Women Challenge US Policy in the Middle East
Join WILPF and and 100 other peace and justice groups, who have organized “ Move Over AIPAC”, a gathering in Washington, DC from May 21-24, 2011, to expose the American Israeli Public Affair Committee (AIPAC) lobby and build the vision for a new US foreign policy in the Middle East. WILPF works to abolish all war, and demands that US foreign policy in the Israeli/Palestinian region shift from a position of funding militarism and violence to a stance of advancing economic development, human rights for all, and sustainable and inclusive peace.
Israeli/Palestinian culture and history resides in the heart of our civilization. Conflict in this region brings about destruction to our selves as human beings, while inflicting the ongoing terror and devastation of war. Despite the efforts of many Israelis and Palestinians citizens to make rapprochements with one another and create peace, the Israeli government has pursed a politics of occupation, murder, humiliation, siege and war supported by huge US subsidies in the form of foreign aid, including loans for arms sales. Hatred and violence in this region has been institutionally sustained, and must come to an end.
Israeli/Palestinian culture and history resides in the heart of our civilization. Conflict in this region brings about destruction to our selves as human beings, while inflicting the ongoing terror and devastation of war. Despite efforts of many Israelis and Palestinians citizens to make rapprochements with one another and create peace, the Israeli government has pursed a politics of occupation, murder, humiliation, siege and war supported by huge US subsidies in the form of foreign aid, including loans for arms sales. Hatred and violence in this region has been institutionally sustained, and must come to an end.
CODEPINK: Women for Peace, Global Exchange, Interfaith Peace-builders, and the Fellowship of Reconciliation, together with over 100 peace and justice groups, are organizing a gathering in Washington DC from May 21-24, 2011, called “Move Over AIPAC: Building a New US Middle East Policy,” and we would like to invite you to be a part of this important national happening! Timed to coincide with the annual policy meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), we will bring activists and concerned citizens from around the country to learn about the extraordinary influence AIPAC has on U.S. policy and how to strengthen an alternative that respects the rights of all people in the region. More info about the DC actions here.
More generally, Move Over AIPAC is a campaign that aims to wean U.S. policy away from AIPAC’s grip towards an even-handed position that respects international law and the human rights of all people in the region.
We are concerned that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has a dangerous stranglehold over U.S. foreign policy towards the Middle East. AIPAC’s unrelenting support for the illegal policies of the Israeli government—separation walls, settlements, the siege of Gaza—in addition to its bellicose policies across the region, especially Iran, has been devastating for Palestinians and the Middle East, including Israel. It also harms our reputation around the world and squanders $3 billion a year subsidizing the powerful Israeli military when we need that money to rebuild the United States.
In Boston, WILPF members assembled outside the office of Sen. John Kerry to protest the ongoing war in Afghanistan. In Philadelphia, WILPF members visited the offices of Sen. Robert Casey and Rep. Joe Sestak with written statements. Member Marge Van Cleef specifically challenged the U.S. drone attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which are killing people indiscriminately. She and other members called for a moratorium on the “war on terror.” During the action, Dr. Ronald Coburn discussed the high suicide rate of returning U.S. soldiers. Citing a recent study which showed that between 2005 and 2008, the number of California vets who committed suicide was three times higher than the number of soldiers killed in action during the same period, Dr. Coburn called for officials to include these suicides in their total number of military deaths. He recommended increasing the funding for support and therapy groups for the 25 percent of soldiers who return home suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). WILPF Member Dory Loder highlighted the cost of the war, which has exceeded $3 trillion.
Caterpillar is withholding a $50 million shipment of bulldozers to the Israeli military during the civil trial brought by the parents of Rachel Corrie. Corrie was an U.S. activist killed by an Israeli bulldozer during a nonviolent protest in 2003. This choice reflects a small part of the ever-expanding campaign to hold the Israeli military accountable for misuse of aid provided by U.S. taxpayers. In addition, the Rachel Corrie Foundation has submitted a paper to the U.N.’s Universal Periodic Review documenting how the United States has failed to uphold its human rights laws in Corrie’s case.
You can get involved by signing a petition to President Obama: Help us stop the delivery of Caterpillar bulldozers to the Israeli military. Another petition is aimed at TIAA-CREF, a major investor in Caterpillar. It calls on TIAA-CREF to divest from companies that are profiteering from the Israeli occupation. If you are interested in organizing a local BDS campaign, you can get a free informational packet here.
Do you want to learn more about how the U.S. supports Israel? A new, original DVD series is available from the Western Asia Study and Action Group (part of WILPF's Cape Cod Branch.) Hear first-hand what life in occupied Palestine is really like, the real role of the U.S., learn about the plight of children in this region, listen to the words of Rachel Corrie and Howard Zinn, and much, much more. Begun as part of WILPF's "Women Challenge U.S. Policy: Building Peace on Justice in the Middle East" campaign, this study group researched the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Members wanted to take what they'd learned to the wider community, and produced this excellent seven-DVD collection. Funding was provided by WILPF and the Social Justice Ministry of First Parish Brewster.
The situation in the West Bank and Gaza has become so dire in the last two years that the majority of Israeli peace groups now support Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). This includes the Israeli section of WILPF. BDS is a global campaign aimed at bringing an end to Israel’s brutal occupation of Palestinian lands. Contrary to what many defenders of Israel would have you believe, the campaign is not intended to destroy Israel. Its aim is to end the Occupation.
In order to accomplish this, various groups have targeted specific companies that further the Occupation. At its recent International Board meeting in India, a WILPF resolution regarding BDS was passed and is now a part of WILPF’s international program, which each section will implement in its own way. [Read the resolution at: http://www.wilpf.int.ch/resolutions/2010.html ]
Building the Movement for Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions
How Do Companies Further the Palestinian Occupation?
Corporations further the Occupation either by operating in or supporting the Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law, or by supporting the apparatus of control and oppression which is the hallmark of the Occupation.
That apparatus includes the Separation Wall, the hundreds of checkpoints set up to impair Palestinian travel, the system of Administrative Detention (imprisonment without trial for periods of six months, renewable without review), night raids that frighten children and disrupt normal life, a permit system imposing restrictions upon travel and normal building for Palestinians, the confiscation of homes and lands, and the demolition of houses, among others.
By Odile Hugonot Haber
Middle East Issue Committee
Wikipedia tells us that The School of the Americas Watch is an advocacy organization founded by Maryknoll Father Roy Bourgeois and a small group of supporters in 1990 to protest the training of mainly Latin American military officers, by the U.S. Department of Defense, at the School of the Americas (SOA). SOA Watch conducts a vigil each November at the site of the academy, located on the grounds of Fort Benning, a U.S. Army military base near Columbus, Georgia, in protest over myriad alleged abuses committed by graduates of the academy, including murders, rapes, torture and contraventions of the Geneva Accord. Military officials deny the charges, stating that even if graduates commit war crimes after they return to their home country, the school itself should not be held accountable for their actions.
Responding to mounting protests spearheaded by SOA Watch, in 2000 the U.S Congress renamed the School of the Americas the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), rather than closing the academy.
By Barbara Taft, co-chair
WILPF Middle East Committee
WILPF’s Middle East Committee supports the Goldstone Report and also calls for a credible, independent investigation into Israel’s conduct in “Operation Cast Lead.” The truth must be exposed, and those who have committed war crimes must be punished. Let your political representatives in Washington, D.C. know how you feel.
When Odile Hugonot-Haber and I recently attended the J Street conference in D.C. we found many engaged Americans who wanted to talk about peace. J Street (http://www.jstreet.org/) is the political arm of the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement. The organizers of the conference were expecting about 500 people to attend, and were happily surprised to find themselves hosting 1,500 people, all enthusiastic about a group that proclaims itself to be “Pro Israel/Pro Peace” and to speak for what they believe to be the majority of Jews in both the U.S. and Israel: people who believe that making peace is good for Israel, the Palestinians, the region, and the world, and that doing so is a moral imperative.
Children of Gaza ‘Victims of the victims’ by Regina Birchem
(This article was published in the International Peace Update Volume 74. No. 1. June 2009)
The sliver of land called Gaza is part of the Palestinian territories bordered by Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea. About twice the size of Washington, DC, it has a population of 1.4 million with more than a third living in extreme poverty. About 900,000 are classified as refugees. Children make up about 56% of the population.
TO: Senate and House Appropriations Subcommittees on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs
The undersigned organizations are writing to urge you to oppose the President’s FY2010 budget request for $2.775 billion in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) for Israel, an increase of $225 million in military aid compared to FY2009. At this time of acute economic crisis, as well as from a political, legal, security, and moral standpoint, our country should not continue to provide Israel with this blank check.
Israel consistently misuses U.S. weapons purchased through FMF to commit grave human rights abuses against Palestinians and systematic violations of international law in its illegal 42-year military occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip. Some of those violations are documented every year in the State Department's own human rights reports; far more are documented by the United Nations and human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
10 February 2009
On 27 December 2009 Israel launched a military operation on the Gaza Strip, the most densely populated part of the Palestinian Territory under Israeli occupation since 1967. The operation was code-named Cast Lead and began with heavy bombardments of the Strip and its population, followed by a ground invasion. The stated immediate purpose was to destroy enough Hamas military installations in order to stop the shooting of missiles into Israel.
We, the members of the Women's International League for Peace Freedom, are horrified at Israel's bombing of Gaza.
We join with millions around the world in protests and call for an immediate cease fire.
We are profoundly distressed, knowing that the continuous bombardment will lead to further civilian deaths and suffering, and this massive escalation of violence could spiral out of control and engulf the whole region in war.
The massive air attack is a crime against humanity as it comes on top of the two-year inhumane siege that Israel has imposed on the one and a half million people living in Gaza, the world's largest prison.
Here is some of the text and facts the Mid-East Committee recommends for the Gaza post cards.
The WILPF US section states that we are too long overdue in responding to the cries of the people of Gaza. Israel's declaration as an "hostile entity" has resulted in imprisonment and collective punishment of the civilian population, without electricity for power and water treatment, without fuel for cooking and heat, with dangerous limited amount of food and medicine, and bombing of homes and infrastructure.
Peace cannot be Obtained by imprisoning and starving 1.5 million people.
Therefore we urge Congress to do the following:
- Call for an immediate cease fire
- Call on Israel to rescind the "hostile entity" designation of Gaza -Call on Israel to immediately to lift the Gaza blockade and restore freedom of movement for people and goods.
- Demand that Israel fulfill it's obligation as an occupying power subject to International and human rights law.
Please send a postcard to your Congress persons urging them to take the above actions.
Gaza Human Rights Facts
Persons killed in the conflict in and around Gaza in the 2 year period Sept 1 2005-July 25, 2007
- 668 Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces
- 359 of whom were not involved in hostilities at the time they were killed
- 126 of those killed were minors
- 357 people killed in internal Palestinian fighting
- 90 of whom did not take part in hostilities
- 4 Israeli civilians killed by Qassam rockets fired by Palestinians
- 4 members of Israeli security forces were killed by Palestinian attacks originating in the Gaza strip
Humanitarian access and freedom of movement.
Movement in and out of Gaza is all but impossible.
The number of trucks carry commercial and humanitarian supplies into Gaza has plummeted.
There is little money to buy food and little food to buy.
Poverty and dependency on food aid
- 80% of families in Gaza rely on humanitarian aid.
- The large majority of the population is unable to afford basic food.
- In 2007, households were spending 62% of their total income on food
- The blockade of Gaza has led to a steady rise in chronic malnutrition among persons living in the strip.
- Unemployment in Gaza is close to 40% and may rise to 50%
The Government of Israel prevents the repair and maintenance of the electricity and water service infrastructure in Gaza by prohibiting the import of spare parts. This two-pronged attack has the effect of systematically destroying the water and infrastructure of Gaza. Hospitals cannot generate electricity to keep lifesaving equipment working.
Gaza hospitals experience power cuts for 8-12 hours per day.
40-50 million liters of sewage is poured into the sea daily.
Basic Medical supplies and access to treatment
According to the World Health Organisation, the proportion of patients given permits to exit Gaza for medical care decreased from 89.3% in January 2007 to 64.3% in December 2007, an unprecedented low. Of those given permits to exit Gaza for treatment, some are denied access to the crossing itself.
Between October and December 2007, 20 patients, 4 of whom were children, died due to lack of referral services.
Few studies have measured the consequences on women and children living in regions in constant conflict short of declared war. This is true in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) of the West Bank and Gaza (which remains under virtual occupation, despite Israel’s “withdrawal”). In the OPT, ongoing hostilities over 60 years, punctuated by periodic wars, have taken their toll. The number of female heads of household has been steadily increasing, while poverty has also been on the rise.