What’s Next Los Angeles City Council? Blaming Jews for Nazi Germany? Blaming African Americans for slavery?

In response to the unconscionable resolution that my home city, Los Angeles, California, has recently introduced, blaming Palestinians in Gaza for the murder, massacre, and genocide that Israel with U.S.-made weapons creates, I have re-rendered the resolution. The original may be read here. Answer Coalition is organising a protest and I encourage people to flood the Facebook page of Herb J. Wesson and the Twitter account of Bob Bluemnfield in particular.

RESOLUTION

WHEREAS, any official position of the City of Los Angeles with respect to legislation, rules, regulations, or policies proposed to or pending before a local, state or federal governmental body or agency must first have been adopted in the form of a Resolution by the City Council with the concurrence of the Mayor; and

WHEREAS, “human shields” refer to the use of civilians, prisoners of war, or other noncombatants whose mere presence is designed to protect combatants and objects from attack; and

WHEREAS, since 9 July (only one day into Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge”) Israeli Occupation Forces charged with terrorising the civilian population in Gaza, dropped “400 tonnes of bombs and missiles on the Gaza Strip” where no one is allowed to seek refuge since Israel has imposed its 7 year long siege on the 1.5 million people in Gaza; and

WHEREAS, it has been observed that the Israeli Occupation Forces regularly use Palestinian children in Gaza—and elsewhere—as human shields; and

WHEREAS, Israel has not kept Gaza’s civilian population on a literal “diet”, preventing them from having unfettered access to the most basic of human needs and rights—food, shelter, water, powerPalestinians have resorted to the dangerous and expensive means of creating tunnels in order to procure these basic needs and other commodities from televisions to cattle; and

WHEREAS, Israel makes a pretence that they warn Palestinians in Gaza about the coming bombs dropping above them, which they have but a mere minute to try to escape, but it is disingenuous given that Israel’s 7 year blockade prevents anyone from leaving the Gaza Strip by land, sea, or air; and

WHERAS, all of Israel’s military attacks from land, sea, and air target civilian populations even with its so-called “precision artillery”: “Conversely, Israel, with a high-powered US-financed precision-guided arsenal at its disposal, has deliberately bombed civilian targets including private homes, hospitals and mosques, as well as schools, UN shelters, playgrounds, ambulances, media buildings, water treatment facilities and Gaza’s only power plant”; and

WHEREAS, Israel, the United States, the European Union, and the United Nations enable Israel to engage in state terrorism, pushing Palestinians further and further off their land, and ironically, given their propaganda, into the sea, and all of these bodies are responsible for Israel’s use of human shields, including local governments like Los Angeles which has been trained by Israeli military forces as part of the Israelification of US policing; and

WHEREAS, currently the United States government—both federal and local—seems to be complicit in Israel’s state-terrorist operations in the Gaza Strip even as Israel repeatedly thumbs its nose both at international law and the United States;

WHEREAS, opposition to the use of human shields is consistent with international law to preserve the rights of innocent bystanders in armed conflicts, especially children;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, with the concurrence of the civilian population of Los Angeles, that by the adoption of this Resolution, the City of Los Angeles hereby includes in its 2013-14 Federal Legislative Program SUPPORT for a NEW RESOLUTION that condemns Israel’s state terrorism and the U.S. government’s state-sponsored terrorism in violation of international humanitarian law.

PRESENTED BY: ______________

DR. MARCY NEWMAN

Los Angeleno since 1969

SECONDED BY: _________________

My fellow citizens

15 August 2014

Tibet and Palestine

Last month I started the summer off with a vacation in Dharamsala, in the northern part of India. I went there for the same cliched reason many other foreigners go there–for yoga and meditation. I’ve been meditating and practicing yoga for about 17 years. But for the past several years, since I first went to Palestine, I’ve struggled with this practice a bit. It’s been hard for me to reconcile the idea that working on one’s own inner peace, as it were, could lead to any global kind of peace. Moreover, the pessimist in me doesn’t believe that anyone in power would ever commit to such a practice, which is what would have to happen for such a change to emerge. True, it has happened in history–most notably with Ashoka who changed quite radically after his conversion to Buddhism. And there are others, too. In spite of my reservations, I’ve returned to these practices little by little in the past few years.

IMG_8095

IMG_8103

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I recalled a demonstration against Israeli theft of Palestinian agricultural land for their settlements and apartheid wall, which I attended in Bil`in in 2005. There was a Buddhist monk who joined us, although I recalled him as Tibetan, looking at the photographs now he’s clearly not. Still, I found it striking watching him beating his drum while the soldiers began to open fire on us. I never had a chance to speak with him because I was arrested that day.

IMG_20140408_130916 IMG_20140408_124904 IMG_20140408_122918 IMG_20140408_155512IMG_20140408_164003 IMG_20140408_164048 IMG_20140409_084842 IMG_20140409_084953 IMG_20140409_090015

I remembered this image, though I hadn’t seen it in some time, because the more I explored Dharamsala and Tibetan history, the more I saw lucid parallels to Palestinian struggles. Just one glimpse of the images around McLeod Ganj, the main area where Tibetans, especially Tibetan monks, reside shows clearly an ongoing struggle for freedom, and not only in the Buddhist sense of liberation. At the Tibet Museum this resonated even more because I learned of the Tibetan resistance movement–I had not known that there had ever been armed struggle against the Chinese. But there are many similarities I noticed:

1. The time frame: Palestinians commemorate the nakba (catastrophe) on 15 May 1948, although the ethnic cleansing of Palestine began long before that and continues until this day. A year later, in 1949, China invaded Tibet.

2. Palestinians began their armed resistance movement to get their land back in 1968; the infamous Battle of Karameh marked its introduction to the world. In 1958, according the the museum catalog:

the flag of a united Tibetan resistance movement, the Tensung Danglang Maggar (‘Volunteer Freedom Fighters for Tibet’), was hoisted for the first time in Driguthang, Lhoka. Andrug Gompo Tashi was nominated as our chief commander. Many recruits from all parts of Tibet joined us and we soon had more than 5,000 members. Fighting began soon after. At Nyemo we faced our biggest battle, Less than 1,000 of us successfully fought against a much bigger Chinese force. (25)

3. Both Israel and China have led ongoing campaigns to destroy cultural religious buildings, among other structures, in Palestine and Tibet respectively. Israel also regularly destroys Palestinian homes (often forcing Palestinians to destroy their own homes and/or pay the fees for that process) and does not permit them to build or rebuilt as the case may be.  In Tibet, according to the museum,

The systematic eradication of Tibetan culture and religion saw the destruction of over 6,000 monasteries and temples. The handful still standing today are used as tourist attractions, army barracks, or public toilets. Precious scriptures and sculptures were destroyed or sold in international art markets. The Chinese used scriptures as shoe soles and monks and nuns were forced to desecrate religious objects. (29)

4. Just as Israel practices Judaisation, China practices what Tibetans call Sinicisation, which is includes the erasure of Tibetan identity and the inculcation of a Chinese one–starting with language. The museum explains:

The Chinese language is given priority in education and administration, thus marginalizing Tibetans in every sphere of life. Even more worrying are the population transfers that are diluting our culture and are reducing Tibetans to a minority in our own country. China is actively engaged in denials of our history, culture–our very identity. (37)

5. As indicated above, China also practices transfer, a euphemism for ethnic cleansing that Zionists have used since their pre-state days. In both cases, the occupying nation moves its citizens into the areas or homes where Tibetans or Palestinians used to live. One example is the expulsion of people from Yaffa and another more recent example is the ongoing nakba affecting Bedouins in the Naqab desert known as the Prawer Plan.

6. Of course, when one is faced with forced expulsion one becomes a refugee. Approximately 750,000 Palestinian refugees were expelled in 1948 and many more since then including internally displaced people. Because this process is ongoing (and because of normal population growth) that number is 7.2 million today. In the case of Tibet:

Since 1959, about 100,000 Tibetans fled to neighboring countries. Many died on the way as a result of Chinese attacks and harsh conditions. Thousands continue to escape oppression and persecution in Tibet each year. (40)

7. Recent struggles for both Tibetans and Palestinians have included boycotting products made in China and Israel respectively. Additionally, Tibetans have resorted to self-immolation to call attention to their plight.

I lay out all of these comparisons here because while in Dharamsala I read a book called A Jew in the Lotus by Rodger Kamenetz (1995). The book is not worth quoting, but essentially it is the tale of a variety of Jewish people–Orthodox, Conservative, Reform–primarily from the U.S. and Israel who come to Dharamsala to participate in a Buddhist-Jewish interfaith dialogue. From what I gleaned in the book, that dialogue was motivated by the Jewish delegation because of the great many Jews who leave their faith for Buddhism. There were so many odd concerns they held about joining this group and interacting with people who, for example, don’t keep kosher or who are formally addressed as “His Holiness.”

IMG_20140409_130236 IMG_20140409_131007 IMG_20140409_131136 IMG_20140409_131332 IMG_20140409_131358 IMG_20140409_131505 IMG_20140409_131729 IMG_20140409_131829 IMG_20140409_131920 IMG_20140409_131940 IMG_20140409_132138 IMG_20140409_132212 IMG_20140409_133859 IMG_20140409_134023 IMG_20140410_153410 IMG_20140411_153254 IMG_20140412_153457 IMG_20140412_153432 IMG_20140413_134819 IMG_20140413_134832 IMG_20140413_143609

In the book, there didn’t yet seem to be an Israeli colony in Dharamsala yet.  This is likely because relations between India and Israel were just beginning to publicly thaw in the early 1990s. But today there are many such colonies, (see here and here) most notably in this mountain top hill station and in Goa. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I went to explore these two areas, pretty far removed from each other–one on top of the mountain in Dharamkot and the other in a valley a few kilometres below, Bhagsu Naag. In Dharamkot there is a Chabad House (an Orthodox Jewish prayer house–the tall brick building, which is the tallest in the area). It’s a bit odd to see that here given that stories I hear and read about often detail the way in which Israelis come after their three (men) or two year (women) compulsory army service, trash the area, smoke a lot of hashish, and have a lot of sex. It doesn’t exactly seem like the type who would frequent an extremely religious space.  The photographs above are from Dharamkot and those below from Bhagsu Naag.

The most disturbing aspect of this Israeli take over of this previously Indian and Tibetan community is the inclusion of what restauranteurs call “Israeli cuisine” (hummus, felafel, etc.) with no sense of irony. There are several photographs of menus above that illustrate this. Unfortunately none of the restaurant owners (most seemed to be Indian, not Tibetan) are aware that what they are serving is Arabic cuisine originating in the Levantine countries of Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria. This cultural theft is akin to what I listed above as one of the many ways Israel Judaises Palestine, often taking on Arabic or Palestinian culture and claiming it as its own. This would be akin to Chinese restaurants serving momos and tsampa and claiming it as their own. Of course, they do that too. Also, I find it odd that just because a group of foreigners frequents another country that “their” cuisine must be readily available. Why travel if you’re not going to eat local food. Seriously! Likewise why is there a need for all the signage to change from Tibetan, Hindi, and English to just two foreign languages: English and Hebrew?

Finally, Kamenetz’s book made it clear that through their interfaith exchange Tibetans and Israelis would begin working together towards a common cause. From their point of view, the Tibetan struggle mirrors the Jewish and Israeli one (he often conflates the two) and, not surprisingly, Palestine is barely mentioned at all. (See Gideon Levy on this.)  Indeed, there is an Israeli-Tibet society. And Israelis seem to be collaborating with Tibetans on agricultural projects. However, if the Tibetans want to know what will come of such a venture, they should look at what people did in Andhra Pradesh at Kuppam once they realised how they were being deceived by Israeli promises to improve the agricultural practices here.

IMG_20140426_175538 IMG_20140426_175739 IMG_20140426_175904 IMG_20140426_175932 IMG_20140426_180048 IMG_20140426_180057 IMG_20140426_180152 IMG_20140426_180156 IMG_20140426_180220 IMG_20140426_180226 IMG_20140426_180254 IMG_20140426_180858 IMG_20140426_181201 IMG_20140426_181114 IMG_20140426_181050 IMG_20140426_181037 IMG_20140426_181514 IMG_20140426_181707 IMG_20140427_090350

One final image: at my meditation centre there were only two languages used other than English and Hindi: Russian and Hebrew.
image

image

Support the American Studies Association #ASA2013 #BDS

Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later. Zionists have come out in full force to attack the American Studies Association that courageously voted to support an academic boycott of Israel. In the past few days American-Zionist-cum-colonists like Martin Kramer have written articles like “Boycott. Me. Please.” Ali Abunmiah reported the source of this pressure:

Last week anti-Palestinian group StandWithUs, which works closely with the Israeli government, sent out an email blast calling on its followers to “Urge university presidents, donors and government to denounce the ASA and sever ties with the organization.”

The ASA has five thousand individual members along with 2,200 library and other institutional subscribers.

Under such pressure two universities, Brandeis University and Penn State Harrisburg,have canceled their institutional memberships of the ASA.

Some university presidents are allowing faculty to form their own opinions, although others are cracking down as institutions. But as would be expected, most American academic institutions are towing the political party line and distorting the issue by trying to pretend it’s about academic freedom when it’s not.

As a result of blurring the issue and starting some hysterical Zionist hasbara, it is necessary to show one’s support for the ASA now. To do so, please follow the following cues (though if you are interested in becoming a member don’t do it until January 1st if you want a full year’s membership for your fees):

Renew your membership in ASA, especially institutional members of the organization, and encourage other programs to become institutional members. (ONLY 83 schools are institutional members.)

To renew Institutional Memberships: http://www.theasa.net/pages/institutional_membership_invitation/

To renew Individual Memberships: http://www.theasa.net/pages/membership_invitation/

Announce your support of the ASA and the right of the association to act according to the will of the membership. Academic freedom guarantees not only the individual right of faculty members to express their views, but also the autonomy of professional associations.

Support ASA-related activities.  The ASA remains at the forefront of critical scholarship in many areas crucial to the study and teaching of labor relations, race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, popular culture and technology, political organizing and social movements. ASA scholars’ interdisciplinary work addresses US history, politics, and culture, both within and beyond its borders. Over the last two decades, American Studies has internationalized, responding to the global conditions of the present. And asRichard Falk, the international legal theorist, has noted: “The ASA outcome is part of a campaign to construct a new subjectivity surrounding the Israel/Palestine conflict. It is the sort of act that lends credibility to claims that a momentum is transforming the climate of opinion surrounding a conflict situation. Such a momentum is capable of breaking down a structure of oppression at any moment.

Defend the right of the ASA to develop independent political positions based on the scholarship and research of its members. The resolution is based on documented history of Israeli human rights abuse and violations of international law, which are acknowledged in the Israeli press and by scholars.  For example, Professor Henry Siegman, the well-known scholar of Mid-East politics and former National Director of the American Jewish Congress, has written in an article titled “There is no Bigotry in the Boycott,” (Haaretz Dec 20, 2013): “As to Israel’s democratic credentials, there is no more egregious violation of elementary democratic norms than a predatory occupation that denies an entire people all individual and national rights, confiscates their properties, bulldozes their homes and dispossesses them from their internationally recognized patrimony east of the 1967-border.”

Denounce the campaign of intimidation against the ASA.  The ASA is a small academic professional association, but because it dared to express criticism of Israel, powerful and well-funded academic and non-academic organizations have mounted a public campaign aimed at destroying the Association. These organizations falsely accuse the ASA membership of being anti-semitic, bent on the destruction of Israel.  But the goal of the boycott is to show solidarity with the beleaguered Palestinians, who have been subject to decades of occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Many Jewish members of ASA support the resolution. These include Eric Cheyfitz, who posted this comment to the ASA website: “I am a Jew with a daughter and three grandchildren who are citizens of Israel. I am a scholar of American Indian and Indigenous studies, who has in published word and action opposed settler colonialism wherever it exists, including of course the Palestinian West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.” Seehttp://www.theasa.net/from_the_editors/item/asa_members_vote_to_endorse_academic_boycott/

Write to your congressional and state representatives and urge them to do the following:

  • Defend the academic freedom of the ASA and its membership.  The campaign against the ASA as an organization and the attacks against the national leadership and harassment of individual members, some of whom are graduate students or junior faculty, is an assault on academic freedom in the US and violates the basic principle that the American education system should not be held hostage to foreign interests.
  • Ensure that ASA activities are not subject to discriminatory practices.  All university programs receive federal and/or state funding.  Government officials should not discriminate in the allocating of public funds simply because they disagree with the positions of a professional association.
  • Encourage and facilitate more critical discussions of the US-Israeli relationship.  See for example Sarah Roberts’s recently published essay in support of the boycott resolution.

For more information or to report intimidation:

Contact the ASA Activism and Community Caucus (asaactcaucus@gmail.com)

Some great new articles to read on the ASA boycott this week:

Noura Erakat, Alex Lubin, Steven Salaita, J. Kehaulani Kauanui, and Jasbir Puar’s “Substantive Erasures: Essays on Academic Boycott and the American Studies Association”

Samuel Nelson Gilbert’s “Calls to Boycott Israel Grow on U.S. Campuses”

Sarah Roberts’s “The Turning Tide: The ASA, Scholarly Responsibility and the Call for Academic Boycott of Israel”

Noura Erakat’s “Demanding Equality: Interview with Steven Salaita on the ASA Academic Boycott”

Omar Barghouti’s “Is BDS’ Campaign Against Israel Reaching a Turning Point?”

NSJP Statement of Thanks and Solidarity with the American Studies Association”

 

Comparing Malls

The first time I went to Ejipura and witnessed the displacement of the Dalit community by Maverick Holdings in collusion with the BBMP (Bangalore’s municipal authority), I couldn’t help compare the situation to what I have witnessed in Palestine. Recently UNRWA published a series of statistics on how Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes affects Palestinians (see a few of the charts below). Screen Shot 2013-02-13 at 6.46.39 PM Screen Shot 2013-02-13 at 6.46.50 PM Screen Shot 2013-02-13 at 6.46.58 PMIn Palestine having Israelis bulldoze your home is quotidian.

It is rare to read news sources that monitor this, like al-Akhbar or Electronic Intifada, on any given day and not see news about home demolitions. It is a part of the ongoing nakba. Just this week al-Akhbar reported of two Palestinian homes being demolished in the West Bank. Here is a video of this most recent demolition. It looks quite similar to the demolitions taking place here in Bangalore.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YmoTgH_XQ0]

Just as Palestinians steadfastly work toward their goal of returning home, and increasingly use boycott as a tactic to achieve this result, increasingly the residents of Ejipura are as well. In Ejipura this week there was a protest and there is a desire to boycott Garuda Mall as a strategy to achieve justice for the people so they may be granted the replacement homes they were promised by their government.

The root of the problem and the context differ, of course. In Palestine it is colonists uprooting indigenous people to steal land and build their colonies. Just this week 90 new homes have been approved for building in Jerusalem (for those who think that 50% of Jerusalem belongs to Jewish colonists this is what you call “East Jerusalem,” although for those who are anti-colonial Jerusalem has no dividing line). In 1948 Palestine the ongoing nakba continues as Israel continues to cleanse itself of Palestinians, especially in the Naqab (Negev) desert in the southern portion of the state.

But all of uprooting for the sake of a mall made me recall one of my dear friends’ villages, Malha, which is a neighborhood of Jerusalem. My friend is a refugee, although many of the original homes and a mosque (which seems to be used as a house by an Israeli Jewish colonist) remain. But on this land is also a large shopping mall.  Her uprooting was not for the creation of the mall, but its presence on her family’s land is disturbing nevertheless. Below are photographs I took of the mall as well as the beautiful, traditional stone Palestinian homes.

DSC00118 DSC00105 DSC00099

DSC00129

It may not be the same cause or the same context, but uprooting and homelessness whether for a land grab or a shopping center is immoral and must be resisted via boycott or other means necessary to achieve justice.

Here are a few more recent articles on Ejipura:

Ejipura Demolition: Hundreds of Protestors Court Arrest

Photostory: Ejipura Bulldozed

Maverick’s Project in Bangalore: Il-legalizing the Poor

Of a City of Pieces and the Importance of the Larger Community

The Relativity of Gratitude

Violence Continues Against EWS Residents, Activists Say

On the Periphery: Ejipura and the Fence

It rained in Ejipura yesterday after I left. Hadn’t thought at all about inclement weather given the climate here in Bangalore. But it seems that passing out better tarps (most families are making due with old plastic political banners torn down around the neighborhood) and raincoats.

DSC00027

There is a metal fence around the entire perimeter of the old slum in Ejipura now. It’s hard to see inside. Most of the same families who have been living on its periphery still remain, steadfastly waiting to acquire suitable housing that they can afford. 
DSC00034

Most of the families left behind are Tamil. And yesterday there were Tamil posters plastered about Ejipura comparing the Indian government officials’ responsibility in the uprooting of Ejipura residents to what the massacre the Sri Lankan government perpetrated against the Tamils in 2009.

DSC00042

Before they sealed off the area, the last group of slum housing, these made mostly of zinc roofs and walls, were demolished. I couldn’t get inside to see, but the mosque is on the edge of that former neighborhood so I took this photograph from inside to give a view of the rubble. Interestingly, when I was doing Sunday morning food distribution a couple of weeks ago a church group was the donor. And they happened to bring their own volunteers with them. Many of the families from this last area to be demolished–before it was demolished–came seeking food. One of the nuns got quite angry at the people and tried to shoo them away. I got in an argument with her and the other church people because they were clearly in need, clearly hungry, and I head heard that they were next. I remember saying, so they can only eat your food once they no longer have a roof over their head? And now it has come to pass it seems.

DSC00046

Today there is a big march taking place as I write. I intended to do this prior to the demonstration, but I didn’t have time. But here are the list of demands articulated by the current and former residents of Ejipura:

Grounds of Protest 

  • Why is land earmarked for purpose of housing Economically Weak Sections (EWS) being used for the purpose of private profit and commercial exploitation?
  • Why has the BBMP chosen Maverick Holdings when they have already committed fraud by constructing Garuda Mall on public land meant for a parking lot?
  • The Government has issued biometric cards, BBMP ID cards, Voter IDs and Ration Cards to the residents of EWS quarters. The BBMP Council even passed a resolution in 2005 that houses would be built for both allottees and non-allotees living in EWS Quarters. On what grounds are they now labelling them as encroachers?
  • Why were the residents who were recognised as lawful residents not consulted before any decision was made?
  • The concession agreement between Maverick and BBMP clearly lays down that it is Maverick’s responsibility to relocate residents during Implementation Period at its own expense. Why has this not been done?
  • While EWS Quarters stood on 11.37 acres of land, how is 15.64 acres of land being handed over to Maverick Holdings?
  • When this case was in the High Court of Karnataka, why did the BBMP mislead the court by saying that all interested parties agreed to this arrangement? Why were not these bonafide residents not considered as “interested parties” in this agreement?

WE DEMAND                                                                                                                                           -Cancel the PPP and use the EWS land for its original purpose                                                                                          -Rebuild houses for all erstwhile residents immediately on the same land
-Prosecute those responsible for brutal evictions and collapse of the EWS quarters
-Order an independent judicial enquiry into the illegal diversion of public lands
 

DSC00048 DSC00051


DSC00055
DSC00056 DSC00057 DSC00061 DSC00062

Here are some important articles to read to understand more about what is going on in Ejipura:

How Did My House Become Yours, Ask Allottees

From Shanty Houses to Shanty Lives: The Story of an Eviction

Ejipura: Living in the Shadows of the Maverick Fence

From Nonadanga to Ejipura: The Urban Battleground

Ejipura Workers Back Off After Evictee’s Immolation Threat

Steps to Prevent Ejipura Crisis from Getting Worse

Finally, you can sign a petition by clicking here to protest the building of another Garuda Mall on the land that belongs to the Ejipura residents.

How to Help in Ejipura

DSC00039

There is a fence now that is being erected around the Ejipura slum. Families who remain without shelter skirt the perimeter of the property, which now has a clear sign of ownership on the fence. Soon one won’t be able to peer inside or go inside at all. Inside all that remains is a church, a Christian shrine, and the water tank.

DSC00034

The families who resided in these slums took pride in their homes. They may have been landless and poor, but they made their homes beautiful with paint on the walls, paintings inside, and gardens that fed the family and produced flowers to beautify the space. Many of these families had pets from dogs to cats to fish to birds. But this community has been broken. People don’t know where their neighbors have gone. Some don’t even know where family members are now.

DSC00033

The situation has not changed much: people still need water, food, clothing, and most importantly a more permanent home. After that some project to help people generate income, some kind of livelihood-building project will be needed.

DSC00027

There is much work to be done. The people who are organizing relief work in Ejipura are not an NGO. Most people are students or workers who are volunteering their time. In many respects, this is a better way of operating as it gives the volunteers more freedom than being tied down to the bureaucracy of an NGO.  But it also means that people need to step up to the plate in any way they can.

Here are some ways you can help (note is a few days old, but basic information is not):

Dear all,

Thank you so much for the overwhelming response over the last few days. Now the EWS quarters have been almost completely demolished by BBMP via police harassment and threats. Out in the cold, many have not slept for days as they have been harassed wherever they sit or move their meagre belongings, while they have no funds to pay for the customary advance (safety deposit) required to be paid before renting even the lowest cost house in Bangalore, nor even to pay for a vehicle to move their belongings.

We are trying to sustain this community with food and water (supply has been cut), warm clothes and blankets. In addition those who feel they can no longer tolerate the police repression are requesting funds for the advance to move out into small houses. People are making their own decisions about leaving or staying, but many are worried that the longer they resist and the fewer they are in number, that their chances of actually getting support to move if and when they are pushed towards no other option are low – this is making people move out faster. If we have funds to cover supporting this community through their resistance it can make a huge difference.

Here’s a quick breakdown of our immediate requirements:

*Food:* We have been feeding roughly 700 people per meal, with cost ranging from Rs. 8 to 25 per day depending on who steps forward to provide meals at what rate. The local area packed meals are Rs. 25 and some bulk suppliers have supplied some meals at Rs. 8. Also, milk and bananas for children/infants. If you feel you can contribute towards (either ordering the food parcels or financially) for any denomination you are comfortable with, it would be a great help.

*Water*: We have ordered drums of water for people, and are moving towards getting tankers to the site. The only problem is police harassment for all standing vehicles providing relief.

*Blankets:* Last night we received around 380 blankets. Still, we only managed to cover 1 per family. If you can conduct blanket and warm clothing donation drives in your area or circles by this evening, there should be more warmth to go around.

*Finances:* People need an advance to move into alternative housing and money to transport their belongings. You can send it to me if you prefer my personal account at Account number 0683101027442 Canara Bank, IISC branch, Bangalore, Karnataka IFSC-CNRB0000683

For an organizational account
Account Name – People’s Union for Civil Liberties
Bank – State Bank of Mysore
Acc no – 54047022713
IFSC – SBMY0040016
Branch Code – 40016
Send a mail to Gowruchinnapa[at]gmail.com to track the transaction and receipts.

*Medicines:* We hope to be able to get medicines from hospitals and health professionals. Doctors are on the site right now. However, we do need money for hospital visits and charges for serious patients, nutritional supplements (vitamins, iron) for the elderly, children and pregnant women, first aid over a period of time.

*Advocacy:* Write, blog, petition, share stories on Facebook and Twitter with #EWSEjipura as a hashtag, call authorities and demand why evictions have been carried out so brutally, why the police continues to threaten to throw out residents belongings such that many have been relegated to the footpath, why toilets and water supplies were destroyed on the first day and why aren’t makeshift facilities being arranged for- tents, toilets, water, compensation. We cannot, in our humanitarian effort, allow the government to shirk from its culpability, its word and pass on the buck like this.

With simultaneous demolitions going on in Golibar and Ambevadi, Mumbai and in cities across the country, a campaign towards the right to shelter needs to grow stronger.

We’re planning to set up a blog very soon with daily updates on the situation.

If you’re at the site and want to know who to give your contributions contact Vinay Sreenivasa.

Here are new articles on the ongoing situation in Ejipura:

Ejipura: “How many malls do Bangaloreans need?”

Mauled

Ejipura: Only a Water Tank and a Shrine Remain

Celebrating Republic Day with Expulsions in Ejipura

DSC00042

Today was Republic Day in India. It’s a day commemorating the day that India’s constitution became the primary document that lays out the laws and of the state and the rights of its people. It is rather ironic, then, that the remaining residents of Ejipura were expelled from their homes today.

DSC00054

The bulldozers kept churning the soil today, flattening it out, but there were a few families who held out inside the former slum. These families were being encircled as the bulldozers continued establishing new piles of rubble and dirt to form a barricade. There was also a fence that workers began to erect around the property.

DSC00060

The last family inside was holding out for compensation they were promised by Maverick Holdings, the company that owns Garuda Mall (the mall provided security at the main checkpoint to get inside the area). They were entitled to 5,000 rupees, but from that had to pay 1,200 for the truck to move their belongings (the lowest down payment for a new place to live is at least 10,000 rupees). In the end, they received their money, but they had no idea where they would go. Many of the families left are Tamil and so not from here; they don’t necessarily have family in the area or in the state.

DSC00061

Once the last family inside left Maverick sent one of its employees to expel the remaining families who have been living in the water pipes. Some of these families do not have proper papers and so while activists were busy feeding people or helping the last family steadfastly holding out for their money, the Maverick employee lowered the compensation amount to 2,000 rupees. Others signed the papers without receiving any money at all, although they were promised funds. All the people who signed papers when receiving money also lessened their chances in court.

DSC00079

Scuffles broke out between activists and the police today, of course after the journalists from The Hindu and The Times of India left the scene. Police brought a large bus and started walking around with sticks to intimidate people. It seemed as though negotiations would yield a return to the 5,000 rupee promise, but in the end most families settled. Fortunately, the residents of Koramangala, the neighboring area, collected funds to help families pay down payments on new housing for families who found viable places to resettle.

DSC00085

Many of the families who left are now in Sarjapur. Some have been locked out of housing they paid a down payment for. And there is no water or electricity there.

DSC00088

It is troubling that there is so little national or international media covering this story. The world is so quick to cover a horrifically brutal rape in Delhi, but not the mass expulsion of a community that has lived in these homes for decades.

DSC00093

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DSC00115

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DSC00118

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DSC00120

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DSC00126

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DSC00131

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DSC00133

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DSC00143

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DSC00149

Also see these articles for more about what’s happening in Ejipura:

Ejipura Evictions: People Treated Like Dogs and Thrown Out of Houses

Bulldozers and Pipes: Life Takes on a Different Meaning

Youth Pour Out to Help Ejipura Demolition Affected

Rights Group Appeal to International Bodies

Ejipura Residents Struggling to Find Alternative Accommodation

And check out these videos that give a sense of what has been happening and how the residents of Ejipura feel about their expulsion:

More on the Uprooting of Ejipura

DSC00024

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hear people using words like “evacuation” or “eviction” when describing what is happening in Ejipura. But it’s neither. People are not being rescued from a natural disaster. People are being kicked out of their homes for being delinquent with their rent. They are being forcibly removed, dispossessed, uprooted. They are being uprooted like the trees the bulldozers tore down yesterday along with the homes, trees that are now serving as firewood to keep families warm at night.DSC00033

When I returned to Ejipura this morning it was even more of a wasteland because the bulldozers flattened so much of the land. Families were searching for apartments to rent. On average they need 10,000 rupees (less than $100) as a security deposit. But by day’s end it turned out that some of the people they rented from did not actually own the apartments they rented and 30 families were locked out from housing once again in a nearby area.

DSC00034

The last family holding out yesterday, hoping the bulldozer would somehow skirt around their home or postpone demolishing it was gone by morning. When I left yesterday evening they were the last house on the edge of the plot of land. Today they were gone. I saw the elder matriarch in the street asking for blankets–they relocated on the outskirt of the slum.DSC00039

After breakfast was distributed we delivered tea to the remaining families. One woman approached me with her son. She is a widow and cleans people’s homes for a living, but the woman she normally works for has been on vacation so she has no money. She said she wished she had poison to serve her small family instead of lunch.DSC00047

There were some dirt barricades created between the slum and the street today that the bulldozers obviously made. It impeded passage between the various families who had been removed and made distributing food, water, and blankets more challenging. By evening when we passed out dinner it was even harder. On the previous days auto rickshaws were filled up with the food parcels and delivered directly to the families. By evening there were so many more barricades inside the area that this became more difficult. And at one end of the slum there was a police barricade with a policeman standing guard.DSC00050

I met a doctor tonight who lives in the area and who knows this community. She described them as typically quite healthy. But in the last few days a number of health problems began to emerge. There are now cases of diarrhea, hepatitis, and jaundice. There are problems with thyroid and blood pressure because people lost or are not taking their medications. And respiratory infections are increasing, possibly because people are exposed to the cold night air and inhaling so much smoke from the fires burning at night in order to stay warm and have some light. Girls are not eating and drinking because there is no place for them to go to the toilet. Men are taking their frustrations out on their wives. Some families have had their belongings stolen. Some husbands are selling family belongings even though their wives are opposed to it.DSC00059

And one of the worst stories I heard today is that some police stole blankets from families last night. They also threatened other families, saying that if they accepted blankets from us they would be arrested. DSC00057

In the midst of all of this politicians and businessmen continue to play political football with people’s lives. Supposedly there are funds for helping families relocate and get settled in the government, but those funds have gone missing somewhere between the government and a politician’s pocket.

G4S in India

 

 

 

So far I have seen three G4S offices in Bangalore alone. I have also seen their cars driving around the city. When I was in Darjeeling recently, I discovered that they also ran security for the Darjeeling zoo. They seem to operate as an ordinary security company, but they are anything but ordinary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DSC00074

 

At present there is a campaign to vote for G4S as the worst company in the world. There are many reasons for this, but the main points of interest are related to G4S role in maintaining Israel’s colonization and occupation of Palestine, particularly its prisons, apartheid wall, and checkpoints. Writing for Electronic Intifada, Adri Nieuwhof explains their role:

The British-Danish security giant G4S has become the target of rights activists in different countries because of its provision of services to Israeli prisons, military checkpoints and to firms in illegal settlements in the West Bank.

In 2008, G4S Israel advertised its involvement with Israeli miitary checkpoints on its website. The text on the left of the screenshot above reads: “Systems for checking persons, manufactured by Safeview USA, first of their kind, were installed at the Erez checkpoint. The systems are in operational use by the army and enable the performance of full scans of the human body.”

G4S confirmed it had provided security equipment with “associated maintenance services” to the Israeli police, prison service and defense ministry, in a 21 December 2010 letter to the Business and Human Rights Resource Center in London. At the same time, the company claimed it did “not control” — and was not  “necessarily aware” — where its security equipment was deployed “as it may be moved around the country.”

In a follow up article, in part responding to G4S concerns about the claims made in the above-quoted article, Nieuwhof adds more details about G4S involvement in oppressing Palestinians for Israelis:

In the brochure, published by the Danish watchdog DanWatch, G4S describes the supply of a perimeter defense system for the walls around the Ofer prison compound and the installation of a central command room to monitor the entire Ofer compound. In addition, the company writes it also provided all the security systems in Ketziot prison and a central command room in Megiddo prison (G4S delivers technology to Israeli prisons,” DanWatch, 21 November 2010).

G4S boasts that the three prisons can detain 2,700-3,700 “security” prisoners — the majority of whom are Palestinians from the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip illegally transferred to detention centers within Israel’s internationally-recognized boundary. International humanitarian law forbids an occupying power from transferring prisoners outside of the occupied territory and the conditions in Israeli prisons do not meet international legal standards. Accordingly, G4S’s involvement in the Israel Prison Service apparatus abets violations of international law.

G4S’s promotional material contradicts its claim that it does not know where its X-ray machines and body scanners are used. Who Profits? — a project of the Israeli Coalition of Women for Peace — has also documented that G4S luggage scanning equipment and full body scanners are used at checkpoints in the occupied West Bank towns of Qalandiya, Bethlehem and Irtah. G4S also provided full body scanners to the Erez checkpoint at Gaza. Who Profits? told The Electronic Intifada that this information is published in G4S’s own website and brochures.

Richard Falk, United Nations Special Rapporteur on  human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, highlighted G4S role in maintaining Israeli apartheid in his report on various corporations that profit off of Palestinian suffering.

DSC00075

 

As a result of these findings, BDS activists have been working to target G4S in various ways. And in 2012 there were several success:

The British firm Good Energy announced that it would end its business relationship with G4S, the private security giant with a track record of complicity in Israel’s human rights abuses.

After sustained media attention and pressure from BDS activists, several Danish charities and a bank decided to end security service contracts with the British-Danish security company G4S for the company’s role in Israel’s occupation.

The University of Oslo in Norway announced it would drop its contract with private security company G4S in July 2013 over the company’s involvement with Israeli prisons and its providing of services and equipment to checkpoints, Israel’s wall in the West Bank, settlement and settlement businesses.

DSC00178

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of my favorite actions targeting G4S last year was one done in London during the Israeli bombardment of Gaza.

Michael Deas’ report on the action in the above video offers inspiration to those wanting to take action based on others who have been fighting G4S:

Danish bank, several major Danish NGOs and a UK energy supplier have all dropped their links with G4S after pressure from campaigners. The EU declined to renew a contract with G4S following a campaign supported by members of the European Parliament. Students at Edinburgh University in Scotland voted to block the union’s contract with G4S and students at Oslo university in Norway are campaigning for the university not to renew its contract with the security company when it expires in February 2014.

For those who want to read a detailed report about G4S role in Palestine, Who Profits published a report on the subject.

BDS is new in India, but it is growing especially among cultural workers and academics. I hope that it soon spreads to the economic sector, especially targeting multinational corporations like G4S.

On Rape

DSC00067

One of the things I miss most about Beirut is the women of Nasawiya.  I miss their spirit and energy. I miss the way they run their organization in a grassroots fashion in the purest sense of the word. Anyone who has a project or an issue they want to work on they do it.  From the Anti-Racism Movement (which has a special focus on migrant domestic workers) to supporting refugees, Palestinian Syrian, and Sudanese, to standing in solidarity with Spinney’s workers on strike. There is such breadth in the way they connect feminism to other causes, something generally lacking in American feminist organizing.

the-world-according-to-rape_502914412e184

Yesterday the women of Nasawiya were on my mind as I attended my first protest in India. There has been a lot in the media locally and internationally about rape here and I received an email from Vimochana, a local feminist organization that there would be a demonstration against sexual assault and to demand a change in the way the legal system handles rape cases. The initial impetus for this protest was the outrage many people in India feel about the gang rape of a twenty-three-year old student in Delhi who was gang raped for almost an hour on a bus before being thrown onto the road and left to die. This was last week. This week a fifteen-year-old girl was raped in a grocery store near her home here in Bangalore.

DSC00085

In the announcement for the protest these statistics about rape in Bangalore were shared:

97 cases were the registered rape cases in 2011 in Bangalore city which means 7 women victims each month. If the hundreds of cases of molestation, abductions of women, child sexual abuse, harassment and abuse on the streets/ auto rickshaws / buses or other public spaces in the city are counted then by any standard, living and working in the city is truly a daily hazard for women and children.  The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) statistics for 2011 said Bangalore ranks fourth among cities of the country in recorded rape cases.

The numbers seem low by American standards, or even global standards. But the situation here seems shocking and most people are talking about it. Of course as is always the case with rape, it is underreported so statistics can only tell so much of the story. Regardless of the numbers, the stories, the fact that it happens at all and afterwards when women usually blamed, exacerbates and enflames the situation even for those not directly involved in the sexual assault.

I arrived at the protest a bit early and it seemed that a different organization, Women’s Voice, already had a protest underway. This consisted of women speaking to an audience of, largely women, sitting down and listening and at times called to chant in response. Since they were all speaking in Kannada I don’t know what they were saying, but a journalist near me, who was waiting for the second protest like me, mentioned that this was a bit orchestrated. She said that the organization bussed in women to put on a show. I’m not sure whether this is the case or not. But their protest was certainly lively, including the burning of a scarecrow-rapist in effigy.

The second protest began under the banner of Women in Black India and it seems that this group had various people involved, including a lot of students. In both cases the demands are similar wanting to change the legal system, sensitize the police force, stop the rape examination (which involves a woman being subjected to a doctor placing two fingers into her vagina to see whether or not she is used to sexual intercourse) among other things.

Here are some more essays/editorials on the Indian rape cases:

From Madness to Civilization

Change Hearts, Not Laws

Fight We Must

India: Hundreds of Men Accused of Sexual Assault Stand for Election

And here is a report on the Delhi protest the other day: