Haddiyah Ali’s thoughtful Viewpoint 07.02.2021, raised crucial social justice concerns in connection with recent events in Israel/Palestine and the State of Connecticut’s investment exposure in Israel, presently $47.3 million.  Mark Fishman and Alan Stein disagree.

The Fishman/Stein defensive Viewpoint asserts that Ms. Ali presented a “highly misleading screed.”  However, a fact-check finds no falsehoods in Ms. Ali’s assertions.

The Fishman/Stein response launches a narrative proclaimed as “the truth” that ignores fundamental crucial facts that propel the ongoing Israel/Palestine tragedy.  Their effort is less about candor and more about discrediting any criticism of Israel – including legitimate criticism.

Fishman/Stein’s one-sided presentation ignores the suffering and hardships of the people residing between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.  Palestinian lives matter. Neglecting their suffering and/or disregarding their humanity does a disservice to them, to public discourse, and resulting public policy. The following provides some additional context worthy of consideration.

Human Rights Watch released a report in April 2021 titled A Threshold Crossed – Israel Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution.  The scholarly 217-page report assesses whether specific acts and policies carried out by Israeli authorities today amount to the crimes of apartheid and persecution as defined under international law.  The Report details how Israeli policy has sought to maximize the number of Jews and land available to them in Israel and portions of the West Bank and East Jerusalem portions of the Occupied Palestinian Territory for expansive Jewish settlement.

Simultaneously, Israeli policy restricts the residency rights of Palestinians and seeks to minimize the number of Palestinians and the land available to them.  In these and other ways, the report details the systemic oppression and institutional discrimination Palestinians suffer at the hands of Israel’s apartheid and persecution policies.  An honest discussion of the ongoing eviction of Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem cannot reasonably avoid accounting for such Israeli policies in violation of international law.

B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization, released a Paper on January 12, 2021, titled, A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea – This is apartheid.  The Paper documents that more that more than 14 million people, roughly half of them Jews and the other half Palestinians, live between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea under a single rule.  B’Tselem explains that “the Israeli regime implements laws, practices, and state violence designed to cement the supremacy of one group – Jews – over another – Palestinians.”  Israel has divided the area into several units, each with a different set of rights for Palestinians – always inferior to the rights of Jews.”

The displacement of Palestinian families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah cannot fairly be considered without recognizing Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem in violation of international law.  UN Security Council Resolution 478 determined that “all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the Occupying Power, which have altered or purport to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and in particular the recent ‘Basic Law’ on Jerusalem, are null and void and must be rescinded forthwith.”  (See also, the International Court of Justice’s 2004 Advisory Opinion at paragraph 120).

The New Your Review of Books recently published a detailed account of the painful reality of Palestinian life under Israeli occupation.  The author, Nathan Thrall, a Jewish American journalist residing in Jerusalem is a Senior Analyst with the Middle East & North Africa Program of the International Crisis Group.

Such accounts as referenced above underscore uncomfortable truths that Fishman/Stein and many elected officials choose to ignore. The conditions in Israel/Palestine are worse now than 30 years ago.  Our nation’s unquestioning support for Israel has served to empower a right-wing nationalist settler movement that is more about conquest and Palestinian displacement and dispossession than peaceful coexistence.  And yet, current U.S. policy rewards Israel aid to the tune of $3.8 billion per year. Through FY 2020, the United States has provided Israel with $146 billion in military, economic, and missile defense funding.

Most likely, Fishman and Stein prefer it that way.  But as for me, I agree with Haddiyyah Ali.  I don’t want my government to be complicit in human rights and international law abuses. Ongoing military occupation of one people by another, apartheid, and persecution are an affront to humanity and undermine U.S. interests.

U.S. aid to any country, including Israel, should be conditioned on that country’s respect for human rights and international law. It is time to reexamine our nation’s failed Israel/Palestine policies and chart a course that promotes a sustainable just peace based on freedom, justice and equality for all of the people between the river and the sea.

John Fussell is Vice President of the Tree of Life Educational Fund/West Hartford.