What we can do — Three Students arrested in Senator Levin's office demanding a stop to US aid to Israel

January 30, 2009

In News The Israel-Palestine Conflict

Three college students were arrested last week in Lansing, MI at Senator Carl Levin’s office while peacefully demanding that Senator Levin accept international law and US law and take immediate steps to cut off all military, diplomatic, and economic support for Israel accordingly. Please read their statements and demands below. To read the news story on this in the Lansing State Journal, click here:

Statement and Demands for Senator Carl Levin

As concerned citizens of the World, of United States of America and of the state of Michigan, we are collectively calling on Senator Carl Levin to take action in light of the crisis in Israel-Palestine.

For nearly 42 years Israel has been belligerently occupying the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem–all internationally recognized Palestinian territory–in violation of UN Resolution 242 and in violation of the 2004 ruling of the International Court of Justice.

In its most recent act of criminal aggression and terrorism, “Operation Cast Lead,” Israel attacked the densely populated Gaza Strip from land, air, and sea ultimately killing at least 1,300 human beings and injuring several thousand more—at least one third of which were children.

Israel has also been imposing an illegal economic blockade on the entire Gaza Strip for over 18 months in flagrant violation of the 33rd Article of 4th Geneva Convention which prohibits the collective punishment of a population. This is by definition, a war crime. Israel’s blockade has created a “humanitarian catastrophe” as it has reduced Gaza’s 1.5 million residents (primarily children and refugees) to a state of bare survival while hundreds of sick medical patients have died as a direct result of the medical embargo that has accompanied the blockade.

Every single relevant human rights group—Israeli, Arab, International, American—including the United Nations, have all denounced Israel for its deliberate “targeting of civilians and civilian objects” in “Operation Cast Lead.” Israel targeted mosques, markets, universities, schools, UN buildings, homes, apartments, health clinics, ambulances, journalists, etc. Israel’s 22 day assault on Gaza cannot be called an “operation,” a “war,” or a “conflict.” It was nothing less than a cold blooded massacre of ordinary, unarmed people: people who are no different from us and our friends and families.

International law is extremely unambiguous regarding the willful killings of civilians and targeting of civilian objects in military situations and in times of conflict. According to the ruling of The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia:

“Attacks which strike civilians or civilian objects and military objectives without distinction, may qualify as direct attacks against civilians…This prohibition reflects a well-established rule of customary law applicable in all armed conflicts.” (Emphasis added)

Israel’s most recent massacre of Palestinians in Gaza is unfortunately not new. Its initial invasion of Lebanon in 1982 killed nearly 20,000 people, mostly civilians. In 2006, Israel’s invasion of Lebanon killed over 1,000 civilians. Israel has been for decades, killing, degrading, cleansing, maiming, kidnapping, massacring, stealing from, humiliating, and repressing regular Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza for four decades.

As human beings, we yearn for justice for the Palestinians. But as Americans, we recoil in shame and scream out in anger at what is being done in our names, with our weapons, with our tax money, and with our diplomatic support.

For over four decades the United States has been providing the overwhelming military, economic, and diplomatic support enabling Israel to maintain its illegal occupation and brutalization of the Palestinian people.

According to an American NGO that monitors US aid to Israel,

“From 2001-2006, the United States transferred to Israel more than $200 million worth of spare parts to fly its fleet of F16’s and more than $100 million worth of helicopter spare parts for its fleet of Apaches. In July 2008, the United States gave Israel 186 million gallons of JP-8 aviation jet fuel and signed a contract to transfer an addition $1.9 billion worth of littoral combat ships to the Israeli navy. Last year, the United States signed a $1.3 billion contract with Raytheon to transfer to Israel thousands of TOW, Hellfire, and “bunker buster” missiles.” (“Take Action: End Israel’s attacks on Gaza” US Campaign to End the Occupation, Jan. 2, 2009

Israel’s murderous air assault on Gaza could not have been carried out without America’s F-16 fighter jets, Apache attack helicopters, naval combat ships, missiles, bombs, and fuel. There is no need to complicate simple matters: Israel’s policy in the occupied territories is American policy. Israel’s war crimes are American war crimes.

In strict adherence to the “Leahy Law” for Human Rights, “US aid must stop” when “credible evidence of human rights violations exist.” While this law is staunchly undemocratic in that it gives sole power to the Secretary of State to determine when the law applies, we demand that our representatives and senators hold the Secretary of State accountable in accordance with the law. Thousands of pages of scrupulously documented gross human rights violations exist. UN human rights officials, Israeli human rights groups, Arab human rights groups, and International human rights groups have all presented irrefutable evidence that Israel is carrying out not only “gross violations of human rights,” but massive war crimes with US weaponry and diplomatic support.

Furthermore, the Department of Defense Appropriations Bill version of the “Leahy Law” is very explicit. It states that

“none of the funds made available by this Act may be used to support any training program involving a unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the Secretary of Defense has received credible information from the Department of State that the unit has committed a gross violation of human rights…”

Even the arguably most prestigious, mainstream, and respected human rights organization in world history, Amnesty International, has called on the United States to immediately “suspend all weapons transfers to Israel” in light of Israel’s most recent crimes in Gaza.

Human Rights Watch has also issued a serious report explicitly noting the likelihood of Israel’s use of the chemical weapon, White Phosphorous, in civilian centers in the Gaza Strip during “Operation Cast Lead.” WP is known to cause death and injury from contact with the skin and inhalation. In Gaza, one teenage girl, Jamila Al-Habash, reportedly had both of her legs amputated “because of the WP reaction with soft tissues penetrating even to the bones.” Even more disturbingly, there seems to be reason to believe that the US may have supplied Israel with WP. Either way, the US issued no statement of condemnation of Israel’s illegal use of a chemical weapon against a civilian population. (“White Phosphorous and its use in Gaza, HRW January 11, 2009)

What Must Be Done

While recognizing the facts stated above, the scrupulous documentation of Israeli war crimes by dozens of respected human rights groups, and Israel’s failure to comply with international law…

Reaffirming our commitment to the moral principles of US law regarding foreign military aid…

Reaffirming our acceptance of and commitment to international law, including the 4th Geneva Convention…

Expressing a deep concern for the future of the people of America, the Middle East, and the World…

Noting that Senator Levin is one of the biggest recipients of pro-Israel lobby money, a co-sponsor of the January 8th US Senate Resolution which adamantly supported Israel’s massacre in Gaza, and that Senator Levin has repeatedly voted to fund Israeli crimes in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the surrounding region with our tax dollars and military equipment…

We demand that Senator Levin take immediate action and express his commitment in writing and in a public address to all of the following things:

  1. Take tangible and public steps in Washington toward cutting off all military, economic, and diplomatic support for the state of Israel.
  2. Call for an international investigation of Israeli war crimes during its infamous massacre “Operation Cast Lead” and for charges to be immediately filed against Israel for its ongoing collective punishment of 1.5 million people in the Gaza Strip.
  3. Publicly promise the people of Michigan that so long as Israel refuses to end its 42 year military occupation of Palestinian territory, refuses to adequately address its intolerable human rights record in a way deemed satisfactory by leading human rights organizations, and refuses to comply with international law, that you (Senator Carl Levin) will vote against any sort of aid, diplomatic support, or moral support for Israel without exception.

Our position is neither radical nor extreme. It is in fact, moderate. We are not calling for the US to supply weapons for the Palestinians to resist occupation. We are calling for immediate compliance with International humanitarian law and immediate compliance with US law.

We demand that the US stop intervening in the Israel-Palestine conflict. The US role has proven itself to be destructive, criminal, and harmful to the causes of justice and peace for the people of Israel-Palestine.

These are our just and reasonable demands. We are pursuing them non-violently in an attempt to stop unnecessary and horrendous bloodshed in the Middle East.

If Senator Levin is willing to accept these simple and uncontroversial demands, he will sign the bottom of this paper marking his commitment to facilitating a change in US Middle East policy as outlined clearly in the demands issued above.