In today’s New York Times print edition (page A9) is an “open letter to President Barack Obama” from the groups Deir Yassin Remembered, Americans for a Just Peace in the Middle East, Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends, RighteousJews.org, If Americans Knew, Council for the National Interest, and the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.
There doesn’t seem to be an online version, so I post some excerpts below.
Dear President Obama,
You renewed hope for a nation drained by interminable wars and economic trauma. You proclaimed that there is no problem we cannot solve, that we can say yes to justice and equality, and that we will oppose attempts by any group to restrict the rights of others. But Israeli violations of Palestinian rights continue virtually unopposed by America as yet another ‘peace process’ has failed. A new approach to this matter is desperately needed, and we would greatly appreciate your consideration of the following analysis and recommendations in this regard.
Secretary Kerry’s retraction notwithstanding, the occupied territories indeed are descending into a form of apartheid as Israel relentlessly confiscates and settles Palestinian land. The latter process is nothing new: the Zionist modus operandi for establishing an ethnic state in Palestine was to take as much land as possible, cleanse it of most of its Palestinians, and bring in enough Jews to ensure a dominant Jewish majority. In extending these methods to the occupied territories, Israel advances its endgame of a Jewish state in all–or nearly all–of Palestine. But it comes with terrible human costs….
Average Palestinians also are severely impacted by the occupation. Their rights to freedom of movement, commerce, education, medical services and more are greatly curtailed by Israel’s system of walls, gates, checkpoints, roadblocks, ID cards and passes. All of this impedes agriculture, slows transportation to a crawl, represses commerce, and does massive damage to the Palestinian economy. Israeli soldiers and border police wielding US weapons harshly enforce all of this. Israel claims these measures are for its security; but they are applied almost entirely inside Palestinian territory and in fact are designed to protect the spreading settlements and to induce Palestinians to emigrate….
Accordingly, we strongly recommend that you suspend military aid and arms sales to Israel until independent, non-conflicted human rights organizations including AI [Amnesty International] and HRW [Human Rights Watch] certify that it has ceased its human rights violations. Should this fail to end the abuses, we recommend that you suspend diplomatic support for Israel–especially at the UN. Of course, security assistance to the Palestinian Authority also should be withheld if its security forces are abusing rights.
In no way would these actions break your pledges to stand by Israel. Rather, this would mean standing with the many Israelis who support Palestinian rights. It would mean aligning with progressive Israeli organizations like Rabbis For Human Rights, Gush Shalom, Peace Now, B’Tselem, and The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, as well as US Jewish organizations like Jewish Voice For Peace and Tikkun. But it would also mean breaking with the right-wing establishment that shapes Israel’s current policies. In doing so you could help Israel achieve real democracy by living up to its Declaration of Establishment vow to grant equal rights to all.