January 31, 2011

The Long March Towards Freedom

I'm a member of an organization that has freedom in its title. Some activists say we should avoid using the rhetoric of freedom, because it has been co-opted by the right. Honey, there's a big difference between libertarian fantasies and the power to act or think without externally imposed restraint.

Emily Greene Balch on choosing a name for the women's peace movement:

freedom, the basic condition of human personality and growth, could not be maintained EXCEPT UNDER PEACE. That, too, was in their minds in making "peace and freedom" their objective. -1935 pamphlet, republished in Fall 2008 Peace and Freedom (pdf)
And so, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom was born.

Watching the news coverage of the protests in Egypt, reporting biases become more flagrant. There's the people who worry about the Egyptian state's support of Israel. There's the people who remind us that Egypt has been a strong supporter of the US over the past 30 years. There's the people who tell you ad nauseam details of looting, and warn that every day of protest brings the possibility of chaos closer. And then there's the people who actually report what Egyptians are saying.

Let's get this straight: Anderson Cooper was wrong when he said Egyptians hold conflicting views of America. Egyptians like US citizens. They like the way we live here in the US. They dislike our government's support of the Mubarak dictatorship. They dislike our government's occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. They dislike the US government's one-sided approach to peace negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis. There is no conflict in these views: Egyptian people like US people. Egyptian people dislike US Empire.

A week ago, Egyptians began their long march towards freedom. They've lived under a military dictatorship for 30 years. Anxious lefties in the US keep wondering when Egypt will happen here. And they're fools. In our rush to see each other as brothers and sisters, some of us forget the depth of our privilege. We have freedom of assembly. We have freedom of speech. We have freedom of religion. Crazy people aren't bombing our churches on Christmas Eve. One guy hasn't been president for 30 years. The government hasn't been propped up by a billion dollars in foreign military aid. When we protest, the police may protect private property, but they don't hurl tear gas at us.

So why aren't more people angry that the US faces the widest income gap since the Great Depression? Because we can max out credit cards, and numb ourselves with entertainment. Because acts of people-powered protest here compete for coverage with a blimp.

I'm grateful to Common Cause for organizing the Uncloak the Kochs rally.

As someone in the media said today, will we walk like an Egyptian?

Let us stand tall in support of democracy for the most populous Arab country. Let us throw off the shackles of fear and say firmly: We trust the Egyptian people to use democracy to create peace and prosperity on their own terms. We welcome the possibility that more Arab citizens could choose freedom in the coming months. We trust that the US and any other democracy in the world will be safer with democratic neighbors than if those states were dictatorships or un-democratic monarchies. And we will be inspired by our Egyptian sisters and brothers. We will continue their long march towards freedom in our own country.

Because we know this isn't a military dictatorship. But we also know the American culture has cancer. Corporate personhood has created a cancer in our body politic, in our economic system, and in our culture. And we are determined to fight that cancer. To create the change we wish to see in the world. To create nonviolent paradigm shifts, to create the social upheaval needed in the US to continue the long march towards freedom.

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

October 12, 2010

Conflicting Values? Spiritual Guidance vs. Political Activism

I've been troubled for some time about the conflict between my political activism and my chosen spiritual leader. I tried to write an op-ed based on this tension for the WaPo America's Next Great Pundit contest. I didn't make the top 50, so I'm publishing it here.

As this round of peace negotiations unravels, the U.S. government should cut off military aid to Israel until it conforms with international law. Financial and political support from our country is the only reason Israel's forty-three year occupation of Palestine continues.

My spirituality is the bedrock of my political belief in the power of diplomacy and the importance of citizen engagement in the political process. I first learned in Hebrew School that it is my responsibility to heal the world; and like many of my generation I took that commandment to its logical conclusion – viewing myself as an unfettered agent of change, rather than a victim of anti-Semitism.

During a recent political discussion at temple, I was informed that there's no chance for peace until the U.S. and Israel cut off Hezbollah and Hamas from their primary funders in Iran. Therefore, I shouldn't be surprised, or scared, that a war against Iran will happen in the next year. According to the rabbi, the only way to get peace is through war.

Why attend a religious institution that espouses political beliefs so far from my own? I've been searching for a coherent spiritual tradition my entire life. Neither my explorations of alternative religions, nor my childhood at a conservative synagogue prepared me for the awesome power of a leader with an encyclopedic knowledge of philosophy, psychology, and religion. On my way to accepting my rabbi's Neo-Hasidic, Kabbalistic teachings, I've expanded my understanding of Plato, Freud, and even the origins of Islam.

I will never agree with him that "we are at war with an intractable enemy who has declared war on us." Nevertheless, I will continue to seek his guidance on moral and spiritual issues. And I will continue working to expand the place of ordinary citizens in global affairs, from the inclusion of women in conflict resolution per the mandate of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, to the abolition of nuclear weapons and nuclear energy, to international recognition of two states in pre-1967 borders in the Middle East.

Posted by cj at 10:15 PM | Comments (0)

April 10, 2010

I am not self-hating. I am a practicing Jew and I am opposed to the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

I grew up in a Conservative synagogue. The first map I ever saw of Israel emphasized it was a "tiny outpost for Jews in a sea of Muslim countries." As you may imagine, the map didn't label anything "Palestine," nor did the history I learned in Hebrew School acknowledge the existence of Palestinians.

As a member of a peace organization with sections in Israel, Palestine, and Lebanon, I have been engaged in Middle East peace activism for many years. I respect the right of self-determination and I believe all people should be free to practice their religion and participate equally in civil society. As a student of political science, I find it difficult to understand how a religious state can be a truly democratic state. As my Israeli WILPF sisters often say - there is a class divide in Israel caused by religion. Many entry-level jobs are only open to people who have served in the military. Only Jewish Israelis can serve in the military. How is that a true model of democracy? How is this treatment different from any other denial of civil rights?

I'm tired of being labeled a self-hating Jew because I believe in equal rights. I'm tired of the accusation of anti-Semitism. For many years, my political convictions kept me from connecting with my religion. I wanted to talk with my rabbi about it, but he committed suicide before I got up the courage to ask. Currently, I belong to a Zionist temple. I joined the temple because I believe passionately that our rabbi's Neo-Hasidic Kabbalistic teachings will lead to my personal spiritual transformation. Though I accept on face value when he assures me that I'm welcome in the community whatever my political beliefs are, I hesitate to get too close to my fellow congregants, fearing banishment. (This is the fear that follows me to shul every Saturday.)

If I could turn back time, I'd figure out a better resolution to World War II. I'd ensure two political states were recognized at the same time, Israel and Palestine. And I'd work to heal the wounds of my people so that we could put aside the mantle of victim and focus on personal transformation and communal empowerment. Instead of making the Holocaust the world knows about the Jews, I'd encourage a re-birth of our religious/spiritual heritage.

I know what I'm writing is heresy to many people. I know some will find it particularly egregious because Yom Hashoah is tomorrow. I'm tired of staying silent when the topic comes up in conversations with family. I'm tried of biting my tongue when people talk at my shul.

I believe in freedom of religion. I believe in Judaism. I am a Jew by choice and by birth. And I believe the Israeli government is guilty of war crimes. I believe the Israeli government discriminates against its non-Jewish citizens. I believe the Israeli government is illegally occupying East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza. And I believe it is time that more Jews of conscious stand up and speak out against the crimes done in our name.

Posted by cj at 5:55 PM | Comments (0)

September 6, 2009

Israeli Settlement Expansion Creates Turmoil, not Peace

On Friday, the LA Times reported that the Israeli government decided to "slow down" rather than halt the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. This surprised the Obama administration, which has called for a settlement freeze. Palestinians believe this proves the Israeli government has no interest in peace negotiations.

This news breaks my heart.

Former President Jimmy Carter wrote an op-ed in today's Washington Post highlighting the destructive nature of Israeli settlement expansion and the glimmer of hope provided by cross-border partnerships.

As a peace activist, I find it difficult to maintain hope for peace in the Middle East. The military and economic power of the Israeli government has been used for the last 61 years to occupy and subjugate Palestine, with the support of the US government. As a Jew, I am torn between my deep love of my religious heritage and ethnicity, and the belligerent political state created in my name.

As a practicing Jew, the actions of the Israeli government often feel other-worldly to me. I cannot understand how a tradition that has created some of the strongest social justice leaders throughout time has also created such belligerence. We've been persecuted throughout history, and we tend to use that persecution as a coat of invulnerability.

I believe East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza should be a sovereign country and that Israelis have no right to that land. I believe the Israeli government has the upper hand in this conflict and that Israel chooses to fight its neighbors rather than make peace.

The justification I hear most often for Israel not coming to the peace table is that Palestinians want to wipe Israel off the face of the map, so how can you negotiate with people who don't share a common world view? I cannot accept this premise: yes, some Palestinians do not want to recognize a Jewish political state; but if Israelis decided to recognize the legitimacy of the Palestinian state, chose to allow Palestinians the right of self-determination (including full citizenship for Palestinian Israelis), and chose to create economic partnership with their neighbors rather than security walls, then the militants would have less power on both sides of the conflict.

Take Action

Posted by cj at 5:30 AM | Comments (0)

June 13, 2009

Listening to Alternative Perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Today, the Consul General of Israel, Jacob Dayan, spoke at my synagogue, Ohr Hatorah.

Israel is a very difficult topic for me to deal with, as a practicing Jew and as a peace activist. I desperately want to respect the opinions of people with whom I disagree. I want to be able to listen to opposing viewpoints without running away. I still do not know how to have a meaningful dialog on this issue and this troubles me greatly.

First, I want to review my positions. I respect that the leaders of my congregation have declared the temple to be Zionist, but I hope I am allowed to continue to participate in the community even though I disagree with them.

Judaism is my religion. I am a post-Orthodox, neo-Hasidic Jew and I go to temple almost every Shabbat. It is also my ethnicity: both of my parents are Jewish and I have never heard anyone in my family call us Ukrainian or Russian (even though most of my ancestors came from the Ukraine back when it was part of Russia), because my people were never accepted into those nationalities. So, yes, it is my ethnicity as well. But it is not my nationality.

In my view, a religious state is inherently undemocratic. Any religious state is inherently undemocratic. Why? Because the act of declaring a state religion isolates and subjugates citizens who do not share those religious beliefs.

I believe Israel is occupying Palestine. I believe Jewish-only highways are an obstacle to peace. I believe all Jewish settlements in the West Bank are an obstacle to peace. I believe the Israeli blockade of Gaza is an obstacle to peace. I believe Israeli checkpoints surrounding and within the West Bank and Gaza are an obstacle to peace. I believe until US'ians recognize Israel's inherent power over the Palestinians, we will never be honest brokers, nor will we ever help create peace.

I believe all Palestinian political leaders deserve a space at the negotiating table for peace. I believe this should occur with absolutely zero pre-conditions. Negotiating occurs at the peace table, not before you sit down. Hatred abounds on both sides of this conflict, and Israeli distrust of Hamas cannot trump democratic elections.

I denounce all acts of violence. This includes Palestinian suicide bombers. I denounce Palestinian attacks on Israel. I also denounce Israeli attacks on Palestine. Violence begets violence and there was nothing just about Israel's attack on Gaza in December 08 / January 09.

Right, so now that I've gotten that out of the way, here's a bit of what Mr. Dayan said this morning. I did not take notes for the entire speech (at first I was just trying to breathe), but here's what I did catch (this is not verbatim):

The world is very different today than it was 10, 20, 30, 40 years ago. I know this because the best rapper in the world is white. The best golfer in the world is black. The Germans don't want to go to war. And the French call Americans arrogant.

We face a huge threat from non-state actors. Terrorism is the scourge of the world. There are many different terrorists, but the thing that unifies them is that they all believe in fundamentalist Islam. And Muslims suffer the most from these terrorists.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the biggest threat to peace in the Middle East. His denial of the Holocaust proves that he is an enemy to Jewish people. The possibility of Iran developing nuclear weapons is the biggest threat to peace in the region.

This threat in the region provides us with a great opportunity to work with other countries in the Middle East.

Israel made a decision not to control the lives of Palestinians.

Israel was established not because of the Holocaust, but because we have roots; 3,000 years of roots in Israel. Theodor Herzl's original Zionist plan was to create a Jewish state in Uganda. It was only after that plan was defeated at the Seventh Zionist Congress that he realized there was only one place where Jews can establish and should establish their homeland.

Israel has a three track approach to peace:

  1. Economy: Without a middle class, you cannot create a stable economy. The West Bank was extremely quiet during the military operation in Gaza, especially in comparison to Europe, because they see an alternative to Hamas.
  2. Military
  3. Political track
  4. Good governance: Israel is not a part of this track, but the Palestinians have to build their institutions. In the face of corruption, Palestinians turned to Hamas as an alternative.

The most immediate threat that we face globally today is the Iranian threat.

Israel agrees with President Obama's strategy for peace in the Middle East. We may disagree on a tactical level, but that's okay. The United States remains our strongest and most important ally.

With hopes for a peaceful future for all people of the Middle East, including Jewish Israelis, Palestinian Israelis, Palestinians, and Iranians.

Posted by cj at 5:00 PM | Comments (0)

May 17, 2009

Reading Tea Leaves: Hoping for a Shift in USG Policy on the ME

Helene Cooper stokes the fire of justice and prayers for peace in today's NYT. She calls upon people who have had contact with POTUS to determine whether there is any possibility for him to break from the US government's lock-step agreement with right-wing Israeli leaders and concludes that it's entirely possibly.

In fact, she ends the article with a quote from a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Charles W. Freeman, Jr. who compares the possible change in policy to Nixon's game-changing trip to China. [Aside: former Mormon missionary, current Utah governor Jon Huntsman Jr was nominated to be ambassador to China. Is an ultra-religious man really the best choice to dialog with the world's largest atheist community?]

I want to be hopeful. I want to believe that change is coming. But words mean very little when injustice has been accepted for 61 long years.

Posted by cj at 8:00 AM | Comments (0)

January 24, 2009

Perennial Hope

with hope that God forgives the crimes that have been done in my name...
click the image to sign a petition from Jewish Voices for Peace to Obama

Posted by cj at 10:59 PM | Comments (0)

January 29, 2008

Collective Punishment in Gaza

Gaza was sealed off from receiving any humanitarian aid in an egregious form of collective punishment.

Over the weekend, Gazans were able to break through the Rafah border with Egypt and streamed into that country to do heinous things...like buying groceries and petrol.

Egypt is now sealing that border and residents of the Egyptian town of Rafah have been quoted as worried that Egyptians will starve because the Palestinians are buying all of their food.

In the meantime, the Israeli and US governments continue to justify this collective punishment - illegal under international law - by reminding people of militant rocket fire into the Israeli city Sderot.

For an Israeli historian's perspective on "the genocide" of Gaza, see "The Israeli Recipe For 2008: Genocide in Gaza, Ethnic Cleansing in the West Bank," by Ilan Pappe in the Indypendent of NY

Israeli humanitarian organizations tried to get aid into Gaza and were stopped by the Israeli government. Read about their interaction with their Palestinian neighbors on Al Jazeera.

The Chinese news service Xinhua reports that Egypt is sealing its border with Gaza.

AP reports that SecState Rice wants the border closed and Palestinian police should help maintain the territory's isolation.

UN Relief and Works Agency, the UN agency tasked with helping Palestine

UN News Centre, a roundup of official UN body discussions related to the Middle East

To be clear: I do not support violence. There is no justification for rocket attacks on Sderot. Just as importantly, the racist attitudes of the US and Israeli governments has justified inhumane and illegal treatment of the Palestinian people. Palestinians are not subhumans bent on killing every Jew. Palestinians are human beings who deserve the ability to make their own democratic choices and deserve freedom of movement, freedom from collective punishment, and freedom from the land and water grabs of their Israeli neighbors.

Posted by cj at 5:49 AM | Comments (0)

October 7, 2007

We'll Be Paying for Empire Expansion Till the End of Time

This Just In: Paying for war when it occurs is fiscally irresponsible. That is, if you believe the mouthpiece of the administration, the White House press secretary. If the war hawks have their way, we'll be paying for this empire expansion till the end of time.

But that's okay, because the surge is making Iraqis safer. The Public Editor of the NYT makes the case that maybe there's been a decrease in the number of civilian casualties since the surge began. Then again, he ends the column by reminding us that it is still unsafe to live in Baghdad, according to an article written by 15 NYT reporters (never mind what's happening elsewhere in Iraq - it's too unsafe for US writers to venture beyond Baghdad).

Let's not get bogged down in details. It's important to remember the frame through which the occupation of foreign countries became acceptable to the US public: by creating a culture of fear that blames the ills of the world on so-called "Islamofascists." Nevermind that the word is meaningless. Pay no attention to reality: fascism is alive and well in the Western world. Even university courses on political science in the US have a difficult time defining fascism. Perhaps because the core of fascism is simple: the military & corporations taking control of the levers of political power. Instead of allowing this simple definition of fascism to be understood, Western leaders propel a a blurry, fearful understanding of a combination of racism and authoritarianism as the only "true" definition of fascism. Furthermore, instead of debating people who recognize the full scope of power held by the military industrial complex, Western political and intellectual "leaders" dismiss us as crazy left-wing nut cases.

Military force must always be the last resort of states and the international community. As Albert Camus said:

Mistaken ideas always end in bloodshed, but in every case it is someone else’s blood. That is why some of our thinkers feel free to say just about anything.
Do not be persuaded by the rhetorical flourish of individuals who believe democracy and freedom can be created through bloodshed and military occupation. The monolingual, jingoist armed forces of the US are even less capable of building peace in the Middle East than the biased State Department.

The safety of the world relies on more individuals becoming engaged in the political process, supporting international institutions, creating dialog with people in other countries, and demanding that the international political and economic structures be based on human security and human needs rather than on corporate greed.

Camus quote from this Op-Ed piece in today's NYT.

Posted by cj at 11:21 AM | Comments (0)

September 19, 2007

To be Clear: Iraqis Don't Want Sectarian Divisions

I want every pundit in the US to read "Future Look of Iraq Complicated by Internal Migration," by James Glanz and Alissa J. Rubin in today's NYT. Maybe after reading the article, they'll stop suggesting that Iraq should be split into 3 ethnic states. Such division does not exist in Iraq - it is only happening when people stare down the barrel of a gun.

Apparently, the point of this "war on terror" is to terrorize the people of Iraq and allow militias to rule over them.

Over all, the patterns suggest that despite the ethnic and sectarian animosity that has gripped the country, at least some Iraqis would rather continue to live in mixed communities. ...

But the new figures show that the migration is not neatly dividing Baghdad along the Tigris, separating Sunnis who live predominantly on the west bank from Shiites, who live predominantly on the east. Instead, some Sunnis are moving to the predominantly Shiite side of the river, into neighborhoods that are relatively secular, mixed and where services are better, according to Red Crescent staff.

All together now: people do not naturally divide themselves by ethnicity. They seek the best place to raise a family: the safest neighborhood with the best utilities and schools. Sound familiar? For the life of me, I can't understand why US'ers think Arabs are so different from us. All around the world, people want the same thing: safe neighborhoods, good schools, and modern utilities that operate 24/7.

Why is it so difficult for US'ers to understand that it is our government, our corrupt contractors that are screwing up in Iraq? If we had sent the Army Corps of Engineers in to create an eletrical grid, instead of relying on Halliburton and the like, Iraqis might have reliable power now, 4 years into the occupation. Obviously, the army isn't the best at all engineering tasks - you don't have to look further than New Orleans to see how big their mistakes can be. But we could've stopped some of the madness & expense on private security firms if we had handled this occupation as a public-effort rather than a private-profit grab funded by taxpayers.

Here's a novel idea - we could've worked through the UN Dept of Peacekeeping Operations. You know, it's not too late to bring in the DPKO. Throw in some recognition for UNSCR 1325 and the US might actually be able to turn its failed occupation into the beginnings of conflict resolution...

a girl's gotta dream.

related article: "Checkbook Imperialism: The Blackwater Fiasco," by Robert Scheer. Found via Portside

NYT article found via UN Wire

Posted by cj at 10:04 PM | Comments (0)

September 16, 2007

The War Goes On...and the Pundits Still Think Division Is Just

On This Week, the pundits gently explained that the only way forward in Iraq is further division "like in the Balkans." Let's be clear: Yugoslavia began with ethnic enclaves, and was further divided by genocide. Iraq began with ethnic diversity (even in the Kurdish North) and because of US incompetence, is being divided by genocide.

Let's flip this scenario around and look at crime in the US. A lot of it is ethnically-based. For example, Latinos and Blacks in LA are more adversely affected by violent crime than other ethnicities. Using the logic of US politicians and pundits, the way to deter crime is to force Latinos to live in one part of the city and Black to live in the opposite. Their governments should operate autonomously because obviously, they innately can't get along. And whites, should stay in the middle-land between these two "warring factions" because clearly the ethnicities are incapable of getting along.

When you look at the US plan for "peace building" in Iraq through the lens of a US city, you realize how utterly ridiculous & asinine it really is. Humans are extremely capable of accepting diversity: it is leaders who exploit differences in order to garner power. US'ers don't even bother to learn the language of the lands they occupy, let alone understand the culture. We're so enamored by the Israeli government that our government seems convinced that Arabs are incapable of rational thought or rational politics. Let's be clear: US companies are stealing taxpayer money and not providing Iraqis with basic services like electricity and clean water. Thugs have exploited the chaos created by the US occupation to hold people for ransom, and kill indiscriminately as members of the Interior Ministry.

Not to mention the chaos we've unleashed in Afghanistan. I admit - I stupidly thought we were going into Afghanistan to help its people, especially its women who were so cruelly exploited and subjugated by the Taliban. Instead, we've added a sheen of legitimacy to a bunch of warlords and the US occupation of Iraq, along with Britney's latest drunken foibles, offers a great cover up to the expansion of al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

Here's hoping some intelligence enters the intelligentsia in the next year.

Posted by cj at 9:57 PM | Comments (0)

September 11, 2007

Support the UN Human Rights Council

It is a shame that the UN Human Rights Council has been unable to take strong stances on more issues in the world. I am not an expert on UN reform, so I cannot speak to what is holding it back from completely denouncing the genocide in Darfur. I do know that the US government looks like morons for trying to cut off funding to the organization. The US Congress claims that the council is bias against Israel - biased because it has denounced Israel's illegal occupation of Palestine and Israel's illegal war on Lebanon. It is a testamount to the Israel Lobby (both Jewish and Gentile), that cutting off funding to the Council has bipartisan support in the US.

Please tell your Congressional representatives that the only way to further human rights is to support the international organization created to enforce them. Human Rights for All People - not just those who look like us.

AP article by Justin Bergman
Washington Times article by Betsy Pitsik

HRC opened its 6th session on Monday

Posted by cj at 10:49 PM | Comments (0)

September 9, 2007

The Only Thing We Have to Fear is Fear Itself

If you listen to Republican presidential candidates and Sunday morning pundits, you'd assume that the only way to project power and create security is to be the biggest bully in the world, with the most active military. Political discussion in the US media allows the following fascinating range of discussion on security: those who only understand US culture and think everyone hates our freedom and we therefore have to teach them democracy through the barrel of a gun and those who only understand US culture and think we can teach the world freedom through a combination of military force and free-market capitalism.

Do you ever hear a peace expert asked for their opinion? I'm not talking about those folks who organize marches on the mall, I mean people who study the root causes of war and can explain what happens in the world based on a nuanced understanding of history. Not only do US legislators, military, and pundits not understand Iraq, they don't understand the basic reasons that ethnic conflict becomes ethnic violence.

The answer to the chaos in Iraq is not splitting the country up by "ethnic regions." First, people don't live in schtetls. It's not like the entire populace hates each other b/c of ethnic differences. Differences are being exploited by strong men seeking power; the Other is a powerful tool in rallying support for a leader. Forcing the populace to follow these bullies into separate states is a white man's way of dealing with racial violence. The US has never understood the basics of racial justice, so how can we possibly lead another country into an ethnically diverse, working democracy?

Second, why does no one say "hey idiots - perhaps we should turn this operation over to the UN Peacekeeping?" Take a look at the official site of the DPKO. I fundamentally believe that the only way to move forward in creating peace is to work through the UN. Many things have gone wrong in past and current missions, but if we honestly supported the UN, and implemented Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, I believe we would be closer to achieving real security for Iraq and the world.

Security means more than having the biggest gun. Human security is dependent on a continuous food supply, access to healthcare, a place to sleep, and peace with neighbors.

I'm constantly fascinated by the lack of real discussion on the Sunday gab fests. I'm watching last week's Real Time with Bill Maher show and Barbara Bodine is offering more insight on Iraq "reconstruction" than 2 hrs of male talking heads on ABC and NBC. Slate tells me I must read the NYT and WaPo stories on Iraq as background to the coming week's announcements. Quite honestly, I'm done wasting my time on such articles. Until SCR 1325 and human security become part of the dialog, what's the point of me reading mainstream news accounts of the US imperialistic occupation of the 2nd largest oil reserve in the world?

Posted by cj at 3:53 PM | Comments (0)

July 10, 2007

Don't Let More Girls Die Trying to Learn to Read

If you listened to the the current US administration, you'd think Afghanistan is a great place to live if you're female. You'd think the Taliban is a thing of the past and that safety and stability has been flung out over the nation. You'd be sorely mistaken.

How'd you like to be the target of random acts of violence because you dared to be female and a student? How'd you like to watch as thugs murder your sister as you are leaving school with her?

Welcome to the new Afghanistan. Where there's money for roads, but not for schools. Where to decide to learn means accepting the very real possibility that you've made yourself a target.

"Education in Afghanistan: A harrowing choice," by Barry Bearak in today's International Herald Tribune.

Shir Agha, whose neice was murdered on the steps of her school, said the following:

"We have a saying that if you go to school, you can find yourself, and if you can find yourself, you can find God," he said proudly. "But for a child to attend school, there must be security. Who supplies that security?"
Where indeed. Perhaps instead of trying to build a client state in Iraq, the US military should be transferred to Afghanistan where there is real need for some plain and simple security...

article found via UN Wire

Posted by cj at 10:19 PM | Comments (0)

April 9, 2007

Israel Doesn't Want Peace - thoughts from an Israeli commentator

Today, the Haaretz newspaper published a commentary by Gideon Levy titled "Israel doesn't want peace." The article isn't long, and it is perfectly clear: Arab governments and the Palestinian people are ready to negotiate. Israel refuses because it prefers to expand illegal settlements in the West Bank and appropriate the land and water of its neighbors.

Read the full story at Haaretz.

Join WILPF to stand for peace and justice throughout the world. WILPF has sections in Israel, Palestine, and Lebanon. Our US Section is Challenging US Policy on the Middle East through our project to create an alternative, feminist US policy on Israel / Palestine. We are also working to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace & Security.

Posted by cj at 9:36 PM | Comments (0)

March 26, 2007

Death, Harrassment, & Possible Peace

UN officials would like to remind you that there is a genocide in Darfur. It's getting worse, not better. All those Nicolas Kristof columns haven't saved very many people from murder, rape, and pillaging on the basis of ethnicity. So read another article on the genocide, by Reuters / AP via Intl Herald Tribune. Or go to Save Darfur to get active on the issue.

If you're Nigerian and female, you must be willing to be raped to get a college diploma. Read the horrific details in "Lecturers Prey on Nigerian Women, Girls," by Katharine Houreld of the AP in WaPo. To stand up for a woman's right to education without forced rape, join Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.

SecState and SecGen UN are trying to renew peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine. Or at least that's what they're telling the press. But, see, they continue the lie that there's equity between Israel and the Palestinians. That somehow, a stateless people, whose elected leaders are barred from the negotiations should be held to the same standards as occupiers who continue to appropriate land, water, and other resources. Instead of pressuring Israel to get the hell out of the West Bank and to allow Gaza to trade with its Egyptian neighbors, the US entourage continues the facade that the most useful thing for Israel to do is talk through the US to all Palestinian representatives and pretend to be open to Saudia Arabia's 2002 peace plan (that called for Israel to fully withdraw from the West Bank, not expand its illegal settlements). Read the watered down version of this news from Reuters. To voice your opposition to the status quo US policy on the Middle East, join WILPF's campaign - Women Challenge US Policy: Building Peace on Justice in the Middle East.

Posted by cj at 7:53 PM | Comments (0)

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)

January 28, 2007

Short Shrift for Protestors

At least 100,000 people took to the streets of DC yesterday to protest the US occupation of Iraq. And yet, it was relegated to inside page coverage in both the NY Times and the LA Times. At least the LAT put a picture on the front page - but both were more interested in fronting articles on Obama and Hillary than they were in the political activism of thousands of citizens.

I think this speaks to the limitations of mainstream media. The masses are not authoritative. That's why the nightly news highlighted Jane Fonda, Susan Sarandon & Jesse Jackson - they are recognizable and eloquent in a way that can't be found consistently in the masses. The other limitation is that protestors must always be followed immediately by some self-righteous war-mongerer who believes peace activists are diminishing the morale of the troops and that the only way to support the US military is to keep them as an occupying force in a country where the occupation caused civil war and where US'ians have zero understanding of the language, culture, or ethnic differences in the country.

I do not know how to change the media reality of this country. I do not yet have a plan for the nonviolent paradigm shift necessary to overturn the belligerent, corporate-capitalism forced on the world by the US ruling class. But I do know that it more important than ever to figure out how to do this. Our progeny and the future of the world depends on it.

"Protest Focuses on Iraq Troop Increase," by Ian Urbina with contributions by Sarah Abruzzese and Suevon Lee in the NY Times

"Thousands join bicoastal war protest: The Washington rally draws about 100,000 people. Marchers also take to the streets in L.A. and San Francisco." by Adam Schreck, Ashraf Khalil and David Streitfeld in the LA Times

Posted by cj at 7:34 PM | Comments (0)

January 14, 2007

It's Official: I'm a Self-Hating Jew

I sorta obsessively watch who is reading my blogs. Last night, I found that my cultural blog got a hit from masada2000.org. In case you haven't heard of this horrific website, it keep a list of "7000+ Self-Hating Israel Threatening Jews." Some entries include pictures. For the longest time, despite being the Program Chair of a peace group, I wasn't listed. Apparently now I am. And they think I'm 5 years older than I really am. I don't really want you to go to the horrific site. Well, you can if you want. Here's their entry for me:

Minster, C. J. [DOB approx. 1973] This Sunday morning talk show junkie and national board member of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), which calls for an "ending US Military aid to Israel and a US Middle East policy with emphasis on long denied Justice for the Palestinian people" signed a one-sided petition for "U.S. Jewish Solidarity with Muslim and Arab Peoples of the Middle East"... which was nothing less than a full-fledged "mugging" of Israel!

"How can we expect the Palestinians to give up their right to self defense when the Israeli government continues to meet with them at the point of a gun or a lethal Caterpillar bulldozer? As a Jewish American, I am appalled at all that is done in my name. I don't need Palestinians to starve to death to make myself safe as a Jew."

Her "Angel Headed Hipster" blog site is at http://www.angelheadedhipster.com

The other thing they got wrong in their entry is that the blog they cited has a two word title - angelheaded is one word. But I guess they never read that other Jew who popularized the term - Allen Ginsberg. (Besides, it doesn't have any political commentary. I write about politics on this blog. I write about Cali politics on couragecampaign.org. And sometimes, I write about WILPF stuff on the WILPF blog, wilpf.blogspot.com)

Oh, and I don't know how they came up with the quote they created about WILPF, but WILPF actually calls for an end to all US military aid. We're also seeking a change to US Middle East policy - our campaign is currently working to create an alternative, feminist US policy on Israel / Palestine. Our goal is peace and security for both Israelis and Palestinians. I do stand by the quote I wrote on that online petition. But I've written a lot more than that about the issue.

I wonder what the person thought when they clicked through to my site and saw that I'm dealing with cancer...

Seems fitting that I found out about this yesterday. I spent the afternoon listening to a Holocaust survivor speak about her experience visiting Palestine and being strip searched (and body-cavity searched) at the Tel Aviv airport while attempting to return to the United States.

And today's NY Times Magazine has a feature on Abe Foxman, the meshugenah head of the ADL who sees anti-Semites behind every corner. It's not a particularly good article - the only alternative voices it cites are Mearsheimer and Walt. It would've been better if it really tried to explore the pain and division Foxman and his nut-wing partners have caused the Jewish American community.

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

December 6, 2006

Israel & Palestinian: An Insider's Perspective

Check out this video from the Social Uplift Foundation. I helped digitize it - found the music, pictures, rendered it....it's the first video I worked on that's gone live. It's an interview with Yossi Khen, an Israeli American and board member of Brit T'zedek v'Shalom. His testimony is powerful and frightening. The video is about 27 minutes.

Posted by cj at 10:38 PM | Comments (0)

November 24, 2006

Show Solidarity with Israeli Activists: Sign Petition to Stop the Siege on Gaza

WILPF Israel, along with others in the Coalition of Women for Peace, called for a month of action to Stop the Siege! Stop the War! As part of this month of education and action, they have created an online petition. Here is the text:

To the Israeli government and world leaders:

GAZA: Stop the Siege! Stop the War!

The situation in Gaza has reached emergency levels - inadequate water, electricity, and medicine; widespread hunger, poverty, and unemployment; schools and other services rendered inoperative; constant bombardments and attacks by the Israeli military.

This humanitarian catastrophe is man-made: It was brought on by the ongoing siege of the Gaza Strip by Israel and the sanctions imposed by the international community on Palestine, made worse by repeated IDF attacks. If this situation continues, we will see spreading disease, malnutrition, and more violence. Under these conditions, negotiations - the only way to reach peace between both peoples - also become an impossibility.

We call upon Israeli leaders to end the siege of and war on Gaza. We call upon world leaders to end the political and economic sanctions of Palestine.

The siege and sanctions are sowing chaos and death in Gaza. They must come to an end.

[your name]

Sign the petition through this link.

Here's the comment I left with my signature:

As the Program Chair of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, US Section (WILPF US), and an American Jew, I urge you to stop the seige. Endless occupation, land appropriation, and killing makes both Israel and Palestine unsafe. Israel's security depends on an independent Palestine. US security depends on making our foreign policy more just and being more open to criticizing Israeli government actions.

Learn more about this month of action, culminating on December 2 at the gazaseige.net website.

Learn more about the WILPF US campaign, Women Challenge US Policy: Building Peace on Justice in the Middle East (WCUSP) at our website.

cross-posted from the WILPF US blog.

Posted by cj at 11:32 PM | Comments (0)

November 22, 2006

Palestinian Israeli Unable to Go to Reproductive Rights Conference

I was forwarded a letter from Professor Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian via a Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) listserv. Professor Shalhoub-Kevorkian was humiliated at the Ben Gurion airport. After ransacking her personal belongings, the Israeli security officers decided she could not board the airplane with her laptop (which she needed to write a lecture for the “Women and Sexual Reproductive Rights” conference she was trying to attend in Tunis.)

The letter can be read in its entirety on Margaret's Wanderings blog. I urge you to read it to understand the human consequence of the Israeli apartheid state.

Dr. Nadera Shaloub-Kevorkian's website at the Institute of Criminology at the Hebrew University of Jersusalem

Posted by cj at 9:14 PM | Comments (0)

NYT Roundup of Israel / Palestine Events

Under the title "U.N. Official Touring Israel Is Near Area Hit by Rocket," the NYT threw several disparate parts into a one column article on Israel / Palestine. It does start with a look at UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour's trip to Sderot and Beit Hanun. Then it veers off into an account of the Israeli army murdering three people, including a 70-year old woman, in Gaza City. (These murders are apparently justified because the other two victims were allegedly militants.) Then it lets us know that Italian Red Cross workers were briefly abducted in Palestine. I'm still unclear why militants are abducting aid workers - are they just looking for media attention? Finally, it closes with the poignant tale of a lost tribe of Jews from India immigrating to Israel. Good thing those crazy rabbis decided to accept the Indians as Jewish. They supposedly left Israel 2700 years ago and now get to return home. Needless to say, the article does not point out that people who lived there 60 years ago are still barred from returning home.
Full Story: "U.N. Official Touring Israel Is Near Area Hit by Rocket," by Greg Myre

In fairness, this has been a relatively good week for NYT coverage of the Middle East. Yesterday, the top story was on Israel stealing private Palestinian land to create their illegal settlements in the West Bank. It was based on research provided by Peace Now, an Israeli peace organization (with a US affiliate - Americans for Peace Now).
Full article:"Israeli Map Says West Bank Posts Sit on Arab Land," by Steven Erlanger on 11/21/06

Following the international backlash on its lethal targeting of civilian populations in Gaza, the Israeli army held its fire on 11/19, which was a story also worthy of the NYT:
"Israel Holds Fire as Gazans Rally at House," by Ian Fisher, published 11/20

On Saturday, the NYT featured a report on how difficult it is for Palestinians to move around within Palestine because of the extensive road blocks and road closures created by the Israeli military within the West Bank and Gaza. Its the most interesting NYT article on the conflict that I've read in the past year. A picture from a road block was even featured as the lead photo on the national edition of the newspaper.
"For West Bank, It’s a Highway to Frustration," by Greg Myre, written on November 14 and published on November 18 in the NYT. Perhaps this important article was too "pro-Palestinian" for the higher circulation Tuesday edition of the NYT.

Posted by cj at 8:26 PM | Comments (0)

November 4, 2006

"We risked our lives to save our sons."

Yesterday, the Israeli army's siege on Gaza continued through an attack on a mosque. The Israeli army was attempting to force Palestinian defense forces to leave the mosque. To respond to this attack, the Hamas government chose a new defense tactic: incorporating women. Palestinian organizers, using cell phones and radio announcements, encouraged women to provide a human shield for their sons, brothers, and husbands. Women arrived at the mosque and the Israeli army fired upon them. One woman died at the scene, another died at a hospital. The Israeli army claimed that they started shooting at the women because they saw men in the group. Video footage proves that claim as a lie. This incident has been broadcast throughout the Middle East. It is a breakthrough in terms of women's involvement because it is the first time women en masse have put their lives on the line in defense of Palestine. The Israeli army described the situation:

"This is a clear example of use of innocent population for terror," said Israeli army Maj. Avital Leibovich, denouncing the Palestinian use of civilian women as shields.

Jamela Shanti, 45, one of two Gazan women in the parliamentary delegation of Hamas responded: ""We risked our lives to save our sons."

More information: "Hamas militants flee Gaza mosque aided by women: Israeli troops fire on marchers answering a radio call; 2 die." by Richard Boudreaux and Rushdi abu Alouf, in the LA Times.

Posted by cj at 9:28 AM | Comments (0)

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 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 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.
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)

September 30, 2006

Dateline Lebanon: Cluster Bombs, Check. Intl Support, MIA

Let's get this straight. There are about a million undetonated cluster bombs scattered throughout south Lebanon by America's number one ally, the Israeli army. These highly volatile instruments of death are scattered throughout villages and fields. Add that to the demolition of villages by the Israeli "Defense" Forces, and you've got 200,000 Lebanese unable to return home.

The UN made a big fanfare about its role negotiating a ceasefire and promising to send in 15,000 person force to secure the peace. Aint happened - they're nowhere near that number. Nor has the world community provided enough money - cold hard cash - to pay for reconstruction. But all this is okay, because Lebanon is a a "safe haven for terrorists." Nevermind that Hezbollah was created to resist the Israeli occupation of sovereign Lebanese territory. Nevermind that Hezbollah has a political arm that is part of the national government. Nevermind that Hezbollah, like Hamas, provides desperately needed social services to local populations. We live in a black and white world. And Bush and Olmert (Isreal's Prime Minister) get to decide who is a terrorist and who is a white hat crony.

I'm glad that Reuters is publishing articles about Lebanon. And I'm glad the dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University wants the world to strap on some huevos and pay for the UN. But if mainstream people in the mainstream press aren't willing to point out the underlying fallacy of the story, they are continuing the lies of hegemony. Terrorism seems to be the new communism. Diplomacy and international cooperation is dead. G'd help us all.

L'shana tova - Happy New Year.

"U.N. shifts from aid work to rebuilding in Lebanon," by Matthew Verrinder on Reuters AlertNet

"Big headlines, small results at the UN," Commentary by Anne-Marie Slaughter in The Daily Star of Lebanon

articles found via UN Wire, a weekday email service of the UN Foundation

Posted by cj at 9:43 AM | Comments (0)

September 17, 2006

"Testing" a Democratically Elected Government

The NYT wrote an editorial calling for Hamas to not only acknowledge Israel's right to exist, but to act on it as well in order to receive financial aid. In passing, they mention that Hamas was democratically elected and that Israel is withholding Palestinian tax revenue from their government.

The US can use any litmus test it wants before giving aid to another country. Its within the USG's legal rights to cut off aid to one of the few truly democratically elected governments in the Middle East because said government doesn't bow down to the US or Israel. But it is illegal for another government to withhold a sovereign state's taxes. And therein lies the crux of the problem: Palestine is not a sovereign state because Israel continues to occupy it.

Make no mistake about it - there is a crisis occurring in Gaza everyday. And everyday that the media does not show you the people going hungry, their infrastructure destroyed by the Israeli military, their land occupied by the Israeli army, is another day that the media lies to you.

I have no love for extremists, be they from Hamas or Evangelical Christians. Both groups contain peaceful, community-building factions and both groups contain hateful, community-dividing factions. But I'm not going to call for a moratorium on evangelical Christians, and I can't understand why it is okay for the US to stop talking to Palestinians because they chose the party that promised to rid their land of corruption and nepotism and which has shown through their local leadership that they can effectively bring food to the table.

The real issue here is racism wrapped in pro-Israel bias. Arabs and Arab countries must prove their loyalty to the US before we accept them as friendly, whereas Israel enjoys a "special relationship" with this country regardless of how racist and extremist its political leadership gets. You don't believe me? Take a look at Israeli Prime Minister Olmert's "convergence plan:" He plans to give up a few out-lying Israeli settlements in the West Bank; but also to expand the size of the largest Israeli settlements; continuing to build his separation wall and continuing to expand the Jewish-Israeli only highways and settlements within the West Bank.

How can we expect the Palestinians to give up their right to self defense when the Israeli government continues to meet with them at the point of a gun or a lethal Caterpillar bulldozer? As a Jewish American, I am appalled at all that is done in my name. I don't need Palestinians to starve to death to make myself safe as a Jew. I don't need Lebanese families to die picking their olive harvest in Lebanon from cluster bombs left by the Israeli army to make myself safe as a Jew. And I certainly don't need the US government hypocritically cutting off aid to a democratically-elected government to feel safe as an American.

See also: "US Women Demand US Restore Aid to the Palestinian Authority," a press release from Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, US Section

Posted by cj at 10:28 PM | Comments (0)

August 8, 2006

Petition for US Jews

Sign the Petition for U.S. Jewish Solidarity with Muslim and Arab Peoples of the Middle East

Below is the comment I left with my signature:

As a Jewish woman I find the actions of the US and Israeli governments unconscionable. I am the Program Chair of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, US Section (WILPF US). WILPF has sections in Palestine, Lebanon, and Israel and the US Section has a national campaign - Women Challenge US Policy: Building Peace on Justice in the Middle East, which focuses on US policy regarding Israel / Palestine. It is not for me to decide whether a one state or two state solution is ultimately chosen. It is my duty as a US citizen to denounce US collusion in Israel's current war of aggression, murder of civilians and destruction of civil infrastructure in Lebanon and Gaza. Israel's war on its neighbors is also causing Israeli civilian deaths. It is past time for the US to stop its unconditional support of Israel.

WILPF US homepage


WILPF International homepage (includes updates from the region)

Posted by cj at 11:28 PM | Comments (0)

July 30, 2006

Disgust, Dismay, Denial

The Sunday morning talk shows have made me lose my appetite.

Blame The Victims seems to be the mantra of the American intelligentsia.

Even while reporting the atrocious murder of over 50 civilians in Qana, Lebanon, they continue to be apologists for Israeli aggression and the USG collusion in the murder of innocent Lebanese.

Let me be clear: "there is something fundamentally wrong when there are more dead children than armed men," in the prescient words of UN Under-Secretary-General Egeland.

An immediate unconditional ceasefire is absolutely imperative.

I am tired of refuting the lies of the US administration and its Israeli proxy army.

Posted by cj at 11:06 AM | Comments (0)

July 29, 2006

"There is something fundamentally wrong when there are more dead children than armed men."

UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland made that criticism and was quoted in the LAT.

And therein lies the fundamental problem of Israel's continuous war against its neighbors. Israel and its supporters claim they have no partners for peace - but when you show complete disregard for the sacred nature of human life why should anyone partner with you? And when your "partnership" means "accept that we're going to take whatever territory we want and deny responsibility for the millions of Palestinian refugees that our military forced out of their homes when we were claiming this land for ourselves," how can you be taken seriously?

And why, why, why is the mainstream US media coverage so biased? Every time they mention that Iran and Syrian are suspected of arming Hezbollah, they simply MUST state that the US arms Israel, including "emergency" shipments After Israel Started Killing Lebanese and Palestinian Civilians!

Bush and Blair cobbled together a farce of a peace plan yesterday.
The UN is calling for an unconditional 72 hour cessation of violence to allow humanitarian aid into southern Lebanon and for the militants to try some diplomacy. Guess which plan gets more play in the US press?
After a marathon cabinet meeting, Lebanon suggested terms for a cease fire with support from the two main Lebanese political parties both Hezbollah and Amal. This is basically a reiteration of the proposal Lebanon made in Rome last week, with the significant addition of the support of the political parties. Per usual, the Israeli government rejected the plan out of hand and mocked its legitimacy.

"Israel Rejects Peace Offer: Hezbollah signs on to Lebanon's proposal for a cease-fire and prisoner swap, but disarmament is not included. The pace of diplomacy quickens by Rone Tempest and Laura King with contributions from Alissa J. Rubin, Peter Wallsten and Paul Richter in the LAT.

"Bush, Blair Seek U.N. Force In South Lebanon as Buffer," by Michael Abramowitz and Robin Wright with contributions from Colum Lynch and Josh White in WaPo.

"Bush and Blair Push Plan to End Mideast Fighting," by Jim Rutenberg Helene Cooper with contributions by Greg Myre in the NYT.

"U.N. Humanitarian Chief Asks Mideast Truce," by Paul Berkhardt of the AP in WaPo.

"Peace Train," Today's Papers by Barbara Raab in Slate.

Posted by cj at 10:46 AM | Comments (0)

July 23, 2006

What I Believe

I wrote this to my aunt:

Israel can bomb the hell out of its neighbors because of the approval of the US government, and most importantly, because the US government has made Israel the most technologically advanced military in the Middle East, including nuclear weapons. Israel's current destruction of the entire civil infrastructure of Lebanon, and mass murder of innocent Lebanese civilians is a grossly disproportionate response to Hezbollah. Further, the idea that Jewish lives are somehow superior to Arab lives is racist. And no historic persecution in the world can defend the 39 year occupation of Palestine.
And she asked, "who's side are you on?"

Here is my response:

I'm on the side of Peace.

I believe Israel must accept its neighbors as its neighbors - there can be no one sided ending of the Arab-Israel conflict.

The current crisis is a one-sided war of aggression by the right-wing racist Israeli government.

I believe in the sovereignty of all nations, including Palestine and Lebanon.
I know that Hamas was initially funded by Israel and the US as a counterpoint to the non-religious Fatah movement.
I know that Hezbollah started as a resistance movement to the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon.

I believe in the power of peace.
I believe that an immediate, unconditional cease fire is needed.
The majority of world opinion stands firmly against Israel and the US - Lebanon is in ruins; Israel is practicing collective punishment which is a recognized war crime. There can be no peace through bombings. Further, the humanitarian crisis continues in Gaza - caused by the cruel destruction of its main power plant by the Israeli army; which has left Gazans without power or potable water (since power is needed to filter the water supply).

I believe that a two state solution is possible, if the Israelis accept a real peace process. I believe that all settlements in the West Bank must be abandoned. I believe that the separation wall must be dismantled. I believe that Israel must stop stealing water and fertile land from its stateless neighbors, the Palestinians.

These are my political beliefs.

As a Jew, my religious beliefs impel me to denounce a state that offers special treatment to one religion over another. I have no right to citizenship in Israel. Further, I reject the notion that Jewish people inherently deserve more protection or support under Israeli law than any other citizens of Israel. These I consider my religious beliefs.

Posted by cj at 9:01 PM | Comments (0)

July 21, 2006

War Update

Obviously, things are happening in Lebanon and Gaza too quickly for me to write with authority on them.

Michael Hawkins at Spontaneous Arisings seems to be doing a good job of blogging about the war.

Nader wrote a letter to Bush and published it on Common Dreams

Inter Press Service Coverage of "Holy Land, Unholy War"

"Israel Violates Law on US Weapons in the Middle East," by Thalif Deen, IPS

Portside, the left side of the internet

"Today's Papers: Exodus," by Eric Umansky in Slate

Posted by cj at 10:34 AM | Comments (0)

July 20, 2006

Crisis Update

The Israeli lobby has struck again. Congress overwhelming passed H Res 921, which basically gives Israel carte blanche to murder its neighbors. The Congressman representing my district spoke in support of the horrific legislation. Here is my response to him -

Dear Congressman Emanual:

As a Jewish constituent and Program Chair of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, US Section (WILPF US), I am disheartened by your misunderstanding of the current war in Lebanon / Palestine / Israel. In particular, your comments supporting H Res 921 deeply saddened me.

Nothing that militant groups in Gaza or Lebanon have done in recent weeks can justify Israel's use of collective punishment, murder of civilians, and bombing of civilian infrastructure. I believe that the US government's unconditional support of Israel's occupation of Palestine and aggression against its neighbors seriously weakens this country's effectiveness as a global leader for human rights and democracy.

On a separate note, I am disturbed that you insist I post my address information through a non-secure internet site. You are exposing my personal information to identity theft and I hope you will rectify this problem soon.

Below is a copy of WILPF's Statement Denouncing Escalation of Military Aggression in Lebanon, Gaza, and Israel. I realize that we completely disagree on this issue; but I ask that you take the time to read the words of the oldest women's peace organization. We have 37 sections around the world, including sisters in Israel, Palestine, and Lebanon.

With hope for a cease fire,
Cynthia J. Minster

Women's International League for Peace and Freedom

Denounces Escalation of Military Aggression in Lebanon, Israel and Gaza

The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom deplores the escalation of violence in Lebanon, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, especially Gaza, and in Israel.

We condemn the targeting of civilians and destruction of civilian infrastructure by all parties and, in particular, the excessive disproportionate military retaliation by Israel as violations of international law. The widespread bombing in Gaza and Lebanon; the air, sea and land blockade of Lebanon; the destruction of electricity and water supplies in Gaza; and the missile attacks on Israeli cities make the possibility for solutions more difficult as hostilities spiral out of control. We denounce the use of force. There is no military solution to the problems in the region.

We recognize that the current dangerous and volatile situation is the direct result of Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinian lands and its relentless destruction of Palestinian infrastructure, particularly in Gaza where a humanitarian crisis is growing among the 1.4 million inhabitants.

Therefore, we call upon the United States to join the rest of the international community in denouncing Israel's escalation of this conflict.

We call for an immediate ceasefire and halt to the retaliatory bombing, killing and destruction. We appeal to all parties to return to the political process and earnestly negotiate permanent solutions.

We appeal for cooperation with the UN special Advisors team sent to the region by the UN Secretary General and for adherence to UN Resolutions and international and humanitarian law especially relating to the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure.

Women's International League for Peace and Freedom appeals to Israel to cease the military stranglehold on Gaza and to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza, to end the blockade and stop the siege of Lebanon and the destruction of civilian infrastructure. We appeal to all parties to accept a ceasefire, to release illegally held Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners and Israeli soldiers, and to begin negotiating a just and lasting peace that will bring safety to the civilian populations of Lebanon, Palestine and Israel.

We call for an international peace conference convened by the United Nations and that is based on the recognition of the sovereign state of Palestine within the pre-1967 borders established by the 1949 cease fire agreements with eventually mutually agreed adjustments.

We call on the Palestinian National Authority, the United States, the British, Israeli, Iranian and Syrian governments, the Arab League, and the European Union to search for peaceful solutions that protect the lives of all people in the Middle East Region and world-wide.

"House Overwhelmingly Backs Israel in Votes," by Anne Plummer Flaherty via AP / Yahoo News
Final Roll Call Results for H Res 921

Posted by cj at 10:26 PM | Comments (0)

July 16, 2006

Gaza Is Burning...Where Is Your Outrage?

Enough with the Israeli apologists. Their 39 year occupation of Palestine MUST END. The US MUST DENOUNCE ISRAEL'S AGGRESSIVE ASSAULT ON ITS NEIGHBORS!

As a Jewish American, it disgusts me that the president of my own country is yet again blaming the victims and siding with the horrific right-wing political "leaders" of Israel. Shame on the US. Shame on Israel.

And please, do not forget that Gaza is Burning. It's easier for newspapers to pretend to report on a war between internationally-recognized nations - even though their understanding of Hezbollah is woefully inaccurate - but it is a black eye on the media that they've stopped reporting the siege of Gaza.

Does a siege become less horrific just because it enters its third week? Because no one recognizes their right to exist independently?

Go to Rafah Today for pictures of the siege and commentary from Gaza.

Go to the WILPF Blog for the most recent WILPF US Action Alert.

Posted by cj at 5:55 PM | Comments (0)

July 3, 2006

The World Looks Away, Israel Continues to Attempt to Obliterate its Neighbor

It is vitally important to take media bias into account when trying to learn about the situation in Palestine / Israel. Whether you're listening to mainstream media (aka Israeli apologists) or Alternative Bulwarks (aka pro-Palestinian hardliners), you can't get away from bias in your coverage of Israel / Palestine, so you must learn to either add your own bias to the mix, or wade through the crap.

As a Jewish American woman who went through years of Hebrew School taught by Israeli women who constantly showed an undivided map of "Israel" as "our homeland," it has been a difficult, painful road to my current political beliefs. It is particularly difficult to try to explain my positions to sister Jews; so many of my people seem to have blinders on and refuse to accept that All People Are Human. Their blatant racism is appalling; but really nothing new in the Western world. After all this so-called "war on terror" is really about imposing Western "free" trade capitalism / Christianity on the world.

At the same time, I refuse to accept the racism of Palestinian solidarity activists. I do not believe all Israelis or all Jews want to see Palestine / Palestinians destroyed. I simply cannot believe that every member of my religious / ethnic identity has lost the path of justice articulated by our richest traditions. After all, Gush Shalom, the Israeli peace bloc proves that it is a lie to call all Israelis "supporters of genocide."

What we need is to step back from rhetorical brinkmanship and unite around our desire to keep militants on all sides in check: Israel's use of collective punishment is a war crime, as is the abduction / threats to kill a soldier.

Going back to my original media bias point. Here are some recent examples.

Today, PRI's The World interviewed two people on the ethical implications of Israel's destruction of civilian infrastructure, killing of civilians, and abduction of democratically-elected Palestinian politicians. While the interview attempted to actually ask questions (a novel concept for some), she chose to only question a former Israeli army officer and a Western "ethics" expert. Of course, the militant Israeli denounced all Palestinians and held them responsible for the "actions" of their "elected leadership." No one questioned whether it was valid to hold the PA responsible for the actions of militants who work outside the framework of the political process. And the "ethicist" actually said that since we're "fighting terrorists" that it is natural and ethical for us to throw out all rules of war, including the Geneva Conventions, because the West is fighting terrorists who refuse to acknowledge / abide by those rules.

Gee, with ethicists like this, who needs demagogues?

And why didn't we just throw out the rule of law when The State started to fight gangs in this country? After all, those gangs refuse to accept the rule of law, so why should we? Give me a freakin break!!! And please explain how two anti-Arab interviewees equals a well-balanced report?!?!

On the flip side, consider the Alternative Bulwark, Democracy Now!. Last Wednesday, a "debate" was hosted between a founder of Electronic Intifada, a former Israeli Foreign Minister, and a physician/community activist in Gaza. Instead of focusing her guests on the current crisis, Amy Goodman instead chose to allow Ali Abunimah (of Eletronic Intifada) to ramble on about Israel being an apartheid state and only asked Shlomo Ben-Ami (the former Israeli foreign minister) to respond to that assertion. This is typical of Goodman's "interview" style. Instead of asking questions, she says "talk to us about the situation." Talk to us? How lazy a "question" can you get?!?! Or my favorite rejoinder "Respond to what X just said." And this was followed up with the obvious description of the humanitarian crisis being faced by Mona El-Farra, the physician in Gaza.

If all Goodman wanted to do was Demonize Israeli Society and rally her listeners around the Palestinian solidarity movement, her "interview" style would be acceptable. But by pretending to be impartial, and by having thousands (millions?) of followers who hail her as the Best Thing to Happen to Media Since Sliced Bread, her partisan choices are extremely dangerous. After all, it's difficult enough for progressives to find the words that can be heard / understood by their stuck in the mud (aka "mainstream") neighbors. By not pursuing reasonable debate on her program, Goodman seems to be saying "agree with me; we're the righteous; let us mock anyone who dares to debate us."

This was the exact same tone she took last Thursday during a "debate" titled: "AIPAC v. Norman Finkelstein."

Regardless of the media bias, certain facts remain:
1. Palestinian militants whose activities are entirely separate from the democratically-elected Hamas-led Palestinian Authority, kidnapped an Israeli soldier and murdered two others last week.
2. Israel's response has been a disproportionate use of collective punishment that must be unequivocally condemned by the international community, including the United States.
3. Humanitarian aid was desperately needed before the current, ongoing incursion by Israel into Palestinian territory. It is imperative that food and medical supplies be immediately sent to the OPT. (Occupied Palestinian Territories)

Posted by cj at 2:45 PM | Comments (0)

July 1, 2006

WILPF Action Alert

On Thursday, June 29, WILPF US issued an action alert to force the USG to unequivocally condemn Israel's current use of collective punishment.

A hat tip to acting ED Tamara James and the WCUSP leadership team for their timeliness in releasing the action alert. (Technical note: editing errors have been fixed in the email version of the alert and will be uploaded to our website next week.)

In case you're wondering, Prez Bush's email address is [email protected]. Veep Cheney is [email protected], and SecState Rice will only accept your comments via her online form.

whitehouse.com used to be a parody site, back in the stone ages of 1999 when the importance of precisely typing in URLs was pointed out to my CompSci 110 class. Alas, nowadays it's just a boring real estate site.

Back to the major point: Israel recently joined the US in acting like a pariah state, disregarding all international law, destroying the power supply of its neighbors, and taking democratically-elected politicians hostage. Show your outrage by contacting your local media outlets, your government representatives, and your sister activists. Challenge US Policy on Israel / Palestine: JOIN WILPF!

Posted by cj at 5:40 PM | Comments (0)

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 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)

May 11, 2006

Observations from Israel

The "Women Challenge US Policy: Building Peace on Justice in the Middle East" (WCUSP) campaign received the following first-hand account of Israeli ethnic-cleansing from an Israeli peace activist. We urge you to join our challenge to US monetary, diplomatic, and military support of the illegal occupation of Palestine.


Tonight an Israeli television news report (channel 1) seems indicative of things to come, and the word should be spread. The report reveals that a Palestinian city with some 400 structures, narrow alleys, even a minaret has been built in the Negev for Israeli and American troop convenience--to practice house to house fighting in urban Palestinian and Iraqi communities. This does not bode well for either Iraq or Palestine, but my concern now is the latter.

This village-for-warriers-to-practice-killing-Palestinians, together with what I see happening in the OPTs (I'm there at least once a week--mainly in the Salfit governate, though I also go to some demonstrations against the wall in other areas) bring me to conclude that Israel is increasing its endeavors at ethnic cleansing. The changes that have been occurring the past several months (fences everywhere, more road blocks than ever, longer waits at checkpoints, tall lookout towers that can be used to snipe from springing up outside villages that have never been violent, continued land theft, etc etc etc suggest that attempts at ethnic cleansing are increasing in intensity, with the notion that making life as tough as possible for Palestinians will encourage them to leave, if not Palestine, at least their villages and run to urban areas that are safer (e.g., Bethlehem or Ramallah). There are not many of these 'safer' urban areas left. It appears (to me, at least) that Israel's ethnic cleansing is aiming driving as many Palestinians out as possible, in order to urbanize the OPTs for continued Jewish settlement to produce the 'greater Israel,' leaving Palestinians 4-5 cities with no hope for expansion or means of sustenance.

Immigration to Israel has almost entirely dried up (this past year population increase was due to birth not to immigration). The notion of a Jewish state demands a Jewish majority. With demography the main Zionist criterion, it appears that Israel's governments have realized that the only way to keep a Jewish majority here is by driving the Palestinians out. The simulated Arab city in the Negev is an ominous sign of what awaits the Palestinians. Heaven help them, and all of us, because it doesn't seem as if the world gives a damn more about what happens to Palestinians than it did about what happened to Jews, Gypsies, Communists, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc during WWII.

This Palestinian city in the Negev was undoubtedly paid for with American $s. If you have time and influence, use it to cut American military aid to Israel, and to encourage the Presbyterian Church and others to engage in divesting from (at the least) companies that help maintain the Occupation, and boycotting Israel.


Cross-posted from the WILPF blog. I am the WCUSP Campaign Representative on the national board of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF).

Posted by cj at 12:55 AM | Comments (0)

May 9, 2006

1001 Preachers and No Choir

Last Sunday, I went to the annual Walk for a Just Peace in Israel and Palestine. Just once, I'd like to see an even organized primarily by concerned Jews list Palestine before Israel.

Nitpicking aside, it was an intriguing event. Definitely a disappoint after the incredible display of organization and solidarity at the May Day immigrant marches held throughout the country. This march is always held to coincide with Jewish United Fund's Walk With Israel According to JUF, they mobilized 12,800 people through 8 Chicago-area marches, including 600 people at their Oak Park / River Forest march (the closest one to the event I attended). I'd say about 200 people showed up for the reality-based march.

According to Ali Abunimah, co-founder of Electronic Intifada, 17,000 Palestinians live in the Chicago-area. I'm unclear why more of an effort wasn't made to bring them to the event. Abunimah was definitely the most charismatic leader: he offered insight into the desperation situations faced everyday by Palestinians and encouraged us to hold our government responsible for its collusion with the Israeli government.

The "marquee" attractions: Phyllis Bennis and Danny Glover gave uninspired speeches at the end of the day that made me feel like they either had too many events on their schedules or like me were disappointed in the size of the crowd. I don't fault what they said; I simply think their message was to simplistic for their audience.

There comes a time when speeches have little impact on you. Perhaps that's the point when you should stop being an observer and become a speaker. I'm tired of the rhetoric; I'm tired of leaderless movements; and I'm tired of doing actions that lead nowhere.

On a personal note, it continues to be difficult for me to find pride in my Jewish heritage. I want to have an asterisk by my ethnic identity: yes, I'm glad I know where I came from on both sides of my family (Russia, aka the Ukraine, by way of pogroms that killed some of my ancestors); but I have no interest in patriotism. I have even less interest in religion-based nationality. The actions of the militaristic Israeli state and its thousands of supporters here in the US make me question why I maintain my Jewish identity. In the end, my religious conviction impels me to continue my work, so I will.

I watched Frontline / World's account of Hamas and Palestine tonight. I'd say more, but I'm falling asleep.

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

April 26, 2006

Action Alert: Work to Stop the "Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006"

The following is an action alert from Women Challenge US Policy: Building Peace on Justice in the Middle East (WCUSP), WILPF's campaign for an end to US support of the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

WILPF believes in the right of all peoples to self-determination. We support the peaceful existence of both Israel and Palestine and work to support our sister sections in those countries. We applaud our sisters in Palestine for participating in a democratic election process.

We acknowledge the difficulty some might have in accepting the Hamas victory in the elections; however, we believe it is necessary and right to continue diplomatic relations with the Palestinian Authority. The United States government should continue its humanitarian aid for the Palestinian people and should stop promoting diplomatic, financial, and humanitarian isolation of the Palestinian people. While we do not agree with the official Hamas party platform, we believe Hamas politicians are willing to work towards peace with their neighbors. Isolating the Palestinians because of their electoral decisions will hasten the collapse of their shaky economy and increase their desperation.

WCUSP URGES WILPF MEMBERS TO TAKE ACTION: Full and Open Debate Needed on Anti-Palestinian Legislation

April 24, 2006

TAKE ACTION: Call or fax Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-IL) and urge him to allow a full and open debate on HR4681, the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006.

Office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives
Phone: 202-225-0600
Fax: 202-226-1996

Dear Speaker Hastert,

As a member of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), I urge you to allow a full and open debate on HR4681, the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006.

I implore you in the strongest possible terms not to recognize any Representative to offer a motion to suspend the rules on this resolution. HR4681 would impose draconian economic and diplomatic sanctions against the Palestinian people for voting; therefore, full and open debate is needed.

Thank you for your help in this matter.

Your Name

*This is an addition to the action alert based on the fax I sent. I believe in brevity, so feel free to go call Speaker Hastert now and not read the rest of this post.

As Congress reconvenes this week from its spring recess, there is a good chance that supporters of HR4681, the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006, will try to rush this legislation to a vote "under suspension", a procedure that prevents amendments from being offered and limits debate.

According to House Practice: A Guide to the Rules, Precedents and Procedures of the House, "Under the modern practice, the motion to suspend the rules is used frequently to pass reported legislative measures that are perceived to have a broad degree of support and little need for prolonged debate." Congressional Research Services notes that suspending the rules "is a procedure that the House of Representatives often uses on the floor to act expeditiously on relatively noncontroversial legislation", such as naming a post office.

However, the so-called Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act is far more momentous than the naming of a post office. It is a bill that would impose draconian economic and diplomatic sanctions against the Palestinian people for voting, including:

* Restricting US humanitarian aid and potentially eliminating entire US aid projects, such as infrastructure and small business development;

* Threatening to withhold a portion of US dues to the United Nations because it maintains bodies that advocate for Palestinian human rights and seek to hold Israel accountable to international law;

* Defining territory controlled nominally by the Palestinian Authority as a "terrorist sanctuary", thereby requiring US businesses to obtain special export licenses for most goods destined for the Occupied Palestinian Territories and gutting the provisions of the US free trade agreement with the West Bank and Gaza;

* Refusing visas to members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, even those who belong to political parties that the United States does not classify as "foreign terrorist organizations";

* Restricting the movement of PLO diplomats at the United Nations and threatening to close the PLO's office in Washington, and;

* Instructing the US representative to the World Bank to use the considerable strength of the United States in international financial institutions to vote against the continuation of humanitarian aid projects.

Only the Speaker of the House can recognize a Representative to offer a motion to suspend the rules and dispense with a full debate and prevent amendments from being offered. Don't allow Speaker Hastert to authorize this bill going forward without a transparent and democratic debate! Contact the Speaker today at:

Office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives
Phone: 202-225-0600
Fax: 202-226-1996

* It has come to my attention that supporters of HR4681, the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act, will try to rush this legislation to a vote "under suspension". According to House practice and precedent, this procedure is used to pass non-controversial legislation that has a broad degree of support, such as naming a post office.

* HR4681, the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act, is controversial and does not have a broad degree of support. Many organizations in the country have joined to protest the resolution. Despite intense arm-twisting from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), more than 160 Representatives have refused to cosponsor this resolution. HR4681 is both controversial and divisive and therefore should not be allowed to come up "under suspension".

* HR4681, the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act, would impose draconian economic and diplomatic sanctions on the Palestinian people for voting. Surely such a potentially momentous shift in US foreign policy should be subject to transparent and democratic debate and Representatives should have the opportunity to offer amendments to this ill-conceived resolution.

Below is a copy of a letter to Speaker Hastert delivered today by the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. The US Campaign urges its member organizations to send similar letters by fax to Speaker Hastert.

April 24, 2006
Speaker of the House of Representatives
Representative Dennis Hastert
US Capitol, Room H-232
Washington, DC

Dear Mr. Speaker,

It has come to the attention of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation that supporters of HR4681, the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006, will try to rush this important resolution to a vote "under suspension" shortly after the House reconvenes this week from its spring recess.

We urge you in the strongest possible terms not to recognize any Representative to offer a motion to suspend the rules on this resolution of far-reaching consequence.

As you are well aware, suspending the rules is a procedure used to pass non-controversial bills that have broad support. According to House Practice: A Guide to the Rules, Precedents and Procedures of the House, "Under the modern practice, the motion to suspend the rules is used frequently to pass reported legislative measures that are perceived to have a broad degree of support and little need for prolonged debate." Congressional Research Services notes that suspending the rules "is a procedure that the House of Representatives often uses on the floor to act expeditiously on relatively noncontroversial legislation", such as naming a post office.

However, HR4681, the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006, is both controversial and lacks broad support, thereby disqualifying it from coming to the floor "under suspension". The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation has mobilized more than 300 US-based organizations in opposition to this resolution (please see the attached letter). Our supporters also have sent more than 10,000 letters to their Members of Congress against this resolution. Because of this unprecedented and diverse grassroots opposition to anti-Palestinian legislation, and despite intense arm-twisting from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), more than 160 Representatives have refused to cosponsor this resolution. In addition, two of the three committees assigned jurisdiction over the bill have not reported it out of committee, another indication that broad support for this bill does not exist.

HR4681, the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006, is a far-reaching and momentous resolution that would impose draconian economic and diplomatic sanctions against the Palestinian people for voting, including:

* Restricting US humanitarian aid and potentially eliminating entire US aid projects, such as infrastructure and small business development;

* Threatening to withhold a portion of US dues to the United Nations because it maintains bodies that advocate for Palestinian human rights and seek to hold Israel accountable to international law;

* Defining territory controlled nominally by the Palestinian Authority as a "terrorist sanctuary", thereby requiring US businesses to obtain special export licenses for most goods destined for the Occupied Palestinian Territories and gutting the provisions of the US free trade agreement with the West Bank and Gaza;

* Refusing visas to members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, even those who belong to political parties that the United States does not classify as "foreign terrorist organizations";

* Restricting the movement of PLO diplomats at the United Nations and threatening to close the PLO's office in Washington, and;

* Instructing the US representative to the World Bank to use the considerable strength of the United States in international financial institutions to vote against the continuation of humanitarian aid projects.

This is a substantive bill that has dramatic ramifications for the course of our country's foreign policy toward Israel/Palestine. It is the right of the people of the United States and the obligation of Congress to ensure that our elected representatives have a full, open, and transparent debate about this bill in particular and our country's foreign policy toward Israel/Palestine in general. Members of Congress must have the ability to debate this resolution and offer amendments to it. The fact that more than 160 Representatives have not cosponsored this bill indicates that many Members of Congress do not agree that the United States should impose draconian economic and diplomatic sanctions against the Palestinian people for practicing democracy, the spread of which ostensibly is one of our country's primary foreign policy objectives.

We hope that you strengthen the democratic processes of this country by allowing a full and open debate on HR4681, the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006, and not permitting this important resolution to be rushed to a vote "under suspension". That, more so than sanctioning the Palestinian people for voting, would be a much more effective display at home of the values that we seek to promote abroad.

Thank you for your time and consideration on this matter.

US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation

Posted by cj at 9:21 PM | Comments (0)

April 3, 2006

Reviewing the Corruption and Incompetence of the USG in Iraq

Background: What Republicans Told Us About Government, Business, and War

1. Private for-profit business is always more efficient than the government.

2. It is always more efficient - in time, money, and all resources - for the government to contract out. Because without private contractors, we would have a looming, gigantic, federal workforce demanding pesky things like healthcare, job security, and real pensions.

3. We, the United States, are democratic liberators and will be welcomed with open arms wherever we go.

4. People everywhere have the desires and cultural milieu of upper-middle class Washington suburbs (e.g. Falls Church, VA).

Update: What's Happening in Iraq

1. A no-bid, no-budget contract was awarded to a California construction company, Parsons, to build 142 primary health clinics in Iraq.

2. Post-war USG contracts are no different than other "development" contracts - emphasis is on awarding American companies, regardless of their expertise in the actual location of the work. Sub-contracting is expected; no ceiling is put on how many sub-contractors are allowed. (Every sub-contractor gets a piece of the overhead budget without having to do any work besides hiring someone else to do the work.) USG contracts are awarded with the understanding that everyone, everywhere in the world works like a model American city. No concern is given to language proficiency (isn't the whole world supposed to speak English?) or culture sensitivity (who cares if no women are involved? These backward people don't let their women out of the house...besides, we don't have to deal with women in the US, so why should we have to make any effort to involve them overseas?)

3. Not only does the USG refuse to actually put a hammer to a nail, it refuses to provide any serious oversight to make sure the money they give for-profit companies to hammer the nail is actually used on hammers and nails. Instead, 40-50% of a construction budget can be used for oversight of local workers.

4. Parsons has completed 6 clinics. They were given an extension - they were supposed to be done by December 2005. Now they have through April to attempt to finish 14 more - but they don't necessarily have to finish all 14. Everything will be left in a state of partial completion. If they miraculously finish 20 clinics, that would be 14% of the original contract completed. As it stands, they've completed 4%. But they are not being penalized at all for their poor performance; they can continue their other contracts in Iraq; and they get to keep all the profits they've made on "building" health clinics in Iraq.

5. Forget the security problems in Iraq. By hiring US companies instead of doing the work through the Army Corps of Engineer, the USG wastes billions lining the profits of executives and stock holders in multinational construction companies.

6. Now remember those security problems - the primary cause is this administration's refusal to learn anything from the reconstruction of Bosnia and Kosovo. Why? Because they refuse to take anything seriously that was done under a Democratic president. Apparently, that means that diplomatic relations and post-war reconstruction must be lead by the military. The military that is not trained in diplomacy, but trained in killing. The military which lacks diplomatic language and foreign language skills. The military, which is taught to shoot first - or curse - or dehumanize - to quell any problems with the locals.

7. Remember the genocide of Rwanda? It was preceded by Western development agencies praising the Rwandan government and saying that it was a star example of the goodness of Western aid. All the economic figures pointed up. No one noticed that one ethnic group was profiting from Western aid at the expense of another ethnic group. That doesn't show up in GDP tallies. Military school doesn't teach you that the head of a village might be very respected by his own ethnic group while he tortures and kills minorities. All of these lessons were taught to the world that was listening before one American soldier stepped foot onto Iraqi soil. Unfortunately, no one in this administration listened to those warnings. And that is why there is an ethnic civil war raging in Iraq.

8. Even during a civil war, you can rebuild infrastructure. It is the only way to get the population to stop buying guns and start working together. But if you contract out national services - like electricity production and sewage treatment - in the name of the holy one, free trade capitalism - you will reap what you sow. Public utilities are public for a reason. Add profit margins, create Enron. The energy crisis in Iraq is man-made. Made in America by American companies with American taxpayer money.

9. Until we seriously counter the Republican reasoning given to justify the pillaging of our taxpayer coffers and the ravaging of foreign lands, we will never change any of the outcomes of that reasoning. We must unite with clear ideas - vision that takes us beyond protest marches and back into the seats of power. This country desperately needs re-districting on a national scale. We need a citizens' movement for real change. We need accountability at every level of government and corporation. We need to work with people's movements around the world to take back our fundamental ownership of our communities.

Deep Background* - "U.S. Plan to Build Iraq Clinics Falters: Contractor Will Try to Finish 20 of 142 Sites," by Ellen Knickmeyer in today's WaPo

*aka article that started this post

Posted by cj at 9:34 PM | Comments (0)

March 25, 2006

The Israeli Lobby and US Middle East Policy

John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, and Stephen Walt of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University wrote a study of the Israeli Lobby. An edited version appeared in the March 23, 2006 volume of the London Review of Books. This research has sparked debate on all sides of the political spectrum.

I'm not sure what I believe on this subject - I agree that AIPAC is an extremely powerful lobbying entity in the US. I agree that discussions of the Israeli / Palestinian conflict in the US are often one-sided, rampant with stereotyping and fear-mongering. On the other hand, I agree that the US policy in the Middle East is part of its larger policy for world domination / imperialism. So, I guess I don't agree with Mearsheimer/Walt when they argue that US policy in the Middle East is dictated by Israel's needs and runs counter to what is best for the US. While it would be better for the US to completely overhaul its foreign policy, I cannot blame the USG's actions on one lobby and one foreign country. (On the other hand, I agree that the impact of AIPAC on the creation and execution of foreign policy should be studied more and that the entire issue of US collusion in Israel's occupation of Palestine needs to be addressed.)

More info:
"The Israeli Lobby," by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt in the London Review of Books
Unedited, 81 page pdf version available here

"A Silent, Crippling Fear," by Paul Woodward on The War in Context

"Blaming the Lobby," by Joseph Massad on Al-Ahram

Posted by cj at 5:44 PM | Comments (0)

March 24, 2006

Perspective from Dr. Rashad Zaydan, an Iraqi woman

The Public Square, at the Illinois Humanities Council and the Chicago Cultural Center hosted a luncheon today with Dr. Rashad Zaydan, "Women Say No To War." I went to the event as a representative of our "Women Challenge US Policy: Building Peace on Justice in the Middle East" (WCUSP) campaign.

Dr. Zaydan is a member of the Iraqi women's delegation that is touring the US, organized by Global Exchange and Code Pink.

At the beginning of the presentation, we viewed an 8 minute slide show that included images of the horrors created in Iraq by the US. Here are some things I learned from Dr. Zaydan:

Before the war, 75% of Iraqi women had college degrees. 31% of Iraqi women had graduate degrees (About 35% of European and US women have graduate degrees.)
Now, 10% of Iraqi women continue in their professions. Most women stay away from their work because of serious safety concerns. And most women and girls are kept from away from schools and universities due to safety concerns.

Before coming to the US, Dr. Rashad thought that freedom and democracy in the US meant that "everything is done by agreement of the people," meaning that the US people must support the invasion and occupation of Iraq since we live in a democracy. She now realizes that many US people hate our government's policy and have no control over foreign policy.

Dr. Rashad attended a conference with women from through the Arab world. They studied all of their countries' constitutions to look for the best model on women's rights. They determined that the Iraqi constitution during Saddam's regime was the best on women's rights. For example, under the old regime, women could choose to work and were paid the same as men. They also received two months paid leave during birth, six months paid maternity leave after their child was born, and could opt for an additional six months leave at half-pay, and a second year of unpaid leave. (Meaning women could leave their jobs for two years, with the confidence that the job would be available when they returned to work.) Under the new constitution, women can work if it does not affect their family and if their husband agrees to allow them to work.

Under the former regime, Iraqis had universal healthcare. They had access to chemotherapy. Under the occupation, they must pay for access to healthcare. And there is no chemotherapy available, despite the fact that the use of depleted uranium by the US has significantly increased the amount of cancer, particularly breast cancer in women, and cancer in children.

In some ways, I am overwhelmed by the difference between Dr. Rashad's account of life in Iraq and mainstream media coverage. I know I shouldn't be surprised by the differences, but it seems vital to bring the truth to light and challenge this administration.

On a related note, WCUSP leadership team members were involved in the Portland "End the War, Begin the Peace" march last Sunday where another member of the Iraqi women's delegation, Eman Ahmed Khamas, spoke. Portland's event was the largest in the US; organizers estimate at least 15,000 people rallied to end US and Israeli occupations and begin the peace.

cross-posted from WILPF blog.

Posted by cj at 6:19 PM | Comments (0)

February 14, 2006

On Hamas, Palestine, Israel, and the US

Why oh why, do we always deny people the ability to change??

Why does the US not wait and see and push for the ability of a democratically elected political party to change its spots?

Why has everyone pre-judged the Hamas political party?

Forget what the mainstream media tells you. Yes, suicide bombs are horrific and should never be condoned. But the Hamas party that won the Palestinian elections is not the same party as the one that people hear about from The Powers That Be.

By accepting the rules of the road, Hamas accepted the status quo - they won electoral power by emphasizing the need for growth of the Palestinian economy and an alternative to the cronyism and ageism of the Fatah Party. So, why is the USG and Israeli government trying to undermine Hamas' ability to unite Palestinians?

Probably because a united Palestine is not conducive to the US and Israeli terretorial and political interests. If neither country truly engages Hamas in dialogue - forgetting the stupid prerequisites and just talking - then the Palestinians will easily be able to blame Israel and the US for Hamas' problems. Why make an enemy out of the Palestinian Authority? Why is Hamas so different from Irish separatist organizations? Is it their skin color? Their religion? Their deep, profound desire for their own national state, with borders protected by their own guards, and free access to their neighbors for their working people?

Why is it okay for the USG and Israel to deny nationhood to the Palestinians? Why is there no outrage over the denial of access to healthcare, work, and normal daily life? Why does the apartheid wall continue being built? When, oh when, will my fellow Jews recognize that their neighbors are only their enemies when caught in cages and denied rights Jewish Israelis take for granted?????

I pray for peace. I pray for understanding. I pray for a chance in administrations in the US and Israel.

"Paper: US, Israel Mull Palestinian Change," by Associated Press in NYT

Posted by cj at 8:37 PM | Comments (0)

December 1, 2005

USG Continues Push To Shrink UN

The USG is pushing behind the scenes to dismantle and/or bankrupt all UN programs related to Palestinians. Apparently, a two-day stop over by SecState Rice is all it takes to alleviate the horrid humanitarian crisis caused by the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

The Palestinian Observer Mission to the UN, the League of Arab States, and the Organization of Islamic Conference have strongly protested the proposal, which was put forward by the USG and Israel.

More info: "Move to Shrink Palestinian Programmes Spurs Protest," by Thalif Deen in the Inter Press Service News Agency

Posted by cj at 8:31 AM | Comments (0)

November 30, 2005

Shrub Misses the Point (Again)

President Bush announced his "Plan for Victory in Iraq" at the US Naval Academy this morning. The White House simultaneously released a de-classified portion of the "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq."

Brilliant quote from the prez:

Bush characterized the U.S. enemy in Iraq as "a combination of rejectionists, Saddamists and terrorists." The terrorist group, he said, "is the smallest but the most lethal" of the three.

"Our strategy in Iraq is clear," Bush said. "Our tactics are flexible and dynamic. We have changed them as conditions required and they are bringing us victory against a brutal enemy."[...]

"Most Americans want two things in Iraq: They want to see our troops win and they want to see our troops come home as soon as possible," Bush said. "And those are my goals as well. I will settle for nothing less than complete victory."

Apparently, Shrub and his advisors are unable to read the newspaper. They cannot understand that the violence in Iraq is primarily caused by ethnic tensions and that their attempts to push forward pseudo-democracy through elections does not actually bring political cohesion to the country. Further, there is no emphasis on bringing women into the process - which is mandated by UN Security Council Resolution 1325. There is no recognition that "the enemy" and "our allies" are neighbors in Iraq and must work together to create a lasting peace. Further, US allies wreak as much havoc on Iraqi stability as US enemies.

Obviously, complete victory is a black and white term from a man who cannot think in shades of grey. It is empty, tired rhetoric that speaks in terms of the conquering empire frame. Creating a robust, peaceful democracy in Iraq is not something that can be done by the occupying imperial army. It must be created from within, with support from the international community.

More info from CNN:
"Bush: U.S. to stay in Iraq till war is won; President does not set timetable for withdrawal of troops"
"National Strategy for Victory in Iraq" (pdf)

Posted by cj at 11:58 AM | Comments (0)

November 29, 2005

Death Squads Acknowledged

I originally became aware of death squads in Iraq on June 15, 2005 when I blogged about a WaPo article re Kurdish retribution killings of Arabs and Turkmens.

It turns out that all ethnicities in Iraq have death squads, and the US military and Iraqi government are finally acknowledging them.

Al Mahdi militia, founded by anti-American cleric Muqtada Sadr, has infiltrated the Iraqi police force. Many are part of the "Punishment Committee" within the police and Sunni Arab Muslims are the victims of their ethnic violence agains.

The Badr militia, a Shiite militia with ties to Iran, is prevalent in the Maghawir (Fearless Warrior) special commando brigades of the Interior Ministry, torturing and murdering people with impunity because Interior Minister Bayan Jabr is tied to the militia.

Briefly mentioned in the LAT article on the subject, Sunni insurgents have also been attacking Shiites. There are secular Baathist supporters of Hussein, along with Ansar al Sunna and Al Qaeda. Sunnis are a minority of the Iraqi population and received preferential treatment during Hussein's rule, which is part of the reason for the ethnic violence imposed on them by the Shiites. The fact that most Al Qaeda members are Sunni must be part of the reason the USG aligned itself with Shiite goons.

I do not think one ethnic group can be blamed for the current violence in Iraq. Clearly, Shiite militias have the backing of the Iraqi government which makes them more powerful and more deadly right now. But without international support for true peace-building and reconciliation in Iraq, there is no way to stop this sectarian violence. I pray that instead of American hubris and occupation, the USG recognizes the need for a UN peacekeeping mission that works on all levels, including diplomatic and grassroots to quell the ethnic conflict that is causing this violence. Of course, my prayers are pipe dreams in the current political climate. Nevertheless, I must dream.

More info:
"Killings Linked to Shiite Squads in Iraqi Police Force: With loyalties to banned paramilitary groups, the fighters have kidnapped, tortured and slain Sunnis, officials and witnesses say." by Solomon Moore in the LAT

"Abuse of prisoners in Iraq widespread, officials say," by Leila Fadel, Knight Ridder Newspapers

"Sunni Politicians Killed; 4 Abductions Confirmed," by Jonathan Finer and Naseer Nouri in WaPo

Posted by cj at 7:52 AM | Comments (0)

November 19, 2005

Middle East News Round Up From a Sister WILPFer

Katharina Harlow is an amazing activist whom I have unfortunately only met via email and conference call. She occasionally sends out compendiums of Middle East News and our WCUSP leadership team would like to make this available to a wider audience. I re-ordered the clippings, to emphasize US involvement.

WCUSP = Women Challenge US Policy: Building Peace on Justice in the Middle East, a national campaign of the US Section of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.
Salaam-Shalom to you from Katharina

How did the Presbyterians move from passing resolutions to proposing action against corporations that support the Israeli occupation? This move did not start, as some critics would claim, with Naim Ateek, an Anglican priest in Jerusalem who directs Sabeel, the Jerusalem-based ecumenical peace center. Aggressive supporters of Israel have been attacking Ateek and Sabeel. The focus on Ateek is ironic, since he advocates a nonviolent approach to ending the occupation.

Rice Trip Raises Concern Over U.S. Pressure on Israel
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's unusual personal involvement this week in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations over a border crossing in Gaza has some Jewish organizations voicing concern about American pressure on (OCCUPIED) Jerusalem.

N.Y. Jewish leaders lobby Rice on Gaza Strip border deal
In particular, the sources said, they urged her to take a tough line against Israel, especially on issues such as a settlement freeze and dismantling illegal settlement outposts.

Dare We Hope?
For that, the United Nations called an urgent Security Council meeting which ordering Syria to cooperate with Mehlis, or risk economic sanctions, among other possible penalties. It seems the UN can only find effective means to enforce its resolutions when the offending party isn't Israel, toward whom the UN either turns a blind eye or claims powerlessness.

All he is saying is - give peace a chance
Coincidentally, that same morning, the special emissary of the Quartet had been the chief intermediary in an agreement that, for the first time, grants Palestinians a certain authority that bears a similarity to independence. Six months after complying with President George W. Bush's request to rescue the Gaza Strip from the siege imposed on it by his friend Ariel Sharon, the Australian Jew with the gray shock of hair was raising a glass and toasting "Lechaim."

Clinton: Iraq war "big mistake"
"The mistake that they made is that when they kicked out Saddam, they decided to dismantle the whole authority structure of Iraq. ... We never sent enough troops and didn't have enough troops to control or seal the borders," Clinton said. As the borders were unsealed, "the terrorists came in," he said.

Walls of Jerusalem's Old City in danger of collapse
Large sections of the 16th century walls surrounding Jerusalem's Old City are in danger of collapse unless they undergo immediate restoration. According to an engineering survey conducted by the Israeli Antiquities Authority, 380 metres (yards), or one-tenth, of the walls' extension are in immediate danger of collapse, Israeli newspaper Maariv reported on Friday.

VIDEO: Protests in Bil'in
The apparently un-Semitic features of some of the Israeli soldiers prompted us to question their origin, in which some willingly answered: Poland, Russia, and Bulgaria. A Palestinian standing behind us immediately asked: "So why are you here with guns forcing me out of my land?". One of the Israeli soldiers then stepped towards the questioning Palestinian in an attacking motion threatening hurt him for questioning the soldiers, reminding the Palestinian of his formidable power.

NCLD: "Israel is isolating Jerusalem"
The National Office for Land Defense based in the West Bank city of Nablus, warned that Israel is attempting to isolate Jerusalem from its surrounding Palestinian areas by announcing the EJ 1 settlement project which extends on 21.000 Dunham's of Palestinian lands between Maale Adumim settlement and Jerusalem.

Construction in West Bank continues despite road map

Tenders have been issued for 315 housing units in the territories since the beginning of the year. The most recent tenders were issued 24 hours after Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said "the settlement blocs will continue to be Israel's eastern border in the future."

IOF Wounds a Citizen East of Gaza, a Child in Ramallah

Local sources revealed that Israeli soldiers backed by tanks and armoured vehicles swept into Silwad town and opened fire at a child, seriously wounding him. They added that Israeli soldiers kidnapped the boy and took him into an unknown place.

IDF troops shoot Palestinian teen playing with toy gun

Israel Defense Forces troops in the West Bank on Friday shot and wounded a Palestinian teenager playing with a toy gun, whom they had mistaken for an armed militant, Israel Radio reported Friday.

Palestinians Reforming Foreign Service
The Palestinians are cleaning out their embassies around the world, removing entrenched ambassadors and establishing a code of conduct in reforms aimed at transforming their calcified foreign service into a professional diplomatic corps, officials said.

Let them breathe
The economy will rely on agricultural exports. Those and other products will leave not via Rafah but by the Kerem Shalom goods terminal to Egypt, which will stay under Israeli control with PA officers present; and via the Karni crossing, the gateway via Israel for goods both to the West Bank, virtually a separate part of the Palestinian economy since the second intifada began in 2000, and to the rest of the world, since Gaza does not yet have a working seaport or airport.

Court orders Ramle to renew bus service for Arab children
The Ramle municipality was yesterday ordered to continue to provide a bus service to 50 school children from an Arab neighborhood adjacent to the city. The order was given as an interim injunction by the Tel Aviv District Court, pending the continued debate on the petition filed by the Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) against the suspension of the bus service.

Ulster police chief to lead EU mission in Palestine
A senior officer with the Police Service of Northern Ireland has been chosen to head up a new European Union police mission in the Palestinian territories. Mr McIvor has spent the last 20 months working on the development of civil policing in the Gaza and West Bank areas.

PNA condemns killing of two militants in W. Bank
The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) condemned on Thursday the killing of two members of al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, the armed wing of the ruling Fatah movement led by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, near the West Bank city of Jenin.

Palestinians postpone first-ever Fatah party primaries
The Palestinians' ruling Fatah party postponed its first ever primaries, which had been scheduled to start Friday, saying it was unprepared to run the poll and citing internal dissent and extortion attempts by violent activists.

Arab MK: Syrian FM told me he's pleased with Peretz's election
MK Talab al-Sana (United Arab List) told Israel Radio on Friday that Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk Shara believes the election of Amir Peretz as Labor's chairman brings hope to Damascus he would be a partner to peace negotiations.

Shalom: If PA decides to fight terror, Israel will reciprocate
If the Palestinian Authority makes the strategic decision to fight terror then Israel will respond with a return to negotiations and the road map, Army Radio quoted Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom as saying Wednesday. ( Terror = Acting Against Illegal Occupation! )

Sharon to decide this weekend on quitting the Likud
Sharon's need to decide quickly stems from the fact that new elections are only a few months away: At a meeting between Sharon and Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz yesterday, the two decided that the vote would take place sometime between the end of February and the end of March.

Independent Sharon party would trounce Likud
Amid mounting speculation that the premier is about to jump ship, the survey for the Yediot Aharonot newspaper showed that a centrist party led by him would win 28 of the 120 seats in the Knesset (parliament) against 18 for Likud. The survey also showed that the centre-left Labour party would win 28 seats if an election were held today.

Sharon camp: Netanyahu bid is of little concern
Associates of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who is expected to decide this weekend whether he will stay in the Likud or form a new party, say that a primaries challenge from MK Benjamin Netanyahu is not a major factor in his decision.

Israel detains whistleblower Vanunu at checkpoint
Israeli police detained nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu on Friday as he tried to pass through a West Bank checkpoint in an apparent violation of restrictions imposed after his release from prison in 2004.

India can push forward peace process: Palestine
"We are confident the Indian government will continue to take keen interest in solving the region's problems," he said. India's pledge of $15 million to the Authority would also go a long way in revitalising Palestinian economy, the ministry said in a statement.

Palestinian UN refugee agency appeals for cash
"We have a $13-million deficit and we have no new pledges except from Italy which promised one million dollars," Karen Koning Abu Zayd told a news conference in Shuneh, on the Jordanian shores of the Dead Sea.

Vatican sets conditions over Israel papal visit
Diplomatic sources said however that the Vatican had set firm pre-conditions for such a visit. The Vatican wants decade-long negotiations over the legal and financial status of the Roman Catholic Church in Israel to be concluded before Benedict sets foot in Israel, the sources said.

Bill offers funds to settlers who move inside fence
It's the second such bill to be proposed, as Labor Party chairman Amir Peretz has also filed a similar bill. Peretz's bill differs from theirs in that it looks at the settlement as a whole, offering compensation only if 60 percent of the community agrees to leave.

For justice, please hold
I innocently believed that the Or Commission's mandate included truth and consequences for the death of Asil Asleh, a beloved friend to me and his Arab and Jewish comrades in the Seeds of Peace coexistence program. Asil was killed by police at a demonstration in his village of Arabeh - one of 13 Palestinian citizens of Israel killed during the terrible days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur 2000.

Israeli-Arab to join Betar to dispel racism reputation
The reports noted that Betar has the reputation of being a racist, anti-Arab club, and Gaidamak, who wishes to build Betar as an international brand, decided the time was ripe for a dramatic move.

At least 82 killed in bombings in Baghdad, northeastern Iraq
The suicide attackers targeted the Sheik Murad mosque and the Khaniqin Grand Mosque - both homes to Shi'ite Muslims - in Khanaqin, 140 kilometers northeast of Baghdad, as dozens of people were attending Friday prayers, police said. The police command said 74 people were killed and 75 injured in the largely Kurdish town.

Posted by cj at 7:41 AM | Comments (0)

November 15, 2005

Forward Movement on Recognition of Palestinian Sovereignty

After marathon talks, some agreements were reached by representatives of the Palestinian Authority and Israeli government. I'm always intrigued that more is accomplished by talks that last all night than in the normal routine of stopping to sleep.

Six things were agreed to - Palestinian control of a crossing between Rafah and Egypt, construction of a Palestinian seaport in Gaza, negotiating to begin construction of a Palestinian airport, regular bus caravans between the West Bank and Gaza, expansion of crossing of people and cargo between Gaza, West Bank, and Israel, and obstacles to movement within the West Bank will be removed.

Its not the greatest thing in the world. Palestinian statehood should be immediately recognized; the Israel army should stop carrying out military operations within Palestine; Israel settlers should cease construction in East Jerusalem and the West Bank and should get out of those Palestinian lands immediately; and the entire world should recognize Palestinian politicians as important to the peace process as anyone from Israel.

More info:
"Rice declares deal reached between P.A and Israel on the Rafah Terminal," by Saed Bannoura-IMEMC & Agencies

"Israel is pushing the Palestinians into Civil War, Abbas says," by Saed Bannoura-IMEMC & Agencies

"Joint Press Availability With European Union High Representative Javier Solana and Quartet Special Envoy Jim Wolfensohn," US State Department

Posted by cj at 6:57 PM | Comments (0)

October 27, 2005

More Information on The Situation in the Middle East

Rafah Pundits has pictures of both the suicide bombing and the Israeli missile strikes. The site is under new management and doesn't have all of its archives back yet. Insightful quotes from their site:

The Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, have strongly condemned the attack and said "such acts of violence provoke further Israeli retaliations". His condemnation was denounced by the Islamic Jihad spokesperson in Gaza, Mr. Khalid Al-Batsh, who said "How is it fair that Israel has the legitimacy to assassinate, invade, detain and bomb Palestinian cities, while we don’t even have the right to react to these violations?"
Juan Cole wrote a brilliant post on the similarities between Iraq and Palestine / Israel.

More gruesome photos of Israelis and mainstream news account from the NYT: "Palestinian Suicide Bomber Kills 5 in an Israeli Town," by Greg Myre and Dina Kraft
The NYT also reports on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disgusting speech: "Iran's New President Says Israel 'Must Be Wiped Off the Map,'" by Nazila Fathi with contributions from Greg Myre

Extensive quotes from the extremely disturbing speech by Ahmadinejad are available at Iran Focus.

The vitriolic statements and violence in the Middle East remind me of all the ethnic conflicts I studied in college. My senior year research was on what makes ethnic conflict become ethnic violence. I am convinced that charismatic leaders create the climate necessary to kill one's neighbors. I believe Ahmadinejad is the wrong leader for Iranians and I believe Ariel Sharon's apartheid wall, annexation of Palestinian Jerusalem, and encouragement of colonizers in the West Bank is the wrong leadership for Israel.

I pray that we in the U.S. will kick the bums out of power in DC and replace them with leaders who recognize the need for diplomacy and engagement in the Middle East, rather than knee-jerk support of all Israeli actions.

Posted by cj at 7:44 AM | Comments (0)

October 26, 2005

Violence in Israel and Palestine After Disturbing Statement

I am not sure about the sequence of events, since this Reuters article is not written in chronological order.

Here's what I think has happened:

Personally, I find both the suicide bombing and the Israeli missile response abhorrent. As a Woman Challenging U.S. Policy on Israel / Palestine, I believe the U.S. should allow the PA to determine how to diffuse the power and violence associated with paramilitary political groups.

More info: "Israeli warplanes pound Gaza after suicide attack," by Nidal al-Mughrabi with reporting from Wafa Amr and Corinne Heller, from Reuters on Yahoo News

Much more information available at IMEMC, International Middle East Media Center.

cross-posted from the US WILPF blog.

Posted by cj at 11:08 PM | Comments (0)

September 29, 2005

Palestine - Israel Summit Postponed

It is really interesting to hear an explanation for the postponement of this summit from chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Eraket.

Eraket told reporters: "The meeting will not take place on October 2, but only once the preparations for this summit have been completed."

"We don't want to meet just for the sake of meeting. We want a well-prepared meeting with an extensive agenda focusing on all the current issues," Erakat added.

From "Israeli-Palestinian summit postponed; Abbas to hold talks in US," by AFX News Limited on Forbes.com

Erakat also mentioned hoping that the U.S. or another member of the Quartet "could play a role ... to begin the de-escalation of this process." I assume he's referring to Israel bombing Palestine and selectively murdering Palestinians and moving settlers into East Jerusalem and other Palestinian territory. And yes, Hamas setting off explosives at a rally which they say was accidental...

Posted by cj at 7:17 PM | Comments (0)