Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Twelve Days Before Christmas and an Open Letter to The House

The Twelve Days Before Christmas and an Open Letter to The House 

eileen fleming

Recently I and other concerned Americans petitioned our representatives in the House of Congress to vote NO on HR 867, a resolution that called for President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton to oppose the United Nations consideration of the Goldstone Report.

My Congressperson Ginny Brown-Waite co-sponsored the resolution and on November 3, 2009, 344 House congressional reps voted to kill the Goldstone Report.

In response to my plea, Congressperson Ginny Brown-Waite wrote to me:

“The Council's appointment of Richard Goldstone, a well-respected judge who is himself Jewish, to oversee the report gave some hope that the report would be fair.  The Israeli Government, however, refused to cooperate with the mission.  The Israeli Government concluded that any report emanating from the Human Rights Council, even with Goldstone's leadership, would be hopelessly biased.  This is a shame because the Israeli Government may have been able to better explain its version of events and thereby prevent Hamas' side of the story from dominating the narrative of the report.
“The Goldstone Report does raise some serious questions about the Israeli invasion of Gaza.  The report includes in Section XIV credible allegations that some Israeli soldiers used Palestinian civilians as human shields that were sent first into houses and properties where fighters were hiding.  The report also found instances where civilians known not to pose a military threat were killed in cold blood.  When pressed about these serious human rights violations the Israeli Government insisted that it is conducting an internal investigation and that if it concludes Israeli soldiers did not follow the rules of engagement they will be held accountable.
“While the Goldstone Report did raise serious questions about Israeli actions, it went too far when it concluded that Israeli policy in Gaza was designed ‘to deliberately and systematically inflict suffering on civilians.’ This is unfair and untrue… As Ehud Barak wrote in The Wall Street Journal, ‘After enduring eight years of ongoing rocket fire, and after all diplomatic efforts to stop this barrage failed it was my duty as defense minister to do something about it.  It's as simple and self-evident as the right to self-defense. While such logic eluded Mr. Goldstone and his team, it was crystal clear to the thousands of Israeli children living in southern Israel who had to study, play, eat and sleep while being preoccupied about the distance to the nearest bomb shelter."

Israel must never be denied its right to defend itself…Goldstone's report is fundamentally biased and flawed and for this reason I have urged the President to oppose further consideration of the report and supported passage of H.Res. 867.”

 I respond:

On April 3, 2009 the President of the United Nations Human Rights Council commissioned a fact-finding mission "to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law that might have been committed at any time in the context of the military operations that were conducted in Gaza during the period from 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009, whether before, during or after." 

The Council appointed the Jewish Justice Richard Goldstone, a South African Constitutional Court judge and the former chief prosecutor of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia

Justice Goldstone issued the 575-page report on September 29, 2009 and the Goldstone Report accused both Israel and Hamas of war crimes perpetuated during the 23 days of assault on Gaza which began two days after last Christmas day, when the Israeli military launched Operation Cast Lead; a full-scale attack on Gaza that killed 13 Israelis and 1,400 Palestinians.
Over 5,000 Palestinians were injured, 400,000 were left without running water, 4,000 homes were destroyed, rendering tens of thousands who are still homeless because of Israel's targeted attacks upon them, their schools, hospitals, streets, water wells, sewage system, farms, police stations and UN buildings.

The 23 days of Israel's attack on the people of Gaza was enabled by US-supplied weapons paid for with US tax dollars and we the people of the US who pay taxes provide over $30 billion annually to Israel although Israel has consistently misused U.S. weapons in violation of America's Arms Export Control and Foreign Assistance Acts.

America is the worlds largest arms supplier to Israel and under a Bush negotiated deal with Israel, we the people who pay taxes in America will also provide another $30 billion in military aid to Israel over the next decade.

During the 23 days of Israeli assault on Gaza, "Washington provided F-16 fighter planes, Apache helicopters, tactical missiles, and a wide array of munitions, including white phosphorus and DIME. The weapons required for the Israeli assault was decided upon in June 2008, and the transfer of 1,000 bunker-buster GPS-guided Small Diameter Guided Bomb Units 39 (GBU-39) were approved by Congress in September. The GBU 39 bombs were delivered to Israel in November (prior to any claims of Hamas cease fire violation!) for use in the initial air raids on Gaza. [1]

In a 71-page report released March 25, 2009, by Human Rights Watch, Israel’s repeated firing of US-made white phosphorus shells over densely populated areas of Gaza was indiscriminate and is evidence of war crimes.

"Rain of Fire: Israel’s Unlawful Use of White Phosphorus in Gaza," provides eye witness accounts of the devastating effects that white phosphorus munitions had on civilians and civilian property in Gaza.

"Human Rights Watch researchers found spent shells, canister liners, and dozens of burnt felt wedges containing white phosphorus on city streets, apartment roofs, residential courtyards, and at a United Nations school in Gaza immediately after hostilities ended in January.

"Militaries officially use white phosphorus to obscure their operations on the ground by creating thick smoke. It has also been used as an incendiary weapon, though such use constitutes a war crime.

“In Gaza, the Israeli military didn’t just use white phosphorus in open areas as a screen for its troops," said Fred Abrahams, senior emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch and co-author of the report. "It fired white phosphorus repeatedly over densely populated areas, even when its troops weren't in the area and safer smoke shells were available. As a result, civilians needlessly suffered and died." [Ibid]

During the 23 days of attack on Gaza, the UN Security Council, Amnesty International, International Red Cross, and global voices of protest rose up and demanded a ceasefire, but both houses of Congress overwhelmingly endorsed resolutions to support a continuation of Israel’s so called "self defense."

In November 2006, Father Manuel, the parish priest at the Latin Church and school in Gaza warned the world:

"Gaza cannot sleep! The people are suffering unbelievably. They are hungry, thirsty, have no electricity or clean water. They are suffering constant bombardments and sonic booms from low flying aircraft. They need food: bread and water. Children and babies are hungry...people have no money to buy food. The price of food has doubled and tripled due to the situation. We cannot drink water from the ground here as it is salty and not hygienic. People must buy water to drink. They have no income, no opportunities to get food and water from outside and no opportunities to secure money inside of Gaza. They have no hope.

"Without electricity children are afraid. No light at night. No oil or candles...Thirsty children are crying, afraid and desperate...Many children have been violently thrown from their beds at night from the sonic booms. Many arms and legs have been broken. These planes fly low over Gaza and then reach the speed of sound. This shakes the ground and creates shock waves like an earthquake that causes people to be thrown from their bed. I, myself weigh 120 kilos and was almost thrown from my bed due to the shock wave produced by a low flying jet that made a sonic boom.

"Gaza cannot sleep...the cries of hungry children, the sullen faces of broken men and women who are just sitting in their hungry emptiness with no light, no hope, no love. These actions are War Crimes!"

Rabbi Brian Walt, was born in Cape Town, South Africa and was active as a student in the struggle against Apartheid there. In June 2009, he and a few thoughtful Jews founded Ta'anit Tzedek: Jewish Fast for Gaza because "Isaiah said that the result of justice is peace and security and the psalmist wrote to move away from evil and pursue the good; seek peace and pursue it."

On December 18, 2009 Rabbi Walt wrote,
Hannukah and Operation Cast Lead: One year later from which I excerpt:

“Tomorrow is Shabbat Hannukah, the Sabbath that occurs during Hannukah.   Exactly one year ago, on Shabbat Hannukah (Saturday December 27, 2008), Israel launched Operation Cast Lead.

“On that day, Saturday December 27, 2008, at 11:30 in the morning, a time when schoolchildren were still in school, 88 Israeli aircraft simultaneously attacked 100 preplanned targets in Gaza within a span of 4 minutes.  This initial attack was followed by another attack and by the end of that Sabbath day, at least 230 Palestinians were killed and more than 700 injured.

“Shabbat Hannukah last year, was the day with the highest one day death toll in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict…Our traditional greeting for Shabbat is Shabbat Shalom/ A Sabbath of Peace.  That day was far from a Sabbath of Peace.

“Not only did the Israeli military assault start on Hannukah, the name of the campaign, Operation Cast Lead, is from a Hannukah poem by Haim Nachman Bialik about a dreidel made from cast lead that a father bought for his child.  The poem became a popular Hannukah children’s song.  I learned the song when I was a child and Jewish children in Israel and around the world sing it joyously.  From now on the image of the cast lead dreidl will be associated with the lead of armaments and the violence of Operation Cast Lead.

“Israel with one of the strongest armies in the world bombarded one and a half million people who live in one of the most densely populated areas in the world, in an open air prison, in isolation enforced by  the Israeli siege with no way to leave or enter.
Israel claimed it had no choice, any nation-state would do the same thing.  Israel has a right and a responsibility to defend itself.  The rockets that Palestinian armed groups fired into Israeli civilian areas terrorized the entire population, damaged property and sometimes injured and killed civilians.

“Was it true that Israel had no choice?  Was this a wise or an ethical way to defend oneself?

“As a Jew, as a rabbi, as a human being I was shocked.  Israel is a state that acts in the name of the Jewish people.  This attack was neither wise, nor ethical.  Is this what the ethical tradition of our people had come to?   We say that to be Jewish is to be compassionate,  “the compassionate who are also the children of the compassionate”?  Isn’t  the essence of our faith  that every human being is created in the image of God?

“In June of this year, 10 rabbis came together to break the silence and created Taanit Tzedek – Jewish Fast for Gaza. Within a few weeks Taanit Tzedek – Jewish Fast for Gaza garnered the support of 300 people, including rabbis, ministers, imams, cantors and rabbinical students.

“Our call is simple…As Jews, people of many faiths and people of conscience, we can no longer stand idly by Israel’s collective punishment of the Palestinian people in Gaza.

“Since Hamas’ electoral victory in January 2006, Israel has subjected the Gaza Strip to an increasingly intolerable blockade that restricts Gaza’s ability to import food, fuel and other essential materials, and to export finished products. As a result, the Gazan economy has completely collapsed. Most of Gaza’s industrial plants have been forced to close, further contributing to already high levels of unemployment and poverty and rising levels of childhood malnutrition.

“On three things the world stands: on justice, on truth, and on peace.” (Mishnah Avot 1

“Our call is three-fold:  Break the Silence, Lift the Siege, Pursue Peace

Break the Silence:  We must affirm the humanity of the residents of Gaza by breaking our silence about their suffering.  They are human beings, just like us, created in the image of God and as deserving of human dignity, compassion and justice.

Lift the Siege
: The Israeli siege on Gaza by land, air and sea that is causing untold human suffering is an unconscionable attack on civilians.   This siege that is supported by U.S. government and the EU must be lifted.

Pursue the Peace: There is no military solution to the conflict.  The only real solution is a negotiated settlement and it is time for Israel to negotiate with all relevant parties including Hamas towards a resolution of the conflict.

“Now, a year later, the suffering in Gaza is even greater than a year ago.  Gazans have no way to rebuild their homes, to reclaim their agricultural land, to renew their lives as Israel blocks the entry of materials needed for reconstruction.  Israel still doesn’t allow sufficient food into Gaza, the water supply is contaminated and there is the danger of a catastrophic health crisis.

“Tomorrow for Sahbbat Hannukah we will read a special Haftarah, a prophetic portion assigned by the rabbis for particular days.    For Shabbat Hannukah the rabbis made a surprising choice, they assigned the passage from Zachariah that ends:

‘Not by Might, nor by Power, but My Spirit’

“Operation Cast Lead is based on the belief that overwhelming military force will provide security for the people of Israel.  The rockets from Gaza are also a desperate effort to resist by military means.   Israel is less secure than before the operation.  There is no military solution to this or any other human conflict.  The only solution is political a direct negotiated settlement.  As the prophet Isaiah said justice is the only way to create peace and security.

“Hannukah is a rejection of power and military might and an affirmation of the Spirit of God that inheres in every human being.  And it is this connection to the Spirit of Life that must be the center of our lives. [2]

Beginning the twelve days before this Christmas, this Christian of Conscience, began fasting daily in repentance for my Governments persistence in seeking SECURITY in imperialism and militarism.

The twelve days before Christmas, from the land of plenty, I have been in mourning over the 2.5 billion people on our planet who exist on less than $2.00 a day and the over 15,000 babies and young children who die daily because of malnutrition and substandard or nonexistent health care.

The twelve days before Christmas, as I reflected on the 42 years of Military Occupation and misery in the West Bank and Gaza perpetuated by so called democracies that blatantly deny equal human rights for all the citizens of the so called Holy Land, I have wondered what Jesus/AKA: The Prince of Peace would say to all the deaf, dumb and blind Americans who claim to be Christians 2009 years after The Prince of Peace walked the earth as a Palestinian Jew who was born, lived and died under a brutal military occupation but lived a life of NONVIOLENCE, forgiveness and love.

I imagine The Prince of Peace would remind US All of the Sermon on the Mount, which is understood by Christians of conscience to be our ‘marching orders’ and of which the 20th century agitator of church, state and media, Dorothy Day wrote:

 "Love is not the starving of whole populations. Love is not the bombardment of open cities. Love is not killing…Our manifesto is the Sermon on the Mount, which means that we will try to be peacemakers."

I spin the Christian Manifesto this way:

About 2,000 years ago, when The Prince of Peace was about 33, he hiked up a hill and sat down under an olive tree and began to teach the people:

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven."

In other words: it is those who know their own spiritual poverty, their limitations, failures and transgressions and yet trust that God loves them in spite of it all; already live in the Kingdom of God.

How comforted we will all be, when we see, we haven't got a clue, as to the depth and breadth of pure love and mercy of The Divine Mystery of The Universe.

God's name in ancient Aramaic is Abba which means Daddy as much as Mommy and He/She: The Lord has said, "My ways are not your ways. My thoughts are not yours." -Isaiah 55:8

"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."

The essence of meek is to be patient with ignorance, slow to anger and never hold a grudge. In other words: how comforted you will be when you also know humility; when you know yourself, the good and the bad, for both cut through every human heart.

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, they will be filled."

In other words: how comforted you will be when your greatest desire is to do what "God requires, and he has already told you what that is; BE JUST, BE MERCIFUL and walk humbly with your Lord."-Micah 6:8
"Blessed are the merciful, they will be shown mercy."

 In other words: how comforted you will all be when you choose to return only kindness to your 'enemy.'

"For with the measure you measure against another, it will be measured back to you" The Prince of Peace warned his disciples as he explained the law of karma in Luke 6:27-38.

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they see God."

In other words: how comforted you will be when you WAKE UP and see God is already within you, within every man, every woman and every child. The Supreme Being is everywhere, the Alpha and Omega, beginning and end; Beyond The Universe -and yet so small; within the heart of every atom.

"Blessed are The Peacemakers: THEY shall be called the daughters and sons of God."

My CHRISTmas prayer for America is that we will Give Peace a Chance and that God would bless US everyone with a conscience and desire to tell the truth, to seek peace and pursue justice. My hope is that 2010 will be a year acceptable to the Lord and War Is Over.

Happy Xmas (War Is Over) - John Lennon

Happy Xmas (War Is Over) - John Lennon



Only in Solidarity do "we have it in our power to begin the world again."-Tom Paine

Eileen Fleming,
Founder of
A Feature Correspondent for
Author of "Keep Hope Alive" and "Memoirs of a Nice Irish American 'Girl's' Life in Occupied Territory"  
Producer "30 Minutes with Vanunu" and "13 Minutes with Vanunu"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"My Captain" truly does trump "Invictus".