on the limits of solidarity

last month two comrades in the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement (bds)–omar barghouti and haidar eid–both of whom i respect a great deal–wrote a statement about the gaza freedom march asking them to adopt a statement of context that addressed palestinian needs and demands rather than impose an american idea of those needs and demands on palestinian people (i quoted it and wrote about it here). a few weeks ago haidar and omar released a new statement saying that the gaza freedom march organizers had adopted their statement and they are now requesting people to endorse the march (click here to endorse it):

Dear supporters of just peace and international law,

We are writing to invite you to endorse the Pledge of the Gaza Freedom March, a creative initiative with historic potential organized by the International Coalition to End the Illegal Siege of Gaza. The March is aimed at mobilizing active and effective support from around the world for ending Israel’s illegal and immoral siege on Gaza, currently the most pressing of all Israeli violations of international law and Palestinian rights. To endorse the Pledge, please click here and enter your name — or your organization’s name — in the box provided at the bottom.

Also reproduced at the end of this letter, after the Pledge, is the organizers’ Statement of Context which provides the necessary Palestinian context of the siege, namely Israel’s occupation, its decades-old denial of UN-sanctioned Palestinian rights, and Palestinian civil resistance to that oppression.

The Gaza Freedom March has won the endorsement of a decisive majority in Palestinian civil society. Aside from the Islamic University of Gaza, Al-Aqsa University, and tens of local grassroots organizations, refugee advocacy groups, professional associations and NGOs in Gaza, the March was endorsed by the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign National Committee (BNC)*, a wide coalition of the largest Palestinian mass organizations, trade unions, networks and professional associaitions, including all the major trade union federations, the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO) and the largest network representing Palestinian refugees. Ittijah, the Union of Arab Community-Based Associations, representing the most prominent Palestinian NGOs inside Israel, has also endorsed.

The March, planned for January 2010, to commemorate Israel’s illegal war of aggression against the 1.5 million Palestinians in occupied Gaza, is expected to draw many prominent figures and massive activist participation from across the world. The organizers have shown exceptional moral courage and a true sense of solidarity in drafting the Pledge and the Statement of Context. We salute them all for their principled and consistent commitment to applying international law and universal human rights to the plight of the Palestinian people, particularly in Gaza. We deeply appreciate their solidarity with our struggle for freedom and our inalienable right to self determination.

Anchored solely in international law and universal human rights, the Gaza Freedom March appeals to international organizations and conscientious citizens with diverse political backgrounds on the basis of their common abhorrence of the immense injustice embodied in the atrocious siege of 1.5 million Palestinians in the occupied Gaza Strip, the overwhelming majority of whom are refugees.

With massive participation of internationals, led by prominent leaders, alongside Palestinians in Gaza the world can no longer ignore its moral duty to end this criminal siege, and Israel can no longer count on its current impunity to last long. We strongly urge you to endorse the Pledge and to help secure more endorsements.

Haidar Eid (Gaza)
Omar Barghouti (Jerusalem)

* The BDS National Committee, BNC, consists of: Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine (all major political parties); General Union of Palestinian Workers; Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions; General Union of Palestinian Women; Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO); Federation of Independent Trade Unions; Palestine Right of Return Coalition; Union of Palestinian Farmers; Occupied Palestine and Golan Heights Initiative (OPGAI); Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (STW); Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI); National Committee to Commemorate the Nakba; Civic Coalition for the Defense of Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem (CCDPRJ); Coalition for Jerusalem; Union of Palestinian Charitable Organizations; Palestinian Economic Monitor; Union of Youth Activity Centers-Palestine Refugee Camps; among others …

Endorse the Gaza Freedom March! Sign the Pledge Below!

Israel’s blockade of Gaza is a flagrant violation of international law that has led to mass suffering. The U.S., the European Union, and the rest of the international community are complicit.

The law is clear. The conscience of humankind is shocked. Yet, the siege of Gaza continues. It is time for us to take action! On January 1, 2010, we will mark the New Year by marching alongside the Palestinian people of Gaza in a non-violent demonstration that breaches the illegal blockade.

Our purpose in this March is lifting the siege on Gaza. We demand that Israel end the blockade. We also call upon Egypt to open Gaza’s Rafah border. Palestinians must have freedom to travel for study, work, and much-needed medical treatment and to receive visitors from abroad.

As an international coalition we are not in a position to advocate a specific political solution to this conflict. Yet our faith in our common humanity leads us to call on all parties to respect and uphold international law and fundamental human rights to bring an end to the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian territories since 1967 and pursue a just and lasting peace.

The march can only succeed if it arouses the conscience of humanity.

Please join us.

The International Coalition to End the Illegal Siege of Gaza
For more information, please see the Statement of Context
For a list of endorsers, please click here.

STATEMENT OF CONTEXT

Amnesty International has called the Gaza blockade a “form of collective punishment of the entire population of Gaza, a flagrant violation of Israel’s obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention.” Human Rights Watch has called the blockade a “serious violation of international law.” The United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, Richard Falk, condemned Israel’s siege of Gaza as amounting to a “crime against humanity.”

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter has said the Palestinian people trapped in Gaza are being treated “like animals,” and has called for “ending of the siege of Gaza” that is depriving “one and a half million people of the necessities of life.”

One of the world’s leading authorities on Gaza, Sara Roy of Harvard University, has said that the consequence of the siege “is undeniably one of mass suffering, created largely by Israel, but with the active complicity of the international community, especially the U.S. and European Union.”

The law is clear. The conscience of humankind is shocked.

The Palestinians of Gaza have exhorted the international community to move beyond words of condemnation.

Yet, the siege of Gaza continues.

Upholding International Law

The illegal siege of Gaza is not happening in a vacuum. It is one of the many illegal acts committed by Israel in the Palestinian territories it occupied militarily in 1967.

The Wall and the settlements are illegal, according to the International Court of Justice at the Hague.

House demolitions and wanton destruction of farm lands are illegal.

The closures and curfews are illegal.

The roadblocks and checkpoints are illegal.

The detention and torture are illegal.

The occupation itself is illegal.

The truth is that if international law were enforced the occupation would end.

An end to the military occupation that began in 1967 is a major condition for establishing a just and lasting peace. For over six decades, the Palestinian people have been denied freedom and rights to self-determination and equality. The hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who were forced out of their homes during Israel’s creation in 1947-48 are still denied the rights granted them by UN Resolution 194.

Sources of Inspiration

The Gaza Freedom March is inspired by decades of nonviolent Palestinian resistance from the mass popular uprising of the first Intifada to the West Bank villagers currently resisting the land grab of Israel’s annexationist wall.

It draws inspiration from the Gazans themselves, who formed a human chain from Rafah to Erez, tore down the border barrier separating Gaza from Egypt, and marched to the six checkpoints separating the occupied Gaza Strip from Israel.

The Freedom March also draws inspiration from the international volunteers who have stood by Palestinian farmers harvesting their crops, from the crews on the vessels who have challenged the Gaza blockade by sea, and from the drivers of the convoys who have delivered humanitarian aid to Gaza.

And it is inspired by Nelson Mandela who said: “I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. … I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.”

It heeds the words of Mahatma Gandhi, who called his movement Satyagraha-Hold on to the truth, and holds to the truth that Israel’s siege of Gaza is illegal and inhuman.

Gandhi said that the purpose of nonviolent action is to “quicken” the conscience of humankind. Through the Freedom March, humankind will not just deplore Israeli brutality but take action to stop it.

Palestinian civil society has followed in the footsteps of Mandela and Gandhi. Just as those two leaders called on international civil society to boycott the goods and institutions of their oppressors, Palestinian associations, trade unions, and mass movements have since 2005 been calling on all people of conscience to support a non-violent campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions until Israel fully complies with its obligations under international law.

The Freedom March also draws inspiration from the civil rights movement in the United States.

If Israel devalues Palestinian life then internationals must both interpose their bodies to shield Palestinians from Israeli brutality and bear personal witness to the inhumanity that Palestinians daily confront.

If Israel defies international law then people of conscience must send non-violent marshals from around the world to enforce the law of the international community in Gaza. The International Coalition to End the Illegal Siege of Gaza will dispatch contingents from around the world to Gaza to mark the anniversary of Israel’s bloody 22-day assault on Gaza in December 2008 – January 2009.

The Freedom March takes no sides in internal Palestinian politics. It sides only with international law and the primacy of human rights.

The March is yet another link in the chain of non-violent resistance to Israel’s flagrant disregard of international law.

Citizens of the world are called upon to join ranks with Palestinians in the January 1st March to lift the inhumane siege of Gaza.

when the announcement for the march went out i wrote a critique of it, particularly about the racist way in which it seemed to be run (epitomized by the march’s first poster which featured no palestinians and just one white man–norman finkelstein). if you read that earlier post you will not be surprised to learn that with the gaza freedom march’s adoption of a palestinian platform–rather than an american platform pushed on palestinian people–finkelstein withdrew his support. here is what pulse media reported he said in response:

Norman Finkelstein’s withdrawal statement:

The original consensus of the International Coalition to End the Illegal Siege of Gaza was that we would limit our statement to a pair of uncontroversial, basic and complementary principles that would have the broadest possible appeal: the march to break the siege would be nonviolent and anchored in international law.

I agreed with this approach and consequent statement and decided to remove myself from the steering committee in order to invest my full energies in mobilizing for the march. During the week beginning August 30, 2009 and in a matter of days an entirely new sectarian agenda dubbed “the political context” was foisted on those who originally signed on and worked tirelessly for three months.

Because it drags in contentious issues that—however precious to different constituencies—are wholly extraneous to the narrow but critical goal of breaking the siege this new agenda is gratuitously divisive and it is almost certain that it will drastically reduce the potential reach of our original appeal.

It should perhaps be stressed that the point of dispute was not whether one personally supported a particular Palestinian right or strategy to end the occupation. It was whether inclusion in the coalition’s statement of a particular right or strategy was necessary if it was both unrelated to the immediate objective of breaking the siege and dimmed the prospect of a truly mass demonstration.

In addition the tactics by which this new agenda was imposed do not bode well for the future of the coalition’s work and will likely move the coalition in an increasingly sectarian direction. I joined the coalition because I believed that an unprecedented opportunity now exists to mobilize a broad public whereby we could make a substantive and not just symbolic contribution towards breaking the illegal and immoral siege of Gaza and, accordingly, realize a genuine and not just token gesture of solidarity with the people of Gaza.

In its present political configuration I no longer believe the coalition can achieve such a goal. Because I would loathe getting bogged down in a petty and squalid public brawl I will not comment further on this matter unless the sequence of events climaxing in my decision to resign are misrepresented by interested parties.

However I would be remiss in my moral obligations were I not humbly to apologize to those who, either coaxed by me or encouraged by my participation, gave selflessly of themselves to make the march a historic event and now feel aggrieved at the abrupt turn of events. It can only be said in extenuation that I along with many others desperately fought to preserve the ecumenical vision that originally inspired the march but the obstacles thrown in our path ultimately proved insurmountable.

problems still remain with the new statement of context. it is far from perfect. it represents, however, a significant compromise, and, more importantly, acknowledges the necessity of abiding by palestinian civil society’s goals as guided by international law. three activists, gabriel ash, mich levy and sara kershnar, authored a very important critique of this new context in electronic intifada that is worth considering for activists invested in justice for palestinian refugees and for palestine more generally:

Changing course is never easy. It would have been far better had this discussion taken place before the call went out. That, however, is a lesson for the future. The compromise led a few of the organizers to leave in anger and recriminations. Some argued that the new context document is “sectarian” and will severely damage the potential of the march. While disputes are inevitable in every political endeavor, we call on all parties to cast aside differences and arguments, to respect the compromise and unite on our common objective, ending the siege of Gaza. What is important now is getting the best and most effective march possible.

We see the context document as a thoughtful attempt to bring together for this march those of us who support boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) and the full objectives of Palestinian liberation — including the right of return and full and equal rights for Palestinians living in Israel — with those activists whose support for lifting the siege of Gaza is largely humanitarian. Contrary to misrepresentations, the context document does not require marchers to adhere to BDS. But as the march puts nonviolence on its banner and claims inspiration from nonviolent Palestinian resistance, it cannot, without being offensive, ignore the increasing presence and far-reaching international impact of BDS as a Palestinian campaign of nonviolent resistance that is endorsed by all factions, including Fatah and Hamas, as well as more than 100 civil society associations. The growing support for BDS among prominent Western figures and mainstream organizations belies the claim that the mere mention of it is divisive.

Nor does the document commit the marchers to support the Palestinian right of return. It does commit the marchers to recognize the Palestinian Nakba and the historical fact that the refugees’ right of return, recognized by UN resolution 194, has been denied. These refugees make up 75 percent of the population of Gaza and are the recipients of this march’s solidarity. To recognize this history does not compel one to agree to any specific resolution of the conflict. But refusing to recognize it denies the history of the Palestinian people, a denial that is inconsistent with any form of solidarity.

The new document’s only demand is the end of the siege of Gaza. There are no other demands. Nothing in it prevents activists committed to a “two-state solution” and a “Jewish state” from participating. We therefore strongly object to representing the new language as an attempt to limit the scope of the march. We take strong offense at the attempt to label the recognition of the concerns of Palestinian liberation within the context of a solidarity action as “sectarian.” We seriously doubt that the number of individuals willing to fly to Egypt and then march in Gaza, yet who refuse to recognize the history of Gaza, is very large.

We are also heartened by the addition of non-governmental partners in Gaza. As soon as the context statement was added, endorsements came from the University Teachers’ Association in Palestine, Palestinian Student’s Campaign, al-Aqsa University, Arab Cultural Forum-Gaza and al-Quds Bank for Culture and Information-Gaza. We are also encouraged by the addition of the International Solidarity Movement and support from members of the South African Palestine solidarity community. The elected government of Gaza has also endorsed the march and will now hopefully increase its assistance.

In supporting this compromise, we are mindful of the original aim of the organizers for large and “ecumenical” participation. We share that goal. However, our conversation would benefit from honesty about the meaning of “ecumenical.” It never means “everybody.” We don’t just want the maximum number of marchers; we want the maximum number that can be achieved without compromising the visions of the diverse organizers and solidarity groups participating in this particular project.

Where should the line be drawn? This is a difficult decision that haunts every political struggle and always requires deliberation, negotiation and compromise. It is misleading to frame the debate as one between those who want maximum participation and those motivated by ideology, in particular when this framing aims to delegitimize the concerns of Palestinian activists representing significant sections of Palestinian grassroots organizing. We all have political lines that we won’t cross. The lines drawn by those at the very heart of the struggle deserve our particular respect.

We now have a fair and inclusive basis for organizing the march, open to proponents of radically different political visions yet respectful of all, and in particular, respectful of Palestinian history and struggle. We must now all strive to make this march as big and as successful as possible.

but this march and is organizing, as well as the organizing around bds, has made me think a lot about what it means to act in solidarity with palestinians, or any group of people for that matter. i recently received an email from a dear friend who decided, after years of trying to persuade him, to join the academic boycott. he signed the statement, but he is still ambivalent about it as a tactic. why? because noam chomsky has not come out in support of it. and this makes me wonder a lot about why chomsky would be the one to defer to? chomsky, like norman finkelstein, are two scholars whose work i admire a great deal. their thinking and writing has influenced me tremendously over my the course of my life. but in the end there are too many barriers for me to fall in line with their thinking: particularly the fact that neither one has signed on to bds andthat neither one supports the right of return for palestinian refugees. here, for example, is chomsky speaking on the subject of sanctions in an interview with christopher j. lee:

Safundi: So you would apply “apartheid” to that broader situation?

Chomsky: I would call it a Bantustan settlement. It’s very close to that. The actions are taken with U.S. funding, crucially. U.S. diplomatic, military, and economic support are crucial. It cannot be done without that.

Safundi: And that is similar to U.S. support for South Africa during the apartheid period through the 1980s.

Chomsky: Yes. As I’m sure you know, the Reagan Administration-which is basically the current people in power, including people like Colin Powell-found ways to evade Congressional restrictions so that they continued to support the apartheid administration, almost until the end.

Safundi: Connected to that…

Chomsky: In the case of Israel, they don’t have to hide it because there are no sanctions.

Safundi: That’s my question. One of the important tactics against the apartheid government was the eventual use of sanctions. Do you see that as a possibility?

Chomsky: No. In fact I’ve been strongly against it in the case of Israel. For a number of reasons. For one thing, even in the case of South Africa, I think sanctions are a very questionable tactic. In the case of South Africa, I think they were [ultimately] legitimate because it was clear that the large majority of the population of South Africa was in favor of it.

Sanctions hurt the population. You don’t impose them unless the population is asking for them. That’s the moral issue. So, the first point in the case of Israel is that: Is the population asking for it? Well, obviously not.

But there is another point. The sanctions against South Africa were finally imposed after years, decades of organization and activism until it got to the point where people could understand why you would want to do it. So by the time sanctions were imposed, you had international corporations supporting them. You had mayors of cities getting arrested in support of them.

So calling for sanctions here, when the majority of the population doesn’t understand what you are doing, is tactically absurd-even if it were morally correct, which I don’t think it is.

The country against which the sanctions are being imposed is not calling for it.

Safundi: Palestinians aren’t calling for sanctions?

Chomsky: Well, the sanctions wouldn’t be imposed against the Palestinians, they would be imposed against Israel.

Safundi: Right…[And] Israelis aren’t calling for sanctions.

Chomsky: Furthermore, there is no need for it. We ought to call for sanctions against the United States! If the U.S. were to stop its massive support for this, it’s over. So, you don’t have to have sanctions on Israel. It’s like putting sanctions on Poland under the Russians because of what the Poles are doing. It doesn’t make sense. Here, we’re the Russians.

Israel will of course do whatever it can as long as the U.S. authorizes it. As soon as the U.S. tells it no, that’s the end. The power relations are very straight forward. It’s not pretty, but that’s the way the world works.

of course, chomsky has a point: in terms of bds the u.s. should be every bit the target. but not in lieu of the zionist entity, but rather in addition to it. but the fact that paestinians are calling for bds means that those of us who want to work in solidarity with palestinians should support that work. but the fact that some people think we should refer to two american jews on the matter of this is disturbing. would one defer to a slavemaster when abolishing slavery? would one defer to a nazi when fighting against concentration camps? would one defer to white southerners when resisting jim crow segregation in the u.s. south? i find this logic racist and deeply problematic. i’m not at all saying that the work of chomsky and finkstein is not important to read, to listen to, to consider. but i am asking people to consider the logic of looking to them as if they were the leaders of the palestinian people. if we’re looking for leaders we need not look beyond haidar eid and omar barghouti for starters. and there are thousands more where they came from.

yes, boycott works.

a couple of weeks ago i posted about the campaign to write to amnesty international in order to get them to comply with the boycott and pull out their funding of a leonard cohen concert in the zionist entity. well, it worked. here is the official statement reporting this victory from the palestinian campaign for the academic and cultural boycott of israel:

Amnesty International has announced today that it will abstain from any involvement in the Leonard Cohen concert in Tel Aviv and will not be party to any fund that benefits from the concert‘s proceeds. A number of media accounts had reported that Amnesty International was to manage or otherwise partner in a fund created from the proceeds of Cohen’s concert in Israel that would be used to benefit Israeli and Palestinian groups. Amnesty International’s announcement today followed an international outcry over the human rights organization’s reported involvement in the Leonard Cohen concert fund, and an earlier international call for Cohen to boycott apartheid Israel.

Omar Barghouti from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) commented, “We welcome Amnesty International’s withdrawal from this ill-conceived project which is clearly intended to whitewash Israel’s violations of international law and human rights. By abandoning the Leonard Cohen project in Tel Aviv, Amnesty International has dealt Cohen and his public relations team a severe blow, denying them the cover of the organization’s prestige and respectability.”

A statement confirming Amnesty‘s withdrawal has now been posted on the Amnesty International website.

boycott, divestment, and sanctions is picking up steam in british unions as well as asa winstanley reported in electronic intifada a couple of weeks ago:

The international campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel has won several important victories in recent months. At this summer’s trade union conferences in Britain, BDS activists have made significant progress.

While the campaign has been building momentum in unions globally since the 2005 Palestinian call for BDS, Israel’s winter invasion of Gaza has spurred several trade unions and union federations in Britain and Ireland to pass motions more explicitly in favor of BDS. Several are calling for BDS for the first time.

Tom Hickey, a member of the University and College Union’s (UCU) national executive committee, said, “The question of the moral rightness or wrongness [of BDS against Israel] has effectively already been decided.”

Although the Trade Union Congress (the British union federation) has not yet passed a BDS motion, affiliated unions have begun taking up the Palestinian call themselves. So far this summer, the public sector union PCS, the UCU and the Fire Brigades Union have all passed strong motions explicitly calling for a general policy of boycott of Israeli goods, divestment from Israeli companies and government sanctions against the state.

Unions such as public sector union UNISON, the National Union of Teachers, USDAW and the Communication Workers Union (CWU) have this summer passed softer motions calling for elements of BDS. These are usually calls for a boycott of settlement goods, or for the government to suspend arms sales to Israel. The CWU and others have condemned the infamous 13 January 2008 statement of the Israeli trade union federation in support of Israel’s invasion of Gaza, which read: “The Histadrut recognizes the urgent need for the State of Israel to operate against the command and control centers of the organizational terror network …”

In addition, a report has been circulating on the Internet that the rail workers’ union, the RMT, has reversed an earlier policy of “solidarity not boycott” and passed a motion in favor of some sort of BDS policy at their July Annual General Meeting. The official AGM report has yet to be released to the general public, but the RMT’s media office confirmed the report was probably accurate. However, they did not return calls for official confirmation in time for publication.

and folks in ann arbor are taking the bds campaign to their local city council making important arguments about americans funding apartheid in palestine (not to mention occupations and massacres in afghanistan, iraq, and pakistan) rather than using those funds to rebuild cities like detroit where a majority african americans live. palestine think tank posted a video of their city council hearing (and you can use this model to do the same at your municipal level):

Vodpod videos no longer available.

there is also good news about a british bank, blackrock, divesting from the africa-israel company (that has a horrific record of land theft as well as massacres in palestine as well as in africa, as the name indicates):

When the British Embassy in Tel Aviv was looking for new premises and was offered the opportunity of occupying a building owned by the investment company Africa-Israel Investments, the ambassador refrained. The reason was that the company was also responsible for settlements on the occupied West Bank. Africa-Israel Investments’ main owner is Israeli diamond magnate Lev Leviev.

Now the UK bank BlackRock has followed in the footsteps of the ambassador.

The bank was for a while the second largest shareholder in the Israeli investment company. Africa-Israel Investments is, among other things, in on the construction of the settlement Ma’aleh Adumim (above). The construction of settlements on occupied Palestinian territory is in conflict with international law.

It was Norwatch who this past spring revealed BlackRock’s investments in the controversial company and how private investors in Norway could invest in the project by means of the fund BlackRock Emerging Europe.

This was possible through Norwegian insurance company Storebrand, Norwegian-Swedish bank Skandiabanken, and the Norwegian-Danish Danica Pensjon.

But after all 3 banks have taken action, the British bank has now announced its divestment from the Israeli company. This must have happened sometime between June and August, possibly as late as this week.

“We have received confirmation from BlackRock that Africa-Israel Investments no longer is part of their portfolio,” Johnny Anderson, Information Manager of Skandiabanken, confirmed to Norwatch. The confirmation of the divestment was sent to Skandiabanken the day before yesterday, on 18 August.

“The way I interpret the e-mail I have received, Africa-Israel is no longer to be found in any of BlackRock’s funds,” Anderson said.

The e-mail from BlackRock to Skandiabanken was sent after the Swedish-Norwegian bank had approached BlackRock with regard to the controversial Israel involvement. That is the first time that Skandiabanken had contacted BlackRock about the case. Also the bank Danica Pensjon end of last week contacted BlackRock about the matter, confirmed Geir Wik, Sales and Marketing Director of Danica Pensjon to Norwatch yesterday.

and the big surprise was to open my local newspaper the other morning, the los angeles times, where i found a prominent op-ed from a zionist terrorist colonist advocating the boycott of the zionist entity. the article is generally good, though this professor, neve gordon, still believes in zionism and his right to be a colonist on palestinian land. but given that he came this far, perhaps an acknowledgment that he does not have a right to land that once belonged to palestinians who are now refugees will be forthcoming. here is the op-ed:

Israeli newspapers this summer are filled with angry articles about the push for an international boycott of Israel. Films have been withdrawn from Israeli film festivals, Leonard Cohen is under fire around the world for his decision to perform in Tel Aviv, and Oxfam has severed ties with a celebrity spokesperson, a British actress who also endorses cosmetics produced in the occupied territories. Clearly, the campaign to use the kind of tactics that helped put an end to the practice of apartheid in South Africa is gaining many followers around the world.

Not surprisingly, many Israelis — even peaceniks — aren’t signing on. A global boycott can’t help but contain echoes of anti-Semitism. It also brings up questions of a double standard (why not boycott China for its egregious violations of human rights?) and the seemingly contradictory position of approving a boycott of one’s own nation.

It is indeed not a simple matter for me as an Israeli citizen to call on foreign governments, regional authorities, international social movements, faith-based organizations, unions and citizens to suspend cooperation with Israel. But today, as I watch my two boys playing in the yard, I am convinced that it is the only way that Israel can be saved from itself.

I say this because Israel has reached a historic crossroads, and times of crisis call for dramatic measures. I say this as a Jew who has chosen to raise his children in Israel, who has been a member of the Israeli peace camp for almost 30 years and who is deeply anxious about the country’s future.

The most accurate way to describe Israel today is as an apartheid state. For more than 42 years, Israel has controlled the land between the Jordan Valley and the Mediterranean Sea. Within this region about 6 million Jews and close to 5 million Palestinians reside. Out of this population, 3.5 million Palestinians and almost half a million Jews live in the areas Israel occupied in 1967, and yet while these two groups live in the same area, they are subjected to totally different legal systems. The Palestinians are stateless and lack many of the most basic human rights. By sharp contrast, all Jews — whether they live in the occupied territories or in Israel — are citizens of the state of Israel.

The question that keeps me up at night, both as a parent and as a citizen, is how to ensure that my two children as well as the children of my Palestinian neighbors do not grow up in an apartheid regime.

There are only two moral ways of achieving this goal.

The first is the one-state solution: offering citizenship to all Palestinians and thus establishing a bi-national democracy within the entire area controlled by Israel. Given the demographics, this would amount to the demise of Israel as a Jewish state; for most Israeli Jews, it is anathema.

The second means of ending our apartheid is through the two-state solution, which entails Israel’s withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders (with possible one-for-one land swaps), the division of Jerusalem, and a recognition of the Palestinian right of return with the stipulation that only a limited number of the 4.5 million Palestinian refugees would be allowed to return to Israel, while the rest can return to the new Palestinian state.

Geographically, the one-state solution appears much more feasible because Jews and Palestinians are already totally enmeshed; indeed, “on the ground,” the one-state solution (in an apartheid manifestation) is a reality.

Ideologically, the two-state solution is more realistic because fewer than 1% of Jews and only a minority of Palestinians support binationalism.

For now, despite the concrete difficulties, it makes more sense to alter the geographic realities than the ideological ones. If at some future date the two peoples decide to share a state, they can do so, but currently this is not something they want.

So if the two-state solution is the way to stop the apartheid state, then how does one achieve this goal?

I am convinced that outside pressure is the only answer. Over the last three decades, Jewish settlers in the occupied territories have dramatically increased their numbers. The myth of the united Jerusalem has led to the creation of an apartheid city where Palestinians aren’t citizens and lack basic services. The Israeli peace camp has gradually dwindled so that today it is almost nonexistent, and Israeli politics are moving more and more to the extreme right.

It is therefore clear to me that the only way to counter the apartheid trend in Israel is through massive international pressure. The words and condemnations from the Obama administration and the European Union have yielded no results, not even a settlement freeze, let alone a decision to withdraw from the occupied territories.

I consequently have decided to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that was launched by Palestinian activists in July 2005 and has since garnered widespread support around the globe. The objective is to ensure that Israel respects its obligations under international law and that Palestinians are granted the right to self-determination.

In Bilbao, Spain, in 2008, a coalition of organizations from all over the world formulated the 10-point Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign meant to pressure Israel in a “gradual, sustainable manner that is sensitive to context and capacity.” For example, the effort begins with sanctions on and divestment from Israeli firms operating in the occupied territories, followed by actions against those that help sustain and reinforce the occupation in a visible manner. Along similar lines, artists who come to Israel in order to draw attention to the occupation are welcome, while those who just want to perform are not.

Nothing else has worked. Putting massive international pressure on Israel is the only way to guarantee that the next generation of Israelis and Palestinians — my two boys included — does not grow up in an apartheid regime.

nevertheless his op-ed is getting quite a bit of airtime in the zionist entity’s media. thus, yet another sign of their fear of how much the boycott campaign is working. there was one article in today’s ha’aretz in which the education minister slammed gordon. and los angeles jews seem to be foaming at the mouth as this second article in ha’aretz today shows that they want to boycott a university in the zionist entity (a win-win situation! ) there was yet another article responding to gordon’s piece in a zionist rag called the jewish journal, which takes the threats even further: to boycott he arabs.

gordon’s ben gurion university is no different than any other university in the zionist entity that participates in the production of knowledge that enables the colonization of palestine. recently soas authored a report on the extent of tel aviv university’s collaboration in the savaging of gaza (if you follow the link you can download the entire study):

As part of Tel Aviv’s centenary celebration, the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London hosted a Tel Aviv University Special Lecture Series from January to March 2009.

Taking place in the midst of Israel’s war on Gaza — which had already mobilized SOAS students to organize a number of activities in solidarity with Gaza, including the first student occupation in the UK — students and a number of lecturers expressed their opposition to the lecture series.

The student union overwhelmingly passed a motion criticizing the lecture series’ attempt to whitewash Tel Aviv’s colonial past and present and called for the end of SOAS’s collaboration with Tel Aviv University (TAU) in hosting the series on the grounds of its role in giving key legal, technological and strategic support for maintaining and expanding Israel’s colonial occupation. The School’s Director, Professor Paul Webley, opposed the cancellation and defended the continuation of the lecture series by invoking a prerogative of freedom of speech and citing the pedagogic value of diversities of opinion. Conspicuously absent in the Director’s defense was any engagement with the nature and scope of TAU’s research portfolio.

In response to the director’s failure to acknowledge the serious implications of collaboration with TAU that undermined the reputation, integrity and fundamental ethical principles of SOAS, the SOAS Palestine Society prepared a briefing paper for him and the Governing Body outlining TAU’s intensive, purposive and open institutional contributions to the Israeli military. While the signatories of the briefing paper recognized the importance of freedom of speech, they were also keenly aware of the need to uphold the rights of the oppressed and expressed that no right reigns absolute over the fundamental right to life. It is precisely therefore that it is wholly untenable that partnerships with institutions facilitating, advocating and justifying ongoing war crimes can be legitimized with recourse to an ideal of academic freedom.

compare soas to harvard university’s invitation to a bona fide war criminal of the zionist entity last month as maryam monalisa gharavi and anat matar wrote in electronic intifada last month:

On 9 July Harvard University’s Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research (HPCR) invited Colonel Pnina Sharvit-Baruch, former Israeli military legal adviser, to their online Humanitarian Law and Policy Forum. The stated aim was to bring “objective” discussion to the principle of distinction in international humanitarian law, or what the forum organizers called “combat in civilian population centers and the failure of fighters to distinguish themselves from the civilian population.”

Although billed as a lecturer in the Law Faculty at Tel Aviv University — and therefore as a detached humanitarian law analyst — Colonel Sharvit-Baruch was in fact deeply involved in Israel’s three-week onslaught in Gaza in December and January, that counted its 1,505th victim found under rubble earlier this month. With the devastating operation condemned and mourned worldwide, many asked why a ranking member of an occupying army that flouts its legal obligations should herself receive safe havens at two major universities.

What troubled many of the 200 or so participants who “attended” the talk via a virtual chatroom was that Sharvit-Baruch was cut off from public or legal scrutiny as she relayed her PowerPoint presentation. Questions were posed by the moderators, sanitized of any critical content. Yet the indisputable fact is that the army for which Sharvit-Baruch worked has been accused by all major human rights organizations of committing war crimes in Gaza. Some wondered why Sharvit-Baruch was being given the opportunity to offer a carefully prepared presentation unchallenged in an academic setting, rather than giving testimony to a tribunal or inquiry such as that being conducted Judge Richard Goldstone, the South African jurist heading an independent fact-finding mission into human rights violations during Israel’s attack at the request of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Since the event organizers did not ask pointed questions about Colonel Sharvit-Baruch’s actual role in Gaza, it is worth doing so here. As head of the International Law department (ILD) at the Israeli Military Advocate General’s office, Sharvit-Baruch is known for green-lighting the bombing of a police graduation ceremony in Gaza that killed dozens of civil policemen. This was no ordinary airstrike. It was premised on a legal sleight-of-hand: that even traffic cops in Gaza could be considered “legitimate targets” under international law. In a conversation with conscripts at a military prep academy in Israel, school director Danny Zamir noted, “I was terribly surprised by the enthusiasm surrounding the killing of the Gaza traffic police on the first day of the operation. They took out 180 traffic cops. As a pilot, I would have questioned that.”

Further, the Israeli army used heavy artillery and white phosphorus munitions in densely populated areas of Gaza, against the UNRWA’s headquarters and a UN school in Beit Lahiya. As reported by Judge Goldstone, Gazans trying to relay their civilian status were also hit. Even though the Israeli military tried several times to deny its use, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) report on white phosphorous use in Gaza quotes an unnamed Israeli official: “at least one month before [white phosphorus] was used a legal team had been consulted on the implications.” HRW found that “in violation of the laws of war, the [Israeli army] generally failed to take all feasible precautions to minimize civilian harm” and “used white phosphorus in an indiscriminate manner causing civilian death and injury.”

Such reckless disregard for the lives of civilians and pathological cover-ups of military operations are recognized by many Israelis within the system itself. According to one Israeli jurist speaking to the Israeli daily Haaretz, the ILD is considered “more militant than any other legal agency in Israel, and willing to adopt the most flexible interpretations of the law in order to justify the [Israel army’s] actions.” Although the ILD personnel “are now very proud of their influence upon the combat” in Gaza, human rights groups have stated that “residents weren’t advised then as to which places were safe, and the roads by which they fled were bombed and turned into death traps.”

One of the most indelible perspectives about Israel’s legal gymnastics to justify its actions comes from Colonel Sharvit-Baruch’s predecessor, Daniel Reisner. “What is being done today is a revision of international law,” Reisner has said, “and if you do something long enough, the world will accept it. All of international law is built on that an act which is forbidden today can become permissible, if enough states do it.” In expressing how the ILD moves forward by turning back the pages of legal jurisdiction, Reisner says, “We invented the doctrine of the preemptive pinpoint strike, we had to promote it, and in the beginning there were protrusions which made it difficult to fit it easily into the mold of legality. Eight years later, it’s in the middle of the realm of legitimacy.”

Sharvit-Baruch herself explained her vision of international law at a presentation for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs: “International law is developed according to practices. It changes based on what is happening in the field. These laws must be based on precedents, what already exists. There is flexibility in every law.” By this law of flexibility, the more aberrations of international law a state can legitimize, the more hoary actions it can continue to execute and justify.

Since the attack on Gaza, numerous testimonies of Israeli soldiers published in Israel, have corroborated the accounts of Palestinian witnesses and human rights organizations that serious war crimes were endemic.

Despite the blunt admissions of Israeli soldiers widely published in the Israeli press, it was clear from her calm presentation that Sharvit-Baruch and her cohort live in their own rhetorical universe where even language is assaulted. In the Colonel’s own terminology, non-existent vocabulary in international law such as “capacity builders” and “revolving doors” is coined to pass over accepted terms such as “civilians” and “non-combatants.” Like the US government’s “torture memo” authors — who in contrast to Israel’s were not uniformed ranking members of the army — the Israeli military attempted to reclassify a “civilian” in a manner making it easier to strip them of protections provided by international humanitarian law. “Architecture of words,” said one participant

Despite all this, by her own standards, Sharvit-Baruch and her team could not be faulted for their efficiency: in Gaza, banning all media from entering; assaulting the population with air missiles, sniper ground troops, and white phosphorus; condemning all criticism of military actions as contrary to state security; keeping a chin above the law; attaining a teaching position at Tel Aviv University and finally a prestigious opportunity to address Harvard students and faculty.

but in england they are far more advanced than the united states when it comes to responding to war crimes against palestinians. consider the new (albeit partial) arms embargo against the zionist entity as a penalty for its war crimes in gaza as ian black reported in the guardian:

Britain has revoked export licences for weapons on Israeli navy missile boats because of their use during the offensive against the Gaza Strip.

The licences apparently covered spare parts for guns on the Sa’ar 4.5 ships, which reportedly fired missiles and artillery shells into the Palestinian coastal territory during the three-week war, which started in late December.

Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, shrugged off what he called one of “many embargoes”. The foreign office in London insisted the rare move did not constitute an embargo but was the application of normal UK and EU export licensing criteria. Still, it linked the decision directly to Operation Cast Lead – the Israeli codename for the attacks – and described it as similar to action taken against Russia and Georgia after their conflict last year.

A spokesman for Amnesty International, citing the “weight of evidence” that Israel had committed war crimes in Gaza, said: “It’s a step forward but it doesn’t go nearly far enough.”

Israel’s defence ministry made no comment but Lieberman told state radio: “We’ve had many embargoes in the past. This shouldn’t bother us.”

Israel gets the bulk of its military requirements from the US, more than 95% according to some estimates. The UK accounts for less than 1% or about £30m worth of exports a year.

but there is also more bds activism emanating from the zionist entity itself, particularly in the queer community as the monthly review zine reported today:

Contrary to the mediated attempt to describe Israel as a force of liberation and progress, we see objecting to apartheid Israel as an act of solidarity with the Palestinian people, including LGBTQ Palestinians. LGBTQ Palestinians are not going to be “saved” by a so-called gay-friendly Zionist state. Organized LGBTQ Palestinians reject the myth of Israel as an “oasis of tolerance.”

We are disturbed by the cynical manipulation of these deaths to bolster support for the Israeli state and its violent policies. When Israeli politicians say that this is an unprecedented level of violence, and promise to create safety for LGBTQ people in Israel, they are using the promise of safety to hide the violence and domination that is foundational to the Israeli state. When Zionist groups emphasize the growing gay nightlife in Tel Aviv, they are using the illusion of safety to draw support and funding to Israel from liberal queer and Jewish people around the world. We reject these lies, as well as the manipulation of our communities for profit and to increase military and political support for Israel.

Just as we reject the lie that Zionism is premised on the safety of Jews, we reject the lie that Israel prioritizes and values the safety of LGBTQ citizens of Israel. The safety Israel claims to extend to LGBTQ people is false; we do not accept an illusion of safety for some at the expense of self determination for others. No matter who Zionism claims to save or value, nothing can justify the targeting, suppression and oppression of the Palestinian people.

We call on LGBTQ communities to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle against Israeli violence. Putting words into action, we call on LGBTQ communities across the world to endorse the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with full international law, including an immediate end to the occupation and colonization of Palestine, a dismantling of the wall, an end to war crimes against the people of Gaza, and for the Palestinian Right of Return.

Specifically, we call on these communities to boycott international LGBTQ events held inside of Israel; to abstain from touring Israel as is marketed to LGBTQ people — with the exception of solidarity visits to Palestine; and to counter and boycott the promotion of Israeli LGBTQ tourism, and Israeli cultural and academic events in the countries in which we reside — unless they are in clear and undivided solidarity with Palestine. By these actions, we show a commitment to justice and humanity consistent with our outrage against this hateful and deadly attack that occurred in Tel Aviv.

This statement was drafted by members of the following organizations:

International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, Toronto
Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism

and

The following BDS activists from Israel:

Ayala Shani
Edo Medicks
Emily Schaeffer
Hamutal Erato
Leiser Peles
Liad Kantorowicz
Moran Livnat
Nitzan Aviv
Noa Abend
Rotem Biran
Roy Wagner
Segev (Lilach) Ben- David
Sonya Soloviov
Tal Shapira
Yossef/a Mekyton
Yossi Wolfson
Yotam Ben-David

these actions are all essential in promoting the reality that bds is the only thing that is breaking the zionist entity and that will continue to help it fall to its knees. faris giacaman’s brilliant piece in electronic intifada illustrates precisely why bds is the best mode of solidarity among activists who are against apartheid in palestine:

Upon finding out that I am Palestinian, many people I meet at college in the United States are eager to inform me of various activities that they have participated in that promote “coexistence” and “dialogue” between both sides of the “conflict,” no doubt expecting me to give a nod of approval. However, these efforts are harmful and undermine the Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment and sanctions of Israel — the only way of pressuring Israel to cease its violations of Palestinians’ rights.

When I was a high school student in Ramallah, one of the better known “people-to-people” initiatives, Seeds of Peace, often visited my school, asking students to join their program. Almost every year, they would send a few of my classmates to a summer camp in the US with a similar group of Israeli students. According to the Seeds of Peace website, at the camp they are taught “to develop empathy, respect, and confidence as well as leadership, communication and negotiation skills — all critical components that will facilitate peaceful coexistence for the next generation.” They paint quite a rosy picture, and most people in college are very surprised to hear that I think such activities are misguided at best, and immoral, at worst. Why on earth would I be against “coexistence,” they invariably ask?

During the last few years, there have been growing calls to bring to an end Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people through an international movement of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS). One of the commonly-held objections to the boycott is that it is counter-productive, and that “dialogue” and “fostering coexistence” is much more constructive than boycotts.

With the beginning of the Oslo accords in 1993, there has been an entire industry that works toward bringing Israelis and Palestinians together in these “dialogue” groups. The stated purpose of such groups is the creating of understanding between “both sides of the conflict,” in order to “build bridges” and “overcome barriers.” However, the assumption that such activities will help facilitate peace is not only incorrect, but is actually morally lacking.

The presumption that dialogue is needed in order to achieve peace completely ignores the historical context of the situation in Palestine. It assumes that both sides have committed, more or less, an equal amount of atrocities against one another, and are equally culpable for the wrongs that have been done. It is assumed that not one side is either completely right or completely wrong, but that both sides have legitimate claims that should be addressed, and certain blind spots that must be overcome. Therefore, both sides must listen to the “other” point of view, in order to foster understanding and communication, which would presumably lead to “coexistence” or “reconciliation.”

Such an approach is deemed “balanced” or “moderate,” as if that is a good thing. However, the reality on the ground is vastly different than the “moderate” view of this so-called “conflict.” Even the word “conflict” is misleading, because it implies a dispute between two symmetric parties. The reality is not so; it is not a case of simple misunderstanding or mutual hatred which stands in the way of peace. The context of the situation in Israel/Palestine is that of colonialism, apartheid and racism, a situation in which there is an oppressor and an oppressed, a colonizer and a colonized.

In cases of colonialism and apartheid, history shows that colonial regimes do not relinquish power without popular struggle and resistance, or direct international pressure. It is a particularly naive view to assume that persuasion and “talking” will convince an oppressive system to give up its power.

The apartheid regime in South Africa, for instance, was ended after years of struggle with the vital aid of an international campaign of sanctions, divestments and boycotts. If one had suggested to the oppressed South Africans living in bantustans to try and understand the other point of view (i.e. the point of view of South African white supremacists), people would have laughed at such a ridiculous notion. Similarly, during the Indian struggle for emancipation from British colonial rule, Mahatma Gandhi would not have been venerated as a fighter for justice had he renounced satyagraha — “holding firmly to the truth,” his term for his nonviolent resistance movement — and instead advocated for dialogue with the occupying British colonialists in order to understand their side of the story.

Now, it is true that some white South Africans stood in solidarity with the oppressed black South Africans, and participated in the struggle against apartheid. And there were, to be sure, some British dissenters to their government’s colonial policies. But those supporters explicitly stood alongside the oppressed with the clear objective of ending oppression, of fighting the injustices perpetrated by their governments and representatives. Any joint gathering of both parties, therefore, can only be morally sound when the citizens of the oppressive state stand in solidarity with the members of the oppressed group, not under the banner of “dialogue” for the purpose of “understanding the other side of the story.” Dialogue is only acceptable when done for the purpose of further understanding the plight of the oppressed, not under the framework of having “both sides heard.”

It has been argued, however, by the Palestinian proponents of these dialogue groups, that such activities may be used as a tool — not to promote so-called “understanding,” — but to actually win over Israelis to the Palestinian struggle for justice, by persuading them or “having them recognize our humanity.”

However, this assumption is also naive. Unfortunately, most Israelis have fallen victim to the propaganda that the Zionist establishment and its many outlets feed them from a young age. Moreover, it will require a huge, concerted effort to counter this propaganda through persuasion. For example, most Israelis will not be convinced that their government has reached a level of criminality that warrants a call for boycott. Even if they are logically convinced of the brutalities of Israeli oppression, it will most likely not be enough to rouse them into any form of action against it. This has been proven to be true time and again, evident in the abject failure of such dialogue groups to form any comprehensive anti-occupation movement ever since their inception with the Oslo process. In reality, nothing short of sustained pressure — not persuasion — will make Israelis realize that Palestinian rights have to be rectified. That is the logic of the BDS movement, which is entirely opposed to the false logic of dialogue.

Based on an unpublished 2002 report by the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, the San Francisco Chronicle reported last October that “between 1993 and 2000 [alone], Western governments and foundations spent between $20 million and $25 million on the dialogue groups.” A subsequent wide-scale survey of Palestinians who participated in the dialogue groups revealed that this great expenditure failed to produce “a single peace activist on either side.” This affirms the belief among Palestinians that the entire enterprise is a waste of time and money.

The survey also revealed that the Palestinian participants were not fully representative of their society. Many participants tended to be “children or friends of high-ranking Palestinian officials or economic elites. Only seven percent of participants were refugee camp residents, even though they make up 16 percent of the Palestinian population.” The survey also found that 91 percent of Palestinian participants no longer maintained ties with Israelis they met. In addition, 93 percent were not approached with follow-up camp activity, and only five percent agreed the whole ordeal helped “promote peace culture and dialogue between participants.”

Despite the resounding failure of these dialogue projects, money continues to be invested in them. As Omar Barghouti, one of the founding members of the BDS movement in Palestine, explained in The Electronic Intifada, “there have been so many attempts at dialogue since 1993 … it became an industry — we call it the peace industry.”

This may be partly attributed to two factors. The dominant factor is the useful role such projects play in public relations. For example, the Seeds of Peace website boosts its legitimacy by featuring an impressive array of endorsements by popular politicians and authorities, such as Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, George Mitchell, Shimon Peres, George Bush, Colin Powell and Tony Blair, amongst others. The second factor is the need of certain Israeli “leftists” and “liberals” to feel as if they are doing something admirable to “question themselves,” while in reality they take no substantive stand against the crimes that their government commits in their name. The politicians and Western governments continue to fund such projects, thereby bolstering their images as supporters of “coexistence,” and the “liberal” Israeli participants can exonerate themselves of any guilt by participating in the noble act of “fostering peace.” A symbiotic relationship, of sorts.

The lack of results from such initiatives is not surprising, as the stated objectives of dialogue and “coexistence” groups do not include convincing Israelis to help Palestinians gain the respect of their inalienable rights. The minimum requirement of recognizing Israel’s inherently oppressive nature is absent in these dialogue groups. Rather, these organizations operate under the dubious assumption that the “conflict” is very complex and multifaceted, where there are “two sides to every story,” and each narrative has certain valid claims as well as biases.

As the authoritative call by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel makes plain, any joint Palestinian-Israeli activities — whether they be film screenings or summer camps — can only be acceptable when their stated objective is to end, protest, and/or raise awareness of the oppression of the Palestinians.

Any Israeli seeking to interact with Palestinians, with the clear objective of solidarity and helping them to end oppression, will be welcomed with open arms. Caution must be raised, however, when invitations are made to participate in a dialogue between “both sides” of the so-called “conflict.” Any call for a “balanced” discourse on this issue — where the motto “there are two sides to every story” is revered almost religiously — is intellectually and morally dishonest, and ignores the fact that, when it comes to cases of colonialism, apartheid, and oppression, there is no such thing as “balance.” The oppressor society, by and large, will not give up its privileges without pressure. This is why the BDS campaign is such an important instrument of change.

for those who feel inspired to carry on the bds campaign there is a new campaign to initiate. you can start with locating where wine from the zionist entity is sold, which is, of course, made from stolen grapes in from occupied palestine and syria:

Israel exports roughly $22 million dollars worth of wine a year, according to the Central Statistics Bureau.

Founded in 2002, the family-owned Pelter winery in the Golan Heights benefits from the cool climate and water-rich soil of the plateau, which Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed in 1981 – a move rejected by the United Nations.

Sam Pelter, whose son Tal founded the winery after extensive wine-making studies in Australia, says he combines Australian techniques and technology with Golan grapes. His wines sell at $18-$50 a bottle and are sold in the United States and Europe.

Some 18-20 percent of Israeli wine comes from the Golan, according to wine critic Rogov, though wines made on disputed land can sometimes invite controversy.

Last December, Syria protested to UN leaders that Israel had distributed Golan wine as year-end holiday gifts to UN staff. In 2006, Israel complained that Sweden was labelling Golan wines as coming from Israeli-occupied Syrian territory.

Israeli settlers also make wine on Arab land in the West Bank, sometimes drawing boycotts by peace activists.

Political sensitivities have not stopped Pelter’s wines making a splash abroad.

god damn america and all the other racist states boycotting durban 2

there was a little noticed news item on ynet yesterday that i found rather disturbing:

London Times reports Israeli Air Force gearing for possibility of strike on Tehran ‘within days, maybe hours if given the green light.’ National Security Studies Institute member says that despite reports, attack unlikely without US support

The Israeli military is preparing itself to launch a massive aerial assault on Iran’s nuclear facilities within days of being given the go-ahead by its new government, the London Times reported Saturday.

Among the steps taken to ready Israeli forces for what would be a risky raid, requiring pinpoint aerial strikes, are the acquisition of three Airborne Warning and Control (AWAC) aircraft and regional missions to simulate the attack….

The possible Israeli strike on Iran has drawn comparisons to its attack on the Osirak nuclear facility near Baghdad in 1981. The strike eradicated the facility in under 100 seconds, with no Israeli losses.

“We would not make the threat (against Iran) without the force to back it. There has been a recent move, a number of on-the-ground preparations, that indicate Israel’s willingness to act,” said another official from Israel’s intelligence community.

He added that it was unlikely that Israel would carry out the attack without receiving at least tacit approval from the United States, which has so far advocated a more reconciliatory tone in dealing with Iran under its new administration.

An Israeli attack on Iran would entail flying over Jordanian and Iraqi airspace, where US forces have a strong presence.

of course israeli terrorist threats against iran are nothing new. they have fomenting over attacking iran for years now. and yet they zionist entity was enraged over mahmoud ahmadinejad’s address at the united nations world conference against racism today. here is a ma’an news report on it:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused Israel of being the “most cruel and racist regime,” at the UN’s Durban Review Conference against racism in Geneva on Monday.

Ahmadinejad’s speech sparked a walkout by some European Diplomats. The Iranian leader’s presence at a meeting already charged with political tensions. The United States and eight other counties boycotted over the meeting over concerns that Israel would be criticized.

“The UN security council has stabilised this occupation regime and supported it in the last 60 years giving them a free hand to continue their crimes,” he told the delegates to the conference.

Ahmadinejad also criticized American “arrogance and condescension” in its occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and blamed the US for the global financial crisis.

palestine video blog has a clip from cnn of ahmadinejad’s speech in which he discusses the hypocrisy of western nations to unevenly condemn racism and genocide in some parts of the world, but never when it comes to palestine. you can also see ex-colonial leaders walk out during his speech. perhaps what ahmadinejad was saying was too close to home given their colonial (and now neocolonial) crimes against the global south.

but the best news came when alan dershowitz was removed from the facility after threatening to challenge ahmadinejad (i would so love to see a video of this!) :

Federal agents in Geneva on Sunday escorted Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz away from the Geneva hotel were Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz were meeting, after he declared plans to challenge the Iranian leader about his views on the Holocaust and Israel.

but it is not only dershowitz. others have joined in the boycott of the durban 2 conference in geneva. julian borger in the guardian added some to the list of those nations boycotting as a result of ahmadinejad’s presence at the conference:

Last night it emerged that Germany, Poland and the Netherlands would join a boycott led by the US and Israel. France and Britain are attending but have said they will walk out of the conference in Geneva if offensive language is used at the podium.

and al jazeera is reporting still more boycotting nations:

Following Saturday’s announcement by the US that it would stay away, Germany, Australia, the Netherlands and New Zealand joined the boycott on Sunday, with Italy also expected to not show.

Israel’s allies say the forum, to start on Monday, could become a platform for criticising it, with the US citing “objectionable” language in a text prepared for the Geneva meeting which Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s president, is set to address on its opening day.

funnily enough it seems that the zionist entity itself is not boycotting durban 2 as they are out in full force with their propaganda machine in geneva:

Israel, which had said it would boycott the event from the outset, announced it would launch a publicity campaign while it is going on. Israel is particularly concerned with the planned address by Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and said it will organize demonstrations during the speech, and will distribute materials on human rights violations in Iran – with particular emphasis on public executions and violence against women.

The campaign will be overseen by Israel Ambassador to Geneva Ronnie Lashno-Yaar. He will be assisted by Nobel Prize laureate Elie Weisel, U.S. law Prof. Alan Dershowitz and film actor Jon Voight. A special media room will also be set up in Geneva, to provide immediate responses to anti-Israeli statements.

A special delegation of 14 Israeli students will also be taking part. All the students speak foreign languages and have undergone extensive training by the Foreign Ministry and the World Jewish Congress.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman issued a statement yesterday, saying “an international conference in which a racist like Ahmadinejad, who preaches daily about Israel’s destruction, is allowed to speak, says all that needs to be said about its character and purpose.”

ah yes, the zionist entity’s racist in chief is calling ahmadinejad racist. where is the irony? the zionist entity is plotting a bombing campaign of iran and the man who regularly calls for the ethnic cleansing of palestinians is calling ahmadinejad racist.

and still threats posed from the zionist entity are a part of the problem as the zionist entity pulled its ambassador from switzerland over this conference as ha’aretz reported:

Israel said it was recalling its ambassador to Switzerland on Monday in protest at a United Nations conference on racism in Geneva attended by Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

but these leaders of ex-colonial or current colonial or imperial regimes are those who have institutionalized racism in the most brutal ways within their borders and outside their borders as well. they are the culprits of racism and the exporters of racism and thus they know that this is precisely why they must boycott because they are implicated in all that is discussed. take, for instance, the united states terrorism in pakistan where jeremy scahill updates us on how many dead there are as a result of our killing machines:

As we have previously reported, in just the first 99 days of 2009, US drone airstrikes against Pakistan have killed 152 people, averaging 38 killings per month and 11 killings per attack, according to the Pakistani government. Pakistani officials say three were carried out in January, killing 30 people, two in February killing 55 people, five in March killing 36 people and four were conducted in the first nine days of April, killing 31 people. Moreover, the government says that since 2006, the strikes have killed only 14 “al Qaeda” leaders but have taken the lives of nearly 700 civilians.

perhaps this is why chris hedges framed his critique of the boycott of durban 2 in relation to reverend jeremiah wright:

The Obama administration at first refused to participate in the preliminary negotiations for the conference, chaired by Russia, Iran and Libya. It then agreed to attend for one week. It demanded the removal of references to Israel in the document outlining the goals of the conference. The references were removed. It also demanded other insidious changes, as Vernellia R. Randall, a University of Dayton Ohio law professor, pointed out. The Obama administration asked that the call for reparations for African-Americans be expunged. It insisted that the description of the transatlantic slave trade as “a crime against humanity” be cut. And it demanded the elimination of a call to strengthen the U.N. “Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent,” which deals with the African diaspora.

The document, however, ratified “Durban I,” which was the concluding document of the first World Conference Against Racism, held in South Africa in 2001. The 2001 document included a harsh condemnation of Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians. And this, finally, proved too much for Washington.

“Barack Obama knows full well that he risks nothing by disrespecting African Americans at will,” wrote Glen Ford, the executive editor of The Black Agenda Report. “Across the Black political spectrum, so-called leadership seems incapable of shame or of taking manly or womanly offense at even the most blatant insults to Black people when the source of the affront is Barack Hussein Obama.”

The United States, which has a museum to the Jewish Holocaust in Washington but has never found the moral courage to officially atone for its role in slavery and the genocide of Native Americans, perpetuates a disturbing historical amnesia. Our national myth and deification of the Founding Fathers studiously preclude an examination of the bloody conquest, open racism, misogyny, elitism and brutality that led to the country’s establishment and that fester like an open wound.

We failed to fully participate in every world conference on racism, including those held in 1978, 1983 and 2001. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell and his delegation during the 2001 conference in Durban, South Africa, walked out because of what the Americans termed “Israel-bashing.”

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, on April 13, 2003, gave a 40-minute sermon called “Confusing God and Government.” Only a clip from the sermon—the phrase “God Damn America”—made it onto the airwaves. It was repeated in endless loops on cable news channels and used to turn Wright into a pariah. Obama denounced his former pastor. The rest of the sermon, and especially the context in which the phrase was used, was ignored. Obama would be a better president if he listened to voices like Wright’s and listened less to his pollsters and advisers.

The sermon was a cry from those who cannot forget what white and privileged Americans—as well as, now, the Obama administration—want us to ignore. It was a reminder that there are two narratives of America. And until these narratives converge, until we all accept the truth of our past, justice will never be done. We will continue until then to speak in two irreconcilable languages, one that acknowledges the pain of the past and seeks atonement and one that does not. We will continue to be two Americas.

“This government lied about their belief that all men were created equal,” Wright told his congregation. “The truth is they believed that all white men were created equal. The truth is they did not even believe that white women were created equal, in creation nor civilization. The government had to pass an amendment to the Constitution to get white women the vote. Then the government had to pass an equal rights amendment to get equal protection under the law for women. The government still thinks a woman has no rights over her own body, and between Uncle Clarence [Thomas], who sexually harassed Anita Hill, and a closeted Klan court that is a throwback to the 19th century, handpicked by Daddy Bush, Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, between Clarence and that stacked court, they are about to undo Roe vs. Wade, just like they are about to undo affirmative action. The government lied in its founding documents and the government is still lying today. Governments lie.”

so being inspired by hedges i think it is time for us to revisit wright and try to listen to his brilliant, poetic sermon again. to hear what he is telling us about the u.s. and all the other racist colonial, (post)colonial, neocolonial regimes around the world perpetrate racism through genocide, internment, imprisonment, and war:

and here is the real news report showing obama discussing why the united states is boycotting durban (check hedges for clarification on the facts). if only obama hadn’t left wright’s church. if only wright had made some sort of impact on his thinking…

of course the focus has been on the zionist entity all along, but it is important to remember the united states’ other crimes against its own people and people around the world are also a big part of its fear of attending such a conference. but, of course, much of the focus is on the zionist entity because of the daily racist war crimes it commits. here is the latest–a newfangled ethnic cleansing scheme to ethnically cleanse al quds of its inhabitants. while the israeli terrorists destroy homes they are now scheming about how to destroy families and forcibly remove palestinians from their land through the identity card as jacky rowland reported for al jazeera:

yes, zionism = racism. yes, zionism must be squashed. and yes, all forms of racism must be abolished. towards that end the pre-durban 2 israel review conference ended today and here is what they came up with for their future work:

The Israel Review Conference brought together over three hundred people from five continents, including human rights activists and experts from South Africa, Malaysia and several European and Middle Eastern countries. The first day of the conference included two main panels that dealt with the applicability of the crime of apartheid to the state of Israel, and the development of legal strategies for obtaining the accountability of Israel and other states for their obligations under international law to respect the rights of the Palestinian people.

Practical recommendations were developed on the second day of the conference in workshops about the joint struggle of victimized communities for justice and equality; a global campaign against the Jewish National Fund as a major agency of Israel’s racial discrimination; popular initiatives for promoting prosecution of war crimes and crimes against humanity; and the growing global movement for Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel pending compliance with international law.

on racism and prisons

i just finished composing a letter for a friend in gaza who is applying for a visa to speak in the united kingdom about besieged gaza. he had been invited last month, too, but the british consulate in al quds denied him a visa because they didn’t believe he’d return home after his lecture tour. it struck me as i was writing the letter that i felt like i was writing on behalf of a friend who was in prison. (okay, yes, gaza is a prison and that is the point.) as i wrote words and phrases kept popping into my mind like “flight risk,” phrases one uses to describe someone who is undeserving of bail. someone who deserves to be locked up. and as i wrote the other night about his online visa application, the questions about one’s criminality on the british visa application are certainly geared more towards excluding israeli terrorist war criminals who fall into the categories of having committed “war crimes” or who practice state terrorism. but the racism of the british system makes it such that it is palestinians whose travel gets excluded, who remain in the gaza jail.

nathalie abou shakra posted videos today of the damage done by israeli terrorists to palestinian fishermen in gaza waters. this is another element of the prison: fisherman can’t fish. or if they do they risk their lives or their boats which are necessary for their livelihood:

These are some footage comrades George from Greece, Andrew from Scotland and I took of the shootings yesterday and today of the fishermen’s boats. One of the fishermen, Alaa el Habil, from the Shati’ camp, was wounded in the leg before yesterday, and a boat arrived to the port of Gaza yesterday as we were there, of which was targeted by the Israelis…

The fishermen were given a limit of 20miles before the Oslo accords, then it diminished to 12, then 6 miles during the siege, then 3 miles now… it is impossible to catch good fish, a variety, and a good quantity within such a limit.This is especially devastating for the fishermen whose lives depend on fishing… whose families cannot survive without an income from this.

unlike other prisons, the gaza prison keeps people out and locks people up inside. this is one of the many reasons why it is so difficult for aid to get inside gaza:

Israel says 453 trucks entered Gaza 18-23 January, but only about half of them carried humanitarian aid – not nearly enough for 1.5 million Gazans, say UN agencies and international aid groups.

“The donors and the general public have mobilised from all over the world but the aid is stuck outside Gaza,” said John Ging, head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) in Gaza.

Of the 100-120 trucks permitted to enter per day, some 37-40 are for UNRWA, about half are for commercial goods such as meat and nappies, and the remainder are for other aid agencies, said Ging, who pointed out that before June 2007 Israel permitted 500-600 trucks to enter daily.

and this is why aid workers are even protesting because they are kept from getting inside gaza:

Aid agencies have been protesting about their restricted access to Gaza since the 18 January ceasefire, stressing that the full opening of crossing points is crucial for the delivery of humanitarian aid.

“It is unacceptable that staff of international aid agencies with expertise in emergency response are still not given full access into Gaza, and that the crossings are not fully operational for humanitarian and commercial goods,” said Charles Clayton, chair of the Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA), which includes 75 agencies.

here is an al jazeera report on the aid situation and the challenges posed to those sending it to gaza:

and this is why the tunnels are so vital for palestinians in gaza, why they must remain open and why it is so devastating when israeli terrorists bomb them as they did last night (see fayyad’s post on kabobfest for the racist response among israeli terrorists egging on renewed bombing in ha’aretz):

Israel says the attacks on the Rafah tunnels are aimed at stopping alleged weapons smuggling into the Gaza Strip by Hamas fighters.

The tunnels are also used to smuggle food, fuel and consumer goods from Egypt and are considered a life-line for thousands of ordinary Gazans.

there are other ways this gaza prison functions to keep people locked up, including those needing life-saving medical treatment outside gaza as jonathan cook reports:

For four days running, an ambulance has driven 15-year-old Amira Ghirim from Shifa Hospital in Gaza to the Rafah border in the hope that she will be allowed to cross into Egypt and then on to France, where she has been promised emergency surgery.

Amira’s left arm and thigh were crushed and her internal organs damaged by falling rubble when a shell hit her home in the Tel al Hawa neighbourhood of Gaza City in the final days of Israel’s offensive. The attack killed her father, brother and sister, leaving her an orphan.

But, despite her urgent need for surgery, Amira has been turned away at the border each time, said her aunt, Mona Ghirim. “Each morning we arrived at the crossing and the Egyptian soldiers cursed us and told us to go away.”

Ms Ghirim said Amira’s condition has been deteriorating because of the long periods out of hospital. Yesterday, after hearing news that the border would remain shut, they decided to abandon the journey. “She is very ill and these futile trips are not helping.”

Amira is one of four children who have been offered potentially life-saving surgery by a team of doctors in France. But she and the other children appear to be victims of a bureaucratic wrangle involving the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and Egypt.

but of course the biggest culprit, at the root of this conflict, is always the israeli terrorists. to be sure, they have far too many partners in their war crimes, but their crimes are at the center, which are fueled by their racism. just check out this graffiti from the inside of palestinian homes in zeitoun, gaza:

israeli terrorist graffiti
israeli terrorist graffiti
israeli terrorist graffiti
israeli terrorist graffiti

this is not isolated racism (also see eva bartlett’s newest post for more photographs, films, and descriptions of racist graffiti and destruction in gaza). anyone who saw inside lebanese homes in south lebanon after the israeli terrorist invasion in 2006 saw the same kind of graffiti (though we also found many homes where they also shat on the living room floor, on beds, in pots and pans). rampant, just look at how yigal bronner and neve gordon describe what israeli terrorists chant at futball games:

Israeli soccer matches were suspended during the assault on Gaza. When the games resumed last week, the fans had come up with a new chant: “Why have the schools in Gaza been shut down?” sang the crowd. “Because all the children were gunned down!” came the answer.

Aside from its sheer barbarism, this chant reflects the widespread belief among Israeli Jews that Israel scored an impressive victory in Gaza – a victory measured, not least, by the death toll.

for the record, i’m told that the old chant is “death to arabs.”

likewise the racism of the israeli terrorist army’s chief rabbi, avichay rontzki, has magnified this racism by producing a booklet from the army’s “jewish awareness department” as jacky rowland reports on al jazeera:

supposedly rontzki was “severely reprimanded” today (in israeli terrorist terms, this means he was treated to a bottle of champagne).

but there are other ways racism works internally here in palestine and in the region. sometimes it is also militarized as when the lebanese army besieged the palestinian nahr el bared refugee camp in the summer of 2007. until now only a small fraction of the palestinians from this camp have been allowed to return to it. those who live there now and who are working to rebuild their lives with little help from the outside world, including the lebanese government, live in a prison, too. one cannot get inside without permission from the army–this applies to those who live there and those who wish to visit their friends and loved ones who live there. now the rumors of a lebanese naval base which have circulated for over a year now appear to be valid and in response the people of the camp wrote an open letter to prime minister fouad siniora, which reads in part:

Mr. Prime Minister and Ministers,

You, who are opposed to the siege of Gaza and the crazy war launched on it, why don’t you support this same people [the Palestinian] in Lebanon by granting it a dignified existence without military constraints and laws prohibiting the right to work or own or even bequeath property to one’s descendants.

We thought we were partners and refused to believe in a conspiracy theory that claimed the destruction of the camp was intended to allow for the building of naval and land military bases. However, we have no choice but offer a negative reading of the situation of inhumanity and humiliation we live in.

Having expressed our opinion and spoken of our reality and the unbearable conditions being forced upon us, we shall assume that you are now aware of it. And so we kindly urge you to review the condition of this camp and to remove all military manifestations on its ground. We also urge you to remove the barbed wire and barriers and to facilitate the movement of people and the return of normal civilian life to its former state.

We also hope that you revisit the decisions issued in relation to Nahr al-Bared camp after its destruction in light of the difficult times that all Palestinians are going through, and we beseech you to place military and naval bases far from Palestinian and Lebanese schools and neighborhoods.

there is also the kind of racism here in palestine of a more personal level. i ate lunch yesterday with an african palestinian colleague who is originally from yaffa. he lived in the u.s. for a while and was comparing the racism there to the racism here. he was telling me that here he has been unable to find a wife because he is darker in complexion than other palestinians and as a result no family, as of yet, has allowed him to marry their daughter. racism, unfortunately, is universal. for those who are unaware, there is a community of african palestinians who live all over palestine, including al quds:

Currently some forty African Palestinian families live inside the old city, many of whom reside within 50 feet of the center. Upon talking with Adam, the center’s young director, one gets a sense of how proud the community is of its identity. “Many of our ancestors were pious Muslims who came from across Africa to defend Al-Aqsa from military conquest,” I was told by Adam and others in the center. “They stayed and married and their children grew up here. “We are as Palestinian as anyone else but we also remember and our proud of where are great grandfathers came from and sometimes visit or stay in touch with our other family members in Africa.” Aside from the various wars which brought Muslims from Africa to safeguard the sanctity of its Muslim Holy Sites, other Africans settled in Palestine after spiritual pilgrimages to the land’s various holy sites, including of course the Al Aqsa Mosque.

Many Palestinian Africans have heroically managed to retain their presence in this incredibly important and highly symbolic space even while the oppressive closure policies of the Israelis makes life increasingly difficult in all kinds of ways. “They don’t want us to live,” said one of the community leaders. “They go around telling the world that we are savages and want to kill them all. This is ridiculous. Here I am telling you that I am Muslim, Palestinian and African and I have no problem living peacefully with the Jewish community and I condemn suicide bombings. But these people don’t even give us a chance. They make life impossible because they want us to leave Jerusalem but we will never leave. We will die here before we leave.” The sprawling growth of Israeli settler housing outside and within Jerusalem’s Old City seems to be in line with a policy that the city’s old Israeli mayor ten years ago dubbed as the “Judaization of Jerusalem.” The harsh realities of a population under military occupation punctuate the daily lives of these Palestinians who are often cut off from being visited or supported by Palestinians elsewhere in the West Bank or Gaza. Many of the first and second generation leaders of this community like most Palestinians have spent considerable time languishing in Israeli jails for offenses as minor as being rumored to have been at a protest.

my colleague and i continued our discussion about racism in the united states and the way it works on the state level, too. this is seen most clearly in the discourse about the closure of guantánamo as mickey z reports on dissident voice:

Waiting a year to close a single prison is nothing to celebrate. Transferring those illegally detained humans is not change anyone can believe in. Public promises about not torturing have been heard before and even if we could trust such dubious assurances, why are we so goddamned appreciative when a US president merely declares his theoretical intention to think about adhering to fundamental international law?

The Chairman of Change has made no secret of how he wholeheartedly adores the bogus war on terror. Closing Gitmo (an act which still falls squarely into the believe-it-when-you-see-it category) is at best a strategic sidestep by a cautious and calculating new president.

A related New York Times piece began oh-so-cleverly: “Is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed coming to a prison near you?” In the Jan. 24, 2009 article—“Guantánamo Detainees? Not in My State,”—journalists (sic) Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane wrung their hands over the 245 remaining inmates being “released into quiet neighborhoods across the United States.” It’s illustrative of the utter depravity we tolerate as normal in the home of the brave that war criminals like Henry Kissinger, Madeleine Albright, Dick Cheney, Wesley Clark, Colin Powell, Bill Clinton, etc. etc. walk freely among us while the newspaper of record preys on gullible readers with sensationalism and xenophobic fear mongering.

In that same Times article, Mazzetti and Shane inadvertently offered another manifestation of America’s cultural rot when they mentioned a discussion of reopening San Francisco’s Alcatraz Prison specifically for the assumed terrorists detained (illegally) at Gitmo. But a spokesman for California Senator Diane Feinstein was quick to clarify that Alcatraz was a “national park and tourist attraction, not a functioning prison,” and that the senator “does not consider it a suitable place to house detainees.”

americans seem to be oblivious to the racist/xenophobic discourse surrounding the closure of guantánamo: where are the reparations? why is it that these men who have been illegally detained for years now are not being offered u.s. citizenship? why are they being forced to seek refuge elsewhere when the united states is responsible for their detention and torture over the last several years?

but this is how the u.s. treats its own prisoners, too. american indian movement leader and political prisoner leonard peltier, who should have been pardoned decades ago was recently beaten up in canaan federal penitentiary:

I am so OUTRAGED! My brother Leonard was severely beaten upon his arrival at the Canaan Federal Penitentiary. When he went into population after his transfer, some inmates assaulted him. The severity of his injuries is that he suffered numerous blows to his head and body, receiving a large bump on his head, possibly a concussion, and numerous bruises. Also, one of his fingers is swollen and discolored, and he has pain in his chest and ribcage. There was blood everywhere from his injuries.

Write to your congressional representatives, and write or e-mail President Obama to call on them to insure that Leonard is receiving medical attention for his injuries.

We feel that prison authorities at the prompting of the FBI orchestrated this attack and thus, we are greatly concerned about his safety. It may be that the attackers, whom Leonard did not even know, were offered reduced sentences for carrying out this heinous assault. Since Leonard is up for parole soon, this could be a conspiracy to discredit a model prisoner.

He was placed in solitary confinement and only given one meal. This is generally done when you won’t name your attackers; incidentally, being only given one meal seriously jeopardizes his health because of his diabetes. Prison officials refuse to release any info to the family, but they need to hear from his supporters to protect his safety, as does President Obama. His attorneys are trying to get calls into him now.

if you want to help peltier here is what you can do:

Call Canaan Federal Prison at 570-488-8000 to register your concern that Leonard was severely beaten and to ask what steps are being taken to insure his safety and take care of his medical needs. You must give Leonard’s prison identification number–89637-132–to have your call recorded.

and this is not an isolated case either. racism and the prison industrial complex go hand in hand in the u.s. jordan flaherty recently reported on torture used in angola prison in louisiana:

The torture of prisoners in U.S. custody is not only found in military prisons in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo. If President Obama is serious about ending U.S. support for torture, he can start here in Louisiana.

The Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola is already notorious for a range of offenses, including keeping former Black Panthers Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox in solitary for over 36 years. Now a death penalty trial in St. Francisville, Louisiana, has exposed widespread and systemic abuse at the prison. Even in the context of eight years of the Bush administration, the behavior documented at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola stands out both for its brutality and for the significant evidence that it was condoned and encouraged from the very top of the chain of command.

In a remarkable hearing that explored torture practices at Angola, 25 inmates testified last summer to facing overwhelming violence in the aftermath of an escape attempt at the prison nearly a decade ago. These 25 inmates – who were not involved in the escape attempt – testified to being kicked, punched, beaten with batons and with fists, stepped on, left naked in a freezing cell and threatened that they would be killed. They were threatened by guards that they would be sexually assaulted with batons. They were forced to urinate and defecate on themselves. They were bloodied, had teeth knocked out, were beaten until they lost control of bodily functions and beaten until they signed statements or confessions presented to them by prison officials. One inmate had a broken jaw, and another was placed in solitary confinement for eight years.

all of this racism of the u.s. mixed with israeli terrorism and their war crimes, prison and torture systems make for great partners in crime it would seem. michael hureaux perez draws out some of these connections in the black agenda report:

There is the reality of the working class world, which is the reality of the Gaza Strip, and the urban black working class reality of Sean Bell, murdered on his wedding day by New York City cops, and Oscar Grant, who was murdered by the Oakland Transit cops on New Year’s Day. The Gaza Strip is the reality of the inner city in the United States, writ large.

Then there is the pseudo-reality of race and class justice that the corporate sponsors of Barack Obama – and his programmatic petty boojwah supporters of whatever racial and class background – want us all to absorb. Well, I been there, and I done that. Only back in my starry-eyed youth, Barack Obama was named David Dinkins, or Norm Rice, or Coleman Young (reservation cops all), or some other sad clown who was arrogant enough to run interference for a ruling class so venal and crazy it doesn’t even care that its ass is on fire. And it doesn’t take a stellar political economist to realize that if the problems of race and class or workplace and cultural empowerment can’t get solved at the regional level using the political schematics of the capitalist system, those problems sure as hell aren’t going to get solved at the national level by a charming rogue who uses the same schematic. Trust me on this, even as the trumpet and rose petal spectacle of the inaugural continues to ring in our ears: Obama’s United States is still the Western Imperium, which means it’s the tyranny of race, class and commodity, but now it’s parading at the national level in blackface. (Talk about stale ideas!)

apparently money doesn’t change anything

In The Nation magazine this week Naomi Klein makes a powerful pronouncement:

The more details emerge, the clearer it becomes that Washington’s handling of the Wall Street bailout is not merely incompetent. It is borderline criminal.

Klein was on Democracy Now! today and elaborates hear argument in light of the G 20 summit and provides some important commentary:

Here are some highlights from the Democracy Now! transcript:

NAOMI KLEIN: First of all, the equity deals that were negotiated with the largest banks and also some smaller banks, representing $250 billion worth of the bailout money, this is the deal to inject equity into the banks in—to inject capital into the banks in exchange for equity. The idea was to address the so-called credit crunch to get banks lending again. The legislation that enabled this was quite explicit that it had to encourage lending. Barney Frank, who was one of the architects of that legislation, has said that it violates the act if the money is not going to that purpose and is instead going to bonuses, is instead going to dividends, going to salaries, going to mergers. He said that violates the acts, i.e. it’s illegal. But what we know is that it’s going precisely to those purposes. It is going to bonuses. It is going to shareholders. And it is not going to lending. The banks have been quite explicit about this. Citibank has talked about using the money to buy other banks….

But if we look at what just came out of the G20 summit, it’s really been a reassertion of the very—this very ideology of deregulation. On the one hand, you have the statement that you started the program with, where the world leaders said that this crisis was born of the shadow banking industry, not enough oversight, not enough regulation, too much complexity. At the same time, when they talk about solutions, they’re calling for resurrecting the failed World Trade Organization talks that collapsed this summer. And we heard, if you recall, this summer, when the Doha talks collapsed, that globalization and the Washington Consensus were dead, because developing countries had rejected it.

The other thing that they’re calling for is a greater role for the International Monetary Fund. And it’s important to understand that the reason why the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization and the whole free trade agenda, generally, has been in collapse in recent years is because countries around the world are no longer willing to accept the conditions attached to joining this club, the conditions attached to an International Monetary Fund loan. In reasserting a greater role for the International Monetary Fund, in calling for the World Trade Organization talks to get back on track, these world leaders are actually calling for more financial market deregulation, more of the same….

Yeah, this bailout is really not a bailout at all; it’s a parting gift to the people that the Bush—that George Bush once referred to jokingly as “my base.” You know, in one of my columns recently, I likened it to what European colonial rulers used to do when they finally realized they had to hand over power; they would loot the treasury on the way out the door.

And the reason why there has been this dramatic change in policy just in recent days, where Henry Paulson has said, “OK, well, we’re not going to do what we originally had said at all,” which is use the bailout money to buy distressed assets, to buy bad debts, “Now we’re going to go from these equity deals with the banks to bailing out credit card companies”—the reason for that is that that first $250 billion was essentially money down the drain. They are admitting that it didn’t do what it was supposed to do, which was increase lending. So, now they’re making it up as they go along. It’s take three, take four, take five. But we’re supposed to somehow not notice that $250 billion, an astronomical sum, was just wasted, going to bonuses, going to shareholder payouts, going to CEO salaries. And now they’re trying another method to get lending going. But it really was the parting gift, Amy.

And if we think about what this money means, and this is—you know, this crisis isn’t over, and the same people who justified this bailout, who clamored for this bailout, are the very people who are going to turn around and say to Barack Obama, “We can’t afford for you to make good on your election promises. We can’t afford universal healthcare. In fact, we can’t afford what meager services Americans get in exchange for their tax dollars, like Social Security payments.” We’re already hearing this lowering of expectations now in the national discourse. So, the money—this really is, you know, reverse Robin Hood gone mad. The money has been given to the people who needed it least, and it’s going to be used to justify austerity measures imposed against those who need it most. It’s going to be used to justify cuts to food stamps. It’s going to be used to justify cuts to Social Security, to healthcare, let alone being used to justify why more ambitious plans for a national healthcare program, for green energy are not affordable. So people have to be ready for this. You know, the next shock is yet to come….

AMY GOODMAN: Your final thought, this, on the bailing out of the auto industry, the Big Three in Detroit, starting with General Motors?

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, obviously, it shouldn’t be a blank check. You know, I always think about what the International Monetary Fund does when developing countries come and ask for a loan. Think about what they’re doing right now. The International Monetary Fund says, “You want a loan? Well, here’s our list of conditions.” They used to call it structural adjustment. The same thing could be done to the auto industry. If they’re coming for a bailout, they should be structurally adjusted, and taxpayers should be playing IMF to the auto industry and insisting that they change the way they work, that they build green automobiles, that they protect jobs. It can’t simply be a blank check.

If you want a really good idea about what the IMF and its structural adjustments have meant for the global south, Stephanie Black’s eloquent and smart documentary, Life and Debt is worth watching. Anyone who has read Jamaica Kincaid’s mesmerizing book A Small Place will recognize her words here in the narration.

There is also more bad news on Obama decisions-in-the-making. Also on Democracy Now! and worth listening to are Melvin Goodman and Michael Ratner who discuss various people Obama may be bringing to his team who were responsible for some of the gravest blunders of the last eight years.

John Brennan and Jami Miscik, both former intelligence officials under George Tenet, are leading Barack Obama’s review of intelligence agencies and helping make recommendations to the new administration. Brennan has supported warrantless wiretapping and extraordinary rendition, and Miscik was involved with the politicized intelligence alleging weapons of mass destruction in the lead-up to the war on Iraq.

In an op-ed in the Baltimore Sun, Melvin Goodman has this to say about some of Obama’s choices:

Ms. Miscik was deputy director of intelligence for Mr. Tenet during the run-up to the Iraq war, when intelligence was manipulated to support the Bush administration’s decision to use force in Iraq. She endorsed the politicized findings of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction in October 2002, as well as the unclassified White Paper of October 2002 that was designed to sway votes on the authorization to use force against Iraq. Ms. Miscik was also a willing participant in the crafting of Secretary of State Colin L. Powell’s regrettable speech to the United Nations in February 2003, which was designed to sway the international community.

Other key members of Mr. Obama’s intelligence advisory panel have been former CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin, who helped to suppress proof that various sources of intelligence in Iraqi WMD were in fact fabricators, and Rob Richer, a senior clandestine services officer who was a key implementer of the renditions and detentions program.

And while the new Status of Forces agreement between Iraq and the U.S. makes it unlikely that troops will be leaving in substantial numbers any time soon–not that they would all have been removed by Obama regardless of this agreement–what of those private contractors who are responsible for some of the most reprehensible war crimes in occupied Iraq? Here is what Jeremy Scahill has to say:

In a brief interview with Democracy Now! in February, Obama explained his position when asked about the report in The Nation.

Here’s the problem: we have 140,000 private contractors right there, so unless we want to replace all of or a big chunk of those with US troops, we can’t draw down the contractors faster than we can draw down our troops,” Obama said. “So what I want to do is draw–I want them out in the same way that we make sure that we draw out our own combat troops.”

As Obama’s inauguration day draws near, he is facing increased calls from Democrats who have spent years investigating Blackwater to ban the company. Most prominent among these is Henry Waxman, chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. He called on Obama to cancel Blackwater’s security contracts. “I don’t see any reason to have a contract with Blackwater,” says Waxman. “They haven’t lived up to their contract, and we shouldn’t be having these private military contracts. We should use our own military.”

As of now, Blackwater’s Iraq contract expires in April (it was extended for a year by the State Department despite numerous investigations). “I think there should be very strong handcuffs put on this whole outsourcing question, but particularly with these private security contractors like DynCorp and Blackwater,” says Vermont Democrat Peter Welch, who serves on the Oversight Committee with Waxman and supports the calls for Obama to cancel Blackwater’s security contracts. “It’s just an incredible waste of taxpayer money. It dishonors the Code of Military Conduct. Our soldiers are over there. They abide by rules. Blackwater doesn’t.”

Ahhh…the more things “change” the more they stay the same. Unless it comes from the grassroots, the people we will not see change as the ever-hopeful Rania reminds me:

We should always remember that the only significant changes that have happened in our history have come from ordinary people.

The massive anti-slave movement led by William Wilberforce, the Peasants’ Revolt, the Tolpuddle Martyrs who gave us the trade union movement, suffragettes who gave the women the vote, and the Chartists who helped us on the road to democracy.

So what are you going to do?

khalas with obamamania!

I’m still reeling from the experience of not only coming back to the U.S. in the midst of a racist, offensive presidential campaign, but also the ways in which this affected the American Studies Association (ASA) conference. Normally this is a conference I look forward to. Some of the smartest people–and some of the most politically radical people–are usually in attendance. This is a conference where Angela Davis and Ruth Gilmore–two of the most important voices on the prison abolition movement regularly discuss this subject, for instance. But this year even those voices that one might normally expect critical analysis from seem to be swept up in Obama-mania. Starbucks sipping, Obama button wearing colleagues abounded. Yes, it took some walking and seeking to find non-Starbucks coffee, but of course the local variety was far superior. My first day there–with almost no sleep and arriving in Albuquerque right before my panel–I managed to survive without coffee because I couldn’t find any non-Starbucks coffee quickly enough. To me it seems like there is a similar kind of laziness between giving into the two party system and not challenging it and not boycotting one of the worst offenders of so many issues from labor rights, to human rights, to of course, Palestinian rights. Hence my need for another dose of a Kabob fest Obama button:

It’s not so much that I expected everyone to embrace progressive or radical candidates like Cynthia McKinney or Ralph Nader. But at ASA I did expect to hear critical analysis and discussion that brought them into the fold. By excluding other candidates these scholars participate in the same sort of exclusionary practices that the duopoly American government upholds by keeping third party candidates out of debates or off ballots. But it just seemed that everyone was so fixated on Obama and had such rose-colored glasses or people were just so mesmerized by this phenomenon that even McKinney’s name never came up. Even in a Stuart Hall panel where Hall’s important legacy in cultural studies came up the discussion related to the election centered on discussing whether or not “we should take credit for the emergence of Obama.” Mind you, they made it clear that taking credit is not the same as celebrating or endorsing, and certainly the work of radicals and progressives paved the way for a candidate like Obama. But this is precisely the point: all sorts of radical political movements made his candidacy possible but his candidacy speaks to none of the issues of any of those movements from anti-racism to labor. Gilmore offered up an important reminder/factoid about how meaningless a black man in power can be when the moment Colin Powell became Secretary of State “the number of black men in prison reached the million mark.” And given that such a long history of anti-racist work has precipitated Obama’s rise to power, I find it chilling that so few people spoke out against the racism enabled by both Obama and McCain, especially as directed against Arabs and Muslims. Apparently war criminal Colin Powell spoke out about this. And, interestingly, Ben Affleck did this weekend on “Reel Time with Bill Mahr”:

But Moustafa Bayoumi had the best line of the conference when he opened up the panel on Edward Said with the quip, “Edward Said was, of course, both an Arab and a decent family man.”

What this shows me is the frustrating, exhausting ways in which there are so few–if any–moments of solidarity among radicals, intellectuals, and of course among ordinary people. As we were leaving for the airport on Sunday morning a homeless veteran approached us for change because he was hungry. I reached into my pocket and gave him some money. I regretted it about two minutes later after he went on a diatribe about how he was not only proud of his “service” in Vietnam, but that he would rush right back out their on to the front lines if he could kill some “terrorists.” I experienced something similar today when I went to vote. I met a sweet, older Egyptian couple who asked me for help with their ballot. There are many issues on the California ballot this year, most of which are bogged down in complex language that try to trick you into voting counter intuitively. So I explained each initiative and told them what their choices were. But it was depressing when I got to propositions that would help rehabilitate (instead of incarcerate) nonviolent offenders or that would allow gay marriage. They wanted to vote against both of these propositions. There is just so little space for people to see connections across oppression. Too little room for solidarity.

But the antidote to all of this, for me, was getting to vote for Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente today (see photo above). I voted for Nader in the last two elections, but McKinney’s position on reparations for slavery, on abolishing the war and prison machines, and her position on Palestine made it impossible for me not to vote for her. It felt amazing. It felt like a fabulous act of resistance. Of course, I still find the system deeply flawed and I’m sure that all sorts of racist, corrupt forces will be at work to ensure the system doesn’t work (though unlike Palestine no one will boycott the U.S., though they should).

Yes, racism is alive and well in the U.S. And, it is alive and well in the Zionist state. Here are some of the latest headlines about what’s going on in Palestine:

Israel Targets Palestinian Students

Israeli military invades Nablus city

Palestinian group says Israelis killed 68 children in Gaza in year

West’s silence towards Israel’s racial discrimination unacceptable

Israel No Place To Be An Arab

Seven Palestinians wounded by Jews in East Jerusalem

Armed Israeli settlers rampage Palestinian farm lands