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October 30, 2006

Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid by Jimmy Carter

President Carter is starting a firestorm of rage amongst the Democrats. They're falling over each other to repudiate his new book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. Since the book wont be available until November 14, I highly doubt all of the Dems have read an advance copy on which to base their commentary. Nevertheless, they're quick to defend the Israeli government and to deny the fact that "apartheid" describes its policies towards Arabs.

Jennifer Siegel wrote an article in the Jewish Daily Forward that rounds up the cat calls: "Carter Book Slaps Israel With 'Apartheid' Tag, Provides Ammo to GOP."

This article led to a flurry of emails within my organization, WILPF US, on whether or not to use the apartheid frame. The interesting thing is that none of us deny that apartheid describes what is happening. A few people question whether using the term will expand people's understanding of the situation. After all, if you are in complete denial of the effects of the separation wall, illegal Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory, Jewish-Israel-only highways, and the use of collective punishment, will the word apartheid change your opinion?

I wonder how early anti-apartheid activists felt. Did they care whether they were reaching mass audiences? Did they simply follow the path of nonviolent justice, sure that the world would eventually follow?

There is another book that analyzes the meaning of apartheid, using case studies throughout history. It concludes that Israel is an apartheid state. Alas, its author is not as famous as Carter and he is having trouble getting his opinion published. "Author of New Study on Apartheid in Israel and Elsewhere Decries Lack of Freedom of Public Expression in the Anglo-American World," from the Arab Media Internet Network describes the work of Dr. Anthony Lowstedt. Dr. Lowstedt defines apartheid:

The study views apartheid as a system of gross human rights violations, in line with the findings of international legal bodies. It identifies apartheid as attempts by an invading ethnic minority to take total control over violence, repopulation, citizenship, land, work, education, language, thought, and access to health care, water, and other social rights and privileges in the targeted society.
I hope that instead of arguing over language, we will begin to argue over solutions. The problem remains: how to get the US government and US population to acknowledge that Israel is an aggressive nation whose racist policies must be challenged? As importantly, how do we challenge US policy towards the Middle East in general? After all, the Israeli army is the USG gendarmerie, policing not just Palestinians, but all of its neighbors and the broader ME with its stockpile of nuclear and conventional weapons.

Posted by cj at 10:50 AM | Comments (0)

October 24, 2006

Cold Hard Facts on Rent in L.A.

"Low pay, high rent, wit's end," by Nancy Cleeland: Column One feature in today's LA Times.

The cold hard reality behind LaLa Land's gilded image.

65% of rental units are studios or one-bedrooms.
Nearly half of rental households have 3 or more people.
8.5% have 6 or more.
5,000 rent controlled units have been lost since 2005.
Almost all rental units currently being constructed are in the luxury market.

Progressive Angelenos, limousine liberals, and all other people with a conscience in this town should be ashamed of themselves. How is it that we've failed on such a massive scale to protect ourselves and our neighbors from homelessness?

I thought the housing situation in Chicago was messed up. I thought Daley's plans to force the poor into the suburbs and gentrify public housing into public middle class housing was the ultimate corruption plan. Little did I realize how profoundly outright neglect of urban planning could ruin a city. Little did I realize there was a city larger than Chicago forcing its poorest members to suffer even more harshly than Chi-town. May the Lord have mercy on us all.

Posted by cj at 1:18 AM | Comments (0)

October 23, 2006

Primitive, Feudal Socities

The Bush propaganda machine was at in again today. This time, the US ambassador to Afghanistan described the country as "primitive and feudal" prior to the Taliban on NPR's Morning Edition. I kept thinking about that lyrical book that has captured the hearts and minds of millions of Americans. You remember - The Kite Runner.

One Eurocentric racist's primitive society is another's well developed, secular-leaning Arab state.

Alas, this was only the first time I had to hear lazy rhetoric. Despite my years of activist experience, I still don't know the correct way to debunk the racist diatribes of family friends. My parents' former neighbors were over today. They described how beautiful Israel is; how safe it is because the Palestinians are now killing themselves. (They denied the reality I spoke when I said "sure Israel is safe, they're killing Palestinians in Palestine.") They went on to say something about all Arabs being incapable of peace, and then referred to Sunnis and Shiites. It troubles me to repeat this trash. I left the room in disgust, knowing that I was too angry to offer a well-reasoned response. Besides, people who have been indoctrinated as much as they have cannot hear what I have to say.

But why do I back away? Why can't I control my anger? Calling people's arguments racist and lazy does nothing to change their minds. Is there anything I could've said to have a reasonable debate? Probably not. But the family friend didn't bother me as much as someone else in the room. See, for the life of me, I can't understand why my own father was agreeing with the rhetoric.

There's something very basic that most US progressives never bother to think about. The fact is that most of our neighbors truly believe the propaganda machine. They believe "Islamo-fascists" are out to get them. They believe Terrorism is the new public enemy #1, and that Terrorism = Muslims = Arabs = Islam = irrational killers.

Try to find one public official who will say publicly that the war on terrorism doesn't exist. You cannot fight terror with a war and you cannot wage a war against a tactic.

But nevermind the man behind the curtain, we've got wars to wage.

Also, pay no attention to the women who continue to suffer in Afghanistan - who are being raped and refused education. Pay no attention to the war lords who last week were the Taliban's allies. Those war lord are our allies now.

And pay no attention to the thousands millions of women forced to go without education in Iraq because of fears for their physical safety. Pay no attention to the spotty electrical service three years after invasion, brought to you buy Halliburton & co. Never you mind the private propaganda machine your tax money has supported to plant phony stories in Iraqi newspapers. Winning hearts and minds requires us to fork over billions to American war profiteers who will shuffle pennies into Iraqi hands who might just reconstruct their country. Either that, or they'll learn the true use of instability - self aggrandizement.

So, how do I make these truths known to the Neanderthals in my mist? I don't know. You tell me.

Posted by cj at 11:38 PM | Comments (0)

October 22, 2006

Bush Fam Still Screwin American Taxpayers

Remember how Mama Bush gave money to Katrina victims in Texas, with the stipulation that the money had to be used to buy her son's "educational" toys materials? Yeah, well it turns out the Bushies are using their political influence to grab even more money. The (Every) Child Left Behind Act mandates testing in English and math. Yet for some reason, it's legal to use federal money earmarked for implementing the standards on social studies resources. Even worse, the "resources" Neil Bush's company, Ignite, are shilling is an electronic COW that "teaches" social studies. The technology was originally designed to give kids individualized instruction based on their answers to questions. After acquiring the technology, Ignite killed its original meaning by making the lessons one-size fits all. In other words, its a robotic teacher. A collection of lazy teachers is even quoted by the company, saying it allows them to not make lesson plans.

Does this sound like revolutionary schooling? Yeah, not so much. It does sound like a revolutionary fleecing of America. Nowadays, Bush cronies aren't just pushing to spend tax dollars making bombs and cutting social services, they're also forcing school districts to waste money on crappy pseudo-educational toys. The school district tech boom across America has done nothing to pay for the much needed pens, pencils, and paper lacking in many of our classrooms.

Read the gory deet's in the Sunday LA Times article by Walter Roche, Jr.

These same greedy Bush lackeys will tell you that the way to reform the problem in America's education system is to privatize it. Because the same for-profit motive that pushes school systems to acquire COWs will surely be a panacea to the problem of high drop out rates and inability to write complete sentences or do basic math. Let's be clear: Pump Up the Volume's plot line is happening across this country (i.e. principals forcing kids to drop out because of low test scores and principals keeping drop outs on the attendance roll to gather more district funding for fewer students). Charter schools cut much needed funding from school districts, destroy union contracts, and put the minds of our young people into the administration of people who have no background in education. But you don't have to go to a charter school for that - just look at how many districts hire chiefs with zero educational experience. Apparently, LA's school board thinks military service offers an exact transfer of skills needed to run a school district. Public education is a scary place. At least half of the administrative personnel should be cut from LAUSD's budget. Teachers, students, and parents should be in charge of figuring out what to do with the money saved. And instead of forcing our teachers to be drill sargeants for standardized tests, we should be reviewing the history and problems related to standardized testing - this would lead to the elimination of high stakes, racist, and classist testing from our schools.

Posted by cj at 8:33 PM | Comments (0)

October 19, 2006

Keeping Those Palestinians in Prison

If you read the LA Times today, you're probably shaking your head - incredulous that those amazing Israelis are able to withstand the onslaught of Palestinian aggression. You see, the Israeli army found several well dug holes between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. They assume these holes are used to smuggle weapons, and they're determined to stamp out this aggression before the Gazans become as powerful as the Lebanese in southern Lebanon.

Apparently, this story is balanced reporting on the military buildup in Palestine and Israel. For argument's sake, I'll accept the premise that the article shouldn't mention that Gazans are starving and rationing food because of the Israeli blockade. I'll accept that the article shouldn't mention that Israel is withholding Palestinian tax revenue - money that should be paying the salaries of Palestinian government employees. I'll accept that the article shouldn't mention that Israel's allies (the US and the EU) are withholding desperately needed humanitarian aid from Palestine. I'll accept that the articles shouldn't mention the sporadic nature of electricity and clean water in Gaza due to the bombing of an major Palestinian electricity plant by the Israeli army.

Okay, so I've accepted that no real background information should be allowed in the piece. But for goodness sake, must American writers always make Israel look like a defenseless stop gap against the Evils of Islam? Must this story always be told with Jewish Israelis wearing virgin, white hats while the Muslim Palestinians wear evil incarnate black hats?

Let's get something straight - Israel has the military power to blow its neighbors back to the stone age. Israel has this power because the US government, using US tax dollars, has armed it to the teeth. Israel is the ultimate US proxy army. US citizens accept this fact because we're Scared of Being Called Anti-Semites. Some of us also truly believe in the Book of Revelations; so we assume that Jews killing Arabs will lead us to the Promised Land (wherein Jesus returns to earth and all non-Christians (aka heathens) burn in hell. Some of us think we're really preventing the next Holocaust by perpetuating the racist state of Israel.

So I'm not really clear why so much ink was wasted warning us, yet again, about the evils of armed Palestinians. They'll never reach the level of armament the US government gives to Israel. Israel receives vastly more "foreign aid" than any other country in the world. This "aid" is primarily in the form of contracts with American war profiteers for guns, tanks, planes, bullets, missiles, and yes, nuclear weapons. Several generations of Jews have grown up believing that war solves problems. My people have been appropriated as the proxy army of the Christian crusaders. This is a serious problem.

Gazans live in an open air prison. The "guards" are killing them. Picking them off one by one - and murdering some innocent civilians in the process. Meanwhile, in desperation, some prison fights have broken out between two political factions. They're resorting to violence because the grand Quartet refuses to recognize them both as legitimate political parties.

I'm having difficulty seeing the justice in this picture. I'm having difficulty understanding how my religion, my ethnicity, my culture has been consumed by this vicious cycle of hatred. I'm having difficulty understanding why racist Jews exist. I'm having difficulty understanding why the majority of Americans think Israel is a "special case," and separate from the laws of separation of church and state. I'm having difficulty understanding how it furthers the cause of American global dominance to support a regime that fuels animosity and terrorism in the Muslim world. I'm having difficulty understanding how we're promoting freedom and democracy in the Middle East by denying recognition to the democratically-elected leadership of Palestine.

This whole thing doesn't make sense. As a Jew, I am less safe because Israel exists. As an American, I am less safe because the current administration fed us lies and took us to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a woman, I am less safe because the US government would rather make friends with war lords than stand up for women's rights, for UN Security Council Resolution 1325, for women's equal participation in decision-making processes.

I am less safe. And so are you. Let's work together to make this world a safer place.
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Tip o' the hat to jews sans frontieres for inspiring this post.

For more on ways to challenge US policy on Israel / Palestine, see the WILPF US campaign website.

Posted by cj at 11:13 PM | Comments (0)

October 9, 2006

All Nine Nuclear Powers Are Violating Non-Proliferation Treaty

North Korea has perhaps, probably joined the "prestigious" club of out and proud nuke owning countries. That makes eight official world-annihilators and one in the closet. (The closeted annihilator is, of course, Israel. Can't have a gendarmerie in the Middle East without giving it teeth.)

Missing from mainstream news coverage of this auspicious moment in world history is the fact that all nuclear powers - including the US - are violating the NPT.

More deets by Scott Galindez
, managing editor of Truthout.

article found via portside.

More info on the NPT via Reaching Critical Will, a project of WILPF at the UN.

Cross-posted from the WILPF US blog.

Posted by cj at 10:57 PM | Comments (0)

October 4, 2006

V-I Day: Coming Soon Courtesy of Your Tax Dollars

$20 million.

That's how much it costs to celebrate the end of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Well, not really. Projected cost is higher - that's just for the military's participation in DC events. Our Congressional representatives approved its use in 2006; alas that's not going to happen so they rolled over the appropriation to the 2007 military spending bill.

Yahoo! Now if we could just get those pesky natives to understand the beauty of our occupations, we could spend the dough.

"In Bill’s Fine Print, Millions to Celebrate Victory," by Thom Shanker in NYT

found via Today's Papers

Posted by cj at 12:52 PM | Comments (0)

Workers Unite - Celebrate Your Elevation to "Management"

The National Labor Relations Board has finally cleared up a common misperception. Namely, that the majority of working people are not management. Instead, they've helpful re-classified anyone who is not a lab monkey as a manager, and not eligible for union membership. No need to have the ability to hire and fire - if you use any brain power in your job, you're now a manager.

Apparently, it was too confusing to allow a bastion of independent-minded nurses the right to organize. Now those nurses who do anything remotely in the realm of management - even if they cannot hire / fire employees - are not eligible for union membership. And the ruling could expand outward to all types of employees. So if you use independent judgment in your job, you just might be screwed out of the ability to collectively bargain your working conditions.

Read the gory deets in the LA Times -
"U.S. Ruling Could Eliminate Union Eligibility for Millions," by Molly Selvin

Labor Blog comments by Nathan Newman

The AFL-CIO's take on the situation

SEIU Press Release on the ruling

Posted by cj at 10:41 AM | Comments (0)