November 17, 2014
The Honorable Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator
780 Third Avenue, Suite 2301
New York, NY 10017
Dear Senator Schumer:
We, members of the Granny Peace Brigade, have been continually concerned with the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East. Thank you for your response of March 11, 2014, to the individual letter on Israel-Palestine from one of our members. Our desire, of course, is to prepare useful activities for encouraging public interest in U.S. Government action aimed at conflict resolution. Knowing of your concern, we have been in communication with helpful staff of your office since June requesting an appointment to meet with you for direct clarification of our point of view. We were informed that no meeting could be considered before next Spring.
The 47 year conflict between the Government of Israel as Occupying Power of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, and Palestinians in the Occupied Territories is truly tragic. This is not a dispute between political equals. Israelis and Palestinians have suffered in their homeland — Palestinians inordinately.
Having supported the 1947 United Nations partition of Palestine and recognized the State of Israel in 1948, does not the U.S. have a responsibility to promote the viability of the Palestinians as a people in their homeland? It is of interest that they are Semites, are ‘children of Abraham,’ most are adherents of one of the three major Abrahamic religions, the whole land of ‘Palestine,’ once shared, was their home. Of course, factors of cause and effect and action/reaction operate in perpetuation of the conflict.
1. In this connection there are international and governmental statutes drawn up for the purpose of preventing or remedying international conflicts.
Relevant international statutes include –
-United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 (November 22, 1967), in the aftermath of the Six Day War called for withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from the occupied territories;
-United Nations Security Council Resolution 338 (October 22, 1973) called for the parties concerned to start immediately after the cease-fire the implementation of Security Council Resolution 242 (1967) [one asks why it is reported in 2014 that a 13 year old Palestinian child was shot and killed in the West Bank in October 2014 — Associated Press, ‘Washington Times,’ October 17, 2014];
-The Fourth Geneva Convention (1949, Article 49) states, (inter alia) ‘The Occupying Power’ shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies;
-The Fourth Geneva Convention (1949, Article 53) states ‘Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, or to the State, or to other public authorities, or to social or cooperative organizations, is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations’;
-International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings (New York, 15 December 1997) makes it a crime to bomb public places (such as city streets) with the intent to kill civilians.Relevant U.S. Government statute – The Leahy amendment
-Concerning Department of State-funded aid under the Foreign Assistance Act, the amendment stipulates that there be no assistance to any unit of the security forces of a country if the Secretary of State has credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights;
-The Department of Defense Appropriations version of the amendment requires that none of the funds made available by the Act may be used for any training, equipment, or other assistance for members of a unit of a foreign security force if the Secretary of Defense has credible information that the unit has committed gross violations of human rights.
2. Both Israelis and Palestinians have committed human rights violations, one against the other – these are examples; violations by the Occupying Power are the more extensive –
-On July 8, 2014, the Government of Israel launched Operation Protective Edge — massive destruction in Gaza ensued — reported were between 2127 and 2168 Gazans and 71 Israelis killed
-The Israeli Government considers the West Bank under its military control and largely adjudicates legal matters relating to Palestinians in military courts
-Palestinians lack access to adequate amounts of safe, clean water and are barred from some areas of water-rich occupied land
-Severe offshore mileage limits are placed on Palestinian fishing boats though the Oslo Accords established access to the sea for Gaza within 20 nautical miles from the shore; the much of the Dead Sea area is off-limits for Palestinian use and Palestinians are denied full access to the West Bank coastline
-Blockade and siege affecting Palestinian lives and livelihood remain in effect
– Settlements and other dwellings for Israeli nationals have been created in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem
-Hebron in the West Bank has been separated into Palestinian and settler sections. In 1994 Shuhada Street was closed to Palestinians, greatly disrupting lives
-In August 2014, the Government of Israel appropriated 1,000 additional acres of West Bank land
-The Israeli Committee Against House Demolition reports that approximately 27,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished
-The West Bank barrier wall makes incursions into Palestinian property, separating Palestinians from their wells and land, and including orchards and farmland, with dire results
-Roadblocks and checkpoints disrupt the lives of Palestinians in the West Bank. There are severe restrictions on the travel of Palestinians between the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel, and on Palestinian travel abroad
-Frequently, Palestinian men under 40 or 50 years of age are forbidden to enter the Noble Sanctuary, including the Al Aqsa Mosque, in East Jerusalem
-The Hamas party group has fired rockets into Israel
-Over the years, hundreds of Israeli civilians in Israel and in the West Bank have been killed by Palestinians. It must be noted here that, as was done in Palestine in the formation of Israel, the Palestinians unfortunately, given no credible and just option, also struggle in that way also for their right as a nation.
3. Some relevant actions addressing human rights violations –
-In 2013 a United Nations Panel, carrying out an inquiry for the UN Human Rights Council, referred to the land annexations as violations of international law and called for halt and withdrawal of settlers;
-The United Nations Human Rights Committee, October 2014, posed questions on, such issues as, punitive demolition of houses; mistreatment of detainees; and limited Palestinian access to water. A Committee member noted about 2,000 Palestinians, including 500 children, had been killed in the Gaza assault and hundreds of thousands dislocated, eviction of Palestinians from their agricultural land, annexations of West Bank land, inaccessibility of natural resources, Palestinians should have, when in detention, prompt access to a lawyer;
-Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Congressman Keith Ellison, and Congressman Danny Davis have called for Congressional Representatives to join in speaking out for an end to the Gaza blockade as part of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.
4. Recommended U.S. Government action to address human rights violations –
-The U.S. should enforce its own legislation and should cease support of Israeli Government action with which it is not in agreement.
-The terms of the Leahy amendment should be applied in view of the provision of over 3 billion taxpayer dollars annually for Israeli military undertakings
-It should convey to the Government of Israel expectation for its compliance with international law.
-The U.S. supported the statehood of Israel, declared in 1948 on the basis of the UN plan for partition of Palestine, which was followed by the war on and displacement of Palestinians. In like manner the U.S. should support the 47 year struggle of the Palestinians for return of their land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, as well as Gaza — all of it, the Jordan River Valley segment as well — maybe some of the former Palestinian residents would return to their home. Why not? It is theirs.
-The statement that settlements are too difficult to dismantle because they are ‘facts on the ground’ is fallacious. In the 1940s, Palestinian towns, villages, houses, people were ‘facts on the ground’ and they were dealt with readily. Many Palestinians became refugees; the Israeli settlers have a country to which to return.-In this connection, U.S. financial aid to Israel redirected from military enterprise could aid ‘in the cause of peace.’
-The U.S. Government should not veto the envisaged United Nations Security Council resolution on Palestinian statehood. Any factors working for its continuance notwithstanding, U.S Government support of this injustice should cease, to be replaced with assistance for Palestinian re-building of their homeland.
Senator Schumer, as older citizens concerned about the nature and results of conflict, we believe that positive interaction, genuine diplomatic process, assistance in economic betterment, rather than economic stultification, should be pursued for attainment of just ends. In the case of Israel-Palestine, does not the claim of “Eretz Israel” need to be spoken of and dealt with openly? In this connection, regarding the article by Naftali Bennett, Minister of the Economy [“For Israel, Two-State Is No Solution,” New York Times, November 7, 2014], note that Islam has long been the religion of most residents of Middle East nations. Here, contention is not directed to other matters dealt with in Minister of the Economy Bennett’s article, but one question is asked: Why in the 21st century would Palestinians, among them artists, scientists, physicians, surgeons, engineers, lawyers, scholars, and so on, and whose land has existed for millennia, be relegated to colonial status under the Government of Israel?
We are keenly aware of and strongly protest the utter unfairness of the situation —
– The members of the Granny Peace Brigade were young children when the State of Israel was formed, when Palestinians lost their homes, land, rights as a people.
– We have grown old watching Israel develop, prosper, expand — at the expense of a Palestinian people whose loss of rights and land were not part of the UN partition plan that provided for creation of the State of Israel.
– When do you think the Palestinian people will get justice? If they try to take back what is rightfully theirs, they are called terrorists. If they do nothing, their rights are ignored by the world community or abused. When do you think justice will prevail? And as the U.S. is the major funder of the State of Israel (both through private sources and government sources—taxpayer dollars), is not it our responsibility to see secure a just solution for all?
It is to consider matters salient to this (we repeat) tragic issue that we, your constituents, members of the Granny Peace Brigade, have sought and seek to meet with you.
We are sending a copy of our letter to other legislators —
– to Representatives Barbara Lee, Keith Ellison, Danny Davis,
– to members of the Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and
– to members of the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs —
asking that they give priority to their involvement with resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian issue and that they consider it what it is — a monumental tragedy that has been allowed to continue.
Very truly yours,
Granny Peace Brigade – members