Effective and focused
New York meeting scores U.S.-Israeli war crimes
Published Sep 5, 2006 11:24 PM
It isn’t easy to
construct a protest meeting about the recent U.S.-Israeli assault on Lebanon
that provides details on the enormity of the aggression against that small Arab
country and at the same time fills in the historical context so anyone can under
stand what happened and why.
LeiLani Dowell and Fatin Jarara.
Photos: Roberto Mercado
Such a meeting could easily take an entire
weekend and be called a “teach-in.”
Yet on the single evening
of Aug. 30, the International Action Center hosted a variety of speakers at a
meeting hall across from the United Nations. Their crisp and focused remarks
went right to the heart of why both the Zionist regime and the U.S.
government—the world imperialist power that has bankrolled and armed
Israel since 1948—should be in the dock for war crimes.
didn’t go unnoticed by the powers that be. As the overflow crowd listened
intently and applauded strong statements of support for the anti-colonial
resistance in the Middle East, a Zionist group demonstrated outside. Neverthe
less, every seat was filled. Scores more stood in the back and along the
The audience was thoroughly multinational, with Black, white and
[email protected] North Americans, including people of Jew ish background, as well as
Palestinians, Leb anese, Iranians, Iraqis, Pakistanis and others from the Middle
East and South Asia. Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations was also in
A picture is worth a thousand words. The terrible destruction
meted out by Israeli bombs and missiles to towns and cities in Lebanon was
presented in still shots, as Leila Hamidi of Arab Women Active in Arts &
Media and Ahmed Eid of Al-Awda: Palestine Right to Return Coalition gave
Background of war
Much history was
covered in the first section of the program: the role of British imperialism in
promoting a Zionist state in the Middle East that would collaborate with the
European colonialists against the Arab masses; the myths propagated by both
Zionists and imperialists that denied Palestinian history in order to seize the
land for a racist settler state; the imperialist powers’ carving up of the
Middle East’s oil during World War I; and the many wars carried out by
Israel against the Palestinians and their neighbors.
The youthfulness of
the presenters was quite remarkable. None had been born when Israel invaded
Egypt in 1956. Only one was an eyewitness to the 1967 war when Israel attacked
Egypt, Jordan and Syria. Some may have been young children when Israel again
fought Egypt and Syria in 1973, or when it occupied Lebanon in 1982 and allowed
the massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps.
Nevertheless, these presentations were strong and factual.
of the youth group FIST—Fight Imperialism, Stand Together—and Fatin
Jarara of Al-Awda co-chaired with feeling and efficiency.
of We Won’t Go addressed the continuity of U.S. imperialist policy in the
Middle East, from Truman’s active role in setting up Israel to the
Eisenhower Doctrine of 1957 to Bush’s doctrine of intervention
Charlotte Kates of New Jersey Solidarity/ Activists for the
Liberation of Palestine challenged the legitimacy of a racist settler state in
historic Palestine and pointed to the unbreakable struggle of the Palestin ians
to be free.
Alex Majumder of LeftShift.org discus sed two important
documents: the Sykes-Picot Treaty of 1916 and the Balfour Decla ration of 1917.
These codified the British imperialists’ aims to exploit the Middle East
after World War I and control both its rich oil resources and a passage to
Britain’s South Asian colonies.
Wael Mousfar of the Arab Muslim
Ameri can Federation was the only speaker old enough to have witnessed the 1967
war. He criticized Arab regimes—Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt—that
had collaborated with the Zionists and the United States. He pointed out how at
that time the Jordanian army had withdrawn its troops from the West Bank,
allowing Israel to walk in and take over. The only fighting was on the Syrian
front, he said. The resistance in Lebanon this time, however, shows that
“the future is with the people.”
The next section focused on the U.S. media. Anita
Rosenthwite of the IAC summarized the enormous human rights abuses committed by
Israel and asked: “Why don’t the corporate media ever call Israel
war criminals? ... Like the Iraqi resistance, we must not be shocked and
Arturo J. Pérez Saad of Workers World newspaper traced
the connections among huge U.S. media conglomerates and the biggest military
corporations in the world. General Electric, for example, owns NBC, CNBC,
Telemundo, Bravo and msnbc. com. It also builds jet engines for the military and
In a videotaped interview, British Member of Parliament
George Galloway, a boldly outspoken opponent of the Iraq war, talked about the
political role of Rupert Murdoch’s right-wing media empire.
Deb of the Audre Lorde Pro ject, a center for lesbian, gay, bisexual,
two-spirit, transgender and gender non-conforming people of color, topped off
this section of the program. She debunked as “hypocrisy and
deception” the argument that somehow U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan
would “liberate” women and lesbian and gay people there. “The
most dangerous fundamentalist forces are those driving the ‘war on
terror,’” she said.
Undeniable war crimes
subject of U.S. and Israeli violations of international law was briskly but
thoroughly covered by the next group of speakers.
according to the UN Charter, is only justified in self-defense. If not,
“then everything that follows is a war crime,” pointed out attorney
Abdeen Jabara of the Arab American Anti-Discri mination Committee. Israel has
been allowed to get away with countless war crimes by its patron, the United
Attorney Julie Fry reminded the audience that collective
punishment is a war crime. But Israel tried to punish the entire Lebanese people
by attacking water supplies, power plants, roads and bridges, and forced over
one-quarter of the population to flee their homes.
Mia Cruz of FIST then
introduced a graphic slide show from Lebanon showing the scope of the death and
Walter Williams of PeopleJudgeBush. org reminded people
that cluster bombs and white phosphorus—used by the Israeli army in
Lebanon—are aimed at civilians and hence illegal.
A former Israeli
soldier, Michael Kramer, talked about the Golan, which Israel seized
from Syria in 1967. When Kramer was stationed there in 1973, the Arab population
had shrunk from 147,000 to 6,000. Now the area has 18,000 Zionist settlers, in
violation of many UN resolutions demanding its return to Syria.
K. Schecter of FIST described the illegal Israeli wall that runs for 408
miles, snaking through Pales tinian villages and farms and separating the people
from their jobs, land and schools.
Noel Winkler of Al-Awda explained how
U.S. “anti-terrorism” laws have devastating economic effects on the
people of Palestine.
There were oohs of disbelief as Emelyn Tapaoan and
Carol Holland of the IAC ran back and forth unrolling a voluminous scroll of
paper until it crisscrossed the meeting hall many times. It was made of hundreds
of UN resolutions, taped end to end, that had censured and condemned Israel but
never been enforced.
Maria LaHood of the Center for Constitutional Rights
addressed the 1996 Israeli attack on the UN refugee compound in Qana, Lebanon.
After over 100 were killed by shells designed to explode in the air, maximizing
civilian casualties, Israel said it had been a
The final section
of the program dealt with U.S. accountability for Israel’s criminal acts.
Reviewing the many UN resolutions on Israel that were disregarded, and the one
that the United States used to launch its first war on Iraq in 1990, Samia
Halaby of the Defend Palestine Com mittee concluded that “the UN provides
a cover for U.S. imperialism.”
Michael Letwin of New York City Labor
Against the War detailed U.S. aid to Israel—which has amounted to $90
billion since 1948. This includes helicopters, jet planes, missiles, armored
personnel carriers, and collaboration on Israel’s secret nuclear weapons
program. Letwin decried the investment of union funds in Israeli bonds and
pointed out that U.S. union leaders critical of the war and of Israel have been
targeted and removed.
As always, Ramsey Clark received a standing ovation
when he spoke. The former U.S. attorney general struck a somber tone, warning,
“What makes the current situation so dangerous is that they [the Bush
administration] see the current of history running against them.”
characterized the attack on Lebanon as “a naked war of aggression with no
possible justification—the supreme international crime.” Remarking
on the effectiveness of the Lebanese resistance movement, he said wryly that
“if Bush were serious about rebuilding New Orleans, he’d invite
Hezbollah to do it.”
Clark urged the U.S. movement to act to prevent
the very real possibility that Bush may use military force next “against
Iran, Syria, North Korea, Venezuela or Cuba.”
Sara Flounders of the
IAC unveiled an ambitious plan to get more material—books, pamphlets,
packets and online sites —into the hands of students, workers and the
general public as part of a broad campaign against war crimes. She invited the
audience to participate and support the project.
The hour was late but the
hall remained full.
Ardeshir Ommani of Stop War on Iran Campaign detailed
U.S. crimes against the Iranian people. He rejected Bush’s lying slogans
of “Islamo-fascists” and an “axis of evil.” Dean
Bardouka of Al-Awda descri bed the hardships confronting Palestin ians. Bill
Doares of NYCLAW labeled Israel a “tool of corporate power” intended
to prevent the emergence of an independent Arab nation.
resistance was the final topic.
Joyce Chediac of Workers World newspaper
described how Hezbollah was built in the 1990s “by the Lebanese
people’s struggle to evict Israel,” and contrasted its vigorous
reconstruction of Lebanon to the crisis still facing Black people from New
Orleans. Imani Henry noted the diversity of groups standing together and
defending the right of the peoples of the Middle East to resist attack. Ahmed
Eid of Al-Awda conveyed what it was like to grow up in a Palestinian refugee
camp in Syria.
Remi Kanazi’s recitation of a poem on Palestine
brought many to tears.
The meeting was a strong affirmation that
international solidarity can leap many barriers in the people’s struggle
against imperialism and war.
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