My report for Inter Press Service on the letter from 15 church leaders calling for a review of whether Israel has used US arms in violation of US law and policy.
This article originally appeared at LobeLog.
The expected verdict in the death of Rachel Corrie, killed under the wheels of an Israeli-modified Caterpillar bulldozer in 2003, came down today and the court found no fault with the Israel Defense Forces. That was no surprise. But the deafening silence about it in Washington is nonetheless reprehensible.
I’ve met Cindy and Craig Corrie, Rachel’s parents, on several occasions. I cannot imagine the lives they lead. I cannot imagine the death of my child, much less the death of a child at the hands of a supposed ally of my country with no accountability. I can’t imagine my child being killed by that ally and then seeing my child being blamed for the incident. Yet the Corries have lived through all this, and somehow, while their frustration has grown, it has never morphed into hate. Somehow they always cling to the hope
that Israel, an ostensible ally and fellow democracy, will at some point do the right thing.
I’m sure, though I haven’t spoken with them in years, that the Corries held out little hope that this verdict would be that point. But what is perhaps most stunning is that there is no clamor in the United States, aside from those whose sympathies would be with Rachel’s cause in trying to protect Palestinians from the ravages of occupation, for some kind of action on behalf of a US citizen who lost her life on foreign soil under, to be kind, questionable circumstances.
Take Cindy Corrie’s words today: “This was a bad day, not only for us, but for human rights, humanity, the rule of law, and the country of Israel.” Someone was missing on that list, but Cindy got to them inanother comment: “The diplomatic process between the United States and Israel failed us.”
I admire Cindy Corrie’s restraint. But the US failure here is much broader than what she is saying. And it’s a long term one.
On March 25, 2003, Congressman Brian Baird (D-WA) introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives calling on the US government to “undertake a full, fair, and expeditious investigation” into Corrie’s death. The bill gathered 77 co-sponsors, which is not a large number, though a larger one than is typical for a bill critical of Israel. But none had the political muscle to counter defenders of Israel in the House, so the bill died in the Committee on International Relations. Its death, like its existence, generated little attention. Continue reading
In my latest piece for Souciant, I explore the meaning of Iceland’s resolution recognizing both Palestinian statehood and the Palestinian Right of Return and Bernard Avishai’s recent piece on RoR, which I posted here.
For readers’ reference, since RoR is such a controversial subject, my own view of the issue can be seen in this piece from last year.
In my latest piece for Babylon Times, hosted by Souciant, I examine the responses to the terrorist attack near Eilat and the subsequent Israeli incursions into Gaza and Egypt. The title says a lot: Ready Aim Failure: Bibi blows it, again.
Here in the United States, we have become only too familiar with the paranoid rantings of those who warn of “creeping sharia.” Sharia, of course, is the body of religious Muslim law. Neo-conservatives and their fellow travelers have had a good deal of impact scaring Americans about this non-existent threat.
Thankfully, numerous analysts and reporters, such as Matt Duss at Think Progress, have done outstanding work exposing this fear-mongering propaganda for what it is.
Maybe, though, it’s time we American Jews, and our Israeli counterparts, woke up to the real threat in Israel of “creeping halakha.”
The Knesset is considering a bill now that would change Israel’s Basic Law defining Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state,” to promote Israel’s “Jewish character” as superior to its democratic nature.
In other words, as Likud MK Ze’ev Elkin, a leading figure in the anti-democracy movement in Israel, explains, the new law would frame “the state as the Jewish nation state in (court) ruling(s) in situations in which the Jewish character of the state clashes with its democratic character.”
Can we be any more blatantly anti-democratic than that? Actually, yes.
Because the bill contains another provision, one which would provide that “If the court sees a legal question requiring a ruling, and finds no solution in legislation, custom or clear analogy, it will rule in light of the principles of freedom, justice, integrity and peace in Jewish heritage.” In other words, as Ha’aretz puts it, the “…clause states that Jewish law will be a source of inspiration to the legislature and the courts.”
It may well be that this clause will not be part of the law that will be passed. It does have the whiff of a clause that was put in to stir up controversy so it can be removed and the rest of the legislation will be less targeted.
But even if that is the case, and one hopes that it is, the inclusion of this clause is a warning to us all of the increasing religious influence in the Knesset. This is a cause for grave concern for a number of reasons.
As Jews, we must all be concerned that the world’s only Jewish state would represent not a national state, but a religious one. We, better than any other people, know the dangers of religious states. Contrary to the dissembling on the right, most progressive Jews are very concerned about human rights abuses in theocratic countries, including, though not limited to, Muslim countries (we just don’t like it when those concerns are cynically used to shield Israel, or other countries, from legitimate criticism of their own human rights violations). Continue reading
In my latest for Babylon Times, hosted by Souciant, I look at two subjects that each demand their own justice: Gilad Shalit and the many Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.
The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs published a letter this past Wednesday. The letter was written by a team headed by Ambassador Alan Baker. Baker was the Legal Counsel and Deputy Director General of Israel’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs between 1996 and 2004, and then Israel’s ambassador to Canada from 2004-2008.
Baker is considered one of Israel’s leading experts in international law. Whether he is an honest expert, however, is cast into doubt by this letter.
The letter is addressed to United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, and purports to prove that the Palestinian effort to gain recognition of statehood is illegal under international law.
I freely admit that, despite my years of working with and on questions of international law with regard to the Israel-Palestine conflict, I am no international lawyer. Nonetheless, the holes in the legal arguments in this letter are so big a lawyer is not needed to debunk them.
I need to note at the outset that the push for UN recognition does face some serious obstacles. On Friday, the President of the UN General Assembly stated that the UNGA cannot take it upon itself to vote for Palestinian membership in the UN. Indeed, Article 4 of the UN charter specifically sets out the process for membership and it requires a Security Council recommendation before the GA can vote on it. Obviously, the US will veto any such recommendation.
The GA can still vote on a resolution that would carry no legal weight, such as one acknowledging that a clear majority of world states recognize Palestine, but that does nothing more than the list of countries that have recognized Palestine already does (that list is 112 nations long, out of 192 UN member states).
If the Palestinians have a way around this issue, they have not made that apparent, and frankly, their track record on planning such things out with a clear strategy does not inspire confidence.
But that doesn’t change the weakness of the argument presented for the push for the UN vote’s purported illegality.