Berkeley, CA— The Museum of Children’s Art in Oakland (MOCHA) has decided to cancel an exhibit of art by Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip. The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA), which was partnering with MOCHA to present the exhibit, was informed of the decision by the Museum’s board president on Thursday, September 8, 2011. For several months, MECA and the museum had been working together on the exhibit, which is titled “A Child’s View of Gaza.”
MECA has learned that there was a concerted effort by pro-Israel organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area to pressure the museum to reverse its decision to display Palestinian children’s art.
Barbara Lubin, the Executive Director of MECA, expressed her dismay that the museum decided to censor this exhibit in contradiction of its mission “to ensure that the arts are a fundamental part of the lives of all children.”
“We understand all too well the enormous pressure that the museum came under. But who wins? The museum doesn’t win. MECA doesn’t win. The people of the Bay Area don’t win. Our basic constitutional freedom of speech loses. The children in Gaza lose,” she said.
“The only winners here are those who spend millions of dollars censoring any criticism of Israel and silencing the voices of children who live every day under military siege and occupation.”
Unfortunately, this disturbing incident is just one example of many across the nation in which certain groups have successfully silenced the Palestinian perspective, which includes artistic expression. In fact, some organizations have even earmarked funds for precisely these efforts. Last year, regrettably the Jewish Federation of North America and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs launched a $6 million initiative to effectively silence Palestinian voices even in “cultural institutions.”
The free exhibit, co-sponsored by nearly twenty local organizations, was scheduled to open on September 24, and featured special activities for children and families, including a cartooning workshop and poetry readings.
The Gaza Strip, which has a population of 1.6 million, has been under siege since Israel imposed a blockade against it in 2006. The United Nations and many human rights organizations across the world have condemned the blockade as an inhumane and cruel form of collective punishment.
“Even while the children in Gaza are living under Israeli policies that deprive them of every basic necessity, they managed through art, to express their realities and hopes. It’s really very sad that there are people in the U.S. silencing them and shredding their dreams,” said Ziad Abbas, MECA’s Associate Director.
MECA is disappointed in the museum’s decision to deny Bay Area residents the opportunity to view Palestinian children’s art, and is committed to seeking an alternative venue.
“We made a promise to the children that their art will be shown and we are going to keep that promise,” said Lubin.
Media please contact:
Communications Coordinator, MECA
Belgium has not had a properly functioning government for more than 450 days yet that hasn’t stopped its caretaker administration from seeking to increase trade with Israel.
Earlier this week, Yves Leterme, the acting Belgian prime minister, opened a new embassy for his country in Tel Aviv and held talks with Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem. Leterme used his trip to argue “there is room for improvement of our economic relations in fields like pharmaceuticals, information technology, biotechnology.”
Leterme lacks any democratic mandate; he is only supposed to be handling essential affairs of state until leaders of the parties that fared best in a 2010 election stop bickering for long enough to form a ruling coalition. Discussing how to bolster commercial bonds with Israel amounts to an abuse of his position.
Diamonds are a war criminal’s best friend
It is especially troubling that Leterme celebrated the importance of the diamond trade between the two countries, citing estimates that it is worth more than €2 billion per year. Shir Hever, the Israeli economist and political activist, has stated that revenue from processing diamonds provides annual funding of about $1 billion (€730 million) for the Israeli military. Diamonds account for 70% of trade between Belgium and Israel, with numerous Israeli traders working in Antwerp, one of the two main centres of the diamond trade in Europe (the other one is in London). By encouraging this trade, Belgium is helping to finance the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
Leterme’s visit took place the same week that a design exhibition sponsored by the Israeli foreign ministry opened in Brussels. I am pleased to say that the gallery where this “Brand Israel” event is taking place has been the site of several protests by Palestine solidarity activists. The exhibition has also received support from the city administration in Brussels and representatives of the Francophone community and the French embassy in Belgium. All of them stand accused of helping Israel to use art and culture as a means of diverting attention from its crimes.
Jazz guitarist heedless to boycott plea
Another Belgian embracing Israel is the jazz guitarist Philip Catherine. He is scheduled to play Tel Aviv next week. Going ahead with that gig would mean he is putting his own selfish interests before a call made by representatives of a wide cross-section of Palestinian society in 2005 for people of conscience (and that includes musicians) to boycott Israel. In an interview with the Dutch-language newspaper De Morgen, Catherine said: “I play for people, not for politics. And not all Israeli people support the decisions of their government.”
Catherine should be alerted to a statement made by an Israeli government spokesman Nissim Ben-Sheetrit in 2005: “We see culture as a propaganda tool of the first rank and do not differentiate between propaganda and culture.”
Claims that music is apolitical cannot go unchallenged. Many of the finest practitioners of Catherine’s genre were African-Americans, who knew all about racial discrimination. Martin Luther King stressed the potency of jazz, when he said: “Much of the power of the freedom movement in the United States has come from this music. It has strengthened us with its sweet rhythms when courage began to fail. It has calmed us with its rich harmonies when spirits were down.”
The best thing that Catherine could do to lift the spirits of the oppressed is to cancel his show in Tel Aviv.
Is President Obama trying to kill Social Security without explicitly saying so? He put Social Security “on the table” for consideration by his Deficit Commission — even though Social Security has not contributed to creating or sustaining the deficit/debt in the first place. He kept Social Security on the table when he made a deal to delegate deficit reduction authority over entitlements to an undemocratic Super Committee. Now, in a speech reportedly about jobs, he proposed to extend and increase the ill-considered FICA tax cut he embraced last December — a tax cut that directly undermines the financial integrity of Social Security.
According to the White House Fact Sheet on “The American Jobs Act” the FICA tax holiday for workers will be increased to a 50% reduction, lowering it to 3.1%. Under the 2010 tax deal, the payroll tax for workers was reduced from 6.2% to 4.2%. In addition to expanding the tax cut for workers, the President proposes to extend the FICA tax holiday to employers by cutting in half the employer’s share of the payroll tax through the first $5 million in payroll.
Big questions about the wisdom, efficacy, and implications of a tax-based jobs strategy need to be debated. Even bigger questions about the consequences of the payroll tax holiday in particular need to be answered. These questions are not just about the relationship between payroll tax cuts and job growth. They are about the future of Social Security.
The FICA/payroll tax goes into the Social Security Trust Fund. This is a dedicated fund currently worth $2.6 trillion, which has been built up over time through employee and employer contributions, along with accrued interest. Current and future Social Security beneficiaries receive benefits from this fund. No general revenues are involved, except for administrative and clerical costs.
Under the payroll tax cut initiated in the 2010 lame duck tax deal, the revenue loss to the Trust Fund from the payroll tax holiday is made up through compensatory payments into the Trust Fund from general revenues. The President proposes to continue this scheme — deepening a relationship between Social Security and general revenues (read deficit) that did not exist until the December 2010 tax deal. This will make Social Security increasingly vulnerable to demands for “reform.”
In the worst case, Congress could choose to enact the payroll tax cut without actually appropriating revenue compensation for the Trust Fund. This would mean that the payroll tax cut directly depletes the Trust Fund, creating financial/actuarial problems far sooner than the currently anticipated shortfall date of 2036.
But even if the Trust Fund receives full revenue compensation — for both employer and employee contributions — Social Security will be jeopardized. That’s because the resources in the Trust Fund will be increasingly co-mingled with general revenue funds — and, hence, increasingly connected to the deficit.
If the government can’t pay back Social Security money it has borrowed to pay for other things (through IOUs, bonds, etc), it certainly won’t be shy about cutting Social Security to pay itself back for funds it shared with Social Security to offset revenue losses from the payroll tax holiday.
Also worth worrying about here is contagious political cowardice about “raising taxes.” The payroll tax holiday is framed as just that — a holiday, ie, a short-lived break. But as we know from other tax cuts with built-in expiration dates, the planned end of a tax cut quickly becomes a “tax increase” in popular parlance. There hasn’t been much resolve to allow the years-long tax holiday for the rich to end. When the time comes, will there be greater resolve to allow an end to the 2-year tax holiday for workers and 1-year tax holiday for employers? Even when billed as a “middle class tax increase” and a “job-killing tax on business”?
Once the payroll tax basis of Social Security financing has been corrupted the future of Social Security will no longer be in doubt. It won’t have one.
The foreign minister is said to be preparing a series of ‘harsh measures’ in response to Turkey`s reaction to a controversial UN report
TEL AVIV, Israel — Israel’s foreign ministry has prepared a series of “harsh measures” to “punish” Turkey’s leadership for diplomatic slights, Israeli media reported Friday.
Israel will facilitate cooperation with the Armenians, Turkey’s historic rivals, and may even lobby for international recognition of the Armenian holocaust, the Hebrew-language daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is also planning to meet with Kurdish rebels in Europe in order to “cooperate with them and boost them in every possible area,” Yedioth’s English website said.
“We’ll exact a price from Erdogan that will prove to him that messing with Israel doesn’t pay off,” Lieberman was quoted as saying. “Turkey better treat us with respect and common decency.”
Another means in Lieberman’s “toolbox,” according to the news site Ynet, is a diplomatic campaign where Israeli missions worldwide will be instructed to report Turkish moves against minorities.
The diplomatic crisis between Turkey and Israel that was sparked by the flotilla raid took a turn for the worse in the last week, following publication of a UN probe into the incident, which found Israel’s naval blockade to be legal although it chastised Israel for using “excessive” force in the raid.
Israel has so far refused to apologize for the bloodshed and called the report’s conclusions a vindication of its stance, deeply angering Turkey.
Turkey responded to the report by expelling Israel’s ambassador, suspending military agreements with Israel and warning it was considering lodging a legal case against Israel at the International Criminal Court.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, meanwhile, vowed to accompany any future aid flotillas to Gaza with naval warships, Al Jazeera television quoted him as saying Thursday. … Full article
Britain’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) has decided to shake off allegations of systematic abuse at any cost, as hard evidence corroborates the British Army’s use of torture techniques.
The findings of an inquiry into the death of an Iraqi civilian at the hands of British soldiers has sparked widespread criticism condemnation of the treatment of Iraqi detainees by British soldiers.
Baha Mousa, a 26-year-old hotel receptionist, was detained when soldiers from the First Battalion of the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment in the Iraqi city of Basra raided the hotel at which he worked. Two days later, Mousa died while in British Army custody.
The MoD was optimistic about the findings of the inquiry into Mousa’s death trying to bypass any allegations of systematic torture. Nevertheless, as the MoD tries in vain to persuade the public that its detention policies have undergone systematic reforms, analysts have come up with evidence that contradicts any such claims.
A high profile British human rights lawyer, Phil Shiner, has provided several reasons supporting the systematic use of torture and abuse in the British military during the Iraq war.
First, Shiner asserts that the detention policies, which involved torture and abuse, were not restricted to just one battle group, namely 1QLR, as he states that such practices were common, at least, at 14 UK facilities over the period between March 2003 and December 2008.
Shiner asserts that the set of techniques and practices included “unbelievably debased sexual behaviour, mock executions, vicious threats of rape of detainees’ female relatives, and systematic use of hooding, sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, temperature manipulation and solitary confinement for weeks.”
Second, Shiner says that the shameful techniques and practices were systematically taught, as the Joint Forward Intelligence Team was the mastermind behind the techniques used by British troops.
Furthermore, as the British Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, refused to accept a key finding of the inquiry, Shiner is of the opinion that the MoD has no intention of implementing the “73 carefully measured recommendations” made by the chairman of Mousa’s inquiry, Sir William Gage.
Shiner predicts that the MoD “will continue to hide damaging documents, mislead our courts, run unworthy legal arguments and use its mighty coercive power to keep the public in the dark, not just about Iraq but also Afghanistan.”
More importantly, Shiner argues that the MoD still approves the very same shameful techniques employed by interrogators in Iraq, though Sir William has severely criticised such practices. Forcing a person or two into a sandbag, harshing, and hooding are techniques that are still used by the MoD.
Press TV News/Analysis on September 8, 2011
What do Baha Mousa, Ian Tomlinson, Smiley Culture and Mark Dugan have in common? They are people who have died because of tactics used by UK police and in Baha Mousa’s case, British soldiers, why are “unlawful killings” as they are called taking place in the first place? Whether inside Britain or in war zones, it has put the spotlight on UK’s disproportionate and excessive use of force, as was evident in the recent unrest in the UK.
The Islamic Republic of Iran warned on Thursday it would not hesitate to hit back following any foreign attack on its soil.
In a formal complaint to the United Nations over a warning from French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Iran’s UN ambassador said in a letter to UN leaders that his country would “not hesitate to act in self-defense to respond to any attack against the Iranian nation.”
Sarkozy said last week that Iran’s “military, nuclear and ballistic ambitions constitute a growing threat that may lead to a preventive attack against Iranian sites that would provoke a major crisis that France wants to avoid at all costs”.
Iran would “take appropriate defensive measures to protect itself”, ambassador Mohammad Khazaee told UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council. The envoy also described Sarkozy’s remarks as “inflammatory and baseless allegations”.
Khazaee again denied the charge that his country was seeking a nuclear weapon. “Iran is a leading nation in rejecting and opposing all kinds of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons,” said Khazaee. “Moreover I wish to reiterate my government’s position that the Islamic Republic of Iran has no intention to attack any other nations.”
In an August 31 speech to French ambassadors, Sarkozy said that Iran “refuses to negotiate seriously” and declared that France would work with its allies to build support for tougher international sanctions. However, he did not say which country might carry out the preventive attack.
Obama’s jobs plan:
- “We will continue to falsely diagnose a solvency crisis as a normal liquidity recession.” (I would otherwise have to demand credit write downs from those criminal banksters who pay for my reelection bid.)
- “We will cut the payroll taxes which pay for social security.” (This will make it easier to later gut the whole program.)
- “We will pay for that by later cutting Medicare and Medicaid.” (See how I never lose sight of my original aims.)
- “We also ask the Congress super-committee to find more ways to cut spending.” (Time for the cat food commission to earn its name.)
- “We will give tax breaks to companies that hire workers.” (Just fire them from those well payed jobs, rehire them for less and get another tax break. What’s not to like here?)
- “We will give some money to the cities and towns so they can keep more policemen on their payrolls.” (We will need those when the people eventually start to revolt.)
- “We will put up $10 billion of the people’s money toward a public-private infrastructure bank. (Here is some upfront money for the banksters to privatize more of the now public owned space.)
- “We will also offer money to rehab vacant and foreclosed houses that are now owned by the banks.” (They never really wanted those houses so why should they pay for them?)
- “We ask Congress to pass this immediately.” (Please don’t give anyone time to find out what really is behind these ideas.)