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Category: Israel

Gamesmanship and the Iran Deal: An Open Letter to Those Objecting

Let’s look at the field positions of the parties in Iran, the United States, and Israel who seem to want to kill the agreement worked out between Iran and the P5+1 coalition.

First, let me address those in the Republican Party and in Israel who have expressed objections to this deal. I suggest that the basic fact is that you have won—a considerable field position—and if you kill the deal, you will lose.

You can assume that your publicly expressed concerns figured into this negotiation. You demanded a tough deal. You got one, and the international community won in these negotiations because the P5+1 had a strong field position and used it. Iran needed its sanctions lifted, so they needed this deal more than we did. And we made them pay for it.

Yes, you did win. Let’s stop the denial. Many Republican and Israeli objectors seem to have a hard time admitting it, but this agreement is thorough enough to make very difficult any Iranian move toward military use of nuclear technologies for 15-25 years. Beyond the controls on specific sites and techniques of uranium enrichment, the deal provides for comprehensive control of the nuclear supply chain and for IAEA monitoring of Iran’s nuclear technology activities—using very sophisticated means now available—for the foreseeable future.

Cluster Bombs: Saudi Use, US Sales, and the Review Conference on Their Prohibition

The Saudi-led aggression on Yemen has on at least two separate occasions used cluster bombs to attack villages in Yemen's northern Saada Province, according to Human Rights Watch.  Cluster munitions are imprecise weapons which often fail to detonate on impact, leaving the unexploded bomb on the ground, ready to kill or maim when disturbed or handled.

The failure rate of cluster munitions is high, ranging from 30 to 80 percent.  But “failure” may be the wrong word. They may, in fact, be designed to kill later. Reports from humanitarian organizations and mine-clearing groups have shown that civilians make up the vast majority of the victims of cluster bombs, especially children attracted by their small size and often bright colors.

Cluster weapons had been largely used by US forces during the Vietnam War, especially along the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.  The impact is still being felt, and much land is unfit for cultivation.

The revulsion at the consequences and long-lasting impact led to the start of negotiations in Geneva leading to the Convention on Prohibition on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons which may be Deemed to be Excessively Injurious or to have Indiscriminate Effects − called by its friends “the 1980 Inhumane Weapons Convention.”

My NGO text presented during the negotiations in August 1979 for the Citizens of the World on “Anti-Personnel Fragmentation Weapons” called for a ban based on the 1868 St Petersburg Declaration—at the time the only law of war standard which seemed to apply. 

Palestine Joins the International Criminal Court

Palestine’s recent accession to the International Criminal Court is a crucial step toward accountability for grave crimes in the region and toward a peaceful resolution of one of the world’s longest running conflicts. The ICC’s jurisdiction will take effect on April 1st, making Palestine the 123rd state party.

In joining the Court, Palestine also submitted a declaration to the ICC under Article 12.3 of the Rome Statute granting the Court jurisdiction over alleged crimes committed on Palestinian territory since 13 June 2014—the date of the initiation of the Israel-Gaza hostilities this past summer.

“The Coalition fully supports Palestine’s accession to the Rome Statute,” said William R. Pace, convenor of the Coalition for the ICC. “For 12 years, the Coalition has urged all states to exercise their right to join the ICC, and key members have made special appeals to both Israel and Palestine to join the Court during the last year, which saw some of the deadliest and most destructive armed conflict between the two countries.” 

“We hope this move will contribute to ending the cycles of violence between Israel and Palestine,” Pace continued. “Contrary to the position of some, Coalition members argue that enforcing international humanitarian law strengthens the peace process, while also giving victims recourse to legal remedy.”

Civil society has long urged both Israel and Palestine to join the ICC in order to stem well-documented mass violations of human rights during the course of the decades-long conflict between the two.

Palestine and the ICC: National Sovereignty vs. Human Rights

One day after a failed bid at the UN to push a Middle East peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, the Palestinian Authority President announced a move for the PA to join the International Criminal Court (ICC) as a way of seeking to get international judicial support for its ‘war crimes’ allegations against Israel. Now UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon has indicated that the Palestinian Authority will be allowed to join the ICC.

Israel’s Netanyahu noted that the Palestinian Authority really should refrain from taking this case to the ICC because of Hamas’s own rocket attacks on Israeli population centers and their use of civilians as human shields. ICC prosecutors have made it clear in the past that they will investigate all allegations of misdeeds in a dispute, not just those of one side.

Most unprejudiced people would agree that there must be accountability for anyone committing war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide. Unfortunately, at present the ICC can work only in those cases where nation-states, even those accused of crimes, allow it in their jurisdiction. This is another example of the miserable state of the present international system where unlimited national sovereignty is allowed to trump human rights. Even though 139 countries have signed the 1998 Rome Statute establishing the ICC, the most horrific crimes against humanity perpetrated in the past decade—in North Korea, Syria and Sri Lanka, among other places—presently remain outside of the ICC's reach. 

The Myth of American Isolationism

I recently had the privilege of attending a panel hosted by the Woodrow Wilson Center. The panel was convened to discuss a new report from the Chicago Council concerning the notion that Americans have changed their viewpoints on foreign policy and believe that, as a nation, we should stay out of international affairs. While the panel itself made for a healthy discussion, the report was equally interesting, and I implore everyone to read it here.

In attendance at the panel were experts such as Ivo Daalder, former US ambassador to NATO; Jill Dougherty, former CNN foreign affairs correspondent; Bruce Jentleson, a professor at Duke University; and Jane Harmon, CEO of the Wilson Center. The panel began with a summary of the main points of the report, several of which I will address below. After the summary, the experts discussed their thoughts on the report and attempted to explain some of the interesting trends in the data. Following their summations, the panel fielded a few questions from the audience, mostly concerning the trends.

Just before the conference I coincidentally stumbled upon an article by one of my political science heroes, Professor Daniel Drezner of Tufts University, concerning this very report, which he co-authored. The article details ten surprising facts concerning the data gathered and the myth of American isolationism.

Protective Edge and Sport as Peace

If I began by saying that the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict is longstanding and complicated, that would be trite and tired and everything you already know. If I was to say that social media, citizen journalism, and shifting geopolitical landscapes have made the conflict both increasingly confusing and accessible, I would be guilty of the same.

This summer, I didn’t plan to focus on sports as much as I have. Sports – playing them, watching them, admiring them – are something I take for granted. A growing awareness of marginalization, inequality, and oppression has complicated my pleasure but not suffocated it. I remain an avid participant and a committed fan. I called turning twenty-three my “Jordan Year” and would be embarrassed to reveal the price of my new Real Madrid jersey.

As Israel’s Operation Protective Edge marches onward, civilian deaths and human suffering sink spirits like lead. It’s bleak. It’s miserable. I cannot fathom the contours of living it firsthand – as an Israeli or a Palestinian, listening for rocket sirens or “knock-knock” bombs.

After Tragedy: Rejecting the Option for Destruction

Last Monday brought a devastating conclusion to the 18-day search for three missing teenagers in Israel with the discovery of the bodies of Naftali Fraenkel, 16; Gilad Shaar, 16; and Eyal Yifrach, 19. Tens of thousands attended the  funeral, and the international community echoed the nation’s grief; Barack Obama said that as a father, he could not imagine the pain of the parents. Yet as a world leader, he urged restraint in Israel’s response, encouraging Israel and the Palestinian Authority to work together in pursuing justice and to “refrain from steps that could further destabilize the situation.”

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon suggested that “this heinous act by enemies of peace aims to further entrench division […] and to widen the conflict. It must not,” he asserted, “be allowed to succeed.”

Months after American-brokered peace talks broke down, their warnings against provoking escalation went unheeded.

FIFA's Failures

The World Cup is moving into the knockout stages and, rightly so, the tournament has garnered immense attention internationally. I myself have been cheering for the US Men's National Team, though I think that Die Mannschaft (Germany) will ultimately emerge victorious in the tournament. The World Cup never fails to disappoint and this year has certainly been thrilling.

The World Cup is also a moment in which football's governing body, FIFA, is most scrutinized -- and this is for good reason.

Brazil's opportunity to host the World Cup has been a moment of pride for the Brazilian government and is almost too fitting a scene. A country that evokes images of beach parties, carnivale, and joyful people is coupled with a deep appreciation for the rich history of Brazilian soccer -- players like Pele, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Marta, and more come to mind.

Israel and Iran: A Love Story

This is an unexpected love story about people who have historically feared and loathed each other. Through one poster Israeli graphic designer Ronny Edry started a movement that captured the hearts of many. The past decade of an ensuing war between Israel and Iran had taken a toll on his conscience.

One day, he decided to act. Edry took a picture of himself holding his daughter with text that read "Iranians, we will never bomb your country, we love you". Simple and powerful. Edry could not have predicted what happened next.

His picture went viral through social media. More and more people, from around the world, started sending their own pictures to Edry in support of the movement. International newspapers in the Americas, Europe and Asia began to cover what was happening. For once it seemed, news out of the Middle East was positive. Ronny Edry gave a wonderful lecture at a TED talk, explaining his cause and why it is so important. 

This campaign shows the power of communication. When the international community unites under one cause, governments take notice. It is about people spreading love and peace in the face of conflict and war. While the governments of Iran and Israel may disagree, their people can get along fine.

"Enemies are people who haven't met the other side"

Excerpts from Latest Care 2 Blog "United States' UN-wise UNESCO Policy"

U.N. Headquarters in New York City

Here's a few excerpts from my latest blog at Care 2 entitled, "United States' UN-Wise UNESCO Policy," which discusses two U.S. laws that halt contributions to U.N. agencies that accept Palestinian membership.  These laws forced the United States to stop funding the United Nations Education, Science, and Cultural Organization last week when the organization's members voted to accept Palestinian membership.

"The big question to answer is who benefits and loses from maintaining this policy. The biggest winners are people who use the Middle East conflict as a platform to spew anti-U.N. views and promote an isolationist agenda for the United States. The biggest loser isn't the Palestinians or Israelis, or even the U.N. It's the United States."

"UNESCO promotes freedom of expression, one of America's core values. It advocates for freedom of the press and the promotion of an independent media around the globe. It manages a tsunami warning system in the Pacific, which warned Californians of possible aftershocks from Japan's earthquake last March. The organization assists the United States in its transitions out of Iraq and Afghanistan, by preparing communities and governments for the withdrawal of U.S. forces.

American jobs have been saved and grown by UNESCO's efforts to connect U.S. companies like Cisco, Apple, Microsoft, and Proctor & Gamble to emerging tech markets in developing countries."

Sign our petition to get President Obama to ask Congress for a wavier authority to these laws that unfairly force the United States to disengage from U.N. agencies over their acceptance of Palestinian membership.

Click here to read the blog piece in full.