Ellis Boal for Congress MI-01
I traveled to the West Bank in 2002 and to Cairo in 2004 in delegations of the National Lawyers Guild, of which I have been a member since my first week of law school in 1969. Except for attending occasional conferences, since then I have not been much involved in Palestinian support work, with the exception of a BDS case noted below.
Some of my writings after 2004 -- which mostly recounted the history of Israeli-Palestinian-Israeli-US relations -- have been:
Currently wrapped up in other issues, my quick take today on the struggles there now is this:
Right to Return
During and after any war, international law prohibits forcible population transfers.
An important factor in their departure was panic occasioned by a massacre of the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin by Zionist paramilitary groups in April 1948.
They have a legal right to return to their former homes in Israel or the Palestinian territories. Not just to their homeland but to their homes. Those who voluntarily choose not to return are entitled to payment for their property. The right to return or compensation is an individual right which may not be negotiated away by national entities like Israel and the PLO.
The US initially supported the right of return of displaced Palestinians, voting in December 1948 in favor of UN General Assembly Resolution 194. Palestine and Israel were not UN members at the time and did not cast votes.
Israel has refused to abide by the resolution and Palestinians have been unable to enforce it. They have tried war and they have tried peace. That is why millions of refugees remain in Gaza today.
What Israel is doing in the Palestinian Territories is worse than South African apartheid was. The South African regime didnít bomb apartment blocks in Soweto, whose inhabitants the country's economy required as its labor force. In 2014 Israel announced a land-grab of approximately 1000 acres of privately-owned Arab land for settlement expansion.
Since 1948 the United States has sharply reversed course. Today Israel receives $3 billion in US assistance annually. Total aid since 1949 sums to over $100 trillion. In September a military aid deal worth $38 billion was finalized, the largest of its kind ever.
Palestine held legislative elections in January 2006, which independent observers found to be free and fair.
During the elections, my opponent Lon Johnson worked as an observer for the Democratic National Institute in the West Bank towns of Salfit and Qalqilya. Salfit had a commendable voter turnout of almost 84%. Hamas won in Salfit and Fatah won in Qalqilya.
Hamas also won outright overall with 74 (56%) of the 132 seats. Fatah trailed with 45 (34%), and smaller parties and independents split the remaining 13 (10%). In March 2006 a new government was formed by Hamas leader Ismail Haniya as prime minister.
Israel demanded that Palestine recognize Israel's right to exist. Haniya refused. Israel and the US imposed punitive economic sanctions and suspended the transfer to Palestine of taxes owed to it. The economy suffered. International aid was diverted in part to the accounts of Mahmoud Abbas, a Fatah co-founder and still the Palestinian president, bypassing the Hamas-led government.
In March 2007 a unity government was formed incorporating both Hamas and Fatah, with Haniyeh still as prime minister.
Meanwhile in late 2006 the US had developed a covert initiative approved by President Bush to provoke a Palestinian civil war, by arming Fatah with weapons supplied at US behest, and overthrow Hamas. David Wurmser, who resigned a month later as Vice President Cheney's chief Middle East adviser, stated that he believed that Hamas had no intention of taking over the Gaza Strip until Fatah forced its hand:
It looks to me that what happened wasn't so much a coup by Hamas but an attempted coup by Fatah that was preempted before it could happen.
Redolent of the US Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961, in June 2007 the Fatah coup failed and Hamas pushed it out of Gaza.
Abbas then attempted to dissolve the unity government. His action has not been universally recognized.
In the middle of all this, in September 2006 Hillary Clinton, the Democrats' candidate for president this year, told reporters she told a group of reporters the US should have rigged the Palestinian legislative elections:
I do not think we should have pushed for an election in the Palestinian territories. I think that was a big mistake. And if we were going to push for an election, then we should have made sure that we did something to determine who was going to win.
The 2014 Gaza war
The rap against Palestinians is they don't fight fair. It is argued that if they want their land back they should purchase uniforms, arm themselves openly, and march to war as armies do.
Of course they can't afford uniforms. More importantly, as seen above the real unfair fight was in 1948 when they were pushed from their land.
The US-Israeli line is that the Gaza blockade wonít end until the rockets stop and Hamas is disarmed. But I believe that if Hamas disarmed and the rockets stopped, the blockade would continue anyway. And the people of Gaza know it.
If it were possible to expel the Gazans, the Israeli government would consider it. But expulsion is not feasible, so massive destruction is the alternative.
In 2014 Israel and Gaza
The world is more aware than ever that Israel has hit UN schools, refugee shelters, hospitals, and kids on the street deliberately. The bill for this massacre will come due, but not anytime soon -- not so long as the US makes pronouncements on Israelís right to defend itself and boasts of US partnership in Iron Dome.
The US should withdraw its unilateral support of one side in this conflict.
My own contribution to this struggle of late has been represention this year of UAW Local 2865, which represents 14,000 student-workers in the University of California system. Local members voted by a 2-1 margin in a secret-ballot election in December 2014 to call on the university and the UAW itself to support the international BDS movement. BDS stands for "boycott, divest, and sanctions," and involves withdrawing support for, investment in, and trading with Israel and institutions complicit in violation of Palestinian human rights.
The UAW, upheld by its Public Review Board, annulled the vote a year later. The PRB reasoning: seven years earlier the UAW president, without notifying the international executive board or the membership, and acting only for himself, signed a letter opposing BDS. Therefore local members can't vote for BDS today.
The ruling overturned established UAW precedent which prohibited censorship until after a subject "has been thoroughly examined, aired and debated" within the ranks.