In the aftermath of the horror that has been visited upon Rafah over the past two weeks in particular but the past three years in general, Americans across the country are asking their congress people to stop military aid to Israel. On Friday 21 May 2004, there were sit-ins and other similar actions at congressional offices in San Francisco, Louisville, New Orleans, Albuquerque, Olympia, New York, and more.
In Boston, several different groups of people organized and met with their respective Representatives. One group delivered a mock coffin to Barney Frank. In it were torn copies of the Geneva conventions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the Arms Control Act. When they left his office it was on his conference table.
We had an additional target in Boston, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, John Kerry. Following a week of calling representatives, Senators and the White House, Bostonians marched to the campaign office of John Kerry. We began in a busy downtown shopping area carrying banners, placards, flags and giving out thousands of leaflets. Banners read:
“STOP ISRAEL’S WAR CRIMES”
“MANY PALESTINIANS KILLED: BUSH “TROUBLED” KERRY SILENT”
We arrived at Kerry’s office at 12:30. The press never showed up. We didn’t really expect them to. Boston media stopped covering events in support of Palestinians a long time ago. We were met by the office manager who invited several of us inside to discuss the issues. Two of us obliged. I had prepared a letter to be presented to Mr. Kerry (below). As he was not there, I gave it to Lynda Tocci. She promised to give it to the appropriate policy person and to try to set us up a meeting with that person.
So What Happened to John Kerry?
The only thing I can think of is ambition. How can anyone look at the footage of last week and not react? It takes a political decision made from a heart of stone. Lest Mr. Kerry think otherwise, the world does notice.
Kerry continues to embody the persona that Bush has created for him. From his about face on nominating Jimmy Carter or James Baker to be ambassador’s to the Middle East to his use of Israeli propaganda, on the issue of Israel Palestine, Kerry is on the wrong side of world opinion. The problem is that he is less concerned about world opinion than he is about AIPAC and Christian Zionists. I have a newsflash for the Kerry campaign, Bush already has the Christian Zionists wrapped up since he is one. And his administration consists of neocons who have previously advised Benjamin Netanyahu.
So my advice to John Kerry would be to show some of the courage we saw upon his return from Vietnam. Stand up for what is right and not what appears to be politically expedient. In the long run, the respect earned will convert to much more solid political support. As it is now no-one is for Kerry. We simply hate Bush.
I would advise him to look at Clinton’s first presidential campaign. Before his election he promised to ban discrimination against gays in the military. This was not a popular stance. He was also the first politician to actively address AIDS. This was also not a popular stance. However, it earned him the reputation of someone who has both courage and convictions. We thought we would finally have a president who would do what is right or at least what he believed to be right.
When he got into office and completely caved to pressure and came up with “don’t ask don’t tell”, he lost respect of EVERYONE, his supporters and detractors alike.
Finally, if John Kerry does actually believe that what Israel is doing with our money, military hardware and support is right, then he should come out and say that. There is still time to draft Kucinich, especially since Kerry is now going to decline the nomination.
Text of letter to Kerry
Senator John F. Kerry
One Bowdoin Square, 10th Floor
Boston, MA 02114 May 22, 2004
Dear Senator Kerry,
On May 19, 2004, the United Nations Security Council, voted 14 to 0 to condemn the killing of Palestinian civilians and to reaffirm innumerable previously passed UN resolutions including 242 calling for immediate withdrawal of Israeli army from the occupied territory. At the same time Congress has remained painfully silent except for some who reaffirmed Israel’s right to defend herself. There has been no condemnation of this gross violation of International law and moral conscience. And though George W. Bush was “troubled” by the attack and actually made the rare decision not to veto a security council resolution critical of Israel, John Kerry has remained silent.
Since this latest invasion of Rafah began by the Israeli army, some 40 Palestinians have been killed. Though some may have been militants, the vast majority have been civilians. John Dugard, the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights issued a statement on May 20, 2004 calling the Israeli actions “a violation of international humanitarian law” and constituted war crimes under the Geneva Convention.
In addition to those killed and wounded, thousands of others have been left homeless by the illegal tactic of house demolition by the Israeli army. House demolitions are often carried out as “collective punishment” or to facilitate the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements.
All of the weapons used to commit these crimes are American; the apache helicopter gunship, the tanks and the D9 bulldozers. The U.S. Arms Export Control Act prohibits the use of U.S. weapons against civilian targets. The provisions of U.S. law must be enforced, without regard to which country seemingly violated them. Despite daily violations of this law by the state of Israel, the US government refuses to enforce or uphold it’s own law.
This latest attack on the Palestinian people is a continuation of a process of ethnic cleansing that Israel has been accelerating under the Sharon government with explicit approval from the Bush administration. A new report released by Amnesty International has outlined the extent of the destruction of homes, agricultural land and olive trees by the Israeli army. And according to Donatella Rovera, a co-author of the report, “In the vast majority of cases, it’s wanton destruction, it’s unnecessary, disproportionate, unjustified, and deliberate.”
We are calling upon Senator Kerry to acknowledge the gross violations of US law, International law, and human rights by the State of Israel.
We are calling on Senator Kerry to do everything in his power to enforce and uphold the laws of the United States and to honor the international agreements that the United States has signed. How much damage must be done to our international reputation before US government leaders end the self-destructive policy of Israel “right or wrong” ?
Pursuant to these requests, We further request that Senator Kerry show the kind of leadership this country sorely needs by initiating legislation to cease all military financial aid to Israel.
Tom Wallace is the former Media Coordinator for the International Solidarity Movement, and the Executive Director of MidEast Focus, a communications awareness project.