Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

Victory for BDS campaign as UEFA decides against Jerusalem tournament bid

Palestinian BDS National Committee | September 19, 2014

The Union of European Football Associations has rejected an Israeli bid to host games during the 2020 European Championships. The decision follows a campaign by Palestinian sports teams and campaign groups and activists across Europe.

The Israeli Football Association bid to host games in Jerusalem as part of the UEFA 2020 tournament that will take place across 13 cities, but UEFA announced on Friday that Jerusalem was not one of the successful bidders.

75 ​Palestinian football teams and NGOs​​ wrote to ​ UEFA president Michel​ Platini arguing that holding the UEFA 2020 games in Jerusalem would be tantamount to “rewarding” Israel for its massacre of more than 2,100 Palestinians, including over 500 children, during its recent 52-day assault on Gaza.

Campaigners across Europe pressured UEFA and national football associations not to accept the Israeli bid. Sit-ins were held by Palestine solidarity activists at the headquarters of French and Italian football associations. ​ ​

Abdulrahman Abunahel, the coordinator in Gaza with the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee said:

“Given that awarding Israel the right to host the games would have been a sign of support for Israel’s massacre in Gaza and its war on Palestinian football, UEFA has made the only sensible decision.

“We thank all those who joined us in opposing Israel’s bid to host games in Jerusalem, a city from which Israel is ethnically cleansing Palestinians. Our online campaigning and the occupations of football association buildings in France and Italy undoubtedly played a role in persuading UEFA to to make the right choice.”

“Israel has launched a war on football in Palestine: footballers have been killed, stadiums bombed and players have been refused permission to travel to matches. UEFA must suspend the membership the Israeli Football Association if it continues to maintain its links with the Israeli state that practices occupation, colonisation and apartheid.”​

Thousands of people participated in a Twitter storm action on Tuesday to tell UEFA that awarding Israel the right to host UEFA 2020 tournament games would amount to a message of approval for its massacre in Gaza.

Among those killed in Israel’s recent massacre in Gaza were Ahmad Muhammad al-Qatar and Uday Caber, two 19-year-old football players at the start of their careers, and 49-year-old Ahed Zaqout, a footballing legend in Palestine known as “the voice of football” for his live commentaries. 32 sports facilities and around 500 athletes’ houses were also damaged.

Palestinian groups also warned that hosting games in Jerusalem would legitimise Israel’s forced displacement of Palestinians from occupied East Jerusalem, which is recognised as occupied Palestinian territory by the EU and UN.

Israel recently announced plans to further expand illegal Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem, a step that the UN and other agencies have warned will lead to further expulsions and forced evictions of Palestinians from their homes.

In a public letter protesting against UEFA’s decision to allow Israel to host the Under 21 tournament in 2013, more than 50 footballers including Didier Drogba and Frederik Kanoute called the Israeli-hosted tournament “a reward for actions that are contrary to sporting values”.

In 2010, UEFA president Michel Platini said: “Israel must choose between allowing Palestinian sport to continue and prosper or be forced to face the consequences for their behavior”.

Campaigners are now planning to intensify the pressure on Platini to live up to his promises and suspend the Israeli Football Association.

September 19, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , , | Leave a comment

Occupy group abolishes nearly $4 million in student loan debt

RT | September 17, 2014

On the third anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement, an offshoot group announced that it has erased $3.8 million worth of private student loan debt.

The group, Strike Debt, said in a press release issued on Wednesday this week that its Rolling Jubilee initiative has purchased nearly $4 million in private student debt owed by former attendees of Everest College — an institution run by the massive for-profit education company Corinthian Colleges — in turn freeing those former students from a huge chunk of the burdensome loan bills.

“Jubilant Greetings!” the group wrote to 2,700 former Everest students. “We are writing to you with good news: We just got rid of some of your Everest College debt!”

“Everest College is committing widespread fraud,” the letter continues. “It targets lower-income students and students of color, offers low quality education and — with the help of the federal government — buries students under a lifetime of crushing debt, all to profit the one percent. No one should be forced to mortgage their future for an education.”

“You no longer owe the balance of this particular debt. It is gone, a gift with no strings attached. You are no longer under any obligation to settle this account with the original creditor, the bill collector or anyone else.”

This week’s announcement is only the latest from the non-profit organization to tout the results of a two-year-old initiative spawned from the Occupy movement that has previously erased more than $15 million in emergency room bills by purchasing debt from the companies tasked with collecting from debtors, then erasing it entirely using donated funds and never forcing the original debtor to pay them back.

“We buy debt for pennies on the dollar, but instead of collecting it, we abolish it,” Strike Debt explains Rolling Jubilee on the group’s website. “We cannot buy specific individuals’ debt — instead, we help liberate debtors at random through a campaign of mutual support, good will and collective refusal. All proceeds go directly to buying and canceling people’s debt.”

“This isn’t just a stunt or a spectacle,” Rolling Jubilee member Astra Taylor told NBC News this week. “This isn’t a long-term plan, either. The point is to touch people where they are, and try to create a political awareness out of that.”

Now in the heels of successful other campaigns waged in the three years since the Occupy movement took hold in Lower Manhattan and spread across the United States, Strike Debt says former students of Everest College are the latest to luck out through the Rolling Jubilee initiative, and with reason: in this week’s statement, the group says that students at Everest were “conned” and that Everest and other Corinthian schools “are now being closed or sold off to other predatory companies, leaving students with no good options.”

“Despite Corinthian’s dire financial straits, checkered past, and history of lying to and misleading vulnerable students, tens of thousands of people may still be liable for the loans they have incurred while playing by the rules and trying to get an education,” one Strike Debt member told CNN.

In the US, student loan debt now totals roughly $1.2 trillion — surpassing the amount owed through credit card debt — with the average graduate owing $26,600, according to the Institute for College Access and Success.

September 17, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Solidarity and Activism | , , | Leave a comment

Johannesburg university issues ban on Israeli students and academics

By Tarek Sarad | Falastin News | September 12, 2014

Palestinian ambassador to South Africa Abdul-Hafid Nofal said that Johannesburg university decided not to accept any student or deal with any academic or lecturer from Israel.

In a press release on Wednesday, Nofal said that the academic council of the university issued a decision prohibiting the admission of Israeli students to any of its collages and departments.

The decision also included a ban on hiring or hosting academics and lecturers who work for Israeli universities, according to the Palestinian ambassador.

He noted that Johannesburg university was the first one in South Africa to have taken a bold decision three years ago to boycott Israeli universities.

In a related context

What really winds up Israel is that this rejection comes from a famous scientist, and it is science that drives its economy, prestige and military strength.

Stephen Hawking‘s decision to boycott the Israeli president’s conference has gone viral. Over 100,000 Facebook shares of the Guardian report at last count. Whatever the subsequent fuss, Hawking’s letter is unequivocal. His refusal was made because of requests from Palestinian academics.

Witness the speed with which the pro-Israel lobby seized on Cambridge University’s initial false claim that he had withdrawn on health grounds to denounce the boycott movement, and their embarrassment when within a few hours the university shamefacedly corrected itself. Hawking also made it clear that if he had gone he would have used the occasion to criticise Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians.

While journalists named him “the poster boy of the academic boycott” and supporters of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement celebrated, Ha’aretz, the most progressive of the Israeli press, drew attention to the inflammatory language used by the conference organisers, who described themselves as “outraged” rather than that they “regretted” Hawking’s decision.

That the world’s most famous scientist had recognised the justice of the Palestinian cause is potentially a turning point for the BDS campaign. And that his stand was approved by a majority of two to one in the Guardian poll that followed his announcement shows just how far public opinion has turned against Israel’s relentless land-grabbing and oppression.

Read More: Stephen Hawking’s boycott hits Israel where it hurts: science

September 15, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , | Leave a comment

China, Russia to jointly face external challenges: Xi

The BRICS Post | September 11, 2014

Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, met in Dushanbe, capital of Tajikistan, on Thursday ahead of the 14th summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

The two allies discussed “pressing issues of bilateral cooperation, particularly in energy, aircraft engineering and infrastructure”, said a Kremlin statement.

It is the fourth meeting in 2014 between the two leaders.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said during Thursday’s meet that the leadership of the two nations will “jointly face external challenges”.

“I am ready to maintain further contacts with you to strengthen mutual support and expand openness between our countries, so that we could always draw from each other’s support, jointly face external challenges and achieve our grand development and revival goals,” said Xi.

Earlier last week, China put its weight solidly behind Russian President Vladimir Putin’s seven-point peace plan for Ukraine, even as the EU prepared another wave of sanctions targeting Russia’s banking and energy sectors.

The Russian President on Thursday lauded the milestone deal signed earlier this year in May, the $400-billion gas supply deal between the two countries, securing the world’s top energy user a major source of cleaner fuel.

“This was done with the direct support of the President of China. Now we have practically begun its implementation, which, I am certain, will proceed in the same business-like manner and will be efficiently carried through by both parties – Russia and the People’s Republic of China,” said Putin on Thursday in Dushanbe.

The deal opened up a new market for Moscow as it risks losing European customers over the Ukraine crisis.

Putin’s “personal friendship” with the Chinese President is a political triumph for the Russian President even as Western leaders step up attempts to isolate Putin internationally over Russia’s alleged support to pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine.

“We are making headway in other traditional areas of cooperation as well, including nuclear power, aircraft engineering, infrastructure and so forth,” Putin said on Thursday.

Xi said Beijing and Moscow have overseen new progress in the joint development of long-haul jumbo jets and heavy helicopters, as well as other major joint projects.

“Early this month you personally took part in the ceremony to launch the construction of the Power of Siberia gas pipeline, which shows how seriously you take the expansion of Chinese-Russian energy cooperation,” Xi told Putin.

“We have set up an intergovernmental Chinese-Russian commission on investment cooperation. We are actively considering cooperation in the construction of high-speed railways. We have launched cooperation in satellite navigation systems, which you personally have given great attention to,” he added.

Xi and Putin had also held talks in July in Brazil during the 6th BRICS Summit.

Xi has held talks or met with Putin for nine times since he assumed the office of China’s President in March 2013, testifying to stronger and more assertive Sino-Russian relations.

In a major highlight of an investment meet on Tuesday, Moscow and Beijing have entered into a pact to boost use of the rouble and yuan for trade transactions.

During its maiden meeting in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, the Russia-China Investment Cooperation Commission discussed 32 bilateral investment projects on Tuesday, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov said.

Both Xi and Putin will now attend the 14th summit of the SCO slated for Thursday and Friday in the Tajik capital.

TBP

September 12, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Solidarity and Activism | , , | Leave a comment

Emergency Response Protest: Say No to U.S. War in the Middle East

E M E R G E N C Y  P R O T E S T

NO to another war!

FRI ►SEPT 12   5 – 6 pm

Times Square 43rd St & 7th Ave International Action Center   IACenter.org  212-633-6646
www.facebook.com/events

Maryland/DC/Northern Virginia
Regional International Action Center

Emergency Response Protest on 9/11:
Say No to U.S. War in the Middle East

Stop Obama’s New War on IRAQ & SYRIA:

On the eve of 9/11 President Obama announced a new U.S. war of aggression. Emergency response actions are urgently needed.

Obama lied last night just like Bush and Colin Powell lied in 2003 and Lyndon Johnson did in 1964. He told us how terrible ISIS is, how barbaric. He will announce a new “Coalition of the Willing”. He is using the Big Lie to launch another war.

But ISIS is not the “reason” the U.S. is going to war. ISIS is the PRETEXT. It is the latest of a string of pretexts from the Maine in 1898 to Vietnam’s Gulf of Tonkin in 1964 to “weapons of mass destruction” in 2003, pretexts/lies to maintain an empire.

ISIS is barbaric? It is the Pentagon that is barbaric. What are more barbaric than U.S. bombs in Syria and Iraq? U.S. drones wipe out whole wedding parties from Pakistan to Yemen, slaughtering men, women and yes, children.

It was U.S. war and occupation that killed more than a million Iraqis and destroyed that country. It was U.S. arms that fed Syria’s civil war, killing hundreds of thousands and half-destroying that country. Now Obama wants to destroy the other half.

ISIS grew from the poison of U.S. wars, arms and the cynical policy of inflaming sectarian divisions. Stop the Pentagon from waging war on the people and the people there will take care of ISIS. Continuing to wage war will arouse a billion people against the U.S. and its war machine.

The Bush “War on Terror” militarized every police force in the U.S. targeting people of color. The prison population soared. It globalized invasive surveillance and locked thousands in secret detention and solitary confinement. Now Obama promises a new “war on terror” reaching years into the future. We say NO!”

September 11, 2014 Posted by | Militarism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , | Leave a comment

1,200 Academics and Teachers in Spain Call for Academic Boycott of Israel

Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel | September 10, 2014

2014-israel-expiredThe campaign, which started two years ago, asks for support from professionals from the academic and scientific field, and also from associations linked to this field, such as student’s and worker’s unions, research centres, professional associations, etc. From the 1,400 people who have signed the manifesto, 150 are professors, 850 are teachers and 200 are researchers. More than 52 associations linked to the academic field have also signed; among them there are research groups and University departments.

This initiative is part of an international campaign: Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) to Israel. This international calling is a non-violent strategy driven by the Palestinian Society in 2005. It is growing as an effective pressure strategy towards Israel, so that it respects Human Rights and International Law. Last year, the physician Stephen Hawking, the Nobel Peace Prize Desmond Tutu and four American academic associations adhered to the boycott. It’s important to emphasize that this demand is at an institutional level and not at an individual one. On the same line, the European Union has established a de facto boycott to all collaboration with Israeli research centres and Universities placed in the Occupied Territories.

The campaign will keep collecting signatures and foresees to support specific campaigns which will develop in different Spanish universities, such as the University of Vic and the University of Malaga, where the aim is to break ties with the Haifa University and the Tel Aviv University, respectively.

In Catalonia, activists from the above mentioned campaign, occupied on May 15th the Secretary of Universities and Research asking for transparency in all of the agreements signed last November when a delegation of businessmen, councillors and directors of research centres lead by Artur Mar travelled to Israel to tighten economic and academic ties with Israeli institutions.

September 11, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism | , , , | 2 Comments

MEPs call for EU-Israel trade agreement to be suspended

MEMO | September 10, 2014

20140725_italypropalestineprotest003Members of the European Parliament (MEP) yesterday called to hold Israel accountable for its war in the Gaza Strip and to suspend the EU-Israel association agreement, the Anadolu news agency reported.

In a statement, the MEPs declared, “Israel’s direct targeting of civilians and its reckless cause of civilian deaths is a clear breach of international human rights law.”

Member of the Unitarian Left (GUE/NGL) parliamentary group, Martina Anderson said: “You cannot go on with an agreement after you have broken it.”

The European Union condemns the establishment of illegal settlements on the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 and considers it a violation of international law, but the association agreement with Israel is still valid.

Anderson stressed the Palestinians’ right to sovereignty, freedom and to live with dignity and respect and that they, as parliamentarians, should take responsibility otherwise they will become “partners in crime”.

Portuguese MEP, Marisa Matias said that suspending the association agreement with Israel is not a sufficient step, stressing on the need to apply an arms embargo and start working on a full ban of Israeli products produced in the occupied territories.

September 11, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism, War Crimes | , , , , | 2 Comments

Trades Union Congress slams Gaza attack, urges Israel arms embargo

MEMO | September 10, 2014

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) passed a statement on Gaza at its annual congress Wednesday, urging the UK government to impose an Israel arms embargo and calling for the suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement.

The statement, overwhelmingly endorsed, condemns the death toll in Gaza that included “many people going about their daily work”, and “deplores attacks on UN facilities”. The TUC recommends that those responsible for breaching international law “should be dealt with in the International Criminal Court”.

The TUC statement also calls for an end to the “blockade of Gaza” and welcomes “the creation of a unity government for the Palestinian Authority” involving both Fatah and Hamas, urging “the UK government and the European Union to support this development”.

In light of Israel’s attacks on Gaza and policies in the Occupied Territories, the TUC statement calls on the UK government and EU to “end immediately arms trading with Israel including all military-industrial collaboration”. The TUC itself, it adds, should work with relevant unions to “press those companies involved in supporting Israel’s military to cease to do so”.

Congress called for “the suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement until the rights of the Palestinians are established”, and committed to “rais[ing] the pressure on corporations complicit in arms trading, the settlements, occupation and the wall” through strategies that pressure “complicit companies” – a key part of the Palestinian-led Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) campaign.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) noted that “the statement, and the goals contained within it, are now official TUC policy”, an important boost for Palestine solidarity and BDS activists. The TUC’s statement was condemned by anti-boycott umbrella group Fair Play, who complained that boycotts merely pull “Israeli and Palestinian workers further apart”.

September 11, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, War Crimes | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Argentinian figures, groups sue Israel for war crimes in Gaza

Palestine Information Center – 07/09/2014

BUENOS AIRES – A lawsuit was filed on Saturday against Israel by actors, activists, politicians and pro-Palestinian solidarity groups in Argentina, a statement released by the Palestinian embassy in Buenos Aires said.

The case was brought before the federal court of justice in the city of Cordoba.

The case was named “Lawsuit against the Authorities of Israel for Committing Crimes against Humanity and Genocide against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip.”

Journalist Serkhio Ortiz, head of the Argentinean committee of honoring the missing and victims, actor Juan Jose-Tutu, and singer and actress Mara Santosho, were among the people who signed the case.

The signatories called in their lawsuit for issuing an international arrest warrant against Israeli figures through the Interpol and forcing Israel to compensate for the human and material losses that it had caused during its war on Gaza.

September 8, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | Leave a comment

The unpublicized impact of a successful BDS action

By Roqayah Chamseddine | Al-Akhbar | September 4, 2014

There is no question as to how immensely successful the Block the Boat protest at the Port of Oakland, led by Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC) and arranged with the help of countless organizations, was. Unless you are a supporter of Israel or a journalist at the Oakland Tribune. Thousands of protesters, including an estimated 5,000 who marched on the Port of Oakland on August 16, prevented the Zim Piraeus from unloading by keeping workers from crossing their picket line to enter the port for an historic four days, making it “the longest blockade of an Israeli ship” according to AROC.

The Oakland Tribune, Haaretz, and a number of other outlets, reported that the Israeli-owned Zim Piraeus unloaded its cargo after “delays” but after speaking to a number of distributors whose cargo was being transported by Zim Piraeus I found this to be unmistakably false and misleading.

According to a document from PIERS, a database of US international trade which provides maritime logistics, at least 23 companies are clearly listed as having goods aboard Zim Piraeus – ranging from cucumber pickles and sparkling wine to ceramic tiles and solar swimming pool heaters – with some goods originating in Israel. Though building materials and agricultural produce were listed by PIERS it should be noted that Zim Integrated Shipping Services imports ammunition “manufactured by Israel Manufacturing Industries by Federal Cartridge (Federal Premium Ammunition)” which makes defense ammunition used by U.S. law enforcement and has a weapons contract with the Department of Homeland Security. Federal Premium Ammunition is a subsidiary of Alliant Techsystems, which produces Bushmaster autocannons used by U.S. forces and NATO, the AGM-88 High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile (an air-to-surface missile), Hellfire missile upgrades, and provides other weapons services to the US military and allies. The import report for Zim shows that the ammunition originated in Israel, at the Port of Haifa and arrived at the Port of Savannah in Georgia.

Zim’s first ship, the Kedmah, was purchased in 1947, before the creation of the State of Israel, and would carry thousand of immigrants to Palestine. In 1948 Zim ships would carry arms and ammunition used to carry out the Nakba, and according to a video published online by Zim Integrated Shipping Services “Zim would play this crucial role every time Israel faced conflict.” Ze’ev Shind, a key Mossad activist who would become managing director of Zim Israel Navigation Co., president of the American-Israel Shipping Co., and Director-General of Israel’s Ministry of Communications and Ministry of Defense was a principal figure organizing immigration to Palestine, according to The Canadian Jewish Chronicle. The role of Zim in the ethnic cleansing of Palestine is well documented, even by Zim sources.

Esteson Co., a direct food and beverage importer and distributor in California, posted on their Facebook page that their “garlic is now rotting on its way to Russia to be offloaded unto (sic) another vessel,” and when contacted for comment it was mentioned that a container of Zeos beer never arrived due to the Port action. All in all, Esteson Co. has not received any of their products as of September 3.

Good Stuff Distributors, located in San Francisco, California, told Al-Akhbar English that not only did they not receive their shipment of Zadona cucumber pickles as of September 3 they do not know where the cargo is and are still waiting to hear from Zadona as to where the items are. A spokesperson for Good Stuff Distributors informed Al-Akhbar English that not only were they unaware of Zim’s ties to Israel they have made it clear to Zadona, of Sinokrot Food Company, that they are to “find another vessel” as Good Stuff Distributors will no longer be using Zim.

Alfa Omega Co., which has trading partners in France, Spain and Greece, disclosed to Al-Akhbar English that their business was “greatly affected”, as they did not receive any of their products, including olives. The spokesperson was clearly unhappy, stating that the targeting of Zim by the Block the Boat protesters, specifically, is the reason that they will now look for another vessel to use for their products, despite having worked with Zim “for years”.

The sales and marketing manager at Carmichael International Service, a customs broker and freight forwarder with laminated glass aboard Zim Piraeus, told Al-Akhbar English that customers did not receive their products as of September 3, but it was due to “delays” and “port congestion,” which is undoubtedly a brazen spin on what transpired at the Port of Oakland. When examining the vessel schedule for the Zim Piraeus, dating back to July and after August 20, we find that there are no analogous delays as there was in Oakland as the vessels usually left the same day or a day after, unlike at the Port of Oakland where the “delay” was at least four days long.

Cynara Worldwide Sourcing Inc., located in Fresno, California, said that all products on the Zim Piraeus were not only never unloaded but that they were sent to Shanghai and they wouldn’t receive them until at least the end of the month. As a result of Block the Boat, the spokesperson told Al-Akhbar English that they have put an immediate halt to “everything on Zim” and will now be looking for other vessels they can use.

The most curious case in regards to Block the Boat is that of American Metals and Chemicals, located in Hollywood, Florida. A representative told Al-Akhbar English that they did not receive their shipment of alkyl sulfonic acid, and that the cargo was diverted to Russia. When asked who they were contacted by the representative stated that a letter was delivered from an attorney’s office, though they could not find the letter at the time of the phone call so as to disclose which office. The letter stated, in part, that their shipment was “turned away because of the strike” at the Port of Oakland. There was also a follow up telephone call from the same office, letting them know that their products were being diverted.

The remaining consignees listed as having cargo delivered to the Port of Oakland by the Zim Piraeus during the Block the Boat campaign were contacted by Al-Akhbar English but did not immediately return calls for comment on the whereabouts of their goods – based on what was revealed by the 6 companies that did supply information it is not difficult to assume that they faced comparable circumstances. Regardless, Block the Boat was not only successful in keeping the Zim Piraeus from unloading the aforementioned cargo but due specifically to this action a number of companies are now either putting a hold on all products using Zim vessels or reconsidering using Zim, which is not only contrary to what the media has reported but an impressive achievement for the movement for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.

Roqayah Chamseddine is a Sydney based Lebanese-American journalist and commentator. She tweets @roqchams and writes ‘Letters From the Underground.

September 4, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

Militarization, Surveillance, and Profit: How Grassroots Groups are Fighting Urban Shield

By Nadia Kayyali | EFF | September 3, 2014

While all eyes are on the disturbing evidence of police militarization in Ferguson, are you paying attention to what’s happening with law enforcement in your own back yard?

In the San Francisco Bay Area, the answer is yes. A coalition of community groups has come together to call attention to Urban Shield, a four-day long “preparedness” exercise for law enforcement and other agencies that will take place from September 4-8.  They’ve organized a week of education, including a march and demonstration outside of the event on Friday, September 5. To these community groups, Urban Shield represents state violence and political repression, not public safety.

The reasons for protesting Urban Shield are clear. It is one of the ways that local law enforcement gets access to, and romanced by, military and surveillance technologies like the ones we’ve seen turned against protesters in Ferguson, as well as low-level crimes, across the country.

Urban Shield is coordinated by the for-profit company Cytel Group, and in addition to training exercises, it also functions as a marketplace and testing site for new militarized technologies. The accompanying trade show includes exhibitors from armored vehicle manufacturers to a “counter-terrorism magazine.” In 2013, companies were encouraged “to place their products and technology directly into the hands of SWAT, Fire, EOD, and EMS professionals.” Vending at Urban Shield is touted as a way to get “invaluable real-time feedback for vendor product[s]” since “at the end of every scenario the teams are questioned concerning the benefits and drawbacks of each piece of technology used in that scenario.” It’s unsurprising that Urban Shield has a “try it out” component for law enforcement, since there is an incredible amount of profit to be made from such products, often with federal funds (i.e. taxpayer dollars) footing the bill.

The event is part of the federal Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI). UASI is a grant program administered by the federal Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Security Grant Program (the same program that funds fusion centers). In the San Francisco Bay Area, the grants are coordinated by the Bay Area UASI, a regional coordinating body. UASI grants are supposed to go to “planning, organization, equipment, training, and exercise needs of high-threat, high-density Urban Areas.” The grants have gone to law enforcement agencies all over the country— but the program has been the subject of scathing critique from grassroots groups and lawmakers.

Much of the criticism around UASI is that the grants enable purchases of equipment that no community should adopt without a public conversation. The obvious examples are armored vehicles and so-called “less-lethal” weapons like tear gas and rubber bullets, like those used to violently suppress demonstrators in Ferguson. But UASI funds can also be used to purchase sophisticated surveillance equipment that, absent safeguards, could allow local law enforcement to spy on activists before demonstrations ever take place, or to racially profile people of color in communities like Oakland. Senator Tom Coburn’s 2012 report “Safety at Any Price” lists some of the equipment that has been purchased with UASI money, and it reads like a laundry list of privacy advocates’ concerns: surveillance cameras, mobile fingerprinting devices, automated license plate readers, armored vehicles, and drones. To make matters worse, as Senator Coburn’s report points out, there is no evidence that these purchases make anyone safer.

It should also be noted that Urban Shield is not limited to the San Francisco area. Boston and Austin also participate in similar trainings, as has Jordan. And Jordan isn’t the only international connection. As the Urban Shield website boasts, “In 2014, teams from Singapore and South Korea will participate.” Teams in the past have included the French National Police and teams from Israel, Brazil, Jordan, and Bahrain. Police departments from across the country participate as well, including SWAT teams from Newark, Dallas, Chicago, and Travis County, Texas.

None of this has escaped the attention of organizers, who have made it clear that Urban Shield is linked to surveillance of activists and violence against communities of color across the country, but also to political repression internationally. In their words: “The line between police and military is blurring as parallel military tactics are being deployed globally to repress dissent and increase state control over people who are calling for freedom and justice.”

September 4, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Militarism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

E-Mail the University of Illinois Board of Trustees

By Corey Robin | September 3, 2014

This is part 2 of a two-part post. In the last post, I read through the Salaita Papers, which were released under Illinois’s Freedom of Information Act; in this one, I canvas the other events of the day.

First, last night’s report that Chancellor Wise would be forwarding Salaita’s appointment to the Trustees was wrong. Several members of the UIUC faculty met with her today. According to Michael Rothberg, chair of the English department:

Together with two colleagues I just met with Chancellor Wise, at her invitation. The main message from our discussion was that there is no change in the status of the case. It seems that the students were not accurate in their impression. She doesn’t know if the Board of Trustees will be voting on the case at their 9/11 meeting, but she indicated that she thought a reversal was very unlikely.

So status quo. I’ll come back to that 9/11 meeting at the end of this post.

Second, tonight, the English Department became the fourth department at UIUC to take a vote of no confidence in the leadership of the University of Illinois—the trustees, the president, and Chancellor Wise. From what I’m hearing, the departments of history, comparative and world literatures, and East Asian Languages and Cultures will be voting on similar motions sometime this week.

Third, the number of canceled events grows. We now have a second cancelled conference. Today, Columbia law professor Katharine Franke canceled series of lectures she was to give at the UIUC in late September. This was an especially nice touch:

I have long held the view that the use of boycotts as a tactic to protest an unjust practice by a state, business or academic institution may be appropriate in the right context, such as the current crisis at the UIUC, but that those who pledge to honor a boycott cannot rest their political commitments exclusively on a promise not to do something. Rather they should also pledge to affirmatively engage the injustice that generated the call for the boycott. For this reason, rather than merely boycotting your institution, I plan to travel to Urbana-Champaign in mid September at my own expense to participate in a forum (located off campus) with members of the UIUC community in which we will explore the manner in which the termination of Professor Salaita’s employment at UIUC threatened a robust principal of academic freedom.

I just found out that University of Nebraska philosophy professor Mark Van Roojen canceled a scheduled lecture as well. In fact, the list of canceled lectures and events seems to have exploded overnight. There’s now a poster listing all of the cancellations. John Protevi’s also keeping track over at his blog. If you’re cancelling something, please let him know.

Fourth, a group of graduate students has now organized its own boycott pledge. It’s one of the more powerful statements, as it dramatizes the real long-term costs of the Salaita dehiring.

As the rising generation of scholars and public intellectuals, we are troubled about what this signals about the work environments, hiring conditions, and the larger academe we are working to enter.

UI-UC’s actions have signaled to the graduate student community that in order to secure employment, we should stay silent on political questions, eliminate our online interactions with others in the public and in the scholarly community, and cease researching and asking tough questions that may displease those in authority. These conditions trouble us all, and will deter many graduate students from applying to faculty positions at UI-UC in the future.

We hold that the value of scholarly efforts must not be determined by how readily they appease the powerful or cater to the status quo; instead, such efforts must be weighed by their degree of due diligence and attention to the ethical pursuit of knowledge, as well as the imperative to voice righteous criticisms when necessary. To constrain our research and public engagement in such a way as to protect ourselves from the treatment Professor Salaita has received promises to strip the academy of all relevance to society as an institution that values intellectual debate.

If you’re a grad student, please sign it.

Fifth, the American Historical Association, the official professional body of historians, issued a scorching denunciation today of Chancellor Wise’s decision.

The First Amendment protects speech, both civil and uncivil. It does so for good reason. The United States made a wager that democracy can flourish only with a robustly open public sphere where conflicting opinions can vigorously engage one another. Such a public sphere rests on the recognition that speech on matters of public concern is often emotional and that it employs a variety of idioms and styles. Hence American law protects not only polite discourse but also vulgarity, not only sweet rationality but also impassioned denunciation. “Civility” is a laudable ideal, and many of us wish that American public life had more of it today. Indeed the AHA recommends it as part of our own Statement on the Standards of Professional Conduct. But imposing the requirement of “civility” on speech in a university community or any other sector of our public sphere—and punishing infractions—can only backfire. Such a policy produces a chilling effect, inhibiting the full exchange of ideas that both scholarly investigation and democratic institutions need.

If allowed to stand, your administration’s punitive treatment of Steven Salaita will chill the intellectual atmosphere at the University of Illinois. Even tenured professors will fear for their job security, persuaded that their institution lacks respect for the principles of academic freedom. The unhappy consequences for the untenured will be even more pronounced. A regimen of defensive self-censorship will settle like a cloud over faculty lectures and classroom discussions. Faculty will be inclined to seek positions elsewhere. This, surely, is not the future you wish for your historically great institution.

The AHA joined the Modern Languages Association, the professional organization of literature and language scholars, and the American Studies Association, in putting the weight of a major disciplinary organization behind Salaita’s case. I hope American Political Science Association, the American Sociological Association, and other disciplinary organizations join in soon.

It has become clear from various UIUC faculty I’ve spoken with that the trustees are now the main focus of our campaign. Between now and 9/11, we have to bombard them with emails and phone calls urging them to do the right thing. Unfortunately, we don’t have all of their contact information, but Thanks to John Protevi’s heroic efforts (and a little angel who came to my aid after this post went live), we have most all of them. Here they are (plus a few others that are relevant).

If you’ve already joined a boycott, signed the petition, and emailed Chancellor Wise, I want to ask you—all of you, in the tens of thousands now—to rattle the trustees with your voices. As John says: “Be polite but firm, open, frank, forthright, unapologetic, and exigent when writing these folks.”

Christopher G. Kennedy, Chair, University of Illinois Board of Trustees: chris@northbankandwells.com

Robert A. Easter, President: reaster@uillinois.edu

Hannah Cave, Trustee: hcave2@illinois.edu

Ricardo Estrada, Trustee: estradar@metrofamily.org

Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Trustee: patrick.fitzgerald@skadden.com

Lucas N. Frye, Trustee: lnfrye2@illinois.edu

Karen Hasara, Trustee: hasgot28@aol.com

Patricia Brown Holmes, Trustee: pholmes@schiffhardin.com

Timothy N. Koritz, Trustee: timothy.koritz@gmail.com or tkoritz@gmail.com

Danielle M. Leibowitz, Trustee: dleibo2@uic.edu

Edward L. McMillan, Trustee: mcmillaned@sbcglobal.net or mcmillaned@msn.com

James D. Montgomery, Trustee: james@jdmlaw.com

Pamela B. Strobel, Trustee: pbstrobel@comcast.net

Thomas R. Bearrows, University Counsel: bearrows@uillinois.edu

Susan M. Kies, Secretary of the Board of Trustees and the University: kies@uillinois.edu

Lester H. McKeever, Jr., Treasurer, Board of Trustees: lmckeever@wpmck.com

September 3, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance, Solidarity and Activism | , , | Leave a comment

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 731 other followers