Rep. Cardin has been a staunch, consistent and unwavering supporter of Israel. He has voted for the military equipment and financial aid that provides Israel with the ability to terrorize Palestinian civilians. It is now time for him, and others in the U.S. government, to speak out against Israel's actions.
This is another email I (Kevin B. Zeese) sent to Rep. Ben Cardin. Mr. Cardin is running for the U.S. Senate in Maryland as a Democrat. I am also running for that U.S. Senate seat in a Unity Campaign where I have been nominated by three parties -- Green, Libertarian, and Populist -- and have members of the Republican, Democratic Parties on my campaign committee along with independents.
July 3, 2006
Rep. Ben Cardin
2207 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Rep. Cardin:
On June 26 I wrote you to urge you to use your voice to protest the mass violence about to occur in the Gaza Strip. At the time, the Israeli military was lining up tanks, artillery, soldiers and other military equipment on the Gaza border. Sadly, there has only been silence, and neither your campaign nor congressional website mentions the issue. (The most recent comment you've made on Israel was from April 2006 urging Saudi Arabia to lift its boycott of Israel.)
The actions of Israel have worsened since my last letter to you. Sadly, Israel's actions are complicating the release of the Israeli soldier who was captured. Indeed, Israel's actions, military attack, group punishment of civilians and refusal to negotiate, increase the likelihood of his death more than his release. Israel is intentionally terrorizing the civilian population to pressure the Palestinian government. In doing so, Israel is creating a likely health catastrophe that will result in the deaths of civilians. Sadly, this is being done with weapons paid for by U.S. taxpayers – weapons and funding for which you have consistently voted. Please use your voice to speak out strongly against the Israeli terrorism.
Of particular concern are:
- An Israeli missile destroying a crucial power station in Rafah on Tuesday- a power plant that provided for half of Gaza's daily energy needs. Residents are now left without power for much of the day. This also means residents are without water. Hospitals and clinics are now without power, causing a health emergency. It will take up to six months to repair the power station made more difficult by the bombing of all four access roads to the plant.
- The destruction of bridges and roads preventing civilians from moving to avoid the coming Israeli onslaught.
- The arrest of 64 elected members of the Palestinian government including at least eight cabinet members (half the cabinet) among them Nasser Shaer, the Palestinian deputy prime minister, Finance Minister Omar Abdal Razeq, Social Affairs Minister Fakhri Torokma and Prisoners' Affairs Minister Wasfi Kabha, some were led away blindfolded and in handcuffs.
Also, the mayor of the West Bank town of Qalqiliya and his deputy were detained.
- Aerial bombardment of the heavily populated Gaza Strip, with 30 aerial campaigns on Thursday. This has included targeting government buildings including a school in Gaza City, the office of Palestinian Prime Minister, the Interior Ministry, the office building of the Auxiliary Force as well as the offices of government officials.
More actions are being planned as the Israeli military prepares for a ground assault on parts of Gaza. Prime Minister Olmert has "ordered the army and security forces to act with all their might. . ." The trapped Palestinian population has been terrorized further by leaflets drooped from the air warning them of further attacks. Remaining silent as this horror unfolds is a silent approval of these terror tactics by Israel.
Israel is being condemned by human rights organizations for violating international law and the basic human rights of Palestinians. Human rights groups are criticizing Israelis' actions:
- The Israeli human rights group, B'Tselem, sent an urgent request to Israel's Defense Minister Amir Peretz to instruct Israeli forces to refrain from bombing or deliberately damaging in any way facilities that supply indispensable services to the civilian population in the Gaza Strip. Further, they said Israel must refrain from using measures which contravene International Humanitarian Law, which categorically prohibits all sides to a conflict from attacking "objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population." B'Tselem pointed out that "Israel's military operation in the Gaza Strip today included Air Force bombing of Palestinian civilian infrastructure. Among the facilities hit was the central electricity relay station south of Gaza City, which caused a widespread blackout. Damage to electricity facilities is liable to severely impair the provision of indispensable services, such as water supply and health care." See: http://www.btselem.org/english/Press_releases/20060628.asp
B'Tselem was also critical of the nightly sonic bombs over civilian neighborhoods, saying:
"The sole purpose of these sorties is to prevent the residents from sleeping and to create an ongoing sense of fear and anxiety. Regarding the sonic booms, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that, 'thousands of residents in southern Israel live in fear and discomfort, so I gave instructions that nobody will sleep at night in the meantime in Gaza.' The clear intention of the practice is to pressure the Palestinian Authority and the armed Palestinian organizations by harming the entire civilian population.
"Children, in particular, suffer from the sonic booms. In the past, the Gaza Community Mental Health Center reported that the supersonic sorties caused fear among many children, which led to a loss of concentration, loss of appetite, bedwetting, and other disorders. The Center also reported that sonic booms caused headaches, stomach aches, shortness of breath, and other physical effects that appeared among both children and adults. Sonic booms also cause property damage, primarily shattered windows.
"The use of sonic booms flagrantly breaches a number of provisions of international humanitarian law. The most significant provision is the prohibition on collective punishment. Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which is intended to protect civilians in time of war, categorically states that 'Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.' The article also states that, 'Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited.' Air force supersonic sorties also breach the principle of distinction, a central pillar of humanitarian law, which forbids the warring sides to direct their attacks against civilians."
- Amnesty International called on Israel to put an end to the wanton destruction and collective punishment being carried out by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip. A press release issued by Amnesty International (see: http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGMDE150572006) said:
Amnesty International is also increasingly concerned by the excessive use of force and wanton destruction of civilian property and infrastructure by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip. Since 27 June, when Israel began Operation Summer Rain, which it says is aimed at releasing Gilad Shalit, the Israeli army has deployed large numbers of troops in the South of the Gaza Strip and carried out large-scale wanton destruction. This includes the bombardment and destruction of three bridges and electricity networks across the Gaza Strip. These measures have left half the population of Gaza without electricity and have reportedly also adversely affected the supply of water.
In recent days the Israeli authorities have also closed the Rafah crossing into Egypt, the only point of entry/exit for the 1.5 million Palestinians who live in the Gaza Strip. Several hundred Palestinians who were returning from abroad have been stranded on the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing for up to a week and are prevented from returning to their homes. Those wishing to leave the Gaza Strip are likewise prevented from leaving.
The wanton destruction of civilian infrastructure and property and the disproportionate restrictions imposed on civilians by Israeli forces amount to collective punishment on the entire population of the Gaza Strip, a violation of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits punishing protected persons for offences they have not committed.
Amnesty International reiterates its call on the Israeli authorities and army to put an end to the excessive and disproportionate use of force against densely populated residential areas and infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, including frequent artillery shelling and air strikes which endanger the lives of Palestinian residents.
Since the beginning of this year Israeli forces have killed some 150 Palestinians, including some 25 children, and Palestinian armed groups have killed close to 20 Israelis, including two children.
- Israel's destruction of Gaza's only electrical plant needlessly punishes the civilian population and has created the potential for a serious humanitarian crisis, according to Human Rights Watch. Sarah Leah Whitson, director of the Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch said:
"Israel must minimize the harm to Gaza's civilian population during any military operation to rescue the corporal, and that includes not destroying vital power plants."
Human Rights Watch also expressed concern about the intentional and frequent use of sonic booms by Israeli military aircraft over Gaza, which has caused great fear among the civilian population, particularly among children. Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits "measures of intimidation" against the civilian population. As there appears to be no military justification for the use of the sonic booms, other than the prohibited practice of intimidation, Human Rights Watch urges Israel to immediately halt the practice. This practice has been criticized in the past in November 2005, by Physicians for Human Rights- Israel and the Gaza Community Mental Health Center.
- The civil rights group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said in a statement: "Mild rebukes for the deliberate targeting of civilian infrastructure in Gaza will not stop Israeli missiles. The Bush administration should condemn these war crimes and demand that Israel stops using American taxpayer-funded weapons to carry out attacks that will only serve to intensify the humanitarian crisis in Gaza."
The complaints Israel makes of the Palestinians show the hypocrisy of their policies as they are guilty of the same actions. Norman Finkelstein, professor of Political science at DePaul University in Chicago and author of "Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History," made this point recently in a debate with a representative of AIPAC:
"I think it is useful to begin with what the human rights groups have to say about this. Let's leave aside the background for a moment and look narrowly at the incident that triggered the Israeli invasion. Let's see what Hamas did not do, what the Palestinian 'militants' did not do. Number one, they did not liquidate the corporal, which Israel routinely does, namely its political assassinations. That's a war crime under international law. Israel routinely does that. Hamas did not do that to the corporal.
"Number two, they didn't kill the corporal while trying to arrest him. Israel routinely does that. If you look at July 2005, B'Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, they put out a very hefty report entitled "Take No Prisoners." And the report shows Israel routinely, during so-called arrest operations, kills Palestinians.
"It said . . . that they took him hostage, they kidnapped him. Okay. Israel routinely takes Palestinians, Lebanese hostage. In fact, Israel was the only country in the world, in 1997, which legalized hostage-taking. The liberal head of the Israeli High Court, Aharon Barak, he said it's legal, legitimate, under international law to take what he called bargaining chips in order to get prisoners, Israeli prisoners being held by the Lebanese. The decision was reversed in 2000, but Israel continued to hold Lebanese hostages until 2004. So, at worst, Hamas is being accused of what Israel legalized and routinely does.
"And finally, let's talk about those 9,000 Palestinians who are effectively hostages being held by Israel. 1,000 of them are administrative detainees. . . Administrative detainees who are being held without any charges or trial. And the other 8,000 are being held after military courts have convicted them, almost always on the basis of confessions which were extracted by torture. So if we're going to look simply at the numbers, we have one hostage on the Palestinian side, and effectively we have about 9,000 on the Israeli side."
While Israel promises to hold elected officials in the Palestinian Territory responsible for the actions of non-governmental organizations – including openly threatening the assassination of elected officials – should the Palestinian government hold Israel responsible for the killing of civilians? For the bombing of civilian areas? For the destruction of utilities, roads and bridges? For terrorizing civilians? Should Prime Minister Olmert be held personally responsible for these violations of international law, as he promises to do to Palestinian officials?
More military action by Israel is promised in the Gaza Strip. Further, Israel is threatening to widen the attack beyond the Gaza Strip into Syria. Four Israeli military airplanes entered Syrian airspace and flew low-altitude flights over the seaside home of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad near the Mediterranean port city of Latakia in northwestern Syria. The Israeli military and Syria confirmed Israeli warplanes entered its airspace.
As a long-term supporter of Israel, your voice can make a difference.
Please speak out against Israeli terrorism and violation of international law.
Kevin B. Zeese