Alison Weir provides the following report back on an event that almost didn’t happen:
After I was invited by the Social Justice Committee of the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists (BFUU) to give a public presentation, extremist pro-Israel activists went to work to get the event canceled. They put up blog posts and even a Craigslist advertisement attacking me, exaggerating inaccurate claims about me by the ADL and, especially, the widely refuted JVP-US Campaign dossier on me.
This has become standard practice for Israel partisans who wish to prevent audiences from hearing my presentation.
A few individuals within the BFUU then took up the JVP-USC false claims, trying to get the event shut down before anyone had the chance to hear me directly. This effort threatened to succeed, but ultimately failed when members committed to social justice and free speech refused to cave in.
Activist songwriter-musician Vic Sadot, former Social Justice Committee Chair Cynthia Johnson, human rights worker Tom Luce, and current Social Justice Committee Chair Gene Herman – all longtime, respected Berkeley human rights activists – didn’t give in to the significant pressure, took a great deal of heat for this, and the event went on.
Nevertheless, they were nervous, particularly after seeing the Craigslist ad that seemed designed to foment hate against me and possibly provoke violence. At a recent event elsewhere in the area, a similar smear campaign had been undertaken against me (including another Craigslist ad), and a few Israel partisans showed up to disrupt the event — to the degree that the police had to be called. One Israel partisan then hit a woman videotaping the incident.
Fortunately, no protesters showed up this time, and I again spoke to a full house. The audience included many members of BFUU – which has a long tradition of peace and human rights activism – who came to hear me for themselves.
At the end of the talk, I was honored and extremely grateful to receive a standing ovation. Numerous audience members said they appreciated the talk, had learned new information, and bought my book. One person told me she hadn’t known any of the information before.
This success only happened because Vic, Cynthia, Tom, Gene and others were willing to stick their necks out, and because the BFUU congregation came down on the side of free speech and against censorship.
It would have been much easier for them to cancel the event entirely, or to bring a less “controversial” speaker. But they didn’t.
This is an example of what a few brave souls can do. Thank you.
UPDATE: I’ve just learned that the event was co-sponsored by Norcal Sabeel, another committed and courageous group.
On Tuesday, eight Democratic senators joined former Republican presidential hopeful Marco Rubio in introducing a Senate bill attacking the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, BDS, which aims at ending the illegal occupation of Palestine and ongoing violations of human rights by Israeli authorities.
Rubio said the bill, titled The Combatting BDS Act of 2017, will “fight back” against the the growing BDS movement by “affirming the legal authority of state and local governments to take tangible actions to counter economic warfare against Israel.”
The bill would allow state and local governments to withdraw funding for any organization “engaged in BDS conduct,” thus giving them “an offensive capability against entities seeking to economically harm Israel,” according to Rubio’s statement announcing the legislation.
“This bipartisan legislation gives state and local governments a legal way to combat the shameful boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel,” said Democratic senator for West Virginia Joe Manchin, a co-sponsor of the bill.
Rubio also explicitly stated that the proposed legislation is a response to the historic U.N. Security Council resolution calling on Israel to end its construction of illegal settlements in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Rubio’s bill is the first attempt to make national several anti-Palestinian solidarity measures passed by state legislatures in Wyoming and New York. Similar to those attempts, however, this legislation will likely fail any constitutional test.
“The Rubio bill doesn’t solve the fundamental problem with these anti-BDS laws, which is that they violate the First Amendment,” said Rahul Saksena, a staff attorney with Palestine Legal, in an interview with The Electronic Intifada.
“Boycotts have been used throughout U.S. history ― from the Boston Tea Party, to the Civil Rights Movement, to the anti-South African ( Apartheid movement ― to challenge injustice and promote social change,” said Palestine Legal and the Center for Constitutional Rights in a statement responding to New York State’s so-called “blacklist” bill passed in December of last year.
Launched in 2005 by 170 Palestinian civil society organizations — including unions, refugee networks, women’s organizations and professional associations — and inspired by the anti-Apartheid movement, the BDS movement calls on individuals and organizations to pressure the Israeli government to end its illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, recognize the right of return of Palestinian refugees and guarantee full civil and human rights to Arab-Palestinian citizens of the Israeli state.
Hundreds of Belgian Artists and Academics Urge Government to End Participation in EU Project Cooperating with Israeli National Police
In Belgium, 482 professors and researchers, and more than 190 artists, have written an open letter calling on their authorities to withdraw from participating in a European Union funded research project called LAW TRAIN, in which Belgium and Spain cooperate with the Israeli National Police.
The project, aimed at developing joint interrogation methods, is coordinated by an Israeli university with particularly deep ties to Israel’s army and notorious security services. The signatories of this open letter highlight that Israeli methods are tested on Palestinians. Israel’s illegal detention of Palestinian political prisoners, and the systematic abuse and torture perpetrated by Israeli security forces during interrogations, is well documented. And, in 2016 alone, Israelis interrogated at least 7,000 Palestinians, including over 400 children.
This open letter is part of broader efforts by the Belgian Coalition To Stop Law Train, and broader European-wide efforts against the participation of the Israeli military, homeland security and police sector in research and development funded by the European Union. Other forms of mobilizing have included direct actions, conferences, and lobbying.
Spoof Royal Navy recruitment posters, which claim sailors on board Britain’s nuclear submarines are effectively suicide bombers, have won the approval of Trident safety and security whistleblower William McNeilly.
The posters point out that if a Trident submarine actually launched its nuclear missiles it would very likely be destroyed in a counterattack.
This, they claim, makes nuclear submariners little more than suicide bombers, whose job is to kill millions of civilians.
The satirical posters have appeared at bus stops across London.
His work has the endorsement of Veterans for Peace UK.
Picking up on the campaign on Friday, Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid the Sun said the posters had sparked “fury.”
However, former Royal Navy weapons engineer William McNeilly, who was kicked out of the Navy after handing WikiLeaks a dossier of serious security and safety failures in 2015, told RT the campaign’s message is accurate.
“The Sun claims that the message in the posters is ‘fake,’” McNeilly told RT on Friday. “It is well known on board nuclear submarines that the Trident submarine on patrol will be the prime target in a nuclear war.”
The former submariner pointed out that once a submarine starts launching missiles it becomes immediately detectable. Those on board know “it is extremely unlikely that they would survive a major war against Russia. They are ready and prepared to be suicide bombers.”
Referring to the recent allegations of a government cover-up of a failed nuclear launch in 2016, McNeilly said: “Judging by the last missile test, it is not unlikely that the Trident submarines would nuke the United States by accident.”
A Canadian school has been forced to reverse its decision not to accept an Israeli student based on his nationality, reports have said.
The Island School of Building Arts (ISBA), a trade school, denied Israeli Stav Doron admission on the basis that he is Israeli.
The Jewish organisation, B’nai Brith Canada, said the student was told the institution is “not accepting applications from Israel” due to “the conflict and illegal settlement in the region”.
However, after the school was inundated with complaints and inquiries regarding the matter, including from Canada’s Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), the institution retracted its decision.
On its website it said: “After significant thought and listening to all interested parties, ISBA has decided to rescind any restriction placed on accepting students from Israel and apologize for any impact or inconvenience. ISBA remains acceptant to all and will continue to do so without restrictions.”
The school, which is based on Gabriola Island in Canada’s British Columbia province, specialises in the design and construction of timber structures.
RT | January 31, 2017
Supporters of Celtic FC, known as the Green Brigade, have donated £176,000 (US$220,000) to two Palestinian charities. The donation was crowdfunded in reaction to a UEFA fine over Celtic fans flying Palestinian flags at a match.
Daniel Woodhouse and Sam Walton (blog.caat )
Two British activists have been arrested while apparently trying to disarm warplanes bound for Saudi Arabia. Daniel Woodhouse, a Methodist minister from Leeds, and Quaker Sam Walton were released on bail pending charges after breaking into BAE’s Warton site in Lancashire.
The pair were arrested in the early hours of Sunday morning while attempting to disarm fighter jets due to be delivered to the Royal Saudi Air Force for use, it is assumed, in coalition bombing raids on Yemen. The aircraft are part of a multi-billion pound deal between BAE Systems and the Saudi regime, and were due to be shipped to Saudi Arabia within weeks.
“BAE security found us just metres from war planes bound for Saudi Arabia,” the two said on their release. “We’re gutted that we couldn’t disarm a plane and stop it being used to carry out airstrikes in Yemen. We could have saved lives by preventing Saudi war crimes in Yemen.”
They added their belief that the British government has blood on its hands and that there is a need to do everything possible to stop the transfer of weapons and show that such sales are illegitimate. “By providing weapons and support,” insisted the campaigners, “Britain is deeply complicit in Saudi war-crimes, and it’s vital that we bring an end to this immoral, abhorrent trade.”
Speaking to MEMO, Mr Woodhouse mentioned that he and his colleague have been campaigning against British arms sale to human rights violators like Saudi Arabia, Israel and Bahrain for “donkey’s years”. He and Walton were just “metres” away from the aircraft, he said, which they were hoping to “render physically incapable.” When prompted to explain how they had planned to do that, Woodhouse referred to a famous case in 1996 when ten women entered the same site to disable a plane bound for Indonesia to be used in the genocide in East Timor, armed with only a hammer. The two men took this “symbolic act,” he said, “to mirror the rightness of the actions of the three women, which a jury 21 years ago found to be lawful.”
In their statement, the activists stressed that their actions had been planned over many months, adding: “We do not take these steps lightly, but we have no other option. We have been active in opposing the arms trade to Saudi Arabia for years, and in the face of wilful government denial that there is a problem with arming Saudi, including willingness to suspend our own due process of law, and complete unwillingness to consider stopping arming Saudi Arabia, we must take this action.”
Britain has approved over £3.3 billion worth of arms to Saudi forces since the bombing of Yemen began in March 2015, and continues to approve arms licences despite repeated allegations of war crimes being committed.
Iranian karate practitioner Majid Hassaninia
Iranian karate practitioner Majid Hassaninia has refused to take on his Israeli opponent in the 21st edition of the Open de Paris – Karate Premier League in France.
On Friday, Hassaninia did not show up for a scheduled encounter against a representative from Israel in the first round of men’s minus 60-kilogram weight class, and was subsequently excluded from the rest of the tournament.
“Even though I had personally paid all the fees for my participation in the contests and wished to assess my preparedness in the designated weight division, what is of paramount importance to every Iranian athlete is his/her beliefs plus support for the defenseless Palestinian nation. I will do my best in future competitions, God willing!” the Iranian karateka said after his decision.
The Islamic Republic of Iran refuses to recognize the Tel Aviv regime and has long refused to engage in sports competitions against Israel.
The 21th edition of the Open de Paris – Karate Premier League opened in the French capital on January 27, and will finish on January 29, 2017.
The tournament has reportedly brought together more than 1,200 male and female athletes from 78 nations, including Armenia, China, France, Germany, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Latvia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, Turkey, Venezuela, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.
People participate in an “Invasion Day” march in Sydney, Australia, January 26, 2016.
Tens of thousands of protesters have staged rallies in major Australian cities to demand a shift of the date of the country’s national day because, according to them, the current date marks the start of an era of injustices suffered by Australia’s disadvantaged Aborigines.
Demonstrators took to the streets of Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, and Perth on Thursday, demanding that the date of Australia Day, January 26, be changed as it celebrates the arrival of white settlers and the beginning of indigenous suffering and massacre.
The day marks the anniversary of the arrival of first British colonists and the so-called First Fleet of British ships in the country more than two centuries ago, in the year 1788.
Referring to the day as “Invasion Day,” many of the participants in the demonstrations were wearing black, yellow, and red, the colors of the aboriginal flag.
“I’m here to commemorate all the aboriginal people who were murdered during the first stage of settlement,” a protester said.
Hundreds of others also staged a sit-in protest outside the Parliament House in the Australian capital of Canberra.
New South Wales State police said that a 20-year-old man had been arrested and a police officer and protester had sustained injuries during the Thursday rallies in Sydney although the demonstrations were mostly peaceful.
Delivering a speech in Melbourne, Ian Macfarlane, a former minister who retired from politics last year, suggested that Australia commemorate March 1, 1901 as its national day. The date was when a newly-created Australian federal government took over many of the functions of the six British colonies that preceded it.
“It’s about healing a wound, drawing a line, getting on with the really important issues facing our indigenous communities,” he said.
Aboriginal Australians have long been subjected to genocide, forced permanent removal, dispossession, racial discrimination, and the destruction of their land.
Australia PM rules out date change
Reacting to the protests, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he did not support a change of the date of Australia Day.
“Everyone is entitled to a point of view, but I think most Australians accept January 26 as Australia Day,” he said.
“It is a day where we celebrate the rich diversity of all of our cultures — from our First Australians… to the new citizens, migrants who come from such diverse range of countries,” Turnbull said.
Aborigines comprise three percent of Australia’s population. Australia’s nearly 700,000 indigenous citizens rank near the bottom of almost every economic and social indicator for the country’s 23 million people.
Protesters in more than a dozen European states have taken to the streets in scheduled demonstrations against the yet-to-be-approved CETA trade agreement, charging it will result in the loss of jobs, lower safety standards, and grant freer rein to corporations.
“The people and the planet are not merchandise,” read a banner carried at the front of a column of demonstrators in Madrid.
In Dublin, protesters dressed as politicians from the ruling Fine Gael party handed over a “blank check” to a man dressed as a “corporation,” wearing a skull mask.
A procession of 130 tractors and as many as 18,000 people marched through the heart of Berlin before symbolically handing over a petition at the German agricultural ministry. The demonstration, organized by Germany’s Green Party and environmentally-conscious farmers wasn’t exclusively aimed at CETA, but the treaty received prominent mentions in the list of complaints.
Other notable rallies, documented on social media, were staged in Paris, Madrid and several other Spanish cities, Ourense in Portugal and Brussels.
TTIP, and TiSA, two other unratified pro-free trade treaties were also condemned.
The broad coalition of anti-globalists, environmentalists and labor movements that was behind what they called the Decentralized Day of Action against CETA, which had been negotiated for seven years, prior to being signed last October, outlined three main objections to CETA, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.
The first was regulatory harmonization between Canada and the EU which would mean goods are produced to the same standard, and can be easily imported without additional certification.
“With the excuse of improving trade between the countries, regulations designed to protect the environment, workers’ rights, public services and consumer standards, will be reduced to the minimum common denominator,” said StopCETA.net.
The second is the additional legal protection given to foreign investors.
“Multinational corporations will have the right to sue governments if laws or regulations are introduced that cause them loss of profits,” continued the organizers.
And the third argument focused on the secrecy of the treaty, which was negotiated behind closed doors, and which will need to be ratified by the European Parliament this spring, before being approved by the national legislatures of the 28 EU member states.
Proponents of CETA argue that it will boost trade between Canada and Europe by 20 percent, and annually add €12 billion to the EU economy and €8.4 billion to Canada’s economy.
After several decades in which trade barriers were removed by governments with scant consultation with the public, there’s been growing resistance to new agreements from both above and below.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a deal similar to CETA, but involving the much larger US economy, has also been met with fierce public resistance in Europe, and Donald Trump has signaled that dismantling TTIP is one of his priorities as President of the US.
The Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) that plans to open up the service industries of 23 mostly developed countries to foreign companies and individuals, has gone through 21 rounds of negotiations since 2013, with no final document published yet, and no deadline for the end of talks.
Brothers, sisters, friends and supporters:
Our hearts are heavy today. President Obama has denied Leonard’s application for a commutation. His name appears on the January 18 list of commutations denied by Obama as issued by the Office of the Pardon Attorney. Leonard’s attorney Martin Garbus was also notified. (Pardon Attorney’s Letter)
Today, in an email, Leonard said, “If I should not [receive clemency] then after we are locked in for the day I will have a good cry and then pick myself up and get myself ready for another round of battles until I cannot fight [any] more. So, don’t worry. I can handle anything after over 40 years.”
It’s hard to bear such a blow, though. And make no mistake — Leonard has been hit hardest of all. But let’s not mourn so very long. Instead, let’s move ever forward. Channel your grief and anger in a positive way. Remember that Leonard still needs our help. He needs quality health care and a transfer to a medium security facility, among other things. We’ll always work towards freedom for Leonard, but these actions may help to make his life more bearable until freedom is won.
Now, we urge you to write to Leonard and help to keep his spirits up. Tell him you won’t give up, that you’ll walk the rest of the way with him. Send cards and letters to:
Leonard Peltier #89637-132
USP Coleman I
PO Box 1033
Coleman, FL 33521
Thank you for your hard work and determination. Blessings to all of you.
Please stay tuned.
International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee
Colombian human rights defender Emilsen Manyoma | Photo: Conpaz
On Tuesday police in the Pacific coast city of Buenaventura announced they had discovered the body of Afro-Colombian human rights activist Emilsen Manyoma, 32, and her partner Joe Javier Rodallega, who had been missing since Saturday.
A prominent leader in the Bajo Calima region since 2005, Manyoma was an active member of the community network CONPAZ where she was an outspoken critic of right-wing paramilitary groups and the displacement of local by international mining and agribusiness interests.
For the past year Manyoma played a key role in documenting attacks on human rights leaders in the region as part of the recently created Truth Commission.
The police said they had found the bodies in an advanced state of decomposition in a jungle area beside the highway. The Justice and Peace Commission, an ecumenical human rights group, reported that both bodies were severely wounded, with Rodallega’s hands reported tied. Radio Contagio reported that both bodies were beheaded.
While police did not release the names of any suspects, just days before their disappearance on Saturday, Rodallega reported being threatened and said a truck had been circling Manyoma’s house.
According to the human rights organization Front Line Defenders, at least 85 human rights defenders were murdered in Colombia in 2016 alone.