Friday, March 06, 2009

Read-See: WOMEN SAY NO TO WAR +CONVOY UPDATE + Israeli jets pound Gaza + third intifada? + Gaza destruction + Homeless + TSS + Naomi Klein + HR Orgs + demolition + Avraham Burg + RAISING A VOICE + Shifted Ground + CENSORSHIP + Russell Tribunal + Come to Palest

Education for Liberation! Join Up!
Peter S. Lopez aka: Peta

From: Enrique Ferro <>
Sent: Friday, March 6, 2009 3:32:46 PM
Subject: WOMEN SAY NO TO WAR +CONVOY UPDATE + Israeli jets pound Gaza + third intifada? + Gaza destruction + Homeless + TSS + Naomi Klein + HR Orgs + demolition + Avraham Burg + RAISING A VOICE + Shifted Ground + CENSORSHIP + Russell Tribunal + Come to Palest

CODEPINK Women Say NO To War

March 6, 2009

Dear Enrique,

This Sunday, March 8, is International Women's Day--a day that always energizes us and reminds us of the power of women joining together to create a more peaceful, sustainable future. It was on International Women's Day six years ago that we organized our first major CODEPINK march in DC, encircling the White House with vibrant pink to say No to the imminent war in Iraq. Three years later, we officially launched our Women Say No to War campaign, bringing women together around the globe to give the peace movement a powerful female voice.

We should be proud of all we've accomplished, but even though we're full of hope for the future, now is not the time to sit idly back. War is NOT over, and our voices are still desperately needed. While we are pleased that President Obama is working toward withdrawing our troops from Iraq, we are disheartened by his decision to push that withdrawal back to August, 2010 and leave up to 50,000 residual troops in the area until December, 2011.

Will you write a letter to the editor of your newspaper to take a stand for real peace in Iraq? Click here to send your letter to the editor, it just takes three minutes.

We were heartbroken by this recent NY Times article on the brutal reality of Iraqi war widows; our new administration needs to help rebuild these shattered lives, not further the chaos wrought by Bush. Let your editor know that we are calling on Obama to immediately withdraw all U.S. troops, including residual forces from Iraq. The U.S. government needs to increase efforts in diplomacy, humanitarian aid and refugee resettlement in Iraq, instead. Obama needs to listen to the people of Iraq who want us out their country, and the American people who want our troops and financial resources back home. Please send your letter today and help give voice to the women of Iraq and all people who long for an end to occupation.

Our work continues in Gaza, as well. Our historic 60 person International Women's Day delegation is currently on their way to Gaza, carrying the 2,000+ gift baskets you so generously donated to the women of the beleaguered region. Thank you for honoring our sisters in Palestine, and for asking your senators to encourage Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to dedicate her own trip to Gaza to promoting peace in the region--thanks to you, 33 senators signed on!

A special thank you to all of the CODEPINK local groups who have already organized International Women's Day events in their communities, raising money and awareness for the women of Gaza! Even more are planned for this weekend--from Honolulu to Phoenix to NYC!

Thank you for reminding Obama of his promises and being part of a growing chorus of Women who say No to War,
Audrey, Blaine, Dana, Deidra, Desiree, Farida, Gael, Gayle, Jean, Jodie, Liz, Lori, Medea, Nancy, Paris, and Rae

P.S. Delegation to Gaza Blog Update! As the peace delegation arrives and mobilizes they will be posting their stories here on the PINKTank and here and here and here.

'Viva Palestina' activists denied entry to Egypt
Fri, 06 Mar 2009 15:14:46 GMT

Four activists, heading for Gaza with humanitarian aid convoy 'Viva Palestina', have been retuned to Libya short after crossing into Egypt.

The convoy of some 100 vehicles carrying one million pounds worth of humanitarian aid departed from Britain on February 14 and is to enter the impoverished Palestinian territory via Rafah in Egypt.

The four were identified as Stephen Gray, Richard Burton, Shams Suppin Razaq and Azam Hussein.

Press TV's correspondent Yvonne Ridley, who is accompanying 'Viva Palestina', said a lawyer was to contact the British Foreign Office to find out why the four were deported Egypt.

"The Egyptian authorities have not come up with an explanation as to why these men should be separated from the convoy. There is a feeling that they could mere political pawns in a much wider game is being played out in Egypt at the moment with Libya, Egypt and Israel," she said.

"Israel is putting huge pressure on Egypt to force the convoy which is now doubled in size, a British-Libyan venture, through Israeli territory."

She added that the convoy was warmly welcomed on the surface by the Egyptian authorities, local dignitaries and officials, but its movement was at the same time severely restricted due to a large number of police vehicles and officers involved in the operation of moving 'Viva Palestina' to Rafah.

Meanwhile, the convoy has been asked to move in groups of twenty, which has further reduced its speed.

'Viva Palestina' -- organized by British Parliamentarian George Galloway -- has passed through France, Spain and a number of North African countries on its way to the food and energy hungry Gaza Strip, where thousands of Palestinians have long been dependent on aid handouts.

Israel refuses to lift a 19-month-long blockade on the coastal sliver to force to its knees the Islamic Hamas movement which controls the Palestinian territory.

The siege continues almost a month after the Israeli army lunched an all-out onslaught on Gaza in a bid to oust Hamas and put an end to Palestinian rocket attacks, which usually leave little damage but have drawn bitter criticism from the Tel Aviv officials.

The 23-day offensive left at least 1,330 Palestinians killed, more than 5,450 others injured and widely devastated the infrastructures in the densely populated Gaza Strip, home to some 1.5 people.


Israeli jets pound Gaza, kill 2
Thu, 05 Mar 2009 06:30:38 GMT

Israeli warplanes have hit targets in the southern Gaza Strip, killing at least two Palestinians and wounding 3 others in the enclave.

The Thursday morning attack came hours after an Israeli air strike on the northern parts of the strip killed a senior commander in the al-Quds Brigades -- the military wing of Islamic Jihad.

Medical workers in the Hamas-run territory confirmed the attack and the casualties, while the Israeli military had no immediate comment, Reuters reported.

On Tuesday, Israeli jets launched an attack on the southern Gaza Strip wounding four Palestinians.

Tel Aviv continues its attacks on the Gaza strip on a regular basis although it announced a unilateral ceasefire after three weeks of non-stop onslaught on the populated territory.

Israel launched an all-out war against the Gazan population on December 27, leaving nearly 1,350 Palestinians dead and 5,450 others wounded -- women and children accounted for a large portion of the casualties.

The Israeli war destroyed or damaged thousands of buildings across the besieged strip, leaving over 70,000 Palestinians homeless.


Sabri warns of a third intifada against Zionist efforts to Judaize Jerusalem
[ 06/03/2009 - 11:09 AM ]

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- Head of the Islamic Higher Committee, Sheikh Ekrema Sabri, warned of the outbreak of a third intifada in defence of occupied Jerusalem against Zionist campaigns of "transfer" and Judaization.

He said in a statement to the UAE-based al-Khalij newspaper on Friday that people's uprisings against oppression are spontaneous and that the Israeli occupation practices against the Palestinian people, in general, and occupied Jerusalem in particular are pushing towards explosion.

He also pointed out that there is and evil Zionist plan against occupied Jerusalem which is being implemented in stages as conditions allow, explaining that the attempts to uproot and displace Palestinian residents of Jerusalem and the recent threats of demolishing Palestinian homes in various Jerusalem neighbourhoods are part of this evil plan.

Meanwhile, the Imam of the Aqsa Mosque, Dr. Yousuf Salamah, warned of the dangers of the Zionist plans against the Aqsa Mosque expressing his fear that if the Muslims and Arabs do not make a move now to save the Mosque, they will wake up one day at the news of the destruction of the Aqsa Mosque.

Israeli occupation authorities have handed on Thursday demolition notices to 36 Palestinian families in the Silwan neighbourhood, as part of the ethnic cleansing efforts of the occupation.

Page Top

Gaza homes destruction 'wanton'

Destroyed house in Jabaliya, 15 Feb 2009
Amnesty said the way houses had fallen suggested they had been blown up from under walls and pillars

Human rights investigators say Israeli forces engaged in "wanton destruction" of Palestinian homes during the recent conflict in Gaza.

Amnesty International's has told the BBC News website the methods used raised concerns about war crimes.

Israel's military said buildings were destroyed because of military "operational needs".

The Israeli Defense Forces said they operated in accordance with international law during the conflict.

However, the use of mines to destroy homes contradicted this claim, the head of the Amnesty International fact-finding mission to southern Israel and Gaza, Donatella Rovera, has argued.

The IDF emphasises that the terrorist organisation, Hamas, and its infrastructure were the target of Operation Cast Lead, and not the civilian population in Gaza

Israeli military statement

Israeli troops had to leave their vehicles to plant the mines, indicating that they faced no danger and that there was no military or operational justification, she said.

Breaking the Silence, an Israeli group that gathers and circulates the testimonies of Israeli soldiers, has also told the BBC News website that its findings from the Gaza war suggested many demolitions had been carried out when there was no immediate threat.

"From the testimonies that we've gathered, lots of demolitions - buildings demolished either by bulldozers or explosives - were done after the area was under Israeli control," said Yehuda Shaul, one of the group's members.

Destruction of civilian property is not illegal in itself under international law, but it must be justifiable on military grounds - for example if the building was booby trapped or being used as cover for enemy fighters.

Thousands of buildings were destroyed in the 22-day Israeli operation.

Some of them were police stations, mosques and government premises attacked in targeted airstrikes, in many cases with surrounding buildings left in tact.

Reduced to rubble

There were also whole neighbourhoods reduced to rubble in areas where the Israeli ground forces were present.

Ms Rovera said Amnesty International was concerned about "large scale destruction of homes and other civilian properties" during the conflict.

"The destruction was, in our view, and according to our findings, wanton destruction - it could not be justified on military grounds," she said.

14,000 homes
219 factories
240 schools
UNDP estimates

Ms Rovera said her team found fragments of anti-tank mines in and around destroyed properties.

Their use was also consistent with remains of houses, collapsed in on themselves as if blown up from below, rather than destroyed from above as in an airstrike, she said.

Troops would have had to leave their armoured vehicles to plant them and rig up the detonators, she said.

"Unless those operating on the ground felt not just 100% but 200% secure - that the places were not booby trapped, that they wouldn't come under fire - they could not have got out of the vehicles," she said. "They would not have used that method."

"The use of the method tells us even more that there wasn't the kind of danger that might have made it lawful to destroy some of those properties," Ms Rovera said.

"Wanton destruction on a large scale would qualify as a war crime," she said, adding that the practice was among several used in the conflict by both sides that Amnesty is concerned may constitute war crimes.

In one case visited by the BBC, six homes belonging to the extended family of Raed al-Atamna in the Izbit Abed Rabbo area, near the border with Israel, were destroyed.

Mr Atamna said a UN ordnance clearance team had found several mines in and around the remains of one of the homes.

He said he and his family had fled the area during the Israeli military operation, and returned to find their homes demolished.

'Substantial operational needs'

The IDF said buildings in the Gaza Strip were destroyed during Operation Cast Lead due to "substantial operational needs".

In a written statement, it said: "For example, buildings were either booby-trapped, located over tunnels, or fire was opened from within them in the direction of IDF soldiers.

"The terrorist organisations operated from within the civilian population, using them as a cover and made cynical use of the IDF's strict rules of engagement, opening fire from within civilian population centres, mosques, schools, hospitals and even private residences of citizens in the Gaza Strip.

"The troops were briefed and trained to avoid harming uninvolved civilians and did all they could to give warning in advance so that civilians could distance themselves from combat zones.

"The IDF emphasises that the terrorist organisation, Hamas, and its infrastructure were the target of Operation Cast Lead, and not the civilian population in Gaza."

A military source said the mines used do not detonate automatically and therefore do not represent a danger when left unexploded in the field.

Audio slideshow: Homeless in Gaza

Raed al-Atamna's family's six houses were destroyed in the recent Gaza conflict, as well as the cars he uses to earn his living as a taxi driver.

With nearly 3,000 families homeless, rented accommodation is scarce in Gaza - Mr Atamna's pregnant wife and seven children are now staying with relatives, while he sleeps in a corrugated metal shack next to his ruined house.

The Israeli military says it destroyed buildings because of "substantial operational needs", for example because of booby traps or militants in them, but Amnesty International says "wanton destruction" occurred, in violation of international law.

Uri Avnery


                        Remember Ophira? 

THIS WEEK I had a nostalgic experience. I met a parliamentary delegation from one of the European countries. What turned this meeting into a special occasion for me was its location. 

The "Pasha Room" of the "American Colony" Hotel in East Jerusalem is a beautiful square hall, decorated in traditional Arab style. I was in this hall at the moment Yitzhak Rabin held out his hand to Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn at the Oslo agreement signing ceremony. 

We gathered there spontaneously, Israeli peace activists and Fatah leaders, to celebrate the event together. We watched the proceedings on TV and cracked bottles of champagne. I still have one of the corks. 

Just an hour before, I had witnessed a no less exciting meeting. A group of young Palestinians, delirious with joy, marched through the streets, olive branches in their hands and a large Palestinian flag fluttering over their heads. At the street corner, a unit of the Border Police – the most aggressive anti-Arab force in Israel – was waiting. At the time, even the simple possession of a Palestinian flag was a crime. 

For a moment, we held our breath. What is going to happen? The Palestinians ran towards the policemen and thrust olive branches into their hands. The policemen did not know what to do. They were obviously in a state of total disorientation and did not react at all. The enthusiastic youngsters continued on their way through the streets of East Jerusalem, singing and rejoicing. 

Today, 15 and a half years later, one can only look back with longing at the passion for peace that possessed all of us then.. Nothing has remained of that fervor, that hope, that zeal for reconciliation. 

All these have now been replaced by a poisonous mix of hopelessness and dejection. 

IF YOU stop any ten random passers-by in a Tel Aviv street and ask them what they think about the chances of peace, nine of them will shrug their shoulders and answer: It won't happen. No chance. The conflict will just go on forever. 

They will not say: We don't want peace, the price of peace is too high. On the contrary, many will declare that for peace they are ready to give back the occupied territories, even East Jerusalem, and let the Palestinians have a state of their own. Sure. Why not? But, they will add: No chance. There will be no peace. 

Some will say: The Arabs don't want it. Others will say: Our leaders can't do it. But the conclusion is the same: It just won't happen. 

A similar poll of Palestinians would probably yield the same results: We want peace. Peace would be wonderful. But there's no chance. It won't happen. 

This mood has produced the same political situation on both sides. In the Palestinian elections, Hamas won, not because of its ideology but because it expresses the despair of peace with Israel. In the Israeli elections, there was a general move to the Right: Leftists voted for Kadima, Kadima people voted for Likud, Likud people voted for the fascist factions. 

Without hope there is no Left. The Left is by nature optimistic, it believes in a better future, in the chance of changing everything for the better. The Right is by nature pessimistic. It does not believe in the possibility of changing human nature and society for the better, it is convinced that war is a law of nature. 

But among the despairing there are still those who hope that an intervention by foreigners – Americans, Europeans, even Arabs – will impose peace on us. 

This week, that hope was severely shaken. 

ON TV we were shown a uniquely impressive conference, a huge assembly of world leaders, who all came to Sharm-el-Sheikh. (Remember that during our occupation of Sinai it was called Ophira? Remember Moshe Dayan saying that he preferred Sharm-el-Sheikh without peace to peace without Sharm-el-Sheikh?) 

Who was not there? Chinese and Japanese rubbed shoulders with Saudis and Qataris. Nicholas Sarkozy was everywhere (Indeed, it was well-nigh impossible to take a photo without the hyper-active French president appearing in it somewhere.) Hillary Clinton was the star. Hosni Mubarak celebrated his achievement in getting them all together on Egyptian soil.. 

And for what? For little, poor Gaza. It has to be rebuilt. 

It was a celebration of sanctimonious hypocrisy, in the very best tradition of international diplomacy.   

First of all, nobody from Gaza was there. As in the heyday of European imperialism, 150 years ago, the fate of the Natives was decided without the Natives themselves being present. Who needs them? After all, they are Primitives. Better without them. 

Not only Hamas was absent. A delegation of Gaza businessmen and civil society activists could not come either. Mubarak just did not allow them to pass the Rafah crossing. The gate of the prison called Gaza was barred by the Egyptian jailers. 

The absence of delegates from Gaza, and especially from Hamas, turned the conference into a farce. Hamas rules Gaza. It won the elections there, as in all the Palestinian territories, and continues to govern it even after one of the mightiest armies in the world spent 22 days trying to dislodge it. Nothing will happen in the Gaza Strip without the consent of Hamas. The world-wide decision to rebuild Gaza without the participation of Hamas is sheer foolishness. 

The war ended with a fragile cease-fire that is collapsing before our very eyes. In his opening speech to the conference, Mubarak hinted that it is Ehud Olmert who is now preventing an armistice (called Tadyah or calm in Arabic). Nobody at the conference reacted. But when there is no cease-fire, another even more destructive war is looming. It's just a matter of time – months, weeks, perhaps days. What has not yet been destroyed, will be destroyed then. So what is the good in investing billions to rebuild schools, hospitals, government buildings and ordinary homes, all of which will be demolished again anyhow? 

Mubarak spoke about the exchange of prisoners. Sarkozy spoke with much pathos about the soldier "Jilad Shalit", a French citizen who all French people want to be freed. Interesting. There are 11 thousand Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. How many of them also hold French citizenship? Sarkozy did not say. It doesn't interest him. Even in this bunch of hypocrites, he strives for championship. 

The participants of the conference promised Mahmoud Abbas fabulous sums of money. Nearly five billion dollars. How much will actually be paid? How much of this will actually pass through the sieve of the high-flying set in Ramallah and reach Gaza? According to a Gaza woman who appeared on television, a homeless mother who lives in a small tent in the middle of a huge mud puddle: Not a cent.  

Was the political part of the performance more serious? Hillary spoke about "Two States for Two Peoples". Others talked about "the Political Process" and "Peace Negotiations". And all, all of them knew that these are nothing but hollow words.   

IN HIS poem "If", Rudyard Kipling asked whether "you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken / Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools." This is now a test for all those who stood at the cradle of the "Two State" idea some 60 years ago. 

This vision was – and remains – the only viable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The sole realistic alternative is the continuation of the present situation – occupation, oppression, Apartheid, war. But the enemies of this vision have smartened up and pretend to support it on every occasion.  

Avigdor Liberman is in favor of "Two States". Absolutely. He spells it out: several Palestinian enclaves, each of them surrounded by the Israeli military and by settlers like himself. These Bantustans will be called "a Palestinian state". An ideal solution, indeed: the State of Israel will be cleansed of Arabs, but will continue to rule over all of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. 

Binyamin Netanyahu has a similar vision, but differently worded: the Arabs will "govern themselves". They will govern their towns and villages, but not the territory, neither the West Bank nor the Gaza Strip. They will have no army, of course, and no control of the airspace over their heads, neither will they have any physical contact with neighboring countries. Menachem Begin used to call this "autonomy".  

But there will be "economic peace". The Palestinian economy will "flourish". Even Hillary Clinton ridiculed this idea publicly before meeting with Netanyahu. 

Tzipi Livni wants "Two Nation-States". Yes' Ma'm. When? Well… First of all there have to be negotiations, unlimited in time. They did not come to fruition during the years she has been conducting them, nor have they got anywhere at all. Ehud Olmert speaks about the "Political Process" – why did he not bring it to a successful conclusion during the years of his stewardship? How long must the "Process" go on? Five years? Fifty? Five hundred? 

So Hillary speaks about "Two States". Speaks with great vigor. Is ready to speak about it with any Israeli government that will be set up, even if inspired by the ideas of Meir Kahane. The main thing is that they talk with Mahmoud Abbas, and that Abbas in the meantime receives money, a lot of money. 

An EXTREME right-wing government is about to be set up. Kadima has laudably decided not to join. On the other hand, Ehud Barak, the father of "We Have No Partner For Peace", is looking desperately for a way in. 

And why not? He won't be the first political prostitute from his party. 

In 1977, Moshe Dayan deserted the Labor Party in order to serve as Foreign Minister and fig-leaf for Menachem Begin, who forcibly prevented the establishment of a Palestinian state. In 2001, Shimon Peres got the Labor Party to join the government of Ariel Sharon, in order to serve as Foreign Minister and fig-leaf to the man whose very name made all the world shudder after the Sabra and Shatila massacre. So why should Ehud Barak not become a fig-leaf for a government that includes outright fascists? 

Who knows, perhaps he will even represent us at the next conference in Ophira - sorry, Sharm-el-Sheikh – the one that will be convened after the next war, in which Gaza will be razed to the ground. After all, a lot of money will be needed to build it up again.

Forwarded by JPLO

Palestinians `need decisions'

Despite U.S. support for two-state solution, an independent state seems no closer than in 1991

Mar 05, 2009 04:30 AM

Comments on this story (22)

Oakland Ross

JERUSALEM–U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton travelled to the West Bank yesterday with a message of renewed American support for a two-state solution to the long-running conflict between Palestinians and Israelis.

But Palestinians have heard those words before, and the prospect of an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza seems no closer now than it did nearly two decades ago, when an international conference in Madrid lay the groundwork for the establishment of a country called Palestine that would dwell in peace alongside Israel.

That was in November 1991.

Since then, hundreds of negotiators have bargained their way through dozens of round-the-clock peace talks – and many thousands of innocent people have perished in political violence – but still there is no Palestinian state.

Perhaps understandably, a sense of hopelessness has taken hold, at least in some quarters.

"Many Palestinians have despaired of the two-state solution," said George Giacaman, director of the Program on Democracy and Human Rights at Birzeit University in the West Bank.

That bleak mood is just one of many impediments blocking the way to peace in the Middle East. Others include the political fallout from Israel's deadly military offensive in Hamas-ruled Gaza earlier this year and the continued firing of Palestinian rockets at Israel.

There is also the bitter split that now separates the militant Islamists of Hamas from their former comrades in the ranks of Fatah, the more moderate Palestinian faction that holds uncertain sway in the West Bank.

It does not exactly simplify matters that Clinton's one-day visit to the West Bank came on the heels of a decision by Israeli authorities to demolish more than 80 Palestinian dwellings in East Jerusalem, a decision Clinton criticized yesterday

"Clearly, this kind of activity is unhelpful," she said.

Clinton vowed to take the issue up with Israel's prime-minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu once he manages to piece together a ruling coalition, a task he is expected to do within the next few weeks.

Not exactly a proponent of political dialogue with Palestinians, Netanyahu may find himself at the helm of a hard-line right-wing government that would be even more adverse to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state than he is himself.

Meanwhile, some Palestinians look back at the past two decades of failed peace talks with Israel and ask themselves whether there has ever really been genuine Israeli support for a two-state solution to the region's troubles.

"I really think Israel is not serious at all on the issue of peace negotiations," Nader Said-Foqahaa, a prominent Palestinian pollster, said yesterday.

"There has been a lot of talk about `final settlements,' and there have been so many creative solutions, but I don't think there is a real desire on Israel's part to implement them,'' he said. ``I don't think Israelis really care."

Nearly a year ago, Saeb Erekat, a senior adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, told a gathering of journalists in East Jerusalem that, in his view, there was no longer anything that needed to be talked about between the two sides.

After decades of exhaustive negotiations, he said, every major issue in the conflict – the fate of Palestinian refugees, the location of borders, the future of Jerusalem, the provision of Israeli security – had all been examined in microscopic detail.

"We need decisions," he said. "We don't need negotiations.."

But, once again, the decisions were left unmade.

Rabble: Naomi Klein on Canada's Pro-Israeli Apartheid lobby

  Naomi Klein


excerpt from rabble rouser report:


"One thing that really stuck out for me was when Klein was talking about how the pro-Apartheid side tries to frame all the terms of the debate, not only for their own side, but for our side too.

So, they try to say that it's not legitimate for us to use this word or that word (like Apartheid, like massacre, etc.) and they try to ban our posters (like the one that was banned at Carleton), and they try to tell us that we can't call for BDS. 

And she really hit home the fact that the reason they don't want us to do any of that stuff is because it's EFFECTIVE.  Of course they don't want us to be effective." 





from Michelle


March 3, 2009 - 5:03pm


I went to yesterday's opening event in Toronto, with Omar Barghouti and Naomi Klein.  It was excellent.  One thing that really stuck out for me was when Klein was talking about how the pro-Apartheid side tries to frame all the terms of the debate, not only for their own side, but for our side too.

So, they try to say that it's not legitimate for us to use this word or that word (like Apartheid, like massacre, etc.) and they try to ban our posters (like the one that was banned at Carleton), and they try to tell us that we can't call for BDS. 

And she really hit home the fact that the reason they don't want us to do any of that stuff is because it's EFFECTIVE.  Of course they don't want us to be effective.  They'd rather we talk about "collateral damage" and pretend there is equivalency on both sides even though there isn't.

Basically, the pro-Apartheid side is happy for people who support Palestinians to do or say anything - as long as it is completely ineffective at changing anything.

She encouraged everyone there to not give an inch, to not allow ourselves to be bullied into ineffectiveness.  She encouraged us to not let the pro-Apartheid side succeed at limiting our vocabulary to words that do not resonate, and limiting our actions to things that are completely ineffective. 

The reason that speech hit home with me is because we see this on babble all the time - the pro-Apartheid posts nitpicking at the legitimate words, images, and actions of Palestinian rights activists.  We need to stand up and tell them, NO.  We need to say, you can make your case, but you do not get to tell us how to make OUR case, nor do you get to tell us what actions we will take.  We will do whatever is most effective, and we don't need anyone's permission to do so, and certainly not the permission of those who support Israeli apartheid.

Oh, and of course the JDL were out in full-force, too.  (By full force, I mean maybe about 10 or 15 people.)  They were screaming "Racists off campus" as people were leaving the meeting.  I've got to say, the security detail and police (I think they were police?) that were there did their jobs really well - they kept the JDL guys at bay, while not interfering at all with the carrying out of the event. 

Any reports from other cities?


Human rights organizations to Defense Minister:Stop impeding
freedom of movement of director of Palestinian human rights organization

Press Release
March 3, 2009

Today - 10 human rights organizations in Israel wrote to the Defense
Minister and the Commander of Military Forces in the West Bank, sharply
protesting the denial of the freedom of movement of Shawan Jabarin,
executive director of the Palestinian human rights organization al-Haq.
Since Jabarin was appointed, in 2006, Israel has not allowed him to leave
the West Bank. The organizations called for the prohibition on Jabarin's
exiting the West Bank be lifted. Otherwise, he will be prevented from
obtaining a prestigious award for al-Haq's work in advancing human rights.

Between 1999 and 2006, Jabarin was permitted to leave the West Bank eight
times. Since his appointment as executive director of al-Haq, however, the
Israeli authorities have not permitted him to go abroad. Three petitions
that Jabarin filed in the Israeli High Court of Justice against the
prohibition were denied, based on privileged material provided to the court,
on the grounds that he is active in the Popular Front for the Liberation of
Palestine. Jabarin was given no opportunity to confront the allegations
against him, and was never questioned or summoned for interrogation.

Last month, al-Haq and B'Tselem were jointly awarded the "Geuzen Resistance
1940-1945" prize. Jabarin is scheduled to accept the award on behalf of
al-Haq at a ceremony to be held on 13 March. Three weeks ago, he was
informed that he is still prohibited from exiting the West Bank by the
Commander of Military Forces in the West Bank.

In their letter, the organizations point out that freedom of movement is a
fundamental human right enshrined in international and Israeli law.
Prohibiting a person to go abroad, a severe impediment to freedom of
movement, is permissible only in exceptional cases, when no other option is

On Thursday, 5 March , at 11:30 A.M., the Israeli High Court will hear
another petition of Jabarin, filed by attorney Micha'el Sfard, against the
movement prohibition imposed on him.

Participating organizations:

Adalah - the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, The
Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Bimkom - Planners for Planning
Rights, B'Tselem - The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the
Occupied Territories, Gisha - Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, Hamoked:
Center for the Defence of the Individual, The Public Committee Against
Torture in Israel, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, Yesh Din: Volunteers
for Human Rights, Rabbis for Human Rights

FEATURE-Facing Israeli demolition, Palestinian razes his home
By Mohammed Assadi
JERUSALEM, March 6 (Reuters) - When Palestinian Sharif Attoun asked bulldozer driver Ziad Dabash to flatten his home in Arab East Jerusalem, his friend was heartbroken.

But for Attoun, watching his 13-year-old house being demolished by a friend was a lesser evil: If Dabash wouldn't do it, Israeli authorities would have, a move that comes with some $20,000 in demolition fees and possible imprisonment.

Attoun's ordeal is not uncommon among some 260,000 Palestinians living in Arab East Jerusalem who say Israeli municipal authorities in the city often deny them building permits.

"I never thought of razing my own home and paying rent," said Attoun, a 36-year-old elevator technician, waving a copy of the Israeli demolition order.

Israel captured and later annexed East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war in a move not recognised internationally.

The Jewish state considers the whole city as its "eternal capital" and says it is implementing the law by demolishing houses built without permission.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas wants East Jerusalem to be the capital of a future independent state and has sharply criticised the demolitions and the expansion of Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and across the occupied West Bank.

Palestinians accuse Israel of mounting a concerted campaign to deny them statehood and to push them out of the Holy City.

During a visit to Jerusalem and the West Bank this week, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticised as "unhelpful" Israeli plans to demolish some 80 homes in East Jerusalem to make way for a municipal park.


Palestinians in Jerusalem carry Israeli identity cards, giving them access to welfare and health services, and freedom of movement denied to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. But few East Jerusalemites have taken up full Israeli citizenship.

"It's the most cruel thing I did in my lifetime, but it was the lesser of two evils," said Attoun, a father of six, standing in front of a pile of rubble and twisted steel rods that used to be his house.

Attoun will pay bulldozer driver Dabash for his work but only a fraction of what Israel would charge him.

It was the third time in 16 years that Dabash has knocked down a fellow Palestinian' s home.

For many Palestinians, bulldozers are a symbol of the Israeli occupation. They are used by the army to flatten homes in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Israel says it targets militants and lawbreakers.

For many Israelis, bulldozers are increasingly associated with Palestinian attacks. On Wednesday, a Palestinian man used his bulldozer to crush a police car in Jerusalem, the third such incident in a year.

Ziyad Hammouri, head of the Jerusalem Centre for Social and Economic Rights, said Israel has demolished some 30 homes in Arab East Jerusalem so far this year.

He said Attoun's decision to flatten his own home was rare.

Hatem Abdel Qader, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's representative in the city, said Attoun's actions were counterproductive because it allowed Israel to deflect responsibility for "crimes they are committing in Jerusalem."

He said Fayyad should mount a campaign to help Palestinian homeowners in East Jerusalem to counter what he termed "Israelisation" of the area by demolishing buildings and seizing land.

Sarit Michaeli, of Israeli Human Rights group B'Tselem, said the Jewish state's policies in the city since 1967 left Palestinians little choice but to build illegally..

The issue of Jerusalem is sensitive for both sides, and Israeli prime minister-designate, rightist Benjamin Netanyahu, has all-but ruled out even discussing dividing the city, where some 500,000 Jews live. (Editing by Joseph Nasr and Samia Nakhoul) (For blogs and links on Israeli politics and other Israeli and Palestinian news, go to
blogs.reuters. com/axismundi)

Forwarded by JPLO

Avraham Burg: The Evasions of Dissent

Israeli ex-politician and erstwhile dissident Avraham Burg, interviewed by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! on February 12th regarding his recent book The Holocaust is Over: We Must Rise from the Ashes, offered this account of his motivation in writing the book:

"I wrote the first book, which was God Is Back. It's about the religious dimension of world conflicts and the Israeli conflictual reality. And then when I finished the book, I read it, and I realized that I didn't write about the other items which support our identity, and this is the only presence of the trauma in our life, which is the Holocaust, which prevents us to trust anybody — to trust ourselves, to trust our neighbors, to trust the world — and therefore creates this kind of a reality. And the minute I realized that this is my inner truth, just published it."

Near the end of the interview, Burg summarized his perspective not only on the settlements, but in essence on the entire conflict:

Yeah, it (the settlements) pollutes our morality, and it contaminates our policy. And we became hostages of the messianic and eschatological policy of the settlers, which actually leads Israel into a de facto one-state solution, which discriminates one people over the other people. At the same time, the Palestinian society was kidnapped and held hostage by the hands of the eschatological fundamental — Hamas fundamentalists. And both societies must get rid of their prisoners, get rid of these kidnappers and get over this Stockholm syndrome that I'm in love with my kidnapper. And only then we will be able to talk to each other.

While Burg, a former speaker of Knesset, is clearly a provocative and symbolic addition to the growing movement of Jewish dissidents regarding Israel and Palestine, I find his analysis evasive if not self-serving in its implicit dispensation to the secular Israeli parties that have supported the occupation since the 1967 war — and have done so willingly and on the basis of ideology and ambition deeply rooted in the Zionist project prior to the Holocaust and throughout the 20th century, clearly articulated and relentlessly enacted. Moreover, these territorial ambitions have been actively and indispensably supported by American governments of both political parties, none of whose leaders have been either personally traumatized by the Holocaust or "kidnapped and imprisoned" by religious fundamentalists of any confession.

(As an aside, Burg's reference to Hamas fundamentalists as analogous to Israeli religious settlers is undeserving of the credibility implied by a serious response.)

How much political curiosity does it take to add up the seats apportioned to the four major secular parties, all pro-Gaza massacre, in the recent election? I come up with 83 of 120, and that doesn't include "leftist" Meretz's paltry total, also pro-massacre. Exactly how is it that these non-believers who control the purse strings and military of Israel have been kidnapped by a minority of settler fanatics? That is, a minority in relation both to religious Israeli Jews and illegal (mostly economic) settlers, who could be returned to Israel in short order by the proper authorities as a result of a phone call from Washington. In addition, in the wake of all the hand-wringing in response to the growing popularizing of the more overtly racist Yisrael Beiteinu Party, it needs to be said that what is remarkable about this election is not the "rise of the right," but what is now labeled as "moderate" or even "left."

The "religious extremism" evasion in Israel has — to the detriment of an effective Palestinian rights movement in our own country — its correlate evasion in the inflation of the perceived power of the Israel Lobby by those who claim to oppose it; again, a distraction that does little or nothing to explain why the phone does not get picked up by a popular President with a bully pulpit and political capital galore. Moreover, it has its correlate in the manner in which religious fundamentalism in our own country serves as a distraction from liberal perfidy, not to mention liberal support for neoconservative perfidy, relating to a variety of issues, increasingly obvious in the new American administration.

As for the issues of the Holocaust, traumatization, and trust, it is with some trepidation but ultimately with incredulity that one must at least request some empirical evidence, or else debunk the notion that the 80% of Israelis who (according to actually existing empirical evidence) support the massacre suffer from 2nd, 3rd, or 4th generational reverberations as the result of a genocide to which a majority of Israeli Jews bear no familial relation and from which suffer no material deprivation. As an alternative explanation to Burg's premise, it should not be necessary to recount the uses of Holocaust memory, politics, and propaganda as incisively explored by Hannah Arendt, Norman Finkelstein, and Idith Zertal, among others. It hardly serves the memory of the Holocaust and its remaining survivors for Burg to offer listeners a dismal choice between feeling that they have been manipulated in a sincere or a cynical fashion.

High-functioning and physically secure secular Israelis knowingly and overwhelmingly elect representatives who support the systematic denial of Palestinian rights, and worse. High-functioning secular Americans in many if not most cases unknowingly elect representatives who have no serious intent to act as "honest brokers," and have every intent to prevent the good example of a democratic Palestine, one that might encourage similar examples in more resource-rich countries. There's no reason to believe that an analysis such as Burg's promotes an effective strategy for those whose uppermost concern is for Palestinian rights, which unfortunately for the Palestinians are at the mercy of fundamental American ambitions in the Middle East — albeit ambitions that are not supported by the American people. Heavily armed Israelis will only learn to "trust" when the option of violence is decisively taken from their government.

David Green is a 58-year-old Jew who was raised in Los Angeles and now lives in Champaign, IL. He is employed as a Policy Analyst at the Institute for Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois. He can be reached at: Read other articles by David.


Forwarded by JPLO



Middle East


Raising a voice, to reach a deaf ear

by Hannah Weitzer

05 March 2009

JAFFA – Mainstream media sources – Israeli, Arab and international alike – can easily lead one to believe that all Israelis and Jews worldwide threw their full support behind Israel's recent "Operation Cast Lead" against Hamas in Gaza as a necessary response to years of rocket-fire on southern Israel.

While it is true that a large majority of Jewish Israelis and Jews around the world supported this war from beginning to end, there is a little-covered, but significant anti-war movement within Israel and among world Jewry. The lack of media attention on this movement contributes to its isolation, and effectively discourages others from raising questions and seeking alternatives.

During the 23-day operation in Gaza there were many demonstrations, vigils, coalitions, blogs, humanitarian aid campaigns, petitions, joint meetings with Palestinians and other anti-war events organised by Israeli Jews. Throughout the three weeks of fighting, in which 1300 people in Gaza and 13 in southern Israel were killed, protests occurred almost daily in Tel Aviv and Jaffa, as well as in other major Israeli cities. The demonstrations drew mixed Jewish and Arab crowds, and have continued even after the ceasefire went into effect.

There are even voices from Sderot and other parts of southern Israel (, for example) who challenged the righteousness and inevitability of the Israeli operation. Despite enduring painful years of Hamas rockets aimed at their homes, they opposed the war vocally, and maintained contacts with their Gazan friends as much as possible throughout the fighting and in its wake.

Growing numbers of Jewish Israeli organisations and individuals are working to collect humanitarian aid to send to Gaza via the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and the Red Cross, and there is no shortage of Israeli Jews who wish to donate. On 23 January a benefit concert at Levontine 7, a trendy club in the heart of Tel Aviv, raised over 22,000 NIS ($5,400) for Physicians for Human Rights to purchase medical equipment to send to Gaza.

Sadly, though, Jewish Israelis who opposed this war find themselves increasingly estranged from mainstream society, and are even thought of as part of a treacherous fifth column.

In a country that takes pride in being a democracy, it is disconcerting that some Israelis view opposition to the actions of their government or military as disloyalty. The trend of equating voices of dissent with subversion was epitomised by the popularity of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, which won 15 seats in the recent elections with the slogan "No citizenship without loyalty," a direct dig at Arab citizens of Israel and others who disagree with the policies of the government and military.

The fact that the Jewish/Israeli anti-war movement has not received more coverage in the local or international media isn't just disheartening, it is distressing. The desire for coverage in the media isn't just about vanity, or even solely about wanting to be heard. It is about the need for legitimacy, which can be fostered by growing awareness.

If coverage of these perspectives is lacking on the local Israeli level, it is nearly nonexistent in the international press. Disregarding the nuances within Jewish Israeli society perpetuates the black and white stereotypes of the conflict, which have long been pervasive around the world. Bolstering these Jewish voices of dissent would reinforce the reality that Jewish opinion is not homogeneous, and that Jews are not unanimously in support of the Israeli government's actions. With more media coverage, and ensuing legitimacy, some of those who are currently silent, might be empowered to speak up.

It is never easy to raise an unpopular voice of opposition, but somewhat easier if you know that you are not the only one.


* Hannah Weitzer works at Windows-Channels for Communication, a non-profit, joint organization of Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinians from the Occupied Palestinian Territories. She has a BA in Middle East Studies from Brown University and currently resides in Jaffa. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).

Source: Common Ground News Service, 5 March 2009,
Copyright permission is granted for publication.



  Israel, Shifted Ground

Elizabeth Redden

March 6, 2009

The ground seems to have shifted, activists on all sides say. What they make of it varies.

A shift toward more visible pro-Palestinian or anti-Israel sentiment has been profound on some campuses, prompted, in part, by the winter war in Gaza. Where some describe a corresponding disintegration of civil discourse or a scapegoating of Israel for a complex set of problems, others celebrate a newfound space in which to be critical of Israel -- to mount a challenge to what they see as a dominant discourse, so to speak.

The two perspectives don't have to go hand in hand, but at times, they seem to.

Take Emory University, for example, where about a third of undergraduates are Jewish. "The situation's very interesting because in the past Emory was not a political school at all," said Jessica Fraidlin, a sophomore involved with several Israel advocacy organizations, including Emory Students for Israel. "We've always had a very strong Jewish community, but we've never had an opposing side."

For the first time this year, Emory hosted several events as part of "Israeli Apartheid Week," an annual, international campaign that ends Sunday. The slate of events included a rally, a talk titled "Understanding Apartheid: From South Africa to Israel," and a lecture Thursday by Norman G. Finkelstein, a political scientist known for his harsh critiques of Israeli policies and "the Holocaust industry" (and, in higher education circles, for being denied tenure at DePaul University).

Saba Khalid, a junior involved with Israeli Apartheid Week and a member of Emory Advocates for Justice in Palestine, said the group has not been well-received since its founding last spring. "We've actually had a lot of opposition, which is understandable, but very negative opposition," Khalid said. Last semester, for instance, the group's chalkings to promote "Week against the Apartheid Wall" were crossed out and replaced with anti-Arab scrawls like "Arabs Go Home," she said.

"If there's an open forum and we go it turns into a shouting match," said Khalid, adding that it's a small handful of students who get the rest going.

"We don't mind that there's not discussion. What we really mind is the fact that they target us and they come after us specifically. We don't come after them. We stick to our events," Khalid said.

Fraidlin, while agreeing that the climate is "not so good," otherwise disputed that characterization of pro-Israel students at Emory. "We don't put down the other side ever. We're just pro our side."

Of the chalking-related incident, she said, "I'm not going to say it's not true. There are radicals on both sides. But we have condemned the people who did it, and EAJP continues to highlight those people and say they're representative of the Jewish community, and they're not representative of the Jewish community.

"It's become a propaganda war; it's kind of who can scream the loudest. EAJP wants their voices heard and it doesn't matter how they get their point across. They're going to get it across and to me that's not academic. You need facts, figures, you need intelligent conversations. ... I'll even hand it to them, Norman Finkelstein coming to campus, at least they're bringing a scholar to campus. To me, that's OK," said Fraidlin, who on Wednesday was wearing a blue shirt with white lettering that read, "Stand for Israel."

She added that students on all sides are still in an adjustment period. "We haven't really sorted out our feelings yet. We know that we don't agree with their side and we don't know how to handle it, really. Both sides are really at fault."

Student Activism

"I think it's safe to say that we've seen a more shrill tone to much of the criticism of Israel. Whether it's in the campus quad, whether it's rallies with signs, whether it's blog postings to articles in the campus press, whether it's question and answer sessions at academic fora about Gaza or about American policy toward Israel, it's safe to say in all of these things we've noticed a trend – a reduction of civility of this dialogue, and that's deeply troubling," said David A. Harris, executive director of the Israel on Campus Coalition (which is affiliated with Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life).

For example, Harris said, "We see dozens and dozens of examples of 'die-ins' and [displays of] tombstones and public displays that are intimidating to some and don't exactly foster an understanding of what is happening in the Middle East, or any kind of dialogue."

He continued, however: "There's plenty of not civil dialogue and dialogue that's not what you'd want as the hallmark of academic discussion … but the clear majority of those cases are ones in which students on either side, neither of them feel that they are threatened or that they cannot express their views."

Even relatively innocuous campus displays have caused tensions. At Cornell University last month, students involved with the Islamic Alliance for Justice lined pathways with 1,300 black flags to commemorate the violence in Gaza. The display was later vandalized, and hundreds of flags were rearranged into a Star of David, according to university police.

Cornell announced on Tuesday that two students had been charged with disorderly conduct and criminal mischief in connection with the incident. "There was no indication they were acting under the guise of any group's motivations," the deputy police chief, Kathy Zoner, said in a statement. "Groups were blamed for the action. They were the easiest and most convenient target for blame, but apparently that wasn't the truth of the matter."

The Palestinian cause has also risen to the top of many student groups' agendas. Students for a Democratic Society at the University of Rochester recently demanded that the institution divest from companies that "profit from war"; provide "necessary academic aid" and organize a day of fund raising for Gaza; and set up scholarships for Palestinian students. (University officials declined on the scholarships and direct aid, but promised to provide the group the same fund raising advice it would any registered student organization and forward the divestment request to the Board of Trustees' investment committee. That's standard protocol for such requests.)

At New York University last month, the "Take Back NYU" protesters presented a litany of 11 demands, including tuition stabilization, collective bargaining for student workers, public release of NYU's budget and endowment -- and scholarships for Palestinians and the donation of excess supplies for the rebuilding of Islamic University of Gaza, which came under attack by Israel during the recent war. The group's building take-over ended with suspensions and without any of the student demands being met.

Take Back NYU's frequently asked questions Web page offers a response to "What does Gaza have to do with NYU and transparency?" A protest organizer wrote: "I demanded that our surpluses be donated to the Islamic University of Gaza (as opposed to any other impoverished school) because our school very likely helped destroy it. Although we obviously can't say for certain where our money is invested while the endowment holdings remain secret, it's a fair bet that some of it is invested in companies that support the Israeli military."

This week, NYU has also been a site of Israeli Apartheid Week events. However, Arthur Samuelson, executive director of the Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life at NYU, said that he hasn't seen an erosion of support for Israel on campus. "It is a marginal voice which has gotten some attention and the other is a much bigger and not changing base of support for Israel," he said.

'Forceful Push'

At Columbia University on Thursday, the Columbia Palestine Forum held a rally to present what's by now a familiar set of demands, including that Columbia provide scholarships for Palestinians and academic aid for a partnering Palestinian university. The group called too for an open forum on investments to initiate a "[u]niversity-wide conversation about divestment."

Meanwhile, the University of Massachusetts' Student Government Association took up (but tabled) the divestment question on Wednesday, according to the student newspaper. The movement to divest from Israel has been gaining rhetorical momentum at least among student and faculty activists (although not among administrators -- despite student claims to the contrary, no college has divested).

An organized campaign for an academic boycott of Israel also emerged in the United States in January. Proponents of the boycott argue that it will put non-violent pressure on Israel to respect international humanitarian law. However, the idea of boycotting Israeli academics raises questions of academic freedom and has many opponents, among college presidents but also among some liberal, even (self-identified) "radical" faculty. On the "Tenured Radical" blog, for instance, Claire B. Potter, a professor of history and American Studies at Wesleyan University, wrote she is "profoundly opposed to boycott and divestment" for a number of reasons. Among them: "It does not address the real problem in the region, which is that states -- primarily the United States, Russia, and former Soviet-bloc countries -- continue to cynically pour weapons into the Middle East, as if it is possible to arm resistance fighters and the Israeli government to the teeth and also negotiate for 'peace,' " she wrote.

"Where we've really seen some of the more heated kinds of discussion and debate has been around attempts to pressure universities into really examining their own support for the occupation … so the different divestment and boycott campaigns," said Bruce Braun, an associate professor of geography at the University of Minnesota and a member of an organization that started this semester, Teachers Against Occupation, which now is assembling and developing pedagogical materials for use in high school and college classrooms. (Although individual members are involved with the boycott campaign, Teachers Against Occupation as a group has not taken a stand.)

"One of the things that's really interesting on campuses right now is students are beginning to ask, 'How are we connected to what's happening in the Middle East? How do we transform our institutions?' " Braun said. "Having a debate on those kinds of questions is going to be emotional and it's going to be one that raises uncomfortable questions. Sometimes we can point to civil dialogue as a way of sort of domesticating any kind of protest. And I think people feel very strongly that there's an ongoing injustice that needs to be addressed and that continuously having a dialogue about this without taking steps to transform the institutional framework that allows what is perceived to be an unjust situation to be continued is something that people simply aren't willing to abide with any longer.

"To put something on the agenda," Braun explained, "actually takes sometimes a sort of forceful push. And I think that's what we're seeing at different points on campuses right now.

"I think there's a much stronger sense that sort of an unquestioned support of Israeli policy by the American government is something that we can no longer simply follow blindly or support," Braun continued, adding that the shift he sees isn't limited to college campuses. "I'm seeing that expressed at all kinds of different levels, among students, among faculty."

Questions of the faculty role in all of this have been at the forefront. Members of Teachers Against Occupation, for instance, "take quite seriously the fact that we are teachers. …As teachers, how do we respond by thoughtfully bringing these ideas into the classroom in ways that are constructive, or at least putting together materials for that?" Braun asked.

Meanwhile, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, a pro-Israel organization, recently asked professors to report anti-Israel or anti-Semitic events or propaganda on their campuses, for a compendium of sorts. "We're the people on campus. We've got our fingers on the pulse, we're stakeholders, we're faculty members. We live on campus longer than students, longer than most administrators and longer than most Hillel directors or Jewish education professionals," said Edward S. Beck, president emeritus of the organization and professor in Walden University's School of Social and Behavioral Sciences.

"It's our feeling that nothing is going to happen to reverse this trend of anti-Israelism [on campus] until the faculty absolutely say, 'Look, some of these behaviors are unacceptable and inconsistent with behavioral codes on campus and some of what's being taught here is incitement as opposed to free speech,' " Beck said.

Scholarship and Balance

One sub-strand of debate has been the faculty role when it comes to convening scholarly panels on Middle Eastern matters. As one high-profile example, a recent panel on "Human Rights and Gaza" organized by the Center for Near Eastern Studies at the University of California at Los Angeles, attracted attention for its perceived one-sidedness. Judea Pearl, a computer science professor at UCLA and father of the killed Wall Street Journal reporter, wrote in the Jewish Journal of the panel of "four long-time demonizers of Israel" who bashed the Jewish state, "portray[ed] Hamas as a guiltless, peace-seeking, unjustly provoked organization," and encouraged the audience in a "Zionism is Nazism" chant.

"Many people have contacted me — and some have even written news articles — to express profound disappointment over what they believe was the panel's unbalanced presentation and a lack of decorum during the question-and-answer period," Chancellor Gene Block said in a statement, which referenced a number of talks at UCLA that involve Israeli representatives and stressed a need for civil discourse. "The UCLA campus, with its diverse population and many points of view, is one of the most invigorating intellectual campuses in the world, and the university strives overall for scholarly balance."

"I guess what I would say is what we try and do is present a varied program on issues related to the central themes of our centers," said Nick Entrikin, acting vice provost of UCLA's International Institute, which is comprised of more than 20 centers, programs and research institutes (including an Israel Studies Program and the Center for Near Eastern Studies). "I think the argument that every program has to represent all sides of an issue, although it's something that we work towards in the aggregate, I just don't think we can really say we can do that for every particular event."

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, a lecturer in Hebrew at the University of California at Santa Cruz who has written on these topics, said that when it comes to scholarly endeavors, the issue of balance "is a smokescreen."

But that doesn't mean she's not concerned by events like the one at UCLA, which she thinks are "nearing epidemic proportion" on campuses. It's not balance but the possibility of indoctrination -- which she believes represents an abuse of academic freedom -- that concerns her. "Scholarship is not about balance, scholarship is about truth. The antithesis of scholarship is political indoctrination. You don't balance political indoctrination with equal and opposite indoctrination," she said.

"If a course or if a conference has clear political motivations and calls to political action ... the question is, 'Is this scholarship?' Is it scholarship to call on people to divest from Israel? Is that considered a scholarly statement?" Rossman-Benjamin asked.

In the case of the UCLA panel, Sondra Hale, a professor of anthropology and women's studies and one of the organizers of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, wrote a letter to the student newspaper, The Daily Bruin, defending the quality of scholarship presented (Hale did not respond to an e-mail request for an interview).

"Clearly, these are scholars who are very well-informed on the subject of the symposium and whose scholarship is beyond repute," Hale wrote. "They are scholars who bring pride to the University of California. This was a group of highly informed and qualified Jews, Israelis, Arabs and Arab Americans examining and trying to make sense of the human disaster of Gaza and criticizing the state policies that have lead to this calamity.

"Simply because some in the audience (from all perspectives) were out of line in some groups' sloganeering, the problems should not reflect on the excellent symposium itself. No one on the panel exempted Hamas or suicide bombers from charges of human rights abuses or violations of international law. All clearly condemned the Hamas rocket attacks. ... No one on the panel chanted 'Zionism is Nazism,' " Hale wrote.

Of course it is the validation of fellow scholars that determines what scholarship is in the academy. More broadly, Rossman-Benjamin argued that academic senates need to do a better job of protecting the professoriate from indoctrination masquerading as scholarship.

"Things can deteriorate rapidly and come to a place where there really is a hostile environment for some students and faculty and staff because people aren't doing their jobs, because there are abuses that are not being routed out and taken care of," she said.

When Questions Can't be Asked or Answered

Student-sponsored events run on different rules. But at San Jose State University in early February, one event, open to the public and featuring an Israeli consul general, Akiva Tor, deteriorated rapidly. While it was an atypical incident, the case is described by some as a warning sign of sorts.

"During Mr. Tor's speech he was, I guess you could say, heckled. People in the audience were not polite. They didn't sit and politely listen. They catcalled and booed and one woman kept making remarks, but other audience members actually tried to deal with those people. Members of the pro-Palestinian faction got up and talked to these folks. I think that the pro-Palestinian faction, most of the people there had an interest in hearing what he had to say," recalled Frances Edwards, director of San Jose State's master's of public administration program and the moderator for the event.

It was during the question and answer session that things disintegrated. A woman read from a statement for several minutes before finally getting to her question: "Why do you lie?"

Tor began to answer but some audience members stood up and cat-called; one woman yelled, "Why did you kill my family?" Edwards related.

"He said, 'mistakes were made in war,' and they erupted. They absolutely erupted," Edwards said. Police escorted Tor out of the room, cutting the question and answer session short. (The student newspaper, The Spartan Daily, also published a video account.)

"I'm kind of neither on one side or the other, if you want to look at in terms of sides," Edwards said. "My concern is for the university and what the university means to a community. We're not intending to be an advocate for any particular point of view but rather to serve as a speaker's corner, a common ground, where people of different opinions can get together and at least hear each other."

Jon Whitmore, San Jose State's president, sent a letter of apology to Akiva Tor on Feb. 23, and another letter expressing regrets to a faculty adviser involved with the event.

A university spokeswoman, Pat Lopes Harris, said that she's not aware of anyone being disciplined as a result of the event. "The approach that we have taken is that we understand that the event was less than ideal. To go back and to try to pull apart what happened and to start to try to blame one party or another doesn't seem like it's going to help us move forward," she said.

She added, too: "One of the reasons the story has come to light – well there are many reasons, it was a significant event no doubt about that – but it has been utilized by some parties as an example of perhaps an increase in anti-Semitic activity on college campuses nationwide. And that concerns me a little bit because I haven't seen a really comprehensive set of data that shows that is in fact the case. There are a lot of anecdotes, certainly anecdotes that pertain to our campus."

Sue Maltiel, executive director of Hillel of Silicon Valley, said that at San Jose at least, the climate has shifted. "There are a lot of Jewish students who are really afraid now, who are afraid to identify as Jewish," Maltiel said, who recalled hearing a faculty member threatened at the Akiva Tor event, as well as the chant, "Two, four, six, eight, we don't want your racist state."

"I don't think I've ever seen the level of so many students being afraid. I've never heard a faculty member threatened before."

After winter break and the start of war in Gaza, "We went to school, the atmosphere was really tense," said Diana Nguyen, a San Jose State junior and vice president of Spartans for Israel. "I would be tabling and there would always be someone who had to ask me loaded questions or try to make me answer for what Israel did, which was fine. … Toward the [Akiva Tor] event I started getting anti-Semitic comments. I'm not sure those people knew I was Jewish," said Nguyen, who heard, for instance, "Jews are murderers."

She added, "Everyone's reluctant to call out any anti-Semitic comment when it's anti-Semitic because it's like the new race card or something. They're out there."

Omar Mutwakil, president of the Muslim Students' Association at San Jose State, agreed that the Akiva Tor talk "just went out of control; it wasn't too civilized at the end." But he objected to the notion that it heralded a broader break-down in civil dialogue.

Though he has heard people say that "this is why things like this can't be held on campus," Mutwakil strongly disagreed. "Come on, that's bogus. There are debates all over the place and there's nothing wrong with this. This thing [the Akiva Tor event] was opened to people who aren't on campus and that's part of the problem. It was open to everyone," said Mutwakil.

"In general, yeah, I think discussions can be held. I don't see why not. We're all humans. We're not animals."

San Jose's Muslim Students' Association sponsored a couple of talks on the Middle East this semester -- a forum on "The U.S.-Backed Israeli War on Gaza" and a talk by Barbara Lubin, director of the Middle East Children's Alliance, in Berkeley.

As of this week, the group had no more events planned on these issues, said Mutwakil. "Unless something else happens again in the news. Maybe something else would occur due to that."

They're a religious organization, he explained; all this is not really what they're about.

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From Barbara Wien

In the latest issue of Ithaca College Review, an alum wrote about her recent experience in the West Bank, describing the fear of settler violence.  In an unprecedented action, the college president and the magazine's editor apologized for running the article.    
Two dozen current and former faculty respond in a letter (below) in the school newspaper to protest the suppression of thought.  I thought of the case at the University of Maryland last year where the Jewish, Muslim and Christian women peacemakers on tour from Israel and Palestine were forbidden to present.  A professor was just forced into early retirement at Bard College for criticizing Zionism.  A panel at Hofstra on Israel was challenged and the speakers changed.  And on and on it goes...
February 16, 2009

The Ithacan
Ithaca College

The Violence Must End

 We are disturbed by President Tom Rochon's response to the publication of Emily McNeill's essay, "The Violence Must End," in the current issue of IC View  (  Noting that, "In her story Emily recounts her experiences this past summer in the West Bank," he agrees that educational institutions must "raise the level of debate around all controversial subjects," including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  However, he then goes on to refer to the publication of the essay as a sign that "we failed to do so in a fully balanced and unbiased manner" and promises "a stronger internal editorial review policy" in the future.  This promise, followed by an apology from IC View"s editor, Maura Stephens, seems to have been prompted by complaints from some alumni..  (Comments from alumni, students and faculty on the website actually attest to a groundswell of support for Emily.)

Three issues in particular concern us.  One is the view that Emily McNeill's article (and others that might present Palestinians' experiences) is imbalanced and needs a corrective ("balance").   Will this principle be applied to all issues, experiences, and perspectives presented in IC publications?  Will IC publish balancing perspectives when discussing racism or sustainability, for instance?  Or will the balancing principle only be applied when some donors or alumni adhere to a particular political doctrine?

Second, we wonder if Tom Rochon consulted any faculty members or researched past situations to get a feel for the culture at IC before writing his response..   Even if he disagreed with the article and Ms. Stephens' decision to publish it, one option might have been to propose to her that perhaps a different viewpoint be offered next time.  Instead, we have an apology from her which suggests a form of public disciplining and also displaces attention from the central issue: censoring any critique of Israeli policies.

Lastly, the underlying message of Tom Rochon's promise of a more explicit editorial regime in the future seems to be that the economic health of IC depends on censorship and that, in this case, the public perception must be that the institution does not challenge official Israeli positions.  We are concerned about the chilling effect these actions will have on free expression and inquiry on campus.  Moreover, censorship could also discourage applicants and donors who do not view this kind of reaction as allowing for constructive intellectual and political discourse and debate.

We call on President Rochon to explain how his response will establish an environment that is respectful of alumni who have different experiences and perspectives and how he plans to ensure free expression in relation to unpopular causes on campus.

[Alert] Russell Tribunal on Palestine launched

Press Release
Wednesday 4th March 2009

The Russell Tribunal on Palestine was launched today at a press conference
chaired by Stéphane Hessel, Ambassador of France. The initiators, Ken Coates,
Chairman of the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, Leila Shahid, General

Delegate of Palestine to the European Union, Belgium and Luxembourg and Nurit
Peled, Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, discussed the history and reasons
on why they called for the creation of this Tribunal. Speaking for the

Organising Committee, the former Belgian Senator Pierre Galand explained how it
will work. Amongst more than a hundred international personalities who have
given their support to this Tribunal, Ken Loach, Paul Laverty, Raji Surani,

Jean Ziegler, François Rigaux, Jean Salmon and François Maspero were present
to give encouragement.

In the tradition of the Russell Tribunal on War Crimes in Vietnam, the Russell
Tribunal on Palestine is a citizens' initiative that aims to reaffirm the

primacy of international law as the basis for solving the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict, and at raising awareness of the responsibility of the international
community in the continuing denial of the rights of the Palestinian people.

The Russell Tribunal on Palestine will base its work on Experts' and
Witnesses' Committees that will establish the facts and build up the legal
arguments that will be presented to the Tribunal. National Support Committees

will contribute to the preparation of experts' reports, promote popular
mobilisation and media coverage and participate in fundraising. We can already
count on strong support from the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Spain,

Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands, Portugal, Ireland, Lebanon, Algeria,
Australia, Italy, South Africa, Egypt and, of course, from Israel and
Palestine. Further contacts are under way for the creation of such Committees

in other countries and continents.

Once the accusation has been fully prepared and the witnesses summoned, the
sessions of the Tribunal will be organised at the beginning of 2010 in several
major capitals. A jury made up of well-known personalities who are respected

for their high moral standing will consider the reports and hear the witnesses
for and against.

The jury will announce its conclusions which, we are persuaded, will attract
widespread international public and political support, thereby contributing to

a just and durable peace in the Middle East.

Contact Tel / fax: 00 32 (0)2 2310174
Cell Phone: 00 32 (0) 479 12 95 32

web site:

Come to Palestine

Palestine is the place to visit, learn, share, and be a witness

The Palestinian Summer Celebration 2009

14 June 2009 – 16 August 2009

June 14th – July 12th 2009 (first month)
July 13th – August 16th 2009 (second month)

Come and celebrate Palestine ! The Palestinian Summer Celebration is a unique annual program that gives people from all over the world the chance to encounter the life, culture, and politics of Palestine . Learn Arabic and study Palestinian history at Bethlehem University , spend time with local families and volunteer with a community organization.

The Palestinian Summer Celebration 2009 will take place in Bethlehem from June 14th to August 16th. The program consists of two terms: June 14th to July 12 th , and July 13th to August 16th. Program participants can choose to stay for one or both terms. The celebration is organized by Siraj Center for Holy Land Studies in partnership with Bethlehem University ( and the U.S.-based Society for Biblical Studies ( Program participants will have the opportunity to meet and learn with accomplished speakers, experts, activists, and officials.

For more information please visit:


LEGO donates toys to Sderot pre-school

Danish ambassador attends ceremony at fortified, WIZO-affiliated school in rocket-plagued town, extends hopes for peace and quiet for the children
Denmark's ambassador to Israel, Liselotte Plesner, visited Sderot on Tuesday to take part in a celebration – held in a fortified pre-school – to honor a generous contribution by the LEGO group to WIZO (Women's International Zionist Organization) pre-schools.

The LEGO group contributed two large containers holding a thousand boxes of 'duplos' – large-sized Lego blocks. The Danish toys will be distributed among 170 WIZO pre-schools across Israel and particularly to the 35 pre-schools located in southern communities, where residents are still suffering from rocket-fire.
The Danish ambassador surprised participants by delivering a speech to the children and pre-school employees in Hebrew. In her speech, she referred to the trauma to children in the rocket-plagued region, saying "the children who live under the threat of Qassams need to be able to escape to a world of magic and creativity – something that can be done with Legos."
Plesner related that she had played with Legos as a child. She also remarked on the characteristics of creativity and innovation seen in Israel and Denmark, noting the outstanding achievements of Israeli hi-tech, among them Modu CEO Dov Moran's cellular telephone developments and Shai Agassi's electric car project, which is being undertaken in collaboration with Denmark.

'We just want peace'

Sderot Deputy Mayor Michael Amsalam attended the event, as did Chairperson of World WIZO Tovah Ben Dov and World WIZO President Helena Glaser. During the ceremony, Amsalam and Plesner placed the final building blocks in large Lego structures spelling out the word 'peace' in Hebrew and English.
"We and the children just want peace. I hope that in the future there will be quiet, both for our children and for those on the other side," Amsalam said, asking her to pass on the message to her government and people.
Tova Ben Dov thanked the ambassador for coming to the pre-school in Sderot, "despite the fact that it is still under Qassam threat" and added that "the ambassador's willingness to come to Sderot indicates her empathy for the trauma of the children here."
"The fact that she is willing to come to Sderot at a time when many in the world are condemning Israel means a lot to us," echoed Glaser, adding how nice it was to see a young woman in the Danish ambassador's post.

The contribution from the LEGO group was granted thanks in large parts to the efforts of Warner Bechman, a Jew of Danish descent and an ardent supporter of WIZO, who saw the struggles of children in the Gaza vicinity in recent years, particularly during Operation Cast Lead in December and January.
Bechman said during the ceremony that he had appealed to the Danish toy company after he discovered that LEGO had donated toys to children in Ramallah.

Adalah-NY: The Coalition for Justice in the Middle East

Media Contact:


New York Protesters Call for Boycott of Israeli Dance Company


Brooklyn, NY, March 5, 2009 – About 30 protesters gathered this evening to call upon New Yorkers to boycott the Israeli dance troupe Batsheva Dance Company at their performance at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM)'s Howard Gilman Opera House.  Dance performance attendees and passersby stopped to watch as the protesters danced their own dance – a traditional Palestinian dance called dabke. 

Hundreds of people entering BAM were handed mock programs that, when opened, described the connections between Batsheva and Israeli apartheid.  There were reports of an uproar in the lobby after attendees read the mock programs.  Detroit-based hip-hop artist Invincible performed a piece called "The Emperor's Clothes," the chorus of which calls on people to "Boycott, Divest, and Sanction" Israel.  Protesters carried signs reading, "Batsheva: Proud Ambassadors of Apartheid Israel," and "400 children can't dance because Israel killed them."  They talked with one man who told them he had the tickets for a while because he liked modern dance, but hadn't made the connection to Israel. After seeing the protest he felt conflicted about whether or not to go inside.

Organizers of the protest, entitled Freedom Dabke vs. Batsheva Dance Company, affirmed the boycott call by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, and stated that Israeli cultural and academic and institutions that do not openly denounce Israeli crimes against Palestinians and dissociate themselves from Israeli policy should be subject to a popular boycott.  Following fifteen years of fruitless negotiations, supporters of a regime of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israeli institutions and businesses argue that only a moral campaign of non-violent public pressure like that used to topple Apartheid in South Africa will work to change Israel's treatment of Palestinians.

Tonight's protest fell in the middle of International Israeli Apartheid Week, and on the heels of protests and pickets that Batsheva has encountered in cities across North America throughout their tour.  Batsheva also met with criticism in the dance press, in Paul Ben-Itzak's article in Dance Insider, "Branding Israel: Boycott & Picket Batsheva at BAM & Everywhere."

Batsheva is one of Israel's most prominent dance troupes and, according to their website, receives funding from several Israeli government sources, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Science, Culture and Sport, and the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality, for its work as a cultural ambassador for Israel.  The dance troupe is described on the website of the Israeli Foreign Ministry as "the best known global ambassador of Israeli culture," and protest organizers state that a number of Batsheva dancers are serving in the Israeli military as reservists.  Nonetheless,  Batsheva's artistic director, Ohad Naharin, was recently quoted as saying "I think artists belong to a group of people who don't represent the ugly side of Israel."

Protest organizer Riham Barghouti commented, "instead of concealing the 'ugly' side of Israel, artists should be protesting it.  Groups like Batsheva conceal the harsh reality of Israeli Apartheid.  They are on a self-proclaimed mission to burnish Israel's image abroad.  New Yorkers need to know that the dancers they are paying money to see are indirectly supporting war crimes by whitewashing Israel's image.  And to the extent that Batsheva members are serving in the Israeli military as reservists, they are directly supporting such human rights abuses."

Calls to boycott Batsheva are part of the global BDS movement that has seen dramatic growth since Israel's 22-day war in Gaza, during which over 1300 Palestinians were killed, including over 400 children.  The BDS movement also recently achieved one of its biggest successes, when on March 4 the British government confirmed that it would not rent office space for its Tel Aviv embassy from Africa-Israel Investments, a company that builds illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank.  Africa-Israel is owned by Lev Leviev, an Israeli billionaire who has been the subject of a boycott campaign by activists from Adalah-NY and from around the world since 2007.

The protest was being co-sponsored by various anti-Zionist Jewish activists in New York and Adalah-NY: the Coalition for Justice in the Middle East, and is part of the Fifth Annual Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) in New York City. On Friday IAW has organized a major panel on the cultural boycott of Israel at 7 PM at Judson Memorial Church, just south of Washington Square Park. The event, The Art of Resistance: Culture and the Boycott of Israel, will feature best-selling author Ahdaf Soueif, founding member of the PACBI (Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel) and freelance choreographer Omar Barghouti, and NYC poet Remi Kanazi.

For protest photos:

Venezuela nationalizes tree farm for eco reasons

Venezuela takes over tree farm of Irish company

Fri Mar 6, 2009 11:03am EST
By Frank Jack Daniel
CARACAS, March 6 (Reuters) - Venezuela President Hugo Chavez has taken over a 500,000-euro eucalyptus farm owned by Ireland's Smurfit Kappa, his latest move on foreign companies as he tightens his grip on the farm and food sectors.
Since winning a referendum vote three weeks ago that allows him to run again for re-election in 2012, Chavez has made agriculture and food his priority and appears to be renewing a drive to boost agricultural production via land reform.
Earlier this week Chavez nationalized a rice mill owned by giant U.S. food company Cargill Inc and has sent troops to other rice mills in a drive to control supplies of the grain.
Smurfit Kappa Group Plc (SKG.I)(SKG.L) said on Friday that it was in talks with Venezuela after authorities took over about 3,700 acres (1,500 hectares) of forestry land with a value of about 500,000 euros.
Smurfit Kappa is a major cardboard packaging company. Its London-listed stock was down 5.8 percent on Friday.
Chavez said late on Thursday that the government had intervened in the El Pinal eucalyptus plantation because the water-hungry trees were drying out local rivers.
He said the government would replant the farm.
"We are going to use this wood in a rational manner and then we will change the vocation of the land; we are going to plant other things that are not eucalyptus," Chavez said during a televised address.
Analyst Robert Eason of Goodbody Stockbrokers in Dublin said in a research note that Smurfit Kappa owned 30,000 hectares (74,000 acres) in Venezuela, representing 35 percent of the group's Latin American landholdings.
"This represents a very small seizure," Eason wrote, adding that Latin America represents 15 percent of Smurfit Kappa's revenues.
Venezuela is South America's largest oil exporter, and its fertile plains and hills were abandoned when the booming oil industry crowded out coffee and cocoa farms in the 1920s.
Chavez, who grew up in the countryside, has long-term plans to double the amount of land under cultivation in the vast South American country.
In the past Chavez has taken over big farms deemed idle and given them to small farmers. The land reform sparked violence, with dozens of peasant farmers murdered in the last few years.
 (Additional reporting by Fabian Cambero; Jonathan Saul in Dublin; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

Smurfit Kappa confirms Venezuelan seizure

Friday, 6 March 2009 16:16
The government of Venezuela has taken over 1,500 hectares of land owned by Smurfit Kappa in the country.
The company this afternoon confirmed that the area worth €500,000 has been seized.
In a statement, the firm said that its management in the South American country are in discussions with local authorities about the development.
Earlier, a spokesman for the company was unable to say if the land had been seized as part of a renewed nationalisation drive of foreign-owned assets in the country..
Local media said the area seized was planted with eucalyptus which a government minister said benefited only Smurfit Kappa.
Smurfit is one of the world's biggest paper and packaging producers and has around 30,000 hectares in Venezuela.
Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez won a referendum three weeks ago changing the law to allow him to stand for office again.
Last night the Government seized a rice plant used by the US food giant Cargill.
The Government has also warned land owners they risk having their property seized if they reduce crop production.

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has declared Cuba as the only country on the planet that is approaching sustainable development.

Subject: sustainable development


Viva La Revolución Energética

Take the "Renewable Energy and Energy Education Tour" to Cuba from March
8 - 15, sponsored by Solar Energy International and Global Exchange.
Contact Leslie Balog

By Laurie Guevara-Stone

What nation is the most sustainable in the world? If you guessed Sweden
or Denmark, you would be wrong. Instead, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)
has declared Cuba as the only country on the planet that is approaching
sustainable development. Key to this designation is the island's
Revolución Energética, an energy conservation effort launched only two
years ago.

The WWF's Living Planet Report 2006 assesses sustainable development
using the United Nations Development Programme's (UNDP) Human Development
Index (HDI) and the ecological footprint. The index is calculated using
life expectancy, literacy and education, and per capita GDP.

The UNDP considers an HDI value of more than 0.8 to be high human
development. According to the ecological footprint, a measure of human
demand on the biosphere, 1.8 global hectares per person or less denotes
sustainability. The only country in the world that meets both of the
above criteria is Cuba.

From Blackouts to Efficiency

Just a few years ago, Cuba's energy situation was bleak. This communist
nation of 11 million people had 11 large, inefficient thermoelectric
plants that functioned less than half of the time. There were frequent
blackouts and high transmission line losses. Adding to the crisis, most
Cubans had inefficient appliances, 75% of the population cooked with
kerosene and residential electrical rates did not encourage conservation.

In 2004, back-to-back hurricanes slammed into Cuba, leaving a million
people without electr icity for 10 days. In the face of an antiquated
system, violent storms, peak oil and climate change, Cubans realized that
they had to make energy a priority. Thus, in 2006, they embarked on their
Revolución Energética.
Only two years later, the country consumes 34% less kerosene, 37% less
LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) and 80% less gasoline. Cuba's per capita
energy consumption is one-eighth that in the US, while Cubans' access to
health services, education levels and life expectancy rival those of
their North American neighbors.

Prior to the 1959 Cuban revolution, only about half of the country's
population had electricity. By 1989, that number had risen to 95%. After
1991, however, food, gas and oil all became scarce as a result of the
collapse of the Soviet Union and the US economic blockade. This time came
to be known as the "Special Period" because Cubans had to learn how to
produce more of their food, medicines and energy locally and sustainably.

In the mid-1990s, Cuba embarked on a drive to save energy and use more
renewables. All rural schools, health clinics and social centers not
previously connected to the grid were supplied with solar energy, making
lights, computers and educational television programs accessible to all
students. This program garnered Cuba the Global 500 award from the United
Nations in 2001.
However, despite 10 years of revolutionary effort, Cuba still had a
crisis on its hands.. So in 2006, it took some dr astic steps. Cuba's
energy revolution has five main aspects: energy efficiency and
conservation, increasing the availability and reliability of the national
grid, incorporating more renewable energy technologies into its energy
portfolio, increasing the exploration and production of local oil and
gas, and international cooperation.
In an address to the Cuban electrical utility in 2006, then-president
Fidel Castro said, "We are not waiting for fuel to fall from the sky,
because we have discovered, fortunately, something much more important:
energy conservation, which is like finding a great oil deposit."

To decrease energy demand, Cuba began changing over to more efficient
appliances. In two years, residents have replaced almost two million
refrigerators, over one million fans, 182,000 air conditioners and
260,000 water pumps. Compact fluorescent light bulbs were handed out for
free and within six months, over nine million - or almost 100% - of the
island's incandescent bulbs had been replaced. At the same time, Cubans
were discouraged from cooking with kerosene. Families have consequently
purchased almost 3.5 million rice cookers and over three million pressure
To encourage conservation, Cuba introduced a new residential electrical
tariff. People consuming less than 100 kWh per month pay 0.09 pesos per
kWh (a fraction of a cent). For every increase of 50 kWh per month the
rate rises steeply. Consumers using over 300 kWh per month pay 1.30 pesos
per kWh.

Cuba's national energy program implemented in 1997, teaches Cubans about
energy-saving measures and renewable energy. "If we begin to insist on
[energy efficiency] at the preschool age, we are creating a conduct for
life," explains Teresa Palenzuela, a specialist with Cuba's energy-saving
The program has held energy festivals for the past three years, educating
thousands about efficiency and conservation. The festivals target
students, who express energy conservation through songs, poetry and
theatre. In each Cuban school, the children with the best energy
efficiency projects go on to the festival at the municipal level. The
best of them then move on to a provincial event and from there to the
national stage. The public lines up for blocks to attend the national
festival. "These contests are important to the entire country; they
motivate children, students and the general population to save energy in
all their actions," says 15-year-old Liliana Rodríguez Peña.
Social Workers Power the Revolution

To carry out its ambitious energy conservation plan, Cuba relies on its
small army of trabajadores sociales or social workers. Cuba's social
workers are made up of youth who have the task of bringing social justice
to the island in many different spheres, including labor, education,
culture, sports and the environment ..
As well as assisting people with disabilities, the elderly and those
convicted of crimes, the social workers help carry out the Energy
Revolution. Since 2006, 13,000 social workers have visited homes,
businesses and factories around the island, replacing light bulbs,
teaching people how to use their new electric cooking appliances and
spreading information on saving energy. The social workers also teamed up
with the Ministry of Agriculture to save energy during the sugar cane
harvest and for the national bus system. Former president Fidel Castro,
who founded the program, refers to the social workers as "Doctors of the

Media Promotes Efficiency Too
The media does its bit to help disseminate information about energy.
Dozens of billboards that promote conservation are scattered across the
country, a weekly television show is dedicated to energy issues, and
articles espousing renewable energy, efficiency and conservation appear
regularly in newspapers. In 2007 alone, there were over 8000 articles and
TV spots dedicated to energy efficiency.
Nonetheless, in 2005, blackouts were still common as a result of an old
and inefficient electrical grid. Thus began the move to decentralized
energy, which involves generating electricity in smaller substations.
In 2006, Cuba installed more than 1800 diesel and fuel-oil
micro-electrical plants, which now produce over 3000 MW of power in 110
municipalities.. This switch virtually=2 0eliminated the blackouts. In
2004 and 2005, there were over 400 days of blackouts greater than 100 MW
that lasted at least an hour. In 2006, there were three and in 2007 there
were none at all.
Cuba also embarked on an impressive plan to fix its old electrical
transmission network. It upgraded over 120,000 electrical posts,
installed almost 3000 kilometres of cable and half a million electric
meters. As a result, the nation reduced the amount of oil needed to
produce a kWh of electricity by 3%, from 280 grams in 2005 to 271 grams
in 2007. It is estimated that over the same period, Cuba saved almost
872,000 tons of oil through its energy-saving measures..
Cuba is also incorporating renewables into its energy mix. 100
wind-measuring stations and two new wind farms bring the island's total
wind energy installation to 7.23 MW. They are also developing the
country's first grid-tied 100 kW solar electric plant.
"We need a global energy revolution," says Mario Alberto Arrastia Avila,
an energy expert with Cubaenergia, an energy information centre. "But for
this to happen we also need a revolution in consciousness. Cuba has
undertaken its own path towards a new energy paradigm, applying concepts
like distributed generation, efficiency, education, energy solidarity and
the gradual solarization of the country."

Laurie Guevara-Stone is the international program manager at Solar Energy
International, a non-profit renewable energy education organization based
in Colorado.

Learn More:

Cubaenergía, the Center for Energy Information and Development in Cuba


A Good Credit Score is 700 or Above. See yours in just 2 easy steps!
On International Working Women's Day – Fight Back Against Women's Oppression

By Julian Benson   

Friday, 06 March 2009


We are living in a period that can be defined as one of the most turbulent in history. The economic crisis, through its sheer scale and reach, is bringing about a wholesale change in the consciousness of working people the world over. The contradictions and weaknesses of this system are becoming plainly evident as capitalism buckles under its own weight. As always, it is the poor, the oppressed, and the workers who must shoulder this weight in order to hold up the privileges of the rich. There is no portion of the working class that has so greatly and extensively borne this affliction than working women.

The International Working Womenäs Day is the day we pay homage to the tremendous contributions that female workers have made in the fight for a just society. Here women demonstrating against immigration laws in France. Photo by looking4poetry on Flickr.
The International Working Women's Day is the day we pay homage to the tremendous contributions that female workers have made in the fight for a just society. Here women demonstrating against immigration laws in France. Photo by looking4poetry on Flickr.

March 8, International Working Women's Day, is arguably one of the most important dates of the calendar for the global labour movement. It is the day we pay homage to the tremendous contributions that female workers have made in the fight for a just society. It is the day we reaffirm women's place of honour at the head of our movement. More than anything else, it is the day that all workers, whatever their sex, colour, or creed, remind those who seek to divide us that we know that our struggle, our enemy, and our goal, is one and the same.

The conditions faced by working-class women today clearly illustrate the systemic nature of their exploitation. Despite the mouthpieces of the bosses taking up the cry of women's rights in the last several decades, the facts show that their words are not reflected by their actions. According to the British Trades Union Congress (TUC), the layoff rate for female workers has increased by 2.3% since the start of 2008, almost double that of male workers. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), 90% of workers in sweatshops are women and young girls.

The corporate media, when it is forced to acknowledge these facts, continually tries to confuse workers by presenting them as a gender versus gender issue. Reuters, in an article on the effects of the slump on women, spends one paragraph talking about the plight of women workers and commits the remainder of its three-page article discussing how many women are CEOs or board members of the largest corporations. The argument made by liberal Feminists is that the progress of women can be measured by how many women hold positions of power in the large corporations and in governments. When Stephen Harper announced a cabinet reshuffle after the last federal election in Canada, bourgeois feminists were delighted when he appointed a record 11 women, or 29% of cabinet, to his Tory government. The Feminist NGO, Catalyst, boasts that the percentage of female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies went from 8.7% in 1995 to 16.4% in 2005. However, do facts like this really mean that the welfare of all women is improving? According to the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), in the same ten-year period, women workers went from making 72% of a male worker's pay for work of equal value, to just 70.5%.. Having more women cabinet ministers and CEOs has not only failed to improve the lot of working women, pay equity has actually decreased in the last decade and the exploitation of women is as evident as ever.

Stephen Harper (right) is heading a government with record number of female ministers but this has not improved the situation for women. The same can be said for Germany's first female Prime Minister, who has presided over huge cuts in the welfare state. Photo by franz88 on Flickr.
Stephen Harper (right) is heading a government with record number of female ministers but this has not improved the situation for women. The same can be said for Germany's first female Prime Minister (left), who has presided over huge cuts in the welfare state. Photo by franz88 on Flickr.

Capitalism depends on the subjugation of women for its very survival. Sexism, along with racism and every other divisive tool the bourgeois possess, are vital wedges needed to drive apart male workers from their female comrades in order to prevent the rise of the one thing that can undo this system: worker's unity. Bourgeois women, the CEOs and cabinet ministers, have nothing to gain by ending the disproportionate exploitation of women workers. In fact, they have a vested interest in ensuring that this oppression continues. Keeping female workers at a lower wage than their male counterparts has the effect of putting pressure on male workers to accept lower wages in order to compete for the same jobs, thus repugnantly fostering sexism and pitting worker against worker. Additionally, women are made to form a reserve army of cheap, mobile labour, which is very profitable for the capitalists. There is a reason why women overwhelmingly fill low paid service sector jobs and sweatshops. Capitalism also doesn't count the creation and nurturing of life as real productive work in society and expects it to be done for free, largely by working class women.. A woman's biological role as the child bearer creates a situation where, under capitalism, it is women who are also the ones who have to take up the burden of child rearing. This leaves women with the double burden of being responsible for the care of her children and home, while additionally working to help support them. Shouldering this extra weight leaves the woman worker with little free time to become politically active, organize unions, or, in many cases, even work a full-time job. This leads to women being forced into the most exploitative working conditions, often on poverty wages, thus making their situation ever worse, helping to re-enforce their economic dependence on men.

Capitalism forces upon women the double burden of child rearing and wage labour. Photo by UNICEF Iran, Mojgan Parssa-Magham.
Capitalism forces upon women the double burden of child rearing and wage labour. Photo by UNICEF Iran, Mojgan Parssa-Magham.

It is this economic dependence that has forced women to endure the most humiliating abuse across the centuries. Even in so-called enlightened Western countries, every day working class women face the choice between poverty, homelessness and losing their children on the one side, or putting up with a violent and abusive partner on the other. Programmes to protect women from these situations, meagre though they are, are also being cut back by governments looking to save money in the financial crisis. However, despite (or perhaps because of) the social and economic hardships that working class women face on a daily basis, when these women rise up to defend their rights, they do so with an unequalled militancy.

Ironically, it is bourgeois women who act as some of the worst exploitative employers of working class women. All one has to do is to take a bus in the early morning through any wealthy neighbourhood to see the army of nannies, cooks, and cleaning staff, largely pulled from immigrant women, who perform the domestic chores of these upper class households. The bourgeois women, of course, are indeed "liberated". They are free from both the daily grind of wage labour and from the tiresome burden of domestic slavery and can readily pursue the same ends that bourgeois men do, such as politics, business, and academia. This "liberation," in which the liberal Feminists wish to paint a victory for women, is realistically just the dumping of all these burdens directly on the already overworked mass of working class women.

It is the duty of all socialists to fight against sexism within the labour movement, not only because of its disgusting chauvinism, but more crucially because it is a tool used by the bosses to divide and conquer. The common theme shared by both liberal Feminists and reactionary chauvinists is that men and women have competing interests. Socialists believe this to be untrue.. The bourgeois have an interest in maintaining gender divisions, while workers simultaneously have an interest in breaking them down. We fight along class lines for socialism not because, as some academics have stated, "Marxism doesn't understand the women's struggle," but for precisely the opposite reason. Marxism is infused with over 150 years of hard won experience in the struggle against the exploitation and oppression of women. It is through continually studying this living history of our movement that we have understood that there is no solution to the women's struggle under capitalism.

Only in socialism can a solution be found. Through universal child care, education, housing and healthcare, through the socialization of domestic chores by creating public laundries, kitchens, etc. and through the guarantee of equal pay in a system of full and fair employment, can the burdens placed on working-women's social development finally be lifted.

On February 20, two Iranian female workers were sentenced to 100 lashes in public. Their offence wasn't the flaunting of the Iranian regime's reactionary "virtue laws". What they did was far more dangerous to the Iranian state   they were arrested and whipped for attending a May Day rally.

We Marxists know, just as well as the ruling class, that the revolutionary potential of female workers is the sword of Damocles hanging over them and their system. In 1917, it was the women of Petrograd that marched from factory to factory, rousing their sons, brothers, and fathers out into the streets in what was the beginning of the Russian Revolution. Just like then, it will be the women who will embody our revolution. It will be the working women who will usher in the end of capitalism, and with it, the end of the exploitation of women now and forever. We say, "There can be no socialism without the emancipation of women, and there can no emancipation of women while the economic slavery of capitalism persists."

It will be the working women who will usher in the end of capitalism, and with it, the end of the exploitation of women now and forever. Photo by Carlo Nicora on Flickr.
There can be no socialism without the emancipation of women and it will be working women who will usher in the end of capitalism, and with it, the end of the exploitation of women now and forever. Photo by Carlo Nicora on Flickr.


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