The unbelievable has happened! The Prime Minister of Israel is on his way to the US to deliver a speech to Congress, and scores of Congressmen and Congresswomen are announcing that they have better things to do than attend the speech!
The vice-President led the boycott, followed by Earl Blumenauer of Oregan, and after that the flood-gates started to open! Admittedly, all the boycotters are Democrats, and their public statements suggest that it’s their loyalty to the President and opposition to the political manoeuvrings of the House Speaker that are motivating them to join the boycott. Even so, such a move would have been unthinkable a few years ago!
Who can forget Netanyahu’s address to Congress where he received 29 standing ovations – more than any US President has ever received. That was in 2011 – only four years ago! Have things really changed that much in four years? In truth, things have changed drastically in the last few years, and it’s not that Congress has wised up. It’s the American people who have wised up, and Congress can’t remain oblivious to the voice of the people forever!
In 2012 Norman Finkelstein published “Knowing Too Much: Why the American Jewish Romance with Israel is Coming to an End”. In it he pointed to enormous shifts in public opinion amongst American Jews who were showing ever-increasing disinterest in the foreign state that claimed their allegiance. Surely the best example of this was the influence the Israeli Prime Minister had on the voting patterns of American Jews in 2012 when he voiced unequivocal support for Obama’s Republican rival. Netanyahu’s interventions apparently made no difference whatsoever!
And what’s true for American Jews is a reflection of the changing tide across the rest of the country. There are exceptions, of course. The Christian right seems to be clinging on as the last bastion of American Zionism. Conversely though, according to the survey referred to in the article below, only 16% of African Americans think their representative should attend the Israeli Prime Minister’s address!
Of course there’s a massive gap between boycotting a talk and seeing the end of the Palestinian Occupation. Even so, it’s a step in the right direction, and we all know that Israel can only ignore world opinion about its treatment of the Palestinian people so long as it has the world’s great super-power unequivocally behind it. But that unequivocal support is equivocating!
The 24 Democrats Who Have Refused to Attend Netanyahu’s Speech to Congress
Their constituents agree.
By Zaid Jilani
When House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) decided to invite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a Joint Session of Congress on Iran in early March, he probably thought it’d go a lot like it did in 2011. That year, Netanyahu received 29 standing ovations – more than President Obama got during his State of the Union that year.
But Obama turned the tables on Netanyahu, refusing to meet with him just two weeks before the Israeli elections. He also announced that his vice president, Joe Biden, would not attend the address.
Shortly after Obama’s objection, Democratic Members of Congress started to announce that they wouldn’t attend the speech, either. The first was Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), who wrote in a January 29th Huffington Post column that he will “not participate in a calculated slight from the speaker and the House leadership to attack necessary diplomacy.”
Following Blumenauer’s dissent, a steady string of Democratic Caucus members, mostly in the House but in the Senate as well began to announce that they would not attend the speech. Buoyed by poll numbers showing that many of their constituents agree – a plurality of Americans believe Netanyahu’s speech to be “inappropriate” and only 16 percent of African Americans in particular want to see their Member of Congress attend – more and more members are announcing their refusals to attend nearly every day.
To see the list of 21 House Democrats and three Senate Democratic Caucus members who are so far refusing to attend the speech, see Alternet
What follows is a press release from Gush Shalom – the Israeli ‘Peace Bloc ‘ publisehd on March 19, 2013
All that our leaders avoided saying throughout the elections campaign, Obama said – and got a prolonged applause from the representatives of Israel’s young generation
It is a badge of shame to almost all political leaders in Israel . The President of the United States had to come to Jerusalem and say all the things which our politicians avoided saying with all their force. President Obama said it clearly and unequivocally – and won a standing ovation and prolonged applause from the representatives of Israel’s younger generation.
For years “peace” had become a dirty word in the Israeli discourse. It fell to President Obama to remind us that peace is possible and necessary, that we do have a partner for peace, that the Palestinians are here and cannot be ignored and that Israel must end the occupation, for reasons of morality and justice but also and especially for the the sake of Israel’s own future.
It’s a shame for those who thought it possible to establish a government in Israel focusing on an “internal civilian agenda” – on recruiting the Ultra-Orthodox to the IDF, as if this is the existential issue facing us, and to forget the occupation and the settlements, peace and the Palestinians. The best which these “new politics” could produce is empty chatter of “negotiations” whose failure is assured in advance and therefore would not break up the present government coalition. With the challenges directly ahead, this would prove a meaningless folly.
Contact: Adam Keller , Gush Shalom Spokesperson +972-(0)54-2340749
It seems that the American President, in his attempt to please everybody in Israel/Palestine, is pleasing no one.
Israelis remain unconvinced that the weakened US military will be able to provide any real support should there be a real outbreak of hostilities with Iran. The Palestinians remain unconvinced that Obama is willing to apply any leverage to see a ‘two-state solution’ come into being.
Palestinians still waiting for Obama to prove commitment to two state-solution
Many Palestinian lives and much political capital could have been saved over the last four years if President Obama had shown the determination to facilitate two-state solution negotiations. Now, rather than calling for the resumption of a meaningless ‘peace process,’ we Palestinians expect real action on the ground.
By Nabeel Sha’ath | Mar.20, 2013
Unfortunately, after that landmark speech, President Obama appeared to give up on his goal. This meant going back to business as usual: Putting pressure on an occupied people and rewarding the occupying power. In the past four years, Israel has added almost 50,000 settlers to the Occupied State of Palestine, almost 3000 attacks have been conducted by settler terrorists and over 1000 Palestinians have been killed. We could have saved lives and political capital if President Obama had shown the determination to create the right environment for meaningful decisions leading to a two-state solution.Four years ago, Mr. Obama was elected President of the United States of America. He won the hearts of Palestinians and other peoples of the world with his principled positions, vision and courage. Later on, he stood up in Cairo and gave us hope. His moral convictions showed us that he understood our quest for freedom, justice and peace. His strong statements, especially his request that Israel cease all settlement activity, gave us hope that the U.S. could help us to achieve these ideals in reality. Both Palestinians and Israelis who believe in a two-state solution saw President Obama as a real opportunity for change.
We have tried every possible venue to get closer to peace, but we have been always met with Israeli intransigence and a lack of commitment to implement its obligations. It’s been Israel’s unilateral actions, mainly settlement construction and the imposition of an apartheid regime, that have undermined the entire goal of the peace process to a point that leave very few people optimistic.
Israeli unilateralism turned the peace process into a smoke-screen to cover its systematic policy of colonization. Today, in the Occupied State of Palestine, we have homes that are being demolished and families evicted by an occupying power at the same time that the number of settlers went up almost three times since the beginning of the peace process, with a total of over half a million settlers today.
What has allowed Israel to get away with its severe violations? It is an unprecedented culture of impunity that keeps treating Israel as a state beyond the law. But it is also the fact that rather than peace, Israel’s goal is to increase colonization as much as possible. The two-state solution is not part of the agenda of Israel’s government and that’s a primary reason why negotiations failed.
When last year we went to the United Nations we aimed to revive hope. This courageous and rightful step meant, for Palestine, a reaffirmation of our rights in a non-violent manner. Recognition of the State of Palestine on the 1967 border meant also to create a positive initiative to open a meaningful political horizon by salvaging the internationally endorsed two-state solution.
We felt that after twenty years of Israeli violations to every single agreement, it was time for the international community to participate in the resolution of the conflict, whilst aiming to respect and honor the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. It is in this spirit that we have committed as well to respect all our obligations, international treaties and international law in general.
But instead of welcoming this step, Israel led an unprecedented campaign of colonization with over 11,500 settlement units approved within a very few months following the UN vote. This act isn’t only a war crime, but it is also in open defiance of the stated U.S. policy regarding Israeli settlements. Acts like this, including approving hundreds of settlement units during Vice President Joe Biden’s visit, are Israeli messages to the U.S. and the rest of the world that it is not interested in peace: So far, Mr. Netanyahu has been able to get away with it.
Unfortunately, President Obama is not able to visit Palestine for more than a few hours. On March 21st, he will meet with President Abbas. He will be respectfully welcomed by our President and our people. We understand that he wants to listen, read and see for himself.
It would have been a great opportunity for President Obama to visit more of Palestine and see the current reality twenty years after the beginning of the peace process. Starting by the fact that we would have love to welcome him at Orient House, the closed PLO headquarters in Occupied East Jerusalem. He would also see segregated roads, just one example of one of the worst combinations possible: Apartheid under a belligerent occupation.
Next week marks the beginning of Holy Week for millions of Christians around the world. In Palestine, the oldest Christian community will be separated from their spiritual heart, Jerusalem, by Israeli checkpoints, walls and fences aimed at consolidating the illegal annexation of Occupied East Jerusalem. President Obama is welcome to see this reality and understand that the window of opportunity is closing. We don’t need another twenty years of negotiations to change this reality. We need tough and courageous decisions before it is too late.
Racial segregation, including those enforced on public transportation, was a dark period in U.S. history. This is happening today in Palestine, a symptom of how severe the current situation is. Rather than calling for resumption of a meaningless “peace process,” we expect real action on the ground. Such action should lead to ending the Israeli government’s impunity as well as to take the political steps needed. The future of millions of Palestinians and Israelis as well as the rest of the peoples of the region as a whole depends on the U.S. administration’s will to push for justice and peace.
For decades Palestinians have been waiting for a miracle. Maybe President Obama’s visit to the Holy Land can provide us with one. Maybe the bells of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem will ring once he visits this Friday announcing clear goals and actions to bring an end to decades of occupation, segregation and colonization. This is the road to justice, security and peace.
Dr. Nabeel Shaath is the Fatah Foreign Relations Commissioner and former Palestinian foreign minister. He was a member of the Madrid Peace Delegation and later was involved in negotiations with Israel that led to the signing of the Oslo Agreements. From 1993-1995, he served as the head of the Palestinian negotiation team, participating in the talks at Camp David (2000) and Taba (2001). He has also represented Palestine at the World Economic Forum.
‘Palestinians for Dignity’ have a point! President Obama’s two terms in office have thus far given the Palestinian people absolutely nothing to celebrate!
While the proposed trip to the West Bank might be interpreted as an indication that the American President takes the Palestinian people seriously, the US did indeed vote against statehood for Palestine at the UN last year and have repeatedly declared that they are the Occupier’s staunchest ally!
If Obama does enter Palestine accompanied by an Israeli security team he will not be coming as a friend but as a symbol of the Empire that powers the Occupation!
Palestinian activists: Obama non grata in Palestine
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH
Group called “Palestinian For Dignity” plan demonstrations in protest of Obama’s planned visit to the West Bank.
Palestinian activists said over the weekend that they would hold demonstrations in protest against US President Barack Obama’s planned visit to the West Bank later this month.
A group called “Palestinian For Dignity” called for “huge demonstrations” against Obama and US policies “supportive of the occupation.”
The group said that Obama was “persona non grata in Palestine” because of US military, financial and diplomatic aid for Israel.
“We call upon our people to demonstrate against receiving he who considers himself Israel’s No. 1 ally,” the group said in a statement. “We also call for demonstrations against the idea of returning to the negotiations [with Israel.”
The group said that Obama’s planned visit to Ramallah “comes at a time when our prisoners are on hunger strike and weeks after the death of prisoner Arafat Jaradat in interrogation cells.”
The group said that it was naive to think that US policy toward Israel has changed during Obama’s term.
It also reminded Palestinians that the US had voted against the PA request for upgrading the Palestinians’ status to nonmember observer at the UN in November last year.
In a related development, Hamas and Islamic Jihad called on Palestinians to prevent Obama from visiting the Aksa Mosque in Jerusalem.
The two groups said they were opposed to Obama’s visits, especially if he is accompanied by Israeli security officials.99