Friday, January 30, 2015

Coming "Back into Our Original Selves" -- "Young Navajos Stage 200 Mile Journey For Existence"

At dawn on January 6, 2015, a group of young Diné (Navajo) women and their supporters gathered at sunrise near the fire department at the base of Dził Na’oodiłii (Huerfano Mountain). From there the group embarked on a 200-mile trek through eastern New Mexico—a tribute to the 150thanniversary of the tragic “Long Walk.”  Throughout this journey they have been raising awareness about the historical and present day challenges faced by Diné people and inspiring hopeful solutions to address these issues.
Idle No More Communications volunteers have been in contact with some of the walkers and will feature images and reflections from their powerful walk in the next grassroots newsletter.  Keep reading to learn more about the beginning of their journey.
unnamed.jpgOrganizers are calling out for community support in the form of walking, hosting or helping to garner basic materials. This first journey will end at Tsoodził (Mount Taylor), their southern sacred mountain. Three more walks are scheduled for spring, summer and fall so that each of their four sacred mountains is visited. The walkers intend to cover more than 1,000 miles in 2015.
The commemorated event occurred in 1864 that Colonel Christopher “Kit” Carson – under the command of General James Carleton – enforced a merciless, scorched earth policy to bring Diné people into submission. During this time nearly 9,000 Diné and 500 Mescalero Apache men, women, children, and elderlies were marched at gunpoint for 300 miles to a small patch of arid land known as Bosque Redondo, New Mexico. Many perished along the way.
During their four-year internment at this reservation “experiment”—known in Diné as Hwééldi or “the place of suffering”—hundreds died due to starvation, illness and physical violence. In 1868, high costs of rations and soldier commissions caused the federal government to disband the experiment and release them back to Diné Tah, the Navajo homeland.
“We are walking to honor the resiliency of our ancestors who 150 years ago were forced to march hundreds of miles in the dead of winter on a genocidal death march,” says Dana Eldridge, one of several female organizers of the walk. “They sacrificed and suffered so much so that we could live within these four sacred mountains. So we’re walking to honor them.”
According to the organizers, the walk is not simply a re-enactment of The Long Walk, but their return to a traditional lifestyle.
“It’s something that people don’t do anymore. We have the convenience of vehicles. But walking an entire journey is something that’s revolutionary in a way,” says young organizer Nick Ashley of Gallup, New Mexico.
“Our ancestors walked so that we could be here on our homeland singing, dancing and praying the songs they did. But now everyone is chasing the American Dream and neglecting our homeland, our language and way of life,” says Kimberly Smith of St. Michaels, Arizona.
Several Diné elders, including Larry W. Emerson, think present day problems might be due to an abandonment of self: “One purpose of the walk might be for us to come back into ourselves via our traditional knowledge—into our homes, families, relations, communities and earth-sky knowing. Ké and k’é hwiindzin—to be conscious of our interdependent relationships based on compassion, love, and nurturing—are vital to our survival and we cannot come home to ourselves without these vital teachings. [We] offered several teachings [to the walkers] that might address the practice of coming home to ourselves, including some prayer songs.”
According to organizers, land-based prayer is an important part of their journey. “Everything we do is a prayer to return to our original selves,” says Laura Red Elk of Pueblo Pintado, New Mexico. “The mountains were our original naat’áanii [leaders] before IRA governments or the tribal council. Since our government is failing to protect us, we are returning to our original leadership by letting the mountains determine how we walk on the land.”
Organizers and their elders have chosen to name their movement as “Nihígaal Bee Iiná” or “Our Journey for Existence.” Due to the widespread presence of uranium, coal and gas extraction throughout Diné Tah, organizers feel that their environmental situation has reached a boiling point.
“One hundred and fifty years ago our ancestors stared their extinction in the face. And today, we young people are staring our extinction in the face. Our home will become an unlivable toxic wasteland if nothing is done,” Eldridge said.
According to the EPA, nearly 4 million tons of uranium have been extracted from Diné Tah since 1944. With over 500 abandoned uranium mines throughout the region, both homes and water sources are contaminated with high levels of radiation.
Additionally, over 20,000 tons of coal are strip-mined from Diné and Hopi lands every day by Peabody Coal Company alone. This coal feeds Navajo Generating Station, rated by the EPA as the highest emitter of toxic nitrous oxide in the country.
Organizers forecast that the next major threat is the onset of a boom in natural gas extraction through hydraulic fracturing—a process now banned in the state of New York.
Erin Konsmo of the Native Youth Sexual Health Network in Alberta, Canada, says that resource extraction is not only a threat to the environment: “Some of the highest rates of missing and murdered women are in the tar-sands extraction areas. This is related to worker’s camps and the lack of jurisdictional protection for women on tribal lands.” Organizers state that the heavy presence of extractive industries is having a similar effect on Diné women.
“We give life and we nurture life just like the land does. Our traditional leadership structure is matrilineal because we are the spinal chord of society, the first teachers of the children. We are journeying back to our original selves including our responsibility as women to protect the land and take care of it,” says Red Elk.
“It’s all the more reason for this walk to be led by majority women. As traditional caretakers of the land, their physical presence is in and of itself a resistance to resource extraction,” comments Konsmo.
Weekly paychecks for Diné miners and generator operators are a constant reminder of their economic dependence on the fossil fuel industry. Walkers hope to raise awareness about self-sufficiency as an alternative to the extraction economy. They will disperse heirloom corn seeds to communities along the way and speak on the importance of food sovereignty and self-reliance.
“We are being told to invest in our own destruction in the name of the economy,” says Eldridge. “People say we need these jobs, but we don’t. To take care of ourselves it will take a tremendous amount of work, but it is a beautiful dream and it is so possible.”
Organizers are urging others to join them, especially Diné people, for all or part of the walk.
Smith encapsulates the spirit of the walk by saying, “We have to go back to where the wisdom is embedded. We have to reintroduce ourselves to those places. It is our inherent right and responsibility. The uplifting that our people need is there. We want to bring it back for our people, we want to honor our elders, our children and most importantly, we want to honor the earth.”
For more information on “Our Journey for Existence,” contact

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Oakland To Palestine Solidarity Mural -- MUST WATCH VIDEO! Great Solidarity Project in Oakland!

Steadfast Against U.S. Drones -- Occupy Beale Air Force Base Activists Block the Base with Message Against Earth Militarization!

from the Report Back (could not find link so duplicating their text here; lots more great pics at Flickr site below)

8 Anti-drone Activists Block Main Beale Drone Base for 1 hour, No arrests!

1/27/15  Blockade at Wheatland Gate,  Photo by Chris Nelson

On Tuesday during early morning commute, 8 Anti-Drone activists blockaded Wheatland road into Beale Air Force Base for 1 hour and 20 minutes, during the morning commute.  The majority of military personnel and non-military personnel enter through this gate each morning, totaling hundreds of vehicles.    In a continuing 4 year long monthly resistance to illegal drone assassinations and perpetual war, these activists refused to get out of the road when a very polite highway patrol officer arrived after the first half hour of blockade.  After much initial discussion between the officer and the activists, the officer radioed into his supervisor, who gave him the order not to arrest.  Within 10 minutes another officer arrived on the scene, and the two officers proceeded to use their patrol cars to create a barrier between the peace activists and the commute cars, creating a second layer of blockade.  All drivers trying to get into the base that morning were forced to take a long detour to other gates, significantly delaying their arrival to the base. 

Photos Here:

Occupy Beale Air Force Base activists were motivated by the recent continued escalation of illegal drone attacks by the Obama Administration in Pakistan and Yemen, as well as in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and elsewhere.  Just on Monday a 12 year old boy, Mohammed Saleh Qayed Taeiman, was killed by a U.S. drone attack in Yemen, along with 2 adults, while driving on a roadway.  Mohammed had lost his father and 17 year old brother by a U.S. drone attack in 2011.

Connecting the dots to the rampant police violence against black and brown people of color, activists brought the "Black LIves Matter" theme to Beale this month.   "From Ferguson to Pakistan, Oakland to Aghanistan, STOP THE RACIST KILLING."   A flyer (see attachment) distributed to Beale personnel, explained the extreme racism that exists both in U.S. global warfare, drone killing and in law enforcement practices, where lives of people of color and people of other cultures are so easily expendable.  Occupy Beale activists refuse to be complicit in the dehumanization of other peoples' lives.  The one hour-plus blockade was very successful in stopping "business as usual" at Beale Air Force Base and demanding that these policies change. 

Interestingly, on Mon. afternoon, when activists had gathered for a vigil at the Doolittle gate, where much less traffic enters and exits the gate, a CHP officer arrived mid-way, and was very aggressive in trying to intimidate Toby, who was standing at her "usual spot", passing out flyers.  Toby left the "gore" divider in the roadway when the intimidation continued to escalate, but returned back to the gore to distribute flyers after the officer left.  Michael Kerr was a tremendous support, by continuing to cross back and forth at the intersection with his Veterans For Peace flag, which greatly de-escalated the situation.  Fox 40, a Sacramento based tv news cameraman was on the scene on Monday, and a story of our protest was aired, which included a interview with Barry Binks, who helped get the truth out about drones to the public.
Many thanks to all who came!

Hope some of you reading this report will consider joining us at  Beale or Creech drone bases soon.

In Solidarity for Peace,  Occupy Beale AFB  

Website for Shut Down Creech AFB:

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

From The Nation: "On ‘Lost Causes’ and the Future of Palestine" -- Richard Falk

Richard Falk, a Nation editorial-board member and professor emeritus of international law at Princeton, was the UN’s special rapporteur for occupied Palestine from 2008 to 2014. This article is adapted from his Edward W. Said Memorial Lecture, delivered at Columbia University on October 20, 2014.
Although there are many eloquent, courageous, inspiring and culturally creative Palestinians, none have managed to extend their influence as widely and deeply as Edward Said did, particularly during the post-Orientalismphase of his life, when he combined superb and seminal cultural criticism from a progressive standpoint with perceptive and influential commentary on the ups and downs of the Palestinian national struggle.
My main focus will be to reflect upon Edward’s fascinating essay “On Lost Causes,” which combines intriguing literary assessments with his complex understanding of the Palestinian ordeal and destiny. This essay was one of his last major interpretive contributions, being the published form of a Tanner Lecture given at the University of Utah in 1997. According to his friend and associate Andrew Rubin, Edward regarded it as the publication that satisfied him most in the final period of his life.
Part of my interest in this theme of “lost causes” derives from a rather tense encounter I had with the French ambassador to the United Nations at a private dinner at the end of my term as UN special rapporteur for occupied Palestine. Our host, who had invited a dozen or so diplomats to comment upon the Israel-Palestine conflict, started the ball rolling with a very provocative statement: “Let’s face it: the conflict is over, Israel has won, the Palestinians have been defeated, and there is nothing more to be done or said. I am not happy about this, but this is the reality. We should move on.” What follows can be seen as a more considered response to this diplomat’s stance of cynical realism: it is my insistence that Palestine is not a lost cause, and that even if it were a lost cause from the perspective of realism, a continued commitment to it is greatly preferable to defeatist resignation and indifference toward such a grossly unjust outcome of such an epic struggle.
My deeper conviction is that the appearance of Palestinian defeat is an optical illusion that hides the probability of eventual Israeli defeat—that while Israel is winning one war due to its military dominance and continuous establishment of “facts on the ground,” Palestine is winning what in the end is the more important war, the struggle for legitimacy, which is most likely to determine the political outcome. If we examine conflicts over the past fifty years involving struggles against foreign and especially colonial occupation, we come to the astonishing conclusion that in most cases, the side that was weaker militarily controlled the political outcome. The side with the greater perseverance and resilience, not the side that controlled the battlefield, won in the end.
As the US government should have learned in Vietnam, military superiority has lost most of its potency in politically and ethically oriented conflicts against foreign—especially Western—domination. The lesson was captured by the extraordinary ending of Gillo Pontecorvo’s 1966 film, The Battle of Algiers, in which the seemingly defeated Algerian national liberation movement miraculously achieved victory over French colonialism. As George W. Bush discovered in Iraq, it is possible for the Western intervenor to win the first type of war easily, and yet go on to lose the vital legitimacy struggle that follows. “Mission accomplished” is acknowledged, many deaths later, as “Mission impossible.”
* * *
Some years ago, I lent emotional support to a Hawaiian native-rights movement and came to know its inspirational leader, Kekuni Blaisdell. Blaisdell, who was from a leading Hawaiian family, succeeded professionally as a medical doctor in the Westernized world of modern Hawaii, more or less ignoring his own background and the degree to which traditional Hawaii was a casualty of American colonizing ambitions. Awakening to his native past in midlife, Kekuni learned the Hawaiian language and its songs, dedicating himself to the small but determined independence movement and to the memory of the lost Hawaiian kingdom. Surely this was the adoption of a lost cause, a life choice in contradiction to that of the opportunist who joins what realists would identify as the winning side. Yet Kekuni became fulfilled in ways that far transcended his earlier professional success or the kind of life experience of Hawaiians who passively accepted the historical verdict of their defeat. Somehow, his luminous dedication generated a love and devotion that was quite unrelated to the awareness that his vision of a restored Hawaii seemed doomed.
In a similar vein, Edward in his essay on lost causes refers to the Japanese veneration of “noble failure” as a superior course of action in life. His prime literary example is Don Quixote, whose absurd mission to revive the chivalric way of life in Spain is also doomed to failure, but who achieves personal distinction by embodying in his life a redemptive vision. This faith in the unrealizable achieves a fulfilling repudiation of what history has brought to pass, even if the glorified past cannot be reclaimed.
Edward is careful to distinguish cultural tropes in the domain of literary imagination from the realities of political struggle. In the essay, he identifies a lost cause as one “associated in the mind and in practice with a hopeless cause: that is, something you support or believe in that can no longer be believed in except as something without hope of achievement.” He goes on to say, “The time for conviction and belief has passed, the cause no longer seems to contain any validity or promise, although it may once have possessed both.” At that point, he poses what he calls “the crucial question,” which is to decide whether such a judgment hinges on interpretation alone or is based on objective circumstances. In this respect, the lostness of a lost cause is itself problematized. Edward himself refers to the example of Hawaiian independence, observing that what seems lost at the moment may become attainable at some future time when circumstances change beyond our powers of anticipation, as they constantly do. Ironically, of course, this was the experience of the Zionist project, which would almost certainly have remained a lost cause without the drastically changed circumstances brought about by the Nazi dictatorship and the Holocaust.
But there exists a contrary view that effectively denies the contingency of experience and places its trust in the reliability of appearances, an attitude expressed by the French diplomat. Edward describes such an outlook as that of “a strict determinist about the survival only of powerful nations and peoples.” In that case, as he points out, “the cause of native rights in Hawaii, or Gypsies or Australian aborigines, is always necessarily a lost cause, something both predestined to lose out and, because of belief in the overall narrative of power, required to lose.”
Before turning to the present phase of the Palestinian struggle, an additional line of thinking suggested by the antirealism of Alain Badiou and Slavoj Zizek seems relevant. In effect, they argue, it is only lost causes that possess the empowering potential to address the challenges confronting humanity. In this sense, abandoning the Enlightenment legacy of relying on the guidance of instrumental reason, Zizek argues for “faith in lost Causes, Causes that, from within the space of skeptical wisdom, cannot but appear as crazy.” It’s worth remembering an ironic quip common among early Zionist settlers: “You don’t have to be crazy to be a Zionist, but it helps.” The point is that a burning faith in the unrealizable creates the possibility, however remote, that what seems beyond reach will at some point be reached.
But why strike such a posture? Zizek’s response, which I share and which is very different from the focused craziness proposed by the early Zionists, is expressed as follows: “The problem, of course, is that, in a time of crisis and ruptures, skeptical empirical wisdom itself, constrained to the horizons of the dominant form of common sense, cannot provide the answers, so one mustrisk a Leap of Faith.” Put more simply, the realm of the feasible, which is the theater of everyday politics theorized as “the art of the possible,” cannot address the challenges confronting people existing in circumstances of oppression, occupation and servitude. From their perspective, a dedication to what seems impossible from a realistic viewpoint is, in truth, the only realism with emancipatory potential. It provides the only alternative to the sullen acceptance of the intolerable. In a global historical sense, this insight is most vividly demonstrated by the inability of the powers-that-be to solve the challenges of nuclear weapons and climate change, which imperil the future of human civilization and even the survival of our species.
In this regard, Zizek quotes approvingly the provocation of Samuel Beckett—“After one fails, one can go on and fail better”—which for Zizek contrasts with the prevailing posture of “indifference” toward the human condition that “drowns us deeper and deeper in the morass of imbecilic Being.” The courage to embark on a utopian project of the sort associated with revolutionary movements, despite the history of disillusionment and failure, contains what Zizek calls “a redemptive moment” because it displays the willingness to struggle and even die on behalf of a better human future. Without such a willingness, we humans seem doomed to extinction.
Since we can never know what the future holds, and since much that once seemed impossible has happened, no worthy cause is definitively lost. Related to this affirmation is the idea that dedication to a noble cause, whether viewed as lost or not, is itself individually and collectively redemptive. We should also realize that the history of struggle for freedom and justice, despite being obstructed by the brutal forces of reaction, needs to continue. Without such aspirations and struggle, the world and those of us in it are lost. Goethe expressed this thought in the patriarchal language of his day: “He who strives, him we may save.” This brings to mind Sisyphus, consigned to push a heavy boulder forever up the side of a mountain, knowing that near the top it will fall to the bottom, with the process repeating over and over. When Albert Camus says that we can imagine Sisyphus “happy” with this destiny, he is also conveying a pessimistic version of this insight—that the best we can hope for in life is to struggle for what is better, even if while doing so we know that failure is inevitable and hope irrelevant.
* * *
When Edward turns in the middle of his essay from literature to his own existential connection with the theme of lost causes, he asks two preliminary questions: “What if we try to grapple with lost causes in the public political world where efforts on behalf of causes actually take place? Is there the same ironized inevitability there, or do subjective hope and renewed effort make a lost cause something to be refused as defeatism?” Edward here poses in the abstract the crucial issue of whether what is noble in literature becomes ethically unacceptable in the lifeworld of political struggle. He personalizes this issue, saying: “Here I can do no better than to offer my personal experience as a politically active Palestinian as evidence, particularly as these have crystallized since the watershed Oslo agreement of September 1993.”
It is worth noting that 1993 was what I would call the second awakening of Edward Said in relation to the Palestinian national movement. The first is well-known: the impact of the 1967 war, moving Edward from immersion in his professional role as a prominent literary critic to an activist role as a leading public intellectual espousing the Palestinian cause. In other words, it was in the wake of what appeared to be the most humiliating political and military defeat for the Palestinians that Edward decided to devote his mind and heart to the struggle.
Less well-known is his 1993 turning point, when Edward’s mounting skepticism about the direction of the PLO’s leadership reached a climax in reaction to the Oslo accords, which most non-Palestinians at the time hailed as a breakthrough for peace. It was Edward’s judgment that Yasir Arafat and the PLO leadership, by agreeing to a diplomatic framework slanted heavily toward Israel, had effectively surrendered, thus accepting that their struggle had indeed become a “lost cause” in the falsely definitive sense. Edward resigned from the Palestinian National Council, pointedly refusing to walk down this path of defeatism. More than twenty years later, the principled wisdom of his position is finally being widely acknowledged.
To explain his different phases of engagement with the Palestinian cause, Edward contrasts the resurgent nationalism that occurred after the 1967 experience with the defeatist diplomacy leading up to and following from 1993. Indicting PLO defeatism, Edward observes that “it seemed neither appropriate nor really possible to see ourselves in terms of other dispossessed and forgotten peoples like the Armenians, American Indians, Tasmanians, Gypsies, and Australian aborigines.” Putting aside his controversial and mistaken presumption that these defeated peoples are “forgotten,” his point of contrast is sharp: “On the contrary, we modeled ourselves on the Vietnamese people, whose resistance to U.S. intervention seemed exactly what we should undertake.” Edward acknowledged the inspiration he received from the writings of Frantz Fanon and the exploits of Vietnam’s Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap. It is crucial to understand that the “we” in his phrasing is a reference to the Palestinian people of his persuasion, not to the leaders who represent Palestine on the global diplomatic stage.
From the perspective of “lost causes,” Edward’s choice of Fanon and Vietnam is illuminating. The Vietnamese were somehow able to turn their seemingly lost cause on the battlefield into a miracle of political victory. This capacity for resilience and steadfastness—what Palestinians call sumud—on the part of the peoples of the South during their struggle against Western colonial rule is a reality that the United States and Israel have yet to appreciate, as borne out by their failed interventions in the period since the 9/11 attacks (Israel in Gaza and Lebanon; the United States in Afghanistan, Iraq and now Syria).
Edward was careful to put his commitment to the Palestinian lost cause in a global context: “We saw ourselves as a Third World people, subjected to colonialism and oppression, now undertaking our own self-liberation from domination as well as the liberation of our territory.” In a later passage, he faults the Palestinians for falling into the tactical and propaganda trap set by their adversaries of being perceived as “terrorists,” which he contends was never the true ethos of the movement. He insists that the Palestinian movement was and should remain secular and democratic in its essential ambition, and thus profoundly different from politics elsewhere in the region, which he considers postnationalist and oriented around some form of Islam. He believed that the Palestinian outlook was “a distinct advance over those of the Arab states, with their oligarchies, military dictatorships, brutal police regimes.” The question he confronted was whether, as a Palestinian, he should adopt a hopeful or defeatist view of what presented itself as a lost cause. In opting for the former, he was challenging the lostness of the Palestinian cause, while the PLO leadership, in opting for Oslo, was agreeing to swallow the bitter pill of defeat and its resulting humiliation of permanent subjugation in their own homeland.
* * *
Edward addresses the challenge of apparent defeat and the accompanying feelings of hopelessness, both in literature and in relation to the Palestinian situation, and gives a very different answer than my French ambassador. In effect, he turns away from this kind of worldly realism as irrelevant and affirms instead that the only true choice is between surrender and resistance. He chooses resistance—or, put differently, he declares a refusal to accept the unacceptable, however unfavorable the “facts on the ground.” In so doing, Edward inverts this sinister formula frequently invoked by Israel, one used to obtain Washington’s acceptance of the “realities” that trample upon Palestinians’ rights under international law.
To appreciate Edward’s rejection of Oslo, it is necessary to consider what was wrong about it from a Palestinian viewpoint. I would point to four features:
1. The fragmentation, under the Oslo II agreement of 1995, of the West Bank into Areas A, B and C, making territorial coherence untenable.
2. The idea that Palestinian goals could be achieved only on the basis of Israeli consent, despite the fact that in 1967 the Security Council had unanimously mandated withdrawal from the territory occupied during that war.
3. The designation of Washington as the permanent intermediary for negotiations, despite its partisan alignment with Israel, which was already in the driver’s seat from a diplomatic perspective.
4. Perhaps most important of all, the exclusion from the negotiations of international law and UN authority, which had been the trump in the Palestinian deck of cards.
International law is clearly on the side of the Palestinians regarding their main claims and grievances, including borders, refugees, settlements, water rights and the status of Jerusalem, as well as the day-to-day practices associated with the occupation. Without the inclusion of Palestinian rights under international law, diplomacy degenerates into a bargaining process, which ensures that power disparities will be embodied in any negotiated solution.
Palestinian objections to Israeli settlement expansion as unlawful were rebuffed by Washington as unhelpful obstructions to the peace process. Palestinian humiliation was vividly expressed in Arafat’s acceptance of Oslo’s 1993 Declaration of Principles, which did not even refer to Palestine’s inalienable right of self-determination.
George W. Bush acquiesced in Israel’s unlawful activities, validating them outside the negotiating framework in his letter to Ariel Sharon of April 2004, in which Bush agreed that any end to the conflict must include the incorporation of settlement blocs into Israeli territory. When she was Obama’s secretary of state, Hillary Clinton added to this hegemonic sanction of illegality by referring to the settlement phenomenon as “subsequent developments” that must be acknowledged by the Palestinians.
The unreasonableness of the Oslo approach as a means to achieve a just peace is accentuated by the PLO’s 1988 Declaration of Independence, which, by acknowledging the UN’s 1947 partition plan and subsequent UN resolutions, effectively accepted Israel’s existence within the 1967 borders. Such a bold unilateral initiative, supported by Edward upon its announcement, renounced the PLO’s earlier refusal to accept the existence of Israel in any form and exhibited a willingness to swallow a territorial arrangement that accorded the Palestinians only 22 percent of historic Palestine. As is well-known, this was less than half of what the UN had offered in its 1947 partition plan, which at the time seemed grossly unfair, given the relative size of the Jewish and Palestinian populations. The fact that such a unilateral diplomatic initiative by the Palestinians failed to yield any acknowledgment from Israel, much less a reciprocal gesture, raises doubts as to whether Israel was ever really interested in achieving a two-state solution.
These elements of the overall situation are descriptive of the defeatist period of the Palestinian leadership, which seemed ready to settle for arrangements that disregarded Palestinian rights under international law. There was considerable anxiety among Palestinian intellectuals during the 2000 Camp David talks that Arafat might make a deal that accepted the settlements and relinquished the rights of several million Palestinian refugees. In fact, the second intifada was commonly interpreted as a grassroots Palestinian warning to the Palestinian Authority leadership as well as a rebuff to Israel. There were further disquieting developments in the Oslo period, including massive settlement expansion; a refusal by Israel to respect the 2004 International Court of Justice findings calling for the dismantling of the separation wall; an apartheid structure of occupation in the West Bank; a process of incremental ethnic cleansing in East Jerusalem; and a harsh regime of collective punishment imposed on Gaza, which in the course of the last six years has endured three Israeli campaigns of state terror. These attacks were unprecedented in locking the civilian population into a combat zone and disallowing even women and children to claim refugee status by crossing the border or seeking secure sanctuary within Gaza.
* * *
Yet these dispiriting realities are far from the whole story of Palestinian struggle. The Palestinian leadership may have taken the defeatist route, but Palestinians as a people have kept their faith, by and large, in the necessity of resistance and of not giving up their long quest for a just and sustainable peace.
We need to remember that Edward transferred his energies from the bankruptcy of top-down diplomacy to the empowering potential of bottom-up militancy. This kind of activism can be seen most dramatically in the first intifada, a mobilization of Palestinian resistance from December 1987 to the early 1990s that was overwhelmingly nonviolent, yet withheld all forms of cooperation with the occupier. It was reinforced by the second intifada of the early 2000s, which was also in part a populist reaction to Israeli policies but lacked the nonviolent discipline of the earlier uprising. In 2005, a joint appeal from 170 Palestinian civil-society organizations to launch a global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign represented a further shift in the direction of civil-society leadership and toward a movement of global solidarity that has been gaining momentum. This momentum was further accelerated by the moral outrage—especially strong in Western Europe—generated by this year’s fifty-one-day Israeli attack on Gaza.
What seemed a defining moment in 1993 has now been superseded by a cluster of events that created a new defining moment in 2014, which involves a reformulation of perceptions in relation to the struggle. In some ways, the situation from the Palestinian perspective has never seemed darker, undoubtedly making the cynical realist write-off of the conflict more prevalent. Consider the following developments:
§ In the latest direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the government of Benjamin Netanyahu rejected any solution that would end the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The collapse of the talks last spring confirms the futility of the Oslo approach. This posture is reinforced by the latest readings of Israeli public opinion: the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs released a poll in October showing that three-quarters of Israel’s citizens oppose the creation of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders (even with settlement blocs incorporated into Israel); oppose withdrawal from the Jordan Valley in a peace agreement even if international peacekeeping forces replace the Israeli army; and oppose the division of Jerusalem. This suggests that even if Israel’s government truly sought a peace agreement that allows a two-state solution, the Israeli public would repudiate it.
§ The Arab gulf countries were passive accomplices in Israel’s latest attack on Gaza, in the summer of 2014, which fit their own agenda calling for the destruction of any grassroots Islamist political actors in the region.
§ Israeli public opinion was, according to the Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery, 99 percent behind last summer’s Gaza campaign, in which Israel killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, injured another 11,000 and traumatized the entire population. In Israel, there were high-level government and other public incitements to genocide, with numerous unrepudiated statements calling for the wholesale destruction of civilian society in Gaza. The vivid testimony given in September at the Russell Tribunal by Canadian-Israeli journalist David Sheen provides persuasive documentation of the incitement charges.
§ Congress remains as unconditionally committed to Israel as ever, though there have been some signs of discomfort at the White House, which seems to want to sustain the credibility of the Oslo approach—despite all the evidence that Israel uses these periodic negotiations for the purposes of delay and propaganda, even as Palestine loses time and territory.
Israel thus faces little diplomatic pressure to resolve the conflict by negotiations and has no incentive of its own to do so. For Palestine, there exists only a fragile unity between the PLO and Hamas, and a debilitating dependence on Israel and the United States for the funds needed to maintain order in the territories under their administrative control. Despite this, one of the most brilliant Palestinian analysts of the conflict, Ali Abunimah, writes these startling sentences at the very beginning his fine new book The Battle for Justice in Palestine: “The Palestinians are winning. This might seem like hubris or even insensitivity. After all, in so many ways things have never looked worse.”
We must ask what Abunimah means by “winning,” and why he’s hopeful. He is, in effect, telling my French diplomat to look deeper at the overall picture if he wants to understand the reality of the conflict. “It is not a matter of how long you look that matters,” he says, “but what you see.” What should we see?
There are a few factors to consider: the discrediting of Oslo, the growth of the global solidarity movement, the moves toward Palestinian political unity, and the recognition of Israeli criminality and American complicity as pressure grows on the Palestinian Authority to take its case to the International Criminal Court. In addition, there is growing evidence that Israel is more worried about what it calls “the delegitimation project” than about the threats posed by armed resistance.
What Abunimah sees that the realist’s blinkered vision misses are the psycho-political dimensions of conflict in our postcolonial world. These dimensions center on the fact that denial of a population’s inalienable right to self-determination and other elemental rights has a powerful mobilizing effect. Such a denial of rights creates a deep awareness of illegitimacy that is further heightened by Israel’s defiance of international law, UN authority and universal standards of morality. These factors strengthen the will of Palestinians to resist and create a climate that encourages more militant forms of global solidarity.
* * *
Let me end with two sets of conclusions:
1. The Palestinian struggle will remain a lost cause in the French sense so long as the Oslo approach continues, which reduces Palestinian representation to “moderate” forces, excludes Hamas and endows the United States with the role of mediator. Though the recent recognition of Palestinian statehood by Sweden, Britain, Spain and France was welcome, it was also ambiguous to the extent that these countries justified their decision as support for the “moderate” Palestinians who could revive direct negotiations for a two-state solution. In effect, the message being sent is: “Oslo is dead—long live Oslo.” If an agreement is to work, it must reflect the will of the Palestinian people, not their current unrepresentative leaders, and it must not remain locked in a two-state mantra that has become irrelevant.
2. The Palestinian struggle is more than ever a lost cause in Edward’s uplifting sense of being centered on a commitment to self-determination achieved by resistance, reinforced by a global solidarity movement. This Palestinian resistance has gained momentum in its latest phase by relying primarily on nonviolent tactics of increasing militancy and by rejecting the defeatist notion that the Palestinian Authority speaks for the people as a whole. This public consensus also rejects, by and large, the view that Hamas speaks for the people, despite its recent popularity even in secular circles due to its resilience in last summer’s assault on Gaza.
This second commitment to the Palestinian “lost cause” is premised on the realization that people throughout the world have demonstrated historical agency in relation to the right of self-determination, and especially in relation to European colonialism. Such a resolve also includes accepting what Edward so often stressed: that Palestinian rights should never be realized through a second dispossession, that of the Jewish presence in historic Palestine. In effect, this presupposes Palestinian acceptance of the core Zionist idea of a Jewish “homeland” while rejecting both the notion of a Jewish state and the maximalist Zionist view, currently being implemented, that such a state should include the whole of historic Palestine, including the West Bank and Jerusalem. It is a hopeful sign that the Palestinian civil-society consensus explicitly accepts a permanent Jewish presence in historic Palestine.
Let me finish, then, with a reaffirmation of the complex relationship between our limited knowledge, especially of the future, and our political and moral will, which has the irreducible freedom to create its own horizons. It is for this reason alone that it is empowering to join with Edward Said in declaring our defense of lost causes, in this instance that of the Palestinian people, who have endured an unspeakable ordeal of victimization for so long. As in South Africa, where whites were able to remain after the collapse of the apartheid regime, it will take a comparable political miracle to reach a just and sustainable peace in Palestine, one that upholds the equal dignity of both peoples. In this spirit, I end with the enigmatic plea of the poet W.H. Auden: “We who are about to die demand a miracle.”

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Julia Carrie Wong Writes in USA Today: "Oakland-area Protests Disrupt Sunday Shoppers"

OAKLAND -- Protesters demonstrated at a Walmart store and a shopping center Sunday as part of a Martin Luther King Holiday weekend of activity opposing racism and police violence.
About 50 protesters held a "die-in" outside the Walmart, and later in the afternoon more than 100 people disrupted shoppers and stores at the outdoor Bay Street shopping center in Emeryville, Calif., near Oakland.
At the Walmart, some carried signs calling on the giant retail chain to pay workers $15 an hour and chanted "poverty is violence.'' At the shopping center, some protesters wore signs reading "Black Lives Matter'' while chanting and drumming inside several stores including Victoria's Secret and Forever 21.
Wei-Ling Huber, 45, of of El Sobrante in Contra Costa County, said she protested at a Baby Gap store with her two daughters, aged 8 and 10, and six other young children with their parents. Huber said the group sang "Happy Birthday" to Martin Luther King before joining the protest outside.
"A lot of stores are capitalizing on Martin Luther King by calling for people to shop at MLK Day sales," said Pete Woiwode, 32, of Oakland, who helped organize the protest. "But what he was actually calling for was an end to racism, militarism, and capitalism."
Protesters left the stores after about ten minutes to block traffic on Bay Street, chanting, "Stop shopping. Shut it down."
Emeryville police blocked traffic for the protests and did not take any enforcement action. The protesters disbanded around 3:45 p.m., about 45 minutes after starting the demonstration.
At the Walmart, some carried signs citing the death of John Crawford, who was shot and killed by police at a Walmart store in Ohio last August while holding a toy gun.
Billy Garner, 25, and his 10-year-old cousin DeJohn Davis, both of Oakland, attended the protest carrying a framed photograph of another cousin, Billy Vine, who they said was killed by an Oakland police officer in 1999.
"I feel like with everything that's going on it's unsafe for DeJohn to even be outside," Garner said. "I feel unsafe to come shop at Walmart now because the police might act irrationally."
Protesters said many Walmart employees are people of color who earn poverty wages. Walmart's wages have been the target of protests by unions and worker's rights groups for years.
The store remained open throughout the protest.
Several protests were scheduled for the San Francisco Bay area. A group calling itself the Anti-Police Terror Project planned an evening march through Oakland.
The demonstrations are part of a planned four-day protest over the Martin Luther King Day weekend to "reclaim King's legacy" of activism, the group said. Organizers of the protests hope to connect King's teachings on economic justice for black communities to the protest movement that has arisen in the wake of the police killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
The activities began Friday morning when protesters shut down San Francisco BART stations during the morning commute and a multiracial group of protesters chained themselves to two entrancesof the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building in Oakland. Additional protests at the Alameda County courthouse in Oakland and on Valencia Street in San Francisco's Mission District aimed to draw attention to the displacement of black and brown populations due to gentrification, the group said.
On Saturday, about 100 protesters in Oakland blocked traffic, marching from the Fruitvale BART station to a police substation.

Friday, January 09, 2015

"Dream Defenders, Black Lives Matter & Ferguson Reps Take Historic Trip to Palestine" Ebony Magazine


Representatives at the forefront of the movements for Black lives and racial justice have taken a historic trip to Palestine this week to connect with activists living under Israeli occupation.

Black journalists, artists and organizers representing Ferguson, Black Lives Matter, Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100), and more have joined the Dream Defenders for a 10-day trip to the occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel.

The trip comes after a year of highly-publicized repression in Ferguson, the Gaza Strip, and West Bank including East Jerusalem, as well as solidarity between these places.

Ahmad Abuznaid, Dream Defenders’ legal and policy director and a co-organizer of the delegation, said that the goal of the trip was to make connections.

“The goals were primarily to allow for the group members to experience and see first hand the occupation, ethnic cleansing and brutality Israel has levied against Palestinians, but also to build real relationships with those on the ground leading the fight for liberation,” wrote Abuznaid. “In the spirit of Malcolm X, Angela Davis, Stokely Carmichael and many others, we thought the connections between the African American leadership of the movement in the US and those on the ground in Palestine needed to be reestablished and fortified.”

Abuznaid said the trip represented a chance to bring the power of Black organizing to Palestine.

“As a Palestinian who has learned a great deal about struggle, movement, militancy and liberation from African Americans in the US, I dreamt of the day where I could bring that power back to my people in Palestine. This trip is a part of that process.”

Over the past week, the delegation has met with refugees, Afro-Palestinians, a family that was kicked out of their house by settlers in East Jerusalem, and organizations representing Palestinian political prisoners, Palestinian citizens of Israel, and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS).

Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors said apartheid is what immediately struck her about what she saw on the ground.

“This is an apartheid state. We can't deny that and if we do deny it we are apart of the Zionist violence. There are two different systems here in occupied Palestine. Two completely different systems. Folks are unable to go to parts of their own country. Folks are barred from their own country.”

Charlene Carruthers, national director of BYP100 said what immediately struck her was the capacity for violence, even when it’s not immediately noticeable to foreigners.

One such example is in the narrative projected against Palestinians. Carruthers recalled their delegation crossing paths with a tour group led by Israeli authorities.

“They were clearly receiving a completely different story about the occupation. It's deeper than just spreading lies, the false narrative is violent.”

Cherrell Brown, a national organizer with Equal Justice USA said she saw many parallels between state violence against Palestinians and Black Americans.

“So many parallels exist between how the US polices, incarcerates, and perpetuates violence on the black community and how the Zionist state that exists in Israel perpetuates the same on Palestinians,” Brown said.

Brown also commented that the struggles are not the same.

“This is not to say there aren't vast differences and nuances that need to always be named, but our oppressors are literally collaborating together, learning from one another - and as oppressed people we have to do the same,” she said.

For Steven Pargett, communications director for Dream Defenders, visiting the Dheisheh Refugee Camp outside of Bethlehem made these connections clearer: “A camp doesn’t have to have a fence with barbed wire all around it in order to be a place where displaced people are struggling to survive.”

Pargett said that Black people in the United States are also displaced refugees.

“Our refugee camps are lower income communities and project buildings all around the country that many would not be living in had we not been taken into slavery generations ago.  Rather than having the Israeli Defense occupation in our hoods, we have the occupation of police officers who often prove to have little disregard for our lives, being that they are not from these communities,” Pargett wrote.

Hip-hop was a unifying force for the delegation, Pargett said, commenting that Palestinians have been inspired by hip-hop in the US and use it as a tool to amplify their own voices.

St. Louis-based rapper and activist Tef Poe said his experience in the camps connecting through hip-hop was the best day of his life.

“A refugee camp with a bunch of people fighting for their lives and using hip hop to lift their spirits and spark the minds of the children and break down gender barriers between young girls and boys,” Tef posted to Facebook. “I spent a day with these ppl .. Most amazing day of my life. Thanks be to the Most the struggle is beautiful.”

This trip is another chapter in the recent history of Black-Palestinian solidarity. In November, a group of 10 Palestinian student activists visited Ferguson and St. Louis, meeting with people organizing in the streets. A month later, upon their return, the students hosted a series of events at their university in the West Bank to raise awareness with the Black struggle and stand in solidarity. Dream Defenders unanimously passed a resolution to support the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement in this interval.

Moving forward, delegates expressed a desire for Black and American action in support of Palestine.

“I believe the Black Lives Matter movement can benefit greatly by learning about struggles outside of the U.S., but particularly the Palestinian struggle,” said Patrisse Cullors. “I want this trip to be an example for how Black folks and Arab communities can be in better solidarity with one another.”

Cherrell Brown sees joint action as a way to global freedom.

“I want us to take back things we can do in the now, as Americans, to raise awareness and action around Palestinian liberation. I want us to reimagine what society could and will look like when we've dismantled this white-supremacist patriarchal and capitalist society. I want us to do it together. I want to bring back these conversations and stories in hopes that it will help add to this global struggle to get free.”

The full list of delegates includes five Dream Defenders (Phillip Agnew, Ciara Taylor, Steven Pargett, Sherika Shaw, Ahmad Abuznaid), Tef Poe and Tara Thompson (Ferguson/Hands Up United), journalist Marc Lamont Hill, Cherrell Brown and Carmen Perez (Justice League NYC), Charlene Carruthers (Black Youth Project), poet and artist Aja Monet, Patrisse Cullors (Black Lives Matter), and Maytha Alhassen, a USC PhD student. Catch up with the delegation and follow their last few days using #DDPalestine on Twitter and Instagram.

Read more at EBONY 
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Wednesday, January 07, 2015

"EU recognition of Palestine: What is it good for?"


  • Sourani: won 1985 Kennedy Memorial Award for Human Rights and named Amnesty International’s 1988 Prisoner of Conscience (Photo: PCHR) 
By Gaja Pellegrini-Bettoli 
BRUSSELS, 6. Jan, 18:16 
Seven European parliaments last year voted in favour of recognising Palestinian statehood, while Sweden actually took the step. 
The developments reflect frustration with Israeli settlement expansion and Israeli killing of civilians in its 50-day war on Gaza last summer. 
But for Raji Sourani, a leading Palestinian human rights lawyer, the EU resolutions fail to address the real obstacles to peace and risk perpetuating the status quo. 
“We welcome the interest of Europe, but for it to have an impact it has to address the reality on the ground”, he told EUobserver in a recent interview. 
Sourani is the co-founder and director of the Gaza-based NGO, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR). 
He has lived in the Strip for the past 37 years, bearing witness to different phases of the Middle East’s longest conflict.
He has also been subjected to Israeli administrative detention and, he claims, torture, in a career which saw him earn the 1985 Kennedy Memorial Award for Human Rights and saw him named Amnesty International’s 1988 Prisoner of Conscience. 
EUobserver first met him in his Gaza office 10 days before Israel began its air assault and ground incursion in July, which claimed more than 2,000 lives, 800 of them women and children. 
Speaking to this website after the European Parliament, in December, added its voice to the pro-recognition EU states, he listed five issues which, he says, must be addressed to move toward peace. 
He noted that the EU parliament’s final motion did not mention the term “blockade” in relation to Gaza. 
He said the Israeli “blockade” or “siege” must be relaxed to allow for post-war reconstruction and economic recovery. But five months after the war ended, reconstruction has not yet begun. 
“Unfortunately reconstruction is a mirage, it’s not happening”, he said. 
He described the resulting “economic disaster” as an entirely “political” creation, pointing out that Gaza, 10 years ago, discovered offshore gas fields which could make it energy self-sufficient if Israel gave it the chance. 
He also warned that the UN is becoming an “enforcer” for the occupying power. 
Robert Serry, the UN’s Special Co-ordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, brokered the terms of the international Gaza reconstruction mechanism. 
The so-called Serry agreement sets in stone the UN’s role in “chasing the cement” - monitoring who gets what in Gaza in terms of construction materials, dubbed “dual use” items, together with Cogat, the Israeli authority which controls movement of goods in and out of the territory. 
“The institutionalisation of the ‘Serry’ agreement will make reconstruction in Gaza a process that could take as long as 40 years”, Sourani said.
He said the Palestinians’ inability to exercise their right of freedom of movement is also central to the conflict. 
“Until when are we expected to be ‘good victims’ with no dignity?”, he asked.
Early drafts of the EU parliament motion mentioned the possibility of “reactivating and extending the scope” of two EU missions - Eubam Rafah (which monitors movement of people) and Eupol Copps (rule of law). 
But as with the “blockade”, the idea was cut from the final text in a bid to reach compromise between political groups. 
People have only two ways out of Gaza: the Eretz crossing to Israel and Rafah, on the border with Egypt. 
But Sourani noted that after the war, the crossings are almost non-functional. 
Eretz never saw more than a trickle of people anyway, while Rafah has effectively been closed for most of the time since the August ceasefire - the longest period on record. 
The final EU motion did mention “support for the Palestinian national consensus government” and underlined the importance of “consolidating its authority in the Gaza Strip”.
The language marks the fact Palestine’s two main political factions - Hamas, which rules in Gaza, and Fatah, which controls the West Bank - have struggled to make their unity government work since its launch in April. 
But for Sourani, the cautious EU language shows little understanding of the political breakdown on the ground. 
Where MEPs spoke of “consolidating … authority”, Sourani speaks of “fawda” - meaning “total chaos” in Arabic. 
He noted that Israel’s last assault made matters worse by prompting popular support for radical groups. 
He added that the “chaos” serves Israeli hawks by weakening Hamas and Fatah domestically and on the international stage. 
“While many Palestinians already felt abandoned by both political factions, the conflict gave new life to the more radical parties and groups”, he noted.
“Tell me, where are your borders?”, he asked, in a question addressed to both the EU and to Israel.
The EU parliament motion speaks of “1967 borders, with Jerusalem as the capital of both states, with a secure state of Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security”. 
For Sourani, the statement would have made sense in 1967 or, at the latest, in 1994, when the so-called Oslo accords attempted to set the peace process in motion. 
But he noted that the current pace of settlement expansion means Israel is redrawing de facto borders “more quickly than the ink can dry on international statements”. 
He said EU communiques which fail to set specific and realistic boundaries do more worse than good by creating a fictional framework for conflict resolution. 
“Europe has responsibilities: Nobody wants a virtual [Palestinian] state”. 
Human rights
The 60-year old lawyer reserved his starkest criticism for what he calls Israel’s disregard for rule of law. 
He said if the conflict is to ever end it must be governed by “the rule of law, not the rule of the jungle”. 
Sourani’s NGO, the PCHR, filed 225 cases to the Israeli military attorney general on alleged war crimes in last year’s Gaza conflict. It filed another 1,060 cases of redress/compensation to the Israeli minister of defence.
But looking at Israel’s track record, Sourani has little optimism for the outcome. 
Looking back at the previous Israeli ground incursion - operation Cast Lead in 2008/2009, which cost 1,400 lives - just five of the 492 submitted cases ended in a positive outcome.
The five rulings saw Israeli Defence Force soldiers - who killed an unarmed Palestinian woman and her daughter while they were waving a white flag - suspended for just six months. 
Undue process
Sourani noted that Israeli due process is designed to deny justice to Palestinians. 
He cited the fact that Palestinians, among the poorest people in the Middle East, have to pay a “guarantee fee” to Israeli courts to file cases. 
In one Cast Lead case, the “Soumani” case, in which Israeli forces killed 27 members of one family, Israel insisted on 27 separate claims, raising the guarantee fee to over $100,000.
PCHR lawyers, claimants, and witnesses often cannot go to court proceedings due to Israeli restrictions on freedom of movement, while time limits on filing cases mean that 95 percent of claimants don’t make the deadline. 
Sourani also warned that a recent Israeli legislative amendment, known as “amendment eight”, will create a new obstacle.
He said it “effectively states that if Israel declares a state of war, no one has the right to hold its army or politicians legally accountable for their actions”.
The lawyer noted that while the EU regularly criticises Israeli killing of civilians, it overlooks its day-to-day disregard for people’s rights. 
“This is also an invitation to extremism. People are desperate. They see no justice. They see no hope. There is no need to victimise the rule of law in order to ensure [Israeli] security”, he said.