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June 22nd, 2015

Breaking News: Grannies meet with Chuck Schumer’s NYC staff on Palestine

Why is this breaking news: As we told Alex Katz, an aide to the Senator on Monday, June 10, 2015, the Granny Peace Brigade has tried, unsuccessfully for over 5 years to get an appointment with the Senator, OUR Senator!

What did we learn that was new/news:

What did we hear:
Alex Katz, an aide to Senator Schumer for many years, often accompanying him on his travels in the USA, was very courteous to our group comprising Carol Husten, Barbara Walker, Jenny Heinz, Marty Rajandran. He listened to each of our comments on Palestine/Israel and made a few comments which are summarized as:
-On the illegal occupation of Israel of Palestinian land and the construction of settlements: He noted that the Senator is not in favor of any new settlements. However, he seemed to waffle a bit on the status of the existing ones and the Senator’s taking a stand on any restrictions on our relationship with Israel because of these illegal settlements.
-On Chuck Schumer’s views on the current Israeli Government: He felt that the current Israeli government does not represent the will of Israelis and that it is delaying efforts towards a two-state solution. He however continues to be considered “a hawk” for Israel.
-On Chuck Schumers role vis a vis US policy: Alex indicated that Chuck Schumer does have a positive working relationship with Benjamin Netanyahu and is able to facilitate communication between him and President Obama.
-On a deal with Iran, he noted that the Senator supports a deal that will keep “our allies” safe.

We asked him to:
–arrange a meeting between us and the Senator this summer. He agreed.
–request the Senator to make a public statement that said “Speaking out on Israel does not make one an anti-semite.” He agreed.
–propose to the Senator to reduce our funding for Israel, esp as Israel is one of the most developed countries in the world, 19th as per the Human Development Report and to increase funding for Palestinians. No specific comment on this. (Actually, we also mentioned that we would like to stop all US military assistance to Israel, as well as Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, etc.)
–urge the Senator to consider proposing that the International Court of Justice be involved in the peace process, as a non-violent, legal approach towards a just solution to the rights of the Palestinian people. (no comment on this)
–encourage the Senator to use his good auspices to pressure Israel to abide by International Law, UN 242, among others. (no comment)
–discourage the Senator from making statements that he speaks for New Yorkers. He does not speak for Palestinians, many Jews, and others throughout the state on his position of virtual unconditional support for the illegal actions of Israel.
–encourage the Senator to take a lead in recognizing Hamas as the elected government of the Palestinians in Gaza. There are other governments we consider close allies that do NOT recognize Israel, e.g. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, 19 others.
–refrain from making further statements such as one made on Gaza: “…to squeeze them (Gaza) until they do what Israel wants”. The Israel blockade is harmful to the people of Gaza. And we would expect the Senator not to like the growing success of the BDS movement against Israel. This movement is gaining more support as people and countries are fed up with Israel’s denial of the rights of the Palestinian people.
–understand that in view of the human rights abuses done by the Israeli military as viewed globally through social media, at some point, there may be pressure to apply the Leahy Amendment which prohibits US funding through the State Dept or Defense to countries charged with human rights abuses. (He commented that he was unaware of this law)

Short summary of specific points made by Grannies in the discussion:
Carol was stunned by the sights and her experiences during a visit to the West Bank several years ago. She stated, among other views, the advisability of the U.S. decreasing its financial contributions to Israel — Israel being economically advantaged — and increasing its aid to Palestine. Mentioned was the annual military assistance financial aid grant of $3 billion. Noted also was that a RAND Corporation report which put American aid to Israel at $118 billion since World War II — not including classified programs, and that a RAND Corporation economist put American aid to Palestinians at less that $10 billion

Barbara said she visited East Jerusalem and the West Bank in January 1967, prior to the Six Day War, and that she was posted in Jerusalem with the UN for one year, 1990-1991. She noted that in 1948 Israeli authorities-to-be acceded to the UN resolution authorizing partition of Palestine but that the Government of Israel has not acceded to UN resolutions calling for withdrawal from Occupied Territories. She asked how could the Government of Israel claim continuing control of the west side of the Jordan River Valley — West Bank land/West Bank shore? How can the U.S. accept this? We do have a responsibility to the Palestinians. In this connection, how is Eretz Israel/Land of Israel being defined — is it being defined as the whole of British Mandate Palestine? If so, are the Palestinians invisible as a people? This is their ancestral home — what was authorized by the UN was partition. She expressed the hope that Senator Schumer would encourage our Government to view positively the French initiative (resolution) which is currently under refinement. The resolution, according to a draft published in ‘Le Figaro,’ will set out an 18 month time-table for ending the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza [see: ‘Le Figaro Premium,’ “Paris fait une nouvelle offre aux Israeliens et Palestiniens,” by Cyrille Louis, May 19, 2015].

Marty noted her activism against the Occupation began 50 years ago as a university student. She mentioned several visits to Israel and neighboring countries on work duty and personal visits. She asked the question of Israel’s needing so much of our tax dollars when it ranks 19th among developed countries – hardly a struggling nation. And in response to Katz’s comments about Hamas not recognizing Israel, she asked about Saudi Arabia and Bahrain that don’t recognize Israel either and yet are U.S. allies. She mentioned the violation of the Leahy amendment re banning aid to countries with human/child rights violations but regrettably, Ban Ki-Moon, U.N. Secretary General, just took Israel off the list.

Jenny spoke very forcefully, expressing personal outrage as a Jew that Schumer claims to speak on behalf of Jews and New Yorkers. She touched on the glaring issues facing Palestinans: seizure of land and destruction of homes, murder of children and civilians, torture and harsh imprisonment of dissent, however she felt that a back and forth on these points was not useful in today’s meeting. She emphasised that Mr Schumer’s hawkish position on Israel encourages their continued violation of international law. She requested Alex to request the Senator to make a public statement: “Speaking out against Israel does not make one an anti-Semite.”

– Barbara Walker, Carol Husten, Jenny Heinz, Marty Rajandran
for the Granny Peace Brigade

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