Archive for the ‘human rights’ Category

Last week, just ahead of the failed “Unite the Right” rally in Washington, Fox News commentator Laura Ingraham spewed some venomous anti-immigrant statements. She said that “in major parts of the country, it does seem that the America we know and love doesn’t exist anymore. Massive demographic changes have been foisted on the American people and they’re changes that none of us ever voted for and most of us don’t like.”

Plenty of people lined up to criticize Ingraham, and rightly so. But I wonder how many would have similarly criticized this statement:

In about a decade, the Arabs between the Jordan and the Mediterranean will be a majority and the Jews a minority. The Jewish national home will become the Palestinian national home. We will be again, for the first time since 1948, a Jewish minority in an Arab state. I want to separate from the Palestinians. I want to keep a Jewish state with a Jewish majority. I don’t want 61 Palestinian MKs in Israel’s Knesset. I don’t want a Palestinian prime minister in Israel. I don’t want them to change my flag and my national anthem. I don’t want them to change the name of my country to Isra-stine.

Those remarks were made in June 2015, at the annual Herzliya Conference in Israel. Who made them? Benjamin Netanyahu? Or perhaps one of the far-right figures in his government such as Ayelet Shaked, Miri Regev, Avigdor Lieberman, or Naftali Bennett?

No, those words were uttered by Isaac Herzog, who was, at the time, the opposition leader and chair of the Labor Party, the largest part of Zionist Union coalition. He was the leader of the center-left in Israel. Notably, his words drew little attention. Laura Ingraham would wish for such indifference. Read more at Lobe Log

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The Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, is widely seen as Israel’s lone mainstream left-of-center daily. It has a low circulation inside Israel, but its English edition is read much more widely by Israel observers outside of the Middle East. It has even been called “The New York Times of Israel.”

That’s why it’s important to draw attention when it stumbles.

In a story published on Tuesday, Haaretz reported on the Israeli military’s claim that 15-year-old Mohammed Tamimi, a Palestinian youth whose cousin, Ahed has recently become a cause celebre for opponents of Israel’s occupation around the world, got his devastating skull injuries not from Israeli fire but from falling off his bike. Read more at LobeLog

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For the past year, peace groups all over the world have been working on ways to mark the 50thanniversary of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. But now that the 50-year point

The Hawara Checkpoint

has been reached, we are greeted with some big news that few are talking about: There is no occupation.

No one has made such a declaration, of course, but the conclusion is inescapable. In all the relevant international law stemming from the 1907 Hague Conventions and the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, which govern belligerent military occupation, are based on the presumption that the condition is temporary.

A recent paper issued by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) concludes “An unlawfully prolonged occupation arises when an occupying state seeks to permanently transform the international status, government or demographic character of a foreign territory, including through de jure or de facto annexation.” Their legal arguments are well worth reading and quite conclusive. Trying to summarize the details here would do them an injustice. Read more at LobeLog

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On February 17, 2016, ten members of the House of Representatives, led by Hank Johnson (D-GA), joined with Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry requesting that the State Department look into violations of the Leahy Law by Israel and Egypt. The Leahy Law stipulates that if a military unit of a recipient of US military aid is shown to have committed a “gross violation of human rights,” aid may not be provided to that unit, and any aid given to the country in question cannot be used for the unit that committed the violation(s). The letter specifies several cases in which Egyptian or Israeli units are accused of such violations. The Foundation for Middle East Peace issued the following statement in support of the letter.

Senator Patrick Leahy

Senator Patrick Leahy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Matthew Duss 
mduss@fmep.org 
202-835-3650

Washington, DC: The Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP) strongly supports the congressional letter to Secretary of State John Kerry requesting assurances that Leahy Law restrictions are being applied to Israel and Egypt. The letter, led by Representative Hank Johnson and signed by nine other representatives and Senator Patrick Leahy, notes specific incidents where grave violations of human rights by Israeli and Egyptian forces are alleged have occurred and calls on the Department of State to investigate these accusations and to determine what action, if any, should be taken under the Leahy Law. (more…)

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The past months have witnessed an unprecedented series of attacks on Israel progressive, peace and human rights groups. Right-wing organizations, many with close ties to the Netanyahu government, have worked to paint these groups as “plants” for foreign powers, or even as traitors. Back in December, the Foundation for Middle East Peace issued a statement in support of these groups, and we reaffirm that support today.1446906402_152994b6ec_z

No group has faced more frequent or aggressive attacks than Breaking the Silence. This group of veterans who served in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in the West Bank and Gaza gathers
testimony from other soldiers, goes to enormous lengths to corroborate those testimonies, clears them all with Israel’s military censor before publishing and then uses those testimonies to explain to Israeli citizens what the occupation is and what their sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, and parents do when they serve there.

Breaking the Silence opposes the occupation, and their purpose in gathering and publicizing these testimonies is to make Israelis understand both the human rights violations that occur as a result of the occupation and experiences of the soldiers whose job it is to maintain it. Because they are IDF veterans, and all of their testimonies are gathered from other veterans (including many who do not share the views of BtS), they are special targets of the right.

On March 17, Israeli Channel 2 aired a report based on information gathered by Ad Kan, an organization of right-wing settlers with a history of using deceptive methods to build their cases against progressive Israeli groups. Yet Channel 2 aired their charges unquestioningly. According to Breaking the Silence:

“The report showed footage of members of BtS, filmed with hidden cameras by moles of Ad Kan who infiltrated our organization. Among the false claims in the report was the argument that BtS collects confidential information that could potentially endanger the security of the state. Another grave claim was that we persuade pre-military youth to enlist in specific IDF units to collect intelligence and spy on the IDF from within. The implications of such claims led to public turmoil and accusations that BtS members are guilty of treason, in the words of Defense Minister Moshe (Boogie) Ya’alon. Needless to say, both of these claims are false. They are also malicious and slanderous and it is highly disturbing that they come from the highest political echelons.”

In response to these attacks, Breaking the Silence has published a response, and answers to some of the questions that these accusations have raised: Read more at Facts On The Ground, FMEP’s blog

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The struggle of Natan Sharansky and his fellow refuseniks for freedom in the Soviet Union was an inspiration to human rights activists around the world. But his recent article, “Breaking the separation wallSilence Is No Human Rights Organization – and I Should Know,” where he criticizes Breaking the Silence, reveals that his experience does not necessarily give him insight into the norms of democracy and human rights. Read more in Ha’aretz

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In the aftermath of the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris last week, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon remarked on the tension between security and liberty. “In the United States until the events of September 11, the balance between security and human rights favored human rights on the issue, for example of eavesdropping on potential terrorists,” he said. “In France aBtselemnd other countries in Europe, [a shift toward security] hasn’t yet happened. Countries fighting terrorism have no alternative in this other than shifting in the direction of security. I assume that we will see a large number of steps [to carry out] inspections: passport inspections, inspections at the entrance to public places.”

As in the U.S. this dichotomy between security and human rights is at the very heart of the debate in Israel. ”We believe not only are these not contradictory, but that human rights provides security,” said Hagai El-Ad, the Executive Director of B’Tselem, Israel’s leading human rights groups monitoring its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, on a recent press call. “Indeed, we think that human rights are the reasons for which we have security, they are why people have a society that must be protected. So one has to wonder what kind of society do we end up with (in Ya’alon’s framework) and would that society be worth defending if you take Ya’alon’s idea to extremes. I hope that idea will work differently in France. Time will tell.”

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