Monday, August 29, 2011

Tears of Gaza

I have recommended many things on the blog, but none compare in power to Tears of Gaza, a film made about the 2009-10 assault on Gaza by Israel from Norwegian director Vibeke Lokkeberg.

There is much footage of carnage; graphic scenes of terribly injured or dead children, but all to a very good purpose: to impress the viewer with the horror of the assault on defenseless civilians. I had not seen the videos of the assault in progress shown in this film.

All Americans should view this film because we are responsible for it. It is our money and weapons that go unquestioningly to Israel that make possible the destruction of lives and property that is depicted.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The impossible can happen

The memorial to Martin Luther King, Jr. has been opened in Washington D.C.

It's a very appropriate design - a wall of rock broken by the man.

The situation in Palestine can seem unending and without hope, particularly now as the Israeli government passes legislation that harks back to the Old South. But hope should never be lost. To see how the impossible can come to be, I want to quote a short passage from Taylor Branch's book, At Canaan's Edge, the last in his trilogy on the Civil Rights Movement.

The fabled summer of 1967 jumbled extremes of hope and horror, many of which penetrated King's life with special force. On Monday, June 12, the US Supreme Court struck down laws against interracial marriage in sixteen states through the landmark case Loving et Ux v. Virginia, which grew from a bedroom police raid and the subsequent conviction of Richard and Mildred Loving for cohabitation under pretense of wedlock.

Until then, Virginia declared void any marriage with only one partner classified white by its written legal standard: "such person as has no trace whatever of any blood other than Caucasian." Mildred Loving's ancestry blended Europe, Africa, and Cherokee Indian. Against Virginia's appellate courts, which found in the anti-miscegenation statute a legitimate state purpose to prevent "the corruption of the blood," "a mongrel breed of citizens," and "the obliteration of racial pride," the Justices ruled that a racial definition of crime violated Fourteenth Amendment guarantees of equal protection under law.

Their decision confronted sexual taboos long at the heart of violent white supremacy. Most Americans within a generation would find it quaint or fantastic that three-quarters of citizens in 1967 opposed inter-racial marriage, and not even the wildest imagination on record from the 1960's predicted that turn-of-the-century politics would divide closely on the rights of same-sex couples.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. might say, "How long? Not Long!"

Friday, August 19, 2011

Chicagoans get the word

It was a beautiful day at the Farmers Market in Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago yesterday, a perfect venue for the Committee for a Just Peace in Palestine to protest the behavior of Illinois Senator Mark Kirk. I took the train down and helped pass out a flyer to the public.

Why don't you send the senator a message of your own? You can use his "Comment on Legislation" form.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Senators Durbin and Leahy deserve support

Yesterday, I mentioned the excellent Legistorm site for investigating the traveling habits of members of Congress.

Looking at the information for my own members, I was struck by the fact that my Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) has not taken ANY trips to Israel nor have any members of his staff. This is truly exceptional - to the point that I felt I should contact him and thank him for resisting the pressure to go.

I also discovered through a story in Israel's Haaretz newspaper that Senator Leahy of Vermont is working to deny U.S. funds to 3 elite IDF units operating in the occupied territories. From the newspaper story...
"Leahy wants the new clause to become a part of the U.S. foreign assistance legislation for 2012, placing restrictions on military assistance to Israel...

Leahy says these units are responsible for harming innocent Palestinian civilians and that no system of investigation is in place to ensure that their members are not committing human rights violations. According to Leahy's proposal, U.S. military assistance to Israel would be subject to the same restrictions that apply to countries such as Egypt, Pakistan and Jordan."
I was floored by this common sense action. I called his office in Washington to communicate my appreciation. You can as well. His office number is (202) 224-4242.

What the story doesn't mention is that there are no checks on ANY foreign aid funds sent to Israel, a unique privilege enjoyed by that country.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Legistorm, a great resource

Please take a moment to check out Legistorm, a site that examines details about Congress that I had no idea were so easily available. I used it to see how many times my people in Congress had been to Israel.

Not only is a Google map provided showing the travels of each Representative and Senator, but staff travel can be examined as well. You can find out how much was spent, the purpose of the trip and, most important, who paid for the trip.

The user interface is a snap. Started in 2006, this is a very important resource for American citizens.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Tent City/J14 movement

If you've been wondering about the social protest taking place in Israel - here is a good summary in 8 minutes. Thanks to the blog Jews sans Frontiers for bringing this to my attention.

Two weeks after this blog posting, I came across an extensive piece about the movement from West Bank journalist Joseph Dana that included this excerpt...

"The decision to exclude the occupation from the grievances of the July 14 movement was entirely organic. No hired gun consultant advised movement activists to avoid the hot button issue in order to broaden the appeal of the demonstrations. The mainstream of the Jewish public decided on its own, and without much internal reflection, that social justice could exist alongside a system of ethnic exclusivism. Thus, while the July 14 movement proceeded through cities across Israel bellowing out cries for dignity and rights, Palestinians remained safely tucked away behind an elaborate matrix of control — the Iron Wall. Ten years of separation had not only rendered the Palestinians invisible in a physical sense. It had erased them from the Israeli conscience."

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Senator Durbin responds with nonsense

I wrote to Illinois Senator Richard Durbin, asking why the United States funds Israel with no thought of cutback even when the U.S. budget is in dire straits and Israel has a successful economy - though maybe not one that is benefits everyone there as the tent protesters demonstrate.

In response, I received this letter from him. Since the graphic is too small to easily read, the text is reproduced below.

Dear Mr. Brown

Thank you for contacting me with your views about U.S. aid to Israel. I appreciate hearing from you.

The United States must be engaged in the effort to end the tragic cycle of violence in the Middle East.

Israel remains the most important U.S. ally in the region. Its strong and vibrant democratic tradition is unique in the Middle East and it has a strong free market economy. The close and stable friendship between our two countries is built on a solid foundation of shared values, mutual assistance and trust. Providing aid to Israel benefits our national security.

The United States, as part of its broader goal of promoting the peaceful resolution of the Middle East hostilities, must continue to encourage regional efforts to construct successful states and resolve conflicts. The escalation of violence and the death and suffering by innocent people on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can only end with a ceasefire and honest negotiation for peace. As an honest partner in negotiations, the United States must encourage both sides to take the difficult steps necessary for peace.

President Obama has stated that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be a top priority for his administration. I am pleased that the peace process will be a focus of our nation's diplomatic efforts and I continue to hope that the two parties will reach an accord that can bring peace and stability to the region.

Thank you for your message. Please feel free to keep in touch.

Richard Durbin
This form letter is completely out of touch with reality, dispenses the same tired phrases that have long been discredited and indicates the stone wall that the Israel lobby has constructed between Congress and the truth. Most of all, it fails to answer my question about U.S. money going to Israel. In fact, it substantiates one of my points against such aid by saying the Israel "has a stong and vibrant economy".

As anyone knows who writes to Congress, you can't expect logic or reason in the response you may receive. Nevertheless, we all must write and let Congress know that we are not deceived. Correspondence from constituents is tallied.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A graphic letter to Congress

I sent the following one page graphical letter to my two senators in Congress, my representative and to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. In each case the appropriate name was used at the top of the page.

Since Blogger doesn't allow very large graphics to be inserted in blogs, you may view the full size page here.

With the exception of the photo of the Palestinian journalist in hospital, the photos were taken by Audrey Farber.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Jewish United Fund trips to Israel

The Jewish United Fund fully funds trips to Israel for the purpose of building support for that country in the United States. There's nothing wrong with that. But there is something wrong with elected politicians taking those trips. My Illinois State Senator, Jeff Schoenberg took such a trip with no less than the Governor of Illinois, Pat Quinn.

Here is my personal letter to State Senator Schoenberg...

Dear Senator Schoenberg:

Recently I read of your trip to Israel funded by the Jewish United Fund (JUF) in the company of Governor Quinn. Though I do not know of your history regarding Israel, it would surprise me if this is your first trip there.

Organizations such as the JUF make it a practice of cycling influential Americans through Israel by picking up the tab while scrupulously avoiding exposing their guests to the views of the millions of occupants of the occupied territories. Young American Jews are subject to the same thing through Birthright, a pure propaganda effort.

As you should know, for over 60 years the State of Israel has been engaged in ethnic cleansing of the native Arab Palestinian population that continues to the moment I am writing you this letter. On a daily basis comes news of further oppression by the IDF in the occupied territories, more evictions of Palestinians from East Jerusalem, more beatings of non-violent protesters, more 3AM arrests with no reason given, more children deprived of their parents, more Israeli settlers torching the olive groves of Arabs.

Israel forces millions to live under military law, has long done so and has every intention of continuing the practice.

Israel is an exclusionary country that, like the U.S. South before the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950's and 1960's, and like South Africa in the days of apartheid, denies rights to people who live there while granting full rights to one exclusive group. In the case of Israel, it is the Jews. In America all such legal discrimination is thankfully off the books with shame that it was ever there.

The United States, the home of "liberty and justice for all" has no business doing business with such a state as Israel. What in the world are you doing going over there as a representative of the people of Illinois? Americans should be giving no support, economic or military to a state that defiantly practices apartheid. You would never tolerate for a moment the restrictions suffered by the Palestinians, who are as much at home there as you are here.

Did Martin Luther King Jr. live for nothing? Why do we have a national holiday in his name if our government officials like you are traveling to Israel for smiles and handshakes?

As the entire world community of nations outside of the U.S. is well aware, the behavior of Israel is not only illegal under international law, but is an outrageous oppression of unprecedented length that continues solely due to the support of the United States. An entire culture - the buildings, towns and people has been erased from Israel itself with the JUF and JNF proudly working to make the erasure complete and have a U.S. blessing bestowed on it. Your trips there indicate an eagerness to do this.

America committed a monumental human rights outrage when it pushed Native-Americans from their lands. We are rightly ashamed of it today, but at least the descendants of those "Indians" have full citizenship in our country. To say that Israel and America are "partners", that America "stands with" Israel and that it is a democracy is not only odious to this American but turns the meaning of words upside down.

I have recently discovered that Illinois is also buying Israel bonds - $12 million in 2010 - money upon which there is no restriction in the way it may be spent. Israel is the ONLY foreign country debt that Illinois purchases. Senator, what is going on? Who is making these decisions in the name of all Illinoisans and why only for Israel? As a tax paying citizen of Illinois I expect your answer to these questions, specifically.

I cannot express the depth of my shame that you and the governor as my elected officials from the Land of Lincoln, the Great Emancipator, are trooping to a country that specializes in denying freedom and making people into prisoners on their own land, grabbing more of that land all the while it was in a "peace process" that is now completely discredited as a fraudulent stalling tactic.

I look forward to your reply indicating to me how you justify not only supporting a country that denies full rights to millions of natives both in the territories it occupies, and to a lesser extent in Israel itself (previously occupied land), but that rejects the fundamental principles upon which the United States, including the state of which you are a citizen and legislator, is based.

Clif Brown