Too little, too late

I was asked in a comment to the previous post whether or not it was a joyous moment to hear that medical aid would be released to Palestinians to help with the onslaught of death, destruction, and devastation for which the U.S., Israel, and the European Union are equally responsible. And yet this aid, which is certainly necessary, is not nearly enough to deal with the catastrophe that Palestinians are suffering. As Ali Abunimah of Electronic Intifada comments:

The EU is now trying to deflect criticism by putting together a plan to channel aid to the Palestinians without going through Hamas. Desperate for any relief, many Palestinians have welcomed this, though the aid seems a long way from flowing as the EU has no idea how to achieve it. This palliative is merely another example of the EU stepping in to subsidize the occupation and mitigate its most pernicious effects so as to avoid actually having to do the hard work of confronting Israel and rolling back its colonialism.

This temporary and minimal aid, of course, continues in the context of the U.S. House of Representatives trying to pass HR 4681 (also known as the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006) which would, if it passes, in fact limit even this type of aid that is being channeled through NGOs like UNICEF. Thankfully, the bill has been stalled a bit as reported in the Forward:

In its memo, the State Department said that the bill is too restrictive and to sweeping, making no distinction between Hamas members of the P.A. and ones who are not affiliated with the terrorist group. The administration said it would like to maintain the option of providing aid to the Palestinian government in the future, if Hamas’s positions on peaceful relations with Israel change. The administration also would like to maintain relations with non-Hamas members of the P.A.

Aipac’s failure this week to rush the bill through the House, in a procedure that prevents introducing last-moment amendments, was celebrated by the three Jewish organizations — Americans for Peace Now, The Israel Policy Forum and Brit Tzedek v’Shalom — that, together with two dovish Christian groups, lobbied strongly against the bill. In an unusual move, the three Jewish groups positioned themselves squarely against Aipac. Peace Now even circulated a memo among House members, challenging a guide to the bill that Aipac distributed on the Hill.

Through all of this, I believe, Rabbi Michael Lerner provides us with the most precise problem of why the situation is so dire and why it is so impossible to break through AIPAC guided legislation like HR 4681:

Jews in the Diaspora have not been particularly successful in providing an alternative. The sad truth is that those most affiliated with the organized Jewish community are those who have been least creative in defining a Judaism that can meet the challenges of the 21st century. Much of America’s organized Jewish community is mired in a religion of Holocaust and Israel-worship that sends it into a fury if anyone dares compare our Holocaust to theirs, or uses universally accepted criteria of human rights to criticize Israel. Many members of America’s Jewish community have largely abandoned the consciousness that would have led it to be concerned with the rights of others, as it was during the time in which it stood for civil rights. (The only recent exception being the admirable opposition to the genocide in Darfur, though it merely received Jewish establishment support because it allowed Jews and Evangelical Christians the opportunity to use human rights criteria to attack Arabs and Muslims in Darfur, while remaining silent about American and Israeli human rights violations.)

In his attempt to work diplomatically with President Bush (who of course is ignoring the this letter), President Ahmadinejad sent a letter in which he asks some compelling and significant questions which I think are worth considering especially on the cusp of al nakba day:

Mr. President,

You might know that I am a teacher. My students ask me how can theses actions be reconciled with the values outlined at the beginning of this letter and duty to the tradition of Jesus Christ (PBUH), the Messenger of peace and forgiveness.

There are prisoners in Guantanamo Bay that have not been tried, have no legal representation, their families cannot see them and are obviously kept in a strange land outside their own country. There is no international monitoring of their conditions and fate. No one knows whether they are prisoners, POWs, accused or criminals.

European investigators have confirmed the existence of secret prisons in Europe too. I could not correlate the abduction of a person, and him or her being kept in secret prisons, with the provisions of any judicial system. For that matter, I fail to understand how such actions correspond to the values outlined in the beginning of this letter, i.e. the teachings of Jesus Christ (PBUH), human rights and liberal values.

Young people, university students and ordinary people have many questions about the phenomenon of Israel. I am sure you are familiar with some of them.

Throughout history many countries have been occupied, but I think the establishment of a new country with a new people, is a new phenomenon that is exclusive to our times.

Students are saying that sixty years ago such a country did no exist. The show old documents and globes and say try as we have, we have not been able to find a country named Israel.

I tell them to study the history of WWI and II. One of my students told me that during WWII, which more than tens of millions of people perished in, news about the war, was quickly disseminated by the warring parties. Each touted their victories and the most recent battlefront defeat of the other party. After the war, they claimed that six million Jews had been killed. Six million people that were surely related to at least two million families.

Again let us assume that these events are true. Does that logically translate into the establishment of the state of Israel in the Middle East or support for such a state? How can this phenomenon be rationalized or explained?

Mr. President,

I am sure you know how – and at what cost – Israel was established: Many thousands were killed in the process.

Millions of indigenous people were made refugees.

Hundred of thousands of hectares of farmland, olive plantations, towns and villages were destroyed.

This tragedy is not exclusive to the time of establishment; unfortunately it has been ongoing for sixty years now.

A regime has been established which does not show mercy even to kids, destroys houses while the occupants are still in them, announces beforehand its list and plans to assassinate Palestinian figures and keeps thousands of Palestinians in prison. Such a phenomenon is unique – or at the very least extremely rare – in recent memory.

Another big question asked by people is why is this regime being supported? Is support for this regime in line with the teachings of Jesus Christ (PBUH) or Moses (PBUH) or liberal values? Or are we to understand that allowing the original inhabitants of these lands – inside and outside Palestine – whether they are Christian, Muslim or Jew, to determine their fate, runs contrary to principles of democracy, human rights and the teachings of prophets? If not, why is there so much opposition to a referendum?

The newly elected Palestinian administration recently took office. All independent observes have confirmed that this government represents the electorate. Unbelievingly, they have put the elected government under pressure and have advised it to recognise the Israeli regime, abandon the struggle and follow the programs of the previous government.

If the current Palestinian government had run on the above platform, would the Palestinian people have voted for it? Again, can such position taken in opposition to the Palestinian government be reconciled with the values outlined earlier? The people are also saying why are all UNSC resolutions in condemnation of Israel vetoed?

These are questions I’d like to see President Bush answer.



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