How Biden Immediately Undermined UN Ceasefire Vote

[The Progressive April 8, 2024] The Biden Administration is trying to seem like they’re working to bring an end to the fighting when, in fact, they are not. On March 25, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 2728 calling for a bilateral ceasefire in Gaza for the remaining two weeks of Ramadan, along with other provisions. It made headlines in large part because the United States did not veto it as it had previous ceasefire resolutions. The Biden Administration, however, had no intention for the resolution to actually take effect. 
The US was the only country in the fifteen-member UN body not to vote in favor, once again demonstrating its isolation in the international community. The Biden Administration had threatened to veto the original draft resolution calling for a permanent ceasefire, only agreeing to not cast a veto in return for dropping the word “permanent.” Source Link

A Dangerous Move to Crack Down on Protests Against Israel

[The Progressive, Dec. 4, 2020]
Late last month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the U.S. government finds the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign to be inherently “anti-Semitic.” He pledged to “immediately take steps to identify organizations that engage in hateful BDS conduct and withdraw U.S. government support for such groups” and urged all nations to “recognize the BDS movement for the cancer that it is. Pompeo made no distinction between those who support a boycott of Israel itself and those who support more limited forms of BDS… [FULL LINK]

Is the U.S. Prepared to Resist a Coup?

[The Progressive October 26, 2020] President Donald Trump’s refusal to agree to a peaceful transfer of power has raised concerns that the Republicans may try to steal the 2020 Presidential Election. And while the courts may be insufficient to hinder a Trump coup—especially after the Supreme Court nomination of Amy Coney Barrett—a growing network of organizations is already preparing to launch a large-scale civil resistance movement to defend American democracy. [FULL LINK]

Abortion Foes Should Vote Democratic

[The Progressive October 8, 2020] The nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the U.S. Supreme Court, which could result in the eventual reversal of the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, has brought this contentious issue to the forefront of the 2020 election campaign. The most effective means of dramatically lowering the abortion rate is to make it less financially prohibitive for couples or single parents to raise children… the Republican emphasis on banning the procedure and imposing other legal restrictions has not proven effective in reducing abortion… For all these reasons and more, voters for whom reducing abortions is of paramount concern should vote Democratic. [FULL LINK]

There Is Zero Actual Evidence Iran Is Responsible for Killing Hundreds of Americans

TheProgressive.org, January 7, 2020 & Republished by:
CommonDreams.org, RadioFree.org and GVWire.com (Fresno)
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The assertions being repeated today seem based on apparently groundless claims from twelve years ago by the same people who said Iraq possessed weapons, weapons programs, and weapons systems that were such a grave threat that they ignited the U.S.-Iraq war… [Full Article]

Trump’s Recognition of Israeli Settlements Is Rooted in Bipartisan Support

[The Progressive, November 21, 2019] Three previous U.S. administrations all ignored the gross power asymmetry between the Palestinians under occupation and the Israeli occupiers—an imbalance compounded by the fact that as the chief mediator in negotiations, the U.S. is also the primary military, economic, and diplomatic supporter of the occupying power. Three previous U.S. administrations all ignored the gross power asymmetry between the Palestinians under occupation and the Israeli occupiers—an imbalance compounded by the fact that as the chief mediator in negotiations, the U.S. is also the primary military, economic, and diplomatic supporter of the occupying power.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s announcement this week that the United States will no longer accept the international consensus on the illegality of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank should come as no surprise. Indeed, both Republicans and Democrats have been pushing for such a move for decades.
In fact, the illegality of the settlements couldn’t be clearer. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention…

House of Representatives Finally Recognizes Armenian Genocide

[The Progressive, November 20, 2019] It is shocking that it has taken this long for even one house of the U.S. Congress to recognize this historic tragedy. Somehow it is always a “bad time” to upset the government of Turkey. Late last month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution by an overwhelming margin putting the United States on record as recognizing the Armenian genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Empire. The 405-11 vote marks the first time either house of Congress has done so. 
For decades, the U.S. government has refused to acknowledge that the systematic killings of 1.5 million Armenians during World War I constituted genocide. This has placed Washington outside the broad international consensus…

Trump’s Threats towards Iran Aren’t Working. Here’s Why.

The Progressive, July 17, 2019: The Trump Administration has imposed sanctions against more than 1,000 Iranian entities, including Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, targeting almost every significant sector of that nation’s economy. But recently it reversed course, backing off its threat to sanction a top Iranian diplomat, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, in response to concerns that it would foreclose any diplomatic recourse… [Full Article]

The Other Reason Biden Shouldn’t Run

[The Progressive, April 22, 2019] Anyone wondering about former Vice-President Joe Biden’s fitness for the presidency ought to be concerned about the recent allegations of inappropriate touching. But there is another issue that deserves consideration: his key role in making possible an inappropriate and utterly disastrous war. As chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2002, Biden stated that Saddam Hussein had a sizable arsenal of chemical weapons as well as biological weapons, including anthrax, and that “he may have a strain” of smallpox, despite UN inspectors reporting that Iraq no longer appeared to have any weaponized chemical or biological agents. And even though the International Atomic Energy Agency had reported as far back as 1997 there was no evidence whatsoever Iraq had any ongoing nuclear program, Biden insisted that Saddam was “seeking nuclear weapons”…

U.S. Recognition of Israel’s Golan Annexation a Threat to World Order

The Trump Administration’s decision to recognize Israel’s illegal annexation of the Golan Heights—Syrian territory seized in the June 1967 war—marks a serious violation of fundamental principles of international law. The inadmissibility of any country expanding its territory by force is a longstanding principle of the international legal order, enshrined in the United Nations Charter, U.N. Security Council resolutions, and repeatedly confirmed by the International Court of Justice.

Following its conquest of the Golan region, Israeli forces drove out most of its residents in what has accurately been called ethnic cleansing. The Druze inhabitants of the five remaining villages suffered under years of Israeli military occupation and largely remain loyal to Syria. Protests immediately broke out following Trump’s announcement. When Israel tried to impose its laws on the region in 1981, the Syrian Druze engaged in a successful nonviolent resistance campaign, blocking Israeli efforts to force them to carry Israeli ID cards, conscript them into the Israeli military, and other efforts to incorporate them into Israel.

In response to Israel’s attempted annexation, the U.N. Security Council in 1981 unanimously adopted, with the support of the United States, resolution 497, which declared that “the Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction, and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights is null and void and without international legal effect.”

But the United States blocked any effort to enforce this and related resolutions.

Subsequently, the Israeli government has been building settlements in the fertile highlands and growing Golan’s Jewish population to some 26,000 people, in violation of international law and U.N. Security Council resolutions, which prohibit occupying powers from settling civilians onto territories seized by military force.

Again, however, the United States has blocked enforcement of these resolutions and Israeli colonization has therefore continued unabated.

Due to the ongoing Syrian civil war and war crimes by the Assad regime, few are suggesting an immediate return of the Golan to Syria. However, a number of other options are available, including handing over the territory to United Nations administration, as took place following the Indonesian withdrawal from occupied East Timor in 1999.

The timing of the U.S. decision was widely seen as an effort to boost the chances of Israel’s rightwing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

International reaction to Trump’s decision has been overwhelmingly negative. The French foreign ministry noted how “The recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan, occupied territory, would be contrary to international law, in particular the obligation for states not to recognize an illegal situation.” The German government condemned the “unilateral steps” taken by Washington, D.C., observing that, “If national borders should be changed, it must be done through peaceful means between all those involved.”

Former deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs Tamara Cofman Wittes noted in a tweet that the decision “yanks the rug out from under U.S. policy opposing Russia’s annexation of Crimea, as well as U.S. views on other disputed territories.”

Along with the State Department’s decision to no longer refer to the West Bank as occupied territory, the Golan decision may also serve as precedent to recognize Israeli sovereignty over much of the Palestinian territory seized in the 1967 war. It will no doubt embolden other governments with expansionist agendas, such as Morocco, which has occupied much of Western Sahara since 1975.

“If Washington stops upholding the core international principle opposing the acquisition of territory by force,” warns Wittes, “we should expect more states to seize territory they covet from their neighbors.”

The timing of the U.S. decision was widely seen as an effort to boost the chances of Israel’s rightwing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, currently in a tough re-election fight in the face of an imminent indictment on corruption charges.

But the move also destroys any hope of the United States playing a role in negotiating an end to Syria’s civil war and strengthens the hand of Syria’s brutal dictator Bashar al-Assad, enabling him to play the nationalist card and reinforce his alliance with the Iranian regime and the radical Lebanese Hezbollah.

“It really puts the moderates in an impossible position,” observed Bassma Kodmani, a Syrian opposition leader and member of the negotiating team. “Assad will mobilize with the help of Iran and justify the presence of Iran, and the presence of militias, and the aggressive posture of Iran in the region.”

Despite Trump’s claim that Israeli control of the Golan Heights is vital for Israeli security, there is a growing awareness within Israel that it is far less important in an era when the principal threats to Israel’s security come in the form of suicide bombers and long-range missiles. Israeli army chief Lt. Gen Moshe Yaalon observed in 2004 , that Israel could cede the Golan Heights in return for peace and more successfully defend Israel’s internationally recognized border.

Trump’s dangerous and rash decision to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Syrian Golan was actually built on policy failures of previous administrations. Israel and Syria came close to a peace agreement in early 2000 when Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak agreed to withdraw from Syrian territory in return for the Syrian government agreeing to strict security guarantees, normalized relations, the demilitarization of the Golan, and the end of support for radical anti-Israel groups. A dispute regarding the exact demarcation of the border, constituting no more than a few hundred yards, prevented a final settlement.

With the death of Syrian president Hafez al-Assad later that year and the coming to power of the rightwing Likud Bloc in the subsequent Israeli election, talks were indefinitely suspended. Assad’s successor, Bashar al-Assad, called for the resumption of talks where they left off, but both Israel and the United States rejected the proposal. A 2003 resolution supported by an overwhelming bipartisan majority of Congress insisted that Syria enter new talks “unconditionally,” effectively rejecting the position of the more moderate Israeli government of former Prime Minister Barak and instead embraced the rejectionist position of the subsequent right-wing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

In 2006, several prominent members of the Israeli cabinet—including Defense Minister Amir Peretz and Internal Security Minister Avid Dichter—called on their government to resume negotiations with Syria. Although Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni appointed a senior aide to prepare for possible talks, such initiatives did not get any support from Washington. According to the Jewish Daily Forward, it appeared that “Israel would be prepared to open a channel with Syria but does not want to upset the Bush administration.”

Indeed, when Israeli officials asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice about pursuing exploratory talks with Syria, her answer, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, was, “don’t even think about it.” Similarly, the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported that Israeli government officials “understood from President Bush that the United States would not take kindly to reopening a dialogue between Israel and Syria.”

U.S. pressure succeeded. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reportedly expressed concern that it would be inappropriate to counter President Bush’s “clear position on this issue” and who is “Israel’s most important ally.” Similarly, Israeli Vice Premier Shimon Peres was quoted as saying, “The worse thing we could do is contradict the United States, which opposes negotiating with Syria.” Interior Minister Ronni Baron told a television reporter, “When the question on the agenda is the political legacy of Israel’s greatest friend, President Bush, do we really need now to enter into negotiations with Syria?”

The failure of the United States to help bring peace between Syria and Israel when it was possible has now led us to the point where Trump and Netanyahu believe they can get away with this dangerous defiance of international legal norms and worsen an already difficult situation regarding Israel, Syria, and its neighbors. The decision could play a major role in destabilizing an already-tenuous world order.

Rescinding a Human Rights Award to Angela Davis Was Cowardly and Unfair

This past October, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute announced that activist, author, and scholar Angela Davis would be presented with the Fred Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award at the group’s annual gala event next month. The announcement described Davis as “one of the most globally recognized champions of human rights, giving voice to those who are powerless to speak.”

Davis—professor emeritus at the University of California, Santa Cruz—has long been known for her outspoken advocacy and solidarity work on behalf of oppressed peoples, particularly political prisoners, throughout the world. Her long history of solidarity work has included support for national liberation struggles in Vietnam, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and elsewhere.

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is a museum and research center in Alabama, documenting the struggles of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s. That it would choose to honor Davis is fitting. Davis is a Birmingham native, and her mother, who worked with the institute in the 1990s, was a personal acquaintance of Shuttlesworth, the prominent clergyman and civil rights activist for which the award is named.

However, on January 4, the institute announced it was rescinding the award and canceling the event. “Upon closer examination of Ms. Davis’ statements and public record,” the statement reads, “we concluded that she unfortunately does not meet all of the criteria on which the award is based.” The institute said it acted after “supporters and other concerned individuals and organizations, both inside and outside of our local community, began to make requests that we reconsider our decision.”

The cancellation of Davis’s award appears to have been prompted by her support for the Palestinians.

The cancellation of Davis’s award appears to have been prompted by her support for the Palestinians, particularly her endorsement of the international campaign of boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against the Israeli occupation.

It has been more than seven decades since the founding of the United Nations and the codification of international legal standards regarding the inadmissibility of countries expanding their borders by military force. One would think, then, that opposing Israel control of Palestinian territories seized in the 1967 war, which the international community recognizes as a foreign belligerent occupation, would not be particularly controversial. Unfortunately, it appears that that the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute believes otherwise.

Undeniably, some BDS advocates do unfairly single out Israel, and may indeed be motivated by anti-Semitism. But this is certainly not the case with Davis, a graduate of the predominantly Jewish Brandeis University, where she noted, “I learned to be as passionate about opposition to anti-Semitism as to racism.”

In a statement released Monday evening, she stated, “I am proud to have worked closely with Jewish organizations and individuals on issues of concern to all of our communities throughout my life. In many ways, this work has been integral to my growing consciousness regarding the importance of protesting the Israeli occupation of Palestine.”

It would be particularly ironic for Davis’s award to be denied over her BDS advocacy, given the importance of the tactic of boycotts during the U.S. civil rights struggle. It is also indicative of a deep anti-Arab racism and Islamophobia, even among those who profess to support civil rights.

Unfortunately, rather than acknowledge the apparent bigotry and repudiation of international law by the institute some people are blaming Jews. Birmingham mayor Randall Woodfin, who serves as an ex officio member of the institute’s board, claims the decision came “after protests from our local Jewish community and some of its allies.”

But it was not the co-called “Jewish community” that made the decision, but the overwhelmingly non-Jewish institute’s board. Furthermore, American Jews have never been more divided regarding Israel and the occupation. As one Southern Jewish activist tweeted, “Xtian zionists had the power to blackball Angela Davis and now the Jews are becoming the scapegoat here and face of that decision, shielding the evangelicals from blame.”

Pressure to rescind the invitation came from non-Jewish sources as well, including former Birmingham-Southern College president Gen. Charles Krulak (retired), who served as deputy director of the White House Military Office during the Reagan Administration and later Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps. He cited Davis’s former membership in the Communist Party and support for the Black Panthers.

Not only is the decision to cancel the award an injustice, it feeds into the divide-and-rule tactics of the right by sowing division between the African-American and Jewish communities. As Davis herself noted, “The rescinding of this invitation was thus not primarily an attack against me but rather against the spirit of the indivisibility of justice.”

Dems Eye Hawkish Eliot Engel to Chair House Foreign Affairs Committee

Congressman Eliot Engel, Democrat of New York, currently the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, will likely be the choice of the Democratic Party leadership to chair that influential committee when the new Democratic majority comes to office in January. In that role, he will serve as the Democratic Party’s most prominent figure on foreign policy.

Impeach Away! Thoughts on a Possible President Pence

With the latest evidence of Donald Trump’s involvement in illegal activities and even more damaging revelations likely to come, there is now serious talk about impeachment, which would pave the way for Mike Pence to become President.Some pundits dismiss the possibility, noting Republican majorities in both houses and the need for a two-thirds Senate majority to convict and remove a President from office. Others have expressed concern over Pence, a Christian supremacist with more consistently hard right wing views than Trump, in charge of the White House.I would argue that Trump will likely be forced from office and that this would be a positive development.

Pompeo’s Iran Speech a Prelude to War?

The Progressive, May 23, 2018 The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s speech this past Monday targeting Iran may have created a new benchmark for hypocritical, arrogant, and entitled demands by the United States on foreign governments. It included gross misstatements regarding the seven-nation Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear program, which Trump Administration unilaterally abrogated earlier this month. More critically, it promised to impose “the strongest sanctions in history” against Iran… [Full Link]

Trump’s Dangerous Abrogation of the Iran Deal

The Progressive, May 9, 2018
The Trump Administration’s decision to pull the United States out of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action—the landmark nuclear agreement between Iran and the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, China, and the United States—strikes a dangerous blow against arms control and international security and even more firmly establishes the United States as a rogue nation. [Full Link]

Why the United States Can’t Lead on Syria’s Chemical Weapons Atrocities

Reasonable people can disagree about how the international community should respond to the latest apparent atrocity by the Syrian government involving chemical weapons. The repeated use of these horrific and illegal weapons by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s repressive regime deserves a strong international response. Unfortunately, given its history of politicizing the issue, the United States is in no position to lead.

Remembering Martin Luther King, the Radical for Peace

It is nothing short of tragic that the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4 arrives during a presidential administration containing some of the most overtly racist individuals to hold positions of such political power in generations.