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Imad Abu Shamsiya: A lifetime of resistance

International Solidarity Movement | May 1, 2016 

Hebron, Occupied Palestine – On the morning of the 24th of March around 8:30 am two Palestinian youths, Ramzi Aziz al-Qasrawi, 21, and Abed al-Fattah Yusri al-Sharif, also 21, were shot to death by Israeli forces after an alleged stabbing attempt in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Tel Rumeida. The world became aware of the extra-judicial killing of al-Sharif by the Israeli-French army medic Elor Azaria through the footage shot by Imad Abu Shamsiya, resident of Tel Rumeida, co-founder of Hebron Human Rights Defenders and contributor to Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.

Over the last month Imad has become something of a celebrity. He has appeared on Palestinian news, made appearances in international media and has even been interviewed by mainstream British newspaper The Independent. All of which has come at the same time as the settlers in Tel Rumeida and in wider Hebron have issued death threats and upped their campaign of persecution against him and his family.

Imad and his 3 sons, Awne (left), Soli (middle), Muhammed (right), who are all taking part in resistance against the occupation.

Imad and his 3 sons, Awne (left), Soli (middle), Muhammed (right), who are all taking part in resistance against the occupation.

Last week ISM activists had the privilege of sitting down with Imad and talking about the impact of these events on his life, his family’s history in Hebron, his history of arrests by the Israeli Occupying Forces and his hopes and fears for his life both now and in the future.

Imad’s family have lived in Hebron for generations: “I was born here, my father was born here, my grandfather and my great-grandfather, all born here.” He can trace his family’s presence in Hebron back at least 218 years as the family had a house near to the Ibrahimi Mosque registered in their name from that time, in addition to the family home that they occupy to this day in Tel Rumeida.

Seven years ago in 2009, however, the family’s house in Tel Rumeida was standing empty. Imad knew that it would only be a matter of time before the settlers, by now established in Tel Rumeida and on Shuhada Street, would attempt to sieze the home. It was then that Imad decided to move from his home in H1 (Palestinian-controlled Hebron) to Tel Rumeida in H2. This extraordinary decision was supported by his entire extended family as well as his wife Faiza and his five children (then aged between 4 and 11). Imad himself felt confident in this choice: “At first we thought there was not a lot of difference, just that here there is a checkpoint when there was not one where we had lived before.”

But despite his initial downplaying of the situation, the decision had a huge impact on his family. From the get-go his children would go out to play in the street and they would be attacked by settlers or harassed by the army. However, this only served to strengthen Imad and his family’s desire to stay in Tel Rumeida. Even his youngest son – Salah, now 11 – knows that they are there to stop the settlers from stealing their home and their land.

Sadly this notion of resistance that runs through the whole family has, perhaps unsurprisingly, had some serious ramifications for all of them. No more so than for Imad’s oldest son – Aune, 17. Aune was shot in the foot with a ‘dum-dum’ bullet – live ammunition that splinters on entry – and Imad was further shocked when, at the checkpoint near his home, the local area commander of the Israeli Occupying Force told him that he would kill Aune if he saw him again. They decided it was best to send Aune away to live with relatives and so, a child of seventeen, he cannot live with his mother and father and never sees his four siblings. Moreover the other four children have all, at one time or other, been victims of abuse and attacks at the hands of the settlers. Although perhaps the worst that the family have lived through is the current situation and the death threats that Imad has experienced since his role in the video of the extra-judicial killing was made public. Imad, however, has been through extremely challenging times before and is undaunted by the situation he faces.

Imad at home

Imad in his house, which is regularly targeted by settlers and army

In the late eighties during the first Intifada a young Imad – sixteen years of age – would, like many young male Palestinians at that time, go to the demonstrations in protest of the Israeli occupation. The Israeli forces then, as now, would shut these demonstrations down with extreme measures. On one such occasion – on Friday 20th of January 1988 – Imad found himself hospitalised having been shot in the hand with live ammunition: “I was in hospital in Jerusalem for fifty days recovering and at that time the Israelis came and arrested me.” In prison Imad was questioned for eighteen days, accused of being a ringleader and organiser. Finally brought before the court he was sentenced to six months in prison for his role as a demonstrator: “then, thirteen days after I was released that first time, they arrested me again and sentenced me to another six months in prison.” He wasn’t to know it then but this was the first year of a total of four years and two months that he would spend in prison.

On the 16th of February 1991 Imad was arrested once again and this time he was kept in solitary confinement for 111 days: “Imagine it. You are alone, without water to wash with, you don’t see the sun, you are cold, it’s winter, you are in a t-shirt and shorts.” During this time he was tortured: beaten, subjected to stress positions and consistently interrogated. He was accused of throwing stones and molotov cocktails as well as being a leader within the Intifada. He denied all accusations and after 111 days, when they had nothing to charge him with, he was taken before the court and sentenced to another six months detention regardless.

Example of common stress-position (torture position) utilised in Israeli interrogation

Example of common stress-position (torture position) utilised in Israeli interrogation

Once again in 1992 he was arrested and again he was kept in solitary confinement, this time for a period of 75 days. Refusing to confess to the false accusations of violence that were leveled at him, Imad was sentenced to six more months of detention without charge.

In 1995 Imad, specifically due to his position as a citizen of the already divided town of Hebron, was part of a large group of Palestinians who objected to the terms of the Oslo Agreement. As such he was part of a mass-arrest and sent to the infamous Naqab Prison in the Negev Desert where he was detained for a further six months. Imad would be arrested twice more – in 1997 and 1999. On both occasions he was arrested in the middle of the night, taken from his family home, not questioned or interrogated, but sentenced to a further six months detention.

Taking this history of persecution and Imad’s lifelong resistance into account, it is perhaps less surprising to picture Imad and Faiza agreeing with their children to move to the front line of resistance when they moved to Tel Rumeida in 2009. Then two years ago he formed Hebron Human Rights Defenders with Badee Dwalik, and Imad’s journey towards infamy began. Having been trained in the use of video cameras by B’Tselem, Imad and Badee recruited others from Tel Rumeida and wider Hebron and trained them to use video cameras donated by anti-Zionist activists in the US. Imad even trained his wife and children to use the cameras: the whole family knows that if things get bad with soldiers and/or settlers then the first recourse is to pick up a camera and to document. Now Badee and Imad plan to teach the local children in Tel Rumeida how to use the cameras: they intend to resist the occupation by exposing it’s most inhumane and abusive elements.

Badia from Human Rights Defenders at a school in Tel Rumeida, teaching the kids how to film.

Badia from Human Rights Defenders at a school in Tel Rumeida, teaching the kids how to film.

All of which leads us neatly back to the events of the 24th March this year (and you can read about the events of that day from Imad’s perspective here.) One would have thought that living with his wife and four of his children in occupied Hebron, with the constant threat of attack by settlers as well as harassment by soldiers out for revenge for him having made the video, Imad would feel some negativity about his life now, or at least have mixed feelings about having found fame in this way. Nothing could be further from the truth: “if I could go back in time and had the opportunity to maybe not shoot the film I wouldn’t take it. I would always want the world to see what Palestinians have always known goes on”. Still, one could forgive if he felt that perhaps it would be best if his family left Tel Rumeida: “we will never leave here. They can harass us and attack us but we will not let them have our family’s home and our land. This is something my wife and children agree with 100%. We will not leave.” And would he leave Hebron? “Never.”

The occupation could have ground Imad Abu Shamsiya down. They have tried everything that they can to ruin his spirit – from torture and arrest to death threats and harassment – but Imad is a man, supported by his extraordinary family, who personifies the strength and the generosity of spirit demonstrated by the Palestinian people in the face of such indignity and suffering. He certainly touched and moved the ISM activists that had the pleasure of sitting down and chatting with him.

Lastly it is ISM’s pleasure to convey a message from Imad to the international community, to the political class and to all Palestinians:

“As Palestinians we always said that extra-judicial killings happened. Now people have seen my video I hope that the world will know that they do. Now people  know what we live with and I hope we can work together to end the occupation so that we, the Palestinian people, can be free.” – Imad Abu Shamsiya

May 3, 2016 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Ukraine Bans Eight Reporters From Covering Odessa Massacre Anniversary

Sputnik – 02.05.2016

ODESSA — Eight foreign reporters were prohibited from entering the southern Ukrainian city of Odessa to cover the events commemorating the second anniversary of the massacre in the city, a lawyer representing one of the people accused of involvement in the deadly events said Monday.

“About eight journalists were not allowed to enter [the city],” Kirill Shevchuk told RIA Novosti.

He added that the reporters, including those from Poland, France, the Netherlands and Germany, were turned back at passport control in Odessa’s airport.

On May 2, 2014, pro-Kiev radicals blocked anti-government protesters in Odessa’s House of Trade Unions and set the building on fire by hurling Molotov cocktails inside. According to the official data, 48 people died and more than 250 were injured in the fire. No perpetrators have been brought to justice.

The mourning rally was scheduled for 2 p.m. local time (11:00 GMT), but because of an alleged bomb threat local authorities blocked the access to the tragedy site for people who wanted to commemorate the victims of the massacre.

May 2, 2016 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance, Solidarity and Activism | , | Leave a comment

Massive May Day rallies show support for Brazil’s Rousseff

The BRICS Post | May 2, 2016

Even as May Day protests were expected in cities across the world on Sunday, as economic crises and a rise in unemployment have fuelled anti-government sentiment, Brazil saw some radically different scenes.

Hundreds of thousands of people marched in Brazil’s main cities on International Workers’ Day in a show of support for the embattled President Dilma Rousseff.

Protests were seen in 16 of the country’s 27 states, called by Central Union of Workers (CUT) and numerous other labor and left-wing organizations.

The support for the embattled leftist leader Rousseff in Brazil was in sharp contrast to France which was on high alert after protests against planned labour changes this week sparked a frenzy, with cars set on fire and dozens of police officers being injured in Paris in clashes with protesters.

On Sunday, the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo saw the largest march with around 100,000 people, according to organizers, in three separate marches.

Rousseff appeared at the CUT march in Sao Paulo, alongside the mayor of Sao Paulo, Fernando Haddad, and the president of the Workers’ Party, Rui Falcao.

During a speech to the crowd, Rousseff announced a new policy measure, according to Brazilian daily O Globo, saying that her flagship social welfare program Bolsa Familia would be increased by 9 per cent.

Bolsa Familia is an ambitious cash-transfer scheme that has helped elevate millions of Brazilians out of poverty. Funds are channelled through the mothers of poor and working-class families.

The scheme was launched nationwide by President Lula’s administration in 2003 and its exemplary success has cemented support for Rousseff’s Workers Party among the poorest in Brazil.

On Sunday, Rousseff also announced that 25,000 new houses would be built within the Mi Casa, Mi Vida (My Home, My Life) program, the renewal of the contracts of foreign doctors in the Más Médicos (More Doctors) program, an increase in paternity leave for public officials and an adjustment to the rental tax to benefit workers.

In other cities such as Rio de Janeiro, Curitiba, Fortaleza, Manaus, Joao Pessoa, Recife and Salvador, Rousseff supporters marched, saying they would not allow her impeachment.

The Brazilian Senate is currently considering whether to open an impeachment trial against Rousseff, over alleged fiscal irregularities in 2014 and 2015.

May 2, 2016 Posted by | Economics, Solidarity and Activism | , , , | Leave a comment

BDS suppression backfires as universities pass resolutions

RT | April 25, 2016

The United Auto Workers (UAW) union at the University of California has been fighting to uphold a resolution passed to support the BDS movement against Israel. Its struggle has inspired other university unions to pass their own resolutions.

The UAW Local 2865, which includes some 14,000 students and teaching assistants working for the University of California, passed a resolution to support the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement in 2014, becoming the first major labor union to do so, with 65 percent voting in favor of divestment and 52 percent supporting an academic boycott among the student-workers union of the University of California.

“The University of California divest from companies involved in the occupation of Palestine; that UAW International to divest from these same entities; the US government to end military aid to Israel. Fifty-two percent of voting members pledged not to ‘take part in any research, conferences, events, exchange programs, or other activities that are sponsored by Israeli universities complicit in the occupation of Palestine and the settler-colonial policies of the state of Israel’ until such time as these universities take steps to end complicity with dispossession, occupation, and apartheid.” UAW Local 2865 Resolution

An anti-BDS arm of the union called Informed Grads appealed the result, with the help of Gibson, Dunn & Crutche, a law firm that has defended Walmart, Amazon and Chevron, Salon reports. The firm has represented Lockheed Martin, Boeing and other corporations that gain from Israel’s defense spending.

While the International Executive Board defended the integrity of the vote, saying it represented the will of the members, it claimed it could interfere with the flow of commerce and pointed to the possibility of discrimination, despite the number of Jewish and Israeli members that supported the resolution and later wrote a letter attesting to the fact.

Following the decision, lawyer Scott Edelman expressed pleasure at the UAW’s “forceful rejection of BDS, which sets a powerful precedent for other labor unions and national organizations.”

UAW Local 2865 appealed the decision, saying the “IEB improperly ignored the UAW constitutional mandate to solidify the labor movement and build solidarities with other unions, such as the Palestinian labor unions representing hundreds of thousands of workers who issued the call for BDS in 2005.”

The appeal has gone to the UAW Public Review Board who will make a final ruling in the next few months.

The nullification of the resolution has led to increased support for both UAW Local 2865 and the BDS movement among university staff.

UAW chapters at the University of Washington, Univeristy of Massachusetts Amherst and NYU wrote letters of support for the resolution, and went on to pass their own resolutions in April with Massachusetts securing 95 percent of the vote and NYU’s chapter taking 67 percent.

Both groups cited the nullification as a motivating factor for their own votes.

Jennifer Mogannam, a PhD candidate at UC San Diego and member of the union, told Shadowproof the attacks are “part and parcel of the larger Zionist movement’s suppression and attacking of those fighting for Palestinian self-determination and against Israeli settler colonialism.”

A recent BDS victory that saw security firm G4S announce it would end its contracts in Israel has caused Florida country club members to partake in their own boycott. The country club members are threatening to end G4S’s contract with their country clubs in a show of support for Israel.

READ MORE: Israel connects BDS with terrorism while cracking down on German banks

April 25, 2016 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism, War Crimes | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NYU grad student union votes to boycott Israel

Ma’an – April 24, 2016

A graduate student union at New York University on Friday voted in favor of joining the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights.

Two-thirds of the Graduate Student Organizing Committee cast a vote in support of the resolution, which calls on both NYU and its United Automobile Workers union affiliate to divest from all Israeli state institutions — including universities — and corporations “complicit in” Israeli violations.

The resolution proposes that NYU join the movement “until Israel complies with international law and ends the military occupation, dismantles the wall, recognizes the rights of Palestinian citizens to full equality, and respects the right of return of Palestinian refugees and exiles.”

Over 600 union members voted in the referendum, a reportedly larger-than-average turnout for union votes. The 2,000-strong union represents graduate teaching and research assistants at the university.

Some 57 percent of voters made a voluntary individual pledge to participate in the academic boycott against Israel.

The BDS movement has gained momentum over the past year, aiming to exert political and economic pressure over Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory in a bid to repeat the success of the campaign which ended apartheid in South Africa.

Major actors to join the movement this year include British security giant G4S and French telecom company Orange.

The NYU union’s support of BDS comes after US President Barack Obama in February signed into law an anti-BDS trade agreement reiterating that US Congress “opposes politically motivated actions that penalize or otherwise limit commercial relations specifically with Israel,” referring directly to BDS activities.

The Israeli leadership has widely condemned the BDS movement as antisemitic or carried out from “hatred of Israel,” while proponents of the movement argue divestment measures are necessary in pressuring Israel to end its decades-long military occupation.

Moves inside the US — Israel’s longstanding ally and number one provider of military aid — to criminalize BDS have meanwhile been slammed by human rights defenders as a violation of free speech.

April 24, 2016 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

US Sends Nobody to Ecuador, Palestine Sends 19 Rescuers

teleSUR | April 21, 2016

Latin America far surpasses any region in sending humanitarian aid and rescue experts to Ecuador for earthquake relief, with Venezuela sending almost a third of all rescue specialists and Palestine sending 19—19 more than the United States.

Palestine is the only country outside of Europe and Latin America that sent rescue experts to Ecuador, though Russia sent 30 tons of humanitarian aid, and China sent a satellite and a 911 system, mobile hospitals and US$100,000 to the Ecuadorean Red Cross.

Latin America sent a total of 702 rescuers, with even impoverished and violence-ridden Honduras sending a rescuer. Cuba sent the most after Ecuador’s neighboring countries and Mexico, followed by left-wing Bolivia.

Europe also sent almost 200 rescuers, some collectively with most of the rest from France and Spain.

Though U.S. President Barack Obama told Ecuador’s Rafael Correa that he would do whatever possible to help, the most up-to-date list from Tuesday night does not include rescuers from the United States. USAID, however, said it will coordinate with the United Nations disaster team and send US$100,000 for “critical supplies.”

Correa said Tuesday that South America should have its own Secretary of Natural Disasters, since no one country could possibly have enough resources to mobilize in such large-scale emergencies. Ecuador is one of the smallest countries on the continent, with a population barely above 16 million. It could only send 18 trained rescuers to affected areas, compared to Venezuela’s 212. Brazil, South America’s largest country, sent no rescue workers, and Argentina, the second largest, sent five.

April 21, 2016 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism | , , , | Leave a comment

End draft registration — Don’t extend it to women

Urge Congress to support H.R. 4523

  • End draft registration — Don’t extend it to women.
  • Abolish the Selective Service System.
  • End contingency planning for a draft of health care workers.
  • Restore Federal student aid for people who didn’t register for the draft.

This year, Congress is having its most serious debate about draft registration in decades — but so far, the debate has ignored the peace movement and the history of the draft, draft registration, and draft resistance.

If we don’t speak up, we will miss our best chance to put an end to preparations to reinstate the draft, and to put an end to the fantasy of military planners that the draft is always available as a fallback if the military runs short of troops. Even when the “poverty draft” and the outsourcing of war to civilian contractors obviates the need for a draft, draft registration indoctrinates young people that they have a “duty” to fight.

All male U.S. residents, regardless of citizenship or immigration status, are required to register with the Selective Service System when they turn 18, and notify Selective Service every time they change their address until their 26th birthday. Draft registration is one of the ways that all young men (and possibly soon young women as well) have to interact with the military and think about their relationship to military “service”.

The Selective Service System maintains contingency plans for a general “cannon fodder” draft of young men (based on the current list of registrants) and/or a separate Health Care Personnel Delivery System for men and women up to age 44 (based on professional licensing lists in 57 medical and related occupations). These plans could be activated at any time that Congress decides to reinstate either or both forms of a draft.

Few young men comply fully with the draft registration law. Knowing and willful refusal to comply is a crime, but nobody has been prosecuted since 1986. To convict anyone of draft resistance, the government would have to prove that they knew they were required to register. This would be difficult unless someone has told the government, or said publicly, that they are deliberately refusing to register. In practice, there is no penalty for late registration, as long as you register before your 26th birthday, and no enforcement of the address change notice requirement. Most draft notices sent to the addresses in Selective Service records would wind up in the dead letter office. Passive resistance has rendered the registration list all but useless for a draft.

Most men who register for the draft do so only if it is required for some other government program. Men who haven’t registered for the draft are ineligible for Federal student aid and some other Federal programs. In some states (although not in California), men of draft age are required to register in order to obtain a driver’s license, or are automatically registered (sometimes without even realizing it) when they get a driver’s license. Male immigrants of draft age must register before they can be naturalized as U.S. citizens.

Will women be required to register for the draft?

In 1981, the Supreme Court upheld requiring only men and not women to register for the draft. The court based its decision on “deference” to the military policy which, at that time, excluded women from combat assignments. Now that this policy has changed, it’s likely that continued registration of men but not women will be found unconstitutional. Lawsuits against male-only draft registration are already working their way through the courts; the next hearing in one of these cases will be scheduled soon in Federal court in Los Angeles.

Most members of Congress would prefer to avoid the issue of the draft. But if Congress does nothing, court rulings are likely to invalidate the current male-only draft registration law. Congress will soon have to decide whether to expand draft registration to women as well as men, or to end draft registration entirely. Now that Congress has been forced to address the issue, we have a rare opportunity to be heard — if we speak up.

This is our best chance in 20 years to put an end to plans and preparations for one or another type of draft, and to restore the eligibility of men who didn’t register for the draft for student aid, government jobs and training, naturalized citizenship, and other government programs from which they are currently excluded.

Different bills have been introduced in Congress that would extend draft registration to women, end draft registration entirely and abolish the Selective Service System, or attempt to restore the previous exclusion of women from military combat assignments and preserve male-only draft registration. By far the best of these proposals is H.R. 4523, a bipartisan bill that would end draft registration, abolish the Selective Service System, and restore the eligibility of nonregistrants for Federal student aid and all other Federal programs.

None of the leading Presidential candidates — Clinton, Sanders, or Trump — has taken a position yet on any of these bills. Any of these bills could be taken up for debate and vote at any time, possibly with little further warning. The time to contact your Representative and Senators, and the Presidential candidates, is now.

  • Don’t register for the draft. Oppose both the draft and draft registration, for women or for men.
  • Support resistance by young women to the expansion of draft registration to women.
  • Support H.R. 4523 to end draft registration, abolish the Selective Service System, and restore eligibility for Federal student aid and other programs for men who didn’t register for the draft.
  • Oppose continued contingency planning for a draft of health care workers.
  • Support continued resistance to draft registration as long as it remains the law.
  • Oppose any attempt to reinstate the draft or compulsory national service.

[Download this page as a one-page, two-sided printable PDF leaflet.]

www.Resisters.info

www.MedicalDraft.info

April 21, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Militarism, Solidarity and Activism | , | Leave a comment

How to Counter Recruitment and De-Militarize Schools

2016_0204r-m_2

By David Swanson | February 10, 2016

U.S. military recruiters are teaching in public school classrooms, making presentations at school career days, coordinating with JROTC units in high schools and middle schools, volunteering as sports coaches and tutors and lunch buddies in high, middle, and elementary schools, showing up in humvees with $9,000 stereos, bringing fifth-graders to military bases for hands-on science instruction, and generally pursuing what they call “total market penetration” and “school ownership.”

But counter-recruiters all over the United States are making their own presentations in schools, distributing their own information, picketing recruiting stations, and working through courts and legislatures to reduce military access to students and to prevent military testing or the sharing of test results with the military without students’ permission. This struggle for hearts and minds has had major successes and could spread if more follow the counter-recruiters’ example.

A new book by Scott Harding and Seth Kershner called Counter-Recruitment and the Campaign to Demilitarize Public Schools surveys the current counter-recruitment movement, its history, and its possible future. Included is a fairly wide range of tactics. Many involve one-on-one communication with potential recruits.

“Do you like fireworks?” a veteran of the latest war on Iraq may ask a student in a high school cafeteria. “Yes!” Well, replies Hart Viges, “you won’t when you get back from war.”

“I talked to this one kid,” recalls veteran of the war on Vietnam John Henry, “and I said, ‘Has anybody in your family been in the military?’ And he said, ‘My grandfather.’

“And we talked about him, about how he was short and he was a tunnel rat in Vietnam, and I said, ‘Oh, what does he tell you about war?’

“‘That he still has nightmares.’

“And I said, ‘And you are going in what branch of the service?’

“‘Army.’

“‘And you’re going to pick what skill?’

“‘Oh, I’m just going to go infantry.’

“You know … your grandfather is telling you he’s still got nightmares and that was 40 years ago. He’s had nightmares for 40 years. Do you want to have nightmares for 40 years?”

Minds are changed. Young lives are saved — those of the kids who do not sign up, or who back out before it’s too late, and perhaps also the lives they would have contributed to ending had they entered the “service.”

This sort of counter-recruitment work can have a quick payoff. Says Barbara Harris, who also organized the protests at NBC that supported this petition and got a pro-war program off the air, “The feedback I receive from [parents] is just incredibly heartwarming because [when] I speak to a parent and I see how I’ve helped them in some way, I feel so rewarded.”

Other counter-recruitment work can take a bit longer and be a bit less personal but impact a larger number of lives. Some 10% to 15% of recruits get to the military via the ASVAB tests, which are administered in certain school districts, sometimes required, sometimes without informing students or parents that they are for the military, sometimes with the full results going to the military without any permission from students or parents. The number of states and school districts using and abusing the ASVAB is on the decline because of the work of counter-recruiters in passing legislation and changing policy.

U.S. culture is so heavily militarized, though, that in the absence of recruiters or counter-recruiters well-meaning teachers and guidance counselors will thoughtlessly promote the military to students. Some schools automatically enroll all students in JROTC. Some guidance counselors encourage students to substitute JROTC for gym class. Even Kindergarten teachers will invite in uniformed members of the military or promote the military unprompted in their school assignments. History teachers will show footage of Pearl Harbor on Pearl Harbor Day and talk in glorifying terms of the military without any need for direct contact from recruitment offices. I’m reminded of what Starbucks said when asked why it had a coffee shop at the torture / death camp in Guantanamo. Starbucks said that choosing not to would amount to making a political statement. Choosing to do so was just standard behavior.

Part of what keeps the military presence in the schools is the billion dollar budget of the military recruiters and other unfair powers of incumbency. For example, if a JROTC program is threatened, the instructors can order the students (or the children formerly known as students) to show up and testify at a school board meeting in favor of maintaining the program.

Much of what keeps recruitment working in our schools, however, is a different sort of power — the power to lie and get away with it unchallenged. As Harding and Kershner document, recruiters routinely deceive students about the amount of time they’re committing to be in the military, the possibility of changing their minds, the potential for free college as a reward, the availability of vocational training in the military, and the risks involved in joining the military.

Our society has become very serious about warning young people about safety in sex, driving, drinking, drugs, sports, and other activities. When it comes to joining the military, however, a survey of students found that none of them were told anything about the risks to themselves — first and foremost suicide. They are also, as Harding and Kershner point out, told much about heroism, nothing about drudgery. I would add that they are not told about alternative forms of heroism outside of the military. I would further add that they are told nothing about the primarily non-U.S. victims of wars that are largely one-sided slaughters of civilians, nor about the moral injury and PTSD that can follow. And of course, they are told nothing about alternative career paths.

That is, they are told none of these things by recruiters. They are told some of them by counter-recruiters. Harding and Kershner mention AmeriCorps and City Year as alternatives to the military that counter-recruiters sometimes let students know about. An early start on an alternative career path is found by some students who sign on as counter-recruiters working to help guide their peers away from the military. Studies find that youth who engage in school activism suffer less alienation, set more ambitious goals, and improve academically.

Military recruitment climbs when the economy declines, and drops off when news of current wars increases. Those recruited tend to have lower family income, less-educated parents, and larger family size. It seems entirely possible to me that a legislative victory for counter-recruitment greater than any reform of ASVAB testing or access to school cafeterias would be for the United States to join those nations that make college free. Ironically, the most prominent politician promoting that idea, Senator Bernie Sanders, refuses to say he would pay for any of his plans by cutting the military, meaning that he must struggle uphill against passionate shouts of “Don’t raise my taxes!” (even when 99% of people would not see their wallets shrink at all under his plans).

Free college would absolutely crush military recruitment. To what extent does this fact explain political opposition to free college? I don’t know. But I can picture among the possible responses of the military a greater push to make citizenship a reward for immigrants who join the military, higher and higher signing bonuses, greater use of mercenaries both foreign and domestic, greater reliance on drones and other robots, and ever more arming of foreign proxy forces, but also quite likely a greater reluctance to launch and escalate and continue wars.

And that’s the prize we’re after, right? A family blown up in the Middle East is just as dead, injured, traumatized, and homeless whether the perpetrators are near or far, in the air or at a computer terminal, born in the United States or on a Pacific island, right? Most counter-recruiters I know would agree with that 100%. But they believe, and with good reason, that the work of counter-recruitment scales back the war-making.

However, other concerns enter in as well, including the desire to protect particular students, and the desire to halt the racial or class disparity of recruitment that sometimes focuses disproportionately on poor or predominately racial minority schools. Legislatures that have been reluctant to restrict recruitment have done so when it was addressed as an issue of racial or class fairness.

Many counter-recruiters, Harding and Kershner report, “were careful to suggest the military serves a legitimate purpose in society and is an honorable vocation.” In part, I think such talk is a strategy — whether or not it’s a wise one — that believes direct opposition to war will close doors and empower adversaries, whereas talking about “student privacy” will allow people who oppose war to reach students with their information. But, of course, claiming that the military is a good thing while discouraging local kids from joining it rather stinks of NIMBYism: Get your cannon fodder, just Not In My Back Yard.

Some, though by no means all, and I suspect it’s a small minority of counter-recruiters actually make a case against other types of peace activism. They describe what they do as “actually doing something,” in contrast to marching at rallies or sitting in at Congressional offices, etc. I will grant them that my experience is atypical. I do media interviews. I mostly go to rallies that have invited me to speak. I get paid to do online antiwar organizing. I plan conferences. I write articles and op-eds and books. I have a sense of “doing something” that perhaps most people who attend an event or ask questions from an audience or sign an online petition just don’t. I suspect a great many people find talking students away from the edge much more satisfying than getting arrested in front of a drone base, although plenty of wonderful people do both.

But there is, in my opinion, a pretty misguided analysis in the view of certain counter-recruiters who hold that getting tests out of schools is real, concrete, and meaningful, while filling the National Mall with antiwar banners is useless. In 2013 a proposal to bomb Syria looked very likely, but Congress members started worrying about being the guy who voted for another Iraq. (How’s that working out for Hillary Clinton?) It was not primarily counter-recruiters who made the Iraq vote a badge of shame and political doom. Nor was it outreach to students that upheld the Iran nuclear agreement last year.

The division between types of peace activism is somewhat silly. People have been brought into counter-recruitment work at massive rallies, and students reached by counter-recruiters have later organized big protests. Recruitment includes hard to measure things like Super Bowl fly-overs and video games. So can counter-recruitment. Both counter-recruitment and other types of peace activism ebb and flow with wars, news reports, and partisanship. I’d like to see the two merged into massive rallies at recruiting stations. Harding and Kershner cite one example of a counter-recruiter suggesting that one such rally created new opposition to his work, but I would be surprised if it didn’t also hurt recruitment. The authors cite other examples of well-publicized protests at recruitment offices having had a lasting effect of reducing recruitment there.

The fact is that no form of opposition to militarism is what it used to be. Harding and Kershner cite stunning examples of the mainstream nature of counter-recruitment in the 1970s, when it had the support of the National Organization for Women and the Congressional Black Caucus, and when prominent academics publicly urged guidance counselors to counter-recruit.

The strongest antiwar movement, I believe, would combine the strengths of counter-recruitment with those of lobbying, protesting, resisting, educating, divesting, publicizing, etc. It would be careful to build resistance to recruitment while educating the public about the one-sided nature of U.S. wars, countering the notion that a large percentage of the damage is done to the aggressor. When Harding and Kershner use the phrase in their book “In the absence of a hot war” to describe the current day, what should the people being killed by U.S. weaponry in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Palestine, etc., make of it?

We need a strategy that employs the skills of every kind of activist and targets the military machine at every possible weak point, but the strategy has to be to stop the killing, no matter who does it, and no matter if every person doing it survives.

Are you looking for a way to help? I recommend the examples in Counter-Recruitment and the Campaign to Demilitarize Public Schools. Go forth and do likewise.

April 21, 2016 Posted by | Book Review, Militarism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | | Leave a comment

Activists Call on IRS to Investigate Jewish National Fund Charitable Status

US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation | April 19, 2016

On Tuesday, Tax Day, activists delivered a petition with more than 5,000 signatures to IRS offices across the United States demanding the tax-exempt status of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) be revoked due to its role in displacing Palestinians and supporting illegal Israeli settlements.

The petition was delivered to offices in Oakland, San Francisco, Chicago, and Minneapolis. A delegation in Washington, DC attempted to make a delivery to the IRS Building but was turned away.

Founded in 1901, the JNF is a quasi-governmental Israeli agency that has played a major role in the dispossession of the Palestinians people, planting forests to help cover the reality of the more than 400 Palestinian towns and villages destroyed when Israel was created in 1948. Today the JNF continues to play an important role in the dispossession of Palestinians in both Israel and the occupied territories.

“We wanted to use the occasion of Tax Day to highlight how U.S. taxpayers are contributing to Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestinians through the JNF being a tax-exempt organization. It is completely unacceptable that an organization engaging in war crimes is considered to be a charity in the United States,” said Ramah Kudaimi of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.

“I am an American Jew and as such am very familiar with the little blue JNF boxes found in many Jewish households. Our families and synagogues encouraged putting change in these boxes, which, when filled would be donated to the JNF to ’Plant a Tree’ in Israel and ‘make the desert bloom,’” wrote Sylvia Schwarz in a piece published by The Hill. “Hidden from us amid the rhetoric of making the desert bloom was the reality of ethnic cleansing.”

The petition was launched on March 30, Palestinian Land Day, which commemorates the day in 1976 when Israeli troops killed six Palestinian citizens of Israel who were peacefully protesting the appropriation of their land. On that same day the National Lawyer’s Guild (NLG) submitted a regulatory challenge and accompanying legal complaint to the IRS requesting an investigation into the charitable status of the JNF on grounds of discrimination and contravention of U.S. policy.

These actions targeting the IRS are part of a larger international Stop the JNF Campaign that seeks to end the JNF’s role in Israel’s continuing displacement of Palestinians and is connected to the growing boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement in support of the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice, and equality.

“For nearly 70 years Palestinians have been resisting Israel’s continued theft of our land,” said Nick Sous of the US Palestinian Community Network. “So many Palestinians have been directly impacted by Israel’s stealing their land with the support of the JNF and it is shameful that the IRS actually awards people who donate to support these illegal actions by allowing them to get a tax write-off.”

Contact Ramah Kudaimi, membership@endtheoccupation.org, 703-312-6360.

April 20, 2016 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , | 1 Comment

What the election results tell about the reality of war-torn Syria

By Ken STONE | Oriental Review | April 18, 2016

Tuesday’s Syrian election was a vote of confidence by the Syrian people in their government. 5,085,444 voters cast their ballots out of a possible 8,834,994 eligible voters.

The overall participation rate of 58% (virtually identical to Canada’s last federal election) exceeded the government’s expectations in most places but was low in others. For example, it was over 80% in Homs but only 52% in Tartous. What might explain the uneven results is the history of the war. People who suffered the most from the war, for example in Homs, were probably more grateful for their liberation and more motivated to exercise their political rights than people in Tartous who saw no fighting at all (though they lost thousands upon thousands of sons and grandsons in the war).

Also significant was the fact that over 140,000 refugees returned across the Lebanese border in just one day in order to vote. And the polling hours in Damascus, which suffered a lot from the fighting, had to be extended until 11 pm to accommodate all the voters. There were even polling stations set up by the government in recently liberated Palmyra and Al-Qaryaten, though those polls were largely symbolic because the inhabitants of those towns have not yet been able to return to their homes due to widespread destruction, following liberation by the Syrian Arab Army.

The voter participation rate is key to this election, more important than the individual candidates who were elected. Here’s why: you need to understand elections in a constitutionally-created state, in which one party dominates, in terms of a strike vote in a trade union. It demonstrates continuing confidence in the leadership at a turning point in the struggle. A union would not be satisfied with a strike vote of 58%, going into a strike. And probably the Syrian government would have wished for a higher rate going into the negotiations at Geneva. But it knew from the start that holding the elections under the conditions of war and occupation was a gamble, because there are a lot of eligible voters living outside of Syria right now, living in places besieged by the terrorists, and who have died but not yet been accounted for. Taking into account these factors, the participation rate would probably have been much higher.

Among our solidarity delegation, we have been pleased that the Syrian authorities did not try to inflate the figures to make the election results appear better than they actually were: it reinforces our contention that the Syrian government is a credible force in the serious negotiations ahead.

As mentioned, the turning point for Syria is the current round of negotiations taking place right now in Geneva to find a lasting political solution to the crisis. Today, the Syrian delegation took their seats with a mandate from the Syrian people, whereas the opposition delegation of head-choppers cobbled together at the last minute by the USA and Saudi Arabia have no mandate at all from the unfortunate Syrians who suffer under military occupation in “rebel-held” areas. No elections were held there. Western governments, such as the USA, have dismissed the Syrian election out of hand, though the participation rate in the last US election was only 48%.

But that’s not to say there weren’t any interesting candidates elected. The sister of a Syrian soldier, Noor Al-Shogri, stood for election as an independent in parliament. Her brother, Yahya Al-Shoghri, was filmed as he was being executed by ISIS terrorists in 2014 in Raqa. The barbarians demanded that he say, as his dying words, “Long live the caliphate!” He famously refused and declared instead that “It will be erased!” His last words then became a rallying cry in the national resistance against the foreign aggression. Noor Al-Shogri easily won her seat.

I met an independent candidate in the Old City of Damascus, Nora Arissian, a small Armenian woman with flaming red hair. She came up to me in the Greek Melkite Patriarch’s procession to the polling station and thanked me for Canada taking in 25,000 Syrian refugees and then she pointedly added, “We want them all eventually to come home!” She too won her seat.

The election results were delayed by a couple of days because the Syrian election commission was unsatisfied with the preparedness of eight polling stations in partially-occupied Aleppo. As I understand it, the elections in Aleppo had to be continued on the day following election day.

Some people have asked what is the role of Palestinian refugees in this election. The answer is that Palestinians, ethnically-cleansed in 1948 and after, do not vote in Syrian elections. The political and social status of Palestinians in Syria is the highest of any Arab country but the Syrian government doesn’t grant them citizenship or let them vote because it doesn’t want to dilute their right under international law, reaffirmed by numerous resolutions of the United Nations, to return to their homes and farms in Palestine. The fact that the Syrian government has been so adamant about this principle, it is one of the main causes of the foreign aggression against the country (and in support of the State of Israel.) So the Syrian government pays a heavy price for its strong support of the Palestinian people. In turn, the vast majority of Palestinian refugees in Syria strongly support their government, even though many have been made refugees a second time by the invasion into their neighbourhoods of the terrorist mercenaries from over 80 countries. For example, a fierce struggle is taking place in Yarmouk right now just a few kilometres from where I write, among ISIS, Al Nusra, and other terrorist gangs, over control of this former Palestinian neighbourhood/camp, which used to hold a quarter of a million people but is now a devastated ghost town with only a few thousand souls.

It bears repeating that these parliamentary elections were defiantly called by the Syrian government as “an exercise in national sovereignty.” The point was to show the world, especially those western and Gulf states, who have waged the five-year long war of aggression against Syria, that Syrians are united in the belief that Syrians, and only Syrians, will decide the fate of Syria.

It appears that the gamble paid off.

Ken Stone is a long-time member of the Canadian peace movement (Hamilton Coalition To Stop The War), who is currently in Syria on a Tour of Peace.

April 18, 2016 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism | | Leave a comment

Activists were preventing war crimes by blockading world’s biggest arms fair – judge

RT | April 15, 2016

5710de0dc3618801288b4599Eight activists standing trial for disrupting the world’s biggest arms fair, held in London last September, have been found not guilty. The court ruled they were acting to prevent a greater crime, according to an anti-arms trade group.

In his ruling, the judge said there was clear, credible and largely unchallenged evidence of wrongdoing at Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEI), according to Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT).

He said there is “compelling evidence” that arms sold at DSEI are used for repression and human rights abuses.

Ham & High reporter Rachel Roberts said the judge dismissed the argument, put forward by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), that a not guilty verdict will “open floodgates” to anarchy in the UK.

Instead he accepted that all eight defendants acted reasonably and proportionally to try and prevent the sale of illegal arms and war crimes, Roberts tweeted.

The ruling is a victory for anti-arms trade activists, who sought to highlight the UK’s complicity in war crimes committed by repressive regimes around the world.

The eight activists issued a statement through CAAT in which they called on the public to join the campaign to shut down DSEI.

“Over the week, we have put DSEI and the arms trade on trial and we have proven them to be illegitimate. Our only regret is that we didn’t succeed in shutting down DSEI,” they said.

“Our thoughts are with the people who suffer as a result of the arms trade and the survivors of repressive regimes, torture, war and conflict. We call on more people to join us in our efforts to shut down DSEI 2017 and take collective action to end the arms trade.”

The campaigners were arrested after blocking the road leading to the arms fair last September, preventing tanks and weaponry from entering.

The activists used the defense of necessity, insisting their actions were justified because they intended to prevent greater crimes taking place around the world.

CAAT said the trial highlighted UK complicity in war crimes in Yemen, where the British military is offering support to the Saud-led coalition waging war against Houthi rebels.

It also raised awareness about British complicity in human rights abuses in Bahrain and the slaughter of Kurdish civilians by Turkey, according to the group.

2015’s DSEI event featured stalls from more than 1,500 exhibitors, including arms giants Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, Finmeccanica and others.

Customers included representatives from Saudi Arabia, Israel, Bahrain and Egypt.

April 15, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why was the Nakba Tour Canceled at Stanford?

Palestinian Refugee: Stanford students censored me over condemnation of Israel

Free Palestine Movement | April 11, 2016

In an interview, Amena El-Ashkar, a Palestinian refugee from Lebanon, states that she refused to speak at Stanford University after students told her she could not express her views about Israel.

I’m coming here to say that Israel has no right to exist. [The students] said we could discuss this kind of thing with each other, but not in front of American people…

Ms. Ashkar’s talk is one of several on a national “North America Nakba Tour,” a tour designed to educate Americans about the enduring effects Israel’s mass expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland in 1948. Ms. Ashkar and Mariam “Umm Akram” Fathallah, an 86-year-old survivor of the expulsion, had planned to speak at Stanford University on 6 April 2016. Ms. Ashkar was born and raised in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, where her ancestors were banished during the expulsion, or Nakba, of 1948.

Stanford Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), which was hosting the talk at Stanford, told Ms. Ashkar that their existence as a campus organization depends on not challenging Israel’s “right to exist,” and told her not to address the topic. Ms. Ashkar refused to censor herself and was shocked that an organization named “Students for Justice in Palestine” would insist on such a requirement. Although some of the students admitted to sharing Ms. Ashkar’s views, the students cited the hostile administrative climate at Stanford to justify censoring their guest.

I told them, it is a fight, and any fight is going to have sacrifices. In Lebanon, we have Palestinian clubs… which do not take funds from the University. We pay it ourselves.

Stanford SJP released a false statement attributing the cancellation to concerns about Alison Weir, a pro-Palestinian commentator who was in the audience. Ms. Weir was subject to widely disputed — and widely rejected — accusations of anti-Semitism by other Palestinian rights organizers last summer, revealing deep-seated divisions within the Palestinian rights movement. Although Tour organizers had informally asked Ms. Weir to give Ms. Ashkar public speaking advice, and Ms. Weir had offered the Tour some generic informational materials — none of which are authored by Weir — Ms. Weir is not one of the national organizers of the North America Nakba Tour and was not a planned speaker. Weir offered to sell copies of her own writings at the event to raise money for the Tour, but complied when Stanford students asked her not to sell them. The statement alleges that Ms. Weir refused to leave when asked, which Weir and Tour organizers deny. No security personnel were called to remove Weir or anyone else from the audience; instead, the speaker herself felt alienated and called off the event.

Ms. Ashkar explains that disagreements about who was in the audience were not why the talk was canceled. Instead, Ms. Ashkar says that she herself called off the talk when the organizers demanded that she censor herself.

The existence of Israel, as I told the SJP, means that I have no right to exist. Because I am a refugee in a Palestinian camp inside Lebanon. The Lebanese government doesn’t want me, and we cannot return. So what are we? Are we going to stay stateless refugees generation after generation?

One of the informational flyers provided by Weir, but authored by former PLO legal advisor John V. Whitbeck apparently sparked the feud with similar arguments. The flyer states, in part,

To demand that Palestinians recognize “Israel’s right to exist” is to demand that a people who have been treated as subhumans unworthy of basic human rights publicly proclaim that they are subhumans. It would imply Palestinians’ acceptance that they deserve what has been done and continues to be done to them. Even 19th-century US governments did not require the surviving native Americans to publicly proclaim the “rightness” of their ethnic cleansing by European colonists…

North America Nakba Tour organizers call on Stanford SJP to retract its false explanation and issue a public apology for their behavior to Ms. Ashkar. They have also asked concerned citizens to consider donating to the Tour and attending Tour events in lieu of the cancellation. Paul Larudee, a Tour organizer, and Ms. Weir have separately authored their own accounts of the incident.

Paul Larudee | April 7, 2016

Last night, Mariam Fathalla and Amena Elashkar were scheduled to speak at Stanford University, sponsored by Students for Justice in Palestine. The previous day, I had asked Alison Weir, who has been giving talks on Palestine for 15 years all over the country, to meet with Amena and give her advice on reaching American audiences since this is Amena’s first trip to the U.S. It was an excellent, fruitful meeting.

I then said it would be valuable if Alison could hear Amena’s presentation to see if she would have any suggestions. Alison is extremely busy but agreed to come down to Stanford with us for that purpose.

When Alison learned we did not yet have any written materials along to provide the audience, she brought some along with her for us to use and also gave us some of her books that we could sell to help raise money for the tour. We had already discussed that IAK would supply their excellent written materials for the tour.

We had no idea that Alison would turn out to be an issue, or that the Stanford SJP would object to what Amena might wish to say.

Alison is an extremely committed and popular antiracist writer, speaker, and activist, and people even follow her work in refugee camps in Lebanon.  While some groups oppose her and If Americans Knew, most people working for justice in Palestine feel she is one of the top writers and speakers on this issue.

In any case this should not be an issue for the Nakba Tour; Alison is not one of the national organizers of the tour, and she was not intended to be one of the speakers or to have any role in the presentation at Stanford. She was simply there as a favor to us, as described above.

However, some members of the SJP immediately objected to Alison’s presence, perhaps assuming she was going to speak, and also to the presence of her book and the If Americans Knew materials. We immediately explained that Alison was not to be a speaker and was just there to sit in the audience, and that we had invited her to come with us. We also agreed to remove the books, but said we were disturbed that they also wished to censor the materials we could make available on our own tour. In all my years of activism, I’ve never heard of such a thing.

Amena then began discussing the situation with the students, and was extremely upset when they told her that she could not speak truthfully about her feelings and the feelings of the thousands of dispossessed Palestinian refugees living in camps about their situation, about the Nakba, and about whether or not Israel has “the right to exist” that Israel partisans claim.  This was not an issue at the two previous talks.

When it became clear that they wished Amena to censor her excellent talk, she refused to do so and the event was canceled.

We think it is extremely important that people hear from Amena and Mariam. They represent millions of Palestinian refugees whose rights and views have been trampled upon and who are often ignored. Thank you for helping us bring their voice to the discussion. It is long past time that they are heard.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

– Paul Larudee, Tour Coordinator

April 14, 2016 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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