Protesting Obama and McCain at AIPAC

Protesting Obama and McCain at AIPAC

There’s no question that Sen. Obama either erred or engaged in electoral pandering in his address to the AIPAC conference last week when he declared that “Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.” I’m not eager to see Jerusalem redivided either, but Jerusalem is one third Palestinian Arab by population and this issue needs to be earnestly decided in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Obama later backpedaled, but the Jewish Voice for Peace has seized upon Obama’s misstep to issue an online petition, as follows:

Dear Senators Obama and McCain,
We were disturbed by your remarks at the AIPAC conference. We implore you to respect internationally recognized Palestinian claims to East Jerusalem, to hold not just Hamas but also Israel accountable for its use of weapons against civilian populations, and to support including Hamas in negotiations. We believe that both Palestinians and Israelis deserve to live in safe and secure societies. Please commit to working for justice and peace for both Israelis and Palestinians.

Although not all bad, this is definitely not our kind of petition! It isn’t entirely a question of respecting “internationally recognized Palestinian claims to East Jerusalem” – a slightly inflated notion – but that this issue needs to be decided in negotiations that consider the interests and claims of both sides.

We also can’t equate the explicit targeting of civilians by Hamas with the collateral deaths of civilians when the IDF targets Palestinian fighters. (This doesn’t mean that Israel’s use of force is always wise, correct or just, but it’s on a different moral plane than that of Hamas and other such groups that make war on civilians as a matter of course.)

And Hamas does not have standing under the internationally recognized agreements in place (mainly, Oslo II) to be part of the final-status negotiations, which is between the head of the Palestinian Authority (actually by virtue of his being the head of the Palestine Liberation Organization) and Israel. I have no quarrel with the last two sentences, however.

By | 2008-06-12T04:16:00-04:00 June 12th, 2008|Blog|5 Comments


  1. Anonymous June 15, 2008 at 10:19 am - Reply

    How about just making Arabs equal in the Jewish state, as even Jewish right-wingers demand here ?

  2. Anonymous June 15, 2008 at 4:31 pm - Reply

    Ah Ralph,

    Thus Meretz dooms itself to not simply irrelevancy, but to actually having a negative impact.

    East Jerusalem and international law:

    “It isn’t entirely a question of respecting “internationally recognized Palestinian claims to East Jerusalem” – a slightly inflated notion – but that this issue needs to be decided in negotiations that consider the interests and claims of both sides.”

    Actually, all governments worldwide, all major human rights organizations, the UN, etc., with the exception of the Israeli gov’t (and sadly, evidently you and Meretz-USA)see East Jerusalem as Israeli-occupied territory according to international law.

    So internationally recognized Palestinian claims to East Jerusalem is in no way an inflated notion. It is completely accurate.

    A position to the contrary, which sadly you and Meretz seem to be taking, flies in the face of both international law and common sense.

    That everything is negotiable, that there are no legal or moral standards for the negotiations (like international law) is a long-held Israeli position which has allowed Israel to continually move the goalposts, create facts on the ground and impose its will as the more powerful party.

    Sadly, we see yet again that Meretz, a supposedly left alternative, is in fact part of the Israeli consensus, and in fact is no alternative, but is complicit and is part of the problem. By failing to question this Israeli consensus – that somehow Israeli law trumps international law and that what is obvious to the entire rest of the world is actually wrong – by supporting the notion that there are no standards and that everything is negotiable, Meretz serves as just another enabler of Israeli occupation, disposession and stripping Palestinians of their rights.

    Meretz’s support for the Geneva Initiative and notions of land-swaps for “settlement blocs”, etc., is a similar and related example of Meretz’s failure to establish any legal or moral standards, but rather to ally itself with the Israeli consensus and enable the continual expansion of the settlements and movement of the goalposts by the more powerful party.

    Most of your other critiques of the JVP letter are again largely equivocation and smoke and mirrors. But your point on East Jerusalem is so fundamental and so revealing that it merits its own post.


  3. Ralph Seliger June 16, 2008 at 3:16 am - Reply

    I want to thank Ted again for keeping me on my toes. He has to be one of our most devoted readers.

    Ted and his ilk should only wish that “the Israeli consensus” agreed with most of what Meretz and Meretz USA advocate. Still, when I post (unless otherwise indicated), I do so only in my name, not on behalf of Meretz USA or the Meretz party in Israel.

    There is no question that Israel is in violation of the spirit and the letter of the international consensus regarding the status of East Jerusalem. The same was true of Jordan when it occupied East Jerusalem for 19 years, after forcibly expelling its Jewish residents, destroying Jewish property in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City and prohibiting Jews from even visiting Judaism’s holiest site at the Western Wall.

    Both sides have legitimate claims in East Jerusalem that need to be hashed out in good faith negotiations. Israel only complicates the situation in continuing to build “facts on the ground” in neighborhoods of East Jerusalem in advance of a negotiated agreement.

  4. Anonymous June 16, 2008 at 5:42 pm - Reply

    Hi Ralph,

    Sorry to say again, but yours is a duplicitous and obfuscatory response which again reveals much about your failures (and quite probably those of Meretz as well). One can assume from your response that you refuse to recognize international law, and that Meretz probably refuses to do so as well.

    1) I focused vitually my entire comment on “international law.” In your response, you avoided writing or addressing that phrase. In fact you constructed your sentence in such a manner so as to appear to endorse what I had said, while substituting “consensus” for “law.” Too clever by half, Ralph.

    Israel does not simply, as you wrote, complicate “the situation in continuing to build “facts on the ground” in neighborhoods of East Jerusalem in advance of a negotiated agreement.” Israel violates international law.

    Violating international law leads to both clear sanctions against Israel, clear remedies and clear obligations on the part of the rest of the world to take action.

    Ralph, it is time to confront this vital issue in a straightforward manner. Do you refuse to recognize international law with respect East Jerusalem and other Israeli violations? Does Meretz also refuse to recognize international law with respect to East Jerusalem and other Israeli violations?

    As I wrote before, if you and Meretz refuse to recognize international law with respect to East Jerusalem and other Israeli violations you do fall precisely within the Israeli consensus, and outside of the worldwide consensus.

    Your emphasis on negotiation, while attempting simultaneously to subvert international law as a clear standard for any negotiations again demonstrates where and how Meretz sadly contributes to obfuscation and imposition by the more powerful Israeli side, and to the creation of a status quo on the Israeli side whereby no negotiated solution will ever be achieved.

    2) Yes, Jordan occupied East Jerusalem from 1948-67 and expelled and infringed on the rights of resident Jews.

    It is good to see that you are so focused on expulsion in 1948. Doubtless you will be equally concerned about the rights of the many Palestinians expelled from West Jerusalem during the same period, and about the nearly 800,000 Palestinians expelled from their homes throughout what is now Israel during that period.

    Let us note that since the Jordanian occupation ended in 1967, Israel has more than compensated for Jordan’s expulsion of Jews by establishing settlements in East Jerusalem in violation of international law which now house around 200,000 Jews. And now it is Israel prevents many Muslims and Christians – Palestinian and from around the world – from worshipping in East Jerusalem.

    While it is certainly fine that you noted Jordanian violations in East Jerusalem, they do actually pale in comparison to present day Israeli violations.

    Ralph, by failing to take a clear stand for international law, you and Meretz are doing your part to lead everyone to a situation whereby the only possible outcome is a single, democratic state. That is fine. Just be clear with yourself and with everyone else that is what you have done.


  5. Ralph Seliger June 17, 2008 at 12:34 pm - Reply

    Both sides have claims to East Jerusalem. Meretz supporters and activists are sympathetic to Palestinian claims and opposed to Israeli settlement construction and other actions that deny or undermine legitimate Palestinian claims.

    But it is not helpful to simply proclaim “international law” as Ted does without understanding the need for good-faith negotiations to implement it. All levels of law, from a local ordinance on up, are subject to interpretation and to political decisions on their enforcement. International law is more sensitive to political realities involving national sovereignty and therefore needing more mediation and interpretation than any other level of law.

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