Dear Mr. Secretary:
We write to you regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict including our assessment of how United States could be more effective in reducing the violence and how the United Nations could play an enhanced role in that regard. You have rightly spoken out against suicide bombings but have spoken less forcefully against Israeli actions that have dramatically affected the ability of the Palestinian Authority to reduce this form of violence. We refer to the house arrest of Chairman Arafat and the systematic and wholesale destruction of the infrastructure of the Palestinian Authority. These actions have severely disabled the PA’s ability to maintain law and order.
While we do not condone suicide bombings and other acts of violence against civilians, we understand the rage, which Palestinians feel with having lived under Israeli military occupation for more than thirty-five years. This has been aptly described as structural violence and it is manifested in many forms including, but not limited to the following: the Israeli roadblocks between Palestinian cities and villages constituting humiliating treatment, long delays, and stifling commerce, education, employment, medical treatment, and socialization; the continuing colonization (i.e. settlements) of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem in violation of Israel’s obligations as an occupying power under the Fourth Geneva Convention; the usurpation of water resources; the by-pass roads in the occupied territories for use by Israeli’s only resulting in the bifurcation of the territories; the demolition of homes and olive groves as a form of collective punishment, also in violation of the Geneva Conventions. We would ask that your administration speak more forcefully with respect to these serious violations of human rights.
The Israeli army’s recent invasion and pillage of the West Bank have now compounded these violations in the last several weeks. We refer to the killing of innocent civilians, including children, women and the elderly, especially but not limited to Jenin and in the Nablus. In a visit to the Jenin Refugee Camp on April 18th UN Special Envoy Terje Roed-Larsen called the situation ‘horrifying’. We note the wanton and wholesale destruction of the infrastructure, such as water supply and electricity, as well as homes, media offices and non-governmental organizations in towns and villages invaded by the Israeli army. We also note the widespread and mindless destruction of many ministries of the Palestinian Authority. There would seem to be an intention to destroy the PA’s ability to govern. We are appalled that our government has not spoken out forcefully and publicly against these forms of violence. The Israeli army’s actions increase rather than decrease the prospects for further violence by the Palestinians.
We are also aware that in many of these and previous actions by Israeli military forces, United States supplied weapons such as missiles, F16 fighter planes, and helicopters have resulted in injury or death of civilians as well as homes and other civilian property. Yesterday former President Jimmy Carter stated “ the legal requirement that American weapons are to be used by Israel only for defensive purposes, a premise certainly being violated in the recent destruction of Jenin and other villages.” We regret that you have not spoken out forcefully on this subject as well.
On April 18th UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for a UN investigation of the conduct of the Israeli forces in the UN-administered refugee camp at Jenin. We are pleased Israel has agreed to such an inquiry. In addition the UN Commission on Human Rights in resolution 2002/1 appointed a three member mission, including UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, to “travel immediately to the area and return expeditiously to submit its findings and recommendations to the current session of the Commission on Human Rights.” We urge you to support the Commission’s request to investigate Israeli’s compliance with international human rights law in its recent invasions into Palestinian-controlled territory.
Finally, Secretary-General Kofi Annan has spoken out forcefully for the UN Security Council to send an international peacekeeping force to the West Bank. We have been disappointed in past U.S. opposition to such a force. In our view such a force should also be sent to Gaza as well. Allowing continued illegal Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza only inflames Palestinian resentment and bitterness towards Israel and incites further violence. Concurrent with the establishment and implementation of a UN peacekeeping force should be political discussions leading to the creation of a viable Palestinian state and withdrawal of Israeli forces and colonies, right of return or compensation for Palestinian refugees as well as Jews expelled by Arab states, and establishment of East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.
Your kind attention to these suggestions will be gratefully appreciated.
Dr. John P. Salzberg
Dr. Luke T. Lee
Co-Chairs, Human Rights Task Force
United Nations Association of the National Capital Area