned a bitter denunciation of Moshe Dayan’s settlement policies: “The shorter the occupation, the better for us.”

By Mitch Ginsberg | The Times of Israel | Dec 31, 2018

I don’t know how Moshe Dayan’s voice did not tremble while employing that phrase — [‘lebensraum,’ used by the Nazis to justify their expansionist policies] — with all the harrowing memories it raises. ‘Living space’ means one thing: disenfranchising the foreigner, the inferior ‘savage’ and making place for the superior and the civilized — the powerful.
— Amos Oz, Aug 22, 1967

The shelf life of a newspaper article is often brief. But when Amos Oz, who died Friday at age 79 and was laid to rest Monday at the cemetery in his one-time home in Kibbutz Hulda, sat down in August 1967 to write an essay, he produced, just two months after the close of the Six Day War, a lasting document, a piece of writing that has endured as well as many of his works of fiction.

One can agree or disagree with his position on territorial expansion, while still marveling at the timing and the manner in which he marshaled his arguments.

The piece was published on August 22, 1967, in Davar — “the newspaper of the workers of the Land of Israel.” The font was tiny, resembling, in shape and size, a cramped rabbinic commentary. Found on a stained reel of microfilm in the National Library . . . the article is entitled “The Defense Minister / and Lebensraum” (merhav mihya in Hebrew; living space in English).

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First US Senate bill in 2019 is anti-BDS

Chuck Schumer speaking at the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, DC, on Mar 5, 2018. (photo: Sipa USA via AP)
In the midst of a partial government shutdown, Democratic and Republican senators have decided that their first order of business should be a bill that would weaken Americans’ First Amendment protections.

By Ray Grim and Glenn Greenwald | The Intercept | [Jan 5, 2019

[The First Amendment protects the right to express] dissatisfaction with the injustice and violence, as experienced both by Palestinian and Israeli citizens.
— Judge Daniel D. Crabtree, US District Court of Kansas

When each new Congress is gaveled into session, the chambers attach symbolic importance to the first piece of legislation to be considered. For that reason, it bears the lofty designation of HR.1 in the House and S.1 in the Senate.

In the newly controlled Democratic House, HR.1 — meant to signal the new majority’s priorities — is an anti-corruption bill that combines election and campaign finance reform, strengthening of voting rights, and matching public funds for small-dollar candidates. In the 2017 Senate, the GOP-controlled S.1 was a bill, called the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” that, among other provisions, cut various forms of corporate taxes.

But in the 2019 GOP-controlled Senate, the first bill to be considered — S.1 — is not designed to protect American workers, bolster US companies, or address the various debates over border security and immigration. It’s not a bill to open the government. Instead, according to multiple sources involved in the legislative process, S.1 will be a compendium containing a handful of foreign policy-related measures, the main one of which is a provision — with Florida’s GOP Sen. Marco Rubio as a lead sponsor — to defend the Israeli government. The bill is a top legislative priority for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

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Birthright will fail if it doesn’t evolve with young Jews


(photo: Gili Getz / Forward)
Instead of seeing Israel as a Jewish Disneyland, young American Jews should see it as a country — like their own — that is both precious and in urgent need of moral repair.

By Peter Beinart | Forward | Jan 3, 2019

[Going to Israel] can be life-transforming. It offers young American Jews a glimpse of the beauty and grandeur of Jewish tradition. It helps them appreciate what they have inherited as they begin thinking about what they want to hand down. Ideally, Birthright would thrive. But it can’t thrive if it makes moral blindness the price of Jewish connection.

On New Year’s Day, a young woman rushed the stage at the “MegaEvent” held in Jerusalem for participants in Birthright, the program that takes young American and other Diaspora Jews to Israel on a free ten-day trip.

She unfurled a banner that declared “Birthright Sponsored by Adelson, Trump, Netanyahu” and directed viewers to CostofBirthright.Com, a website sponsored by the anti-occupation Jewish group, If Not Now. Then she was hustled off stage.

It’s the new normal. Since June, 22 Diaspora Jews have either walked off Birthright trips in protest against their tour guide’s refusal to take them to meet Palestinians or been kicked off for raising uncomfortable questions about Israeli policy. And If Not Now activists and members of Na’amod, a similar group in Britain, have distributed anti-occupation literature to people about to embark on Birthright trips at airports.

All this is both necessary and tragic.

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The battle to stop family separation

Family members welcoming home a six-year-old who had been separated from his mother for nearly three months after they were detained by Border Patrol in the US, Aug 8, 2018. (photo: John Moore / Getty Images)
The administration is looking to create more family detention centers, which can already hold as many as 3,500 people, so that it can detain asylum-seeking families indefinitely.

By Lee Gelernt | The New York Review of Books | Dec 19, 2018

If there are bright spots, one is that the courts have continued to play their historic role of checking the government, sticking up for the powerless and vulnerable. The other is that the American people played an equally vital checking role, making clear during the family separation crisis that there are limits to the cruelty they will allow to be done in their name.

In March 2017, John Kelly, then Secretary of Homeland Security, said in an interview with CNN that the Trump administration was considering a national policy to separate parents from their children to deter immigrants from crossing the border into the United States. The proposal triggered a backlash because it was so unpalatable, and the administration didn’t move forward with it. But six months later, in December 2017, The Washington Post and The New York Times reported that the administration was again considering the idea. At the same time, advocates who provide services to children in government custody told ACLU lawyers they were seeing children much younger than the teenagers they usually saw entering their facilities. As the stories began to multiply, the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project quickly realized that the administration wasn’t considering the separation of children from their parents — it was already doing it.

For at least six months before then Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the zero-tolerance policy of prosecuting every adult who crossed into the United States without permission, which would result in more than 2,000 children being taken from their parents, the Department of Homeland Security had quietly began taking hundreds of children away from their parents to deter would-be asylum seekers from coming to the United States.

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How did the Israel boycott campaign grow in 2018?

Marching near the British Parliament, protesters hold a large banner that says
2018 was a banner year for Palestine rights advocacy. (Alisdare Hickson / Flickr)
Internal memo’s show that even the ADL think anti-BDS laws are bad for the Jewish community.

By  Nora Barrows-Friedman | The Electronic Intifada | Dec 31, 2018

Despite Israel’s attacks, smears and threats, boycott activists continued to make enormous gains – much to the dismay of Israeli leaders.

2018 was a year of victories by human rights activists despite heavy pressure, attacks and propaganda efforts by Israel and its lobby groups to whitewash its image.

Starting off the year, it was revealed that US President Donald Trump’s alliance with white supremacist groups and anti-Semitic figures has pushed support for Israel to a low point, especially among young American Jews.

By October, it was confirmed in another survey that support for Israel is coming primarily from Trump’s base, a hotbed of right-wing, white nationalist and Christian Zionist views, while support from other Americans continues to erode.

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