“Refugee camps in Israel gave birth to thriving towns and cities. Refugee camps in Arab Countries gave birth to more Palestinian refugees.”
One two part question, even unanswered gives the reason why… WHO ‘gave birth’ to the Palestinian refugees in the first place, and WHO has refused to let them return to their land and homes, forcing them to remain in Refugee camps???
When Israeli officials speak, they present lie after lie. Palestinian officials have no opportunity to counter those lies as they are not recognised as a member State YET.
Israel’s UN envoy slams Arabs over refugees
Speaking on Partition Plan’s 64th anniversary, Ambassador Prosor says Israel absorbed its own refugees into society, ‘our neighbors did not’
WASHINGTON – Speaking at the United Nations on the occasion of the Partition Plan’s 64th anniversary, Israel’s UN Ambassador Ron Prosor said: “The difference between the two distinct populations was – and still is – that Israel absorbed the refugees into our society. Our neighbors didnot.”
“Refugee camps in Israel gave birth to thriving towns and cities. Refugee camps in Arab Countries gave birth to more Palestinian refugees,” he said.
“We unlocked our new immigrants’ vast potential. The Arab world knowingly and intentionally kept their Palestinian populations in the second class status of permanent refugees,” Israel’s envoy added.
Prosor stressed that in the overwhelming majority of Arab state, Palestinians have no citizenship rights.
‘Has Arab world accepted Israel?’
Addressing the 1947 Partition Plan, which called for the establishment of a Jewish state alongside an Arab state in the area known as Palestinian, Prosor said that “Arab inhabitants rejected the plan and launched a war of annihilation against the new Jewish state, joined by the armies of five Arab members of the United Nations.”“One percent of Israel’s population died in combat during this assault by five armies. Think about that price,” the ambassador said. “It would be the equivalent of 850,000 soldiers dying in France today, or 3 million soldiers dying in the United States, or 13 million soldiers dying in China.”
Anti-Semitic symbol found inside elevator in Williamsburg building in second incident in nine days
Attempts to break Gaza blockade won’t stop, vows Freedom Waves activist
Anti-Semite. Holocaust-denier. Terrorist-supporter. The government of Israel as well as its lobbyists and supporters commonly use these labels to describe Palestine solidarity activists and to discourage criticism of illegal Israeli practices. In this polarizing context, the United States, the European Union and Australia have escalated efforts to discourage activism in support of Palestine, creating financial, legal and physical barriers to expressing solidarity.
A longtime activist and Sydney-based youth worker, Michael Coleman has become accustomed to the challenges. As the Australian delegate on the Tahrir boat with the recent Freedom Waves initiative, he recently confronted all of the barriers that the government of Israel could muster.
Coleman first visited the West Bank city of Nablus in 2008 as a volunteer, teaching English and computer-based music production with the humanitarian organization Project Hope. Coleman recalled that “once the excitement of experiencing a new culture wore off, the realization hit me that what I was witnessing in the West Bank was the systematic and methodical ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from Palestine. I resolved at that point to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people until their human rights were upheld.”
After returning to Australia, he was eager to learn more and began participating in the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign. Then, “following the massacre on the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish humanitarian aid ship with the May 2010 Gaza Freedom Flotilla, a friend Rihab Charida made an impassioned speech that ended with ‘There will be an Australian delegation on the next flotilla, who’s with me?’ and six of us put our hands up, and Free Gaza Australia was formed.”
This group successfully participated in Freedom Flotilla Two – Stay Human, which faced severe obstruction from the Greek authorities. Coleman was also involved in that trip, taking to the sea in a kayak to obstruct the Greek coast guard while boats from the flotilla attempted to launch.
In the context of both the violence inflicted on the Mavi Marmara and the international cooperation to prevent July’s Freedom Flotilla from leaving Greece, planning for the most recent flotilla required far greater secrecy. According to Coleman, the obstacles were primarily financial because “due to the covert nature of this new strategy we had to secure a loan for our share of the budget, as fundraising and promotion were not an option,” meaning that Coleman, now safely in Sydney, must retroactively seek funds.
Organizing such a large solidarity action would pose numerous challenges under normal circumstances, but he said that “there were also some issues around forming an executive to keep information sharing to a minimum.” Yet Coleman remains positive about the experience, joking that “personally, I just got sick of resetting the time and date on my phone, as every time sensitive information was discussed we had to remove the batteries from our phones.”
Piracy and kidnapping on the high seas
Moving from planning to implementation, Coleman joined his colleagues on the Tahrir in Turkey. While all aboard were in high spirits, they were also realistic in their preparation, especially when Israeli warships following the flotilla in international waters made it clear that boarding was imminent. “We did discuss how we would handle the boarding process as a group, we formed buddy pairs and nominated where we wanted to be during the boarding.” Coleman confirmed.
Agreeing in advance that they would not resist arrest, the group prepared for boarding in international waters. At this point, according to interviews with the other activists and journalists on board, Coleman was the most defiant. He clarified that “I did not resist the boarding in anyway, but I also did not cooperate in anyway.” Coleman went on to describe the boarding process, which involved the use of a water canon to ensure the compliance of crew and passengers.
In his own powerful account, Coleman said, “I was supposed to be at the port side door to the wheel house; however I was cleared out of there by the water canon, as that’s where theIOF [Israeli occupation forces] boarded the boat. I moved around to the starboard side with my buddy Majd, who was manning the other door to the wheel house. Because of the water canon by the time the IOF boarded all the delegates except [fellow activists] David and Ehab, who were in the wheel house, were together sheltering from the water canon on the starboard side of the Tahrir. So the boarding process really only involved the IOF clearing out the wheel house and bringing David, Ehab and George, our captain, to where the rest of us were on the starboard of the boat — which they did with the use of tasers. This was the point where I began to become more defiant seeing David [Heap] being pushed from the wheel house with blood dripping down his forehead, as he had banged his head after being tasered.”
Having just witnessed these aggressive actions, Coleman detailed his efforts to avoid cooperation. “I then challenged every direction that was made of me and stated at every opportunity ‘you have the responsibility as an occupying force to allow free access of humanitarian goods to the occupied territories’ and ‘that Israel has no authority to board a Comoros Islands-flagged ship in international waters — this is an act of kidnapping and piracy.’”
After the ships had been boarded, the Tahrir as well as the Irish-led Saoirse and their passengers were forced to enter the port of Ashdod in Israel. All of those on board were subject to full body searches and then taken to Givon prison, where they were held after refusing to sign a document stating that they had entered Israel illegally. Despite the actions of the government of Israel, morale among the Freedom Waves detainees remained high even at Givon where they were quick to organize themselves.
“We were lucky to have the Irish boys with us, I think we had only been in the prison under ten hours and they had already formed a prisoner committee and where making demands on the prison authorities for free association, provision of reading and writing materials, knowledge of our sisters being held in another wing of the prison and access to the outside world, via phone calls,” Coleman recounted.
Indeed, even within the walls of an Israeli prison, the activists’ group solidarity remained strong. Coleman described these collective victories as “hugely uplifting” because they saw that they “could still affect our own conditions in the prison.”
During this time, much of the work to free all of those involved with Freedom Waves happened behind the scenes. Coleman stressed the importance of Free Gaza Australia during his detention at Givon.
“They ran a very effective media campaign for my release, pressuring the Australian government to stop being so apologetic for Israel violations of international law,” he said. On 11 November, Coleman landed safely in Sydney but his story and those of other solidarity activists continues to unfold as they consider how they can continue their involvement.
International and domestic push to repress solidarity movements
In the current environment of international hostility, the burden for the illegality of the government of Israel’s actions continues to be placed on activists. Countries such as the United States, Canada and Australia would much rather tell their own citizens to refrain from displays of solidarity than condemn the government of Israel for its continuous and flagrant violations of basic human rights and international law. This is not a reaction unique to the international efforts to break the illegal blockade on Gaza but applies equally to participation in protests and the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign as well as the public criticism of Israeli apartheid practices.
The US, for instance, has repeatedly told its own citizens that participation in the flotilla to Gaza was tantamount to aiding Hamas, and threatened activists with criminal proceedings on their return stateside (“US warns against new Gaza flotilla plans,” Reuters, 24 June 2011). Furthermore, the US government has never criticized the Israeli use of high-velocity projectiles or live-ammunition at peaceful protests attended by Palestinians, internationals, and Israelis; and has even gone so far as to launch a grand jury federal investigation against 23 US-based solidarity activists (“Criminalizing Palestinian solidarity, Al Jazeera English,” 27 June 2011).
Domestically, the government of Israel has also acted to muzzle internal resistance to its policies. The Knesset (Israeli parliament) recently passed two controversial laws that madeparticipation in BDS campaigns illegal and placed a cap on foreign donations to domestic nongovernmental organizations. These latest steps mean that solidarity activists with Israeli citizenship can now be prosecuted for boycotting and organizations that are critical of government policies, the military and settler violence on Palestinians face severe limitations on their operational capacity.
A movement undeterred
In Coleman’s own experience, the repressive responses of the international community and the government of Israel have only served to make many activists more committed to Palestine solidarity — far from acting as a deterrent. “I like others in the international solidarity movement took the massacre on the Mavi Marmara as a challenge, a challenge we have answered and will continue to answer until the blockade of Gaza and the collective punishment it enforces ends,” he told The Electronic Intifada.
When asked about how people could become involved, Coleman urged those interested in learning more to visitthe website for the global BDS movement (http://bdsmovement.net/) and emphasized that even after his unlawful detention, his own participation would continue unabated, stating “as I told the guards at Givon, ‘see you next year.’”
Michelle Gyeney is a freelance writer and is researching the policy incoherence of development practice in Palestine.
The story of Palestine and its people is one that will go down in history. In fact it has already started to do just that. One might say that the victor is the one that writes history. The victor in this case will inevitably be justice, and justice is at the core of the Palestinian struggle against apartheid, colonialism and oppression. And as in every episode in history, everyone will be mentioned according to their positions, and more importantly their deeds with respect to each story.
In the day of solidarity, let us remember that.
‘Price tag’ suspect emailed death threats from house arrest, police says
Man indicted for incitement for racism, vandalism wrote to leading Peace Now activists: ‘Today you die,’ and ‘I’ll kill you. The end is near.’
A man believe to be linked to a series of “price tag” attacks against Israeli peace activists has been continuously emailing death threats to leading Peace Now activists, just a week after being released to house arrest.
The man, 21, was indicted less than two weeks ago for incitement for racism and vandalism of property, after had admitted to spraying graffiti in several locations in and around Jerusalem, reading “price tag” and “death to the Arabs.”
“Price Tag,” is the name given by extremists to activities against Palestinians, peace activists or security forces in response to what are considered to be actions against the settlements or illegal outposts in the West Bank.
He was subsequently released to house arrest and forced to wear an electronic bracelet.
However, police officials have indicated that the man had continued his “price tag” activities from within his Jerusalem home, sending death threats to Peace Now management, without even bothering to conceal his name.
Peace Now chief Yaniv Oppenheimer said that “at about 3:30 I suddenly received a threatening email.” That message, the Peace Now activist said, was “‘Today you die.’ Then I spoke with the others and found out that I was only the last to receive such an email. Hagit [Ofran] got one and others too.”
The suspect sent death threats to all of the Peace Now activists, only differently phrased. To Ofran, the group’s head of settlement tracking, he wrote “Hagit Ofran, R.I.P.,” while to the head of Jerusalem activities Danielle Blumenstyk he wrote “I’ll kill you. The end is near.”
The man, the name of whom is still under gag order, is linked to an attack on Ofran’s home earlier this month, in which swastikas graffiti slogans were prayed on her Jerusalem home.
The graffiti warned: “Hagit Ogran, Rabin is waiting for you”, referring to the assassination of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, by a right wing-activist.
How to fight the Israel-Apartheid analogy in four easy steps – a guide for useful Hasbara idiots
Step one: But they have the vote
Start with fragmentation. When talking about Israel refer to a mythical state that existed between November 1966 and June 1967, the only period during which the majority of Palestinians living under Israeli control were NOT subject to military rule. Focus on the fact that Palestinians who became Israeli citizens have the right to vote. Not quite a right to vote for any party of their choice (various radical lists were disqualified over the years) but still, a right to participate in the elections.
In the process, ignore the 80% of the original inhabitants of the territories that became part of Israel in 1948, who have been physically excluded from exercising any civil and political rights in their homeland. Ignore all those who live under military occupation in the 1967 territories, with no right to vote in Israel and no say in the way their territories are governed by Israel (their own government has no power over land, water, roads, housing, development, population registration, and virtually everything else that is relevant to their lives).
Go back to those citizens (about 15% of all Palestinians) and assert how fortunate they are. Do not bother to read, convey, and consider their own feelings, words, analyses, politics. They have a very different opinion on the applicability of the notion of apartheid to their own situation, but why listen? Who is better qualified to speak on their behalf than you?
Step two: But they started it
If you really have to, talk about the refugees (remember those 80% mentioned above, who have been excluded from any presence in Israel?). They have themselves to blame for their situation. They started the war in 1948 and suffered the consequences, so what do they want from you now?
In the process avoid paying attention to inconvenient facts: that long before the 1948 war, all Palestinians residing on land bought by official Jewish agencies had to leave their homes. That no tenants living on land owned by official Zionist agencies were allowed to stay (not even on a small part of their land) once the land transaction was completed. That well before 1948, dozens of towns and hundreds of rural settlements were established by and for Jewish immigrants, and that not a single one of them allowed Palestinians to reside within their boundaries, or even find employment within them, let alone become full members of the community.
In other words, ignore the ever-expanding zone of exclusion that was created by the Zionist movement and its settlement agencies since the beginning of the 20th century, from which all Palestinians were barred. Pretend the whole thing started in 1948, and they were responsible for it. Ignore the Palestinian refugees, all of whom, regardless of their personal involvement in military affairs and political intentions, were equally barred from returning to Israel after 1948. If you also manage to ‘forget’ the massive evidence of ethnic cleansing that took place during that war, so much the better.
And remember: there are two important tasks to be performed here: erase all traces of the exclusion of the majority of Palestinians from their land (if they are not there, by definition they cannot be subject to apartheid), and pre-emptively deny any subsequent claims (if they lost their citizenship they cannot make any claim to voting and other rights).
Step three: But we are not alone
As a fallback option, admit that the situation is not perfect, but you are not the only one practicing some form of discrimination or exclusion. If everyone practices apartheid, then the specific accusation against Israel is no longer meaningful. Use whatever examples can bolster your case: Kurds in Turkey, Basques in Spain, Tibetans in China (and for the more advanced, Saharawis in Morocco), allow you to turn the tables against critics: why do they not protest first against all these other oppressive regimes? The answer may be that these are indeed situations in which minority groups are denied their right to independence. Yet, they are granted equality and the possibility of full assimilation if they so desire. Palestinians, in contrast, have neither independence nor the option of assimilation and equality, but why worry about such petty nuances?
Try another tack: what about the African/Muslim/Caribbean immigrants in Europe, subject to various restrictions on immigration, jobs, residence and political rights? Of course, they are immigrants rejected by the indigenous majority in foreign countries, while Palestinians are indigenous people denied rights in their own homeland by recently-arrived immigrants, but so what?
Or, take the legal precedent route: invoke the right of states to give preferential treatment to their ‘ethnic kin’ in the diaspora, recognised by many European countries. But, do not stop to consider that the very definition of Israel as a state of the Jewish people (but not of its indigenous Palestinians) is the source of the conflict. And that in no European country do the rights of ethnic kin come at the expense of the indigenous ethnic groups that do not form part of the ‘kin’.
Invoke other cases where ethnic and religious symbols are employed by European states, in their flag, anthem, crest and so on. That these states (UK, Greece, Sweden and others) offer all their citizens equal rights, regardless of their ethnic or religious origins, and that none of them allows differential access to resources based on ethnic or religious identity is best left out of the discussion. Rather, raise the problem that Jews and Muslims cannot become UK monarchs, never mind that 99.9% of Anglicans, who are not of royal stock, are equally deprived of that privilege.
Brutal honesty is another useful strategy, especially when you can go back to the classics: the Turks did it to the Greeks, and the Greeks did it to the Turks. The Indians did it to the Muslims, and the Pakistanis to the Hindus, the Czechs and the Poles to the Germans, and the Germans, before them, to everybody else. And keep up to date: the Serbs, Croats, and Bosnians have done it to each other. And, you have not even mentioned yet the great massacres and millions of deaths from enslavement, forced labour, dislocation, and diseases, which afflicted colonized populations in Africa and the Americas. Why single Israel out, then? Why are Israelis the only ones who have to meet the charges of apartheid?
In those cases above (Turkey-Greece, India-Pakistan, and so on), only a few percent of the respective populations were affected, while in 1948 Palestine 60% of the original indigenous population (of the entire country) became refugees; in those cases above, the bulk of the respective population remained rooted in their own territories, and retained their independence, while in the case of 1948 Palestine the entire society was dislocated and lost its ability to rule itself. But these are mere technicalities, so avoid them at will.
More importantly, in all those cases, the acts of dispossession, eviction, expulsion, dislocation, confiscation, were once-off events, even if their impact was of a long duration. Historical tragedies and great injustices they were indeed, no doubt, but life gradually returned to normal after that. Not so in Israel/Palestine: the government, parliament, political parties, military authorities, construction companies, various religious and social movements, and media organisations, continue relentlessly to re-enact the historical dispossession on a regular basis. It is not just the Nakba of 1948 that matters: an ongoing onslaught on Palestinians’ land, rights and demographic presence is the central issue in Israeli politics today (and has been for decades though not always with the same intensity). Literally, not a day passes without a new initiative, bill, law, regulation, and campaign to restrict, marginalise, exclude, silence and oppress Palestinians and any others (including Jews) who try to defend them and what remains of Israeli democracy.
But we digress. All this can be easily explained away by the ultimate weapon: security!
Step four: But we need security
And if all else fails, invoke the magic word, security. You are only in it for security. All you care about is survival. You build a security fence (on and through other people’s land), you have security settlements (on other people’s property), you strive to secure your existence, your boundaries, your demographic balance, your power, your rights.
You maintain the occupation because of security fears (even if you were far more secure before it), you neither annex the occupied territories (because their residents would endanger your security) nor do you leave them (because to do so would constitute a threat to your security), you establish settlements because of security reasons (even if most settlers openly deny that), you let Jews move freely in and out of the country and burden Palestinians with dozens of laws, hundreds of road blocks, thousands of military regulations, all because of security. You maintain a dual legal system (due to security), different roads (for security reasons), differential access to land and water (needless to say why), and different education systems (the s-word is responsible again). What does all that have to do with apartheid?
*Ran Greenstein is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.
JNF delays eviction of Palestinian family from East Jerusalem home
Eviction order initially issued requiring the 12 members of the Sumarin family to be out of the property by Sunday; Jewish National Fund has been trying to evict them since 1991.
Police and bailiff’s office officials had already toured the house, preparing for the possibility that the family would have to be physically removed from the premises. A Jewish National Fund subsidiary, Himnuta, has been trying to get the family out of the house since 1991, saying it owns the premises having acquired it that same year. The house had previously been acquired by the Custodian of Absentee Properties, after original owner Musa Sumarin passed away in 1983 and his three heirs were all living abroad.
The JNF attempted to downplay its connection to the site, referring inquiries to Elad, a group that has been bringing Jews to live in East Jerusalem and obtaining leases for much of the property Himnuta acquired in Silwan.
Following an initial report on the matter ten days ago by Haaretz, the left-wing groups Rabbis for Human Rights and the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement launched a campaign against the JNF, including its American affiliate. The campaign was also launched in the United Kingdom by the left-wing Jewish organization Yachad.
Following the campaign, the JNF announced that it was not a party to the eviction case, claiming that Elad had pursued the action without any connection to the Jewish National Fund.
Their announcement also took Rabbis for Human Rights to task for not checking the facts. The statement said the JNF had leased the property where the Sumarin family is living to Elad in the early 1990s, as a result of Elad’s archaeological activities in the area. The JNF said it has no control or responsibility for what was done at the property and any issue is between the Sumarin family and Elad.
The legal documents in the eviction action, however, show that Himnuta, a wholly-owned JNF subsidiary, was the party that brought the current legal action.
The eviction action has been going on for 20 years, before four different courts, and in each case Himnuta was the plaintiff in the matter; Elad was never a legal party to the action. Himnuta is also pursuing two other eviction cases in the neighborhood. It should be noted, however, that the lawyers representing Himnuta represented Elad in other eviction actions in Silwan.
For its part, the JNF said the court ordered the Sumarin family to leave the premises in 2006 and family members have rebuffed efforts to seriously discuss a resolution of the case. Nonetheless, the JNF said, additional time would be granted to resolve the issue. Elad did not comment.
Today, Occupations across the U.S. have shown that the 99% Movement can do more than protest—we can also take care of one another. Across the world, people still reeling from homelessness, poverty, foreclosures, and economic inequality have a lot less to be thankful for. But today, we reminded ourselves—and the world—that we can still be thankful for our mutual solidarity. From D.C. to Oakland and everywhere in between, Occupiers sat down for communal meals. Others marked Thanksgiving by honoring indigenous Native communities and First Nations who continue to fight for their land and sovereignty against colonialism and corporate greed.
In New York, Occupy The Hood dropped off hundreds of meals at shelters across Harlem, Brooklyn, and the Bronx. The OWS kitchen cooked enough warm meals for 4000 people and handed them out at Liberty Square. Meals were also delivered to churches that have sheltered displaced residents from Liberty Square and to the Occupations at New School and Rockaway. Following dinner, there was a spontaneous sit-in in solidarity with the many people who lost their place of rest when OWS was raided on November 15th.
After the violent eviction of the encampment at Liberty Square in which many Occupier’s possessions (including the majority of the People’s Library) were destroyed, Mayor Bloomberg’s NYPD has been enforcing a strict “no camping” rule inside Liberty Park. NYPD has also been constantly watching the park and preventing people from bringing in tents or “large containers” (such as musical instrument cases). There have been reports that individuals have been arrested for lying down in the square. But this eviction, along with the coordinated attempt to remove Occupations across the world, has only reinvigorated our movement.
In a beautiful display of solidarity, hundreds of people (including many who lost their homes and belongings during the eviction) sat down together after sharing dinner. Before beginning the night’s General Assembly, individuals gave powerful stories and speeches affirming our right to come together in public space, while sit-in protesters played instruments, sang, and chanted “who’s park? our park!” and “ain’t no party like an occupy party, cause an occupy party don’t stop!”
Rabbinate presents: Pork-flavored foie gras
Chief Rabbi Metzger announces plan to import special goose liver which tastes just like forbidden meat
We plan to approve the move and help it happen,” the rabbi told Yedioth Ahronoth. “It could serve as an original Jewish solution for consumers of non-kosher meat, who will be receiving a proper substitute. As for religious Jews, I believe they will be disgusted at first, but will eventually get used to it.”
Rabbi Metzger made the remarks in a conference presenting future hospital food. The conference was also attended by Deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman and the winner of the first season of “Master Chef”, Ina Kravasky.
restaurant, but Alice’s Restaurant is not the name of the restaurant,
that’s just the name of the song, and that’s why I called the song Alice’s
Restaurant.You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant
You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant
Walk right in it’s around the back
Just a half a mile from the railroad track
You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant
Now it all started two Thanksgivings ago, was on – two years ago on
Thanksgiving, when my friend and I went up to visit Alice at the
restaurant, but Alice doesn’t live in the restaurant, she lives in the
church nearby the restaurant, in the bell-tower, with her husband Ray and
Fasha the dog. And livin’ in the bell tower like that, they got a lot of
room downstairs where the pews used to be in. Havin’ all that room,
seein’ as how they took out all the pews, they decided that they didn’t
have to take out their garbage for a long time.
We got up there, we found all the garbage in there, and we decided it’d be
a friendly gesture for us to take the garbage down to the city dump. So
we took the half a ton of garbage, put it in the back of a red VW
microbus, took shovels and rakes and implements of destruction and headed
on toward the city dump.
The People’s Library of Occupy Wall Street Lives On
The People’s Library at Zuccotti Park—a collection of more than 5,000 donated books of every genre and subject, all free for the taking—was created not only to serve the Occupy Wall Street protesters; it was meant to provide knowledge and reading pleasure for the wider public as well, including residents of Lower Manhattan. It was also a library to the world at large, since many visitors to the park stopped by the library to browse our collection, to donate books of their own and to take books for themselves.
At about 2:30 am on November 15, the People’s Library was destroyed by the NYPD, acting on the authority of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. With no advance notice, an army of police in riot gear raided the park, seized everything in it and threw it all into garbage trucks and dumpsters. Despite Mayor Bloomberg’s Twitter promise that the library was safely stored and could be retrieved, only about 1,100 books were recovered, and some of those are in unreadable condition. Four library laptops were also destroyed, as well as all the bookshelves, storage bins, stamps and cataloging supplies and the large tent that housed the library.
For the past six weeks I have been living and working as a librarian in the People’s Library, camping out on the ground next to it. I’m an English professor at the University of Pittsburgh, and I’ve chosen to spend my sabbatical at Occupy Wall Street to participate in the movement and to build and maintain the collection of books at the People’s Library. I love books—reading them, writing in them, arranging them, holding them, even smelling them. I also love having access to books for free. I love libraries and everything they represent. To see an entire collection of donated books, including many titles I would have liked to read, thoughtlessly ransacked and destroyed by the forces of law and order was one of the most disturbing experiences of my life. My students in Pittsburgh struggle to afford to buy the books they need for their courses. Our extensive collection of scholarly books and journals alone would have sufficed to provide reading materials for dozens of college classrooms. With public libraries around the country fighting to survive in the face of budget cuts, layoffs and closings, the People’s Library has served as a model of what a public library can be: operated for the people and by the people.
During the raid, Stephen Boyer, a poet, friend and OWS librarian, read poems from the Occupy Wall Street Poetry Anthology (see peopleslibrary.wordpress.com) aloud directly into the faces of riot police. As they pushed us away from the park with shields, fists, billy clubs and tear gas, I stood next to Stephen and watched while he yelled poetry at the top of his lungs into the oncoming army of riot police. Then, something incredible happened. Several of the police leaned in closer to hear the poetry. They lifted their helmet shields slightly to catch the words Stephen was shouting out to them, even while their fellow cops continued to stampede us. The next day, an officer who was guarding the entrance to Zuccotti Park told Stephen how touched he was by the poetry, how moved he was to see that we cared enough about words and books that we would risk violent treatment and arrest just to defend our love of books and the wisdom they contain.
At 6 pm on November 15, a group of writers and supporters of the People’s Library appeared at the reopened park carrying books, and within minutes we received around 200 donations. All night and into the next day folks stopped by to donate to and take from the collection. Because the new rules of the park forbid us from lying down or leaving anything there, Stephen and I stayed up all night to protect the books until other librarians came to take over for us. Frustrated and exhausted, but still exhilarated and eager to maintain the momentum of the movement, we kept the People’s Library open all day in the pouring rain, storing books in Ziploc baggies to keep them dry.
Then at 7:30 pm on November 16, the People’s Library was again raided and thrown in the trash—this time by a combination of police and Brookfield Properties’ sanitation team. The NYPD first barricaded the library by lining up in front of it, forming an impenetrable wall of cops. An officer then announced through a bullhorn that we should come and collect our books, or they would be confiscated and removed. Seconds later, they began dumping books into trash bins that they had wheeled into the park for that purpose. As they were throwing out the books, a fellow OWS librarian asked one of the NYPD patrolmen why they were doing this. His answer: “I don’t know.”
Five minutes after it started, the raid was over and the People’s Library’s collection was once again sitting in a pile of garbage. Yet just as the trash bins were being carted off, a man stepped out of the crowd with a book in his hand to donate to us: Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem. We joyously accepted and cataloged it, placing it on display under a new sign for the library that we made right then on a blank sheet of paper. A true people’s library, after all, doesn’t depend on any particular number of books, since it’s ultimately about the way those books are collected and lent out to the public.
We’re still accepting donations and lending books just as we always have, but we’ve reorganized ourselves somewhat. We now have three mobile units staffed by OWS librarians, which we can take anywhere we want. For the November 17 Day of Action, we made sure the People’s Library was there to supply books to anyone who wanted them. All day long, OWS librarians walked among the crowds shouting, “The People’s Library 3.0, mobile and in the streets!” For me, it was easily the most rewarding day in the six weeks I’ve been with the movement. The people we met at our mobile units—Occupiers from New York and other states, friends of the People’s Library, tourists—went out of their way to express their joy that we were still here. They also struggled to articulate their feelings of loss, frustration, anger, disgust and outrage over the seizure and destruction of the library. All we could say in response was, “We’re here to stay! Please take a book! They belong to you!” A group of eight OWS librarians even started a new chant: “Whose books? Your books!” It quickly caught fire with the other marchers.
Libraries are where we learn about things that are new to us. Their books broaden our perspectives, change the way we see the world and, at the most basic level, provide us with free and open access to knowledge and information. Over the two months that the People’s Library has been in operation at Zuccotti Park, we librarians have come to see how vital this mission is to the enrichment of our broader society. What’s more, in the course of our day-to-day work there, we had—and are still having—the best time of our lives. The library provides a space of dialogue, creativity, intellectual and cultural exchange and personal growth. When freshmen and sophomores in college ask me, “What should I be reading to understand what this movement is all about?” I see it as an opening for a great conversation. And when they come back to the library to return the books they took, I love to hear about the new horizons that the books helped to open for them.
Although we often shout, “This is what democracy looks like!” on our marches, it’s also something we can say every day to those who pay a visit to the OWS library. In fact, it’s something that the People’s Library, by its very presence—in any location, in any form, with any number of books—is perfectly capable of saying for itself.
Non-violence Does Not Have to Be Passive
By Jim Miles*
I have just watched the video of the University of California students at Davis against the heavily armed police that is becoming prominent on many internet sites and I am reminded, among others, of the non-violent responses of the Palestinians to their occupiers (see “Refusing to be Enemies – Palestinian and Israeli Nonviolent Resistance to the Israeli Occupation,” Ithaca Pres, 2011). The video shows clearly the actions of the police pepper spraying passive students sitting on the ground, heads down. Following that, without any real organization of leadership, the students start slowly almost imperceptibly at first, moving forward toward the police. The resolution is that the police finally turn and leave the site. An earlier video, showing U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Shamar Thomas shaming a squad of New York city police, serves as another excellent example of non-violence actively confronting threatened or implied violence.
The highlight of this is that non-violence need not be passive.
Non-violence can be passive, and does at times necessitate full passivity in the face of impending violence. But in other circumstances, especially where the overwhelming balance of force is on one side, a pro-active non violence can be very effective. The police/military are then forced into a decision: to either use violence against the protesters; or to stand down from the protesters.
Included in this is the nature of social media and the ubiquitous presence of cameras, videos, cell phones, and their immediate input into the airwaves of the world. If the police are to choose violence, that will be seen globally, even if the mainstream corporate media do not pick up on it. If the police choose to stand down, that also will not be seen in corporate media. But everyone else will see it nevertheless.
Historically, pacifism did not bring about significant changes to the social structures and politics of the world. The Magna Carta (1215) in England was not donated willingly by the King but forced upon him by his rebellious barons. Interestingly enough, this was not a rebellion to replace one monarch with another, but to limit the powers of the absolute monarchy. The unions that workers attempted to form were not aided and abetted by the corporations that were involved. Union development in the western world is the story of workers’ rights and better working conditions up against the forces used by the corporate elites, the militaries and hired police. Many workers’ strikes were settled by violence before unions began to have some recognition under law, unfortunately later many of them were co-opted by the union bosses to support one political position or another of the elites.
The women’s suffragette movement was not a peaceful one, and involved violence against the women, with the women resorting to hunger strikes and chaining themselves to barricades in order to pronounce their determination. World War I had a significant role in giving women the right to vote as they ‘demonstrated’ their abilities to replace men in the homeland manufacturing centres. The freeing of the black slaves in the U.S. and then the long struggle to have equality in society was not given to the black people voluntarily. It involved a long history of violence against blacks and their supporters. This violence continues today with the inequalities of race and crime based on this historical pattern.
Ghandi spoke of non-violence, but was not passive in his opposition to the British empire in India. Martin Luther King spoke of non-violence but was not passive in his actions against racial discrimination in the U.S. The Egyptians demonstrated non-violence in Tahrir Square and are still under fire from the military regime now controlling Egypt (and why not, for all the billions of dollars they receive from the U.S.?) The Palestinians practice non-violence on a daily basis, protesting against the illegal “wall” that is expropriating their territory, and in a large part by simply existing and being, proceeding with life trying to give it some sort of semblance of civility under occupation. Protesters in Bahrain and Yemen who have been non-violent have had overwhelming force used against them – as did the Indians, the blacks, the Egyptians, and all others who have protested non-violently.
So there is an obvious downside to protests and struggles for human rights, but that is part of what non-violence is about – a clear demonstration that the powers that be are not democratic and are in reality against the masses of the people (except as consumers and cannon fodder of course). The elites are not aligned with the people, are not accepting their own rhetorical standards of free speech and democracy, and with other elites will do their best to control the voice of the people. It is an alignment of the contradictions of society where those in power clearly do not lead the people, where the elites are clearly in opposition to the people, and in some cases will go to great lengths, including torture and murder, to keep their positions.
Occupy Wall Street for the moment remains a relatively calm demonstration, with non-violence being one of its hall-marks (the other main one being that it is essentially leaderless). The elites will look for weaknesses and try to exploit them. The elites main weapon for now is the overall tenor of fear that they present to society: fear of communism, fear of terrorism, fear of crime; all embellished by the corporate media to both entertain and contain the thoughts of the hopefully ignorant masses.
The lessons learned from the efforts of the Palestinians can be incorporated into the occupy movement. What the state [of Israel, the U.S. ….] fears most of all is the hope that people can live together based on justice and equality for all. Non-violence becomes a pro-active dynamic, with actions taken that are similar in nature to civil disobedience (in cultures where there is civil law, rather than military rule). Another aspect is that of normalization – the elites want a leader, they want to negotiate, they want to buy off the leaders (or imprison and decapitate them to instil fear). Non-violence disallows normal relations, the goal is to replace the subservient position with one of equality in all areas. In other words, through non-violent resistance, the [Palestinians, Occupy movement….] are not accepting the status quo, are not accepting that the media will be able to present a picture that life continues as normal within the elites’ mode of controlling society.
Non-violent protest can lead to very violent counter-actions. If that happens to the Occupy movement, it will be seen around the world, and the world, once again, will see that what the U.S. claims about freedom and human rights is simply rhetorical fodder to cover up their real interests in power and control of people and resources. If nothing else, the Occupy idea is out – corporate wealth is creating great inequalities within the U.S. (…and Canada, and Mexico, and Europe, and any other nation that supports the globalization of capital and the governance of corporations over sovereign nations).
Ideas cannot be removed once put out. Non-violence is the best way to maintain the message and keep the pressure on in an otherwise violent – threatened or applied – system.
*Jim Miles is a Canadian educator and a regular contributor/columnist of opinion pieces and book reviews for The Palestine Chronicle. Miles’ work is also presented globally through other alternative websites and news publications.
Prominent Israeli rabbi faces criminal probe over anti-Arab remarks
Shmuel Eliyahu was signatory to edict calling on Jews to refrain from selling or renting property to non-Jews; right-wing NGO: Indictment represents crime against the Jewish people.
Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein decided Tuesday to open a criminal investigation against Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, for alleged incitement to racism.
The decision to investigate Eliyahu came after he was quoted making several anti-Arab comments in interviews with the media.
Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu.
Photo by: Emil Salman
Eliyahu was one of 18 rabbis who signed a petition in October 2010, urging Jews to refrain from renting or selling apartments to non-Jews – a move seen as being directed against Arab students enrolled in Safed’s college. Some 50 rabbis eventually endorsed the so-called “rabbis’ letter.”
The criminal investigation opened by Weinstein will not focus on “rabbis’ letter,” however, but rather on personal remarks made by Eliyahu.
After a series of complaints were lodged with the Attorney General’s office regarding Eliyahu’s anti-Arab remarks, Weinstein decided to investigate whether any criminal intention could be found in the remarks.
Eliyahu last year slammed those who have accused him of being a racist, saying that a survey showed that 74 percent of the public supports the letter. He added that he believed the letter had backing from God.
The rabbis of the right-wing NGO World Headquarters to Save the People and the Land of Israel denounced the move to indict Eliyahu, calling the decision “a crime against the Jewish people meant to humiliate Israel’s rabbis and Torah.”
“We urge Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu do refrain from cooperating with the political investigation, which harkens to a darker time in Jewish history,” the right-wing group said.
In another response to Eliyahu’s indictment, the Follow-up Committee on Arab Education (FCAE) called the move “too little, and, mainly, possibly too late.”
“Eliyahu’s racist positions – which Arab students in Safed and around Israel have suffered and continue to suffer – are no longer a marginal phenomenon but have found their way to the majority of Israel’s lawmakers and ministers, FCAE director Raja Za’atra said.
Za’atra added that racism was a “malignant” affliction, saying that if Israelis don’t “fight it determinately, Jews and Arabs alike, it will bring an irreversible fascist disaster on us all.”
Eliyahu, the son of former Sephardic Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, is known for his extreme stances, and has been indicted in other occasions for incitement to racism. In one occasion, he called to remove all of Safed Academic College’s Arab students following a suicide attack on a bus near Meron in northern Israel.
At the time, Eliyahu criticized Safed Academic College as a potential site for the creations of inappropriate relations between Jews and Arabs, saying that best possible solution for the issue was the forming of a separate Arab college.
In a 2004 interview, Eliyahu commented on posters distributed in Safed, which claimed that “Jewish girls were imprisoned by Arabs in the village of Akbara,” saying that relations between Jewish women and Arab men were “another kind of war the Palestinians are waging against us, and we must know how to defend ourselves.”
“There are Jewish girls, 15-25 years-old, seduced by young Arab men…. I also know that in many of the cases they were Arab men already married to Arab women, and those Jewish girls were taken as slaves of sort, without any possibility of escape,” Eliyahu said.
America’s elite think they’ve put our movement in its proper place–intimidated by the police powers of the U.S. state and pessimistic that any real change can be achieved.
But they’re wrong. The Occupy movement has already changed the way millions of people think about their lives, the world they live in, and their political beliefs–and that isn’t going away, whatever form the struggle takes now.
Occupy’s Next Struggle
But then Police Lt. John Pike showed the world what’s really going on.
A cop at the University of California Davis, Pike carried out the sadistic pepper-spraying of students during a peaceful November 18 sit-in–capturing in an indelible image the vengeful and violent crackdown on the Occupy movement that has been ordered by the wealthy and powerful across the U.S.
The raids, the arrests and the police violence are about trying to silence a movement that is giving voice to the accumulated discontent of the working-class majority in U.S. society. They’re also about showing who’s the boss–the political and business establishment.
As for free speech and democracy, the real attitude of the 1 percent was on full display in a November 21 Wall Street Journal editorial that reeked of contempt for ordinary people and hatred of anyone who dares to take a stand for justice:
In New York City and elsewhere, the occupiers reacted to being cleared out of their aromatic tent-towns this week by breaking the law and disrupting the lives and work of people trying to earn a living.
The logic–perhaps not the right word–of these protests seems to be that by inconveniencing millions of people the protesters will inspire a political revolt of the exploited masses. More likely, they will inspire the masses to be revolted by this vanguard of the college-educated proletariat.
America’s elite think they’ve put our movement in its proper place–intimidated by the police powers of the U.S. state and pessimistic that any real change can be achieved.
But they’re wrong. The Occupy movement has already changed the way millions of people think about their lives, the world they live in, and their political beliefs–and that isn’t going away, whatever form the struggle takes now.
In just two months of existence, the movement has shifted the national debate by casting a spotlight on the question of corporate greed and economic inequality–no small achievement given the stiflingly narrow discussion permitted in the corporate media. Occupiers have shown that it’s possible to win wide support for some powerful left-wing arguments–tax the rich, create jobs, end the wars, hold political leaders accountable.
And the struggle has brought together many thousands of people who want to do something about all this–and do it now. Whether they could maintain permanent encampments or not, local Occupy movements have been a political gathering place for both veterans of labor and grassroots organizing and people completely new to activism to find each other and make common cause.
Many Occupy actions have been about the outrageous attacks on the right to free speech and peaceable assembly–that is, about defending our right to protest at all. But the movement has also been deepened by linking up with working people’s struggles of all kinds, from resisting budget cuts and school closures to supporting strikes and efforts to block evictions from foreclosed homes.
If the movement isn’t yet capable of the kind of mass civil disobedience that can defend the camps everywhere, it has nevertheless created new networks of activists who now have the practical experience of mutual solidarity to put to use in the struggles ahead.
From the general strike call in Oakland, Calif., that shut down the city’s port November 2 to the pickets in support of locked-out workers at Sotheby’s in New York and uncounted anti-eviction protests in many cities in between, Occupy has shown the potential to build a mass, activist left in the U.S. for the first time in decades.
The question for activists in many cities now is whether and how to rebuild encampments that have been wrecked–with their former sites turned into “free speech-free” zones by police and local authorities (almost all of those authorities Democrats, by the way).Some voices on the left are advising the Occupy movement to shrug off the loss of the camps. According to this argument, activists can now change focus from the narrow question of defending their right to occupy public space against the forces of the state to the broader issues that the struggle has connected to in the past few months.
But while these broader issues are certainly very important, those who want to move on are missing some crucial points.
First of all, the national security state, engorged by hundreds of billions in spending since the September 11 attacks, is now being used against those who simply wish to critique a society in which 1 percent of the population controls nearly 40 percent of the wealth–and question a system of laws that says corporations are people and therefore have the right to purchase both political parties, lock, stock and barrel.
That encroachment on basic democratic rights has to be challenged. Activists should keep up the heat on politicians like Michael Bloomberg or Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel–who tailor their interpretation of First Amendment rights to cater to the interests of the 1 percent.
The importance of such struggles over the right to protest and against police violence were clear from the massive rally and General Assembly November 21 at UC Davis in response to the pepper-spraying of demonstrators. Around a quarter of the entire student population–and maybe more–attended, according to estimates.
Second, the encampments at Zuccotti Park and other public spaces were more than symbols of the movement. Occupy camps and the structures that have arisen in conjunction with them provide a space for people to connect to the struggle–where they can raise their own grievances, learn about the issues and hear discussions about what we’re trying to achieve and how.
In cities where the camps have been broken up–as well as those, like Chicago, where a permanent encampment was never established–activists have to consider how to maintain this open interplay.
Another important question for the movement is its attitude toward the mainstream political system. On the one hand, unions such as the Service Employees International Union SEIU and liberal organizations like MoveOn.org, want to use Occupy as a brand for their multimillion-dollar electoral efforts–starting with an “Occupy Congress” tent city in Washington that’s intended to put heat on House Republicans, but not Barack Obama and the Democrats.
One of the great strengths of the movement in its first months has been the willingness to critique the Washington political system as a whole, not just one wing of it. In fact, most of the activists who came to Occupy are looking for ways to build a lasting movement in their own communities, while forging ties with like-minded people in other localities.
For them, it’s important to consider what Occupy has achieved so far. It has validated the feelings of tens of millions of working people who are furious at the way the people who run the banks and big corporations have continued to thrive despite the economic crisis, even as working people keep losing ground–if they’re not forced into desperation through debt and the loss of their homes and jobs.
Keeping that spirit at the center of the struggle is the key to the future.
The sustained offensive against the Occupy movement isn’t just about police repression. There’s an ideological component–and some of most prominent figures carrying out this campaign claim to support the ideals of the struggle.The next time you hear a supposed liberal like the chancellor of the University of California-Berkeley justify a police crackdown by declaring that Occupy tactics of nonviolent direct action have nothing to do with the 1960s civil rights movement, consider these words from Martin Luther King Jr.. They come from a speech in 1967, the last year of King’s life, just before he called for a Poor Peoples Movement to establish—yes, an encampment–in Washington, D.C.:
The movement must address itself to the question of restructuring the whole of American society. There are forty million poor people here. And one day we must ask the question, “Why are there forty million poor people in America?” And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. And I’m simply saying that more and more, we’ve got to begin to ask questions about the whole society.
We are called upon to help the discouraged beggars in life’s market place. But one day, we must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. It means that questions must be raised. You see, my friends, when you deal with this, you begin to ask the question, “Who owns the oil?” You begin to ask the question, “Who owns the iron ore?” You begin to ask the question, “Why is it that people have to pay water bills in a world that is two thirds water?” These are questions that must be asked.
Those questions have gone unanswered for more than 40 years, even as politicians annually use the holiday in King’s name to assure us of their commitment to equality.
Now, Occupy has raised King’s questions again. Yet while King was focused primarily on the struggles of African Americans and the poor locked out of the American Dream amid a booming economy, today, the entire U.S. working class faces a deep and permanent cut in their living standards through wage cuts, joblessness and sweeping reductions in what remains of the social safety net.
In King’s day, politicians promised African Americans, women and others struggling for change that if they were patient, they’d see results…someday. Today, however, Democratic and Republican politicians are marching in lockstep to impose austerity, austerity and more austerity.
Our future, they tell us, is going to get worse–and we’d better get used to it. The only debate is over how much more to cut, rather than creating jobs and devoting resources to those in urgent need.
Now, the Occupy movement has followed King’s advice and begun “to ask questions about the whole society.” And activists have gotten an answer from authorities–in the form of a near-lethal police tear gas canister fired at the head of Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen, pepper spray down the throats of Davis campus protesters, the trashing of the library at Occupy Wall Street and military-style police sweeps of Occupy encampments across the U.S., coordinated in a conference call of double-talking Democratic mayors.
But Occupy isn’t defeated. On the contrary, activists are debating how to take up new challenges–from helping the International Longshore and Warehouse Union activists take on union-busting by the grain giant EGT to preparing for big labor contract showdowns for transit workers in Chicago and New York.
Many other smaller struggles are newly infused with people and energy as activists who stood up to the political lies and police nightsticks join the fight. Occupy, after all, has the support of the working class–and to move forward, it has to involve itself in workers’ struggle wherever possible.
The loss of the encampments is a blow, but not a fatal one. In France, after May 1968, a popular poster put it this way: “Beginning of a prolonged struggle.”
Occupy may not have reached the level of the French events of ‘68, but it’s clear that we’re at the start of something, with bigger battles to come. The time to prepare for those battles is now.
This article was originally published by Socialist Worker.
‘Hanukkah pricing’ Wodka vodka billboards are anti-Semitic, ADL charges
Company bombarded with complaints
Billboards pitching a cheap vodka to New Yorkers were attacked Tuesday by the Anti-Defamation League as anti-Semitic.
The Wódka vodka promotion features two dogs, one in a Santa hat and the other in a yarmulke, and include the message, “Christmas Quality, Hanukkah Pricing.”
ADL regional director Ron Meier said the ad “reinforces anti-Semitic stereotypes.”
“In a crude and offensive way of trying to make a point that their vodka is high quality and inexpensive, the billboards evoke a Jewish holiday to imply something that is cheap and of lesser value when compared to the higher value of a Christian holiday,” Meier said.
One of the billboards along the West Side Highway was taken down Tuesday, after the vodka company Panache Beverages in the Flatiron District was bombarded with complaints.
The company vowed to pull all the ads immediately.
“Particularly with the long history of anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jews and money, with the age-old notion that Jews are cheap, to use the Jewish holiday in dealing with issues of money is clearly insensitive and inappropriate,” Meier said.
Wódka vodka — which sells for $9 for a 750 milliliter bottle — has a reputation for irreverent ads, including ones reading “Escort Quality, Hooker Pricing” and “Hamptons Quality, Newark Pricing.”
“We’re surprised. We’re surprised people are vitriolically offended by what we’ve done,” said Dale James, co-owner of the vodka company, adding the ads were not intended to be offensive.
“This is a premium vodka, at a value price. That’s all we’re saying,” Dale told CBS Channel 2 news. “It’s all about value and quality.”
He said he’s even gotten death threats over the ads and has been compared to a Nazi.