Archive for October, 2009

Cast Lead: Israel Attacks Gaza

Posted in Activism, Everyday life in Gaza, Gaza, Gaza reconstruction, Gaza war crimes investigation, Hamas, IDF, International community, Israeli occupation, Operation Cast Lead, Palestine, Siege, War crimes with tags , , , , , on 18/10/2009 by 3071km

Written by Shir Hever

Date published: June 2009

Source: Alternative Information Center

_____

The Israeli military attack on the Gaza Strip, lasting from December
27th 2008 to January 18th, 2009, caused massive devastation in the Gaza
Strip and threw the region into a state of confusion. The levels of
violence shocked and amazed people all over the world. Although the
Israeli army has been conducting ongoing operations against Palestinians
in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) and also against
neighboring countries, this attack is of special importance and deserves
separate analysis. The attack was enabled by and embodies a change in
world reaction to Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians. The attack
further signified a break with several Israeli military and economic
policies towards the Palestinians, and at the same time was a
culmination of other Israeli policies. The aim of this paper is to
provide a general overview of the events of the attack, with an emphasis
on the attack’s context and the events that preceded it. The paper will
explore some of the economic aspects of the attack and will conclude
with several possible effects this attack may have on the Israeli
occupation of the Palestinian territories.

Some clarifications are in order before a discussion of the attack can
begin. First, this report was written with a certain level of urgency,
as the global protest movement that emerged during the attack
demonstrated the need to distribute facts about the attack at the
soonest opportunity, to counter the efforts by the Israeli government to
obfuscate the topic, conceal facts regarding the attack and discourage
debate. As this report was written in the first months following the
attack, most of its sources are newspaper articles. Such articles are
not always completely accurate, and this is compounded by the fact that
Israel severely limited journalists’ access to the Gaza Strip during the
attack. Israeli army officials did not disclose most of their own
information about the course of the attack, the reasons for it, and its
outcome. Because of this, some of the arguments presented here could be
disproved in light of new information that will be made available in the
future.

A special preference has been given to Israeli sources. Indeed, most of
the information for this publication is derived from Israeli sources,
and the reason for this is double. First, as this publication comes out
in English, it is an opportunity to give the international reader access
to information usually less accessible. Second, the fact that all this
information was available in Hebrew to Israeli readers is presented here
in order to clarify that Israelis cannot claim ignorance regarding the
attack on Gaza. The argument “we didn’t know” cannot be used as an
excuse by Israelis when confronted with these facts, as the facts were
published in the Israeli media. Second, the terminology used in this
report has been carefully selected. The name of the Israeli operation:
“Cast Lead” will not be used often, because it has been coined by one of
the warring sides only (the attacker). The Israeli government did not
declare war, and officially the attack was an Israeli “operation,”
though in the Israeli media it was called a “war.” Since this was not a
conflict between two standing armies, and as the fighting was mostly one
sided, the term “war” is inappropriate here, and the term “attack” will
be used instead. This is despite the fact that both the Israeli
authorities and the Hamas spokespeople endeavored to use the word “war” and thus convey that intensive two-sided fighting took place. For Israel, descriptions of intensive fighting help to justify its widespread use of force that ended up mostly harming unarmed and uninvolved civilians. For Hamas, the image of intensive fighting bolsters their public image as active and brave resisters of the occupation (Hass, 2009m). Although the comparison of force between the Israeli army and the Hamas party in the Gaza Strip is grossly mismatched, and the Hamas fighters were able to inflict only minimal damage on the invading Israeli troops, the aim of this paper is not to ignore the role of Palestinians who resist the Israeli occupation. The conflict is not one-sided, and the decision of Hamas not to surrender and to keep fighting against overwhelming odds had powerful repercussions.

[…]

To keep reading, click on Cast Lead: Israel Attacks Gaza, a report by Shir Hever published on June 2009 within The Economy of the Occupation Socioeconomic Bulletin.

Reaction out of Gaza to yet another resolution

Posted in Fatah, Gaza war crimes investigation, Hamas, International community, Operation Cast Lead, Palestine, Peace process, Pictures, War crimes with tags , , , , , , , on 17/10/2009 by 3071km

Written by Ayman Mohyeldin

Date published: 16th October 2009

Source: The Middle East Blog

_____

The Goldstone vote at the UN Human Rights Council is being described as a victory for the Palestinian people. But for Palestinians, UN resolutions – at any level – have become a bittersweet experience that represent the duality of both international impotence and bias.

It’s being described as a victory for the Palestinian people and the political factions in Gaza were quick to embrace the Goldstone vote at the UN Human Rights Council.

The deposed government and Hamas both welcomed the outcome and immediately called for the international community to begin taking up the recommendations of the report by bringing charges against alleged Israeli war criminals responsible for the war on Gaza.

Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzouk said the Islamic movement would set up a committee to look into any “indications” of wrong doing in the Goldstone report against Hamas.

Reacting to the report and what possible implications it means for Hamas, Dr. Mahmoud Zahar rejected the notion that Hamas had committed any war crimes during the war. He also said Hamas would help in collecting and presenting evidence that could help lead to criminal cases against Israeli officials.

Litigation

Many here want to see prominent international jurists, international organizations and human rights group pursue cases against Israeli political and military leaders on behalf of Palestinian victims. In recent years, European courts have allowed for Palestinian victims represented by European lawyers and organizations to introduce cases in individual countries against Israeli officials, so far without much success. But Israeli officials are increasingly worried about traveling to European countries that have pending cases working their way through the legal system out of fear of being arrested.

That may be wishful for thinking for some on the streets of Gaza, who for the time being don’t draw a direct correlation between Friday’s vote in Geneva and the likely execution of justice for the victims and their families.

For Palestinians, UN resolutions – at any level – have become a bittersweet experience that represent the duality of both international impotence and bias. When the international community endorses a resolution that favors Palestinians, it usually lacks any traction and suffers from the looming threat of a US veto, which is always dangling overhead, meaning it is unlikely to pass. US-backed resolutions are seen as either watered-down or pro-Israeli.

When the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas caved in to international pressure and supported the deferral of the vote on the Goldstone report at the previous UNHCR session, he came under intense domestic criticism.

Hamas launched scathing attacks calling him a “traitor” and said he was no longer fit to represent the Palestinian people. Many in Gaza shared those sentiments. Palestinian factions, civil society and organizations condemned the decision. Palestinians were outraged that their leader would take an action widely seen as directly contravening the interests of his own people.

But there is a silver lining in all of this – in some ways, this was a victory for the Palestinian people. A spokesperson for the PFLP-GC (one of the dozens of Palestinian factions) summed up the vote by calling it a victory and an example of collective Palestinian action and unity.

Indeed thats what many will now uphold as the Goldstone example. When Palestinian leaders, under pressure and facing public accountability from civil society and ordinary people act in the interest of their people, results can be achieved.

Now, if Hamas and Fatah can just sign a national reconciliation pact and agree on national political unity, what a week it would be for the Palestinians!

UN body debates Gaza war report

Posted in Gaza, Gaza war crimes investigation, Hamas, International community, Israeli politics, Operation Cast Lead, Peace process, Pictures, USA foreign policy, War crimes with tags , , , , , , , , , on 15/10/2009 by 3071km

Date published: 15th October 2009

Source: BBC News

_____

Navi Pillay in Geneva, 15 Oct

Pillay says punishing war criminals is vital for building peace

Members of the UN Human Rights Council are debating whether to endorse a report into the Israeli offensive in Gaza last winter.

The report by veteran South African judge Richard Goldstone accuses both Israel and Hamas of war crimes.

Israel rejects the Goldstone report as biased. Its UN envoy says endorsing it would be a setback for peace hopes.

The UN human rights chief has backed the report and called on both sides to investigate the alleged crimes.

“A culture of impunity continues to prevail in the occupied territories and in Israel,” Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said at the opening of the special meeting of the UN Human Rights Council.

She called for “impartial, independent, prompt and effective investigations into reported violations of human rights and humanitarian law.”

‘Setback for peace’

Israel has already come under pressure from its allies – including the US, UK and France – to investigate the UN allegations.

But Israel’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Aharon Leshno Yaar, said the resolution threatened to “set back hopes for peace”.

The text of the draft resolution says UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon should monitor Israeli and Palestinian compliance with the report.

It also contains a condemnation of Israel’s policies in East Jerusalem, another issue likely to divide the Council.

A vote is expected on Friday.

At its first debate two weeks ago, the Council decided to delay its response for six months.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at first agreed to this under pressure from the US aimed at getting the Middle East peace process back on track.

But after much public criticism at home, he demanded that the debate be reopened.

Report findings

The Goldstone report accuses Israel of using disproportionate force and deliberately harming civilians during the 22-day conflict which began on 27 December 2008.

Palestinian Hamas militants are accused of indiscriminate rocket fire at Israeli civilians.

The report urges the Security Council to refer allegations to the International Criminal Court if either side fails to investigate suspects within six months.

Israel has rejected the evidence, saying it has already investigated its troops’ conduct, clearing most of the subjects of wrongdoing. Hamas has also denied committing war crimes.

Israeli military action destroyed thousands of homes, hundreds of factories and 80 official buildings in Gaza.

Palestinians and human rights groups say more than 1,400 people were killed in the violence between 27 December 2008 and 16 January 2009, more than half of them civilians.

Israel puts the number of deaths at 1,166 – fewer than 300 of them civilians. Three Israeli civilians and 10 Israeli soldiers were also killed.

Israel sees court rulings on Palestinian land as mere ‘recommendations’

Posted in Everyday life in the West Bank, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Palestine, USA foreign policy, West Bank with tags , , , , , , , , on 15/10/2009 by 3071km

Written by Akiva Eldar

Date published: 13th October 2009

Source: Haaretz.com

_____

So what if the Supreme Court rules? In Israel those decisions are just recommendations, especially if they deal with Palestinian land. In most enlightened democratic countries, saying that decisions of the courts obligate the state authorities is like stating that the sun rises in the east. But that may not be so for Israel.

Last week, Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch had to state that “rulings of this court are not mere recommendations, and the state is obliged to abide by them and to execute them with the necessary speed and efficiency, according to the circumstances of the matter.”

The head of the judicial system added: “In the case before us, the state took the law into its own hands.”

The case dates back to June 2006. The High Court of Justice at that time responded to a petition from Hamoked – the Center for the Defense of the Individual, and instructed the Defense Ministry to move the route of the separation fence near the villages of Azzun and Nabi Ilyas in the northern West Bank.

Aharon Barak, who was then president of the Supreme Court, stated in the ruling that “the petition points to an event that cannot be tolerated according to which the information that was supplied to the court did not reflect all of the considerations that were taken into account by the decision makers.”

He was referring to the fact that the Defense Ministry did not reveal to the court that the route of the fence was congruent with the map of the plan to expand the settlement of Tzufim at the expense of Palestinian lands. The prosecution promised that the fence would be dismantled within six months from the completion of the fence along the new route.

It can be assumed that the officials of the Defense Ministry understood that when the court ordered that the injustice toward the residents of the Palestinian villages be corrected “in the shortest time possible” it was not referring to three and a half years.

In any case, from Beinisch’s remarks about a ruling she handed down during a process of contempt of court, it was evident that this was not her interpretation of Barak’s ruling.

“It is not possible to put up with conduct of this kind,” she scolded the representatives of the prosecution and she ordered the state to pay the petitioners’ court costs of NIS 20,000. This sum was added to another NIS 50,000 which the taxpayers paid when the original ruling was handed down as well as the salaries of the lawyers from the prosecution who were sent to defend against the contempt of court ruling.

Before closing the case, Beinisch stated that in countries where there is a rule of law, a political and public storm would have arisen over this.

“In this case before us, the state took the law into its own hands,” she said.

And this is not the only case where the Defense Ministry has made a mockery of court decisions relating to the route of the fence. More than two years ago, the court ordered the state to consider an alternative to the fence’s route that was robbing the village of Bil’in of lands in favor of the settlement of Modi’in Ilit, and to do so “within a reasonable period of time.”

In the ruling that was handed down after 15 months, Beinisch wrote that the alternative that was chosen was not in accordance with the court decision and she ordered the state to abide by it “without further delay.”

Since then 10 months have elapsed, the residents of the village and their supporters have demonstrated, the police have used tear gas, and the fence is still in place.

Maskit Handel of the Association of Civil Rights In Israel recently documented no fewer than eight cases where the state was, or still is, in contempt of rulings handed down by the High Court of Justice since 2006. Among other things, she found two decisions relating to the fortification of schools in communities along the border with the Gaza Strip, three decisions instructing the state to build 245 classrooms in East Jerusalem, and a decision to stop making the granting of work permits for migrant workers dependent on their working for a single employer.

Enlightened rule

An affidavit submitted to the High Court of Justice a few weeks ago (in response to a petition) by the Defense Minister’s adviser on settlement affairs, Eitan Broshi, indicates that from Ehud Barak’s point of view, anything relating to Palestinian rights, and not only the high court’s rulings, are nothing more than a recommendation.

The affidavit states that the defense minister has decided, for the time being, to refrain from carrying out demolition orders against nine homes in Ofra that were built on private Palestinian land. The explanation no doubt convinced the Palestinians who lost their lands that they are living under an enlightened rule of occupation.

“There is no point in separating this individual case or any other without seeing the general picture and the system of circumstances under which the respondents are acting,” the affidavit stated.

And what is the general picture? Two dozen outposts and numerous illegal homes? And what does the phrase “the system of circumstances” mean? Fear of the settlers?

Daniel Ben Simon, the faction chairman of Barak’s party, Labor, declared during a tour of the outposts organized by Peace Now at the end of August, that if they are not vacated by the start of the winter session of the Knesset, “the Labor party will reconsider its continued membership of the government.”

No special excitement could be seen among the factions on the right when the winter session opened Monday. However informed sources promise that this time they are serious. The sources reveal that in return for the pass the prime minister received with regard to freezing settlement construction, the defense minister has promised the Americans that there will be a speedy evacuation of the outposts, and he has even shown them the schedule.

FREE GAZA IRELAND TO SEND “IRISH BOAT” TO GAZA

Posted in Activism, Gaza, Gaza reconstruction, International community, Non-violent resistance, Operation Cast Lead, Siege with tags , , , , , , , , on 13/10/2009 by 3071km

E-mail received: Monday 12th October 2009

Source: Free Gaza Movement

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The crisis in Gaza is unacceptable. For nearly four years, Israel has subjected the Gaza Strip to an increasingly cruel blockade, leading to severe increases in unemployment, poverty, and childhood malnutrition. Israel’s 22-day assault on Gaza last December & January killed over 1400 civilians and destroyed thousands of homes, schools, mosques and hospitals. It’s been almost a year since these attacks and thousands of Gaza’s Palestinians are still living in rubble. Maintaining the Gaza siege and denying Palestinians the right to rebuild their lives is unconscionable.

Free Gaza Ireland is working closely with the international Free Gaza Movement to acquire an “Irish boat” to sail to Gaza as part of an international flotilla challenging Israel’s brutal siege.  Since August 2008, international volunteers in the Free Gaza Movement have been sailing to Gaza, suceeding 5 times to break the siege. Ours remain the only ships to reach Gaza since 1967.  More than simple charity, the Palestinian people need our solidarity and political action. They need us to challenge the policies that leave them in need of humanitarian aid.

Caoimhe Butterly, renowned Irish human rights campaigner and Gaza Project Co-coordinator for the Free Gaza Movement stated that:  “Our delegations  have been deeply shocked by the deteriorating humanitarian conditions in Gaza. Israel’s ongoing occupation and the severity of the siege on Gaza is designed to isolate people as well as devastate the infrastructure of Gaza. Free Gaza’s mission is a reminder of not only the efficacy of using non-violent direct action to confront injustice, but also of the deafening silence of the international community.”


With Ireland’s help, the Free Gaza Movement hopes to sail to Gaza before winter sets in with ships carrying badly needed humanitarian and reconstruction supplies. On board will be Irish TD’s, journalists, human rights activists & Irish musicans who will perform in Gaza with local artists as part of a series of cultural events linking up with Ireland.  We urge everyone to join us in concretely asserting the right of the Palestinian people to have access to the outside world. We will not stay silent as the Palestinian people are deliberately starved and humiliated. Like all peoples in the world – Palestinians have a right to life with dignity.

www.freegaza.org


Niamh Moloughney
Irish Free Gaza Coordinator

niamh@freegaza.org
091 472279/085 7747257

Russell Tribunal on Palestine: NEWS UPDATE (13/10/09)

Posted in Activism, Gaza war crimes investigation, International community, Israel, Non-violent resistance, Operation Cast Lead, Palestine, War crimes with tags , , , , , , , , on 13/10/2009 by 3071km

E-mail received: Tuesday 13th October 2009

Source: Russell Tribunal on Palestine/Tribunal Russell sur la Palestine

_____

The Goldstone report fiasco of the last few weeks has reinforced our opinion that only a Peoples/citizen led tribunal will enable public opinion to expose Israel’s crimes and international community complicity.

Richard Falk once said, during a speech in Rome on 22 May 2009 :”It would appear that only civil society has the combination of will and capability to respond affirmatively to the challenge of accountability […] it would be constructive to mount the sort of effort pioneered by the Basso Foundation, the Permanent Peoples Tribunal and the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, in relation to the Gaza events. If well-organized, such an initiative would provide a comprehensive and reliable documentation of allegations relating to war crimes, and would at least offer a symbolic set of responses to the challenge of accountability.”

Two very important events have therefore being put together by the Russell Tribunal on Palestine:

On 16 December a preparatory seminary will take place in Brussels (full programme will follow shortly). This seminary’s goal is to show public opinion that even if Israel has been found guilty of breaches of international law many times in the past, inaction from the EU, UN and other third parties has allowed Israel to continue to act in total impunity. By exposing this, we will emphasise on the need for a public opinion tribunal such as the Russell Tribunal in Palestine to take place, building momentum for the Barcelona session of March 2010.

We have invited people that have worked on the Goldstone report (Christine Chinkin), the Arab League “Dugard” report (Paul de Waart) and the 2004 ICJ advisory opinion (Francois Dubuisson). Also present will be French ambassador Stephane Hessel, Pierre Galand, Leila Shahid, Marcel Francis Khan and former Dutch prime minister Dries Van Agt. Representatives from National Support Committees will also take part explaining to the audience the work that has already been done in various countries.

Then, on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd of March the first international session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine will take place in Barcelona. We are at the moment working on the agenda of the session and the jury. We have so far found 3 members:

-Judge Juan Tapia Guzman from Chile
-QC Michael Mansfield from England
-Gisele Halimi from France

We are also honoured to now be able to count film director Costa Gavras has one of our patrons (see full list here: http://www.russelltribunalonpalestine.net/pages/The_Support_Commitee-1143887.html

The most important people in this tribunal are yourselves. We cannot do much without your support and help. If you feel that you are able to financially support our initiative, please make an online donation here: http://www.russelltribunalonpalestine.net/pages/Support_the_Russell_Tribunal_on_Palestine-1152211.html

It is also primordial that you spread the word. Post links on your websites, blogs, twitter, facebook and mention the Russell Tribunal on Palestine to friends and colleagues.

We need professional media people in Brussels and Barcelona (principally cameramen with gear and Production assistants) that will be able to film seminary and session. We will cover for expenses but cannot pay at the moment. If you’re able to help in this field, send us an email, please.

Media coverage is very important. If you work for a TV (BBC, Al Jazeera, Press TV…) or internet broadcaster (GRITtv, Deep Dish TV, Democracy Now…) please contact us as well.

Many thanks for your support,

In solidarity
Frank Barat
Coordinator
Russell Tribunal on Palestine

Abbas seen as a traitor: “not backing the UN war report is a ‘scandal'”

Posted in Fatah, Gaza war crimes investigation, Hamas, International community, Palestine, Peace process, Pictures, USA foreign policy, War crimes with tags , , , , , , , on 12/10/2009 by 3071km

Date published: Monday 12th October 2009

Source: Al Jazeera English

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Palestinian unity hopes dim

“]

A reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas, the rival Palestinian parties, has been delayed, following a bitter dispute over the Palestinian decision not to back a UN report on alleged Israeli war crimes.

The deal was to be signed on October 25, clearing the way for Hamas and Fatah to co-operate in rebuilding war-damaged Gaza by preparing for Palestinian elections in the first half of 2010.

Speaking of his disappointment to Al Jazeera on Monday, Mustafa Barghouthi – an independent member of the Palestinian parliament – said he believed Fatah and Hamas had turned a UN war-crimes report into a party-political issue, rather than into an honest attempt to seek justice.

The report, drawn up by a team of experts led by Richard Goldstone, a former South African judge, accuses Israel of using disproportionate force and failing to protect civilians during its bombardment of Gaza at the end of 2008.

Palestinian party politics

Barghouti said: “What is most unfortunate is that the Goldstone report should have been a unifying issue for all Palestinians … to hold Israel accountable for its war crimes.

“What we see is that both Fatah and Hamas are making this into a party-political issue. This should stop.”

The two sides have been divided since Hamas, which commanded a majority in parliament, seized control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007.Following the takeover, there have been rival Palestinian governments in Gaza and the West Bank.

With mediation from Egypt, the parties have been trying to broker a deal to reconcile and establish a power-sharing agreement.

But Hamas said on its website on Sunday that it was postponing the agreement because of a much-criticised decision by the Palestinian Authority (PA), led by President Mahmoud Abbas, to delay action on the Goldstone report.

‘Crime and scandal’

Seven Palestinian groups joined Hamas leaders based in Damascus, Syria, on Sunday in issuing a statement of support for the postponement of the reconciliation deal.

They called Abbas’s decision to freeze action on the UN report a “crime and scandal”.

The groups emphasised the importance of reconciliation but said Abbas’s actions should not go unpunished.

In a televised speech from the conference in Damascus, Khaled Meshal, the Hamas leader, spelled out his party’s position.”When Goldstone investigated the criminal aggression by Israel against Gaza, this was an opportunity to indict Israel,” he said.

“But this group of Palestinian leaders [Fatah leadership] withdrew the report. This is the Goldstone scandal. A courageous leadership is a leadership that is frank with its people.

“Those who are accumulating political mistakes are today continuing their lies. This is not a leadership that deserves to be entrusted with the leadership of the Palestinians.

The Goldstone report recommended that the UN Security Council require both sides to carry out credible investigations into alleged abuses during the conflict – in which 13 Israelis and almost 1,400 Palestinians, including hundreds of civilian women and children, were killed.

Israel has rejected the report’s allegations while the US has called it deeply flawed.

But many Palestinians, and not just Hamas members, were outraged after Abbas withdrew Palestinian support for having the UN Human Rights Council forward the report to the 192-nation General Assembly for possible action.

In reaction, Abbas gave his own speech on Sunday in Ramallah – saying Hamas had its own reasons for not wanting to sign a reconciliation agreement.”This campaign by Hamas is aimed at serving their interests, which is to postpone the signing of the reconciliation agreement,” he said.

“They want to concentrate their rule and their regime in Gaza. They want to ensure the continuity of division in Gaza, that aims at weakening the Palestinian Authority.”

Unity ‘efforts continuing’

Some Palestinian parliamentarians are still hopeful that a reconciliation agreement might be reached by October 25.

Barghouti, the Palestinian politician, said despite the public media attacks, unity efforts are continuing.

“The Egyptians have provided a final copy of the agreement for reconciliation. And hopefully, by the 20th of this month, all parties will sign this agreement in preparation for a ceremony that would declare unity,” he told Al Jazeera.

“Delaying the Goldstone report vote would never have happened if we had had a united Palestinian leadership.

“Given that Israel has arrested large numbers of parliamentary members, the parliament is paralysed and unable to function – so this agreement needs to happen.”

But other Palestinians say the chances of national unity are slim.

Speaking to Al Jazeera on Monday, Azzam Tamimi, author of Hamas: Unwritten Chapters, said saving the reconciliation process while Abbas remains president is almost impossible.

“The overwhelming opinion in the Palestinian street now is that Abbas is a complete traitor. There is no coming back from that,” he said.

“And what makes this worse is the reality that, despite much hope for change with a new US government under President Barack Obama, it seems clear now that it was American pressure that forced Abbas not to back the UN war report.”

Tamimi said Washington’s policy towards the whole Palestine issue “has not changed, despite a new set of faces in the White House”.