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Antonio Buehler Found Not Guilty After Austin Cop Breaks Blue Code of Silence, Testifying on his Behalf

By Ben Keller | PINAC | October 29, 2014

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From left to right, surprise witness Jermaine Hopkins, an Austin police officer who testified on Antonio Buehler’s behalf, attorney Millie Thompson and Antonio Buehler, who was found not guilty for a 2011 case where he was arrested for photographing Austin police.

Deliberations in the trial of Peaceful Streets Project founder Antonio Buehler lasted five hours before a Texas jury returned with a not guilty verdict Wednesday after an Austin police officer surprisingly testified on Buehler’s behalf – most likely losing his job in the process.

Buehler was on trial for an incident that occured on New Years Eve of 2012 where he witnessed Austin officers abusing the passenger of a vehicle during a routine DWI stop. The stop was being conducted by the now-infamous officers Patrick Oborski and Robert Snider when Buehler began taking pictures, sparking a verbal confrontation.

Buehler probed the officers with questions as he took pictures of the male officers holding the female passengers in a torture hold, known as the Strappado where her arms were cuffed behind her back and pulled upwards. Buehler can be heard in the video asking officers, “What are you doing?” Buehler described the hold as ‘being meant for causing extreme pain.”

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The photo that got Antonio Buehler arrested

The verbal confrontation turned into a physical struggle as Oborski aggressively approached Buehler. Buehler put his hands in the air to show he wasn’t a threat to any of the officers. Buehler then began asking Oborski, “why are you touching me?”

Oborski then gave Buehler an unlawful order to put his hands behind his back. Buehler never did that. And Oborski then wrestled Buehler to the ground. Later that night, Antonio was booked into jail on felony charges claiming that Buehler spit in Oborski’s face, where he faced a potential 2-10 years in prison.

That, of course, never happened. But luckily, someone was filming across the street to prove that it never happened.

The biggest bombshell came when Oborski testified against himself. He testified to the jury that it was actually just a little bit of ‘spittle’ and that when Buehler was asking him questions that he had managed to somehow get a little ‘spittle’ on his face. This implies what Buehler and others have been saying for three years now. That Buehler never spit in that cop’s face. Oborski made it all up and tried to send him to prison for contempt of cop. The video is proof of that.

The gravity of this case carries many implications, not only about the character of the Austin Police Department throughout the ranks, but the trial also holds implications for a future civl lawsuit against Oborski. In Texas, it’s typically, according to most lawyers here, a tough row to hoe if you want to sue the government. Tort laws make it seemingly more difficult than most states.

But the judge in Buehler’s civil case allowed that Obroski can be sued in his personal capacity and that the claim Buehler filed against Oborski can go forward.

Surprise cop witness

There were a few surprises throughout this trial (perhaps well thought out by Buehler and his legal team). If any one is ever relentless about the notion that there really aren’t any good cops, it’s Buehler. But during this trial, Buehler surprised the prosecution with a star witness, Austin police officer Jermaine Hopkins, who was told by APD brass that if he testified, he would lose his job by October 30th, which is today.

Hopkins testified anyway, telling jurors that Buehler had broken no law and that his fellow officers had violated his Constitutional rights by arresting him.

Hopkins has a hearing tomorrow to determine his fate with the department. He said he sent Buehler an email after seeing his case and wanted to testify out of concern that Buehler’s rights were being violated.

Hopkins said in an interview with PINAC after the verdict that there are some good things about his department, but ultimately he has no regrets and that he did the right thing by testifying. He also said if he could change anything it would be “accountability at the administrative level.”

When asked by a bystander in the courtroom what his future holds, Hopkins said he is thinking about going to law school.

Another surprise occurred at the beginning of the trial when one juror asked to be released from the jury citing personal troubles. Buehler’s attorney, Millie Thompson said the juror was having symptoms of mental illness including paranoia and an inability to make a decision in a jury, because of fear from a group.

Although, the juror never specified to the court any particular group. Thompson said she didn’t object to the juror being dismissed. But she did object to the state’s request for a mistrial.

The Judge sided with Thompson and the trial went on with only five jurors.

The deciding jury was made up of two males and three females, one who worked as a writer for Beavis and Butthead. None were interested in commenting to PINAC or any other media outlet. But we caught up with Buehler and Hopkins outside the courtroom.

When asked after the trial what the future holds for Buehler’s activist group, Peaceful Streets Project, a group that films on duty cops, Buehler replied, “Hopefully, to grow it.”

But he also has three more charges to fight as well as a civil suit to pursue as he explains in the video.

Ben Keller resides in Austin, Texas, where much of his activism centers around advocating for parents lost in the CPS system. Ben believes in government accountability and thinks the public should have more access to court rooms. He is a volunteer for Peaceful Streets Project as well as other groups who shine light on government corruption. He studied English Literature and Philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin. He can be reached at BenKKeller@yahoo.com.

October 30, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture | , | Leave a comment

SodaStream closes illegal settlement factory but remains actively complicit in the displacement of Palestinians

Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel | October 30, 2014

Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) activists today welcomed the news that SodaStream has announced it is to close its factory in the illegal Israeli settlement of Mishor Adumim following a high profile boycott campaign against the company.

“SodaStream’s announcement today shows that the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement is increasingly capable of holding corporate criminals to account for their participation in Israeli apartheid and colonialism,” said Rafeef Ziadah, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), the broad coalition of Palestinian civil society organisations that leads and supports the BDS movement.

“BDS campaign pressure has forced retailers across Europe and North America to drop SodaStream, and the company’s share price has tumbled in recent months as our movement has caused increasing reputational damage to the SodaStream brand,” she added.

The news of this major success against a company famed for its role in illegal Israeli settlements broke amidst intensifying demonstrations against Israel’s policies of colonisation in Jerusalem.

Grassroots boycott activism saw SodaStream dropped by major retailers across North America and Europe including Macy’s in the US and John Lewis in the UK.

SodaStream was forced to close its flagship store in Brighton in the UK as a result of regular pickets of the store.

Soros Fund Management, the family office of the billionaire investor George Soros, sold its stake in SodaStream following BDS pressure.

SodaStream’s share price fell dramatically in recent months as sales dried up, particularly in North America.

After reaching a high of $64 per share in October 2013, the stock fell to around $20 per share this month. SodaStream has estimated its third quarter revenue will be $125 million, down almost 14 percent from the same period last year.

But Ziadah warned that SodaStream will still remain actively complicit in the displacement of Palestinians and will remain a focus of boycott campaigning.

“Even if this announced closure goes ahead, SodaStream will remain implicated in the displacement of Palestinians. Its new Lehavim factory is close to Rahat, a planned township in the Naqab (Negev) desert, where Palestinian Bedouins are being forcefully transferred against their will. Sodastream, as a beneficiary of this plan, is complicit with this violation of human rights,” she said.

SodaStream’s participation in Israel’s forced displacement of Palestinians gained international notoriety when A-list celebrity Scarlett Johansson signed up to be a brand ambassador for the company. Following an international campaign urging Oxfam end its relationship with Johansson for endorsing SodaStream, the actor decided to quit Oxfam.

SodaStream has also come under fire for its treatment of Palestinian workers in its West Bank factory, as Ziadah explains:

“Any suggestion that SodaStream is employing Palestinians in an illegal Israeli settlement on stolen Palestinian land out of the kindness of its heart is ludicrous.”

“Palestinian workers are paid far less than their Israeli counterparts and SodaStream recently fired 60 Palestinians following a dispute over food for the breaking of the Ramadan fast. Workers have previously said they are treated ‘like slaves’”.

“Palestinians are forced to work inside settlements in sub-standard conditions because of Israel’s deliberate destruction of the Palestinian economy. There’s an urgent need for the creation of decent and dignified jobs within the Palestinian economy.”

SodaStream have said all workers will be offered jobs at its new plant, although Israel’s apartheid wall and severe restrictions on movement will make the commute to the new plant difficult for its Palestinian workers.

All of the main Palestinian trade unions have called for boycott and are members of the Palestinian BDS National Committee, the civil society coalition that leads the BDS movement and helped to initiate the campaign against SodaStream.

The BNC quotes included in this release can be found in the following coverage of this story:

New York Times : http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/31/world/middleeast/sodastream-to-close-factory-in-west-bank.html?_r=0

Guardian : http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/oct/29/sodastream-move-factory-west-bank-israel-slash-forecast

Daily Mail : http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2813830/SodaStream-factory-West-Bank-Scarlett-Johansson-hot-water-close-operations-Israel-company-says.html

Bloomberg : http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2014-10-29/sodastream-to-close-factory-at-center-of-israelpalestinian-spat

International Business Times : http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/israel-bds-movement-scores-victory-sodastream-close-controversial-factory-west-bank-settlement-1472320

- See more at: http://www.bdsmovement.net/2014/sodastream-closes-illegal-settlement-factory-in-response-growing-boycott-campaign-12782#sthash.4cXIOA4n.dpuf

October 30, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , | 2 Comments

The American Resistance to Israel

By Paul Larudee | Dissident Voice | October 29, 2014

The movement to prevent Israeli cargo ships from being unloaded or loaded is potentially one of the greatest challenges that Israel faces from ordinary citizens around the world. Amazingly, it doesn’t even require huge numbers or even very much unity of organization, only of purpose.

The August, 2014 picket of the Zim Piraeus in Oakland, California, is a case in point. It began with a massive demonstration of thousands that responded to a call from the Block the Boat coalition to picket the port on August 16 and 17. During that time, the ship chose to remain in a stationary position more than 100 miles away. The organizers then declared victory on the basis that the ship had been delayed more than 24 hours, and the ship came into port.

For some of the picketers, however, this was not enough. They chose to continue the picket after the ship had docked and was ready to be worked. This required maintaining the picket line on a sustained basis and eliciting the cooperation of the workers in not crossing the line. Because of these efforts, there was no one to work the ship for another three days.

Finally, the employer, Ports America, tried to trick both the picketers and the workers by reassigning workers from another ship (an illegal practice). This was only partly successful, and the ship left on August 20 for Russia with most of its Oakland-bound cargo still on board and without taking on any of the cargo that it was to pick up.

One of the volunteers did follow-up research, even calling Zim’s clients. What she discovered was that the extra cargo on board created problems for the loading operations in Russia and had to be off loaded without a clear picture of when it would reach Oakland. At least two of the clients also decided to stop using Zim because of uncertain delivery. The cost of delays, fuel, berthing fees and additional transport must have been staggering.

The following month brought even worse news to Zim.  This time, a group calling itself the Stop Zim Action Committee succeeded in completely blocking the Zim Shanghai from unloading or loading any cargo at all in the port of Oakland. After trying for only 24 hours, it left for Los Angeles, where it had apparently made alternate arrangements for the cargo to be offloaded and transported to Oakland by other carriers (possibly by truck). Again, the result was extra cost and delay.

Unfortunately for Zim, Los Angeles and other cities decided to follow the Oakland example. On August 26, Block the Boat – LA held its first protest against the Zim Haifa.  Then, on October 18, the Zim Savannah remained at anchor for two days while picketers stayed at the port, calling on workers not to work the ship. In the end the workers agreed to cross the picket lines with police herding the protesters away, and the ship came in.

Protests and pickets were also held against Zim ships in Seattle/Tacoma, Washington and Tampa, Florida, but officials claimed that there were no delays. In Vancouver, Canada, an informational picket was held in order to initiate a dialog with the workers.

Indeed, workers were the key to the degree of success or failure at each port. Oakland has an activist union tradition with a keen socio-political conscience. In 1984 ILWU (International Longshore and Warehouse Union) Local 10 refused to unload a South African ship for eleven days, and in 2010 it refused to cross 24 hours of picket lines set up to block another Zim ship from unloading. That tradition may be less strong in other ports, but it argues for a partnership that may empower both labor and activist communities in ways that we have not seen in decades.

But what about other countries?  Palestinians and others were quite frankly astonished that the first successful denial of service to an Israeli ship would happen in a U.S. city, to say nothing of demonstrations in at least five different North American ports. The American resistance surprised everyone. Why, then, do we not see similar actions in other parts of the world?

Part of the reason is that Zim doesn’t operate everywhere. It has no ports of call on the west coast of South America, for example, or in Scandinavia. Nevertheless, its ships sail to Barcelona, whose dockworkers union sent a message of congratulations and solidarity to the Oakland workers. Why are no Zim ships being turned away in Barcelona?

South Africa also seems a likely location.  COSATU, the giant South African union, has repeatedly declared its solidarity with the Palestinian struggle. Why is it not participating? What about Cuba and Venezuela? Other possibilities might be Malaysia, Brazil, Greece and even Liverpool in the UK.

Until now, Zim and the Israeli government have been very cool about the potential impact of a movement that ought to terrify them to the depths of their souls. It takes only a small amount of disruption to cause shipping customers to take their business elsewhere.  As noted, this has already happened, starting with the first picket in August. We can only guess at the effect when a second Zim ship had to leave Oakland untouched.

In October, a third Zim ship, the Zim Beijing, was scheduled to arrive in Oakland, and another picket was planned. This time, however, the ship kept delaying its arrival date until it was de-listed from the port arrival schedule. There are no Zim ships currently scheduled to arrive in Oakland for the foreseeable future, although Zim bravely refuses to declare this as a policy.

Zim and the Israeli government dare not reveal how vulnerable they are. It will take only a few major ports around the world to sound the death knell for an Israeli shipping giant that is the tenth largest cargo carrier in the world (more than $3 billion in annual revenue). The loss of a few million in Oakland may not seem like much to them, but uncertain and unreliable delivery can put them at a huge disadvantage – perhaps even out of business. This is why we saw no counter-demonstrators at the port (actually one): they have to pretend it means nothing to them.

On the other hand, the Oakland victory cannot be sustained alone.  If it does not spread to other countries, it will wither. Israel knows that, but all their power and influence may be insufficient to prevent the movement from happening.  We have been looking for a way to strike a blow for Palestine. Now is our chance.

Paul Larudee is one of the founders of the Free Gaza and Free Palestine Movements and an organizer in the International Solidarity Movement.

October 30, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism | , , , | Leave a comment

Block the Boat Declares Decisive Victory Over Apartheid Israel

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Block the Boat | October 28, 2014

Oakland has made history once again with another BDS victory for Palestine against the Israeli Zim shipping line. This latest round of organizing has been the most momentous and historic. Members of ILWU Local 10 informed Block the Boat organizers that the Zim Beijing which was headed to the Port of Oakland, has been re-routed to Russia to avoid disruptions at the SSA terminal. For the first time ever, an Israeli ship has been completely turned away before reaching its port of destination due to sustained overwhelming community organizing.

The damage to Israel’s credibility can’t be exaggerated–the Zim line, though privately owned, is an Israeli “security asset.” Israel exerts control over the corporation through a “golden share” which it uses to prevent the sale of the company into foreign hands. The Zim line is mandated to be part of Israel’s critical supply chain during protracted military conflicts. The brand and economic impact on Zim has yet to be calculated, but is surely devastating. Goods have been rerouted, and undelivered for months. ILWU workers have honored our pickets and sided with the community against US complicity in Israeli apartheid. Zim has been disrupted and confronted by anti-Zionist protests in Seattle, Tacoma, Los Angeles, Vancouver, New Orleans, New York and Tampa. Ports all over North America are making it clear that Israel can no longer conduct business as usual because Zionism is simply not welcome on our coasts.

Zim‘s Maneuvers

The Zim Beijing, which was scheduled to arrive in Oakland on the morning of Saturday October 25, 2014, instead broke from its heading soon after it reached the north western coast of Mexico on Wednesday, October 22nd, and headed further northwest. Several sources, including Zim’s own online schedule, and port and union authorities confirm that the Beijing’s intended destination was Oakland, but that it changed its itinerary to avoid yet another humiliating defeat. In an article published on 10/26, headlined “Zim Beijing Avoids Oakland” the GulfShip News reported, “The ship was due to call on Saturday, but then delayed its call to today [Sunday]. Reports from Oakland suggest Zim has now decided to cancel the call altogether. Zim has been hit by protests at Oakland in August and September, disrupting its schedules.”

We also tracked the ship via satellite using an online marine tracking service and documented that the ship listed its destination as Oakland just minutes after it left the Panama Canal–the norm for Zim ships on the Asia Pacific line, which stop at either Los Angeles or Oakland before heading to China and Russia. Just days into its 9 day journey from the Canal, however, Zim abruptly removed Oakland from its online schedule, and headed northwest, taking it ever farther from Oakland.

Confronting Global Repression

It is clear that the Zim Beijing diverted course in response to the powerful Block the Boat organizing. In August, Block the Boat organized and inspired a series of historic night and day pickets, which with the support of ILWU workers, prevented the Zim Piraeus from unloading for 4 days, and eventually forced the ship to leave before even a fraction of its cargo could be unloaded. In September, Zim faced another set of pickets that forced the Zim Shanghai to offload in Los Angeles, rather than its intended Oakland destination. The Block the Boat coalition along with the broader Bay Area community has made it clear that we can determine what takes place in our towns. And business with the racist, exclusionary, Zionist state of Israel, which works alongside local and federal law enforcement to repress our communities, will not go unchallenged.

Activists remained focused throughout Zim’s obfuscations, organizing for a large turnout to picket the Beijing whenever it would arrive–Saturday, Sunday, or any day of the coming week. Given the convoluted maneuvers Zim used in August, in which it left the port under the cover of an Israeli consulate press release, only to return to another terminal less than an hour later, organizers now know to be thorough and patient. After tracking the Zim Beijing for several days, Block the Boat prepared for a week of possible pickets by staging a late day march of hundreds on Sunday to the Port of Oakland to show the strength and focus of this movement. It was a warning to Zim to keep going as it reached the 1000-mile mark from Oakland and a promise that the gates would be lined again with unstoppable anti-Zionist picketers if it returned.

As the Beijing sails beyond the horizon, it still bears the destination of Oakland, though it is over 1200 miles away from San Francisco Bay at the time of this statement. Our efforts have paid off; Zim Beijing does not appear to be turning around. Even if it did reverse course and head back to Oakland at this point, it would be a week late, and it would find us once again, prepared to stop it at the port.

BDS Victory

We are declaring a historic victory in our effort to block the Beijing. It is very likely that Zim has been completely prevented from doing any future business at the Port of Oakland. Only time will tell if Zim’s changes to its schedule reflect the real re-routing of its ships, or simply just another ruse to fool opponents of Israeli apartheid. Obviously, here in Oakland, we are ready for Zim’s return any time. Together with our brothers and sisters from Ferguson to Palestine, we are fighting back against state violence and apartheid and we are prepared to bring it down brick by brick, wall by wall, port by port.

@blocktheboat #blocktheboat

October 29, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , , | 3 Comments

US universities see a rise in pro-Palestine activism

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Al-Akhbar | October 27, 2014

Pro-Palestinian activism has risen significantly on US campuses since Israel’s offensive on the Gaza Strip in the summer, according to a Jewish civil society organization.

The New York-based Anti-Defamation League said in a report published Friday that there had been 75 “anti-Israel” events scheduled on US campuses since the beginning of the 2014-2015 academic year, which started in late August or early September at most American universities.

“During the same time period last year, there were only 35 of those events scheduled, marking a 114 percent increase in the number of those events scheduled to take place this year,” the report said.

Israel’s recent offensive in the Gaza Strip began July 7 and lasted for 51 days; it killed more than 2,000 Palestinians, mostly civilians, according to Palestinian health officials. More than 10,000 others were reported injured.

During the previous academic year, student groups at US colleges hosted at least 374 anti-Israel events, the report said.

It said nearly 40 percent of those events were held in support of an international campaign to seek boycott against Israel.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, known by the initials BDS, calls for various forms of boycott against Israel until it ends its occupation of Palestinian lands.

The report also said pro-Palestinian protestors on US campuses drew parallels between Israeli actions in Gaza and the shooting of a black teenager, Michael Brown, by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.

It mentions a particular “die-in” protest at John Jay College in New York, in which many students reportedly chanted slogans such as “from Ferguson to Palestine, Inifada Intifada,” referring to two popular Palestinian uprisings aimed at ending the Israeli occupation.

Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot and killed by a white police officer, Darren Wilson, on August 9. His death set off mass protests, which have since continued at various levels in the country.

Earlier this month, The Washington Post reported that more than 500 anthropologists have publicly joined an academic boycott of Israel initiated by the American Studies Association, with another 77 joining anonymously.

(Anadolu)

October 27, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment

Protesters challenge Israeli basketball tour in Ohio, Oregon

By Celine Hagbard | IMEMC News | October 21, 2014

Basketball fans joined with human rights supporters in several U.S. towns to call for a boycott of Israeli sports teams, and to challenge what they call a ‘public relations tour’ by Israeli teams in the U.S. They gathered outside and inside the exhibition games to try to bring attention to the ongoing Israeli military occupation of Palestine.

In Cleveland, Ohio, dozens of protesters chanted and held signs outside the exhibition game last week, and a similar protest took place on Friday in Portland, Oregon.

According to organizers, “These teams represent the injustice and occupation of Palestine. While this team travels freely, Palestinian athletes are denied that same right.

“The Israeli basketball tour is a PR campaign to cover up the horrific massacre of the past summer that killed over 2,100 people in Gaza, including over 500 children. In some cities the games are being used as a fundraiser for the Israeli military. That is the same military that continues to occupy Palestine, kill indiscriminately, and deny Palestinian citizens the right to live freely and with justice.

“The image of the 4 young boys killed by Israeli bombs while playing soccer on the beach is Gaza is forever engraved in our hearts. We won’t let this tour be a smokescreen over the ongoing horror of the occupation of Palestine.

The groups protesting the games say that they are calling for a boycott of Israeli sports teams and events to call for freedom, justice and human dignity for the Palestinian people, who are living under an Israeli military occupation.

In Cleveland, the exhibition game was accompanied by a fundraiser for the Israeli military – the only foreign military that is allowed to hold fundraisers in the U.S., and accept direct contributions from U.S. citizens.

The Cleveland basketball team, the Cavaliers, recently hired as its head coach David Blatt, who came to the job after serving as head coach of Maccabi Tel Aviv (the team featured in the exhibition game). Blatt called the recent Israeli invasion of Gaza that killed over 2,100 people, including 500 children, “Israel’s most justified war”.

The Ohio basketball boycott action follows an ongoing controversy at the University of Illinois, in which a professor who expressed support for Palestinian equal rights on Twitter was denied employment. Recent releases of documents related to the case show a close relationship that could constitute a conflict of interest between members of the university and Zionist leaders in the community. The documents also revealed that the University President lied about the sequence of events in the case.

October 21, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Macy’s stops stocking SodaStream

Alternative Information Center | October 19, 2014

The department store chain Macy’s has stopped carrying Israeli settlement products of SodaStream, according to the Wall Street Journal. Macy’s has been targeted the past year by pro-Palestinian activists, who have called on it and other major chains to stop carrying the SodaStream home carbonation system and soda flavourings due to the company’s role in the military occupation of Palestine.

This news comes amidst sinking share prices of the company, which earlier this month announced preliminary results for the fourth quarter. It projected $125 million in revenue in the quarter and operating income of $8.5 million. That’s well short of the $154.4 million of revenue and $17.6 million in operating income expected by analysts. In the third quarter of last year, the revenue was about the same, but operating income of $18 million was more than double what it expects this year. Its shares have dropped by 45% so far this year.

Jim Charnier, an analyst at Monness Crespi Hardt, told the Wall Street Journal that he had been expecting a poor quarter when he learned early in September that Macy’s had stopped carrying SodaStream and saw other negative figures from the market.

Macy’s did not respond to questions by North American activists concerning SodaStream.

For more than a year, religious and human rights organizations throughout the United States have urged Macy’s, Target and other corporations to de-shelve SodaStream products because of the company’s complicity with Israel’s occupation and settlements. SodaStream products are largely manufactured in the West Bank Mishor Adumim settlement industrial zone.

“We are very disappointed in our recent performance,” said Daniel Birnbaum, Chief Executive Officer of SodaStream. “Our U.S. business underperformed due to lower than expected demand for our soda makers and flavors which was the primary driver of the overall shortfall in the third quarter. While we were successful over the last few years in establishing a solid base of repeat users in the U.S., we have not succeeded in attracting new consumers to our home carbonation system at the rate we believe should be achieved. The third quarter results are a clear indication that we must alter our course and improve our execution across the board. We have already begun a strategic shift of the SodaStream brand towards health & wellness, primarily in the U.S., where we believe this message will resonate more strongly with consumers….”

SodaStream states that calls for boycott are indeed a “risk factor” and a cause for “rising political tensions and negative publicity”, although this official notice makes no mention of boycott. However, the company has declared in the past that moving its factory out Mishor Adumim would require the expenditure of resources and, more importantly, “limit certain of the tax benefits for which we are currently eligible.” These benefits stem from the fact that the Israeli government provides economic incentives, including tax deductions, for businesses operating in West Bank settlements.

John Lewis in the UK had been the latest retailer to stop stocking SodaStream products and protests forced a SodaStream store in Brighton, UK, to close recently. SodaStream also had to deal with a public relations headache early this year when the U.K. charity Oxfam criticized its brand ambassador Scarlett Johansson for working with the settlement company. Johansson stepped down from her role with Oxfam and defended the company.

Soros Fund Management, the family office of the billionaire investor George Soros, also sold its stake in SodaStream this past August.

“Soros Fund Management does not own shares of SodaStream,” Michael Vachon, a spokesman for the fund, told The National, declining to comment further on when and why it sold the shares.

In a May filing with the US markets regulator, the fund said it had bought 550,000 shares of SodaStream during the first quarter. Bloomberg reported that the fund acquired the shares for $24.3 million, with the new holding making up 0.3 per cent of the fund’s $9.3 billion stock portfolio.

“After pressure from Soros partners in the region and the world, they dropped SodaStream and promised, in private letters so far, to issue guidelines similar to those adopted by the EU to prevent any investment into companies that sustain the Israeli occupation and settlements in particular,” said Omar Barghouti, the Palestinian activist and co-founder of the BDS movement.

The activist group Adalah-NY continues its campaign against SodaStream following the decision by Macy’s, and at the end of October will visit New York stores that stock and sell SodaStream, letting owners and managers know why they should stop. Adalah-NY notes that this planned week of visits will be used to develop its future NYC-based campaign against SodaStream.

October 20, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Happens When You Talk With Americans About Drone Murders

By Joy First | World Beyond War

Mount Horeb, Wisconsin — Bonnie Block, Jim Murphy, Lars and Patty Prip, Mary Beth Schlagheck, and I were at Rest Area 10 along I- 90/94, about 5 miles south of Mauston, from 10:00 am – noon on Thursday October 9, 2014. We had a model drone and a stack of flyers “6 Things You Should Know About Drones” to help us in reaching the public and so they can learn more about what is going on just up the road at Volk Field Air National Guard Base. We were there in solidarity with others around the country as part of “Keep Space for Peace Week” and global days of actions against drones sponsored by Code Pink, Know Drones, and other groups.

We chose to leaflet at this particular rest area because it is the closest one to Volk Field Air National Guard Base, about 20 miles south of the base. We, as Wisconsin Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars, have been vigiling outside the gates of Volk Field for almost three years, protesting the training there of pilots who operate the Shadow Drones. We are at the base with our signs every 4th Tuesday of the month from 3:30-4:30. At 4:00 pm around 100 cars leave the base and drive right past us and so we have a lot of exposure.

Jim has been urging us to try leafleting at the rest area for a couple of years and it turned out to be an excellent opportunity for public education. We were able to connect with a real cross-section of middle America and we had a chance to hand out our leaflets and talk to people about what is going on at Volk Field, as well as in the drone wars overseas. A fair number of people were very supportive and engaged with us. Quite a few seemed like they did not have a lot of feelings about drone warfare one way or the other. There were a small number of people who were very unhappy to see us there and let loose with some pretty unfriendly language.

Shortly after we arrived at the rest area and began setting up the drone, the manager of the rest area came out and told us we would have to pack up and leave. We said we were on public property and that we planned to stay there until noon. We also told her that we would not block anyone or act threatening, and we gave her a flyer. She became upset and angry when we told her this and she said that if we didn’t leave she would have to call the State Patrol and she didn’t think that we would want it to go that far. We responded that we would like her to call the State Patrol because we knew we had the right to be there. She left in a huff.

It was 15 minutes or so before a plain clothes officer dressed in a suit with a neat crew cut and a badge around his neck approached us. He said that he had been told there was a disturbance, and he asked us if there was a disturbance. Jim responded by asking if it looked like there was a disturbance. The officer angrily replied that he would be asking the questions and we would answer.

We explained to him what we were doing, that we were on public property and it was our constitutional right to be there. We told him we were not blocking anyone and if they didn’t want a flyer we didn’t push it.

At that point a uniformed State Patrol officer arrived at the scene. The officer we were talking to said that the uniformed officer would be taking over. After the two of them talked for several minutes, the uniformed officer came over and we told him what we were doing. He told us that some people might not appreciate our position, and he said that if they started saying things we didn’t like we should turn the other cheek. We told him we practice nonviolence and are good at de-escalating those kinds of situations. He told us to have a good day and walked away. It felt like this was a small win for us. It is not often that the police are called and they end up telling us to go ahead and keep doing what we are doing.

Several minutes later a Juneau County Sheriff car pulled into the rest area and parked. He didn’t talk to us, but spent several minutes talking to someone in an unmarked police car before they both drove away. Citizen activism seemed to have won out for the day.

I want to relate a story about one man I talked to. As I handed him a leaflet, he said he was supportive of what we are doing. But, he said, his grandson was in the military and operated a camera for the drones and he didn’t kill children. (One of our signs said “Drones Kill Children”.) I replied that there are many innocent people, including many children, who are being killed by drone attacks in countries overseas. He said again that his grandson didn’t kill children. I told him that we had a list of names of many of the children who have been killed. He said again that his grandson was a family man with four children and he wouldn’t kill children. He added that he had been a nurse assisting in surgery with children for many years and he knew what it was like for traumatized children and his grandson would not kill children.

This story really illustrates the disconnect and denial going on in our society, about how much we want to believe that we are the good guys, that we wouldn’t hurt others. Yet, people are dying all around the world as a result of our government’s policies. It seems like there are not enough people speaking out against what is going on because so many people refuse to really look at the death and destruction our military is leaving all around the globe. It is so much easier to close our eyes. I think this was a genuinely good man that I talked to, and there are so many good people like him. How do we get these good people to wake up and join the fight, to be able to admit to and take responsibility for the horrors that our government, and we, are perpetrating around the world?

All six of us who were there felt like it was a successful venture and we all agreed that we need to go back to the rest area where we can reach people who would otherwise not be reached. It is impossible to know what kind of impact we may have had, but we are hopeful that we touched a few people.

Please consider rest areas near you as a possible place for demonstrations. We no longer have town squares. It is illegal, at least in Wisconsin, to protest at shopping malls because they are privately owned. It is not always easy to find a public space where there are a lot people, but this was a good test today and we discovered that the police will not try to prevent us from demonstrating at a rest area in Wisconsin. But then again, who knows what may happen the next time. All I know for sure is that we will be back.

October 19, 2014 Posted by | Militarism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | | Leave a comment

Ben & Jerry’s is Selling Ice Cream in Illegal Israeli Settlements

Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel
Ben & Jerry’s ice cream for sale in illegal Israeli settlement This photo was taken in a supermarket in Gilo – an illegal Israeli settlement in occupied East Jerusalem – by an activist who documented the sale of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in the settlements of Gilo (pop. 28,980), Pisgat Ze’ev (pop. 39,748) and Ma’ale Adumim (pop. 35,673), and in the industrial park of Mishor Edomim, which services Ma’ale Adumim.

Ben & Jerry’s Caters to Illegal Israeli Settlements

In August, 2011, an Israeli Jewish activist working with us contacted Ben & Jerry’s factory in Israel, by e-mail and telephone, and confirmed that the company delivers ice cream to Israeli settlements in the occupied territory. Here is an e-mail communication, translated into English, between an employee at the factory and the Israeli activist, discussing arrangements for an ice cream cart to travel to the Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumim:

B&J Employee: Thanks for writing. Our ice cream cart comes with 5 flavors to choose from, glasses, wafers, ice cream toppings, 2 stewards and all accessories. The cost for 250 people (free distribution); 3,500 [NIS (Israeli Shekels), or $919 US] including VAT. Attached is a list of flavors. I’ll be happy to answer any questions.

Activist: Is there an extra cost that relates to the distance of your factory to the location of the party? i.e., is there an extra cost because the event is held in Ma’ale Adumin? I’m sorry about the need for detail but it’s necessary for our accounting department.

B&J Employee: Yes, the cost of transportation is 250 [NIS (Israeli Shekels), $65 US]. This is because we come from Be’er Tuvia (near Kiryat Malachi) to Ma’ale Adumim.

Israeli Settlements are Illegal Under International Law

Israel’s settlements in the Palestinian Territory violate Article 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which declares that “the Occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” The commentary to the Convention states that this provision was intended “to prevent a practice adopted during the Second World War by certain powers, which transferred portions of their own population to occupied territory for political and racial reasons or in order, as they claimed, to colonize those territory. Such transfers worsened the economic situation of the native population and endangered their separate existence as a race.”

Transfer of settlers to occupied territory by an occupying power is also an international war crime under Article 8(2)(b)(viii) of the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Moreover, the UN Security Council and General Assembly, the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and most legal scholars have concluded that Israel’s settlements in the oPt contravene international law. The International Court of Justice declared in a 2004 decision that “the Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (including East Jerusalem) have been established in breach of international law.”

Ben & Jerry’s business in illegal Israeli settlements also violates its obligations under the U.N.’s “Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises,” which asserts that corporations “shall not engage in nor benefit from war crimes, [or] crimes against humanity…” nor take actions that obstruct or impede economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights.

[Citations for the references above are in Our Report on Ben & Jerry’s business practices in the occupied Palestinian Territory.]

Shufersal distribution map The Israeli supermarket chain Shufersal distributes Ben & Jerry’s ice cream at stores both in Israel and in illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian Territory.

The map at left, with dots denoting the locations of their stores, was displayed in their store in Mishor Adumim (an industrial zone that services one of Israel’s largest settlements, Ma’ale Adumim). Notice that it depicts Israel and occupied Palestine as one state. Palestinians under occupation are not allowed to enter most Israeli settlements, so the supermarkets in those places only sell Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to Jewish settlers.

Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel Calls on Ben & Jerry’s to:

Until Israel ends its occupation and colonization of Palestinian lands in compliance with international law:

  1. End the marketing, catering and sales of Ben & Jerry’s products in Israel and Jewish-only settlements in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
  2. Stop manufacturing ice cream in Israel.
  3. Issue a statement (a) calling on Israel to end its occupation and settlement enterprise and (b) appealing directly to other socially responsible companies to do likewise and to cease business operations in Israel and its illegal settlements.
Click here to send a message to
Ben & Jerry’s headquarters in Vermont.

Tell Ben & Jerry’s that its complicity in Israel’s military occupation and illegal settlements is wrong and must stop!

Boycott Divestment & Sanctions:

In Solidarity with the Palestinian People

Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel’s opposition to Ben & Jerry’s business practices in Israel and occupied Palestine is motivated by the grave human rights abuses being committed by the State of Israel. We are are also aware that in 2005 Palestinian civil society called for an international campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with three rights codified in international law.

    • End Israel’s occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantle its separation wall;
    • Recognize the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
  • Respect, protect and promote the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in United Nations Resolution 194.
Ben & Jerry’s CEO, Jostein Solheim, said in an interview:

“My mantra that I’ve repeated a hundred times since starting at Ben & Jerry’s is: ‘Change is a wonderful thing,’…. The world needs dramatic change to address the social and environmental challenges we are facing. Values led businesses can play a critical role in driving that positive change. We need to lead by example, and prove to the world that this is the best way to run a business. Historically, this company has been and must continue to be a pioneer to continually challenge how business can be a force for good and address inequities inherent in global business.”

Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel agrees: The world – including Israel-Palestine

October 15, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism | , , , | Leave a comment

Street Demonstrations In 21 European Countries Held To Protest Against TAFTA/TTIP; Another ACTA Revolt Brewing?

By Glyn Moody | Techdirt | October 15, 2014

Last month, the European Commission refused to accept a request to allow an official EU-wide petition called a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) to take place. This was a curiously maladroit move by the Commission: it would have been easy to allow the petition against TAFTA/TTIP and CETA to proceed, thank the organizers once it was completed, file it away somewhere and then ignore it. Instead, by refusing to allow it to take place, the European Commission has highlighted in a dramatic manner the deeply undemocratic way in which so-called trade agreements are conducted.

Moreover, those making the request have simply gone ahead anyway, launching what they call the “Self-organised European Citizens’ initiative Against TTIP and CETA“. Even though this was only launched last week, it has already collected over 600,000 signatures from European citizens at the time of writing, and there is every indication that it will go well past the nominal one million signatures that the ECI would have required. The European Commission’s refusal to allow the official petition was doubly stupid, since it came shortly before a Europe-wide day of action against TAFTA/TTIP that took place last Saturday, and doubtless encouraged people to take to the streets in order to make their views felt:

On October 11, 2014, tens of thousands of people and hundreds of organisations in 21 countries are organising actions to reclaim democracy, and stop the negotiations on three far-reaching trade agreements: the EU-US deal (TTIP), the EU-Canada deal (CETA) and the trade in services deal (TiSA).

This decentralised European Day of Action — consisting of over 300 actions, marches, meetings and flash mobs — is being organised by an unprecedented alliance of civil society groups and individuals, social movements, trade unions, rights defenders, farmers and grassroots activist groups.

Reporting on the event, Euractiv.com wrote:

Some 400 activist groups marched all over Europe on Saturday (11 October) in protest against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), as the EU-US trade deal crystallises opposition to a wide variety of issues — from shale gas to corporate finance.

That last point is important. Euractiv.com goes on to explain:

The opposition to TTIP has many faces however, and seems to embody a wide variety of concerns. In France, many small demonstrations focused on opposition to shale gas, especially in the South of France, while in Berlin protesters were worried that TTIP would weaken the powers of the German regions, or Länders.

Potentially, that could make the European opposition to TAFTA/TTIP even broader-based than it was to ACTA, where people were largely concerned about a single issue — digital rights. And just as the ACTA demonstrations started off small scale, but grew to hundreds of thousands of people before ACTA was rejected by the European Parliament, so the anti-TTIP movement in Europe could easily swell larger still. Especially if the European Commission continues to conduct the negotiations in secret and without any input from its citizens.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

October 15, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , | 2 Comments

Western trade to Israel is on the rise, is BDS really working?

By Alastair Sloan | MEMO | October 13, 2014

There is good news and bad news of late for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. On the one hand, companies such as Veolia, willing partners in the occupation, are losing out on mega-contracts. Despite plans to withdraw from Israel, the French company just lost a $750 million contract to provide waste management services to Kuwait City. Pleasing for BDS was the explicit reference to Veolia’s association with Israel and a head nod to their campaigning efforts. It comes on top of nearly $24 billion in lost contracts, seemingly over support for Israel.

Likewise G4S are suffering setbacks. Earlier this year, Bill Gates announced a massive divestment, while a report over the summer (by the Financial Times) suggested they would soon end their activities in Israel. Campaigners are rightly cautious – the company have gone back on their word in the past.

Companies like G4S and Veolia are the traditional bogeymen of leftist, progressive, anti-war or anti-globalisation movements. They are big targets, household names, transnational corporations that everyone can relate to – and when I say everyone, I mean the general public, not activists.

I can go down to my local train station and see a G4S security van parked outside. I see a Veolia truck pass my house once a week to collect my rubbish. Companies like Hewlett Packard advertise on television.

With such high profile and controversial brands, in some ways – isn’t this the easier end of the campaign?

After all – how many households would sign a petition against Serco? Quite a few, most people have heard of them.

But what then? There are thousands of British companies trading with Israel. Their names, headquarters and management are constantly changing – the past 12 months alone saw 37 acquisitions, mergers and IPOs of those companies. There are hundreds of thousands more trading from other countries. A tiny proportion are household names.

Raising awareness of each of these companies requires disproportionate effort by a small number of time poor activists.

The BDS movement has put itself into a massive fight. And though there are some successes, figures released this week show that UK-Israel trade actually grew by 28 per cent year-on-year in the first half of 2014, now amounting to £2.5 billion. There may be successes here and there, but the machine of modern commerce is an extremely hard one to slow.

And despite the popular narrative of “well, it worked in South Africa”, the uncomfortable truth is that many economists and historians disagree.

“Perversely, South African businesses reaped at least $5 billion to $10 billion in windfalls as Western firms disinvested at fire sale prices between 1984 and 1989,” noted Thomas W. Hazlett, now at George Mason University. The political effect of the sanctions movement saw the white power elite retrench. Apartheid policies worsened – the police and military cracked down even harder.

In truth, the collapse of Soviet Communism, populist black movements in South Africa, white supremacists working with blacks rather than oppressing them, just to keep their families fed – led to the fall of apartheid. It’s nice to think the West played the lead role, but in truth, South Africa did a lot of it itself. Its role is, somewhat patronisingly, rarely acknowledged.

As the BDS movement has grown stronger – the domestic politics of Israel is tipping to the hard right. Attacks on Gaza are becoming more frequent. Knesset hard-liners have advocated genocide against Palestinian mothers, or published detailed plans on their Facebook pages about how the entire population of Gaza should be deported. Attacks on journalists, artists and pro-war activists by far right extremists are on the increase. The Israeli media propagates an us-and-them attitude to not only the Arab world, but also their detractors in the West. Are we already seeing what really happened in South Africa play out? Are the worst parts of Israeli society becoming stronger?

The campaign has some positives with regards solidarity, it contributes to educating the public – but ultimately, we don’t know whether it will make things worse and, as a pro-sanctions or boycott movement, it doesn’t yet have a successful precedent or contemporary model for success – just look at North Korea, Iran, Russia or indeed the porous Arab boycott against Israel.

But aside from the uncertain and potentially dangerous side-effects of BDS, we are ignoring the bigger problem. The crux of bringing the Israeli hawks to heel isn’t so much about corporate investments – it’s about political money, dripping from the campaign coffers of Western politicians bribed and briefed by Jerusalem cronies.

The funding is mysterious, ambiguous and seemingly unimpeachable, protected by anti-Semitism laws which forbid honest discussion of it, or by hasbara attack dogs who discredit any journalist or academic who speaks out.

But imagine the tabloid outcry if hundreds of millions in “Muslim” donations began pouring in to Western politics, Muslims with strong interests in the domestic or foreign policies of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia or Iran.

You don’t have to imagine – last month Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (and Norway) were caught funding influential foreign policy think tanks in Washington. And there was an outcry.

But many feel uncomfortable taking on the Israeli lobby – because it’s scary. It comes with great risk – people have lost their jobs, careers and reputations. Nobody likes to be labelled an anti-Semite, which is their preferred mode of attack.

Assuming for a moment that South African white supremacists had actually wanted to continue with apartheid, if they had had the financial resources and strategic nous to invest millions into Washington and Westminster, a boycott campaign would have stood almost no chance of success.

Campaigning against corporate involvement in morally dubious interests should not be stopped. I wouldn’t feel comfortable if Western corporations, pension funds, or governments invested in arms deals with dodgy regimes, or became complicit in mass human rights abuses, and nobody knew about it.

But we should recognise the limits of the BDS movement – both by recognising that the “low-hanging fruit” of corporate targets – international corporations who are already disliked by the public, may only be the warm-up, by better understanding what really happened in South Africa, and by asking – are we really attacking the root of the problem?

BDS, in some ways, detracts from directly dealing with the real problem: the foreign policy of the West has been seriously corrupted by Israeli influence, almost wherever you look.

Dismantling “the Israel lobby” is a tougher fight, but it’s a far more important one.

If we are over-awed by the challenge, or if indeed the BDS movement was itself a function of an inability to crack the lobby directly, there may still be cause for optimism. Removing big money from politics, in general, is an extremely populist movement.

There are very few Westerners who want the status quo to continue, for big corporations and foreign interests to hold such sway on our democracies – on any issue. You don’t have to be pro-Palestinian to recognise this.

A broader coalition of groups, from charities, to environmental campaigners, to trade unions, to newer organisations like Change.org and 38 Degrees could be the key. The influence of the Israel lobby isn’t a unique problem. Perhaps by looking to other marginalised groups who face similar challenges, the pro-Palestinian campaign can find yet more life.

October 14, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , | 2 Comments

Duvalier vs. Aristide

Baby Doc is Dead But His Shadow Lingers Over Haiti

By Ben Terrall | CounterPunch | October 10, 2014

The October 4 death of former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier in Port-au-Prince has justly garnered world-wide attention. But too much about current Haitian politics has been left out of this round of media coverage.

Duvalier’s father Francois, nicknamed Papa Doc, died in 1971 after years of brutal repression of anyone not in Duvalier Senior’s inner circle. When Papa Doc died in 1971, his 19-year-old son (aka Baby Doc) was soon declared the new President for Life. The elder Duvalier had maintained power in no small part by successfully currying power with Washington, and his son did an even more impressive job of winning essential economic, political, and military support from the U.S. In his essential volume Damming the Flood, historian Peter Hallward explains that in return for that backing, Duvalier “…[provided] the sort of investment climate his patrons had come to expect – minimal taxes, a virtual ban on trade unions, the preservation of starvation wages, the removal of any restrictions on the repatriation of profits.”

But Duvalier’s iron-fisted rule, in which many thousands of people were slaughtered, broke down in the face of a courageous popular uprising of the downtrodden poor masses. This grassroots opposition was largely nurtured by community-based church groups, called ti legliz in Haitian kreyol, which were inspired by liberation theology and its focus on a “preferential option for the poor.”

With the help of the U.S. government, Duvalier and his wife fled with hundreds of millions of dollars for exile in Paris.

Duvalier’s return to Haiti in 2011 was met with gasps of horror from most of the populace but celebrated by his friends in the ruling elite, including the current president Michel Martelly. Duvalier retained a passionate hatred for Lavalas, the movement of the poor majority. Lavalas (which means “flood” in kreyol) was and still is led by former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. It was created to help the poor rise “from misery to poverty with dignity.” Aristide was elected president twice by large majorities but forced from office by U.S.-orchestrated coups in both 1991 and 2004. After a seven year global campaign of pressure combined with sustained grassroots activity in Haiti, Aristide and his family returned to their homeland in March of 2011.

Unlike the chill that greeted Baby Doc’s return, Aristide arrived home to throngs of many thousands of jubilant supporters who lined the road from the airport to his house and filled its courtyard, singing and chanting for hours. Though frequently described in the corporate press as inactive, since 2011 Aristide has thrown himself into promoting education, a key priority of his two presidencies. He has overseen the reopening and expansion of the University of the Aristide Foundation (UNIFA), which welcomed another group of incoming students this week. UNIFA includes a medical school, a nursing school, a law school, and a school of physical therapy (designed to assist victims of the 2010 earthquake).

Though Duvalier has died, his influence remains strong in Haiti. It extends into the current government of Michel Martelly, which came to power in a flawed U.S.-backed election in which fewer than 20% of Haitians turned out to vote. After Duvalier’s death, Martelly eulogized him as “a true son of Haiti.” Duvalier’s son Nicolas is an adviser to Martelly. Other Duvalier supporters include the Interior Minister and the Public Works Secretary of State.

True to its orgins, the Martelly government is currently engaged in a series of attacks on Aristide which have raised concerns in Haiti and throughout the world.

A recent open letter initiated by the Haiti Action Committee and Global Women’s Strike and signed by hundreds of individuals and organizations denounced these attacks: “On Aug. 21, Haitian police wearing black masks and carrying heavy arms appeared in front of the home of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide as a Haitian judge issued calls to arrest him. Hundreds of people courageously surrounded the house to protect him.

“One week before, President Aristide was summoned to court on false corruption charges. This is the fourth time since his return to Haiti in 2011 that he has been the target of a politically motivated legal case. (Previous charges were dropped before he could even challenge them in court.) The judge in this case, Lamarre Bélizaire, has been suspended for ten years from practicing the law by the Port-au-Prince Bar Association for using the court to persecute opponents of the present regime. His suspension is due to begin once he steps down as judge.”

Representatives Maxine Waters and Luis Gutierrez have also written open letters to Secretary of State John Kerry expressing their grave concern for Aristide’s safety.

President Aristide’s lawyer, Ira Kurzban, has warned, “The escalation of events against President Aristide are viewed as efforts to see how far Martelly can push without response from the international community. If a loud chorus of disapproval is not heard against the tactics of the Martelly government, both Aristide’s life and the future of democracy in Haiti are at risk.”

To that end activists throughout Haiti demonstrated on Tuesday, September 30 in support of Aristide’s right to continue his work without harassment from the Martelly regime. Thousands marched in Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haitien. In the Port-au-Prince demonstration, police cracked down on peaceful protestors. As Maxine Waters pointed out in an October 2 letter to Kerry, police used water hoses and tear gas on the thousands of marchers who were attempting to walk to Aristide’s home. Waters wrote, “These confrontational tactics were used despite reports that the demonstrators were peaceful. It has also been reported that police blocked the route along which the demonstrators had planned to march.”

Speaking to me at a San Francisco rally in support of the marches in Haiti, Robert Roth, co-founder of the Haiti Action Committee, noted: “Despite all the attacks against President Aristide and the Lavalas movement, the UNIFA opened its doors once again this week to 1,000 students. And the people took to the streets in large numbers to let it be known that they will defend the first democratically elected president in Haiti’s history and that they will defend their movement.”

Roth continued, “Little of this has been covered in the U.S. press, so it’s important that we get the word out. If a demonstrator is attacked in Hong Kong, the New York Times runs a front page story. If a demonstrator protesting the Martelly government is attacked by water hoses in Haiti, it doesn’t even make the news. If you read the mainstream press, it never happened. The police tactics being used right now in Haiti harken back to the days of Duvalier. That’s why we have to raise our voices and expose the dangerous level of repression in Haiti right now.”

Ben Terrall can be reached at: bterrall@gmail.com

October 11, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

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