Israeli speaker to come to SCSU Thursday, Mar 11 2010 

There have been plenty of good events going on around campus lately. The latest is going to be an Israeli speaker who was in the Israeli Air Force but who later refused to participate in aerial attacks on Palestine. He is now a nonviolence and human rights activist. Here is an e-mail regarding the event that I got from Amber Michel, creator of the newly-formed SCSU Students for a Free Palestine student group on campus:

On March 26, Yonatan Shapira, former Israeli Air Force Captain,
Refusenik and human rights activist, will speak at SCSU to share his
experience in the Israeli military and how he came to work for
nonviolence and Palestinian human rights.

This is a tremendous honor and opportunity for our campus and
surrounding communities.

Don’t miss this chance to hear a first-hand account from someone who
was inside the Occupying force.

I’ll send along a flier soon with more information, but for now:

Yonatan Shapira
March 26, 2010
4:00 – 6:00 pm
Atwood Theater, Atwood Student Center
St. Cloud State University
St. Cloud, MN


In Solidarity,
Amber – Students for a Free Palestine

How long? Tuesday, Oct 13 2009 

How long must we, American taxpayers, continue to support Israeli war crimes? Israel is the largest recipient of American foreign aid (ignoring, at the moment, Iraq and our war there). We support Israeli publicly, materially, diplomatically, and monetarily. What we do directly contributes to Israeli war crimes. And there is no longer any doubt about it: Israel is an occupying force in Palestine. That makes just about everything we and Israel do there war crimes. There is no international support to speak of in discussing U.S.-Israeli crimes in Palestine.

A recent and glaringly blatant example was Israel’s offensive against Gaza almost a year ago. The U.S.-Israeli attack (“U.S.-Israeli” because nothing Israel does is possible without the U.S.’s support) was recognized as contrary to international law and the actions committed by Israeli forces as constituting egregious war crimes. Just recently, a four-judge commission led by the distinguished Richard Goldstone (a Jew and supporter of Israel) released a report for the UN Human Rights Council condemning both Israel and Hamas for their war crimes, noting that Israel was responsible for an overwhelming majority of them, “indicating serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law were committed by Israel during the Gaza conflict.”

What was Israel’s response? Yesterday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that Israel would never allow its leaders or its soldiers to be tried for their crimes (following in the footsteps of the U.S.). Netanyahu defended this assertion by stating Israel has the right to defend itself. While Prime Minister Netanyahu is correct, it’s not true that Israel has the right to defend itself with force. It had no right to attack and invade Gaza. Israel is recognized as an occupier, and occupiers have no rights; but they do have obligations. So if Israel wanted to defend itself from rocket attacks, it had the obligation to withdraw from Palestine.

But what Israel (and the U.S.) is doing when it declares that it won’t prosecute war crimes is that it is declaring the Nuremberg trials a farce. U.S. Justice Robert Jackson made a point of this at the Nuremberg trials, at which he was the chief of counsel for the prosecution. He stated: “If certain acts of violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them. And we are not prepared to lay down the rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us. We must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow. To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our own lips as well.” The U.S. and Israel have sipped from the “poisoned chalice” but have refused to allow their crimes to be prosecuted. So we’re saying the work of Justice Jackson and the Nuremberg trials were mere legal farce. If you don’t think the proceedings were just a farce and merely for show, then you must advocate for prosecuting those who have sipped from the “poisoned chalice.”

Finally, notes Human Rights Watch’s Sarah Whitson, “The Obama administration cannot demand accountability for serious violations in places like Sudan and Congo but let allies like Israel go free.”

Eyewitness reports from Palestine Thursday, Oct 1 2009 

Notice and update: this is a longer version of a letter I wrote to the University Chronicle. You can read the shorter letter that was published in the University Chronicle here. Also see an update I’ve posted below.

Last night, I had the great pleasure of hearing the personal testimonies of SCSU student Amber Michel, SCSU professor Fouzi Slisli, and St. Catherine University professor Nasrin Jewell regarding their trip to Palestine this summer. SCSU professor Tamrat Tademe was also there to introduce the speakers and to give responses to some questions posed.

You’ll remember that it was these two professors, Drs. Tademe and Slisli, who were rudely interrupted last year by professor Joseph Edelheit during their panel discussion on the Gaza offensive. Dr. Edelheit, a professor of philosophy and the director of Religious and Jewish Studies at SCSU, was criticized by myself and other students in the University Chronicle’s opinion page, though some people did also defend him. I also wrote on this blog regarding the blatant bias the University Chronicle displayed in covering these incidents.

Thankfully, last night’s presentation went without incident. The speakers spoke eloquently of the plight of Palestinians and the audience had very engaging and intelligent questions to ask, allowing for a very informative discussion of the Israel-Palestine issue.

I’m very grateful for their very eye-opening reports regarding the massive oppression going on in Palestine. I praise their courage for telling the stories of Palestinians and their plight, for standing up against the predominating view in American society that supports Israeli aggression, and for explaining the perspective that is too often ignored and little understood.

However, I must respectfully disagree with two arguments they made in their presentation. The first is their advocacy for a one-state solution as opposed to the two-state solution. The second is their support for “boycott, divestment, and sanction” against Israel.

I strongly feel the two-state solution is the only way forward on this issue. I can concede that perhaps, in some philosophical utopia, the one-state solution might be a desirable outcome; but it’s completely unrealistic. So I do not pretend that the two-state solution is ideal, but it is realistic and it will improve the lives of Palestinians and Israelis quite drastically.

I am not alone in this because this is the international consensus. It is favored by the Arab nations, the Palestinians, the Israeli people, the EU, and so on. The only rejectionists have been the U.S. and Israeli governments. The closet Israel and Palestine have come to a settlement was at the Taba Summit (before Israel pulled out), which led to the Geneva Accord that provides for solutions that, though not ideal, both sides can agree on. Again, that’s the longstanding international consensus.

Second, I disagree with their calls for divestment. We should support an end to arm sales to Israel, but we should not support divestment. One, it’s ineffective; two, it’s the wrong way to think about it; and three, it hurts our cause for promoting peace in the region. Namely, it distracts from the important issues of occupation, war crimes, and continued oppression. Supporters of Israeli expansion know this, and they use divestments to distract us from the primary issues at stake to focus instead on other irrelevancies.

There is no longer any doubt that Israel continues to commit flagrant war crimes, ignore international law, and terrorize the Palestinian population. We must continue to focus and speak out on these issues, stop the boycotts against Israel, and support the international consensus for a two-state solution.

Update: Just so it’s absolutely clear: despite my disagreement over these issues, I am very appreciative of the work these people have done and continue to do to support Palestine and ending oppression. The work they do is important and noble; they do a great service to the SCSU community and help the cause of solidarity with those who suffer injustice. As Amber points out to me, even those who support the freedom of Palestine have differing opinions on how best to accomplish it. I continue to stand by these professors and students who seek to raise awareness on this important issue.

The double standard in foreign policy Thursday, Sep 3 2009 

In light of my recent post on the economic liberalization policies during the 1980s and onwards, I was hoping to discuss what is today being referred to “globalization.” Something else has been on the top of my mind lately, however, so that post will wait. What I wish to discuss instead is something that I have referred to numerous times on blog, which is the idea of moral universalism and specifically as it relates to U.S. foreign policy.

I promised someone a while ago I would discuss the Afghanistan War, and unfortunately I have been putting that off (along with most other issues dealing with foreign policy). The issue, in fact, is fairly complex but is one that can be simplified in terms of discussing the morality of it. The simple question we ought to ask ourselves, at all times, is whether what is right or wrong for us also right or wrong for others?

This is a very simple moral question and deals with what’s called moral universality. Namely, we should apply to ourselves the standards we place on others. I think Noam Chomsky, a leading and influential public intellectual, offers a good description of this moral principle: “… the principle of universality: if an action is right (or wrong) for others, it is right (or wrong) for us. Those who do not rise to the minimal moral level of applying to themselves the standards they apply to others — more stringent ones, in fact — plainly cannot be taken seriously when they speak of appropriateness of response; or of right and wrong, good and evil.” He explains, “Any moral code that is even worth looking at has that at its core somehow.” So, back to the question, do we follow this basic moral principle?

The answer to the question is a resounding no. This is plainly evident from my discussion of Israeli and U.S. war crimes in Palestine. It’s merely assumed, by virtue, that U.S. is allowed if not obligated to violate international law and human rights. I referenced something U.S. Justice Robert Jackson said during the Nuremberg Trials that also deals with the idea of moral universalism: “If certain acts of violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them. And we are not prepared to lay down the rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us. We must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow. To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our own lips as well.”

But this is something that cannot even be comprehended in the United States, even among intellectuals. Saying we should apply some basic standards to ourselves (minimally, those we apply to others) would be considered absurd in some circles, if comprehended at all. For example, some people use the September 11, 2001, attacks as the justification for criminal wars and occupations of two destitute countries. Is that the correct response to terrorism? Well, let’s ask what standards we place on others. How should the myriad countries, usually poor and defenseless, across the globe react to Western state terrorism? Let’s take the extreme yet uncontroversial example of the United States’ terror campaign that President Reagan launched against Nicaragua, which left tens of thousands dead and its economy in ruins even to this day. Who of those advocating the bombing of Afghanistan and Iraq also advocate the bombing of Washington by Nicaragua? Who in the 1980s was saying Nicaragua should declare war against the U.S.? Would Nicaragua have the right to targeted assassinations of our terrorist leaders and those who support them? The answers lead us, invariably, to the conclusion that what’s right for us is wrong for them. We cannot even rise to a minimal moral standard in which we can say what’s wrong for them is wrong for us too.

LeMay responds in University Chronicle’s defense Saturday, May 2 2009 

Back in February, I wrote an indictment of the University Chronicle for what I perceived to be bias in its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, namely as it relates to the two panels held on campus. To provide some context (see my previous post linked above for a more detailed explanation), the editorial board (consisting of Joey LeMay, mind you) published a diatribe lambasting the first panel’s outspokenness on the plight of Palestine. Keep this fact in mind for later. Then, in the next edition, LeMay wrote a front-page article on Dr. Edelheit’s presentation, which was supposed to be a response to the first panel that Dr. Edelheit rudely interrupted. The article, of course, was blatantly one-sided, as I noted in my previous post. Dr. Edelheit himself might as well have written it. Absolutely no perspective was given to the first panel’s point of view. But that’s all the past.

Now, however, LeMay has written a defense for the University Chronicle, in part because of what I wrote here. (Since I doubt they’ll publish anything during finals week and because of size restraints, it’s probably most prudent for me to respond here.) The gist of LeMay’s argument is that the University Chronicle simply does not have enough writers to cover all stories, however important they may be. Actually, he doesn’t quite say this. He says the panel’s discussion was too unimportant to be covered by its limited amount of resources. Expounds LeMay, “For its newsworthy value, the panel put on by Slisli and Tademe was not high on the list of intriguing events.” OK, so a panel of professors and students who have the courage to stand up against the predominating view in American society and say Israeli aggression is not acceptable is not “newsworthy.” To hold a panel on explaining the perspective that is too often ignored and not understood during a time of misperception and bias in coverage of a recent Israeli attack on Palestine is not “intriguing.” This is simply something that the student body would not be interested in hearing about, if we were to take the Chronicle’s argument. Gathering by the size of the crowd there that night, which was substantially larger than most crowds for 95% of university events, I think those people would beg to differ; the presentation was delayed because there were not even enough seats set out to accommodate all the people flowing in to hear this panel’s discussion. But that’s simply not “newsworthy” for the school newspaper. This, LeMay explains, is the reason no one showed up to cover the story.

It only became an “intriguing” story after a professor rudely interrupted the panel and disallowed them to present their topic, as the story goes. It takes a scandal of sorts—not actual relevant educational information—for there to be a story, apparently. So how does this explanation that LeMay gives jive with what actually happened? You’ll remember that in the publication following the first panel’s discussion (i.e. February 16), the editorial board responded to the events that took place that night. “As one of Minnesota’s largest higher learning facilities, where free thought and academic debate should be encouraged, we would be doing our students, faculty, and community a disservice by leaving voices unheard and considerations unexplored. Unfortunately, last Wednesday’s panel discussion on Israel’s invasion of Gaza was partisan and many question went unasked and unanswered,” writes the board. How could they possibly know this if no writers actually went to cover the event? Were they there to hear what the panel had to say? Were they there to listen to what question were asked? Were they there to hear what responses the panel had to give? Either LeMay is blatantly lying to us in his defense for the Chronicle or the editorial board (Ali Tweten, Paul Crawford, Andy Downs, and LeMay) was being intellectually dishonest in their response to the panel.

The front-page article written by LeMay that was in the following publication was, as I mentioned, completely biased. LeMay even admits this in his defense of the Chronicle: “I chose not to simply summarize Eidelheit’s [sic] claimed clarification of the events in Gaza. Instead, I focused on Eidelheit’s [sic] reaction to his treatment at the panel conducted by Slisli and Tademe, his problem with the Warsaw ghetto photo and the flyer, and the mixed reception he received from the audience.” You’ll note that he says nothing about the first panel’s reaction or their explanation for the photo they used. No, it was simply Dr. Edelheit’s perspective. But LeMay continues, “So, in order to say University Chronicle showed favoritism towards Eidelheit’s [sic] panel is misleading.” So, even after admitting he was biased in his coverage he says it’s misleading to call that favoritism towards Dr. Edelheit. That’s simply confounding. LeMay calls it “one of the best definitions of news I can think of.” Is it any wonder why there is “distrust in media and the idea that media skew their reporting”?

Palestine protest Monday, Apr 27 2009 

Last week there was a group of people on campus outside of the Performing Arts Center with a public display regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the last Israeli offensive against Palestine. Most graphically, they had a pile of 100 manikins piled atop of each other next to one manikin, representing the unequal causalities in that offensive. They also had another pile of smaller manikins representing the amount of children who died on the Palestinian side. They also had a display of personal stories from those who saw first-hand the horrors of the Israeli attack; a list of causalities including women and children; and plenty of handouts regarding the history of this conflict providing relevant information, history, and statistics. A lot of people seemed to be checking it out, including SCSU president Earl Potter. Naturally, of course, the school newspaper chose not to cover it.

Gaza 2009 casualties Friday, Feb 20 2009 

In an unfortunate post to his blog, King Banaian, a professor of economics at SCSU, describe the Gazan casualties in the 2009 U.S.-Israeli offensive not as victims but rather as terrorists deserving to die.

Currently, there are two or three conflicting accounts of causalities for this latest attack.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), a nongovernmental organization, places the death toll at 1,284. The PCHR says that 894 (70%) of the dead were civilians (280 of which were children and minors under the age of 17, and 111 were women). So what about the other 390 dead? PCHR says 167 (43%) of them were civil police. This means 233 (17%) of all the dead were Hamas militant combatants. (Hamas claims this number is only 158.) The PCHR also claims 4,336 were wounded, most of whom were civilians.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health (PMoH) has slightly different numbers. They claim 1,324 people died during the attack, with most being civilians, and a total of 5,400 were injured. (Source.)

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), Israel’s military, however have come up with different numbers. The IDF claims it has been able to identify 1,200 of the 1,338 (?) claimed to have been killed. Of 1,200 that they’ve identified, the IDF claims 580 (48%) “had been conclusively ‘incriminated’ as members of Hamas and other terrorist groups.” The IDF also claim 300 (25%) of these 1,200 dead were “women, children aged 15 and younger and men over the age of 65.” (Note the difference in the definitions of “minor.”) The IDF says, though, that some of these women were actually terrorist fighters. This leaves 320 unaccounted for. The IDF says these are all men. (Source.) Of course, we know not all men are combatants. The IDF seems to disagree. I also assume this means they have not been able to identify the additional 124 the PMoH claim were killed. Unfortunately, the IDF does not discriminate between a civilian police force and military combatants. Police are meant to keep the peace and enforce laws–they are a branch of civilian emergency services, like paramedics and firemen. There is no more justification for counting police forces as non-collateral damage than there is for a businessman, a nurse, a teacher, or any other ordinary civilian.

The Israeli casualties don’t seem to be in dispute. It’s been reported that 13 Israelis have died, 3 (23%) of whom were civilians; the other 10 were soldiers (four of these soldiers were killed by friendly fire). However, Hamas claims they killed at least 80 Israeli soldiers. It was also reported that 518 Israelis were wounded, 336 (65%) of whom were soldiers and 182 (35%) who were civilians.

So whose numbers do we go with? Well, we could go with the IDF, which is generally recognized as a component of the Israeli propaganda system, but usually quoted by the U.S. media nonetheless. Or we could go with the group that is affiliated with the International Commission of Jurists and has won two European human rights awards (1996 French Republic Award on Human Rights and the 2002 Bruno Kreisky Award for Outstanding Achievements in the Area of Human Rights). In fact, it is the Palestinian’s numbers that are used by the UN and the Red Cross; an Under-Secretary General of the UN says the Palestinian numbers are not even seriously disputed.

But the numbers simply act to reinforce what we already know, which is that Israel does not abide by the principle of distinction or proportionality, not to mention the illegality in launching their attacks in the first place. In fact, we always find very high rates of civilian casualties wherever the IDF goes. Gaza is just the latest example. There are plenty more, which are even more agreed upon. The IDF always attacks civilians targets. Naturally, this causes tremendous amounts of damage to the infrastructure, which usually goes unreported.

SCSU University Chronicle & Israel Thursday, Feb 19 2009 

It appears the University Chronicle, the student-run newspaper for St. Cloud State University, has abandoned all journalistic integrity.

First, some background information: On February 11, 2009, two SCSU HURL (human relations) professors, Drs. Slisli and Tademe, led a panel along with some students to discuss the plight of Palestine from a decidedly pro-Palestinian viewpoint. Their objective, as far as I could tell, was to discuss some of the issues that most Americans don’t get to hear about from their own media. Within the first few minutes of their program, Dr. Edelheit, a professor of philosophy and the director of Religious and Jewish Studies, interrupted them in an outburst, demanding that the panel explain the juxtaposition of Gaza images and Warsaw images on a promotional poster for the event. The panel rebuffed the shouting professor and refused to continue until the professor calmed himself or left the room. After realizing his efforts were fruitless, Dr. Edelheit left the room and the panel went on with their discussion. (It should be noted that the panel did respond to questioners after they finished the presentation, regarding the poster and the images they chose to use.)

On February 18, Dr. Edelheit hosted his own forum on Gaza in order to present his side of the Gaza conflict, but mostly to explain his anger over the images used in the aforementioned poster. He stated that he invited the two HURL professors, who did not respond to his invitation; they were not present at his forum.

(On February 12, the University Chronicle published a letter I wrote regarding Israel’s war crimes in Palestine, that was completely separate of and written before the February 11 panel’s discussion. It can be read here.) (Link fixed.)

In the February 16 publication of the University Chronicle, the editorial board–consisting of Ali Tweten, Joey LeMay, Paul Crawford, and Andy Downs–wrote a diatribe on the panel’s discussion of massive human rights violations taking place in Palestine. “An environment that actively suppresses opposing viewpoints is misleading to its audience, creates polarizing results, and causes problems rather debates possible solutions [sic],” they wrote.

Sure, I think we can all agree to that. But it does not apply to the panel’s discussion of U.S.-Israel and Palestine. If anyone, it would apply to Dr. Edelheit who very purposefully disrupted the program so that they could not present their discussion to the audience that was all too eager to get a new perspective on the very important issue. It was Dr. Edelheit who was showing his contempt for the audience by prohibiting the panel from discussing and presenting their case. In his own presentation on the topic, Dr. Edelheit admitted he knew full well what he was doing and that he acted very deliberately (“I did disrupt, quite willfully”). As I already wrote in a letter I sent to the Chronicle, published in the February 19 edition, the professor’s actions were completely unbecoming for a professor of this institution. Excuses for Dr. Edelheit’s actions and behavior have no merit and have been repeatedly dismissed by a majority of people who have spoken on the issue.

Nonetheless, the editorial board continued: “The United States’ role as peace negotiator is crucial, as it is utterly impossible to envision lasting peace between Israel and Palestine without the U.S. endorsing, helping implement, and standing by a proposed agreement. But coming up with an agreement for long-lasting peace has proven difficult, especially when we give our attention to only one side.”

Let me first address the first sentence. It actually shows, quite clearly, the contempt the editorial board has for Palestinians and their right to self-determination. They basically parrot the U.S. government’s stance on the issue, which is that the U.S. owns the world and anything that goes on in a region that interests us has to go through us first. This is unimaginable to most sane and rational human beings, as it flies completely in the face of self-determination, which states that nations and peoples should have the freedom to make choices and determine their future without external pressure and demands. However, as a world superpower, the U.S. and, apparently, the University Chronicle editorial board believe we have the right to dictate the existence of other people.

(I should note that it was in the very rare exception to U.S. rejectionism that Israel and Palestine got the closest they’ve ever been to resolving the long-standing conflict. I am, of course, referring to Taba, 2001–before Israel pulled out and abandoned the negotiations, that is. It is actually very easy to envision a peaceful Israel and Palestine without the interference of the U.S. In fact, that is the only possible way to move forward on this issue. For those who see the U.S. as needing to impose its will on others, this is not an option.)

But the editorial board brings up a good point in that second sentence I quoted. When we give our attention to only one side, it is very difficult to come up with rational and pragmatic solutions. But this is exactly all the U.S. media, including the University Chronicle, do. They present one side, which is unconditionally favorable to Israel and the United States. They mimic longstanding American beliefs that we, or Israel, can do no wrong; that what is right for Israel is right for the United States; and that Israel and the United States are unjustly criticized. I made a point about this, actually, in my letter to the newspaper that was published in the February 12 edition. I quoted Noam Chomsky, who wrote the following: “The basic doctrine is that Israel has been a hapless victim of terrorism, of military attack, of implacable and irrational hatred. . . . Israel is sometimes chided for its response to terrorist attack, a reaction that is deemed wrong though understandable. The belief that Israel may have had a substantial role in initiating and perpetuating violence and conflict is expressed only far from the mainstream, as a general rule.” This, though written nearly 30 years ago, is still the predominant view that is expressed by the media and the U.S. government. And, as the editorial board pointed out, this “is misleading to its audience, creates polarizing results, and causes problems rather [than] debates [on] possible solutions.”

Okay, so the editorial board has merely expressed its opinion, however ignorant it may be. I agree, this is perfectly acceptable in a free and just society that is supposed to pride itself on free speech. However, when the Chronicle to decided to publish a story on the Gaza issue and Dr. Edelheit’s presentation in the February 19 edition, they chose no other than Joey LeMay, the same student who espoused quite clearly his contempt of Palestinians and ignorance on the issue just a few days earlier. In fact, the Chronicle deliberately decided not to publish an article on the first panel discussion that spelled out the atrocities taking place in Palestine; but they chose to publish, very prominently as the lead story, only Dr. Edelheit’s position on the issue. But what should we have expected from the author who just days earlier attacked said panel? This is a pretty good vindication of Chomsky’s point and shows quite clearly the overwhelming bias there is in favor of U.S.-Israeli war crimes in Palestine.

The type of ignorance the editorial board and others display is the exact reason I, along with others, have called for a more reasoned debate on the issue. All too often one side is presented, which is the U.S.-Israeli side, naturally. I would be more than willing to sit vis-à-vis Dr. Edelheit and debate the real issues that affect Palestinians and Israelis and anyone else who believes Israel is justified in committing grave war crimes against the Palestinian people. If the HURL professors who led first panel are unwilling to engage in open discourse with their dissenters, then I think there should be a student-led dialog on the issue, as there are clearly very vocal proponents of both sides, and this should include Dr. Edelheit and any other professor if they so choose.

Update: Joey LeMay wrote a defense for his and the Chronicle’s actions in an April 30 editorial. I wrote a response to his defense on this blog, here.

Israeli war crimes Sunday, Feb 15 2009 

Please note: This is a more detail post of an article I wrote to the University Chronicle on Israeli and U.S. war crimes, which can be read here. (Link fixed.)

In humanitarian international law, the United States is a “High Contracting Party” of the Fourth Geneva Convention.  As such, it has the obligation under Article 146 to prosecute those responsible for grave breaches of the Convention, including its leadership. Israel, as a signatory of the Convention, has the same responsibility.

Considering this, the United States has forsaken its legal and, indeed, moral obligation to work within its power to stop Israeli war crimes.  How can we honestly call ourselves defenders of peace when we do not act to stop and simply ignore criminal violence perpetrated by our allies and even ourselves?

The Fourth Geneva Convention, created in 1949 to protect civilians from the horrors of war, has been systematically disregarded by Israel for over 30 years.

The applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the occupied territories of Palestine-affirmed by Theodor Meron in 1967, the UN Security Council, and the International Court of Justice in 2004-is not in doubt: Israel is an occupying force.

This means virtually everything the United States and Israel do there is in violation of international law. Of the innumerable examples, this includes illegal settlement within Palestine; the building of annexation walls; restricting the freedom of movement within Palestine; and the attack on Gaza earlier this year, which was condemned as representing “severe and massive violations of international humanitarian law” by UN Rapporteur for Human Rights, Richard Falk.

Unfortunately, the U.S. government cheers on Israel’s oppressive violence and expansionist policies, supporting it publicly, materially, diplomatically and monetarily.

The American media and general public, firmly in lockstep with U.S. foreign policy, also ignorantly defend Israel, usually blissfully unaware of Israeli war crimes.

Noam Chomsky, one of the most important public intellectuals of our time, explains these sentiments: “The basic doctrine is that Israel has been a hapless victim of terrorism, of military attack, of implacable and irrational hatred. . . . Israel is sometimes chided for its response to terrorist attack, a reaction that is deemed wrong though understandable. The belief that Israel may have had a substantial role in initiating and perpetuating violence and conflict is expressed only far from the mainstream, as a general rule.”

These words, though written nearly 30 years ago, remain true today.

U.S. Justice Robert Jackson, the chief of counsel for the prosecution at the Nuremberg Tribunal, spoke of a “poisoned chalice” from which Nazi criminals drank. We, too, have drank from this chalice. Jackson was making a fundamentally crucial point on universality: “If certain acts of violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them. And we are not prepared to lay down the rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us. We must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow. To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our own lips as well.”

To wholly ignore U.S. and Israeli war crimes is to render the Nuremberg Trials farcical. We absolutely must universally apply our standards, including to ourselves and our allies. We must move away from the perception that the U.S. and Israel can do no wrong. It is critically important that we not ignore our own wrongdoings.

Educate yourselves: review the facts, read the documents, and stand firmly against all aggressive violence.