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February 25, 2007

Inside Israel: Voices of Israeli WILPFers

Two remarkable women from WILPF Israel came to Los Angeles this weekend to speak. Jewish Israeli Daphne Banai works through Machsom Watch . Palestinian Israeli Taghrid Shbita is a human rights lawyer. They worked together in WILPF and through an organization that brings together Arab & Jewish children in Israel.

Some notes from today's lecture:
20% of the Israeli population is Palestinian, 150,000 people. Taghrid spoke about her personal knowledge of the troubles of a Jewish, democratic state. Her husband's town, Tehra, was forced to relocate, some allowed to stay in Israel, some not. He moved to her town, Tira, where they met and created a family. Tehra's building stood vacant until 1952 when all of the houses were destroyed. No one lives there, and no one is allowed to rebuild.

Because Israel is first a Jewish state, there are laws to enforce the Jewish majority. For example, the Law of Return, which gives immediate citizenship to any Jew from anywhere in the world. While people who grew up on the land are denied citizenship and often denied entry as tourists. She believes that a democracy cannot exist where one ethnic group is granted more rights than any other ethnic group.

For example, Taghrid spoke about how military service is mandatory for Israeli citizens. But the government doesn't want Palestinian Israelis in the army, nor do Palestinians want to serve. When Taghrid's 19-year old daughter applied for a clerk position at a boutique, she was told military service was a pre-requisite for the job. What is the connection between selling clothes and "defending" the State? Perhaps that both acts serve to defend the continued separation of ethnicities within the population.

Daphne used a Powerpoint presentation to show her work with Machsom Watch. This group of 400 Jewish Israeli women go to checkpoints within the West Bank to observe human rights abuses and to advocate on behalf ot he Palestinians. Their purpose is to de-escalate the tensions, report observations to Israelis and the world, and protest the fact that checkpoints exist deep inside the Occupied Terrirtories. 85% of the checkpoints are within the West Bank, while the rest are passages between Israel and the West Bank.

None of the crossing can be accessed by car. There are blockages forcing every person to get out of their car - from dirt mounds to cement cubes to gates to trenches. Time lost travelling through checkpoints cost sick people their lives. The UN reports that in 2001, 61 women gave birth at checkpoints and 36 were stillborn births.

Since 1967, Israel has not issued a single building permit in the Occupied Territories, therefore most houses are illegal. There are standing demolition orders for all structures built after 1967, therefore if a Jewish Israeli settlement wants to expand, it can simply go and demolish houses without prior warning. The army also takes over Palestinian homes for 3 months at a time, leaving the families to live in sheds on their property or with friends / family. When the army vacates a house, it is often trashed.

In addition to the permanent checkpoints, there are hundreds of temporary checkpoints.

Daphne feels it is a world of supremacy, of apartheid. She believes the forced army services changes the children of Israel. It increases the violence and disregard for the weak within Israel. Often, after completing their army service, the young people escape to remote corners of the world or to drug abuse.

Both Taghrid and Daphne believe that US citizens must pressure the US government to stop supporting the occupation. They offer no easy cures for the problem, only the hope that working together, we can affect real change in this horrific situation. Both believe in a two-state solution and dismiss the reasons given by the Israeli & US governments for not negotiating with the Hamas-led Palestinian government.

We can start creating this change in US policy by working together to formulate an alternative, feminist policy on Israel / Palestine. The US Section campaign "Women Challenge US Policy: Building Peace on Justice in the Middle East," is close to releasing a tool-kit to help our branches start feminist round tables to examine current US policy and develop an alternative approach.

Posted by cj at 6:17 PM | Comments (0)

February 18, 2007

Sunday Morning Talk Show Watchin on Sunday Night

Tony Snow, best known for being a has-been Fox Sunday talk show host, is the current head of PR for the Bush administration (aka the White House Press Secretary). This morning, he appeared on Meet the Press. He smiled his way through explaining that the people of the US really want to stay the course in Iraq and escalate / surge the troop levels there. He insisted that the horrible Iranians are killing our troops via their Al Qaeda operatives in Iraq. Sure, he didn't actually link Iran to Al Qaeda, but since he was stirring up fear with both bogeymen, I wouldn't blame you if you thought they were coordinating their efforts to bring down our Empire. Tim, known for his "tough" questions, didn't bother to ask the White House Press Secretary about the fact that Al Qaeda is already operating in Afghanistan because we dropped the ball there in our rush to clean up Daddy's mess in Iraq.

Then there were two guys pontificating on how good it is that the Senate and House are trying to debate non-binding resolutions on this bloody never-ending war based on lies. Congratulations, politicians, for beginning to do your jobs. Next time, why not do something that has an impact on this war - like say, defunding it or demanding a withdrawal?

Next up, the youngest looking bureau chief ever. I guess you gotta be young to want to live in Iraq for four years. Turns out, he's just four years older than me and speaks the Egyptian dialect of Arabic. (I assume he's about 34 because he graduated from college four years earlier than me.) I'm a little unclear where he actually reports from these days. According to his MSNBC bio, he works in Beirut, Lebanon. This older WaPo bio explains how he left his college sweatheart in Cairo to pursue the adrenaline rush of conflict in Israel & Iraq. Yet, he claims: "I'm basically a pacifist."

Mitt Romney is rambling his way into a dark, dark hole of tread over by many before him. This no chance in hell candidate declares that marriage is not primarily about adults - it's about children. Apparently, adults are not choosing their own life partners when they get hitched. Nope, we're just a bunch of breeders and our offspring are the only important part of the equation. Guess we should deny marriage certificates to infertile women and women past menopause b/c they clearly aren't good enough for Romney's litmus test. Also ridiculous - watching is badly coifed wife gush about Mormonism, because its prostelytizing missions turned her sons into men. Wow. Mitt's wife needed to be taken care of by his father while he was away in France on mission for the Mormon church. My goodness. I guess I should stop mockin the two of them, since Ann has Multiple Sclerosis. Well, I'm still not interested in Mitt Romney as POTUS. But, hey, I suppose if the Republicans nominate him, they'll help the Dems win.

First articulate progressive I've ever seen on a Sunday talk show is a woman from The Nation magazine: Katrina Vanden Heuvel. Unfortunately, she's being pit against ABC Roundtable mainstays Fareed Zakaria and George Will, two of the most articulate conservatives in this country. According to her Wikipedia entry, she's a frequent guest on Hardball with Chris Mathews. Too bad I work when that show airs. She has an infrequent blog on the Huffington post. And of course, there's that little mag she edits - which every good liberal subscribes to and very few have the time to read. (Personally, I don't bother cuttin down trees for it. Instead, I subscribe to the Sunday NY Times to get my progressive cred.)

Posted by cj at 10:53 PM | Comments (0)

February 8, 2007

Notes from Thursday Papers

I'm off of work, recovering from having my throat sliced open. (I was diagnosed with probable thyroid cancer and had my thyroid, two nodules, and some lymph nodes removed. One of the nodules was cancerous.) I thought this would be a great time for me to catch up on novel reading and do more blogging than I have in recent months. Instead, I've been reading newspapers and falling asleep.

I was going to write a post on the political articles I've read, but alas, I just realized that all of the stuff I've read belongs on my other blog. The LA Times Business section should be titled the "Entertainment Business" section. I can't stand the Wall Street Journal's editorial page or most of its news articles, but I can say that their coverage of marketing and fashion is highly entertaining. I haven't cracked open the NY Times yet, but I think I should take a nap before my WILPF conference call.

So no notes here (yet). Go to angelheaded hipster for more ramblings on fashion, dog shows, and the like...Right now, I'm watching Democracy Now! so maybe I'll get something else to write about...

Posted by cj at 3:12 PM | Comments (0)

February 6, 2007

Support the Employee Free Choice Act!

Tell your Congressional representatives to support the Employee Free Choice Act.

Below is the letter I sent to Senator Boxer (most of it is directly from the AFL-CIO form letter):

As the Program Chair of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, US Section (WILPF US), I urge Congress to support the Employee Free Choice Act (H.R. 1696 and S. 842) now.

Workers need the Employee Free Choice Act because workers need unions. Union workers typically earn 30 percent more than nonunion workers to support their families and contribute to their communities. Union members are much more likely than nonunion workers to have vital benefits such as health care coverage, disability insurance and retirement security. And no one can put a price tag on the pride of having a union voice at work.

Some 60 million workers would join a union if they could. But, as Human Rights Watch has documented, employers routinely harass, coerce, intimidate and stall to block workers' freedom to choose union representation. In fact, every 23 minutes a worker is fired or penalized for supporting a union.

Senator Boxer, the Employee Free Choice Act (S. 842) is imperative to allowing workers a voice at work. Unions help not only their members, but all citizens. They increase corporate accountability and provide a vital voice for America's workers in the halls of power.

I look forward to your prompt response assuring me that you support S. 842.

Cynthia J. Minster

issue found via my fellow blogger, Erik Love, at the Courage Campaign

Posted by cj at 11:34 PM | Comments (0)