Posted on November 13, 2013 in Countdown

We Need to Tell the Story of Wadi Foquin

In a previous edition of “Countdown,” we argued that the way our community can make significant headway in rallying American public support for Israeli-Palestinian peace is to shed light on the daily injustices visited upon the Palestinians as a result of occupation. As long as Palestinians are not known, discourse about the issue in the US will remain hopelessly one-sided, with Israeli humanity presented as confronting the Palestinian "problem." Next Tuesday, November 19, AAI is partnering with several human rights and religious organizations, and Rep. Barbara Lee’s (D-CA) office to convene a briefing on Capitol Hill entitled, “Wadi Foquin: A Microcosm of the Urgency for Israeli-Palestinian Peace.” Presenters from the Palestinian village of Wadi Foquin and their Israeli neighbors in Tsur Hadassa will give a vivid account of how their current situation is unsustainable for both groups, stressing the need for movement on Israeli-Palestinian peace. Wadi Foquin’s residential and agricultural land is being increasingly expropriated for expanding settlement construction. We need to tell their story, and we need your help doing it. Help us raise awareness about the briefing on social media.

Bringing More Voices against Drones to the Hill

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty recently released two reports that severely criticized the U.S. drone program and its expansion under the Obama Administration. And in a follow-up to the release of the reports, Reprieve, a UK-based human rights organization, hosted a congressional briefing with Pakistani drone victims, which was in fact the first time that Members of Congress had the opportunity to hear testimony from victims of drone strikes. Congressional staff and Members will have another opportunity to hear from another individual impacted by the Administration’s drone program, Faisal bin Ali Jaber. AAI is helping to arrange meetings on the Hill for Mr. Ali Jaber. Faisal is a Yemeni engineer whose brother-in-law Salem was killed by a drone strike. Ironically, Salem was a religious leader who had publicly criticized al-Qaeda’s tactics and its violent ideology. He’s precisely the type we should be emboldening, not killing. Unfortunately, Ali Jaber’s story may not be as uncommon as the Administration has said. The exact number of innocent people killed by the drone program is disputed, but what is clear is that we need to raise more awareness about cases like those of Faisal bin Ali Jaber's family and that is exactly what we’re going to do when he comes to Washington this week. 

We’ve SPOTted Useless Government Profiling

Don’t get us wrong: profiling is always useless and has been proven to be ineffective over and over again. But remember TSA’s SPOT program? A program modeled off of the Israeli system where the Government spends about a billion dollars of taxpayer money teaching TSA agents to bother people they think look shifty? We’ve been saying for months – nay, years – that this is a huge waste of money, and now the Government Accountability Office (GAO)’s highly anticipated report slamming the program has finally been released. We don’t like to brag (okay, of course we do), but we wrote about SPOT in the summer and told you that we expect the GAO’s report to be critical of the program. Well, we were right. The report is entitled “TSA Should Limit Future Funding for Behavior Detection Activities,” and it found that the millions of dollars the TSA spends on a program that profiles people based on arbitrary and subjective standards is ineffective. Surprise surprise! SPOT “is fundamentally flawed, cannot be proven effective, and should no longer be funded with taxpayer dollars,” says Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), Ranking Member on the House Homeland Security Committee. We knew that already, but it’s always nice to be proven right.

Beltway is Jammed as Usual

A quick glance around Washington reveals nothing is moving anywhere – and we don’t just mean interminable delays on the red line. The White House has called in tech gurus to fix, its much-maligned Obamacare website – but they’re not at work today. Why? They’ve been summoned to a hearing today convened by House Oversight Committee Chair Darrell Issa (R-CA), who has turned his sights on the glitchy website. Issa intends to keep attention focused on the minimally functioning healthcare website, an issue Republicans wished they had been able to harp on during the government shutdown. On the other side of the Capitol, the Senate yesterday successfully blocked the confirmation of Georgetown Law professor Nina Pillard, President Obama’s nominee to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. 57 Senators support her confirmation, and the 43 Senators who oppose her represent only 41% of the population. Indeed, under the current system it would be possible for Senators representing less than 11% of the country to block a confirmation. Will this strange result finally push the Democrats to adopt the so-called “nuclear option” and vote to confirm nominees by an up-or-down vote? Or at least require filibustering Senators to actually filibuster? Stay tuned. The only thing that appears to be moving is the confirmation hearing today of Jeh Johnson, President Obama’s nominee to be Secretary of Homeland Security. Mr. Johnson, who previously was the top lawyer at the Pentagon, is not Ray Kelly. Good enough for us.

Netanyahu Intent on Undercutting Diplomacy with Iran

The US and Israel are butting heads over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s dreamt-up vision of a deal supposedly offered by the P-5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany) over Iran’s nuclear program. Netanyahu has made his opposition to this hypothetical deal public, calling it “bad” and “dangerous” saying that the P-5+1 was in a position to demand more from Iran given the economic toll sanctions are having on the Iranian economy. What’s so bad about this deal? No one knows, probably because no one is 100 percent sure what the actual deal looks like, not even Secretary of State John Kerry (at least according to his own statements). So it’s no wonder that Kerry’s response to Netanyahu’s attempt to undercut the negotiations has been dismissive. “The time to oppose [a deal] is when you see what it is,” he said. “Not to oppose the effort to find out what is possible.” But it seems clear from Netanyahu’s statements that he’d rather undercut the idea of a diplomatic solution and drum up fear that a “bad deal” with Iran during the Geneva negotiations could lead to war than explore the possibility that diplomacy might actually work.



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