Saturday, August 31, 2013

President Obama Holds Syria Accountable for Human Rights Abuses

I agree with the president that Syria's leaders need to be held accountable for the atrocities - and there certainly ARE international "standards" as President Obama said yesterday in his remarks preparing us for an attack on Syria. 

As I watched President Obama speak, however, I wondered why the president thinks it is so important to hold Syria accountable to international standards, but not Israel...

When Israel used phosphorus in Gaza in 2009, the US did not attack Israel in retaliation for their violation of "international standards." The widespread and repeated use of white phosphorus in heavily populated areas, including refugee camps and a UN school, was documented by Human Right Watch in their report of their investigation: Rain of Fire: Israel's Unlawful Use of White Phosphorus in Gaza. "Read a summary of the report or access the entire report. But the US did nothing to retaliate or punish Israel.

In 2009, no one talked about attacking Israel in response to their illegal use of white phosphorus. Instead we give them more money--now $3 billion per year, much of which is given in the form of military assistance. Human Right Watch reports that in Gaza, "All of the white phosphorus shells that Human Rights Watch found were manufactured in the United State in 1989 by Thiokol Aerospace...." 

White phosphorus explosions at UN compound in Gaza, January 15, 2009 - The Times of London
Between 20 September 2000 and 26 December 2008, the beginning of "Operation Cast Lead") Israeli security forces killed 4858 Palestinians (source: B'Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories). During Israel's attack on Gaza, 1398 Palestinians were killed in Gaza and the West Bank. Since Cast Lead, 520 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security forces.

The Palestinians have been waiting more than 45 years for Israel to withdraw from their land, but my tax dollars support this injustice with $3B in military aid to Israel every year.

I wonder why the US response is so strong in the case of Syria, while we do nothing to stop Israel from killing Palestinians in the areas it has occupied since 1967. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

It Was All Part of the Plan - Israeli settlement construction and prospects for peace

As talks begin between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, it's important for me to read/listen to our news critically and to seek out other views, since much of what we hear reflects the Israeli government's view, without much attention to what Palestinians want or are thinking. The article below appeared on Aljezeera English and is written from a Palestinian perspective by Joseph Munayyer, the director of the Palestine Center in Washington DC. 

It is personally frustrating for me to see how Israel has continued to construct settlements on Palestinian land, which seems to me to undermine efforts to create two states. I wonder how two parties can sit at the negotiating table, while one of the parties continues to steal land from the other. What sort of trust can exist as a basis for peace while Israel builds walls on Palestinian land and bulldozes olive trees? And how can the US, which claims to be a "broker for peace," allow this settlement construction, when it clearly is an obstacle to peace? In 1992 there were 110,000 settlers in the West Bank; today there are 600,000. I highly recommend this short article by Joseph Munayyer, which shows how the US has played its part; be sure to click through to read the whole article – it's not long.

It was all part of the plan 

By Yousef Munayyer

An interesting exercise, made easily possible today by the magic of the internet, is a search of news articles on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process over time.

The most central and persistent theme is the construction of illegal Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory. During intifadas, not during intifadas, during peace talks, not during peace talks, it didn’t matter. For the Israelis, every year was a good year to build more settlements.

What has changed dramatically is the reality on the ground, represented by both the number of settlers and settlements. Another change, clearly traced below, has been in the position of the United States toward the settlement issue.

Click here to read the rest of this analysis. 

This article originally appeared on 
Aljazeera English/Opinion.

Yousef Munayyer is Executive Director of the Palestine Center. This policy brief may be used without permission but with proper attribution.