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Today, more than 100 organizations representing millions of Americans sent a letter calling on presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden and President Trump to adopt a just and principled foreign policy towards the state of Israel and the Palestinian people, one that prioritizes freedom, dignity, and equality for all people. Signatories of the letters include American Muslims for Palestine, CODEPINK; Council on American-Islamic Affairs (CAIR); If Not Now; Jewish Voice for Peace; Kairos USA; Presbyterian Church USA and Israel Palestine Mission Network (IPMN).
The letter, organized by CODEPINK, states: "Current U.S. positions supporting, indeed enabling, Israeli government violations are out of touch with voters. U.S. foreign policy on Israel/Palestine should be rooted in the same values and principles that are supposed to guide U.S. policy throughout the rest of the world -- respecting human rights and international law, promoting the peaceful resolution of conflicts, supporting diplomacy over military intervention, and utilizing multilateralism and multilateral institutions for dispute resolution."
The letter comes on the heels of a recent Biden campaign statement conflating American Jewry with support for Israel and bragging about having increased military assistance to Israel at the end of Obama's term. The statement also promised to continue, in violation on the First Amendment, attacks on individuals and organizations that boycott Israel for political reasons and referred to Palestinian "choices" to commit violence.
Within days of the release of the statement from the Biden campaign, so much backlash had accumulated that the degrading language of Palestinian "choices" was removed. This backlash reflects the growing American support for Palestinian rights, which provides an opportunity to influence policy regarding Palestinians and the state of Israel as America heads into the November 2020 election.
"Rather than reflecting the growth of support for Palestinian human rights within the Democratic party, Biden seems to be trying to show that he can be almost as hawkish and one-sided as Trump when it comes to the issue of Israel and Palestinian rights," said CODEPINK co-director Ariel Gold. "Despite paying mild lip service to the dangers of Israel annexing parts of the West Bank, Biden's positions are to the right of where the Obama administration was. Palestinians have been campaigning for over 70 years for their basic rights and freedoms. It is far past time for the U.S. to stop carrying water for the Israeli government and instead support justice and equality for all people."
The shift in American opinion towards Israel and the Palestinian struggle was best captured in two key moments in the past year. One was at the March 2019 policy conference of the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, when eight out of ten Democratic candidates refused to attend. The second was at the October 2019 J Street conference, when the audience burst into applause after then-candidate Bernie Sanders suggested leveraging the $3.8 billion the U.S. gives to Israel to push Israel towards respecting Palestinian human rights.
When Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign, Joe Biden indicated that he would integrate some of the politics of the progressive wing of the Democratic party in order to reflect the movement the Sanders campaign had built. Unfortunately, as far as Palestinian rights are concerned, Biden has done nothing of the sort.
"Public and media discourse, and crucially, voters' opinions on Israeli violations and Palestinian rights, have dramatically shifted in recent years but too many past and present officials are out of touch, and unaware of those changes," said Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies and board member of Jewish Voice for Peace. "Large percentages of key voting blocs want major changes in US policy to match those changing public opinions - and any candidates hoping to win support from young, Black, Democratic, progressive, and increasingly Jewish voters, will ignore those changes at their peril."
The birth of a new phase of the civil rights movement in the United States should also be an impetus for rethinking the role of the United States in supporting repressive policies abroad. "As Americans, we cannot talk about ending the institutional and systemic racism in this country while we enable a system of apartheid in the occupied Palestinian territories," said Dr. Osama Abuirshaid, National Executive Director of American Muslims for Palestine. "We cannot demand an end to police brutality in our streets without demanding that our government stop financing Israeli brutality with our tax dollars."
The letter, and the full list of signers, can be accessed here, and is also included below.
Dear Vice President Biden,
We write to you as organizations and individuals deeply concerned about the continuing escalation of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people and the urgent need for a different U.S. policy -- one based on the principles of equality and justice for all.
Current U.S. positions supporting, indeed enabling, Israeli government violations are out of touch with voters. A February 2020 Gallup poll found increased support for Palestinians, especially among young people. The same is true for American Jews, who are becoming more and more critical of Israeli government policies and more and more supportive of Palestinian rights.
U.S. foreign policy on Israel/Palestine should be rooted in the same values and principles that are supposed to guide U.S. policy throughout the rest of the world -- respecting human rights and international law, promoting the peaceful resolution of conflicts, supporting diplomacy over military intervention, and utilizing multilateralism and multilateral institutions for dispute resolution. The United States should affirm the right of every human being to live with dignity, equality, freedom, and respect for human rights -- and that should include Palestinians and Israelis.
The United States has directly intervened in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict for nearly 30 years (since the 1991 Madrid Conference). It has promoted versions of a two-state solution to that conflict for even longer. It is time to acknowledge that those efforts have failed -- primarily because of U.S. failures to act as an honest broker. Longtime U.S. diplomat, Aaron David Miller, central to the process over several administrations of both parties, said the U.S. role was that of "Israel's lawyer." Providing Israel's government with unlimited diplomatic protection and massive military financing has enabled the country to entrench its occupation, expand its illegal settlements, impose a 13-year-long siege and wage three wars against Gaza, pass laws that officially deny equal rights to Israeli citizens who are not Jewish, all under the veneer of peacemaking.
A new policy with any chance of success requires the United States to abandon its insistence on being the sole mediator of the conflict. The United Nations, as well as regional actors such as the European Union and the Arab League, should be involved as full and equal partners in a process aimed at ensuring full equality and rights for all people now living in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
What many American voters, including many Jewish voters, young voters, and voters of color are looking for in presidential candidates includes:
* explicit opposition to Israel's occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and its unlawful blockade (abetted by Egypt) of the Gaza Strip;
* recognition of Israel's obligations toward the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, a protected population, according to international law;
* support for conditioning U.S. military funding to Israel on an end to Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights and adherence to all relevant U.S. laws, including the Arms Export Control Act and the Leahy Law;
* support for H.R. 2407, the "Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act," sponsored by Representative Betty McCollum, to ensure that no U.S. dollars contribute to Israel's a military detention, interrogation, abuse and/or other ill-treatment of Palestinian children;
* calling on Israel's government to repeal the Jewish Nation-State Basic Law and to ensure that Palestinian citizens of Israel and other non-Jewish citizens in the country enjoy equal rights with Jewish citizens by passing a basic law guaranteeing those rights;
* opposition to the use of U.S. security assistance against protected populations, including in Gaza, and calling on Israel's government to protect civilians from settler violence;
* support for Palestinian refugee rights consistent with international law and relevant UN resolutions;
* promise to relocate the U.S. Embassy back to Tel Aviv until such time as the international status of East Jerusalem has changed from its current status as occupied territory;
* a promise to provide full U.S. cooperation with the International Criminal Court's investigation into alleged war crimes committed by all sides in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip;
* rejection of U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over any territories now occupied, absent an internationally recognized final agreement with the Palestinians.
* a promise to reduce regional tensions and enhance regional stability by restoring U.S. support for and participation in the Iranian nuclear agreement (The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action).
We ask that you take these issues to heart and revise your policy positions accordingly. We look forward to communicating with you and your campaigns.
CURRENT SIGNERS (6/18/2020):
Letter to Trump here.
"If today was a sign of what's to come, future House Energy and Commerce Committee hearings will be reduced to GOP members regurgitating Big Oil's false talking points."
On the same day that the largest oil company in the United States reported record profits for 2022, Republicans used the first House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing of the new year to promote the further expansion of climate-wrecking fossil fuel production and attack efforts to build out renewable energy infrastructure.
The energy panel is chaired by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the top recipient of oil and gas PAC money in the last election cycle and a longtime advocate of opening U.S. public lands and waters to fossil fuel drilling.
In keeping with her record, Rodgers kicked off Tuesday's hearing by touting the House's passage of legislation that would require the federal government to lease a certain percentage of public lands and waters for fossil fuel extraction for every non-emergency drawdown of the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
Rodgers touted last week's vote as "bipartisan," but just one House Democrat—Rep. Jared Golden of Maine—joined Republicans in passing the bill, which is unlikely to become law. Climate advocates have warned that, if enacted, the measure "could lock in at least a century of oil drilling."
"We need to be doing more to secure and unleash American energy," Rodgers said Tuesday, attacking so-called "rush-to-green" policies and falsely blaming Europe's energy crisis on renewables.
Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), chair of the panel's subcommittee on energy, climate, and grid security, toed a similar line during his opening remarks at Tuesday's hearing, decrying "the Democrats' 'rush-to-green policies'" and condemning science-backed calls to phase out fossil fuels.
Duncan also praised surging oil exports, which experts say have driven up costs for U.S. consumers while padding the profits of fossil fuel giants and contributing to the rise of global carbon emissions.
Jordan Schreiber, the director of energy and environment with the progressive watchdog group Accountable.US, said in a statement Tuesday that "if today was a sign of what's to come, future House Energy and Commerce Committee hearings will be reduced to GOP members regurgitating Big Oil's false talking points while openly advocating for energy policies that favor wealthy executives and shareholders over their own constituents."
The hearing began hours after ExxonMobil reported a record-shattering $56 billion in profits for the full year of 2022.
The corporation, whose scientists accurately predicted global warming decades ago as the company publicly lied about climate change, said it distributed nearly $30 billion to shareholders last year as U.S. households struggled to pay their energy bills.
Days before Exxon's earnings release, Chevron—the second-largest oil company in the U.S. by market cap—reported $35.5 billion in 2022 profits, an all-time high for the company.
"Even on a day when three of the country's largest oil companies posted a whopping $82.5 billion in profits for 2022, thanks to the unrelenting price gouging of American consumers, the MAGA majority can not stop themselves from doing the industry’s bidding," said Schreiber, referring to the combined profits of Exxon, Marathon Petroleum, and Phillips 66.
During Tuesday's hearing, Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee slammed their Republican colleagues for prioritizing the interests of the ultra-profitable fossil fuel industry over U.S. consumers and the environment.
"We've all heard the slogans: 'Drill baby, drill,' 'energy dominance,' and now 'energy expansion,'" said Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.). "But don't be fooled. These policies will not expand our potential for new renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, and will only increase our dependence on oil and gas."
"They're nothing more than a giveaway to the oil industry," DeGette said of the House GOP's fossil fuel-centered energy agenda.
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), the top Democrat on the committee, pushed back on the GOP narrative that energy prices are high because the Biden administration is hindering the oil and gas industry's ability to drill—something that climate groups have pressured the administration to do, with little success.
"Republicans have pushed this idea that somehow Big Oil wanted to pump more but couldn't," said Pallone. "In reality, they wanted to keep the price artificially high."
"It's clear that the ultraconservative justices in particular cannot be trusted to hold themselves to the same ethical standard as other federal judges," said one advocate, calling for congressional action.
Fresh calls for federal lawmakers to pass new ethics rules for the U.S. Supreme Court mounted after The New York Times on Tuesday revealed that a former colleague of Chief Justice John Roberts' wife raised concerns to Congress and the U.S. Department of Justice.
After her husband joined the nation's top court, Jane Sullivan Roberts left her job as a law firm partner to work as a legal recruiter. Though Roberts is now the managing partner of the Washington office of Macrae Inc., she and Kendal Price, the author of a letter obtained by the Times, worked as recruiters for the global firm Major, Lindsey & Africa.
"No wonder public trust in the Supreme Court is at an all-time low."
In his letter, Price "argued that the justices should be required to disclose more information about their spouses' work," the newspaper reported. "He did not cite specific Supreme Court decisions, but said he was worried that
a financial relationship with law firms arguing before the court could affect justices' impartiality or at least give the appearance of doing so."
As the Times detailed:
According to the letter, Mr. Price was fired in 2013 and sued the firm, as well as Mrs. Roberts and another executive, over his dismissal.
He lost the case, but the litigation produced documents that he sent to Congress and the Justice Department, including spreadsheets showing commissions attributed to Mrs. Roberts early in her headhunting career, from 2007 to 2014. Mrs. Roberts, according to a 2015 deposition in the case, said that a significant portion of her practice was devoted to helping senior government lawyers land jobs at law firms and that the candidates' names were almost never disclosed.
Patricia McCabe, a spokesperson for the Supreme Court, told the paper that all the justices were "attentive to ethical constraints" and complied with financial disclosure laws, and that the chief justice and his wife had consulted the code of conduct for federal judges.
The reporting comes after Justice Clarence Thomas—one of the Supreme Court's six right-wing members—ignored calls to resign over efforts by his wife, activist Ginni Thomas, to help former President Donald Trump overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. It also follows a September survey showing that U.S. adults' confidence in the court hit a record low.
"No wonder public trust in the Supreme Court is at an all-time low," Brett Edkins, managing director of policy and political affairs for Stand Up America, said Tuesday. "Jane Roberts is just the latest Supreme Court spouse to raise questions about potential conflicts of interest and influence peddling before the nation's highest court."
\u201cThe Roberts Court is corrupt, illegitimate, and undemocratic\n\n\u201cI do believe that litigants in U.S. courts, and especially the Supreme Court, deserve to know if their judges\u2019 households are receiving six-figure payments from the law firms"\nhttps://t.co/meehrlhwgf\u201d— The Debt Collective \ud83d\udfe5 (@The Debt Collective \ud83d\udfe5) 1675199600
Edkins argued that "while she did not join a seditious conspiracy to overthrow the government, as Ginni Thomas did, her actions may nonetheless undermine Chief Justice Roberts' impartiality when his wife's clients argue before the court."
"It's clear that the ultraconservative justices in particular cannot be trusted to hold themselves to the same ethical standard as other federal judges," he added. "It's time for Congress to step up and pass meaningful reforms to fix the Supreme Court, including a code of ethics that would require justices to recuse themselves from cases where they have an actual or apparent conflict of interest."
In a Tuesday tweet, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), lead sponsor of the Judicial Ethics and Anti-Corruption Act, pointed to the reporting as "example #4,394 of why the Supreme Court needs a binding code of ethics."
Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) did not say how his panel may respond to Price's letter but told the Times that it raised "troubling issues that once again demonstrate the need" for ethics reforms to "begin the process of restoring faith in the Supreme Court."
The union representing Florida's professors said it would "stand in lockstep opposition to any and all so-called 'reforms' that will actually destroy our state's world-class degree programs and their ability to serve our students."
Taking aim yet again at higher education, Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday proposed sweeping changes to the state's university system, including banning state funding for diversity, equity, and inclusion programs and critical race theory education, as well as forcing tenured professors to undergo reviews at any time.
Speaking during a press conference at the State College of Florida in Bradenton, DeSantis said he is asking the state Legislature to cut all funding for programs he believes are "ideological."
Referring to diversity, equity, and inclusion programs—which aim to promote fair treatment and full participation—and critial race theory, a graduate-level framework dealing with systemic racism, DeSantis said that "we're also going to eliminate all DEI and CRT bureaucracies in the state of Florida. No funding, and that will wither on the vine."
\u201cThis program was going to be launched by FAMU in April. Based on the Governor's remarks today via his unhinged press conference, he wants to CANCEL this program and ban it from receiving any public support. \n\nCanceling a program about DEI at an HBCU.\n\nLet that sink in.\u201d— Rep. Anna V. Eskamani \ud83d\udd28 (@Rep. Anna V. Eskamani \ud83d\udd28) 1675185477
Apparently not satisfied with a state law requiring tenured professors at state colleges and universities to undergo reviews every five years, DeSantis also called for legislation that would subject such educators to reviews at any time, at risk of their jobs.
"Yes, we have the five-year review of all the tenured faculty, which is, which is good… and the board of trustees has to determine whether they stay or go. But you may need to do review more aggressively than just five," he said.
"I've talked with folks around the country who've been involved in higher ed reform, and the most significant deadweight cost at universities is typically unproductive tenured faculty," the governor added. "And so why would we want to saddle you as taxpayers with that cost if we don't have to do that?"
United Faculty of Florida (UFF), the union representing college and university educators in the state, said it would fight DeSantis' proposals.
"The United Faculty of Florida stand in lockstep opposition to any and all so-called 'reforms' that will actually destroy our state's world-class degree programs and their ability to serve our students," UFF President Andrew Gothard said in a statement. "We will not allow Florida's future to be sacrificed for cheap political points."
\u201cRon DeSantis just held an UNHINGED press event promising to DEFUND Diversity, Equity, + Inclusion programs in all public colleges/universities.\n\nHis rants against \u2018political ideology\u2019 + \u2018indoctrination\u2019 are accusations in a mirror.\n\nHe wants total political censorship + control.\u201d— Carlos Guillermo Smith (@Carlos Guillermo Smith) 1675184661
Writing for The Chronicle of Higher Education, Francie Diep and Emma Pettit contended that "it's been a dizzying month for higher ed in the Sunshine State."
As the authors explained:
The recent avalanche of activity began in late December, when DeSantis' office requested that state colleges and universities list their spending on programs related to diversity, equity, inclusion, and critical race theory. Florida's Republican House Speaker, Paul Renner, later asked the same campuses to turn over a mountain of additional DEI-related information.
DeSantis' office also requested that state universities report data on transgender students, and he appointed six new trustees to the New College of Florida's board because, according to his press secretary, the small liberal arts institution has put "trendy, truth-relative concepts above learning."
"What I find most troubling is that DeSantis is putting out a blueprint for other governors and state legislatures,” Kristen A. Renn—a professor at Michigan State University who researches LGBTQ+ college issues—told The Chronicle of Higher Education. "He's doing these things in ways that anybody else can pick this up and do it."
DeSantis—a potential 2024 presidential candidate—has also come under fire for other policies and actions including rejecting a college preparatory African-American studies course, banning unapproved books from K-12 libraries, and the Stop WOKE Act, a CRT ban that applies to schools from the primary through university levels and is meant to combat what the governor called "wokeness as a form of cultural Marxism."
\u201cBanning books, banning DEI, and targeting trans students is all ok but having neo nazis like Nick Fuentes tabling on FSU's campus is ok. Welcome to DeSantis' Florida.\u201d— Alejandra Caraballo (@Alejandra Caraballo) 1674832846
Mia Brett, legal historian at The Editorial Board, last week compared Republicans' attacks on education across the country to similar moves by the leaders of Nazi Germany during the early months of their regime.
"I'm not being hyperbolic when I say this is directly out of Nazi laws passed in 1933. Though if this Republican effort is successful, you might not be able to learn things like that anymore," she wrote, adding that the legislation banning courses on CRT and racial and gender identity are a "chilling erosion of academic freedom and a huge step toward fascist academic control in the service of right-wing narratives."
\u201cI wrote for @johnastoehr last week about how republicans are using the Nazi playbook for fascist education control. Here\u2019s another example https://t.co/oD0X1j0EoN\u201d— Dr. Mia Brett (@Dr. Mia Brett) 1675179218
"While it's still legal to teach history, remember where such efforts have led and take them seriously," Brett ominously warned.