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June 17th, 2016

Letter to Schumer re U.S. Involvement In Israel/Palestine

June 6, 2016

The Honorable Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator
322 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-3203

Dear Senator Schumer:

On May 26, 2016, we, Marty Rajandran and Barbara Walker, Granny Peace Brigade–Israel-Palestine Conflict Committee, were pleased to meet with Alex Katz, Special Assistant, and (by telephone) Lane Bodian, Legislative Correspondent, of your office, for discussion on involvement and role of the U.S. Government in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people and we again requested arrangements for a brief meeting with you.  It was agreed meanwhile that we would direct to you in writing some of our concerns.

A principal concern is the continuing dichotomy in U.S. policy and practice with respect to the ongoing conflict.  It is evident that our government, which voted for the 1947 UN partition plan that provided for an Arab state and a Jewish state, is strongly supportive of Israeli requirements and requests but is lacking in responsible reaction and in support to Palestinians with regard to the major problem of human rights violation in their occupied homeland — rights which are covered by international law.

1.  Senator Schumer, we understand that you are in agreement that cases of accusation of violation of Palestinian human rights by the military legitimately should be reviewed with respect to the Leahy Law/Amendment.  In this regard we note that Senator Leahy and ten Congressional Representatives have submitted to the Secretary of State a letter (February 17, 2016) concerning application of the Leahy Law in Israel and indicating that “there have been a disturbing number of reports of possible gross violations of human rights by security forces in Israel and incidents that may have involved recipients, or potential recipients, of U.S. military assistance.”  They have asked to be informed of the findings.  We would very much appreciate having this information.  We know it is extremely necessary legislation.  Palestinians have suffered greatly under the military occupation.  Recently the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem indicated it finds that because of lack of results, ‘there is no longer any point’ in filing complaints against soldiers.

2.  Increase in aid to Israel is currently under U.S. Government consideration and, of course, one is very much aware of its use in the Palestinian homeland occupied areas — military control and protection of illegal settlements, including the much publicized action in Hebron, excessive use in Gaza (where there is major Palestinian dissatisfaction exacerbated by blockade and other stringent controls on their lives).  Certainly also of great concern to us and to many Americans is the continued multi-year/billion dollars in military aid to Israel, a country which is wealthy, ranked 19th in the Human Development Index Report and improving while U.S. ranking is declining!  Further, Israel is already a major global exporter of arms, ranked 6th in the world; ranked 11th strongest military power; has over 1,000 arms manufacturers; exports 75% of arms produced; with an estimated 190 countries as recipients of Israeli arms sales, including countries that the U.S. does not sell to, e.g. China.  Some of the recipients of U.S. aid, e.g. Raphael, a privately held for profit Israeli company, received $1.8 billion in U.S. tax-payer funds. (Source:  War Against the People, Jeff Halper, Pluto Press, 2015. Pages referred:  52, 90.)  It appears that U.S. taxpayers are subsidizing a global trade in arms via Israel, in addition to the use of these arms against Palestinians as part of Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian lands.  As it seems that Israel can actually take care of its own military needs, since the vast majority is exported, Senator Schumer, we request your proposal for reduction in U.S. military assistance to Israel as well as for continued pressure on Israel to halt new construction of more illegal settlements and infrastructure in the West Bank and that measures be taken to link any further assistance to a dismantling of this illegal occupation.

3.  In connection with the above, we ask, would not the ending of home demolition and the appropriate fixing of borders between rightful Palestinian territories and Israel (reference Fourth Geneva Convention, UN Resolutions 282 and 338) respond to legitimate Palestinian demands, and along with Israeli and Palestinian cooperation to normalize relations lead to decrease in military operations and costs?  Regarding land settlement, the 1999 Clinton/Barak recommendation, the proposal to let Palestinians have only non-contiguous areas of the West Bank was clearly unacceptable to the Palestinian leadership.  Aware of your support of a 2 state solution, we ask your proposals.

4.  U.S. Government lack of adequate level of concern for Palestinian rights is reflected in the information notes (a) and (b) and the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative is summarized in note below:

(a)  Letter from President Gerald Ford to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, September 1, 1975 — “Should the U.S. desire in the future to put forward proposals of its own, it will make every effort to coordinate with Israel its proposals with a view to refraining from putting forth proposals that Israel would consider unsatisfactory.”  [Brokers of Deceit, Rashid Khalidi, Beacon Press, 2013. Page 8.]

Question:  Does this still apply?

(b)  In a statement Martin Indyk, former U.S. Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations said, inter alia, the U.S. is not neutral and doesn’t claim to be neutral in negotiations with Palestinians, that it sometimes acted at times as Israel’s lawyer, that Israel ‘screwed up’ the latest round of talks by building settlements but there were no consequences, that he advocates U.S. abstention in upcoming UN Security Council resolution on Israeli settlements. [Mondoweiss, March 14, 2016.]

Question:  Is the U.S. an ‘honest broker’ in efforts for conflict resolution; does it intend to reassess its responsibilities to Palestinians whose homeland partition it supported; does it intend to require just resolution and if so, what is envisioned as just resolution?

(c)  The 2002 Arab Peace Initiative (is brought up periodically — Google-Alert-Kerry and Arab Peace Initiative, May 21, 2016) calls for significant concessions on Israel’s part, among them a full withdrawal from the West Bank, the establishment of a Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem, and an agreed-upon solution for the Palestinian refugee problem.  In return, numerous Arab states would officially recognize the Jewish state as well as establish normalized ties with it.  [Times of Israel, May 22, 2016.]

Question:  Is this a reasonable solution?

5.  It is our understanding that you do not equate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism.  On B.D.S., we are, however, disappointed that you are on record linking a global movement to pressure Israel to respect the UN resolutions as “anti-Semitic.”  Individual as well as collective action is among freedoms guaranteed in our Constitution/Bill of Rights.  As constituents we seek your support in opposing any legislation which would restrict these rights.  If we wish individually or collectively to boycott products, services, etc. of any country, in this case Israel, this is our right.  We note that the media coordinator for Jewish Voice for Peace (Brooklyn), has reported that she works daily ‘with a growing number of Jewish students who see the boycott, divestment and sanctions (B.D.S.) movement as the most effective way to shift the conversation from a debate over whether or not Israel’s nearly 50-year military occupation is a moral problem to one that centers on Palestinian rights to freedom and equality.’  [New York Times, April 1, 2016.]

Because we are aware of your knowledge about, deep concern with, and considered views on this conflict, which seriously affects so many lives, we are respectfully submitting our concerns on this to you.

Sincerely yours,

– Marty Rajandran and Barbara Walker
for the Granny Peace Brigade

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