Letter Writing Campaigns
An Open Letter to Senator Ron Wyden
October 20, 2022
Dear Senator Wyden,
In a recent letter to a constituent, you called for a “multi-state solution” as a way to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. That this represented a change from your previous position in support of a two-state solution was acknowledged in a recent meeting with Lavanya Sridharan, one of your aides who has the foreign policy portfolio in your office. Sridharan and Claire Kaliban, a staff assistant, met with members of the Portland chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace, Multnomah Friends Quaker Palestine/Israel Network (QPIN), Corvallis Citizens for Palestine, and the Portland State University chapter of Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights. Sridharan told this group that you officially changed your position from a two-state to a multi-state solution in June 2021.
It’s notable that the language of a multi-state solution appears to have first been used in this country as early as 2014 by the right-wing foreign policy hawk John Bolton, who later became President Donald Trump’s national security advisor. In an op-ed for the Washington Times, Bolton’s multi-state solution called for the Gaza Strip to be absorbed by Egypt and for Palestinians in the West Bank to be absorbed by Jordan. There would be no Palestinian state, and Jerusalem would be recognized internationally as Israel’s capital.
Whether you agree with the Bolton solution or not is immaterial. Any suggestion of a multistate solution is one designed to deny agency to the Palestinians and to give recognition to other states that have no rightful claim to speak for Palestinians. It’s a continuation of Israel’s original sin that in 1948 denied the right of self-determination to the Palestinian people, who were promised this right under the original League of Nations mandate. The catastrophe or Nakba that followed led to the mass expulsion of nearly 800,000 Palestinians, numerous massacres, and the destruction of nearly 450 Palestinian towns and villages—crimes against humanity that have never ceased since Israel became a state.
Whether Palestinians choose a two-state solution or a one-state solution with equal rights for all, including the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, is up to the Palestinians and to the Palestinians alone. Your failure to recognize this right is consistent with your failure to acknowledge that Israel from the very beginning imposed an apartheid regime on the Palestinians. This system of apartheid is now widely recognized and has become a mainstream view among human rights groups, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the leading Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, and the United Nations Human Rights Council. Under international law, apartheid is recognized as a crime against humanity, while permanent military occupation and the acquisition of territory by force are recognized as war crimes.
We, the undersigned, as your constituents, call on you to reverse your position in support of a so-called multi-state solution, to openly recognize the injustices and apartheid crimes that Israel has inflicted on the Palestinian people, and to cease providing political, economic, or diplomatic support to Israel for as long as it remains an apartheid regime.
Write to your Senators and Representative to Ask for an Investigation into the IDF Killing of Shirheen Abu Akleh
Use this template to contact your representatives.
Dear ( Senator/Representative/etc)
As you know, Shireen Abu Akleh, the journalist killed while reporting from Jenin, was a Palestinian American. The US State Department concluded that “gunfire from IDF positions was likely responsible for the death of Shireen Abu Akleh” but could not definitively conclude whether the killing was intentional. Investigations by the New York Times and other news organizations and by the United Nations Human Rights Office reached stronger conclusions. Ms. Abu Akleh was wearing a flak jacket clearly marked PRESS. According to the CNN investigation, the bullet that killed her was a “measured sniper bullet” from an IDF position a little less than 200 meters away, one of seven shots fired from that vicinity in a short period of time when no other shots were being fired. Three of those bullets hit a tree next to where Ms. Abu Akleh was standing, indicating that the shots were not random. The bullet that killed her found the opening between her flak jacket and her helmet. (Armed Palestinian activists were not in the immediate vicinity.) The State Department says that this bullet was too badly damaged to yield conclusive information, but the six other bullets could be examined and the soldier (or soldiers) who fired the shots could be interviewed, if he hasn’t already been. It would then be possible to determine whether or not he intended to kill Ms. Abu Akleh and whether or not he was following orders to do so.
The Abu Akleh family responded to the State Department statement by saying, “[A]ll available evidence suggests that a US citizen was the subject of an extrajudicial killing by a foreign government that receives billions of dollars in American military aid each year to perpetuate a prolonged and entrenched military occupation of millions of Palestinians.… Further, the United States should take action to clarify the extent to which American funds were involved in Shireen’s killing.” The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem called the State Department investigation a “US-backed Israeli whitewash.”
This is not the first time that such killings have been swept under the rug by Israel. At least thirty journalists, most of them Palestinians, have been killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank and Gaza since 2000. According to B’Tselem, Israeli investigations into these events are “an organized cover-up” whose aim is “not to bring about truth and accountability but, on the contrary, to prevent them.” The Israeli-Palestinian news organization +972 cites numerous well-documented cases of Israeli soldiers killing Palestinian noncombatants without cause—cases that are well-documented but were thoroughly whitewashed by IDF “investigation.” In one of those cases, two soldiers shot a sixteen-year-old in the back of the neck at close range after a short chase. The case was eventually dropped because “in 110 similar cases … the shooters were not brought to justice, and it was therefore not fair to prosecute” these two.
In some cases, such as that of Shireen Abu Akleh, the victims are American citizens and in those cases the United States contributes to the whitewashing and the cover-up. One such case was that of Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old American from Washington state who was run over by a bulldozer as she was nonviolently protesting the demolition of a Palestinian home in Gaza in 2003. Wearing a fluorescent orange jacket, she climbed onto a mound of dirt in order to be clearly visible. The driver came closer, first knocking her down and then running over her body. No one was ever held accountable, and the US government never conducted its own investigation. Later, the Corrie family asked Antony Blinken, then Deputy Secretary of State, for his help, but he and the State Department were never able to offer anything more than condolences. Now Rachel Corrie’s sister Sarah says that the Abu Akleh family “shouldn’t have to be asking the exact same questions we were asking in 2003.”
One more case: Washington Post columnist and US resident Jamal Khashoggi was murdered by Saudi Arabia, apparently at the behest of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who taunted President Biden about his hypocrisy in seeking justice for Khashoggi but not for Shireen Abu Akleh. If human rights mean something in Ukraine, they should mean something in Israel and Saudi Arabia as well. If the United States had a consistent policy of taking human rights seriously, we would restore confidence in our leadership both at home and abroad. And we would have a more positive long-range impact than by trying to play one corrupt regime against another (a recipe for long-range disaster).
Accordingly, we ask you to call upon the State Department to support a fair, objective, and independent investigation of the killing of US citizen Shireen Abu Akleh (as well as the killing of Mr. Khashoggi). And we ask you to require the State Department to follow the Leahy (and similar) provisions barring US arms exports to entities guilty of human rights abuses. That’s the least we can do for these innocent victims—and for a more legitimate and constructive foreign policy.
Greater Portland Chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace