Category Archives: UN

Freedom Flotilla II Ready to Set Sail

A year after the tragedy aboard the Mavi Marmara, Freedom Flotilla II to Gaza is getting ready to set sail. This time around it will include a US-flagged boat, “The Audacity of Hope,” that will carry dozens of American activists. Click above to watch an interview with two such Americans: attorney Richard Levy and my friend Kathy Kelly, from Voices for Creative Nonviolence.

Here’s Kathy:

It isn’t just a matter of humanitarian cargo being brought into Gaza. It’s a matter of people having been subjected to a state of siege, isolated, 45 percent unemployment, inability to reconstruct after the terrible assaults in Operation Cast Lead, people being trapped, young people not being able to get out to avail themselves of education. There are so many reasons why this siege is wrongful. And so, I think it’s misleading to think that we’re people that are trying to be charitable. We’re people who are trying to say that it’s wrong to impose collective punishment on a civilian population because you want to affect their governance.

(Click here for a full transcript of the interview.)

Joseph Dana will be aboard “The Audacity of Hope” and will report on his experiences for The Nation, blog on +972, and, as usual, send out his ubiquitous tweets via @ibnezra. Medea Benjamin will also be on the boat and will be posting reports on the Code Pink Blog. Other American passengers include Gabriel Schivone, a young Jewish Voice for Peace member, and novelist Alice Walker. (Click here for her essay, “Why I’m Sailing to Gaza.”)

Readers of my blog know how I feel about Israel’s immoral, illegal blockade of Gaza. I also remain firm in my agreement with the UN Human Rights Council report findings that the Israeli military attack on Mavi Marmara passengers amounted to “extra-legal, arbitrary and summary execution.”  (Among those killed was an American, Furkan Dogan, who was shot while videotaping the attack. The US has thus far refused to hold Israel accountable for killing an American citizen in international waters.)

The IDF is already holding military exercises in anticipation of Flotilla II. We can only hope and pray for a peaceful conclusion to this peaceful act of civil disobedience.

For their part, the American passengers of “The Audacity of Hope” have sent the following letter to President Obama:

As U.S. citizens we expect our country and its leaders to help ensure the Flotilla’s safe passage to Gaza – as our country should support our humanitarian demand that the Gaza blockade be lifted. This should begin by notifying the Israeli government in clear and certain terms that it may not physically interfere with the upcoming Flotilla of which the U.S. boat—The Audacity of Hope — is part. We—authors, builders, firefighters, lawyers, social workers, retirees, Holocaust survivors, former government employees and more—expect no less from our President and your administration.

Our boat will sail from the eastern Mediterranean in the last week of June. We shall be grateful to you for acting promptly and decisively to uphold the rights of civilians to safe passage on the seas.

AIPAC: Dangerous for Jews and Other Living Things

I encourage you to read this important guest post by Alice Rothchild:

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is holding its annual conference May 22-24, where Congress people and many of our national leaders will rush headlong into the committee’s open arms and bountiful coffers. In an increasingly bizarre time warp they will congratulate each other and kvell about Israel’s special relationship with the US, our strategic partnership, and Israel’s commitment to democratic ideals in a “sea of dictatorships” (to quote the website).

What they will not talk about is reality. US Jews are increasingly uncomfortable with a lobby that claims to represent us, but is deeply committed to the militaristic and rightwing policies of successive Israeli governments. Jews in the US tend to be politically progressive, but we are being asked to suspend our liberal beliefs when it comes to Israel. While maintaining a steady dream beat for war against Iran and a world view that, “Israel continues to fulfill its ancient obligation as a ‘light unto the nations,’” AIPAC lobbyists with their Christian Zionist allies guarantee billions of dollars in military aid for Israel each year . Much of this goes towards buying US military weapons and machinery, cementing the massive, interconnected, and lucrative military-industrial-security complex that now exists between our two countries.

Not only has this made a brutal 43 year military occupation possible, but it also provides military and political support to the current Netanyahu government. Let’s be clear. Netanyahu is committed to building Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, undermining any possibility for a two-state solution. He is building Jewish settler-only roads and roads for Palestinians funded by USAID. He tightly controls Palestinian movement through checkpoints, permits, and the Separation Wall which has stolen thousands of acres of Palestinian land and destroyed the lives and livelihoods of people whose families have lived in the region for centuries. His idea of Palestinian statehood, (should he still have one), is a scattering of weak enclaves surrounded by Israeli military. The recently released Palestine Papers painfully documented the degree to which Palestinian negotiators were willing to sell their souls while Israeli negotiators refused to accept any concessions. The US was revealed twisting the arms of Palestinians diplomats to give up basic demands and the massive security coordination between the Israelis and the Palestinian Authority was exposed.

Within Israel, there is a rightwing crackdown on human rights activists, and laws brewing in the Knesset that will criminalize:

1. Nonviolent protests (in Israel and internationally) that advocate boycotts, divestments, and sanctions;

2. Providing information that could lead to Israeli war crime charges;

3. Any activity against Israeli soldiers or State symbols including nonviolent legitimate resistance to the occupation;

4. Commemorations of the Nakba, the Palestinian experience of 1948

At the same time there are over 20 laws that maintain the second class status for Palestinians with Israeli citizenship.

While Israeli activists worry about rising fascism in Israeli society, Palestinians are celebrating the Arab Spring that is blossoming in the region and Fatah and Hamas are gingerly talking about unity and democratic elections. Arabs from Tunisia to Yemen are putting their lives on the line for equality and freedom of speech. This breathtaking political moment is changing the political discourse in the Middle East and the US Congress needs to take notice and shake itself free of the world view that is promoted by AIPAC lobbyists. Fear of anti-Semitism and the traumas of the Holocaust do not justify Israeli exceptionalism, militarism, racism towards Arabs, or a belief in permanent Jewish victimization.

Peace in the Middle East is more urgent than ever, but it needs to be based on international law, human rights, and UN resolutions. AIPAC and its supporters are deluding themselves, promoting a perpetual state of war and hostility, living in a world that does not match reality. At the same time, over 100 peace organizations will be meeting in Washington. Under the call: Move Over AIPAC: Building a New US Middle East Policy, they will explore the impacts of US military aid and political cover, the demand to end the Israeli occupation, and the building of a solution that respects the rights and dignity of everyone in the region. There will be no big donors there, but Congress would do well to listen.

Belated Thoughts on the Goldstone Op-ed

I usually try to stay current in my posts but alas, life invariably manages to intervene. Latest case in point: the now all-too-well-known Goldstone Washington Post, op-ed, which came out just as I was leaving to take my son on an extended college visit road trip. So even though this story is yesterday’s news by blogosphere standards, I’d like to weigh in with a few thoughts, belated though they may be:

Many are asking why Judge Richard Goldstone chose to “reconsider” his committee’s report nearly two years after it was presented to the UN Human Rights Council. In fact, Goldstone himself answers this question in the second paragraph of the op-ed: it was written in reaction to the recent release of a report by a UN commitee of experts — chaired by former New York judge Mary McGowan Davis — that followed up on the recommendations of the Goldstone Report.

But of course for most, it’s not quite that straightforward. Many have speculated that the somewhat conciliatory tone of the op-ed indicates that Goldstone, a lifelong Zionist, may be trying to make amends with Israel and the Jewish community. Indeed, the blogosphere has been positively rife with theories that explain the psychological rationale for Goldstone’s public “reconsideration.”

While interesting, this kind of speculation is ultimately fairly moot. Richard Goldstone himself has never been the issue here. What truly matters are the serious allegations his committee made regarding the events that took place during Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009. And now: whether or not the new McGowan Davis Report has caused Goldstone to fundamentally recant these allegations.

In his op-ed, Goldstone found it significant that the McGowan Davis Report reported “Israel has dedicated significant resources to investigate over 400 allegations of operational misconduct in Gaza.” In particular, Goldstone felt this shed some light on the issue of “intentionality” – which many found to be the most damning finding of the Goldstone Report.

As Goldstone wrote in his op-ed:

While the investigations published by the Israeli military and recognized in the (McGowan Davis) report have established the validity of some incidents that we investigated in cases involving individual soldiers, they also indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.

Goldstone went on to say that if Israel had cooperated with his commission during its initial investigation, he would have been able to clarify further the critical issue of whether the IDF intentionally targeted civilians or whether these were isolated incidents perpetrated by individual soldiers.

While this may well be true, the issue of intentionality is by no means resolved. In fact, the McGowan Davis Report makes it clear that it cannot determine whether or not civilians were intentionally targeted as a matter of policy until Israel carries out a properly independent and transparent (i.e., non-military) investigation.

From p. 12 of the McGowan Davis Report:

Therefore, the Committee remains of the view that an independent public commission – and not the (Israeli Military Advocate General’s) office – is the appropriate mechanism for carrying out an independent and impartial analysis, as called for in (the Goldstone Report), into allegations that high-level decision-making related to the Gaza conflict violated international law.

At any rate, the issue of intentionality is but one of the many disturbing allegations brought to light by the Goldstone Report. In a Washington Post op-ed yesterday, Jessica Montell, Director of B’tselem, correctly pointed out that even if Israel did not intentionally target civilians, there are any number of troubling allegations regarding the IDF’s behavior during Operation Cast Lead:

In the operation, according to rigorous research by B’Tselem, Israel killed at least 758 Palestinian civilians who did not take part in the hostilities; 318 of them were minors. More than 5,300 Palestinians were injured, over 350 of them seriously. More than 3,500 houses were destroyed, and electricity, water and sewage infrastructure was severely damaged. In many ways, the Gaza Strip has yet to recover from the unprecedented destruction this operation wrought.

The extent of the harm to civilians does not prove that Israel violated the law. But Israel has yet to adequately address many allegations regarding its conduct, including: the levels of force authorized; the use of white phosphorous and inherently inaccurate mortar shells in densely populated areas; the determination that government office buildings were legitimate military targets; the obstruction of and harm to ambulances.

In his only interview since his op-ed, Goldstone has stated he has “no reason to believe any part of the report needs to be reconsidered at this time.” Two other members of his original commission, Hina Jilani and Desmond Travers have both stated that they fully stand behind their findings as well.

However you choose to characterize Goldstone’s recent words, it is clear that he has not in any way recanted his commission’s report. Indeed, the fury with which Israeli politicians first received the Goldstone Report – and their vociferous insistence that it now be formally withdrawn – is the surest sign of its continuing moral power – and of the continuing need for Israel to conduct an independent, credible and transparent investigation of its actions during Cast Lead.

This was, after all, the most important recommendation of the Goldstone Report – and why, in my opinion, it still remains as relevant as ever.

Kafka Would Love This: US to Block UN from Supporting US Policy

I recently expressed the hope that the US would support the upcoming UN resolution condemning Israeli settlement on the West Bank. Now this just in from US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg:

We have made very clear that we do not think the Security Council is the right place to engage on these issues…We have had some success, at least for the moment, in not having that arise there.  And we will continue to employ the tools that we have to make sure that continues to not happen.

Sad, but all too predictable. Let’s let MJ Rosenberg explain the wrong-headedness of it all:

Opposition to Israeli settlements is perhaps the only issue on which the entire Arab and Muslim world is united. Iraqis and Afghanis, Syrians and Egyptians, Indonesians and Pakistanis don’t agree on much, but they do agree on that. They also agree that the U.S. policy on settlements demonstrates flagrant disregard for human rights in the Muslim world (at least when Israel is the human rights violator).

Accordingly, a U.S. decision to support the condemnation of settlements would send a clear message to the Arab and Muslim world that we understand what is happening in the Middle East and that we share at least some of its peoples’ concerns.

And on the point that the UN is “not the right place to engage on these issues?”

Very impressive. The United States has had no success whatsoever in getting the Netanyahu government to stop expanding settlements — to stop evicting Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem to make way for ultra-Orthodox settlers — and no success in getting Israel to crack down on settler violence, but we have had “some success” in keeping the issue out of the United Nations.

Queasy about using the UN to try and stop the Israeli settlement juggernaut? It’s time to get over it. A long list of former US officials, prominent policy writers academics and religious figures have already written a letter to Obama urging him not to block the resolution. J Street has also stated it “cannot support a U.S. veto of a Resolution that closely tracks long-standing American policy and that appropriately condemns Israeli settlement policy.”

To join these voices of sanity, please click here.

UPDATE (2/17/11): The US is now trying to avoid a showdown by putting forward its tepid own resolution. The Palestinians have rejected the American offer and said it is planning to press for a vote on its resolution on Friday.

It’s looking more and more like the Obama adminstration will soon cast its first ever veto in the UN Security Council.

The Latest UN Resolution: Will Obama Do the Right Thing?

Will the Obama administration ever be ready to act as an honest broker in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process? Another test seems to be looming.

The following resolution, introduced by 120 co-sponsors, is currently pending the UN Security Council:

Israeli settlements established in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, are illegal and constitute a major obstacle to the achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.

On its face its not a particularly controversial claim. It more or less echoes long-held US policy on Israeli settlements. But of course when it comes to the UN, nothing is ever that simple.

What makes this situation a bit more interesting is that it is not only the usual suspects who are urging Obama to support the resolution. A letter signed by former US officials, prominent policy writers, academics and religious figures has just been released, calling upon the US to cast a yes vote.

An excerpt:

At this critical juncture, how the US chooses to cast its vote on a settlements resolution will have a defining effect on our standing as a broker in Middle East peace. But the impact of this vote will be felt well beyond the arena of Israeli-Palestinian deal-making – our seriousness as a guarantor of international law and international legitimacy is at stake.

America’s credibility in a crucial region of the world is on the line – a region in which hundreds of thousands of our troops are deployed and where we face the greatest threats and challenges to our security. This vote is an American national security interest vote par excellence. We urge you to do the right thing.

To be sure, the signators are not easily dismissible: they include former US Trade Representative and Council on Foreign Relations Chair Carla Hills, journalist and former New Republic editor Peter Beinart, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Pickering, former Assistant Secretary of State James Dobbins, former Assistant Secretary of State Robert Pastor, former US Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci and former US Ambassador to Israel Edward “Ned” Walker, among others.

It’s easy to be cynical about the UN, but it will still be interesting to see how this saga plays out. As Alex Spillius recently pointed out in The Telegraph, it may be Obama’s last chance to present himself as a fair dealer in this region.

If history is any indication, the final vote on this resolution will not be forthcoming any time soon. We can surely expect months of wordsmithing and back room dealing, and public posturing. Still, it certainly seems that there’s a bit more riding on this particular UN resolution than usual.

Stay tuned on this one.

Seeking Dignity Under Occupation

Our Wednesday began with a visit with Reverend Naim Ateek (above), founder and head of Sabeel, a well-known institute that advocates Palestinian Chrisitian Liberation Theology. As readers of my blog might know, I’ve long been an admirer of Reverend Ateek’s theological writings. In particular, his work has informed and challenged my own thinking about the Jewish conception of the land and the dangers inherent in wedding religion to power. It was a great pleasure to finally meet Reverend Ateek personally and to introduce him to members of my congregation.

To my dismay, Ateek has been unfairly and relentlessly attacked by the American Jewish establishment – largely, I believe, because he does not shrink from illuminating the problems that come with the land-centric nature of Zionist ideology. For myself, I’ve learned much from Ateek’s suggestion that Zionism represents a kind of “Constantinian Judaism” – i.e., a fusing of Judaism with Empire.

Whether or members of the Jewish community agree with him or not, I believe it would greatly behoove us to enter in dialogue with Ateek and others in the Palestinian Christian community – and I told him as much during our meeting. At the very least, it is my sincere hope that there might be Jewish leaders actively participating rather than protesting during the next American Friends of Sabeel conference.

After our visit we were joined by Meirav Zonsztein, (above) an Israeli/American journalist/blogger/activist, who led us on a tour of East Jerusalem. We first stopped at Gilo, a prominent development located east of the Green Line southwest of Jerusalem. Gilo is emblematic of a settlement considered by most Israelis to be part of the Jerusalem municipality, but its ongoing expansion has been severely encroaching upon Palestinian neighborhoods in the area. Gilo is but one of Israel’s many settlement projects that renders a viable, contiguous Palestinian state that much more remote.

We also stopped at Silwan, an Arab neighborhood located alongside the City of David outside the Old City. Silwan is currently the focus of a bitter struggle between Palestinian residents and an Israeli government that seeks to create a greater Jewish presence in East Jerusalem. In this case, the attempt to drive Arabs from their home is occurring under the guise of Israel’s historical “claim” to Biblical Jerusalem.

What makes this situation particularly galling is Israel has handed over the management of the archeological excavations to Elad, a private Jewish organization that seeks to “reclaim” Biblical Jerusalem in order to pave the way for the rebuilding of the Third Temple. Most visitors to the City of David excavations have no idea that their entrance fees to this popular tourist site fund this religiously radical organization.

To make matters worse, the Jerusalem municipality now plans to create an archeological park that will further decimate the Arab population of Silwan. According to a recent article by Israeli academic/activist Alice Shalvi,

The plans call for the demolition of 22 houses in the area, which the city claims were built without the necessary permits. (Ironically, the illegally constructed multi-story Beit Yonatan which towers above the overcrowded hovels of the village has not yet been evacuated and sealed, in defiance of a court order.) Few people are aware that the residents of Silwan, at their own expense, sought professional experts to draw up a plan which would enable them to engage in the kind of urban renewal that has taken place in other hitherto neglected areas of the city…The Jerusalem municipal authorities arbitrarily rejected the plan without even bringing it before the relevant planning forums.

Our group will return to Silwan this Friday to attend a major protest organized by the Sheikh Jarrah solidarity movement.

We then traveled into the West Bank to visit Wadi Fukin, an Arab village just east of the Green Line in the Gush Etzion bloc. In recent years, Wadi Fukin has been threatened by Israel’s planned construction of the Separation Barrier, which would cut off the village’s water source from numerous natural springs that the villagers use to irrigate their fields and orchards.

In a particularly inspiring example of coexistence and solidarity, the residents of Wadi Fukin were joined by residents of the nearby Israeli village of Tzur Hadassah in fighting the planned construction. Through a massive petition drive signed by hundreds of Israelis and Palestinians, Israel has for now forgone its plans to construct the wall – one of the very few success stories of its kind.

In the meantime, however, Wadi Fukin’s future is also being threatened by the expansion of nearby settlement Betar Illit. Ongoing construction of this populous and rapidly growing ultra-orthodox development is literally encircling the village and would likewise dry up Wadi Fukin’s freshwater springs. To add insult to injury, Beitar Illit regularly dumps its sewage into the village’s water supply, despite the repeated protests of village residents.

Despite these horrid hardships, Wadi Fukin is forging on with the help of Friends of the Earth -Middle East, an environmental NGO that has included the village in its “Good Water Neighbors” project. That’s Iyad Aburdeineh below, project co-cordinator of FOE-Middle East Wadi Fukin initiative, who led us on a tour of the village.

While in Wadi Fukin, our group was treated to a delicious lunch cooked for us the staff of the village’s Women’s Center. In all, it was impossible for us to be unmoved by the story of the village, one inspiring success story amidst an increasing dire situation in the Occupied Territories.

From there we traveled to Deheishe, a refugee camp near Bethlehem. Deheishe (below) was established as a refuge for 3,400 Palestinians who were expelled from 45 villages west of Jerusalem and Hebron in 1948. Originally simply a collection of tents, Deheishe is now a densely packed urban labyrinth of over 9,000 residents.

Adminstered by UNRWA, the camp is bordered to the north by the Jewish settlement of Efrat and to the south by Bethlehem. Like many Palestinian refugee camps, Deheishe has nowhere to grow but up – most of the homes have three stories and the camp seems to be in a constant state of vertical expansion.

Upon our arrival we were greeted by Deheishe resident Mazen Faraj, who coordinated our visit and introduced us to our host families. My group of seven was hosted by Nidal and Newarah and their three children, Haya, 18, Moad 17, and Tariq, 12, who opened their recently built home to us and were utterly gracious hosts to our intrepid little crew. They treated us to a delicious – actually sumptuous – dinner and we enjoyed each others’ company talking, sharing and laughing until the wee hours of the morning.

I spoke at length with Moad, who at one point took me out for a long night stroll through the winding alleyways of the camp, introducing me to friend after friend until it felt like I had met virtually the entire teenage population of Deheishe. After coming home, we continued to talk together as neighbors came and went through their home at a dizzying pace.

For right now, I don’t really know how else to describe our visit other than a genuinely delightful evening with wonderful new friends. I’ll share many more thoughts about our Deheishe soujourn in my next post. For now, suffice to say it today was an incredible journey for us all – and it has only been our second full day.

Much more to follow…

A Jew In Solidarity With the Palestinian People

As today marks the UN’s International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, I’d like to take occasion of this day to publicly state, without hesitation, that I stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people.

As a Jew, I will also say without hesitation that I reject the view that I must choose between standing with Jews or standing with Palestinians. This is a zero-sum outlook that only serves to promote division, enmity and fear.

For me, the bottom line is this: the cornerstone value of my religious tradition commands me to stand in solidarity with all who are oppressed. It would thus be a profound betrayal of my own Jewish heritage if I consciously choose not to stand with the Palestinian people.

In other words, I believe my Jewish liberation to be intrinsically bound up with Palestinian liberation. It’s really that simple.

But of course, there is nothing simple or uncomplicated about it. To take such a step it is deeply painful in many ways. It means, among other things, facing down my peoples’ own potential for oppression; to admit that the state of Israel, born in the wake of persecution, has itself become a persecutor.

However, I must also admit that this pain, uncomfortable though it is, is nothing compared to the pain felt that is being experienced by the Palestinian people on a daily basis. Anyone person of privilege who stands in solidarity with the oppressed would do well to bear this in mind: while must we explore our own guilt and culpability, we must also bear in mind that it is not ultimately about us.

From a wonderful essay on white privilege, but very applicable in this case:

Solidarity…is a long-term participation in the struggle, understanding the part you play and how the issues affect you personally. As well, solidarity may very well mean not being the center of the solution, but just a small part. It may mean deferring your sense of authority and leadership. It can also mean dropping your own agenda for how change should be achieved. It can be very problematic when the leadership in an organization is people from the dominant culture. When people from the dominant culture define the issues or strategies for oppressed people it can be condescending and ineffective. So, an example of solidarity is being part of community organizing efforts led by people of color, womyn, etc in an active, but non-leadership role. Being in solidarity means seeing how you will benefit from the liberation of others.

And so today I’ll take this opportunity to say I stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people. But I’m not taking it to assuage my Jewish pain and guilt, nor to claim I personally know how this liberation must eventually be achieved.

In the end, I stand here because I know in my heart it is where I must be.

Mavi Marmara Post Mortems

I finally finished reading the full report commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate the IDF attacks on the Mavi Marmara last May. I can’t begin to describe how chilling these findings are.

The mission’s conclusion:

The circumstances of the killing of at least six of the passengers were in a manner consistent with an extra-legal, arbitrary and summary execution. Furkan Doğan and İbrahim Bilgen were shot at near range while the victims were lying injured on the top deck. Cevdet Kiliçlar, Cengiz Akyüz, Cengiz Songür and Çetin Topçuoğlu were shot on the bridge deck while not participating in activities that represented a threat to any Israeli soldier. In these instances and possibly other killings on the Mavi Marmara, Israeli forces carried out extralegal, arbitrary and summary executions prohibited by international human rights law, specifically article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Although the Israeli military described the event as a “lynching” of its soldiers by brutal provocateurs, the post-mortem description of the victims makes it pretty clear who the real victims were that night. Witness, for example, this post-mortem description of the body of teenage victim Furkan Dogan:

Furkan Dogan, a nineteen-year old with dual Turkish and United States citizenship, was on the central area of the top deck filming with a small video camera when he was first hit with live fire. It appears that he was lying on the deck in a conscious, or semi-conscious, state for some time. In total Furkan received five bullet wounds, to the face, head, back thorax, left leg and foot. All of the entry wounds were on the back of his body, except for the face wound which entered to the right of his nose. According to forensic analysis, tattooing around the wound in his face indicates that the shot was delivered at point blank range. Furthermore, the trajectory of the wound, from bottom to top, together with a vital abrasion to the left shoulder that could be consistent with the bullet exit point, is compatible with the shot being received while he was lying on the ground on his back. The other wounds were not the result of firing in contact, near contact or close range, but it is not otherwise possible to determine the exact firing range. The wounds to the leg and foot were most likely received in a standing position.

The fact-finding mission conducted interviews with more than 100 witnesses in Geneva, London, Istanbul and Amman – and consulted with numerous forensic and medical experts.  It is impressively thorough, especially considering Israel refused to cooperate with the investigation and still refuses to release the extensive video and documentary evidence it seized from passengers.

Not surprisingly, Israel has denounced the report as “biased and distorted” and is conducting its own investigation, the Turkel Commission. (The news from that investigation doesn’t look too promising – already we’re receiving reports that the commission is showing outright hostility to Israeli human rights groups that were called to testify.)

For a spot-on analysis of the UNHC report, I strongly recommend this piece by Salon’s Glenn Greenwald, who rightly takes the US government to task for its “appalling silence” in the face of Israel’s outrageous violation of human rights and international law:

Perhaps most illustrative of all is how inconceivable it is to imagine the U.S. Congress doing anything at all in the face of this report . . . except passing a Resolution condemning the investigators themselves while defending Israeli actions, including the actions that resulted in the death of an American teenager.  Is there any doubt that such a Resolution would pass with overwhelming bipartisan support, approaching unanimity — as happens each and every time there is a controversy involving Israel?   Thus far, the U.S. media and Government are largely silent about this U.N. Report, but if they are prodded into responding, the response will almost certainly be to condemn the report itself while defending and justifying Israeli actions even in the face of overwhelming evidence as to what really happened here, which managed to emerge despite the Israelis’ very telling efforts to keep it suppressed.

Greenwald is correct, of course. By all rights our government should be condemning this brutal assault and insist that Israel release all evidence of what occurred that night.

In the meantime, the only footage available to us is the video taken and smuggled out by Iara Lee, Executive Director of Cultures of Resistance – and one of the few Americans on the Mavi Marmara. (Part one above, part two below). While it is certainly not easy to watch, I suspect the videos Israel has locked away are infinitely more disturbing…

PS: If ploughing through a lengthy human rights commission report isn’t your cup of tea, I highly recommend the recently published anthology “Midnight on the Mavi Marmara.” Essential, essential reading.

Alan Dershowitz and the Politics of Desperation

From a piece I’ve just posted in the Huffington Post:

I’ve noticed an interesting pattern in Alan Dershowitz’s recent HuffPo columns.

On April 21 he smeared Jeremy Ben Ami and the pro-peace, pro-Israel lobbying group J Street, putting words in Ben Ami’s mouth and saying that J Street has “gone over to the dark side.”

On May 4 it was Rabbi Michael Lerner, a leading figure of the American Jewish left, and editor of Tikkun Magazine. Dershowitz accused Tikkun of “McCarthyism,” disregarded the recent attack on Lerner’s home, and characterized Lerner’s criticism of Israeli policy as “blood libel.”

In between the two, Dershowitz lambasted Judge Richard Goldstone, the highly regarded international jurist who prepared a UN report on Israel’s Gaza War. He labeled the report as “evil” and attacked me and a group of American rabbis for having the temerity to find merit in Goldstone’s work – we are “bigoted,” apparently, and “ignorant,” and are – yes – leveling a “blood libel” against the Israeli government. Most recently, Dershowitz hit a new low when he went on Israeli television and compared Judge Goldstone to Dr. Joseph Mengele.

When a Jew starts to accuse rabbis of blood libel; when an American shouts “McCarthyism” at an American magazine editor whose life is dedicated to dialogue; when a professional, highly experienced lawyer accuses a world-renown jurist of “evil,” equating him with the Nazi “Angel of Death,” and uses Star Wars terminology against a legitimate, widely-supported political lobbying group – well, it adds up, and it indicates one thing: Desperation.

Click here to read the entire article.

Pride and Prejudice: A Conversation With an Israeli-American Friend

In my last post, I cited a comment from a longtime friend of mine who has been living in Israel for the past twenty years. By way of introduction: his name is David Melman and he lives with his family in a small community village in the Upper Galilee. My friendship with David goes back to our undergraduate days at UCLA, where our mutual connection to Israel was always an important aspect of our relationship. Despite the long distance and the passage of time, our families have remained close.

David and I have been in communication since his first comment to my blog. I’ve asked him if he would be willing to allow me to post our dialogue and he graciously agreed. Click below for his comment, followed by my response.

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