Palestinian human rights defender and activist Ameer Makhoul was sentenced to nine years in jail on Sunday, 30 January on charges of spying and contact with a foreign agent.
Makhoul, who serves as General Director of Ittijah – The Union of Arab Community-Based Associations and Chairman of the Public Committee for the Protection of Political Freedoms, was arrested on 6 May 2010, by the Israeli General Security Service and police. His original charge also included aiding the enemy (Hezbollah) in time of war, which in Israel includes a penalty of life in prison.
Makhoul signed a plea bargain with the Israeli authorities on 27 October 2010, according to which he would be given a reduced sentence on reduced charges.
"My husband is being punished severely today for supporting social and political justice. He has been wronged and by his sentencing they are trying to scare the Arabic population in Israel,” said Makhoul's wife Janan in court Sunday.
His brother, former Knesset Member Issam Makhoul, told Israel’s Ynet News: "This is not about harming State security. They are trying to hurt his freedom of expression. This is political persecution against a man who has contributed so much and didn't try to harm the State. He acted according to the law."
When Israeli General Security Service and police raided Ameer Makhoul’s home in Haifa at 6am on 6 May, and arrested him, he was taken to an Israeli security facility and kept from meeting with a lawyer or speaking with his family for nearly two weeks. During this time he confessed to the accusations. It is strongly believed that the confession was coerced.
Dr. Hatem Kanaane, chairperson of the Popular Committee in Defense and Solidarity with Ameer Makhoul said “A difficult decision was reached by Ameer, his family, attorneys and the solidarity committee to accept the reality of this place and conclude a plea bargain for Ameer.”
Dr. Kananne further added that, “After 16 hours of sleep deprivation and being tied to a chair in a manner that constitutes torture, Ameer told them he would sign whatever false charges they want. He was broken.”
Although the Israeli authorities confiscated numerous computers and documents belonging to Ameer, the Ittijah organization and Ameer’s family, in addition to listening to over 30,000 conversations of Ameer in the previous two years, the Israeli authorities found no evidence against Ameer apart from his own statement.
Orna Kohn from Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and one of Makhoul's lawyers, said that "Israeli law defines very broadly the so-called security offenses, which criminalizes behavior or action that no one would expect to see included in a clause of the Criminal Code. The result is that it is very easy for the general attorney to convince a court that a person is guilty. "
When a Palestinian is accused of endangering the state of Israel it is next to impossible to escape any time of prison time, even if there is little to no evidence to support the claim. Ameer now joins the thousands of other Palestinian prisoners, currently serving sentences in Israeli prisons from crimes they never committed. His family, friends and the community he served so faithfully will be anxiously waiting for his release.
Prior to his sentencing Makhoul spoke out saying: "Any sentence will be considered in my eyes to be cruel and vindictive against the Arab population and its legitimate battle here and across the world. The court must prove whether they are a courthouse or the Shin Bet, a place of justice or the backyard of the Shin Bet. I've admitted to the charges as part of a forced reality, and I intend to continue my legitimate work for the Palestinian population in Israel."
Monday, January 31, 2011
London School of Economics professor Fawaz Gerges has pointed out all this "goes beyond Mubarak. The barrier of fear has been removed. It is really the beginning of the end of the status quo in the region." It is in fact bigger; it's a graphic example of grassroots, organic political activism.
Or, in the elite speak of US foreign policy guru Dr Zbigniew Brzezinski, this is his dreaded "global political awakening" in action - the Generation Y across the developing world, angry, restless, outraged, emotionally shattered, mostly unemployed, stripped of their dignity, acting out their revolutionary potential and turning the status quo upside down (even with the Pharaoh promoting the biggest Internet blackout in history).
As much as Kefaya was the spark, this was also a Facebook revolution - now renamed in the streets of Cairo, Alexandria and Suez as Sawrabook ("the book of the revolution"). The RASD ("monitoring", in Arabic) network was launched at the very first day of the protests, last Tuesday, configured as a sort of "observatory of the revolution".
It's crucial to note that at the time - less than a long week ago - al-Jazeera was not even on the scene and Egyptian state TV was showing, as usual, faded black and white movies. In only three days, RASD networked 400,000 people in Egypt and abroad. When the Pharaoh regime woke up it was already too late - Internet shutdown and all.
It's this spirit of solidarity in action that has spilled over to the streets in the form of young activists operating landline phones, documenting injuries or setting up impromptu clinics. Or in the form of average Cairo residents boarding up their homes and setting up neighborhood watches to protect themselves from looters and thugs - widely reported by bloggers to be carrying security services IDs and Mubarak regime-issued weapons.
As alarmed as the rarified global elites may be by now - one just has to follow the labyrinth of ambiguities oozing from Washington and European capitals - at least Brzezinski has been wired enough to catch the drift, as in "major world powers, new and old ... face a novel reality: while the lethality of their military might is greater than ever, their capacity to impose control over the politically awakened masses of the world is at a historic low."
The new order is dying, but the new has not yet been born. The Age of Rage in the arc from Northern Africa to the Middle East may be on - but still no one knows what the next geopolitical configuration will be. Will people have a say - or will it all be corralled and controlled by the powers that be?
Egypt won't become a working democracy because of lack of political infrastructure. But it has to restart from scratch, with most of the opposition almost as reviled as the regime. The younger generation - empowered by the feeling of being on the right side of history - will be crucial.
They won't accept an optical illusion of regime change that ensures continuous "stability". They won't accept being hijacked by the US and Europe and presented with a new puppet. What they want is the shock of the new; a truly sovereign government, no more neo-liberalism, and a new Middle East political order. Expect the counter-revolution to be fierce. And extending way beyond a few bunkers in Cairo.
Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).
PULSE media has the pertinent lyrics and Jackson Browne's original:
Jackson Browne is a prophet, but its Richie Havens who really captures the intensity of the subject. This one is for Egypt:
On the radio talk shows and the T.V.
You hear one thing again and again
How the U.S.A. stands for freedom
And we come to the aid of a friend
But who are the ones that we call our friends–
These governments killing their own?
Or the people who finally can’t take any more
And they pick up a gun or a brick or a stone
And there are lives in the balance
There are people under fire
There are children at the cannons
And there is blood on the wire
Sunday, January 30, 2011
"The Torture Career of Egypt’s New Vice President: Omar Suleiman and the Rendition to Torture Program" -- Stephen Soldz
In response to the mass protests of recent days, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has appointed his first Vice President in his over 30 years rule, intelligence chief Omar Suleiman.
When Suleiman was first announced, Aljazeera commentators were describing him as a “distinguished” and “respected ” man. It turns out, however, that he is distinguished for, among other things, his central role in Egyptian torture and in the US rendition to torture program. Further, he is “respected” by US officials for his cooperation with their torture plans, among other initiatives.
Katherine Hawkins, an expert on the US’s rendition to torture program, in an email, has sent some critical texts where Suleiman pops up. Thus, Jane Mayer, in The Dark Side, pointed to Suleiman’s role in the rendition program:
Each rendition was authorized at the very top levels of both governments….The long-serving chief of the Egyptian central intelligence agency, Omar Suleiman, negotiated directly with top Agency officials. [Former U.S. Ambassador to Egypt] Walker described the Egyptian counterpart, Suleiman, as “very bright, very realistic,” adding that he was cognizant that there was a downside to “some of the negative things that the Egyptians engaged in, of torture and so on. But he was not squeamish, by the way” (pp. 113).
Stephen Grey, in Ghost Plane, his investigative work on the rendition program also points to Suleiman as central in the rendition program:
To negotiate these assurances [that the Egyptians wouldn't "torture" the prisoner delivered for torture] the CIA dealt principally in Egypt through Omar Suleiman, the chief of the Egyptian general intelligence service (EGIS) since 1993. It was he who arranged the meetings with the Egyptian interior ministry…. Suleiman, who understood English well, was an urbane and sophisticated man. Others told me that for years Suleiman was America’s chief interlocutor with the Egyptian regime — the main channel to President Hosni Mubarak himself, even on matters far removed from intelligence and security.
Suleiman wasn’t just the go-to bureaucrat for when the Americans wanted to arrange a little torture. This “urbane and sophisticated man” apparently enjoyed a little rough stuff himself.
Shortly after 9/11, Australian citizen Mamdouh Habib was captured by Pakistani security forces and, under US pressure, tortured by Pakistanis. He was then rendered (with an Australian diplomats watching) by CIA operatives to Egypt, a not uncommon practice. In Egypt, Habib merited Suleiman’s personal attention. As related by Richard Neville, based on Habib’s memoir:
Habib was interrogated by the country’s Intelligence Director, General Omar Suleiman…. Suleiman took a personal interest in anyone suspected of links with Al Qaeda. As Habib had visited Afghanistan shortly before 9/11, he was under suspicion. Habib was repeatedly zapped with high-voltage electricity, immersed in water up to his nostrils, beaten, his fingers were broken and he was hung from metal hooks.
That treatment wasn’t enough for Suleiman, so:
To loosen Habib’s tongue, Suleiman ordered a guard to murder a gruesomely shackled Turkistan prisoner in front of Habib -” and he did, with a vicious karate kick.
After Suleiman’s men extracted Habib’s confession, he was transferred back to US custody, where he eventually was imprisoned at Guantanamo. His “confession” was then used as evidence in his Guantanamo trial.
Saturday, January 29, 2011
I have seen these articles myself. linda
Watch out. Be careful. There has been political psychological operations against the Arabs in publications close to the Mossad (like the Telegraph in the UK and that lousy site, Debka--or whatever it is called). They intend to imply that the US is orchestrating the protests in Egypt. Those rumors aim at 1) Imply that Arabs have no agency. That they can't act on their own and out of their own volition. 2) to exaggerate the ability of the US to control events in the Middle East. 3) to imply that the US never is hit in the face in the region. 4) to enhance the image of the US as one that is on the side of the people. 5) to discredit the protest movement in the eye of the Arabs to make it an American plot. Beware.
Local news story on rally:
Friday, January 28, 2011
RALLY IN SUPPORT OF EGYPTIANS: Saturday January 29 12 to 3 p.m at Westlake Park in Downtown Seattle (4th & Pine)
Boo hoo hoo boo hooo hoo boo hooo hoo boo hooo hoo booo hooo hooo boo hooo hooo
Earlier today, Yousef Fakhri Ikhlayl, a 17-year-old youth from Beit Ommar who has worked very closely with PSP over the years, was shot in the head by settlers and he is currently brain-dead in a Hebron hospital. Yousef attended nearly every unarmed Saturday demonstration, was frequently around the PSP house, and participated in both the Freedom Flotilla Summer Camp, and the photography class organized by the Center for Freedom and Justice. Our thoughts are with his family and friends. Please consider holding solidarity actions or events in your communities to demand his killers be brought to justice, and for Yousef to be the last victim of an ongoing brutal occupation.
Below is more information about the circumstances of Yousef's shooting.
With anger and grief,
The Palestine Solidarity Project
Friday, January 28th 2011, 9am: Around 100 settlers from Bat Ayn settlement descended upon the Palestinian villages of Saffa and nearby Beit Ommar in the southern West Bank, shooting 17-year-old Yousef Fakhri Ikhlayl in his head, leaving him critically injured. Doctors have announced that Yousef is currently brain-dead in a Hebron hospital.
Settlers also shot 16-year-old Bilal Mohammad Abed Al-Qador with live ammunition in his arm.
The large group of armed settlers began shooting towards Palestinian homes in Saffa at around 9am, leaving Bilal injured. At the same time, a second group of settlers attacked an area of Beit Ommar called Jodor. Yousef was shot in the head in this area while he was standing in grapes vines he had planted on his family’s land.
Dozens of Palestinians from Beit Ommar and the nearby village of Surif began coming to the area to defend their communities. Seven jeeps of Israeli Forces also arrived in the area and escorted the settlers back to Bat Ayn.
This is the second settler attack with live ammunition on Palestinians in as many days. On January 27th, Uday Maher Qadous was shot and killed in Iraq Burin, in the Nablus district, by armed settlers as he was working his land.
Yousef Fahkri Ikhlayl is from the village of Beit Ommar and has worked on initiatives with the Palestine Solidarity Project, an ant-occupation organization in Beit Ommar. In the summer of 2010, Yousef attended the Center for Freedom and Justice’s Freedom Flotilla Summer Camp where he engaged in educational projects, community service, and unarmed demonstrations against the Israeli occupation. In the fall of 2010 Yousef was a participant in a youth photography class also sponsored by the center.
“Yousef was a kid who hoped for a better future for Palestine. His life was ended prematurely by right-wing extremists. People around the world should be outraged by his shooting, and should work to bring his attackers to justice. “
-Bekah Wolf, American citizen who worked with Yousef in the Center for Freedom and Justice
Settlers from Bat Ayn routinely attack and harass Palestinians in the Beit Ommar area. In January 27th, 2011 settlers in the area destroyed several hundred olive trees belonging to Palestinian farmers.
Visit the website for more information and updated articles from the ground in Palestine:
Thursday, January 27, 2011
The PA was designed in the 1993 Oslo agreement to be a temporary administration for a five-year transition to statehood. Eighteen years later it has become an open-ended authoritarian quasi state, operating as an outsourced security arm of the Israeli occupation it was meant to replace, funded and effectively controlled by the US, Britain and other western governments.
Its leader's electoral mandate ran out two years ago, and the authority has become increasingly repressive, imprisoning and torturing both civilian and military activists from its rival, Hamas, which won the last Palestinian elections.
With the large bulk of its income coming from the US and the European Union, the PA's leaders are now far more accountable to their funders than to their own people. And, as the records of private dealings between US and PA officials show, it is the American government and its allies that now effectively pick the Palestinians' leaders.
The new administration expected to see "the same Palestinian faces" in charge if the cash was to keep flowing, PA officials were told after Obama's election: Mahmoud Abbas and, more importantly, the Americans' point man, Salam Fayyad.
And despite some less strident rhetoric, the US and British governments have continued to promote the division between Fatah and Hamas, in effect blocking reconciliation while pouring resources and training into the PA security machine's campaign against the Palestinian Islamist movement.
As we also now know, British intelligence and government officials have been at the heart of the western effort to turn the PA into an Iraqi-style counter-insurgency operation against Hamas and other groups that continue to maintain the option of armed resistance to occupation. Shielded from political accountability at home, how exactly does British covert support for detention without trial of Palestinians by other Palestinians promote the cause of peace and security in the Middle East, or anywhere else? In reality, it simply makes the chances of a representative Palestinian leadership that could actually deliver peace with justice even less likely.
The message from the revolutionary events in Tunisia and the spread of unrest elsewhere in the Arab world should be clear enough. Western support for dictatorial pro-western regimes across the region for fear of who their people might elect if given the chance isn't just wrong – it's no longer working, and risks provoking the very backlash it's aimed to forestall.
That applies even more strongly to the Palestinian territories, under military occupation for the past 44 years. Unless those governments that bolster Israeli rejectionism and PA clientalism shift ground, the result will be to fuel and spread the conflict.
For Palestinians, the priority has to be to start to change that lopsided balance of power. That will require a more representative and united national leadership, as the story told by the Palestine papers has rammed home – which means at the very least a democratic overhaul of Palestinian institutions, such as the PLO. In the wake of what has now emerged, pressure for change is bound to grow. Anyone who cares for the Palestinian cause must hope it succeeds.
Patience is a virtue – maybe even the supreme one in Egypt’s popular hierarchy of values, but patience also has its limits and, now, at last, it seems as if we’ve arrived at ours. And fittingly, it’s the young of the country who are leading us. They’ve had enough of unemployment, deteriorating education, corruption, police brutality and political impotence.
As is now well known, they organised Tuesday’s protests over Facebook and in closed virtual and actual meetings. Talk about grassroots! “They” is some 20 groups that have sprung up over the last five years. The question has always been how and when will they coalesce? They did on Tuesday; they fused, and with them multitudes of Egyptians young and old – inspired by what happened in Tunis.
They organised protests from Assiut in the south, to Sheikh Zuwayyid in Sinai, and Alexandria, Suez and other cities the length and breadth of Egypt. For Cairo they chose three locations: Shubra, Matariyya and Arab League Street. These were strategic choices: naturally crowded neighbourhoods, with lots of side streets off the main road. Young activists started their march in nearby areas, collected a following and by the time they reached, for example, Arab League Street, they were 20,000 marching.
The Central Security Forces were in chaos; when they formed cordons the people just broke through them. When they raised their riot shields and batons the young people walked right up to them with their hands up chanting “Silmiyyah! (Peaceable) Silmiyyah!”
In Tahrir Square, in the centre of Cairo, on Tuesday night Egypt re-found and celebrated its diversity. The activists formed a minor part of the gathering, what was there was The People.
Young people of every background and social class marched and sang together. Older, respected figures went round with food and blankets. Cigarette-smoking women in jeans sat next to their niqab-wearing sisters on the pavement. Old comrades from the student movement of the 1970s met for the first time in decades. Young people went round collecting litter. People who stayed at home phoned nearby restaurants with orders to deliver food to the protesters. Not one religious or sectarian slogan was heard. The solidarity was palpable. And if this sounds romantic, well, it was and is.
Then, 1am, Central Security attacked. Ferociously. Within five minutes more than 40 canisters of tear gas were thrown into the crowd. When they did not disperse, the special forces went in with batons, water cannon and finally rubber bullets. People were grabbed and thrown into police trucks. Hundreds were driven off to police stations and detention centres. Private cars chased round after the police trucks to keep track of where they were taking people.
The phone lines set up by legal aid and humanitarian organisations started to ring. Lawyers on standby headed for the detention centres. The government started to block the emergency lines and interfere with the net. Blocking communications. This continues today.
For some time, Egypt has felt as though it is under occupation. Today, downtown Cairo was under siege. Appropriately, it was the legal and media area that was clearly worrying the regime most. Twenty personnel carriers lined Rameses Street, and lines of security forces were three deep around the lawyers’s syndicate, the judges’s club and the journalists’s syndicate.
About 100 protesters were standing on the steps of the journalists’s syndicate, with banners. A young woman with a mike was addressing the soldiers: “Relax!” she called, “Relax! We’re not the enemy!”
The protest strategy since the 26th has been flash demonstrations that gather quickly and disperse when attacked. Their aim is to keep the security forces on their toes and not allow them to rest – until Friday. Friday, after prayers, is the classic protest time and everyone is waiting.
There is a level of organisation springing up here that can best be described as solidarity in action. At various centres round the capital young activists are manning phones, documenting injuries, setting up impromptu clinics.
At the Hisham Mubarak (no relation to the President) legal centre people have not slept for 48 hours. They have documented, since 25 January, eight people killed, 24 injured and more than 800 detained. But the hotlines published on the websites have now all been blocked so fewer calls are coming in. But information keeps coming: they detained a ninety-year-old man in Suez. He used to be a leader of the resistance in 1956. And he’s in the protests now.
We need to support people who are targets of the U.S. gov't. If we don't let them know we will not stand for routine repression of our rights, it is possible we will have to move to the kinds of brave actions undertaken by the people of the Middle East.
Please attend the Stop the FBI Repression organizing meeting tonight (Thursday), 7 pm at Bethany United Church of Christ, 6230 Beacon Ave. S. (at Graham St.) on Beacon Ave.
Some people argued with me when I dismissed the Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood. I know that they suffer great repression: in one year in 2007, some 8000 members of them were arrested and not one word was uttered in protest in the West. But those Islamists of the MB have been cowardly in dealing with Mubarak from the get go. They have absolutely no role whatsoever in what is happening. They have made themselves irrelevant and for that I am glad. None of the slogans in Egypt are Islamist or Islamic in nature. The activists are mostly young and educated and generally progressive from lower and middle class backgrounds. Some are some of the people that I have communicated with about events in Egypt in the last few years. And Twitter and Facebook have been greatly utilized by them. One of the great activists in Egypt has a graduate degree in internet media and he is putting his skills to a great use. Salutation comrades.
UPDATE -- "How to Revolt Intelligently"
I have just received from Egypt a secret document titled "How to Revolt Intelligently" prepared by the youth activists in Egypt. It is a most sophisticated manual by activist that I have seen. I am not exaggerating. It has very specific instructions as how to deal with the oppression tactics and methods of the Mubarak regime. I would have shared it with you, but the activists are circulating it as a secret document with special instruction against wide distribution for fear of falling into the hands of police. It has specific instruction as to how to deal with tear gas canisters and the repression vehicles and baton of the police. It sets the demands and style of the movement with well-done illustration. It ends with an illustration of Jamal Mubarak nicknamed Jaban Mubarak (Coward Mubarak). It is most impressive and makes me more hopeful about change in Egypt. I have not seen anything like this before, not by any revolutionary or activist movement anywhere. The title in Egyptian accent is:
كيف تثور بحدائة
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
January 24, 2011 "The Guardian" -- The Obama administration has privately made clear that it will not allow any change of Palestinian leadership in the West Bank, the leaked papers reveal, let alone any repetition of the Hamas election victory that briefly gave the Islamists control of the Palestinian Authority five years ago.
That is despite the fact that the democratic legitimacy of both the Palestinian president and Fatah leader, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), and prime minister, Salam Fayyad, is strongly contested among Palestinians, and there are no plans for new elections in either the West Bank or Gaza.
"The new US administration expects to see the same Palestinian faces (Abu Mazen and Salam Fayyad) if it is to continue funding the Palestinian Authority," the then assistant secretary of state David Welch is recorded as telling Fayyad in November 2008. Most of the PA's funding comes from the US and European Union.
Almost a year later, the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, reacted angrily to news that Abbas had threatened to resign and call for new presidential elections. She told Palestinian negotiators: "Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] not running in the election is not an option – there is no alternative to him." The threat was withdrawn and no election was held.
The US consulate in Jerusalem reported to Washington in December 2009 that "despite all its warts and imperfections, Fatah remains the only viable alternative to Hamas if Palestinian elections occur in the near future," according to a cable released by Wikileaks.
The US government's private determination to use its financial and military leverage to keep the existing regime in place — while publicly continuing to maintain that Palestinians are free to choose their own leaders — echoes the Bush administration's veto on attempts to create a Palestinian national unity administration after Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2007.
Unlike the PLO, Hamas rejects negotiations, except for a long-term ceasefire, and refuses to recognise Israel. Supported by Iran and Syria, the group is classed as a terrorist organisation by Israel, the US and the EU.
The leaked documents quote General Keith Dayton, the US security co-ordinator for Israel and the Palestinian Authority who was in charge of building up PA security forces until last October. He warned Palestinian leaders in 2007 about rumours that the "Fatah old guard" were undermining Fayyad, who he confirmed as the linchpin of US strategy in the West Bank.
"As much as President Bush thinks Abu Mazen is important," Dayton told them, "without Fayyad, the US will lift its hand from the PA and give up on Abu Mazen." Unlike Abbas, Fayyad – a US-trained economist who formerly worked for the World Bank and and the IMF – is not a member of the secular Fatah party.
Abbas was elected president in 2005, but his mandate expired in 2009 and is no longer recognised by Hamas, among others, as the legitimate Palestinian leader. Fayyad was appointed prime minister by Abbas after the Hamas takeover of Gaza but his legitimacy is also strongly contested as his appointment was never confirmed as required by the PA's parliament.
The Obama administration's determination to keep control of who runs the PA underlines the continuity of policy from the Bush years. In the runup to the 2007 Hamas takeover of Gaza, the then US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice was revealed in leaked US official documents to have as good as instructed Abbas to "collapse" the then joint Fatah-Hamas national unity government.
The dependence of the existing PA and PLO leadership on US support is well understood by those leaders, as the documents underline. Referring to Obama's attempt to kickstart Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in 2009, US state department official David Hale told chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat: "We need the help of friends like you."
Erekat replied that the US president's "success is my survival".
The US consulate in Jerusalem reported in December 2009: "It is axiomatic amongst our contacts that Fatah remains the only near-term alternative to Hamas in Palestinian politics. Despite the toll of corruption and stagnant peace process, our contacts believe that only Fatah has the national liberation credentials, breadth of appeal and organisational structure to mobilise and win a Palestinian election for the foreseeable future ... Despite all its warts and imperfections, Fatah rermains the only viable alternative to Hamas if Palestinian elections occur in the near future."
I have been summoned to appear before a federal grand jury in Chicago on Jan. 25. But I will not testify, even at the risk of being put in jail for contempt of court, because I believe that our most fundamental rights as citizens are at stake.
I am one of 23 anti-war, labor and solidarity activists in Chicago and throughout the Midwest who are facing a grand jury as part of an investigation into “material support for foreign terrorist organizations.”
No crime has been identified. No arrests have been made. And when it raided several prominent organizers’ homes and offices on Sept. 24, the FBI acknowledged that there is no immediate threat to the American public. So what is this investigation really about?
The activists who have been ensnared in this fishing net work with different groups to end the US wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan, to end US military aid for Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land and US military aid to Colombia, which has a shocking record of repression and human rights abuses. All of us have publicly and peacefully dedicated our lives to social justice and advocating for more just and less deadly US foreign policy.
I spent a year and a half working for a human rights organization in the occupied West Bank, where I witnessed how Israel established “facts on the ground” at the expense of international law and Palestinian rights. I saw the wall, settlements and checkpoints and the ugly reality of life under Israeli occupation which is bankrolled by the US government on the taxpayer’s dime. Many of us who are facing the grand jury have traveled to the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Colombia to learn about the human rights situation and the impact of US foreign policy in those places so we may educate fellow Americans upon our return and work to build movements to end our government’s harmful intervention abroad.
Travel for such purposes should be protected by the first amendment. But new legislation now allows the US government to consider such travel as probable cause for invasive investigations that disrupt our movements and our lives.
The June 2010 US Supreme Court decision Holder vs. Humanitarian Law Project expanded even further the scope of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 to include first amendment activity such as political speech and human rights training.
Even former President Jimmy Carter feels vulnerable under these laws because of his work doing elections training in Lebanon where one of the main political parties, until earlier this month a member of the ruling coalition, is listed as a “foreign terrorist organization” by the US State Dept. “The vague language of the law leaves us wondering if we will be prosecuted for our work to promote peace and freedom,” Carter has said.
Former FBI officer Mike German, who now works with the American Civil Liberties Union, told the television program Democracy Now! that the subpoenas, search warrants and materials seized from activists’ homes make it clear that the government is interested in “address books, computer records, literature and advocacy materials, first amendment sort of materials.” He added, “unfortunately, after 9/11, [investigation standards] have been diluted significantly to where the FBI literally requires no factual predicate to start an investigation.”
The US government doesn’t need to call me before a grand jury to learn my activities and my beliefs. I have often appealed to my elected representatives to take a principled stand on foreign policy issues, protested outside federal buildings and have written countless articles over the years that can be easily found through a Google search.
Witnesses called to testify to a grand jury have no right to have a lawyer in the room and the jury is hand-picked by government prosecutors with no screening for bias. It is the ultimate abuse of power for a citizen to be forced to account to the government for no other reason than her exercise of constitutionally protected freedoms of speech and association.
This is why these grand jury proceedings are a threat to the rights of all Americans, and why those of us who have been targeted, and others in the movements we work with, call them a witch hunt. And, even though it means I risk being jailed for the life of the grand jury, I will not be appearing before it.
The grand jury has been scrapped in virtually all countries and more than half the states in this country. There is a long American history of abusing grand juries to launch inquisitions into domestic political movements, from the pre-Civil War abolitionist movement to labor activists advocating for an eight-hour work day to the anti-war movement during the Vietnam years.
We have done nothing wrong and risk being jailed because we have exercised our rights to free speech, to organize and hold our government accountable. It is a dark day for America when people face jail for exercising the rights that we hold so dear.
The author is a journalist and Palestine solidarity activist who lives in Chicago.
Sunday, January 23, 2011
Friday, January 21, 2011
The Israeli War Crimes are increasing by the hour against the Palestinian people. We can NOT and should NOT stay SILENT!
Please join us!
Saturday, Jan 22
Westlake Plaza, 4th & Pine
"Stand up for what is right, even if you are standing alone"
Thursday, January 20, 2011
Mohammed Omer, Gaza journalist
Mohammed Omer is a citizen of Rafah refugee camp in Gaza. In 2008, he received the Gellhorn prize as the “Voice of the Voiceless” Returning to his homeland after receiving the reward, he was severely beaten.
Courageously recovering while completing his graduate studies, Mohammed recently received an MA in International Political Economy and Development.
Friday, February 25, 7 PM
Friends Meeting House, University District
4001—9th Avenue N.E., Seattle
"Stand up for what is right, even if you are standing alone"
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Israel National News reports that “Israeli tanks and bulldozers crossed several hundred feet into Gaza Tuesday afternoon and killed one terrorist after a bomb exploded near an Israel patrol vehicle at the Gaza separation/security barrier.” I know that this isn’t true, because I know who they killed: Amjad Sami Za’aneen. I know because I got a call from his relative Saber Za’aneen earlier today that there had been an incursion in Beit Hanoun, and because my friends went to the hospital to go interview his family members. They said he’d been collecting rocks with friends in the buffer zone when an Israeli tank unloaded a shell at them. It blew a hole in his abdomen so big he didn’t even make it to the hospital before he died. The murderers’ newspaper says: “it is widely known that the patrol area is a closed military zone.” That’s how they shrug off ripping a hole in a boy’s stomach and ripping a hole in his family’s world. They lie about it. Then they blame the victim. Then they call him a terrorist. Then they refuse to say his name. A friend asked me what we do here, because we cannot do direct action anymore. I told him, we make sure the dead have names.
When John Ross left Terminal Island, the federal prison in Los Angeles, after serving a couple of years for refusing the Vietnam draft, the warden shook his head and said: "Ross, you never learned how to be a prisoner."
I'm not writing the epitaph for whatever gravestone he has or doesn't have, wherever it might be in the world, but that's what I'd put on it: "John Ross, 1938-2011. Never learned how to be a prisoner."
John, who died over the weekend, was a poet, author, activist, agitator  and uncontrollable shit disturber, utterly and sometimes insanely fearless, pure of heart and devoted to the cause of social justice so deeply that he could never let up, even for a minute. He was also my friend.
John was a tenant organizer in San Francisco in the 1960s. He ran for supervisor once on a platform of rent control and ending the war; he was kicked off the ballot on the basis that he was a convicted felon. He never got his filing fee back.
After a while, he headed north for Arcata, back to the land, so to speak, and became something of a farmer. He wrote poetry, self-published maybe half a dozen books, most of which I have, some of which are probably lost forever. He wrote freelance for the Guardian, but he had no phone; you'd call him at a bar in Arcata (he swore later that Thomas Pynchon was one of his barmates), leave a message and he'd check in when he got it.
Then in 1984, he showed up at our office in San Francisco, fleeing the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting, which had raided his plot, trashed his house, thrown his typewriter out the window and missed capturing him by a few minutes. He sold the last of the crop in the city, found a room and started writing for us regularly.
He was one of the single most talented writers I've ever met -- and a reporter willing to go anywhere for a story. He was also an absolute pain in the ass to work with. Every John Ross story I ever edited was a nightmare. He hated editors, almost as a matter of religion; every single word was sacred, and anytime I tried to mess with what he'd created he'd threaten to quit. "Take my name off the masthead; I'm never working for you again" was almost a mantra with us. It got to the point where I had to say: No, John. You can't quit. You're part of this operation forever, like it or not. And he always came around.
But it's not a surprise that he never held down a real job for long.
Sandy Close at Pacific News Service sent him to Mexico City after the big earthquake in 1985, and he wound up at the Hotel Isabella, where he lived for the next 25 years. He took on stories nobody else would do or could do; he'd go places nobody else would dare. "Tim," he'd always tell me, "you have to go where the story is."
When the Zapatistas began their rebellion, he hitched a ride south from Mexico City, then hiked into the hills in Chiapas with a bag of granola and a couple of bottles of water, found the rebels in a little hamlet, met Subcommander Marcos and got interviews and information that left the rest of the media in the dust. In the first story he sent me, he described seeing a couple of reporters from the San Francisco Chronicle zipping by in a fancy rented jeep, with about $1,000 worth of camera gear, totally befuddled. They were out of their league; John was right at home.
He called me once, late at night, to ask if I knew any doctors in town. Turns out he'd been beaten pretty badly by the Mexican authorities just before getting on a plane to SF. I asked him how it happened, and he told me that he'd decided, on his own, to stand in the Mexico City airport and make a speech denouncing the government. The cops didn't respond kindly.
He went to Iraq before the war to serve as a human shield in Baghdad (his emails were all signed "John Ross, humanshield"), left after having some clashes (imagine that) with his Iraqi government minders, travelled all over the world writing and selling his books, sent me pieces from everywhere, lost his eye to an old injury from fighting with the SFPD (his email signature became "Juan Eye"), won and refused an award from the City of San Francisco, wrote a major investigative piece on the death of journalist Brad Will  and kept writing until the very end. When he was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer, he started signing his emails "John Ross, not dead yet."
The last message I got was on Nov. 4. After complaining some more about the cops, he wrote:
"it appears ive written my last articles for the bay guardian -- the doctors have given me six months on the outside and then its goodbye this cruel world -- we raised some hell when i was here." It's signed: "insolidarity johnross enroute."
Yes, John: We raised some some hell when you were here. Good luck enroute. And I will miss you forever.
John Ross leaves a son, Dante A. Ross, a daughter, Carla Ross-Allen, and a granddaughter, Zoe Ross-Allen, as well as a sister, Susan Gardner. Memorial info is pending; I'll keep you posted.
Monday, January 17, 2011
The original video was made by Elliot Stoller!
Saturday, January 15, 2011
Friday, January 14, 2011
Friday 07/01/2011-At today's demonstration, three persons were wounded, in addition to dozens of more cases of people choking on tear gas.The Popular Committee Against the Wall in Bil'in organized today's demonstration. The march began after Friday prayers from the center of the village, towards the site of the wall. Representatives from Bil'in as well as dozens of Palestinians from around the West Bank participated in today's march. In addition, dozens of international activists and Israelis participated in the demonstration, chanting slogans calling for national unity, ending the occupation, and destroying the wall. Participants raised Palestinian flags and banners of the various factions, calling for liberation and national unity. When demonstrators reached the site of the wall, they were met with a shower of tear gas and sound bombs, rubber bullets, and the use of wastewater contaminated with chemicals. Odai abo rahma was injured in his leg by tear gas, and tow woman's were unconscious by poison gas. Dozens of people suffered from teargas inhalation, which was used intensively, and many more suffered from the use of waste water by the Israeli army. Demonstrators and others attempted to stop the occupation forces when they attempted to advance towards the village. Palestinian youth threw stones at the soldiers in an effort to stop them, but were forced to retreat, where they continued confrontations with Israeli soldiers for the next several hours.
Bil'in Popular committee
Thursday, January 13, 2011
UPDATE 1/14/11: Tunisian President Flees Country!!!
People have spoken! Hopefully the new regime will have to listen.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
RAMALLAH (AFP) - British film director Ken Loach brought a message of warning to the Palestinians on his first visit to the occupied territories: if you are divided you will fail.
The 74-year-old filmmaker and veteran social activist arrived in the West Bank on Tuesday to attend a screening of his award-winning drama "The Wind That Shakes The Barley" which depicts the Irish struggle for independence from Britain in the 1920s and the ensuing civil war.
Hundreds of Palestinians packed into Ramallah's Cultural Palace to watch the film, which won the Palme D'Or at Cannes in 2006 but was subjected to fierce criticism when it was released in Britain.
The film, which contains some harrowing scenes of brutality, follows the story of two brothers caught up in the fight against the British occupation, but who are eventually ripped apart by bitterly opposing views on the Anglo-Irish treaty of 1921.
What really struck a chord with the audience was the fact the conflict had two levels to it: the fight against the occupation, and the internal struggles which ended up splitting the Republican movement.
"We just thought you might find it interesting," the softly spoken director told the audience with a wry smile.
"It's exactly like Hamas and Fatah," whispered one member of the audience as the film drew to its bloody and tragic conclusion, clearly surprised by the obvious parallels between the splits among the Irish Republicans and those of the Palestinian factions.
Brooding tensions between Hamas and Fatah, both of whom have different views on ending the occupation, have simmered for years but erupted into deadly violence in 2007 when the Islamists forced their secular rivals out of Gaza, effectively splitting the Palestinian territories in half.
"The experience from Ireland is: if you are divided, you will fail," Loach told the audience, which broke into applause as he stepped onto the stage.
"There is that big struggle between the ultimate prize and what you think you can achieve at that moment."
An unassuming yet deeply committed social activist, who is known for his bitter-sweet pictures focusing on social reality such as "Kes" (1969) and "Land and Freedom" (1995), Loach has taken a central role in the campaign for a cultural boycott of Israel.
In 2009, Loach withdrew his film "Looking for Eric" from the Melbourne film festival in protest over Israel's sponsorship of another filmmaker, and several months earlier, he took a similar stance at the Edinburgh film festival.
"We just have to chip away at the boycott and make certain that Israel becomes a pariah -- and encourage the boycott of trade," he said.
"It is not the time to be silent... to write journalism or make films that ignore reality," said Loach. "It's the presence of justice that we need to see in this land."
Asked about his first impression of the Palestinian territories, Loach said it was shock at the towering reality of the vast separation barrier Israel is building across the West Bank.
"Nothing prepares you for the shock of seeing the wall," he told AFP. "The reality of it is so brutal and harsh and so illegal that it made us feel angry."
Loach's remarks appeared to reflect a deep pessimism about the prospect for meaningful change in the Middle East.
"There is a very simple lesson we learned from Ireland: don't trust the word of the ruling class," he said to a wave of applause as he described the 1921 Anglo-Irish treaty as a "cynical" attempt to keep the British Empire intact.
"What they were determined to do was... to prevent the people from being genuine participants in their own future," he said.
A similar situation was being played out in the Middle East, where economic and political control was at stake, he said.
"What people face here is an economic reality where the big powers, principally the Americans, want to keep control of the region and they have people who do that for them in Israel. That's the realpolitik."
Loach called current attempts to negotiate an end to the occupation as "phoney" and "fraudulent" and said they were unlikely to lead anywhere until the parties agreed to apply international law.
"We are approaching the whole thing in the wrong way. There is clearly no intention by the Israeli government to act legally, and there is no pressure for that from the States," he told AFP.
"How long can the world ignore the Geneva Convention? At some point, it has to end."
Ultimately, it would be up to the United Nations, which he believes is the only body that could actually enforce change.
"It's their job to uphold the law and face down the Americans," he said."
Committee to Stop FBI Repression
Wednesday 01/12/2010 12:00 pm
1313 5th St. SE Room 112C
Minneapolis MN 55414
Alternative link http://livestream.com/tcimc
FFI: Joe Iosbaker (773) 301-0109
Jess Sundin 612-272-2209 or 612-379-3585
Mick Kelly 612-715-3280
The anti-war and international solidarity activists who are being called before a grand jury in Chicago have learned that beginning a few months before the protests against the Republican National Convention in the 2008 in St. Paul, Minnesota, a law enforcement officer infiltrated the Twin Cities Anti-War Committee (AWC). The infiltrator went by the name Karen Sullivan, joined the AWC in April 2008, and about a year later she joined the Freedom Road Socialist Organization.
Misty Rowan, of the Anti-War Committee, said, "The AWC played an important role in organizing the permitted march on the Republican National Convention on September 1, 2008, and also organized a rally and march on the fourth day of the convention. We can only assume that this First Amendment protected organizing was the reason that this agent, Karen Sullivan, infiltrated the AWC. It is the same kind of infiltration criticized in the October 2010 inspector general report and highlighted in the recent release of documents from the Richmond, Virginia, police, where any sort of assembly is defined as a disturbance and threat."
Jess Sundin, of the Anti-War Committee, said; "This professional liar posed as a fellow activist for two and a half years, and acted as if she was our friend. She spent time around my child, and even attended a small BBQ to celebrate my release from the hospital after I survived a near-fatal brain hemorrhage in April of last year. This event had no investigative value. By attending personal events like this, she showed how unprincipled she was."
In the summer of 2009, the agent signed up to go on a solidarity trip to Palestine. Three members of the delegation were denied entry at the Tel Aviv airport and eventually sent back to the U.S., Sarah Martin, Katrina Plotz and the agent. We have now learned that on the word of this agent, these political activists were prevented from witnessing first-hand what is paid for with U.S. tax dollars in Israel and the Occupied Territories.
In conversations between our attorneys and the prosecutor’s office in Chicago, we have had confirmation that Karen Sullivan was in fact a law enforcement officer working undercover.
It now appears that the investigation of the U.S. Attorney is focused on small donations to the daycare and women’s center projects of the Union of Palestinian Women's Committees, an NGO registered with the Palestinian Authority with local offices in towns across the the West Bank and Gaza. The Union is a progressive women's organization that strives to build respect for women's rights.
Steff Yorek, of Freedom Road Socialist Organization said, "We are appalled that we were infiltrated by police agents, targeted for our political organizing and views. This violates our rights to freedom of association and speech."
The Committee to Stop FBI Repression is planning a National Day of Protest for January 25, in cities across the country. This protest is in solidarity with people refusing to testify at the secret grand jury in Chicago on that day.
Pictured: "Karen Sullivan" (right) with her associate "Daniela Cardenas"
Saturday January 08, 2011 - IMEMC News
Dozens of people suffered from inhalation of tear gas fired by Israeli troops at a protest commemorating the death of Jawaher Abu Rahma last week by tear gas inhalation. Two of the protesters were rendered unconscious by the experimental gas, and one protest organizer was hit by a canister.
The protesters gathered around noon in the village of Bil'in, and held signs and pictures of 42-year old Jawaher Abu Rahme, who died from tear gas inhalation after a demonstration against the Wall last Friday. Her death put Bil'in into the headlines of major media -- something which none of the other 12 demonstrators killed in the last six years of non-violent demonstrations managed to do.
A number of Palestinians wore yellow stars saying, "Palestinian", reminiscent of the stars that Jews were required to wear by the Nazi regime in the early 1940s. They were joined by Israeli supporters who had to sneak into the West Bank by circuitous routes, as their presence in most of the West Bank is illegal by Israeli law.
Womens' organizations led the demonstrators from the center of the village toward the site of the Israeli electric fence construction, chanting slogans and carrying banners and flags. Israeli forces stationed at the top of a hill on the other side of the fence immediately began firing tear gas and other so-called 'non-lethal weapons', including rubber-coated steel bullets and sound grenades, into the crowd.
According to demonstrator Alice Rothchild, "Tear gas canisters were sometimes shot into the air, spiraling down to hit the ground creating a huge white cloud of gas. Sometimes the soldiers shot directly at protesters, I could see them crouching and taking aim. There was also a large white truck that repeatedly sprayed a huge arc of white liquid that smelled like a cross between skunk and feces and is apparently difficult to get off one’s body once sprayed."
One of the organizers of the non-violent movement in Bil'in, Eyad Bernat, was hit by a rubber-coated steel bullet, and Mustafa Shawkat and the wife of protest organizer Ahmed Abu Rahma were rendered unconscious by tear gas.
The non-violent weekly protest in Bil'in village has taken place every Friday for the last six years to challenge the Israeli Annexation Wall, the construction of which has seized over half the land area of the farming village to annex it to nearby Israeli colonial settlements.