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President Obama’s administration clearly attacked Israel’s extremists who insist that everything Israel does, including crimes, is good. While Obama does not support a boycott of Israel proper, the State Department issued a clarification reminding the world that it does not support the illegal settlements. The statement came out just as more American Christian Churches prepared to vote to divest from Israeli businesses that are tied to the illegal settlement movement
By Ray Hanania
Israel’s rightwing government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is using the cover of an anti-Civil Rights campaign in America to expand its illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, undermining the chances for peace.
Pro-Israel extremists in legislatures in several states such as Illinois, have pushed through laws that punish anyone who criticizes Israel’s anti-Civil Rights policies and boycotts the illegal settlements. One law was introduced by anti-Arab racists Senator Ira Silverstein and State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz to deny state pension funds to any group that boycotts Israel’s anti-Civil Rights policies and its brutal oppression of Christian and Muslim civilians.
As the Silverstein-Feigenholtz bill, and others like it, have helped fuel a debate that is directly undermining any chances for peace, Netanyahu is using the debate as a cover to legalize the illegal settlements.
During a press briefing this week at the U.S. State Department, an official was asked about Netanyahu’s effort to torpedo the peace process, in an apparent snub of American efforts to bring about Middle East peace.
But pro-peace activists seeking to use non-violence to force Israel to abandon its militarist policies and accept peace have succeeded in raising the issue through the BDS movement, (Boycott, Divest, and Sanction).
And this week, more American Christian churches that object to Israel’s civil rights violations not only against Muslim Arabs under its military occupation but many Christian Arabs, too, are preparing to step up their divestment efforts.
The irony is that pro-Israel politicians like Silverstein and Feigenholtz have had to acknowledge that they do not support peace and instead support the subjugation of civilians by a foreign country, Israel. They have made Israel’s interests and violations of the Rule of Law a higher priority than the interests of the United States, which is to bring about a peace accord in the Middle East.
It’s not Israeli soldiers that have been defending America on Middle East battlefields and conflicts fueled in a large part by Israeli aggression against Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan.
Even more ironic is that many pro-Israel activists refuse to serve in the U.S. Military to defend America, but instead serve in the Israeli military. One such person is former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren. Before becoming Ambassador, Oren declined service in the United States military but did serve in the Israeli military. He was later appointed Ambassador by Netanyahu, his political crony, and then published a scathing and vicious attack against Obama in his book that was recently released.
Oren has been Netanyahu’s lead attack dog in slandering Obama and Obama’s efforts to bring a balanced and fair approach to the Middle East, standing up to Israel fanaticism and embracing non-violent efforts to pressure Israel to do the right thing.
But the real battlefield is in America, where Israel exploits its extremist supporters to siphon funds from American Taxpayers to underwrite it’s illegal activities.
Several Christian Churches have voted to divest their funds and to disengage from cooperation with Israel in a non-violent form of protest against Israel’s brutality and human rights abuses.
This week, the United Church of Christ’s general assembly voted overwhelmingly to divest its funds at its synod meeting that took place in Cleveland. The Episcopal Church and the Mennonite Church USA are expected to follow suit this week.
Israel has described the BDS movement as being “anti-Semitic” but the truth is that the BDS movement is a non-violent form of protest that targets Israeli extremism. The BDS movement targets Israel’s human rights abuses in much the same way that American Jews joined African American in boycotting South Africa. (Ironically, though, Israel maintained close and active relations with South African and used the international boycott of the racist South African Apartheid Government to sell it products that were embargoed. In many ways, Israel’s policies of religious supremacy reflects the racist Apartheid policies of South Africa.)
State Department spokesperson John Kirby made the point clear during his briefing Tuesday (June 30) that you cannot mix the protests against Israel’s occupation by merging the occupation with Israel. He said the two issues are separate.
Kirby said, “… by conflating Israel and ‘Israeli-controlled territories,’ a provision of the Trade Promotion Authority legislation runs counter to longstanding U.S. policy towards the occupied territories, including with regard to settlement activity … Every U.S. administration since 1967 – Democrat and Republican alike – has opposed Israeli settlement activity beyond the 1967 lines. This administration is no different. The U.S. government has never defended or supported Israeli settlements and activity associated with them and, by extension, does not pursue policies or activities that would legitimize them.”
The U.S. supports Israel’s right to exist and has consistently done so since its founding in 1948, but American Foreign Policy is clear that the lands occupied in 1967 are not a part of Israeli territory despite several moves by Israel to annex them, and the settlements that have been built in the occupied territories including in East Jerusalem, which Israel has illegally annexed, are in fact illegal.
Protesting against the racist illegal settlements is in line with American foreign policy and American interests. The settlements and Israel refusal to exchange land for peace is the single greatest obstacle to peace.
Israel refuses to recognize the right of Palestine to exist as a state. Israel claims that it wants to exchange land for peace but in fact is annexing the land and expelling civilians to replace them with Jewish citizens, a racist more that is abhorrent and immoral.
Most of the world has criticized Israel’s policies and Israel’s only response is to avoid addressing the issues and to instead slander its critics, falsely calling them “anti-Semitic.”
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Ray Hanania is an award winning political columnist and author. He covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).
Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and for TheArabDailyNews.com, and TheDailyHookah.com.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.
His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania
Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com
Visit this link to read Ray's column archive at the ArabNews,com www.arabnews.com/taxonomy/term/10906