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June 28, 2006

Horrifying Breaking News from Gaza

From the "Hamas leaders arrested; Israeli executed," by Associated Press:

Hamas officials said more than 30 lawmakers have been arrested in the West Bank.

Palestinian security officials said Israeli forces detained the Palestinian deputy prime minister, Nasser Shaer, and three other Cabinet ministers, as well as four lawmakers in Ramallah. Several others were arrested in the town of Jenin, they said.

Israeli media reported a roundup of Hamas lawmakers in Jerusalem and other locations. Also, the Hamas mayor of the West Bank town of Qalqiliya and his deputy were detained, security officials said.

Army Radio said the Hamas leaders might be used to trade for the captured soldier. [...]

Israel held the Palestinian government headed by the Islamic Hamas responsible for the fate of the soldier, also blaming the Hamas leadership in exile in Syria.

An Israeli Cabinet minister said the Syria-based Hamas leader, Khaled Mashaal, was a target for assassination. In a bold warning to the country that shelters him, Israeli warplanes buzzed the seaside home of Syrian President Bashar Assad in the port of Latakia.

This is in addition to the indiscriminate destruction of civilian power and water supplies by the Israeli army.

Please join me in calling, emailing, or faxing the White House and State Department to insist that the US government force Israel to stop its aggression. I am currently working with WILPF's WCUSP campaign to issue an action alert on this. Below are my suggested talking points:

-- The US government must use its special relationship with Israel to demand the release of Palestinian politicians illegally arrested by the Israeli army.

-- The Israeli people, along with the world community, has condemned the current incursion on Palestinian territory. This latest action is further proof that the Olmert government is only interested in military control over their Palestinian neighbors.

-- As a member of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and a resident of the United States, I insist that my government work towards a peaceful end of the Israel / Palestinian conflict by recognizing that Israel's bombing of Palestinian infrastructure and civilian areas, its imprisonment of democratically-chosen PA cabinet members, and threats to murder Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in Syria are "actions of violence and terror."

-- The US government needs to recognize that Israel caused the current escalation of violence and the US government must work to end Israel's illegal use of force and insist that Israel release the politicians it arrested, immediately stop its military incursion in the Gaza Strip, and use the international legal system to bring alleged terrorists to justice, rather than assuming the right to assassinate people.

Posted by cj at 10:06 PM | Comments (0)

June 25, 2006

The State of Mainstream Debate

The Acting Executive Director of WILPF had an interesting experience last week. She was asked to participate in a debate on the Iraq War on a local cable channel. She was told she'd have time for an opening statement, followed by a question and answer period. Instead, only the conservative pundits were allowed opening statements and they framed the debate before our ED and a professor were brought into the program.

This is but one example of the larger problem in mainstream society. Progressive voices are only heard as a kooky add-on to the "substantial" discussions of "mainstream" / right-wing pundits. We're told that the "majority of Americans" agree with a middle-of-the-road cross between Republican "values" and Democratic "populism." In reality, when offered the choice between free-trade capitalist no-morals conservatism and social democracy inclusive progressivism, most Americans side with the progressive point of view. I might be using too many catch phrases here, but I have a serious point:

Too much of the media is drafted from the talking points of the corporate heads of state. You think I'm a conspiracy nut for pointing out the collusion between big business and government? Sorry, sir, but I've read Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, and I know the truth about power in this country.

By the way, left of center media isn't much better. NPR is decent, but doesn't have enough courage in its reporting of the war and the Bush administration. Democracy Now offers access to people rarely interviewed by the mainstream media, but damnit Amy Goodman doesn't actually interview people so much as say "talk about this." And when she gets someone on whose politics she doesn't agree with (rarely, but it does happen), she asks kooky questions that don't probe the heart of the problem with their views. I mean, I still watch the program; but it is so frustrating when I catch her in factual mistakes: like how she kept repeating that Nadia McCaffrey learned the truth of her son's death two years after he died. In reality, Mrs. McCaffrey knew what happened to her son soon after he was killed by Iraqi security forces who were patrolling with him - it just took two years for the military to officially acknowledge the real cause of his death. She kept erroneously stating this even though she was interviewing Mrs. McCaffrey - it was as if she wasn't listening to her guest, but simply repeating from the script written prior to the interview. Whatever problems I have with NPR, at least they got the facts right when they reported Nadia's story.

The take away lesson for activists is to think outside preaching to the choir. Think about how your statements sound to someone who hasn't read the same blogs, harbored the same negative reaction to the war on "terror," and marched in the same rallies. If you ever want to go beyond the soap box that no one listens to, you must create a compelling argument that sounds reasonable to non-activists. It can't have too much conspiracy theory (don't mention Kennedy's article on stealing the 2004 election), and it should have some factual basis in addition to the heart-pulling pleas of parents of dead soldiers. All due respect to military families for peace - your voices are vital to the expansion of the peace movement; but no one activist is worthy of being the poster child of this resistance. And those of us dedicated to a multi-issue approach must be willing to isolate an issue now and then to have our voices heard. We also must respect people's time and not expect them to understand arcane details of the cause that we're passionate about.

Okay, enough of the soap box. Sure do wish Ecuador had played better today. Congrats to Britain and Portugal for makin it to the semifinals!

Posted by cj at 9:26 PM | Comments (0)

June 24, 2006

Terrorists, Citizens, and Other Creatures Living in the World

I had the most interesting conversation tonight. My friend actually thought that the "terrorists" who were arrested in Florida this week will be acquitted because US citizens simply wont believe that their fellow citizens are terrorists.

Unfortunately, knowing US history as I do, there's simply no way I can agree with him. First, there are the terrorists that have been around during my lifetimes: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing; Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber; and the Branch Davidians near Waco. And of course, when I was less than a year old, there was the Jonestown mass murder / suicide, origin of the phrase "drink the Kool-Aid" (even though they used FlavorAid).

My point is that crazy people exist in all societies, including the US. It is not easy to distinguish between the white hats and the black hats. Indeed, many ultra-conservatives would take one look at the name of my blog and throw me in the same lot with the people I've been mentioning. So, where exactly has the shades of grey gone?

Lost, perhaps in the same place as a serious discussion of racism in our society. While many US residents believe in American exceptionalism and the need to fight crusades to "spread democracy and capitalism" (emphasis on the latter), a few of us are trying to valiantly resurrect the art of serious discussion.

In this Age of Fear, I think it would be extremely easy to convict US citizens of crimes they didn't commit. It happens everyday for far less egregious reasons than pledging oneself to Osama bin Laden. Never mind that the suspects had no weapons and no serious plots. The 24/7 news media spent days chattering about this government "coup," which gave the administration a welcome reprieve from the constant reminder that the majority of Americans want to get the hell out of Iraq NOW.

Posted by cj at 11:37 PM | Comments (0)

June 23, 2006

WILPF Demands the US Restore Aid to the Palestinian Authority

I'm so proud of my organization and especially the work of our Program Coordinator, Kate Zaidan. In case you're wondering why I haven't been blogging much lately - I've been spending my time knee deep in conference calls and email chatter to help structure and build Women's International League for Peace and Freedom's national program. And now I'm trying to raise money to get myself to London for a chance to network with other young WILPFers and attend a portion of the International Executive Committee Meeting, to build relationships with women from our other 34 sections. If you'd like to help get me to London in September, email me at socialupheaval AT gmail DOT com.

Here's our press release:

US Women Demand US Restore Aid to the Palestinian Authority

Grassroots Campaign Calls of Bush Administration to Remedy Humanitarian Crisis

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Contact: Kate Zaidan, Program Coordinator, WILPF, 215-563-7110, [email protected]

An International NGO focused on peace and human rights, the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, has launched a grassroots campaign to pressure the Bush Administration to end the policy of restricting aid to the Palestinian people and the democratically elected government of Palestine, Hamas. The organization demands that the U.S. government immediately restore aid to the Palestinian Authority, and intends to mobilize women across the U.S. to end this arbitrary and unfair policy that has exacerbated the already dire situation of the Palestinian people.

"Our demands are clear." said National Campaign Organizer Libby Frank of WILPF U.S. "The U.S. must accept the January 2006 election of Hamas as the voice of Palestinian people and re-instate funds that have been illegally withheld since the election. The U.S. must withdraw threats to foreign banks willing to make loans to the Palestine Authority, but are afraid to do so because of threats of U.S. boycotts, and the U.S. should insist that Israel pay the taxes it collects on behalf of the Palestinians."

Israel collects import taxes on goods slated for Palestine, and for years has reimbursed the funds to the Palestine Authority. Israel is now withholding those funds.

"Simply reallocating aid to other sources would be an unworkable policy," said Barbara Taft, National Campaign Organizer for WILPF U.S. "Increasing poverty is leading to a desperate, radicalized population, who may resort to desperate measures."

Hamas has been offered alternate sources of funding from countries unfavorable to U.S. policy, such as Iran. [Hamas turns to Muslim world for aid, Sarah El Deeb, Associated Press, 06/15/2006]

As the Palestinian government's most vital donor providing the PA with 1/3 of its total aid, the U.S. government's failure to resume aid has had grim consequences on the establishment of a workable government in Palestine. A recent World Bank report predicted a humanitarian crisis due to rampant food shortages and increasing rates of unemployment. Failure to resume aid would further create a period in which the PA "is disabled might result in the unraveling of a dozen years of donor efforts to build the responsible, accountable institutions needed for a future Palestinian state...It is also hard to envisage how the PA could meet the Quartet's conditions if it is not operative." [World Bank Report: "Palestinian crisis is worse than expected" Report, Worldbank, 8 May 2006]

"We will do whatever it takes to make our leaders listen!" said Kate Zaidan, WILPF National Program Coordinator. "A policy that promotes starvation and oppression of innocent bystanders is not a just policy and should not be one embraced by the U.S. government in its quest for democracy in the Middle East."

"Neither Israel nor Palestine is made secure by the current U.S. policy. We insist on the recognition of Hamas as the democratically elected government of Palestine and the reinstatement of all funds withheld since the election because we want peace for both the Israelis and the Palestinians. Our sister sections in Israel and Palestine agree with us on our challenge to U.S. policy," said Program Chair C.J. Minster.

Women Challenge U.S. Policy: Building Peace on Justice in the Middle East is a sustained effort on behalf of WILPF members to challenge U.S. policy in the Middle East. WILPF members create the peaceful transformation they wish to see in the world by making connections that: provide continuity with the past so that knowledge of historical events and patterns informs current activities for change; create analysis and action that reflect and reinforce each other; link and challenge root causes of oppression, especially racism, sexism, heterosexism, militarism, economic disparity, and political disempowerment; and build and strengthen relationships and movements for justice, peace, and radical democracy.

Emphasis added, because let's face it - blogging is a bit like having a vanity site and if I can't point out to my fine readers when I've been quoted in a press release, than what in the world am I doing here?

Posted by cj at 9:09 PM | Comments (0)

June 12, 2006

Gleanings from the Sunday NYT

Israel fires shells into Gaza Strip continuously to deter extremist Palestinians from launching much more primitive weapons into Israel. On Friday, the Israeli military managed to murder eight Palestinians with an errant shell, including the many members of the Ghaliya family. In retaliation, Hamas fired rockets into Israel on Saturday. According to the mainstream press, the actions of Hamas ended the 16 month truce between Israel and Palestine. Apparently, Israel is allowed to launch weapons at its neighbors and still be seen as upholding its end of a truce, whereas Palestinian leadership is held to a higher standard. Intriguingly, the article that ran in the paper gave erroneous information. The article, "Errant Shell Turns Girl Into Palestinian Icon," by George Azar is a much clearer explanation of the tragedy and its politicization.

In other news, Venezuela is paying $7/day for its citizens to join the reserves. Chavez says he's doing it to ensure resistance to any future American invasion. It's also a good unifying tactic around his government and himself. And oh yeah, since the USG approved and celebrated the 2002 coup attempt, Chavez has a legitimate reason to worry about his belligerent neighbor.

The assassination of Rafik Hariri, former prime minister of Lebanon, was probably the work of a suicide bombing. The UN International Investigation Commission released its fourth report on Saturday. The commission is requesting that the Security Council extend its investigation for another year. The Daily Star of Lebanon has what appears to be the actual text of the report.

And finally, watch your online persona. It could be the reason I'm not getting job interviews.

Posted by cj at 2:14 AM | Comments (0)

June 5, 2006

WILPF's Other Press...

I was looking for information on the WILPF* West Gathering this summer, a triennial event held for our West Coast members. (It's every three years because during the other years, we have an International Congress and a National Congress). Googling "WILPF West gathering" led me to this intriguing history of WILPF on "Discover the Networks.org: a Guide to the Political Left."

At first I thought, wow cool! Someone is trying to do movement building via a website. Ha! It's a right-wing observation of left wing movements. While it offered some fascinating WILPF history, it also conflates WILPF US with WILPF International. It refers to WILPF as One Entity, whereas anyone who has been involved in WILPF for a fraction of a second can tell you that we're anything but cohesive. I'm also offended that they haven't updated our listing recently. And I wonder why some members' activism in support of Mumia Abu-Jamal is listed so prominently (which as far as I know was never made a WILPF US campaign, or even an official WILPF US stand, other than the fact that WILPF US is firmly against the death penalty).

In any event, it would be interesting to see if the historical information in the listing is at all an accurate description of the outcomes of our International Congresses.

And just as a point of information: I do not believe WILPF ever shied away from discussing the USSR. Indeed, there was a women-to-women dialogue created by US members with USSR women. But honestly, we aren't a front for the Communist party. And we claim more of Jane Addams' activist time than any of the other organizations she co-founded.

Emily Greene Balch was an economics professor fired by the trustees of my alma mater for her "radical peace activities," but during my time at Wellesley College, the college officially apologized and created an internship in her honor.

The basically offensive listing for WILPF is here.

The WILPF US homepage is here.

The WILPF US blog is here.

The International WILPF webpage is here

PeaceWomen, working towards full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace, and security; a project of WILPF.

Reaching Critical Will
: reaching for a critical mass of political will for nuclear disarmament, a project of WILPF.

Despite what the wingnuts say about us, WILPF is not entirely focused on the UN. WILPF US has a Save the Water campaign and a Women Challenge US Policy: Building Peace on Justice in the Middle East campaign. We do agree with our international sisters that Israel is building an apartheid wall, but our challenge is to the US government to stop its financial, military, and diplomatic support of the Israeli occupation of Palestine. We have 36 active sections around the world, including sections in Israel, Palestine, and Lebanon.

I am the Program Chair of WILPF US, and spend almost all of my activist time working on WILPF, hence the lack of postings to this blog.

*WILPF = Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, the oldest women's peace organization in the world. I am a life member! (I recently completed the $500 necessary for life membership on an installment plan and I'm very proud of this accomplishment.)

Posted by cj at 10:25 PM | Comments (0)