Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"All you need is love"

Most of my writings are depressing. I found this uplifting, and hope you do too. Please note that "we" includes me. I am not lecturing, but rather sharing.

On the south side of the entrance to the Sydney Harbor is The Gap Park with rocky cliffs. There is one location that has been a notorious suicide spot since the 1800's. In those last desperate moments before jumping many people have had a stranger walk up behind them, and with a smile ask "Why don't you come and have a cup of tea?" That stranger in Don Ritchie.

Richie has lived across the street from the cliff for almost 50 years. He is 84 years old, 6'2" tall, with blue eyes and a raspy voice. He has been described as exuding calm. The official tally of people who have accepted his invitation is 150 people. Unofficially the count is closer to 400 people.
Richie can not stop everyone, and some jump. These people do not haunt Richie; he did what he could. Moya, Richie's wife said "I think, 'isn't it wonderful that we live here and we can help people?'".

The Golden Gate Bridge is another notorious suicide spot. 29 people have jumped and lived. One of those survivors is John Kevin Hines. At 19 he paced the bridge weeping, and hoping someone would ask him what was wrong. After 40 minutes someone approached and asked him to take her picture. Moments later he jumped. Mr. Hines says that if one person had shown concern he probably would not have jumped.

How much effort is it to smile at a stranger? We never know, it just might improve someone's day. Are we really so tied up in ourselves that we can't show compassion for a stranger? It might cost us minutes of the rest of our life, but we never know, it just might add years to someone else's.

Smile. Mr. Hines is.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Another letter

The people of Gaza have suffered enough. All they want to do is defend themselves and for that crime the Israeli and U.S. governments have been punishing them with death. Please help the international community bring an end to this suffering. If all you can do is send a message, follow the "contact the White House" link on this site and let the White House know how you feel.

The attack on the Gaza flotilla gives us an opportunity to open the eyes of the country to what is happening. We need to use it.

The following letter was sent to the President. My apology for the formatting. It looked nicer in MS Word.

President Barack Obama
The White House1800 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Mr. President

Last month Israel attacked a Gaza flotilla on the high seas in violation of the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea[i]. In the process of this violation at least 9 people were killed including at least one U.S. citizen. They repeated the violation on the second Gaza flotilla, though this time without fatalities.

This was the latest example of Israel's disregard for international law, and the latest example of our unwillingness to confront Israel even when U.S. citizens are killed by Israeli actions[ii] [iii] [iv]. Israel has come to count on our inaction, even when their actions are so egregious that the U.S. is the only U.N. member blocking U.N. action against Israel[v].

Israel has attempted to control all information about what happened, starting before the initial attack. Here is what we do know.

  1. The members of the flotilla were unarmed and unprepared for a military conflict. They used found sticks and kitchen knives to try and defend themselves.
  2. The Israeli attackers confiscated all media that they found, and have used their stolen goods to "shape the story" in their interest.
  3. The Israeli government has not returned their stolen goods.
  4. The Israeli government has heavily edited the stolen video and released it.
  5. The members of the flotilla treated injured Israeli attackers for minor injuries and then returned them to their attackers.
  6. The Israeli attackers denied medical help to severely injured civilians and allowed them to die.
  7. There are people that are unaccounted for.
  8. Video that did get out clearly shows that the people on the boat were using speakers to announce that they were civilians and not armed.
  9. The civilians were kidnapped by the Israeli government, forced to enter Israel against their will, and then expelled from Israel for entering the country illegally.

It can be claimed that under the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea Israel committed an act of piracy[vi].

Because of the severity of the Israeli actions, and their belief that they can take whatever action they want regardless of the cost in human lives and international law, the reaction of the U.S. government needs to be more than just words. In the spirit of the people on the flotilla who believe in nonviolence, a violent response is not called for. At a minimum we do need to do the following.

  1. Break the Gaza blockade. In response to this outrageous action the U.S. needs to start transporting aid to Gaza WITHOUT ISRAELI PERMISSION.
  2. Give the Israeli government a specified number of hours (I suggest 12) to return of all stolen goods in the condition it was stolen. That includes all media with the content intact and unedited.
  3. Account for the missing people. They are the only people who can.
  4. Tell Israel that they must resend the absurd expulsions of any U.S. citizen as they entered Israel against their will.
  5. Inform the Israeli government that unless they comply with numbers 2, 3 and 4 above we will begin to expel Israeli ambassadors.
  6. Take these actions publically so that the U.S. citizens will know the extent of the Israeli crimes.
  7. Support an international investigation of this event, and support the conclusions.
  8. Call for an investigation of any U.S. sold equipment used in this action, and of any U.S. government support for this action.

Friends do not blindly support all actions of friends. At some point friends will intervene in the actions of a friend. If we are truly a friend of Israel we must intervene. Israel's response will tell us if they are truly a friend.

Stanford Smith

Cc: Senator Mark Udall, Senator Michael F. Bennet, Representative Mike Coffman

[i] United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, 10 December 1982, Article 110

Right of visit

1. Except where acts of interference derive from powers conferred by treaty, a warship which encounters on the high seas a foreign ship, other than a ship entitled to complete immunity in accordance with articles 95 and 96, is not justified in boarding it unless there is reasonable ground for suspecting that:

(a) the ship is engaged in piracy;

(b) the ship is engaged in the slave trade;

(c) the ship is engaged in unauthorized broadcasting and the flag State of the warship has jurisdiction under article 109;

(d) the ship is without nationality; or

(e) though flying a foreign flag or refusing to show its flag, the ship is, in reality, of the same nationality as the warship.

2. In the cases provided for in paragraph 1, the warship may proceed to verify the ship's right to fly its flag. To this end, it may send a boat under the command of an officer to the suspected ship. If suspicion remains after the documents have been checked, it may proceed to a further examination on board the ship, which must be carried out with all possible consideration.

3. If the suspicions prove to be unfounded, and provided that the ship boarded has not committed any act justifying them, it shall be compensated for any loss or damage that may have been sustained.

4. These provisions apply mutatis mutandis to military aircraft.

5. These provisions also apply to any other duly authorized ships or aircraft clearly marked and identifiable as being on government service.

This is only one of the provisions violated.

[ii] On June 8, 1967 34 U.S. citizens were killed when Israel attacked the USS Liberty. There is strong evidence that the investigation was at best insufficient, and possibly a cover-up. U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk and most of the witnesses to the event believe that the attack was intentional.

[iii] On March 16, 2003 Rachel Aliene Corrie acted as a human shield to prevent the demolition of Palestinian homes. Eyewitnesses said "there was nothing to obscure the driver's view" as he crushed this Evergreen State College student.

[iv] On May 31, 2010 Furkan Dogan was shot 5 times, 4 times in the head at almost point black range. There is no physical possibility that 4 shots to the head were all in self defense (the Israeli explanation for the killings).


U.S. Vetoes of UN Resolutions Critical of Israel


Vetoes: 1972-1982


Date & Meeting

US Rep Casting Veto


Palestine: Syrian-Lebanese Complaint. 3 power draft resolution 2/10784



13-1, 1

Palestine: Examination of Middle East Situation. 8-power draft resolution (S/10974)



13-1, 0 (China not partic.)

Palestine: Egyptian-Lebanese Complaint. 5-power draft power resolution (S/11898)



13-1, 1

Palestine: Middle East Problem, including Palestinian question. 6-power draft resolution (S/11940)



9-1,3 (China & Libya not partic.)

Palestine: Situation in Occupied Arab Territories. 5-power draft resolution (S/12022)




Palestine: Report on Committee on Rights of Palestinian People. 4-power draft resolution (S/121119)




Palestine: Palestinian Rights. Tunisian draft resolution. (S/13911)




Palestine: Golan Heights. Jordan draft resolution. (S/14832/Rev. 2)




Palestine: Situation in Occupied Territories, Jordan draft resolution (S/14943)




Palestine: Incident at the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. 4-power draft resolution



14-1, 0

Palestine: Conflict in Lebanon. Spain draft resolution. (S/15185)




Palestine: Conflict in Lebanon. France draft resolution. (S/15255/Rev. 2)




Palestine: Conflict in Lebanon. USSR draft resolution. (S/15347/Rev. 1, as orally amended)




Palestine: Situation in Occupied Territories, 20-power draft resolution (S/15895)




Security Council Vetoes/Negative voting 1983-present




Occupied Arab Territories: Wholesale condemnation of Israeli settlement policies - not adopted


S. Lebanon: Condemns Israeli action in southern Lebanon. S/16732


Vetoed: 13-1 (U.S.), with 1 abstention (UK)

Occupied Territories: Deplores "repressive measures" by Israel against Arab population. S/19459.


Vetoed: 10-1 (U.S.), with 4 abstentions (Australia, Denmark, UK, France)

Lebanon: Condemns Israeli practices against civilians in southern Lebanon. S/17000.


Vetoed: 11-1 (U.S.), with 3 abstentions (Australia, Denmark, UK)

Occupied Territories: Calls upon Israel to respect Muslim holy places. S/17769/Rev. 1


Vetoed: 13-1 (US), with one abstention (Thailand)

Lebanon: Condemns Israeli practices against civilians in southern Lebanon. S/17730/Rev. 2.


Vetoed: 11-1 (U.S.), with 3 abstentions (Australia, Denmark, UK)

Libya/Israel: Condemns Israeli interception of Libyan plane. S/17796/Rev. 1.


Vetoed: 10 -1 (US), with 4 abstentions (Australia, Denmark, France, UK)

Lebanon: Draft strongly deplored repeated Israeli attacks against Lebanese territory and other measures and practices against the civilian population; (S/19434)


vetoed 13-1 (US), with 1 abstention (UK)

Lebanon: Draft condemned recent invasion by Israeli forces of Southern Lebanon and repeated a call for the immediate withdrawal of all Israeli forces from Lebanese territory; (S/19868)


vetoed 14-1 (US)

Lebanon: Draft strongly deplored the recent Israeli attack against Lebanese territory on 9 December 1988; (S/20322)


vetoed 14-1 (US)

Occupied territories: Draft called on Israel to accept de jure applicability of the 4th Geneva Convention; (S/19466)


vetoed 14-1 (US)

Occupied territories: Draft urged Israel to abide by the Fourth Geneva Convention, rescind the order to deport Palestinian civilians, and condemned policies and practices of Israel that violate the human rights of the Palestinian people in the occupied territories; (S/19780)


vetoed 14-1 (US)

Occupied territories: Strongly deplored Israeli policies and practices in the occupied territories, and strongly deplored also Israel's continued disregard of relevant Security Council decisions.


Vetoed 14-1 (US)

Occupied territories: Condemned Israeli policies and practices in the occupied territories.


Vetoed 14-1 (US)

Occupied territories: Deplored Israel's policies and practices in the occupied territories.


Vetoed 14-1 (US)

Occupied territories: NAM draft resolution to create a commission and send three security council members to Rishon Lezion, where an Israeli gunmen shot down seven Palestinian workers.


Vetoed 14-1 (US)

Middle East: Confirms that the expropriation of land by Israel in East Jerusalem is invalid and in violation of relevant Security Council resolutions and provisions of the Fourth Geneva convention; expresses support of peace process, including the Declaration of Principles of 9/13/1993


Vetoed 14-1 (US)

Middle East: Calls upon Israeli authorities to refrain from all actions or measures, including settlement activities.


Vetoed 14-1 (US)

Middle East: Demands that Israel cease construction of the settlement in east Jerusalem (called Jabal Abu Ghneim by the Palestinians and Har Homa by Israel), as well as all the other Israeli settlement activity in the occupied territories


Vetoed 13-1,1 (US)

Call for UN Observers Force in West Bank, Gaza


Vetoed 9-1 (US),
with four abstentions
(Britain, France, Ireland and Norway)

Condemned acts of terror, demanded an end to violence and the establishment of a monitoring mechanism to bring in observers.


Vetoed 12-1 (US)
with two abstentions
(Britain and Norway)

On the killing by Israeli forces of several UN employees and the destruction of the World Food Programme (WFP) warehouse


12-1 (US)
with two abstentions
(Bulgaria and Cameroon)

Demand that Israel halt threats to expel Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat


Vetoed 11-1 (US)
with three abstentions
(Britain, Germany and Bulgaria)

Seeks to bar Israel from extending security fence


Vetoed 10-1 with four absentations (Britain, Germany, Bulgaria and Cameroon)

Condemns Israel for killing Ahmed Yassin


Vetoed 11-1 (US)
with three absentations
(Britain, Germany, Romania)

Calls For Israel To Halt Gaza Operation


Vetoed 11-1 (US)
with three absentations
(Britain, Germany, Romania)

Calls For Israel To Halt Gaza Operation


Vetoed 10-1 (US)
with four absentations
(Britain, Peru, Denmark and Slovakia)

Calls For Israel To Halt Gaza Operation


Vetoed 10-1 (US)
with four absentations
(Britain, Denmark, Japan and Slovakia)

Source: U.S. State Department; UN, various news sources

[vi] United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, 10 December 1982, Article101

Definition of piracy

Piracy consists of any of the following acts:

(a) any illegal acts of violence or detention, or any act of depredation, committed for private ends by the crew or the passengers of a private ship or a private aircraft, and directed:

(i) on the high seas, against another ship or aircraft, or against persons or property on board such ship or aircraft;

(ii) against a ship, aircraft, persons or property in a place outside the jurisdiction of any State;

(b) any act of voluntary participation in the operation of a ship or of an aircraft with knowledge of facts making it a pirate ship or aircraft;

(c) any act of inciting or of intentionally facilitating an act described in subparagraph (a) or (b).