Thursday, August 6, 2009

So this is what the controversy was about?

Now you can go to YouTube and hear for yourself the intro to Rachel’s movie by San Francisco Jewish Film Festival’s Peter Stein, the speech by S.F. Voice for Israel’s Michael Harris, and the Q&A with Cindy Corrie after the film. The video quality is not always good, but you get to hear it all (except for watching the movie itself!)

Michael Harris spoke before the movie. He spent quite some time giving a long list of people that were innocent victims of violence. He added: “Just as Rachel Corrie should be alive today, so should all these men and women.” Of course, we agree. But conspicuously absent from Harris’ long list were the Palestinians. Apparently not a single one of them is worth a mention, let alone compassion. This did not sit well with most of the audience.

As Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb described it: “The fact that the vast majority of people in the crowd at the Castro Theatre would not let the Voice of Israel representative speak his mind without interruption reflects growing frustration with the use of pubic slander, character assassination, cancellation of speakers, firing of faculty and demand for resignations by the so-called defenders of Israel. Since when are people with views that differ from AIPAC, for instance, invited into mainstream circles to speak for five minutes before a pro-Israel speech or film? The representative of Voice of Israel was not there to dialogue. Only to chastise. The crowd refused to be chastised. When the impassioned proponent of Israel mentioned JVP and AFSC in order to condemn them as virulent anti-Semites, the crowd burst into cheers and applause to honor them instead.”

Cindy Corrie spoke after the film. Those who expected to find hatred in what she had to say were sadly disappointed. Cindy addressed not only the loss of her daughter, but about the grief of Palestinian parents in Gaza and Israeli parents whose children were the victims of suicide bombs. She and her husband met with both. This is what she observed: “We encountered many people, both Israelis and Palestinians and others who have had very personal losses, and the losses are all the same.”

When asked about the controversy surrounding her presence at the festival, she answered: ‘‘this has a lot less to do with me and with Rachel that it is with the discussion that is happening within the Jewish community.” Later she added, “I hope for the sake of all people in Israel and Palestine and for us here in the US that we can have the dialogue that needs to happen, but more than dialog, the action that needs to happen to bring an end to the trauma…”

It is an open question whether those who were opposed to the film are interested in dialog.

If you want to see the full thing in YouTube, here it is:
SFJFF ‘09: Rachel - Introduction (1 of 3)
SFJFF ‘09: Rachel - Introduction (2 of 3)
SFJFF ‘09: Rachel - Introduction (3 of 3)
SFJFF ‘09: Rachel - Cindy Q&A (1 of 5)
SFJFF ‘09: Rachel - Cindy Q&A (2 of 5)
SFJFF ‘09: Rachel - Cindy Q&A (3 of 5)
SFJFF ‘09: Rachel - Cindy Q&A (4 of 5)
SFJFF ‘09: Rachel - Cindy Q&A (5 of 5)

Source: Muzzle Watch

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Call Your Congressional Representatives and Senators This Week!

Despite President Barack Obama's very clear position against Israel's blockade on Gaza and continued settlement expansion, Israel continues to forbid humanitarian assistance from entering Gaza and expand its West Bank settlements. We are asking Congress, why is Israel being rewarded with almost 3 billion dollars in aid when it ignores American policies and continues to use our money to build settlements and maintain the blockade of Gaza? Shouldn't our aid come with strings attached?

That's where you can help. We are trying to get as many phone calls as possible before the end of the month - calls to your U.S. Senators and Representatives to keep this issue fresh in their minds. Click here to find your representatives' contact information and give them a call! It's fast, easy, and will make a difference.

Source: Jewish Voice For Peace
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Alan Charles Kors on John Stuart Mill and Individual Liberty

FIRE Co-Founder and Chairman Emeritus Alan Charles Kors was featured in a short video for George Mason University's Law & Economics Center. Alan discusses speech codes on campus, John Stuart Mill's philosophy on individual liberty, and why we should be willing to tolerate error. On the last topic, he says:

It's truth itself that benefits the most from a confrontation with error. ... It knows that it can confront and overcome other people's ideas and it's held as a living belief, not merely as rote.

This insight of Mill's, ably related by Alan, is key to understanding why the philosophy of the marketplace of ideas for which FIRE forcefully advocates is so key to the intellectual life of our campuses. The fundamental (and, I contend, erroneous) assumption behind campus speech codes and ideological indoctrination is that students are better off not even hearing ideas that the powers that be believe are erroneous.

This may have some merit when it comes to elementary school children, but is counterproductive and depressing when it is applied to adults on a college campus. For instance, take a policy that bans "racism." In a free marketplace of ideas, racist ideas would compete with the ideas of equality and whichever holds more truth is likely to win out. Does anyone seriously believe that, in such an environment, the majority of college students on any campus in the United States will be convinced that yes, white people are superior to black people? If not, why not let racist ideas compete and lose? Not only would this have the benefit of letting everyone know who the racists are (that's important to know, if you're someone who might be their victim), but it would also likely convince many of them that they are wrong when their arguments are found wanting. If such a process cannot take place on a college campus, where all students are selected for a commitment to the pursuit of knowledge, where can it take place?

John Stuart Mill, Alan Charles Kors, and FIRE are all convinced that the truth, if fairly and rationally considered, has a not-at-all-coincidental tendency to triumph over error. If a free society cannot trust its scholars to pursue the truth wherever it may lead, then that society is in grave trouble indeed.

Source: FIRE

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Keeping Track of the Empire’s crimes

If you catch the CIA with its hand in the cookie jar and the Agency admits the obvious — what your eyes can plainly see — that its hand is indeed in the cookie jar, it means one of two things: a) the CIA’s hand is in several other cookie jars at the same time which you don’t know about and they hope that by confessing to the one instance they can keep the others covered up; or b) its hand is not really in the cookie jar — it’s an illusion to throw you off the right scent — but they want you to believe it.

There have been numerous news stories in recent months about secret CIA programs, hidden from Congress, inspired by former vice-president Dick Cheney, in operation since the September 11 terrorist attacks, involving assassination of al Qaeda operatives or other non-believers-in-the-Empire abroad without the knowledge of their governments. The Agency admits to some sort of program having existed, but insists that it was canceled; and if it was an assassination program it was canceled before anyone was actually assassinated. Another report has the US military, not the CIA, putting the plan — or was it a different plan? — into operation, carrying out several assassinations including one in Kenya that proved to be a severe embarrassment and helped lead to the quashing of the program.1

All of this can be confusing to those following the news. And rather irrelevant. We already know that the United States has been assassinating non-believers, or suspected non-believers, with regularity, and impunity, in recent years, using unmanned planes (drones) firing missiles, in Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Somalia, if not elsewhere. (Even more victims have been produced from amongst those who happened to be in the same house, car, wedding party, or funeral as the non-believer.) These murders apparently don’t qualify as “assassinations”, for somehow killing “terrorists” from 2000 feet is morally and legally superior to doing so from two feet away.

But whatever the real story is behind the current rash of speculation, we should not fall into the media’s practice of at times intimating that multiple or routine CIA assassination attempts would be something shocking or at least very unusual.

I’ve compiled a list of CIA assassination attempts, successful and unsuccessful, against prominent foreign political figures, from 1949 through 2003, which, depending on how you count it, can run into the hundreds (targeting Fidel Castro alone totals 634 according to Cuban intelligence);2) the list can be updated by adding the allegedly al Qaeda leaders among the drone attack victims of recent years. Assassination and torture are the two things governments are most loath to admit to and try their best to cover up. It’s thus rare to find a government document or recorded statement mentioning a particular plan to assassinate someone. There is, however, an abundance of compelling circumstantial evidence to work with. The list can be found here.

For those of you who collect lists about splendid US foreign policy post-World War II, here are a few more that, lacking anything better to do, I’ve put together: Attempts to overthrow more than 50 foreign governments, most of which had been democratically-elected.

After his June 4 Cairo speech, President Obama was much praised for mentioning the 1953 CIA overthrow of Iranian prime minister Mohammed Mossadegh. But in his talk in Ghana on July 11 he failed to mention the CIA coup that ousted Ghanian president Kwame Nkrumah in 1966,3 referring to him only as a “giant” among African leaders. The Mossadegh coup is one of the most well-known CIA covert actions. Obama could not easily get away without mentioning it in a talk in the Middle East looking to mend fences. But the Nkrumah ouster is one of the least known; indeed, not a single print or broadcast news report in the American mainstream media saw fit to mention it at the time of the president’s talk. Like it never happened.

And the next time you hear that Africa can’t produce good leaders, people who are committed to the welfare of the masses of their people, think of Nkrumah and his fate. And think of Patrice Lumumba, overthrown in the Congo 1960-61 with the help of the United States; Agostinho Neto of Angola, against whom Washington waged war in the 1970s, making it impossible for him to institute progressive changes; Samora Machel of Mozambique against whom the CIA supported a counter-revolution in the 1970s-80s period; and Nelson Mandela of South Africa (now married to Machel’s widow), who spent 28 years in prison thanks to the CIA.4

The Myths of Afghanistan, past and present

On the Fourth of July, Senator Patrick Leahy declared he was optimistic that, unlike the Soviet forces that were driven from Afghanistan 20 years ago, US forces could succeed there. The Democrat from Vermont stated:

The Russians were sent running as they should have been. We helped send them running. But they were there to conquer the country. We’ve made it very clear, and everybody I talk to within Afghanistan feels the same way: they know we’re there to help and we’re going to leave. We’ve made it very clear we are going to leave. And it’s going to be turned back to them. The ones that made the mistakes in the past are those that tried to conquer them.7

Leahy is a long-time liberal on foreign-policy issues, a champion of withholding US counter-narcotics assistance to foreign military units guilty of serious human-rights violations, and an outspoken critic of robbing terrorist suspects of their human and legal rights. Yet he is willing to send countless young Americans to a living hell, or horrible death, or maimed survival.

And for what? Every point he made in his statement is simply wrong.

The Russians were not in Afghanistan to conquer it. The Soviet Union had existed next door to the country for more than 60 years without any kind of invasion. It was only when the United States intervened in Afghanistan to replace a government friendly to Moscow with one militantly anti-communist that the Russians invaded to do battle with the US-supported Islamic jihadists; precisely what the United States would have done to prevent a communist government in Canada or Mexico.

It’s also rather difficult for the United States to claim that it’s in Afghanistan to help the people there when it’s killed tens of thousands of simply for resisting the American invasion and occupation or for being in the wrong place at the wrong time; not a single one of the victims has been identified as having had any kind of connection to the terrorist attack in the US of September 11, 2001, the event usually cited by Washington as justification for the military intervention. Moreover, Afghanistan is now permeated with depleted uranium, cluster bombs-cum-landmines, white phosphorous, a witch’s brew of other charming chemicals, and a population, after 30 years of almost non-stop warfare, of physically and mentally mutilated human beings, exceedingly susceptible to the promise of paradise, or at least relief, sold by the Taliban.

As to the US leaving … utterly meaningless propaganda until it happens. Ask the people of South Korea — 56 years of American occupation and still counting; ask the people of Japan — 64 years. And Iraq? Would you want to wager your life’s savings on which decade it will be that the last American soldier and military contractor leaves?

It’s not even precise to say that the Russians were sent running. That was essentially Russian president Mikhail Gorbachev’s decision, and it was more of a political decision than a military one. Gorbachev’s fondest ambition was to turn the Soviet Union into a West-European style social democracy, and he fervently wished for the approval of those European leaders, virtually all of whom were cold-war anti-communists and opposed the Soviet intervention into Afghanistan.

There has been as much of the same “causes” for wars that did not happen as for wars that did.

Henry Allingham died in Britain on July 18 at age 113, believed to have been the world’s oldest man. A veteran of World War I, he spent his final years reminding the British people about their service members killed during the war, which came to about a million: “I want everyone to know,” he said during an interview in November. “They died for us.”8

The whole million? Each one died for Britain? In the most useless imperialist war of the 20th century? No, let me correct that — the most useless imperialist war of any century. The British Empire, the French Empire, the Russian Empire, and the wannabe American Empire joined in battle against the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire as youthful bodies and spirits sank endlessly into the wretched mud of Belgium and Germany, the pools of blood of Russia and France. The wondrous nobility of it all is enough to make you swallow hard, fight back the tears, light a few candles, and throw up. Imagine, by the middle of this century Vietnam veterans in their 90s and 100s will be speaking of how each of their 58,000 war buddies died for America. By 2075 we’ll be hearing the same stirring message from ancient vets of Iraq and Afghanistan. How many will remember that there was a large protest movement against their glorious, holy crusades, particularly Vietnam and Iraq?

Supreme nonsense

Senate hearings to question a nominee for the Supreme Court are a supreme bore. The sine qua non for President Obama choosing Sonia Sotomayor appears to be that she’s a woman with a Hispanic background. A LATINA! How often that word was used by her supporters. She would be the first LATINA on the Supreme Court! Dios mio!

Who gives a damn? All anyone should care about are her social and political opinions. Justice Clarence Thomas is a black man. A BLACK MAN! And he’s as conservative as they come.

Supreme Court nominees, of all political stripes, typically feel obliged to pretend that their social and political leanings don’t enter into their judicial opinions. But everyone knows this is rubbish. During her Senate hearing, Sotomayor declared: “It’s not the heart that compels conclusions in cases. It’s the law.”

The former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Charles Evan Hughes, would not agree with her. “At the constitutional level where we work,” he said, “ninety percent of any decision is emotional. The rational part of us supplies the reasons for supporting our predilections.”9

By Sotomayor’s own account, which echos news reports, she was not asked about her position on abortion by either President Obama or his staff. But what if she is actually anti-abortion? What if she turns out to be the swing vote that overturns Roe vs. Wade?

What if she’s a proud admirer of the American Empire and its perpetual wars? American dissidents, civilian and military, may depend on her vote for their freedom from imprisonment.

What does she think about the “war on terror”? The civil liberties and freedom from torture of various Americans and foreigners may depend on her attitude. In his 2007 trial, Jose Padilla, an American citizen, was found guilty of aiding terrorists. “The jury did seem to be an oddly cohesive group,” the Washington Post reported. “On the last day of trial before the Fourth of July holiday, jurors arranged to dress in outfits so that each row in the jury box was its own patriotic color — red, white or blue.”10 No one dared to question this blatant display of patriotism in the courtroom; neither the defense attorney, nor the prosecutor, nor the judge. How can we continue to pretend that people’s legal positions exist independently of their political sentiments?

In the 2000 Supreme Court decision stopping the presidential electoral count in Florida, giving the election to George W. Bush, did the politics of the five most conservative justices play a role in the 5 to 4 decision? Of course. Judges are essentially politicians in black robes. But should we care? Don’t ask, don’t tell. Sonia Sotomayor is a LATINA!

Given the large Democratic majority in the Senate, Sotomayor was in very little danger of being rejected. She could have openly and proudly expressed her social and political positions — whatever they may be — and the Democratic senators could have done the same. How refreshing, maybe even educational if a discussion ensued. Instead it was just another political appointment by a president determined to not offend anyone if he can help it, and another tiresome ritual hearing. The Republican senators were much less shy about revealing how they actually felt about important issues.

It didn’t have to be that way. As Rabbi Michael Lerner of pointed out during the hearings: “Democratic Senators could use their time to ask questions and make statements that explain why a liberal or progressive worldview is precisely what is needed on the Supreme Court.”

NATO and Eastern Europe resource

No one chronicles the rise of the supra-government called NATO like Rick Rozoff in his “Stop NATO” mailings. NATO has become an ever-expanding behemoth, making war and interfering in political controversies all over Europe and beyond. The United States is not the world’s only superpower; NATO is another, as it surrounds Russia and the Caspian Sea oil reserves; although the distinction between the two superpowers is little more than a facade. This year marks the tenth anniversary of the NATO/US 78-day bombing of Yugoslavia. On April 23, 1999 missiles slammed into Radio Television Serbia (RTS) in downtown Belgrade, killing 16 employees. The station, NATO claimed, was a legitimate military target because it broadcast propaganda. (Certainly a novel form of censorship; not to mention the fact that NATO could simply have taken out the station’s transmitter.) What apparently bothered the Western powers was that RTS was reporting the horrendous effects of NATO’s bombing as well as passing footage of the destruction to Western media.

To mark the anniversary, Amnesty International recently issued a demand that NATO be held accountable for the 16 deaths. Amnesty asserts that the bombing was a deliberate attack on a civilian object (one of many during the 78 days) and as such constitutes a war crime, and called upon NATO to launch a war crimes probe into the attack to ensure full accountability and redress for victims and their families.

Readers might consider signing up for the “Stop NATO” mailing list. Just write to: rwrozoff [at] Rozoff scours the East European press each day and comes up with numerous gems ignored by the mainstream media. But a warning: The amount of material you’ll receive is often considerable. You’ll have to learn to pick and choose. You can get an idea of this by reading previous reports here.

Source: Dissident Voice

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There is a Jewish teaching: "Thou shall not derive personal pleasure or benefit from any product created through exploitation." AHAVA, an Israeli cosmetics company, is violating the basic principles of international law and Jewish ethics by profiting from the occupation of Palestine. Using resources from the ancient waters of the Dead Sea, AHAVA manufactures beauty products in an illegal Israeli settlement in Occupied Palestine.

AHAVA means love in Hebrew. But there's nothing loving about profiting from occupation. There's nothing loving about stealing resources from our neighbors.

As one of the first practicing women rabbis, as a Jew and as concerned human being, I endorse CODEPINK's new campaign to boycott AHAVA.

For over 40 years, I have been working to promote justice and reconciliation in the Middle East. I have watched more settlements, walls and checkpoints being built, and more Palestinians arrested and ground down by poverty, hunger, illness and oppression. After decades of working for peace through dialogue, I've come to believe that it's time to apply new tactics. It's time for us to listen to the Israeli and Palestinian peace activists who are calling on us to boycott Israeli products made in Occupied Palestine. It's time to take the profit out of the occupation.

Join me in boycotting AHAVA. Pass this message to your friends and neighbors: The fruits of occupation are simply not kosher!

Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb
Cofounder, Shomer Shalom Network for Jewish Nonviolence
Member of CODEPINK

Today, CODEPINK is launching our STOLEN BEAUTY campaign to protest and boycott AHAVA.

Won't you join our boycott?

Bikini-clad CODEPINK activists smeared with mud have already rallied in Tel Aviv, New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, France , and just yesterday in DC to expose the dirty secrets of AHAVA. You don't have to don a bikini to take part in our boycott, however. Educate yourself about AHAVA's illegal practices at , and add your name to our boycott. Sign up to join the team and receive updates about this campaign, and use your voice to help AHAVA come clean. Or visit a store selling AHAVA in your community, following our 10-step action guide.

AHAVA violates international law by labeling their products of "Israeli origin" even though their products are produced in the Occupied West Bank, and they violate the Fourth Geneva Convention by exploiting occupied natural resources for profit. AHAVA tries to put a pretty face on their company, touting their products' purity and even hiring Oxfam Ambassador and 'Sex and the City' star Kristin Davis as their spokesperson. It's up to us to bring their illegal practices to light.

Thank you for helping to bring the ugly truths of this beauty company to light and showing your support for international law and human rights.

Getting Muddy for Justice,

Blaine, Dana, Desiree, Farida, Gael, Gayle, Janet, Jean, Jodie, Medea, Nancy K, Nancy M, Paris, and Rae

P.S. We have six spaces left for the trip to Gaza on September 16-23. Every trip has been an extraordinary experience. For more information and to sign up, click here

Source: Code Pink
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Beach day protestors grab headlines in NYC

Beach day protestors grab headlines in NYC
Worldwide Activism, Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, June 25th, 2009

As part of its on-going rebranding campaign, the Israeli Ministry of Tourism held a Tel Aviv Beach Party in Central Park, New York City, on 21 June, 2009. Members of CODEPINK protested at the event and drew both public and media attention away from the effort to celebrate Tel Aviv’s 100th anniversary and to promote the Israeli tourism industry, instead bringing the spotlight onto war crimes and the BDS movement.

The goal of the demonstration was to expose that the beach party as a tool being used to clean up the Israeli reputation. In addition to the Wall, settlements and blockade of Gaza, the recent massacre in Gaza has turned world opinion against the occupiers and has been a blow to their international images.

Protesters were also promoting CODEPINK’s ‘Stolen Beauty’ campaign to boycott Ahava products, part of the global BDS movement. Ahava is an Israeli cosmetics company whose products are made from mud extracted from the Dead Sea, located in the occupied Jordan Valley and effectively closed to Palestinians. The bikini-clad protesters covered themselves in mud to represent both Israel’s dirty policies and to show the dirty side of Ahava products.

The protest was a media success, with conservative media giant, FOX News, covering it and torpedoing the PR goals of the beach day party.

Go here for more photos of the protest.

Source: Stop the Wall
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