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Synthesis/Regeneration 30   (Winter 2003)

Greens/Green Party USA
Resolution on Divestment of State Funds from Israel

The following resolution was submitted to the Green Party USA gathering in Bar Harbor, Maine on June 13–17, 2002 by the Brooklyn Greens, and was approved by the Green Congress as G/GPUSA policy. It was written primarily by Seth Farber, with help from Avi Bornstein, Mitchel Cohen, William Pleasant, Afrime Derti and Kellie Gasink, with major revisions from the Brooklyn Greens (the entire local reviewed the document in detail) and members of the Manhattan Greens. [Editor’s Note: Contents have been edited for style, grammar and length.]

The Greens/Green Party USA joins the movement, initiated by students at the University of California at Berkeley, calling for divestment of funds from Israel. The Greens/Green Party USA joins with this campaign encouraging local, state and federal governments to suspend all bank credits and divest all funds (including State Pension Funds), investments and loans to Israel, unless or until Israel conforms to international conventions of human rights, and complies with the following conditions:

Greens/Green Party USA Resolution on the Middle East

The Green Party USA supports secular democratic governments in the Middle East region. It condemns Israel’s ongoing attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank.

No peace can come to the region until Palestinians have the “right to return” and Israel’s policy of installing settlements in the occupied territories come to an end.

The escalation of the conflict is a consequence of the lack of effective international response to the Palestinians’ pleas and the Israeli government’s refusal to implement any of the numerous UN resolutions calling for the end of its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. The Green Party USA advocates the following:

  • Send financial assistance and political support for the international resistance to the Occupation, including the more than 1,000 soldiers within the Israeli military who are refusing to serve in Palestine and the hundreds of International Solidarity Movement volunteers serving as “human shields.”
  • Immediate withdrawal of all Israeli forces from the Occupied Territories.
  • An end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and vacating of all settlements.
  • Immediate cessation of all US military aid to Israel.
  • Immediate cessation of all sales of US weapons (including biological and chemical) to the entire region.
  • Cut-off all economic aid to Israel until the Occupation is ended and equality of aid to Palestine if it is resumed.
  • Prosecution of Israeli and US officials for war crimes and crimes against humanity, including torture, arbitrary detention and assassination.
  • End the ecological terror created by the use of land mines, cutting off of access to water and food, and the destruction of olive trees and farms.
  • Elimination of all nuclear, chemical and biological weapons in the region.

[The following rationale was accepted by The Greens/Green Party USA gathering.]

Let us be clear, the Greens/Green Party USA does not condone the ghastly “suicide bombings” against innocent Israeli citizens. However, the gruesome deeds of desperate individuals do not justify the actions of the state of Israel which, as with other “democratic” countries, is obligated by numerous treaties (not to mention its self-proclaimed commitment to the Judeo-Christian moral code) to adhere to international law and norms established after WWII to protect the human rights of all individuals regardless of their race, ethnicity or creed.

The Case Against Israel’s Occupation

The Israeli 1967 occupation reinforced a system of legal apartheid, which has become even more rigid in the past decade. Palestinian residents of the occupied territories have been systematically subjected to segregation, economic exploitation by Israeli industries, and continuous surveillance and harassment by the military. In the 1990s Israel encircled Palestinian villages with illegal settlements and more than 200 military outposts. The leading Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz editorialized on January 8, 2001:

Encirclement…lacks even a pretense of having a security purpose… This is a real tool of severe and collective punishment… [It] completely disrupts the day-to-day lives of the Palestinian people. Residents find it difficult to move from one area to another for work, trade or education, and they cannot get basic services.

The editorial concludes with the observation that sick patients frequently cannot get to hospitals for essential medical treatment.

For more than three decades Israeli settlers have confiscated Palestinians’ homes, lands and water resources, in violation of international law…

For more than three decades Israeli settlers have confiscated Palestinians’ homes, lands and water resources, in violation of international law and verbal promises made by Israel during the Oslo Peace Accords of the 1990s.

Israel’s policy of “closures” severely restricts the movement of Palestinians in the occupied territories. This policy has had a devastating effect on Palestinian workers. Of the 120,000 Palestinians who had previously commuted to Israel for skilled or semi-skilled labor, more than half had lost their jobs by 1996. The unemployment rate in occupied Palestine has approximated 50% for the last several years. Furthermore, Israeli security services have relied upon various forms of coercion, government-sanctioned torture and assassination to recruit collaborators and crush political opposition.

The real nature of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s policies is exemplified by the recent Jenin massacre perpetrated by the Israeli Army (IDF) and authorized by Sharon. The recent Israeli military invasion of Jenin and other Palestinian cities and refugee camps resulted in the injury and slaughter of dozens, if not hundreds, of innocent Palestinian civilians, including women, children and elderly persons.

The Jenin Refugee Camp in the West Bank, had been “home” to 13,000 Palestinian refugees. More than a quarter of these are now homeless, according to Human Rights Watch. Justin Huggler and Phil Reeves wrote in the British newspaper The Independent on April 25:

A neighborhood had been reduced to a moonscape, pulverized under the tracks of bulldozers and tanks. A maze of cinder-block houses, home to about 800 Palestinian families, had disappeared.

Soldiers bulldozed many Palestinian homes with their residents inside, leaving unknown numbers of people literally buried alive beneath the ruins. Family members searched through rubble for the remains of their loved ones. The destruction of homes, schools, water tanks and medical centers was common throughout the West Bank. Since ambulances were banned from Jenin by the IDF, “the wounded bled to death in the street,” even those with treatable injuries, according to Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery.

International peace activist and “human shield” Kristen Schurr of New York wrote from Gaza on April 24:

Many other Palestinians were arrested and tortured, and those who were not permanently disappeared were dumped near Salem checkpoint and detention center. Some are unable to walk, beaten, bloodied, and burned with cigarettes, all without clothes.

“The abuses we documented in Jenin are extremely serious, and in some cases appear to be war crimes,” said Peter Bouckaert, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch and a member of one of the investigative teams. He added, “A U.N. fact-finding mission could contribute significantly to the search for the truth in Jenin.” On May 2, Human Rights Watch released a report that described Israel’s blocking of ambulances and relief groups to the refugee camps for more than 11 days. It noted that soldiers “repeatedly fired on Red Crescent ambulances.”

The report concluded that the Israeli Army had committed “war crimes” that constituted “grave breaches of the Geneva Convention.”

The report concluded that the Israeli Army had committed “war crimes” that constituted “grave breaches of the Geneva Convention.” The Israeli government continues to deny any wrongdoing, yet it retracted its invitation to the United Nations to send a team of observers to Jenin (the UN timidly acquiesced without protest), thus quashing an official UN investigation that would have rendered to the world community a definitive judgment of the nature of the Israeli government’s actions in Jenin.

Uri Avnery noted, “around the world, many were horrified that Jews, of all people, were capable of doing such things.” But not in the United States, where any condemnation of the Israeli government, even by Jews, is typically denounced as anti-Semitic. The US press portrays the government of Israel as innocent of all wrong-doing in its campaign against evil suicide bombers.

The murder and terrorization of civilians is not termed “terrorism” by the American or Israeli press when committed by the Israeli Army. The same double standard is employed regarding the use of the word “massacre.”

Typically only attacks by Palestinians are termed “massacres,” regardless of the number of victims. The failure of American journalists to sympathize with the Palestinian people is exemplified in a tragic-comic statement made by a reporter for the New York Times on April 21: “As Israeli forces pursued militants, civilians continued getting in the way and dying as a result.”

Despite the charge of pro-Palestinian bias by pro-Israeli groups, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting has found that in the US the media is extremely slanted in favor of the Israeli government. For example, attacks by Israelis upon Palestinians were described by American network news shows (from September 2000 to April 2002) as “retaliation” 80% of the time, whereas only 10% of Palestinian attacks were termed “retaliation.” The other 10 % of the references were ambiguous. Thus Israel’s pose as the victim who responds only when provoked by Palestinian terrorists is conveyed to the public by the media as objective reality.

Furthermore, the fact is that for many American Jews and other supporters of the Israeli government, the Palestinians do not exist as human beings but only as “a collection of terrorists who deserve killing,” as put by Edward Said in Al-Abram Online, May 16.

As the situation stands, most Americans have not recognized the ghastly nature of the atrocity committed in Jenin by Israel but regard it at worst as a military operation against terrorism that resulted in a regrettable, albeit acceptable, degree of “collateral damage.”

The attack on Jenin is part of an offensive in the West Bank, ordered by Sharon, involving 100,000 Israeli troops and hundreds of tanks and Apache helicopters made by US corporations and bought with US funds. The effect of this operation, and presumably the intent, is to destroy the infrastructure of Palestinian civil society. As Uri Avnery opined: (April 27, ZNet):

Destroying the infrastructure of terrorism is not Ariel Sharon’s aim. His program is far more radical: to break the backbone of the Palestinian people, crush their governmental institutions and to turn the people into human wreckage that can be dealt with as he wishes. This may entail shutting them up in several enclaves or even driving them out of the country altogether.

We agree with Avnery’s analysis. Sharon’s “peace program” is a policy of State-terrorism backed by the US, designed to crush all resistance to the Occupation, to colonial domination, and to the territorial expansion and ethnic cleansing of the state of Israel openly advocated by Binyamin Netanyahu now and by Sharon previously.

Sharon’s past record casts doubt upon the sincerity of his intentions to negotiate terms of peace based on a recognition of the legitimate rights of Palestinian people. He bluntly stated in the New York Times on March 17 that: “[O]ur concern for our survival does not permit the establishment of a…Palestinian state on the West Bank.”

The Green Party USA insists that the federal and state governments apply one standard for the support of human rights abroad, and that standard should apply to both Israel and Palestine.

In an op-ed essay in the New York Times on June 9, Sharon wrote that Israel would not even discuss terms of peace until “the war on terrorism” was won, thus defying the international consensus that the Palestinians must be given some basis for hope if terrorist acts are to be stopped. Sharon’s willingness to pursue peace by compromise and acceptance of international law is further belied by the new settlements built by his administration. Furthermore, in this article Sharon made clear that he did not accept the prevailing interpretation of UN Resolution 242. This Resolution, in accord with the Geneva Convention, mandates that Israel vacate the territories occupied during the 1967 war.

Despite the marketing of Sharon as a politician transformed into “a man of peace” (as George W. Bush called him), his recent actions lead one to suspect that he has retained the intransigent attitude and indifference to Palestinians’ lives that he demonstrated in 1982, during the war against Lebanon, when he authorized the massacre of two thousand Palestinian civilians in the Sabra-Shatila refugee camps and was forced as a result of the scandal to resign as Defense Minister. Ambassador Philip Habib, President Ronald Reagan’s Special Middle East Envoy, said in 1982:

Sharon was a killer obsessed with hatred of Palestinians. I had promised Arafat that his people would not get any harm. Sharon, however, ignored this commitment entirely. Sharon’s word is worth nil.

Currently, the Israeli government is erecting a formidable maze of concrete walls and barricades, trenches, canals, electrified and barbed-wire fences, bunkers, guard towers, surveillance cameras, security crossings and platforms some 10-20 kilometers into Palestinian territory to delineate the areas of the West Bank that Israel wishes to claim. As Jeff Halper, Coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, wrote on June 12, the Israeli government is carving the West Bank into eight zones organized around the major cities: Jenin, Nablus, Qalqilya, Tul Karm, Ramallah, Jericho, Bethlehem and Hebron. Gaza will be divided into three such zones. Movement between these areas will be monitored and restricted, virtually imprisoning Palestinians within their respective zones or cantons.

Furthermore, the Israeli government also publicly announced at the same time its intention to build 957 housing units in the West Bank settlements for Israeli colonists, mostly in the “Greater Jerusalem” area, at a time when the rest of the world is calling for a freeze on new settlements in the West Bank. As Halper argues, now that Sharon’s “Operation Defensive Shield” has effectively destroyed the infrastructure of Palestinian society, Sharon is confident that Israel will be able to force the Palestinians, evidently with the continued support of the US, to submit to “a truncated set of autonomous islands instead of a viable and truly sovereign state.” Of course this will be labeled a “state” and it will require the assistance of a Palestinian “leadership” willing to “represent” the people and cooperate in crushing the Palestinian resistance.

…while “incarceration” may be Sharon’s first goal, his ultimate goal is probably “transfer,” or less euphemistically, “ethnic cleansing.”

Thus, while verbally Sharon rejected his Likud Party’s stand against the establishment of a Palestinian state, in effect it appears as if the goal of Operation Defensive Shield was to create the conditions for the permanent colonization of Palestine and expulsion of Palestinians from Israel proper. As Halper notes, while “incarceration” may be Sharon’s first goal, his ultimate goal is probably “transfer,” or less euphemistically, “ethnic cleansing.”

Divestment Now!

We note that there are several instances in which the Comptroller of the State of New York and other states across the country have used the massive State Pension Funds to influence US foreign policy. The State of New York divested itself of holdings in South Africa and Rhodesia in order to demonstrate its stand against apartheid and settler colonialism in Africa.

Most recently, in 2001, the State of New York divested its holdings in the Talisman Oil Enterprise to express its denunciation of the government of Sudan for its complicity in the modern-day African slave trade and the horrendous human rights abuses against the peoples of southern Sudan.

The Green Party USA insists that the federal and state governments apply one standard for the support of human rights abroad, and that standard should apply to both Israel and Palestine. In a democratic society, the people have the right to formulate a foreign policy that both protects their national security and promotes their highest humanitarian values.

US carte blanche support of Israel serves neither of these goals. It is clear that the comptrollers of the 50 state treasuries and investment funds, through their financial policies, participate in the de facto implementation of American foreign policy. Thus they can and should use this power to exert a positive influence on our national foreign policy.

To accomplish this goal we also advocate cutting off all weapons sales to the entire region. The Green Party USA insists that US foreign policy in Southwest Asia and North Africa, the so-called Middle East, must embrace the principles of equality, justice and international human rights. Only through the realization of these principles can the cycle of bloodshed be broken.

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