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It's Time for the Occupation to End

Helen Thomas, Palestine and the Anti-Semitism Card

by BURKELY HERMANN

Twitter exploded with sadness as person after person wrote ‘RIP Helen Thomas.’ I looked up the controversial comments by the fearless American journalist, who challenged the powers that be, to a camera of a Jewish Rabbi who seemed to disagree with her position. Her comments were not anti-Semetic, because as Paul Jay noted, “not all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitism, but some is. Helen Thomas’ isn’t.” She was right on, declaring that Israel “get out of Palestine,” and portraying Israel as the aggressor instead of a moral light, later clarifying her comments on The Real News later on. Eventually she lost her job as a White House correspondent because of it and President Obama called her comments “offensive.” The Real News Network and Democracy Now! both honored her, here and here, among many, showing previous interviews on their networks. Nader said her removal was like a “professional execution.” After finding all of this out, I made a song titled, “Un-Occupy Palestine Remix” using audio clips of Thomas, Noam Chomsky (who has spoke about this for years), and Anonymous about the occupation. While there is growing sentiment against the occupation, the power elite reject the view, along with a majority of the American public, making it necessary to describe the brutal occupation of the Palestinian territories.

I was fumbling through some political pamphlets and I stumbled upon a letter about this very issue. A letter by, Felcia Eaves and Peter Miller, co-chairs of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, (abbreviation is End the Occupation) in their 2012 newsletter, caught my attention. The group, in their words, works to “end U.S. Support for Israeli’s 45-year occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. We uphold equal rights for all.” The letter was euphoric that more people were realizing the changes from boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) actions against companies supporting the occupation and the state of Israel itself. It still noted that “U.S. Policymakers continue to privilege Israeli apartheid over Palestinian human rights. Its no wonder why the decades-long “peace process” failed to bring an end to forty years of Israeli occupation, and instead provided the veneer of progress as Israel demolished Palestinian homes, expanded illegal settlements, and arrested and killed Palestinian civilians” but said that with monetary support they’d “work toward the day when both Palestinians and Israelis can travel it without fear and live in peace as equal human beings.” End The Occupation is just one organization and is part of the wider BDS movement which is working the challenge the current occupation.

Even with this movement, people may not recognize the brutality of the current occupation. After all, The Guardian recently reported that Israel will “release “heavyweight” Palestinian prisoners as part of an agreement to enter preliminary talks in Washington, with the aim of an eventual resumption of long-stalled peace negotiations” but refused let anything challenge their illegal settlements. Back in November, I wrote an article about Israel’s war of aggression in Gaza, noting: “Israel is committing crimes against peace (starting a war of aggression), war crimes (violating the laws of war and wanton killing) and crimes against humanity (murdering Palestinian civilians)…Israel assassinated the commander of Hamas before the war when peace was being negotiated means Israel by engaging in this war instead of peaceful diplomacy…By killing over 30 and wounding more than 250, the state of Israel has clearly violated…the Geneva Conventions….The bombing of a refugee camp and fact bombs are going everywhere without aim is a violation of the [Hague Conventions]…To conclude [there are numerous] war crimes Israel has committed…[while] the cause of the conflict…[was a]…missile being fired was in response to an Israeli raid.” A number of stories on The Real News Network begin to bring in some insight. In recent years, “the presence of the Israeli army has been greatly reduced, the occupation has taken a more invisible form…[and the] Israeli secret service (the Shabak) exploits every point of contact with Palestinians, especially the imposed permit system, to recruit informants to further its control over the population…[which] makes political involvement and activism nearly impossible.”  Despite this, in September 2012, anti-austerity protests swept the West Bank. Still, conditions didn’t get any better as protesters continued to be killed with impunity, the only female Palestinian member of the Israeli parliament was barred from reelection, how there are bubbles of prosperity in the occupied territories, and a multi-fold increase of anti-Arab discrimination among the youth since 2008. Recently, the open-air prison camp, the Gaza Strip, has been basically closed. After the ouster of Morsi in Egypt, the military junta decided to close the Rafah Crossing, Gaza’s only way of connecting to the outside world and shut down 90% of the tunnels going out of the territory.

There is even more atrocities under the current occupation. There are routine arrests and detentions of Palestinians, as Gavan Kelly, advocacy coordinator for Addameer, noted “Administrative detention is a procedure whereby Israel–it enables Israel to arrest and detain any Palestinian for periods of one to six months based on completely secret evidence. And these periods of detention can be renewed indefinitely.” On top of this, Israel broke a signed agreement to stop hunger strikes of Palestinians while breaking the cease-fire more than 207 times (as of July 2013). Related to this is the fact that the Israeli armed forces have been “using Palestinian children as human shields,” even though they tried to cover it up. Additionally, the most famous theater in Israel/Palestine called  Freedom Theater was threatened by Israeli authorities for its criticism of the occupation. At the same time, Palestinians “living under occupation perceived their government to be very corrupt, not because of cases of bribery, embezzlement, etc., although such crimes take place in the Palestinian Authority as they do in most governments of the world, but because they perceived the Palestinian government to be misrepresenting the national interests of Palestinians.”

Helen Thomas put it very well. In an interview on The Real News Network she said that US policy is “too one-sided in favor of Israel. Ignores all the horrors that have happened to Palestinians—their country’s taken away, thousands imprisoned for many, many years. We give them arms, we give the aid to Israel, as it continues to occupy and just treat the Palestinians like they’re newcomers—and these are Europeans who come there who have no ties to Israel, to Palestine…Palestinians have no voice…when Israel was created and they declared themselves in 1948…Truman went along. They knocked on his door at three o’clock in the morning. He did the unheard-of thing to get out and recognize the state of Israel—and while we were still debating the whole situation at the UN. Left our own representatives high and dry. Well, every president has been confronted with that…And every president has been confronted with this issue. And it is an issue. People have the right to defend their own country. Two thousand years…I think American politics [are] pro-Israel. If you take a vote in Congress, maybe you might get five people vote against any further aid to Israel as it continues its occupation. That’s about it. They control— they have vast power…I don’t think he’s [Obama's] ever made any real commitments to the Palestinians…I think President Obama gave up totally, early on.”

After all, anyone who criticizes it, is considered an anti-Semite by the government of Israel. In Israel itself, the poverty rate is higher than any “developed” country.  This is all while, as The Real News, points out, “Israel is one of the world’s largest weapons exporters…in per capita terms…[focusing] on developing countries, on militias, countries under military embargoes, and countries engaged in civil war…[and] operate in the most controversial areas of the world.” We must follow what Helen Thomas said, end the “Israeli occupation of the Arab world, all, Golan Heights, everything, Gaza” immediately. I urge the readers of this article to stand against the Israeli occupation of Palestine by participating in the BDS movement.

Burkely Hermann is an activist who writes numerous blogs to educate the populace about international, local and national issues. He tries to mimic the idea of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense to appeal to the common people and pushes for nonviolent direct action.