Friday, July 31, 2009

Entertaining Apartheid Israel Deserves No Amnesty! (This Means You Leonard Cohen)

link to whole article:

July 30, 2009

In May, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) called on singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen to heed the Palestinian call for a cultural boycott of Israel and avoid complicity with Israel’s violations of international law by cancelling his planned September concert in Israel, particularly in view of Israel’s war crimes in Gaza earlier this year. Sadly, according to a July 28 article in the Jerusalem Post, Amnesty International USA has agreed to cooperate with Cohen in dealing with Israel on the basis of business as usual. Amnesty International USA will serve as sponsor of a new fund that will whitewash the money raised at Cohen’s concert in Israel by using it to finance programs for "peace." Being one of the world’s strongest proponents of human rights and international law, you shall thus be subverting a non-violent, effective effort by Palestinian and international civil society to end Israel's violations of international law and human rights principles. We call on you to be true to your values and immediately withdraw support for Leonard Cohen’s ill-conceived concert in Israel.

The Jerusalem Post report indicates that Cohen and his PR staff, having been criticized for trying to normalize Israel’s occupation and apartheid, are trying to whitewash the concert in Israel by using Amnesty International USA’s good name. According to the article, "All of the net proceeds from Leonard Cohen's September 24 concert at Ramat Gan Stadium will be earmarked for a newly established fund to benefit Israeli and Palestinian organizations that are working toward conciliation," and the fund will be "sponsored by Amnesty." Curt Goering, the senior deputy executive director of Amnesty International USA, told the Post, "We saw this as an exciting opportunity with potential to recognize, support and pay tribute to the Israelis and Palestinians who have been working for peace and human rights amid a difficult environment and insurmountable odds. I see our participation as complementary to what we do, even though this initiative is different from Amnesty's ongoing work."

Why We Are Calling on Amnesty to Withdraw from the Project

By supporting Cohen’s concert in Israel, Amnesty International is actively undermining a particularly successful effort by Palestinian and international civil society to end Israel's occupation and other violations of international law and human rights principles. We find this position by Amnesty particularly frustrating and puzzling given your call for an arms embargo against Israel following its atrocities in Gaza earlier this year, which your organization described as constituting war crimes.

Accepting funds from the proceeds of Cohen’s concert in Israel is the equivalent of Amnesty accepting funds from a concert in Sun City in apartheid South Africa. Profits earned through violations of human rights and international law are tainted and should not be accepted by any morally consistent human rights organization, particularly when this money is intended to be used to whitewash the very violations behind those profits.

Furthermore, your Israeli partners in this venture actively hinder efforts to achieve a just peace. The Peres Center for Peace, with its multi-million dollar annual budget and fifteen million dollar building, is listed incongruously by the Jerusalem Post as both a beneficiary of the fund and a member of the new fund’s Board of Trustees. The Peres Center has been denounced by leading Palestinian civil society organizations for promoting joint Palestinian-Israeli projects that are "neither effective in bringing about reconciliation, nor desirable" and that enhance "Israeli institutional reputation and legitimacy, without restoring justice to Palestinians, in the face of continued Israeli Government violations of international law and fundamental Palestinian human rights, including breaches of the Geneva Conventions." A columnist in Israel’s Haaretz Daily called the Peres Center patronizing and colonial, explaining that "Efforts are being made to train the Palestinian population to accept its inferiority and prepare it to survive under the arbitrary constraints imposed by Israel, to guarantee the ethnic superiority of the Jews."

Your other indirect partner in this project, according to the Jerusalem Post, is Israel Discount Bank, a key sponsor of the Cohen concert. Who Profits, a project of Israel’s Coalition of Women for Peace, reports that Israel Discount Bank has branches in the settlements of Beitar Illit and Maale Adumim, has financed construction in the settlements of Har Homa, Beitar llit and Maale Adumim, and is a major shareholder in a factory in a settlement. Amnesty hardly needs any reminder that all Israeli colonial settlements built on occupied Palestinian territory are not only illegal under international law but are considered war crimes in the Fourth Geneva Convention. Your intention to indirectly partner with a bank that profits from the occupation and to oversee a fund that uses some of that legally and morally stained money contradicts Amnesty’s founding principles and commitment to human rights.

The latest attempt by the Cohen team to find an alternative Palestinian fig leaf has also failed. The only Palestinian organization falsely reported in the Jerusalem Post article as being a partner in this project, the Palestinian Happy Child Center, has confirmed that it is not taking part. There is no Palestinian organization participating in this whitewash.

Background on the Boycott

With the international community failing to take action to stop Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people, and inspired by the international boycott movement that helped bring an end to apartheid in South Africa, Palestinian civil society has launched calls for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, including an academic and cultural boycott of Israel. Endorsed by nearly sixty Palestinian cultural and civil society organizations and inspired by the South African anti-apartheid boycotts, PACBI calls on "the international community to comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeli academic and cultural institutions as a contribution to the struggle to end Israel's occupation, colonization and system of apartheid." These Palestinian calls have inspired a growing international boycott movement which gained added momentum following Israel’s assault on Gaza last winter.

In April, the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP) and over 100 Israelis called on Leonard Cohen to cancel his planned September concert in Israel. Protests against Cohen’s plans to play in Israel were then held at Cohen’s concerts in New York, Boston, Ottawa and Belfast, among other cities. Feeling the rising heat of the protests, Cohen tried to schedule a small concert in Ramallah to "balance" his concert in Israel. However, Palestinians rejected the Ramallah concert. The Palestinian group that was supposed to host the Ramallah event cancelled its invitation to Mr. Cohen after realizing the adverse effects this would have on the boycott movement, which is widely supported by Palestinians. Reflecting the general mood in Palestinian society against any claimed symmetry between the occupying power and the people under occupation, a July 12 PACBI statement explained, "Ramallah will not receive Cohen as long as he is intent on whitewashing Israel's colonial apartheid regime by performing in Israel. PACBI has always rejected any attempt to 'balance’ concerts or other artistic events in Israel--conscious acts of complicity in Israel's violation of international law and human rights--with token events in the occupied Palestinian territory."

For all the above reasons, we strongly urge you to distance Amnesty International from this discredited project and its tainted money.


The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), Adalah-NY: The Coalition for Justice in the Middle East, American Jews for a Just Peace (US), Boycott! Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call from Within (Israel), British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP), International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Jews Against the Occupation-NYC, New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel (NYCBI), Palestine Solidarity Campaign (UK), US Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel

Congress IS Sick!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

How Leonard Peltier Could Leave Prison by August 18

Last part of article below; whole thing here:

But [Leonard's attorney] Seitz was “guardedly optimistic” about a favorable decision from the Parole Commission [personnel named above]. He said that a “good rapport” had been established with the hearing officer, and that the new chair of the commission is generally held “in high esteem.”

President Barack Obama does have the power to grant clemency, but Seitz said prisoners apply only when all other avenues have been exhausted. Usually, says Seitz, “presidential pardons do not come until the Chief Executive is leaving office.”

Seitz says letters to the Parole Commission and to local newspapers, calls to Congressional Representatives (202-224-3121), talk show hosts and other forms of public pressure are now of the utmost importance. The hope, he says, lies in creating a “public environment favorable to release.”

As Leonard Peltier approaches his 65th year---having spent half his life in prison---every day is now critical to lifting this burden from our collective souls.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Save Gaza Vigil- Outside the Seattle Center this Saturday, Aug 1st

What: Save Gaza Vigil

When: Saturday August 1, Noon - 2:00pm

Where: Seattle Center, on Broad St & 5th Ave N.


500 Balloons Launched from Ramallah in Honor of Child Prisoners
July 28, 2009

Ramallah – Ma’an – Balloons representing the nearly 350 minors being kept in Israeli prisons were released during a demonstration in Ramallah on Tuesday

Each carried the name of a current or former child prisoner detained by Israeli forces.

The 500 green, red, black and white balloons were released from the Al-Manara circle in the center of Ramallah in a protest organized by the families of prisoners.

Mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters of the detained minors held pictures of their loved ones. One mother, Um Muhammad, said she had not seen her son for more than two years because Israeli security refused her permission to travel and visit the detention facility.

Another mother, Umm Ibrahim, said she had been able to visit her son, but found the experience horrifying, "We are insulted and humiliated by Israeli soldiers and inspectors during visits to prison, and sometimes they deny us access arbitrarily," she said.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Update on Leonard's Hearing Today -- "Feeling Is It Was a Fair Hearing"

Greetings from Lewisburg, PA. As you know, Leonard's parole hearing
was today. The attorney Eric Seitz is very hopeful about the outcome
of the hearing. The government brought nothing new to the table
and made it clear that their position is that LP should never be
released despite his being eligible for parole. That, of course,
is about nothing but revenge. Peter Matthiessen ("In the Spirit
of Crazy Horse") was a witness today. He's attended many of the
hearings, appeals, etc., over the years. He felt the examiner was
attentive and open to what was being said on LP's behalf. He's also
feeling positive. We're also told Leonard handled the Q&A (for
about 45 minutes) very well. Unfortunately, there's nothing further
to report. The examiner said he'd like some time before making
a recommendation. We expect that Leonard will be notified of the
recommendation within the next 24-48 hours. This is progress, folks.
Normally a denial is made and immediately, sometimes even before LP's
lawyers have even finished their presentation. Overall, the feeling
is that Leonard received a fair hearing. Keep up those prayers
for a positive outcome. Ultimately, of course, the full Parole
Commission will make the final decision. We'll keep you posted.

Time to set him free... Because it is the RIGHT thing to do.

Friends of Peltier

Update on Leonard's Hearing Today -- "Feeling Is It Was a Fair Hearing"

Greetings from Lewisburg, PA. As you know, Leonard's parole hearing
was today. The attorney Eric Seitz is very hopeful about the outcome
of the hearing. The government brought nothing new to the table
and made it clear that their position is that LP should never be
released despite his being eligible for parole. That, of course,
is about nothing but revenge. Peter Matthiessen ("In the Spirit
of Crazy Horse") was a witness today. He's attended many of the
hearings, appeals, etc., over the years. He felt the examiner was
attentive and open to what was being said on LP's behalf. He's also
feeling positive. We're also told Leonard handled the Q&A (for
about 45 minutes) very well. Unfortunately, there's nothing further
to report. The examiner said he'd like some time before making
a recommendation. We expect that Leonard will be notified of the
recommendation within the next 24-48 hours. This is progress, folks.
Normally a denial is made and immediately, sometimes even before LP's
lawyers have even finished their presentation. Overall, the feeling
is that Leonard received a fair hearing. Keep up those prayers
for a positive outcome. Ultimately, of course, the full Parole
Commission will make the final decision. We'll keep you posted.

Time to set him free... Because it is the RIGHT thing to do.

Friends of Peltier

The Health Care Bill Dies? -- Matt Taibbi Nails It

By the way, the answer to his ending question is yes!
link to the original article (posted below):

The AP reports that “after weeks of secretive talks, a bipartisan group in the Senate edged closer Monday to a health care compromise that omits two key Democratic priorities but incorporates provisions to slow the explosive rise in medical costs.” The deal was likely to “exclude a requirement many congressional Democrats seek for large businesses to offer coverage to their workers” and a “provision for a government insurance option.” The Wall Street Journal says that “individuals familiar with the negotiations suggested” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus “would like to unveil a deal later this week. But unclear Monday was whether” ranking Republican Sen. Charles Grassley “would sign onto the deal and pave the way for committee action next week.”

via Political Bulletin: Tuesday, July 28, 2009.

Well, as the French would say… Quelle surprise!

It’s funny, earlier this summer I was watching the Federer-Roddick Wimbledon Final. Great match in a way, final set was 30 games long, one of the all-time epic battles. And yet, as I watched it, I thought to myself, “This has to be the least suspenseful epic sporting event of all time.” Because there was never any doubt in my mind that Federer was going to win the match. I simply could not envision a scenario where anything else than a Federer victory could happen. I think I even turned it off at 7-7 in the final set, figuring I could catch Federer’s award ceremony later on.

It’s the same with this health care bill. Who among us did not know this would happen? It’s been clear from the start that the Democrats would make a great show of doing something real, then they would fold prematurely, ram through some piece-of-shit bill with some incremental/worthless change in it, and then in the end blame everything on Max Baucus and Bill Nelson, saying, “By golly, we tried our best!”

Make no mistake, this has nothing to do with Max Baucus, Bill Nelson, or anyone else. If the Obama administration wanted to pass a real health care bill, they would do what George Bush and Tom DeLay did in the first six-odd years of this decade whenever they wanted to pass some nightmare piece of legislation (ie the Prescription Drug Bill or CAFTA): they would take the recalcitrant legislators blocking their path into a back room at the Capitol, and beat them with rubber hoses until they changed their minds.

The reason a real health-care bill is not going to get passed is simple: because nobody in Washington really wants it. There is insufficient political will to get it done. It doesn’t matter that it’s an urgent national calamity, that it is plainly obvious to anyone with an IQ over 8 that our system could not possibly be worse and needs to be fixed very soon, and that, moreover, the only people opposing a real reform bill are a pitifully small number of executives in the insurance industry who stand to lose the chance for a fifth summer house if this thing passes.

It won’t get done, because that’s not the way our government works. Our government doesn’t exist to protect voters from interests, it exists to protect interests from voters. The situation we have here is an angry and desperate population that at long last has voted in a majority that it believes should be able to pass a health care bill. It expects something to be done. The task of the lawmakers on the Hill, at least as they see things, is to create the appearance of having done something. And that’s what they’re doing. Personally, I think they’re doing a lousy job even of that. I lauded Roddick for playing out the string with heart, and giving a good show. But these Democrats aren’t even pretending to give a shit, not really. I mean, they’re not even willing to give up their vacations.

This whole business, it was a litmus test for whether or not we even have a functioning government. Here we had a political majority in congress and a popular president armed with oodles of political capital and backed by the overwhelming sentiment of perhaps 150 million Americans, and this government could not bring itself to offend ten thousand insurance men in order to pass a bill that addresses an urgent emergency. What’s left? Third-party politics?

From Seattle PI Picture Gallery -- Free the Palestinian Prisoners!

Palestinian women hold up photographs of relatives jailed in Israel Tuesday during a protest calling for their release, in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Israel currently holds about 9,000 Palestinian prisoners in its prisons.

July 28, 2009
AP Photo/Nasser Shiyoukhi

Love to Gazan Children -- Love to All Palestinian Children!

July 28, 2009
AP Photo/Adel Hana

Palestinian children paint a wall of a school run by the UN Relief and Works Agency Tuesday as a part of summer activities in Gaza City. Some 280 schools were damaged and 18 destroyed in Israel's three-week offensive against Gaza's Hamas rulers [sic] seven months ago.

Freedom! Leonard Peltier -- Rage Against the Machine

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Remembering Leonard Peltier -- from Desert Peace website

Leonard Peltier, an almost forgotten name, but one that is remembered by many as the symbol of injustices suffered by the Native Peoples of America.
Below is a commentary by Chippy Dee and photos by Bud Korotzer from a cultural evening held in his honour……

At weeks end scores of people gathered at the Judson Memorial Church in N.Y.C. for a concert and discussion about Leonard Peltier, a man who has spent the past 33 years in prison despite the fact that very many people believe him to be innocent. Peltier will have a parole hearing on July 28th.

The evening began with an opening prayer in the Lakota language from Tiokasin Ghosthorse and with music he played on his flute. There were musical performances from David Lippman, Grupo Raices, David Amran, who played his flute, and Rolando Victorio Mousaa who read a letter that Pete Seeger wrote to the Parole Board on Peltier’s behalf, and then sang a song that Pete asked him to sing. Lady Penumbra and Ty Conscious recited poetry that Peltier wrote. There was an audio played of an interview with Eric Seitz, a parole attorney, and several videos were viewed: Leonard Crowdog on Peltier, No Boundaries by Peter Matthiesen, and Wounded Knee by Dennis Banks. Attorney Lynne Stewart spoke very favorably of the kind of person Peltier is. She said that Mumia and Leonard are held in prison to scare the rest of us out of fighting injustice. Peltier’s current attorney, Mike Kuzma, said that efforts to get files on the case from the FBI using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) were being stonewalled either by the FBI or the courts. There are 143,000 pages of FBI documents on the case that remain undisclosed.

The events that led to Peltier’s conviction began in the early 1970s when tensions broke out on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota between the then tribal chairman Dick Wilson, who was pro-assimilation, and the traditionalists. Wilson was accused of giving economic benefits to the assimilationists and leaving the others in poverty. The growing conflict prompted the traditionalists to band together with the American Indian Movement (AIM), a civil rights group committed to uniting all Native Peoples.
In 1973 local traditionalists and AIM occupied the Pine Ridge hamlet of Wounded Knee to protest the abuses they were suffering. The government responded by firing 250,000 rounds of ammunition into the area and killing 2 occupants. The occupation lasted 71 days and only ended after the government agreed to look into their complaints. This never happened and conditions on the reservation worsened. Wilson outlawed AIM and hired vigilantes who called themselves Guardians of the Oglala Nation (GOONs) to enforce his rules.

Between 1973 & 1976 anyone associated with AIM was targeted for violence – over 60 traditionalists were murdered. Instead of stopping the violence the FBI supplied the GOONs with weaponry and intelligence on AIM.

As the situation worsened the traditionalists asked AIM to return to the reservation. Leonard Peltier was one that answered the call. He and 12 others set up a camp on the Jumping Bull ranch at Pine Ridge.
On June 26, 1975 two FBI agents in unmarked cars pursued a red pick-up truck onto the ranch supposedly looking for someone who had gotten into a fight and stolen a pair of boots. Gunshots rang out. 150 FBI swat team members responded along with Bureau of Indian Affairs police and GOONs. When it was over 1 AIM member and 2 FBI agents lay dead.

Four people were indicted for the deaths of the FBI agents. The charges against one were dropped and 2 were found innocent on the grounds of self-defense. Peltier escaped to Canada where he was apprehended in February, 1976. The FBI presented a Canadian court with an affidavit from a woman named Myrtle Poor Bear who claimed she was Peltier’s girl friend and that she had witnessed him shooting the agents. But Poor Bear had never met Peltier, nor had she been present at the time of the shooting – a fact later confirmed by the US Prosecutor and by her subsequent declaration that she had given false testimony.

There is much evidence that Leonard Peltier did not get a fair trial and the prosecutor failed to produce a single witness that could identify him as the shooter. Still he was sentenced to 60 years in prison – two life sentences.

Why Health Care Will Kill My TV -- Sara Mann

"I suggest that corporate America is putting out a gift book of their own: Chicken Soup for the Worker's Soul. It's warm. It's caring. It's wrapped up in a patriotic book jacket and flying off the shelves. It's delightfully full of crap. They want us to believe this is non-fiction. They want workers to believe that we're all the same, on the same side- wall street and main street, those who shower before work and those who shower after work."

My TV is going to die soon. It will break and I will have to go shopping for another. I know this not because it is making any sort of sound or tuning in and out. It's not too old. Its inevitable malfunction has nothing to do with the recent digital conversion. No. My TV will break because I am certain that as the health care debate continues I will throw something through the screen. I'm not allowing myself to eat in the living room anymore. I can't risk a plate going into the face of Lou Dobbs or a glass launching through the table of "Harry and Louise." Health care will kill my TV.

My rage comes not only from a place within me but from my mail, sitting on my desk. It's based in reality. It saddens me that there is even debate at this time and it saddens me that the debate is simply another tool being used to confuse the middle class. Here are a few questions I have for people watching ads against a public health care option.

Can you choose your own doctor now?

I can't. I have fairly good health insurance, by any standards. It's affordable. My co-pays are small but I cannot see a doctor of my choosing. That decision is made for me. If I want to see my doctor I have to be very specific when I make the appointment. If I am scheduled to see him for the flu and we discuss my knee the appointment is not covered by my "fairly good insurance". I have to call my insurance company before I go to the emergency room to make sure my visit will be covered. I have to make sure that if I have an emergency it's near the hospital my insurance has designated as my Primary Care Facility... otherwise... whoops! No payment! This is all from someone who has "fairly good insurance".

What about the people with no insurance?

I talk to others about insurance and the story is not the same. I know two people, in their sixties, who are without health insurance. Both of them are unemployed. This isn't because they have no skills. One is a union electrician! They tried to survive on COBRA but after nearly losing their home they simply couldn't afford their health insurance. When there is no money there is simply NO MONEY. Now they are terrified of being sick. Everyday is a stressful reminder that they simply can't afford to live.

Government will make health decisions for you?

Who makes your health care decisions now? I dare anyone with health insurance... bad, good, excellent... any health insurance, to go get a cat scan. Women, go get a mammogram. Men, go for a colonoscopy. It won't be covered. I guarantee it. No one with private health insurance makes their own health care decisions. Dot your I's. Cross your T's. It won't happen. Sure, most of that mammogram or colonoscopy will be covered if you're of a certain age, if it's a certain time of year, if you go to a certain facility or if the moon is in line with Jupiter. Sure, there's a chance it will be covered but it's not by your choice. Keep in mind the individual working in that tall black building downtown somewhere has every incentive to find a loophole on your form. They have every incentive to deny your claim.

Who would you rather make health care decisions?

Health insurance, public or private, only works as a collective. We all pay in so some of us can take out every now and then. That's how it works. Because of this we must concede that somewhere down the line someone is going to have to make a decision on the insured's behalf. It is inevitable with so much money and so many different cases involved. That being acknowledged I think we need to ask ourselves this very important question: Would you rather have officials, elected by the people, help to make decisions for the people or would you rather a CEO (who stands only to profit) make decisions for the people.

I prefer the elected officials. If they make bad decisions let's just get them out of office. There's a lot of talk about the inefficiency of government. We forget that we are the government! We hold sovereignty. Each time that we believe or fall prey to these ads suggesting that government does not work we hand another piece of our country over to corporate America. Only... be careful. Corporate America is not really even corporate "America" anymore. It's corporate-China. It's corporate Mexico. It's corporate Bangladesh. These companies that apparently care so much for our health care system and care so much about out autonomy as patients don't care enough about us to keep our jobs here or to even keep their money here. They are here to funnel it out, into international investments and cheap labor. They are not advocating for your rights as a worker.

This brings me to the popular book series, Chicken Soup for the Soul. Anyone who has ever walked past or into the inspirational or self-help section of a bookstore knows about these heartwarming little books. The books are compilations of stories and anecdotes relating to a certain profession or perhaps a certain stage in life. I've seen Chicken Soup for the Nurse's Soul, Chicken Soup for the Mother's Soul, Chicken Soup for the Teenager's Soul, and many others. The stories in these books are always feel-good. The title describes them perfectly. One reads them and feels warm and comfortable. They are full of light-hearted, feel-better tales, kind of like a warm bowl of homemade chicken soup.

I suggest that corporate America is putting out a gift book of their own: Chicken Soup for the Worker's Soul. It's warm. It's caring. It's wrapped up in a patriotic book jacket and flying off the shelves. It's delightfully full of crap. They want us to believe this is non-fiction. They want workers to believe that we're all the same, on the same side- wall street and main street, those who shower before work and those who shower after work. The tales they fill this book with are outlandish and exceptional stories of women who could not get medical treatment in Canada, people in Sweden who are forced to travel for flu vaccines and elderly people being denied treatment because of their age. It's a perversion of comfort to be sure. The anecdotes are scare tactics but Americans are buying it up. It's a best-seller, marketed as inspiration.

Chicken Soup for the Worker's Soul. It's a nice idea but sew it on a pillow or put it in a greeting card and leave us to do the work that so desperately needs to be done. Meanwhile, I will walk away from TV and try to stick to something a little less inspirational, a little less warm and comforting, like reality.

Sara Mann is a Chicago-based flight attendant for a major airline and lives in her hometown of Rockford, Il. She can be reached at

Those pesky Palestinians -- Angry Arab Newservice

Patrick Seale on the Palestinians: "while feuding Palestinian factions recklessly squander the unique chance of statehood offered them by the providential figure of U.S. President Barack Obama." Those Palestinians. Here came the US president offering them a state and a beverage and they said no. By the way, Patrick: you know how I feel about that book you wrote about Prince Khalid Bin Sultan's heroism in "Desert Storm". (thanks A.)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Save Gaza Vigil at the Ballard Seafood Fest this Saturday, July 25

What: Save Gaza Vigil

Saturday July 25, Noon - 2:00pm

Where: Ballard Seafood Fest , 20th Ave NW & NW Market St.

Amin Odeh
"Stand up for what is right, even if you are standing alone"

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Mad As Hell Doctors Take to Road for Single Payer!

Mad as Hell
You CAN handle the Truth
There's no nice way to say it. The financial cost of health care is killing our citizens, hobbling our economy, crushing small business, and threatening the solvency of our government. In the meantime, the Health Care Industry is spending almost two million dollars a day lobbying Congress and manipulating public opinion to accept “reform” legislation that leaves a vicious, for-profit system intact. The "public option" is a trap. We need real reform that finds immediate savings, controls costs, and accomplishes the moral imperative of true Universal Access. A Single Payer plan is the only real path to a Health Care System that is socially, ethically and fiscally responsible. And yet, our elected officials refuse to even discuss the possibility of a Single Payer plan!
If that doesn't make you mad, we recommend checking your pulse.

We believe the "public option" is doomed.
First: we will still have a dysfunctional health care system designed around insurance companies. Second: it will be impossible to cover everyone without raising taxes. The Obama administration is already saying it is acceptable to leave out 15 million people. Third: in a "post-option" environment you can bet that the health insurance industry will manipulate the rules so that the sickest, most expensive patients will gravitate toward the public plan, which will cause it to fail. When it does, the opponents of real reform will point to the "public option" and scream: "See! Single Payer won't work!"
There is a time for compromise - this isn't one of them.
We are a small group of Oregon-Based doctors who care. We believe there is only one way to control costs, one way to remove profiteering from the system, one way to reclaim the care of our patients, and one way to be sure everyone is covered: we must replace our current pay or die system and with a comprehensive, publicly financed, privately delivered, Single Payer system that puts people first. Our moment to take a stand for Single Payer is NOW. We may not have another opportunity like this in our lifetime. Please support this unprecedented road trip to real health care reform.

Get Mad. Stay Mad.
Make History.

Israel and the Nutbar Factor -- Justin Raimondo

As Israel defies the U.S. on settlement policies and its continuing mistreatment of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, a recent poll shows the American public is undergoing a significant shift in its historically pro-Israel views:

"According to the survey of 800 registered voters, which was conducted June 9-11 by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, those who believe Israel is committed to peace has dropped to 46 percent this month from 66 percent last December. The poll found that some 49 percent of American voters call themselves supporters of Israel, down from 69 percent last September, and only about 44 percent of voters believe the United States should support Israel – down from 71 percent a year ago."

What is the reason for this dramatic drop in support for the Jewish state? After all, the Israeli government and its American amen corner spend a lot of money – a lot of it our own tax dollars coming back to haunt us – in pursuit of the good will of the American people. They do this because they know the U.S. is Israel’s lifeline and that what is essentially a settler colony could not exist for very long if taken off U.S. life support, i.e., if the billions in aid given each year were ended or even significantly reduced. Yet, in spite of this, Israel’s approval ratings are plummeting, fast – and the reason is an exponential expansion of what I call the nutbar factor in Israeli society.

Here’s a good and quite recent example, reported in the excellent Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz:

"The Pope and the cardinals of the Vatican help organize tours of Auschwitz for Hezbollah members to teach them how to wipe out Jews, according to a booklet being distributed to Israel Defense Forces soldiers.

"Officials encouraging the booklet’s distribution include senior officers, such as Lt. Col. Tamir Shalom, the commander of the Nahshon Battalion of the Kfir Brigade.

"The booklet was published by the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, in cooperation with the chief rabbi of Safed, Rabbi Shmuel Eliahu, and has been distributed for the past few months."

No, the booklet is not entitled "The Protocols of the Elders of the Vatican," but it could be: “On Either Side of the Border” purports to be the testimony of “a Hezbollah officer who spied for Israel.” Inside is a greeting from an extremist rabbi "in the name of the Nahshon Brigade." Thousands of copies were distributed to IDF soldiers, until the pamphlet was spotlighted by Ha’aretz.

This "spy," who formerly went by the name Ibrahim and now calls himself Avi, claims Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah was part of a delegation that journeyed to Italy, France, and Poland, alongside representatives of the Vatican. Apparently the pope was otherwise engaged, or he would no doubt have joined the Hezbollah chief, but, in any case, according to Ibrahim/Avi, "We knew [the pope] identified with Hezbollah’s struggle." Yes, those Hezbollah fighters who drove the Israelis out of Lebanon were really altar boys wearing keffiyehs.

Oh, but I’ve saved the best part for last, because, you see, the endpoint of Hezbollah’s hegira was none other than Auschwitz. Ibrahim/Avi avers:

“We came to the camps. We saw the trains, the platforms, the piles of eyeglasses and clothes. … We came to learn. … Our escort spoke as he was taught. We quickly explained to him: Every real Arab, deep inside, is kind of a fan of the Nazis.”

What a fiendishly clever public relations strategy on the part of Hezbollah: telling the world they’re Nazis. That’s the ticket! No wonder Israel’s poll numbers are going down!

Israel Deploys Cyber Team to Spread Positive Spin -- Jonathan Cook

Part of article below; whole article here:
NAZARETH. ISRAEL // The passionate support for Israel expressed on talkback sections of websites, internet chat forums, blogs, Twitters and Facebook may not be all that it seems.

Israel’s foreign ministry is reported to be establishing a special undercover team of paid workers whose job it will be to surf the internet 24 hours a day spreading positive news about Israel.

Internet-savvy Israeli youngsters, mainly recent graduates and demobilised soldiers with language skills, are being recruited to pose as ordinary surfers while they provide the government’s line on the Middle East conflict.

"To all intents and purposes the internet is a theatre in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and we must be active in that theatre, otherwise we will lose," said Ilan Shturman, who is responsible for the project.

The existence of an "internet warfare team" came to light when it was included in this year’s foreign ministry budget. About $150,000 (Dh551,000) has been set aside for the first stage of development, with increased funding expected next year.

The team will fall under the authority of a large department already dealing with what Israelis term "hasbara", officially translated as "public explanation" but more usually meaning propaganda. That includes not only government public relations work but more secretive dealings the ministry has with a battery of private organisations and initiatives that promote Israel’s image in print, on TV and online.

In an interview this month with the Calcalist, an Israeli business newspaper, Mr Shturman, the deputy director of the ministry’s hasbara department, admitted his team would be working undercover.

"Our people will not say: 'Hello, I am from the hasbara department of the Israeli foreign ministry and I want to tell you the following.’ Nor will they necessarily identify themselves as Israelis," he said. "They will speak as net-surfers and as citizens, and will write responses that will look personal but will be based on a prepared list of messages that the foreign ministry developed."

Rona Kuperboim, a columnist for Ynet, Israel’s most popular news website, denounced the initiative, saying it indicated that Israel had become a "thought-police state".

She added that "good PR cannot make the reality in the occupied territories prettier. Children are being killed, homes are being bombed, and families are starved."

Her column was greeted by several talkbackers asking how they could apply for a job with the foreign ministry’s team.

The project is a formalisation of public relations practices the ministry developed specifically for Israel’s assault on Gaza in December and January.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Why is Leonard Peltier Still in Prison?

Portion of article below; to read whole article and find out how to help Leonard gain parole, go to:

Leonard Peltier is an innocent man who has spent over 33 terrible years in prison for a crime he didn't commit.

In 1977, he was sentenced to two consecutive life terms for the deaths of two FBI agents, Jack Coler and Ronald Williams, who were killed in a gunfight on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota on June 26, 1975.

Peltier's case is one of the awful travesties of the U.S. justice system--standing alongside those of Sacco and Vanzetti, Julius and Ethel Rosenburg, and Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Like these individuals, Peltier is rightly considered by his supporters to be a political prisoner--because his prosecution and conviction was driven solely by his participation in the American Indian Movement (AIM) in the 1970s. Since his conviction in 1977, he has been a victim--repeatedly--of the racism of the U.S. criminal justice system.

But Leonard Peltier is not simply a victim. He is also a fighter.

Leonard and his friends, family, allies and supporters have been courageous and relentless in speaking out for justice in Leonard's case, even when faced with government repression for doing so. And Peltier has stood up for justice not only in his own case, but on behalf of indigenous people and all victims of war, poverty and racism.

In his memoir Prison Writings: My Life Is My Sun Dance, he wrote:

The destruction of our people must stop! We are not statistics. We are people from whom you took this land by force and blood and lies...You practice crimes against humanity at the same time that you piously speak to the rest of the world of human rights! America, when will you live up to your own principles?

Views such as these, along with the work he has done setting up scholarships for Native American children, among other efforts, explains why Peltier was a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize and the 2004 presidential candidate of the Peace and Freedom Party.

Our society would benefit enormously from having someone like Leonard living as a free man. Instead, at age 64, he languishes in prison while in poor health. Earlier this year, he was brutally beaten; he has been repeatedly denied proper medical care.

On July 28, Peltier will appear at his first full parole hearing in 15 years. Now is the time to rebuild momentum around his case and demand his release and exoneration--and put his name back at the center of the fight against the criminal justice system.

* * *

PELTIER WAS indicted along with two others in the 1975 shootout at the Jumping Bull property. His co-defendants, Bob Robideau and Dino Butler, represented by famed radical attorney William Kunstler, were acquitted on the basis of self-defense.

Humiliated by the not-guilty verdict for Robideau and Butler, the government went after Peltier with a vengeance. It lied, cheated and slammed the book on any sense of justice to ensure a conviction.

The Feds used three perjured affidavits to get Peltier extradited from Canada, to which he had escaped. During the trial itself, Peltier faced an all-white jury in North Dakota, where racism against Native Americans and hostility to AIM was palpable. The jury was unnecessarily sequestered and deliberately made to feel vulnerable by the judge. This same judge wouldn't allow Leonard's attorney's to argue self-defense.

Assistant U.S. attorney Lynn Crooks didn't produce any witnesses who could identify Peltier as the person who killed the agents. The government presented false evidence--the claim that only Peltier had the type of gun that killed the agents--and also concealed evidence showing that the gun they claimed Peltier used didn't match the bullet casings found near the agent's bodies.

Documents uncovered later through Freedom of Information Act requests revealed, among other things, that the judge met with the FBI before the trial began, and that the legal defense committee that emerged out of the Wounded Knee occupation had been infiltrated.

None of these facts are really contested by the federal government. In fact, at an appellate hearing in the 1980s, the government attorney conceded: "We had a murder, we had numerous shooters, we do not know who specifically fired what killing shots...we do not know, quote unquote, who shot the agents."

Huwaida Arraf on the Latest Free Gaza Boat Attempt

Portion below; whole article here:

Perhaps we were politically inept. Had we sailed toward Iran to offer assistance to civilian protesters there, we would have been a cause celebre if the Iranian government had arrested us. Iran, however, for all its troubles, is not now under foreign occupation as Palestine is. Yet as I watched the demonstrations in Iran, I could not miss the similarities to Palestine's nonviolent resistance to Israeli occupation. I cannot count the times I have marched peacefully, waving a flag and demanding freedom for my people -- with only my voice and my presence as my weapons. And sadly, the number of friends I have lost -- killed by Israeli forces as, like Neda Agha-Soltan in Iran, they nonviolently demonstrated for freedom -- is becoming too great a pain in my heart.

My colleagues and I invested time and energy in this difficult journey and put our lives at risk because for too long the international community has been complicit in Israel's crimes against the Palestinian people. For too long, diplomats and world leaders have paid lip service to Palestinian human rights. For too long, the Palestinian people have been told to wait -- wait in the checkpoint line, wait on the peace process, wait to have your rights recognized, wait for freedom.

Students I met on a recent successful voyage to Gaza certainly did not want to wait to be slowly suffocated and drained of their dreams. So desperate were they to escape their confinement in Gaza to obtain higher education abroad that they asked us to drop them in international waters and they would swim the rest of the way to Cyprus. This was youthful madness, but indicative of how trapped people in Gaza are today.

I was born in the blanket of freedom of the United States. My parents immigrated here, knowing that I could not be free in my homeland. But today I use my freedom to struggle as a Palestinian for my friends and relatives who endure the yokes of occupation, oppression, discrimination, exile, internment and apartheid.

Most Palestinians in the occupied territories have not lived a day free of Israel's occupation, and Palestinian citizens of Israel continue to live as a discriminated-against minority. Just the other day, Israel's housing minister, Ariel Atias, declared, "We can all be bleeding hearts, but I think it is unsuitable [for Jews and Palestinians] to live together [in Israel].

This is the Israel the United States funds with billions each year. Under the leadership of President Obama--or any American president, for that matter--support for this sort of raw bigotry makes no sense and is antithetical to our most cherished principles. Yet when Israeli leaders utter such contemptible language it is ignored. When Israeli soldiers fire lethal weapons at unarmed, peaceful protesters it is too often ignored. When Israeli naval boats become pirate ships -- boarding a vessel that poses them no threat, arresting and beating American citizens--it is ignored.

It is ignored and Israel continues to enjoy the patronage of the United States and to present itself as a moral beacon for the world. But my generation finds racist language like that of Atias'--and the actions that result from such outdated thinking--abhorrent.

We find it unacceptable that Palestinians continue to be asked to wait, to improve our self-government and to be patient as we build ourselves toward the same rights that people elsewhere take for granted. With the fourth Palestinian generation born into refugee camps, with a new generation in Gaza being raised poorer and more desperate than the last, with my land being carved and sliced and walled for the exclusive benefit of one ethno-religious group, I say we cannot wait.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Save Gaza Vigil at the Bite of Seattle this Saturday

'Everyone is your enemy,' Israeli soldiers in Gaza told
What: Save Gaza Vigil

When: Saturday July 18, Noon - 2:00pm

Where: Seattle Center near Mercer Street entrance between 3rd&4th Ave N.

Amin Odeh
"Stand up for what is right, even if you are standing alone"

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Breaking the Silence Documents Brutal Truth of Gaza Attack

Part of article below; whole article at:

The first eye-witness accounts of the war by serving Israeli reservists and conscripts describes the Israeli use of Palestinian civilians as "human shields". They detail the killing of at least two civilians, the vandalism, looting and wholesale destruction of Palestinian houses, the use of deadly white phosphorus, bellicose religious advice from army rabbis and what another battalion commander described to his troops as "insane firepower with artillery and air force". The reports amount to the most formidable challenge by Israelis since the Gaza war to the military's own considered view that it conducted the operation according to international law and made "an enormous effort to focus its fire only against the terrorists whilst doing the utmost to avoid harming uninvolved civilians".

They are contained in testimonies from about 30 soldiers that were collected by Breaking the Silence, an army veterans organisation that seeks to "expose the Israeli public to the routine situations of everyday life in the occupied territories". Although the organisation has collected hundreds of testimonies from ex-soldiers before, this is the first time that it has done so from serving soldiers so soon after the events they describe.

They tell how:

* Unprecedentedly loose rules of engagement were put in place to protect Israeli troops. One soldier said his brigade commander and other officers made it clear that "any movement must entail gunfire". He added: "I don't remember if the brigade commander said this or someone else. I' m not sure. No one is supposed to be there. If you see any signs of movement at all, you shoot. These, essentially, were the rules of engagement. Shoot if you like if you are afraid or you see someone, shoot." Another soldier said his battalion commander had said the operation was not "a limited confrontation such as in Hebron, and not to hesitate if we suspected someone nor feel bad about destruction because it is all done for the safety of our own soldiers... if we see something suspect and shoot, better hit an innocent than hesitate to target an enemy". One soldier said the "awareness of each soldier going in is simply... a light finger on the trigger. You see something and you're not quite sure? You shoot".

* Houses were systematically demolished. Despite official accounts that homes were only destroyed for strictly "operational" reasons, one reservist, a veteran of the conflict in Gaza since before 2005, said "I never knew such fire power" used by tanks and helicopters for the "constant destruction" of houses. The soldier said that some houses had been destroyed for normal operational reasons, such as because they had been booby trapped or used by militants to fire from, or had contained tunnel openings. But he said others were destroyed for the "day after" – to make a "very large" area "sterile", to allow better "firing capacity, good visibility and control" once the operation was over. This meant, demolishing houses "not implicated in any way, whose single sin is that it is situated on a hill in the Gaza strip" .

* A civilian man between 50 and 60 who was unarmed but carrying a torch was shot dead after the unit's commander ordered his soldiers not to fire warning shots but to hold their fire until he was 50m away. The soldier said the company commander announced over the radio after the incident: "Here's an opener for tonight". The soldier said that the commander was challenged over why he had not authorised deterrent fire when the man was further away: "He didn't agree and couldn't give a damn, and finally the guys felt that even if they could take this up with the higher echelons it wouldn't be effective." Another soldier said his unit commander shot dead an old man hiding with his family under the stairs of a house. While the soldier said that the killing of the man was a mistake, it had happened as the unit entered the house using live fire.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

'This Is How They Tortured Me' -- Book Reveals First Nation Treatment in Canada

I'm know this also happened in the U.S. -- it's not discussed much. Portion of article below. Linda
July 08, 2009 "Tye Books" -- Most of us know there was a time in Canada when aboriginal children where taken from their homes, their families and communities, and forced to attend residential schools.

There, we have been told, children were beaten for speaking their own language, and many were physically and sexually abused by the priests and nuns that ran the schools.

Most of us know that the lasting effects in many First Nations communities have manifested themselves as poverty, addiction and abuse.

Canadians learned at least that much from Stephan Harper's apology one year ago to the survivors of those schools.

But very few of us have looked into the eyes of one of those children now grown up, many of them now parents or grandparents, and heard them tell their stories -- the raw details of what really happened behind the doors of those schools.

That is why Jacqueline Windh fought hard for her book, First Nations and the Pacific Northwest: Change and Tradition, to be released this month in Canada.

The volume was originally published in Germany to accompany a gallery exhibit in Westfalian Museum of Natural History in Muenster. The first part of the book, by museum director Prof. Alfred Hendricks, explains historical facts about the First Nations of North America for the exhibition. The second part of the book, by Windh, delves into the deeply personal and disturbing stories of 16 residential school survivors from Vancouver Island, told in their own words. For some, it was the first time in their lives they'd talked about their experiences.

The stories force the reader to imagine what it would be like to learn about suicide for the first time when a 10-year-old boy hangs himself in the basement of your school. Or for nuns to come into your room at night to rape you, or to strangle you and the other kids until you black out, just for entertainment.

The stories force the reader to reflect upon how it would feel now, decades later, to see those same nuns in the grocery store of your tiny community. And then to go home to your family only to beat them and pass on the abuse you learned as a child, because it's the only thing you knew growing up.

'They were trained not to talk'

Windh grew up in Ontario, and did not lay eyes on a First Nations person until she was an adult. Not until she was in her 30s, after having moved to Tofino, British Columbia, did Windh really get to know an Aboriginal person. She had known only vaguely about the residential schools and what went on there. Slowly, she developed friendships in the First Nations community, eventually dating a First Nations man, and began to learn about the dark history that shrouded the families she was meeting.

It was years before she earned the trust and respect in the community necessary in order for people to open up and tell her their stories. Now, she says, many residential school victims are realizing it is time that people hear those stories so they can begin to understand the horror that lies in Canada's past, and how it has shaped the present.

"People can have more empathy if they know the truth. If you're walking in downtown Vancouver and you see a drunken Indian passed out on the side of the road, instead of just thinking, 'Why don't they get a job?' you can have a little more empathy about the whole history that brought that person to that situation."

While she originally set out to educate non-natives about the horrors of the residential school system through telling the stories, she quickly learned that many aboriginal people themselves, especially youth, were starved for information as well. What happened in the schools is rarely talked about, even in the family.

"Their parents and grandparents who went to the residential schools were so severely abused that it's a thing they don't talk about. And they were also trained there not to talk. They were really trained not to talk about stuff, so they've been raised in this culture of not talking," says Windh.

'I just want a better life'

The stories in the book are accompanied by portraits photographed by Windh. The last thing Canada needs, she believes, is another faceless Indian.

One of these photos shows a man, Brian Lucas, not older than 50. He stands on a porch overlooking Tofino's shoreline and mountains, twisting a blue towel around his neck:

"We were tortured by the Brothers, getting hit by a big stick four feet long and two inches wide. Thirty whacks on my bare ass, I couldn't even sit down, but I was still forced to sit down. Then I had to get another ten more because I smiled at my friend. I got my ear twisted because they said I wasn't listening. I had my hair pulled by the Sisters, four of them. They tortured me by putting a towel around my neck. This is how they tortured me, they made me black out.

"I want my picture taken of me with a towel around my neck, to show what they put me through. It did something to my brain, that's why I'm always this way."

Brian was five or six when he entered Christie Residential School in Kakawis on Vancouver Island. He has six children of his own now who, though not attending residential school themselves, live with the consequences while their father still fights to move on.

"Nine of those Brothers and Sisters abused me -- physical, emotional, the works. Sexual, I seen them doing it right in front of me. It affected me, and made me say "Hey, that's all right for me to do too." I'm not ashamed to say it, that's where I learnt it from.

"It is hard to live with. I have to see them still, in Tofino. Some of the Brothers and Sisters still live there. Right away I get scared when I see them, I feel "I want to do the same thing to you guys." But I know that's not going to help me.

"Now I hear myself saying those same things to my own kids, 'You're stupid, you're never gonna learn anything.'