ISRAEL’S NEW PUPPET GOVERNMENT

Several dozen pro-Palestinian demonstrators clashed with those supporting Israel at the front gates of a baseball stadium in West Sacramento, CA on Sunday where a celebration of 67 years of the Israeli state was being held. 

Chanting “Israel has nothing to celebrate until Israel’s government stops violating human rights and international law,” the demonstrators featured a near life size puppet-sign of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Netanyahu puppet in West Sacramento's pro-Palestinian protest. (Photo: Rocco Valachi)

The Netanyahu puppet in West Sacramento’s pro-Palestinian protest. (Photo: Rocco Valachi)

 

Pro-Palestinian protest features Netanyahu puppet

California demonstrators square off against group celebrating 67 years of Israel’s existence; protest partly fueled by new Netanyahu government.

Several dozen pro-Palestinian demonstrators clashed with those supporting Israel at the front gates of a baseball stadium in West Sacramento, CA on Sunday where a celebration of 67 years of the Israeli state was being held.

Chanting “Israel has nothing to celebrate until Israel’s government stops violating human rights and international law,” the demonstrators featured a near life size puppet-sign of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The photo of the prime minister had a caption under it stating: “Bibi sees the light. Let refugees return home,” in effect, said demonstrators, “calling for an end to Israel’s apartheid, ethnic cleansing and human rights violations against the Palestinian.”

One protester from the pro-Palestinian demonstration told a member of the opposing celebration of Israel that, “You are Hitler,” as a small group of local authorities stood between the two.

“As a Jewish American, I feel it is critical to speak out about Israel’s abuses,” explained Pete Horn, one of those demonstrating Sunday, adding: “I don’t see how anyone of conscience can celebrate when Israel has just installed an incredibly racist government including a deputy defense minister in charge of West Bank Civil Administration who says that Palestinians are subhuman. And this man nominally controls much of the day-to-day life of Palestinians under occupation.”

Pro-Palestinian protesters outside West Sacramento's Raley Field. (Photo: Rocco Valachi)

Pro-Palestinian protesters outside West Sacramento’s Raley Field. (Photo: Rocco Valachi)

Activists said they were calling attention to Israel’s aggressive and violent campaign against Palestinians who live in the West Bank and Gaza and those who are citizens of Israel. The protester’s accusations included kidnapping and torturing children, demolishing Bedouin homes, the jailing of non-violent activists, and war crimes.

“This event, created by the Israel-lobby affiliate, the Jewish Federation, falsely conflates Israel with Judaism and Jewish values, which is further falsely used to claim that criticism of Israel is anti-Jewish,” noted activist Paul Leunberger. “U.S. tax dollars fund Israel’s well-documented atrocious abuses and we have every right to criticize, challenge and work to try to stop what Israel is doing to the indigenous Palestinian people.”

 

Source

‘FREEDOM FLOTILLA III’ HEADS TO GAZA TOMORROW

The first ship taking part in Freedom Flotilla III on Monday set sail from Gothenburg, Sweden, for a voyage of nearly 5,000 nautical miles to the blockaded Gaza Strip.

(MaanImages)

(MaanImages)

‘Freedom Flotilla III’ sets sail for Gaza

The first ship taking part in Freedom Flotilla III on Monday set sail from Gothenburg, Sweden, for a voyage of nearly 5,000 nautical miles to the blockaded Gaza Strip, the Freedom Flotilla Coalition said.

The trawler Marianne was jointly acquired by “Ship to Gaza Sweden” and “Ship to Gaza Norway” and will be joined by other ships en route.

Together, the ships will form the third flotilla to head to Gaza with the aim of “a peaceful, nonviolent action to break the illegal and inhumane blockade of the Gaza Strip,” the FFC said.

Gaza has been under a crippling Israeli-administered military blockade since 2007.

The first three ports the Marianne will call into are Helsingborg, Malm and Copenhagen, with subsequent ports to be announced later.

The trawler is carrying a limited cargo of solar cell panels and medical equipment for the war-devastated Gaza Strip, the FFC said.It will carry a crew of five people as well as “up to eight delegates as passengers in each section of the route,” the FFC said, with these delegates to be announced along the way.

A range of public figures are expected to participate in the flotilla, including former Tunisian President and human rights activist Muncef al-Marzouki.

The flotilla is the third of its kind since 2010, when the first Freedom Flotilla was brutally attacked by Israel naval forces, who killed nine activists on board the ships.

The incident, which took place in international waters, sparked international outcry.

A second flotilla planned for 2011 was unable to reach Gaza after Greek authorities prevented the ships from leaving Athens.

Conditions in the Gaza Strip have deteriorated sharply following last summer’s 50-day Israeli assault, which left more than 2,200 Palestinians dead and around 100,000 internally displaced.

A statement released by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees in March said: “In Gaza, the effects of the occupation, blockade and recurring military campaigns have devastated not only Palestine refugee homes, lives and income, but also hope for a secure and dignified future.”

Another UNRWA report said: “Gaza and its people are becoming more isolated; families fear and worry that in addition to the devastated economy and the stalled political environment, the future of their children is also under siege.”

Source

Needless to say, the zionists are preparing their ‘welcome’  … (Click on link)

Flotilla ahoy! A refresher on the background to another anti-Israel publicity stunt

IN PHOTOS ~~ 10 YEARS OF BDS ~~ A JOINT CELEBRATION

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Photos © by Bud Korotzer Commentary by Chippy Dee

On the evening of May 6th in NYC at Alwan for the Arts the space was filled to capacity with people gathered to hear Omar Barghouti, one of the founders of the BDS campaign against Israel, and Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace, discuss the BDS campaign as it reaches its’ 10th anniversary.  The meeting was organized by Haymarket Books.

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Barghouti began by explaining the philosophy behind boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS).  It is about building awareness of the ethicality of resistance.  How does an oppressed people resist oppression without unduly harming the oppressor.  Both communities have to be humanized and the trap of collective responsibility is to be avoided.  An Us vs. Them mindset is not productive – Israelis should be encouraged to join the movement.

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The minds of Palestinians have to be decolonized.  Realizing there would be enormous resistance Zionists knew very early on that they would have to colonize the minds of Palestinians, building an iron wall there by removing all hope.  If hope is taken away the Palestinians would be defeated.  This was recognized as early as 1923 when the Zionist Vladimir Jabotinski wrote his political allies about destroying the will of the Palestinian people, “A living people make such enormous concessions…only when there is no hope left.  Only when not a single breach is visible in the iron wall, only then do extreme groups… lose their sway….”

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Last, people have to be mobilized for goal oriented action, one with a considerable chance of success.

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Only 38% of the Palestinian people live on the West Bank and in Gaza.  12% are Israeli citizens and 50% are in the diaspora.  It is not enough to say end the occupation.  Israel has divided the Palestinians, leaving them scattered all over the world.  The 3 goals of BDS: end the occupation, full and equal rights for the Palestinian citizens of Israel, and the right of return will reunite the people of Palestine.  Our goal is freedom, justice and equality.  We must have consistent pressure to achieve these goals.  That means resisting/opposing the regime that stands against this.

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Israel is feeling very threatened because the economic and cultural boycott is growing and Jewish support for BDS is also growing.  People are coming to realize that either they support a colonial venture or they don’t.  The “Brand Israel” campaign has failed.  Now the Israeli fight-back is based on propaganda and ‘lawfare’, legal challenges to BDS.  They seem not to know how to deal with this non-violent principled resistance which is demanding basic rights for the Palestinian people under international law.

Vilkomerson said that JVP fully endorses all elements of the Palestinian call for BDS and believes that it provides the best tactics to bring justice to Palestine.  JVP also wants to bring pressure on the US government not to be complicit in this struggle. There have been many victories here in this country – 60 members of congress did not go to hear Netanyahu’s speech.  JVP stands with the divestment of the Presbyterian church and with SodaStream closing their West Bank factory.  JVP also supports the many Students for Justice in Palestine chapters that have been fighting for divestment, often winning, on their campuses.

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But the closer we come to winning this fight, the stronger the push-back will be.  Big money is going into this fight against the BDS campaign from the Jewish community, including on campuses.  There are constant accusations of anti-Semitism which, unfortunately, dilutes real anti-Semitism.

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Blacks, Latinos, and young people are most likely to support Palestine and over the past year there has been an enormous growth of solidarity between the Palestinian struggle and the fight against the oppression of Black people in this country.  JVP fully supports, with feet in the streets, the Black Lives Matter fight.  JVP is an anti-racist organization that sees the Palestinian and the Black struggle as the same fight for justice and will be there in solidarity because it is a joint struggle.  BDS is a tool of anti-racist ideology.

JVP is now 3 times the size it was before the Israeli attack on Gaza last summer.  They now have 200,000 on line supporters because people are coming to recognize that the Palestinian struggle is the world’s great moral issue of our time.

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I remember when people used the phrase ‘PEPs’, Progressive Except Palestine, to describe those who were generally progressive on most issues but would not or could not support Palestinians.  It is becoming increasingly clear to me that there is no such thing.  If you don’t understand and support the Palestinian struggle for human rights you  cannot call yourself progressive.

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ETHIOPIAN DIARY ~~ PART THREE ~~ WHY WE WILL CONTINUE TO PROTEST

“We will demonstrate against police brutality and in solidarity with all the members of the community who are not treated fairly by the authorities.”

“We’ve been silent for 30 years and now we’re making our cry heard. I call on everyone to join and not to remain apathetic.”

See Part One HERE

See Part Two HERE

Ethiopian protest in Jerusalem

Ethiopian protest in Jerusalem

Ethiopians Plan New Israel Racism Protests

Ethiopian-Israelis have set new protests against police brutality with the theme “No to violence, yes to dialogue.”

One rally is scheduled for Thursday in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, Haaretz reported, and simultaneous demonstrations are planned for Saturday night throughout the country.

A demonstration by Ethiopian-Israelis and their supporters on Sunday in Tel Aviv turned violent, with dozens injured and four indicted for assaulting police officers. Rioting also broke out at a rally in Jerusalem several days earlier. The protests were spurred by the beating of an Ethiopian-Israeli soldier in uniform by Israeli police.

“We will demonstrate against police brutality and in solidarity with all the members of the community who are not treated fairly by the authorities,” Gavriel Tigabo, a protest organizer, told Haaretz. “We’ve been silent for 30 years and now we’re making our cry heard. I call on everyone to join and not to remain apathetic.”

A Facebook announcement of the Saturday protests said that “the entire Ethiopian community will demonstrate against its local authority to demand that the social injustices be remedied. You decide what the protest will look like, you lead it. No singers, no speeches.”

From JTA

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Ethiopian Protests Sign of Stubborn Racism in Israeli Society

Images of Israeli police firing stun grenades are usually set in the West Bank and involve Palestinian protesters. But on Sunday the situation was quite different – riot police battling thousands of Ethiopian Jews in the center of Tel Aviv.

The spark was a week old video showing two Israeli policemen punching, beating and trying to arrest an Israeli soldier of Ethiopian descent in what appeared to be an unprovoked attack.

The two-minute video is the latest in a string of incidents that have raised uncomfortable questions about Israel’s treatment of ethnic minorities and its struggle to integrate newcomers into broader society, whether Jews or non-Jews.

Some commentators have highlighted latent racism in a country that has absorbed millions of migrants over the past 60 years but still agonizes over differences between East European and Middle Eastern Jews, relations with its large Arab minority, and how to handle more recent arrivals from Africa.

“There is a problem, there are discrimination issues, there is racism in Israel,” said Fentahun Assefa-Dawit, the director of Tebeka, an advocacy group for Ethiopian Israelis, who number around 130,000, many of them born in Israel.

“We want the prime minister to take this matter into his hands,” he said moments before he was due to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss police behavior and the demonstrations that have ensued. “We urge him, we demand of him, to bring these issues to an end.”

DEEP SEATED PROBLEMS

In the run up to Israel’s election in March and in the weeks since there have been a series of violent incidents, comments by politicians and policy proposals that have fueled concerns the country has a race problem – not just when it comes to the 20 percent Arab population but to minority Jewish groups too.

Last week, an Ethiopian Jew said he was beaten by inspectors from Israel’s population and immigration authority because they thought he was a migrant from Sudan or Eritrea. The immigration authority said the man attacked the inspectors first.

On the day of the election on March 17, fearing he could lose, Netanyahu said “Arab voters are coming out in droves,” comments that offended the Arab-Israeli population and drew accusations of racism. The prime minister later apologized.

For months, Israel has been threatening to imprison thousands of illegal African migrants if they do not agree to be deported to third countries in Africa, despite the Supreme Court expressing deep reservations about the policy.

And rights groups have raised alarm about childcare for asylum seekers and migrant laborers after the death of half a dozen babies at a “warehouse” in Tel Aviv where the children were left while their parents went to find work.

Racism in Israeli society is “far more commonplace and far more toxic than we dare tell ourselves,” leading political commentator Nahum Barnea wrote in Yediot Ahronoth on Monday.

“It doesn’t begin with the Ethiopian Israelis and it doesn’t end with them,” he said. “Hatred of the other, or of anyone perceived as being the other, is not only deeply rooted here, but it also receives encouragement from politicians on the eve of elections.”

Ben Caspit, a columnist with Maariv newspaper, said it was not up to Netanyahu to resolve how the Ethiopian community is treated but for Israelis to wake up and address it.

“The people who are to blame for the terrible things that the members of this lovely community have been forced to undergo on a daily basis is us,” he said.

“Those among us who turn up their noses when an Ethiopian family enters the neighborhood, those among us who are not happy to see Ethiopian children in their children’s classroom.”

Around 20,000 Ethiopian Jews were brought to Israel on secret flights in the mid 1980s and early 199os, with the evacuations dubbed Operation Moses and Operation Solomon.

The offspring of those early arrivals have worked hard to integrate, many serving in elite units of the army with distinction. An Ethiopian woman won a recent Miss Israel beauty contest. But after mandatory military service, acceptance in the workplace has proved much more of a struggle.

“When an Ethiopian applies for a job, as qualified and impressive as he might be, he is not going to be invited for an interview because he has an Ethiopian name on his CV,” said Assefa-Dawit of Tebeka, the advocacy group.

“Israel is our country, there’s no ‘us and them’. This is our home. The community is crying out for the government to resolve this.”

 

From Reuters

ETHIOPIAN DIARY ~~ WHY WE PROTEST

Thousands of Ethiopian Israelis turned out to the mass demonstration in Tel Aviv on Sunday to release some of the immense pain they have shouldered over the years.

ethiopiajews

Personal testimony: Why we came to protest

Sahlo was humiliated by officers and arrested; Zerviv claims Education Ministry only lets her work with youths of Ethiopian descent; and Adla, first arrested at 13, had a German Shepherd unleashed on him.’

Thousands of Ethiopian Israelis turned out to the mass demonstration in Tel Aviv on Sunday to release some of the immense pain they have shouldered over the years.

Here are the stories of four protesters, who say they want to feel equal but are faced with discrimination due to the color of their skin.

Rabin Square protest (Photo: Yaron Brener)

Rabin Square protest (Photo: Yaron Brener)

‘He told us our women were sluts’

Addis Sahlo, a 29-year-old Israeli of Ethiopian descent, clearly recalled the humiliation he underwent a decade ago, when he sat with his friends on a major street in south Tel Aviv. “Me and three other friends arrived at a club and took a seat nearby to drink. Cops who arrived in the area asked us what we were doing.”

He told them they were at the club for a night out. “While we were talking, there was a brawl not far from us which involved some guys of Ethiopian descent. The cops ran over but they managed to escape. The police officers, who were probably pissed off, came back in our direction, kicked out bottle and began cursing at us.”

Ethiopian being arrested during the protest (Photo: Yaron Brener)

Ethiopian being arrested during the protest (Photo: Yaron Brener)

Sahlo says the police officers then blamed the brawl on the group, calling them “stinking Sudanese.” The Ethiopian Israeli was shocked by the officers’ conduct, who continued to hurl insults as they arrested him. “They claimed out ethnicity is responsible for all the problems and that our women were sluts. And they started to beat us.”

The police brutality victim recounted the horrific encounter. “I found myself begging the cops to stop, after which they took us under arrest and sprayed us with tear gas. At the police station they charged us with assaulting an officer and throwing bottles at police – which never happened.”

Israeli of Ethiopian descent at Rabin Square (Photo: Yaron Brener)

Israeli of Ethiopian descent at Rabin Square (Photo: Yaron Brener)

Sahlo said the judge released him at a court hearing. “That moment I understood that – no matter what – you cannot change your skin color. No matter where you go and what you do, you will be arrested. It’s insulting. Cops allow themselves to disrespect us and talk to us with their hands.”

‘I want to be everyone’s counselor’

Esthi Zerviv, a special education teacher and counselor, made aliyah to Israel at the age of six. She says she tried for years to get promoted in the Education Ministry, but claims her ethnicity held her back. “They claim that we are all equal – ‘the other is me’ – that’s one of the phrases waving atop the Education Ministry. But in the field, that is hardly implemented – many times I tried to be accepted as an education counselor and yet each time I was redirected to work with youths of Ethiopian descent.”

Ethiopian Israeli protesting police brutality (Photo: Motti Kimchi)

Ethiopian Israeli protesting police brutality (Photo: Motti Kimchi)

She pushed back against the employment discrimination. “With all due respect, I did not study to become a counselor or a special education teacher to only serve a certain segment of the population. I want to be a counselor to everyone – period.”

‘I want to be able to choose where I go out’

Menash, 25, of Ramla, said he regularly encounters discrimination at clubs, where he and his friends frequently find themselves outside for no apparent reason. “A third of the times I go out, I’m left outside or they make faces.

“Last Friday four of us, three of whom were Ethiopian, went out to a club in the south Tel Aviv area. The bouncer said there was no entry. When we asked why, he said it was closed and there was no room. But while you’re waiting in line, you see lots of people leaving the club, but they don’t let you in. After half an hour of waiting in line, you realize that you have to leave. It’s true that there are clubs that mostly cater to an Ethiopian crowd, but I want to have the ability to choose.”

‘They sent a German Shepherd after me’

Gatune Adla, 26, was arrested for the first time at the age of 13. “I returned from camp and was accused of attacking a policeman,” he said. “They arrested and beat me up. The officer pushed me up against the police car and whooped me, punching me with his firsts. I was a little kid, I cried, but nothing helped.”

His second encounter with law enforcement was a year and a half ago. “My friends and I were sitting in a grove and drinking. The police arrived and dispersed us. I had a scooter in the grove and I was carrying it home… I walked by the policemen, and I wasn’t afraid because unconsciously I knew I hadn’t done anything. I must have not heard the policeman telling me to stop, and they set a dog on me. I turned around and saw a German Shepherd with a muzzle jumping on me and grabbing my shirt. The policemen ran at me, stepped on me, and sprayed me with tear gas from a centimeter away. It’s very frustrating when you know you didn’t do anything. Now I understand people who say they’ve experienced it and are frustrated. I understand people like Yosef Salamsa.”

 

Source

MAY DAY IN PHOTOS

The Worker’s Song

Union Square, New York City

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Photos © by Bud Korotzer

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IN PHOTOS ~~ SIT-IN AND ARRESTS FOR NUCLEAR SANITY

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Photos © by Bud Korotzer

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Ready and waiting to 'serve and protect'

Ready and waiting to ‘serve and protect’

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JEWHAD AGAINST JEWS

A few days ago I posted THIS about Israel’s ‘war’ against Diaspora Jewry.

Usually when an Op-Ed appears in the Press it is published for one day only …. Ynet has kept THIS in their headlines for at least 3 days.

This might be the reason why …. as reported in +972

Diaspora Jews, it’s time to step up

For years there have been calls for on-the-ground opposition to the occupation. Now there are a growing number of Jewish platforms — and voices — seeking to make it happen.

By A. Daniel Roth*

Members of the ‘All That’s Left’ collective at a direct action protesting segregation in Hebron, West Bank, October 25, 2013. Seven of the Jewish activists were arrested and later released. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Members of the ‘All That’s Left’ collective at a direct action protesting segregation in Hebron, West Bank, October 25, 2013. Seven of the Jewish activists were arrested and later released. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The way the world is talking about the Israeli occupation is changing. Alongside that change, opportunity is knocking for those of us standing in opposition: calls for diaspora Jews to be present on the ground in Israel and Palestine are increasing. An important shift is beginning to take place — right now.

The writing is on the wall. Since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was re-elected, U.S. President Obama and his staff have been speaking differentlyabout the once-incontrovertible two-state solution. One campus Hillel changed its name instead of changing it’s programming to adhere to Hillel International’s rules. If Not Now stormed onto the scene last summer in response to the violence in Gaza. Boycotts and BDS campaigns are sprouting up on campuses and at supermarkets all over the world.

The writing is on the wall. Since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was re-elected, U.S. President Obama and his staff have been speaking differentlyabout the once-incontrovertible two-state solution. One campus Hillel changed its name instead of changing it’s programming to adhere to Hillel International’s rules. If Not Now stormed onto the scene last summer in response to the violence in Gaza. Boycotts and BDS campaigns are sprouting up on campuses and at supermarkets all over the world.

That was on display for anyone to see last week in Washington D.C. The J Street conference, which brought together over 3,000 people, saw a series of fired up conversations that put shone a spotlight on the American-Jewish relationship with Israel. During a panel on liberal Zionism, Israeli journalist (and +972 blogger) Noam Sheizaf made a clear plea for a collective refocusing from “state solutions” to the urgency of ending the inequality that exists for millions under occupation, who lack freedom of movement or access to civilian courts.

Peter Beinart also took a step forward on stage, calling on young Jews from North America and around the world to stand physically in Israel and Palestine, and to take part in Palestinian non-violent resistance to the occupation.

For years there have been calls for on-the-ground participation from a variety of communities. Recently, there has been a surge in Jewish platforms for those communities to take part in peace and justice work.

A Jerusalem-based volunteer program for young American Jews (which I co-founded) called Solidarity of Nations-Achvat Amim engages in human rights work and learning based on the core value of self-determination for all peoples. All That’s Left (of which I am a member) is a collective aimed at engaging the diaspora in anti-occupation learning, organizing, and on-the-ground actions. The new Center for Jewish Nonviolence has already brought a delegation to help Palestinian farmers to replant trees the IDF uprooted last spring.

It is important that Jewish communities with connections to Israel take part in this movement. Whether they have a personal, communal, religious or cultural relationship with this land, diaspora communities should be on the forefront, stepping up to take responsibility for a peaceful and just future here.

The groups and initiatives I mentioned above are working on engaging even more people in this work: bringing dozens of diaspora Jews — who are already living and learning in Israel — to do solidarity work with Palestinians. In the coming months, they hope to bring hundreds more from around the world for direct actions and educational initiatives in the West Bank.

There are important roles for people from all over the world, of various backgrounds, in organizing opposition to the occupation. Right now, at this very moment, there is a growing call for diaspora Jews to to find their way here and stand up for equality. It’s time to answer that call.

*A. Daniel Roth is a journalist and educator based in South Tel Aviv.

IN PHOTOS ~~ MARCHING FOR NUCLEAR SANITY

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A huge anti-nuclear march  took place on the streets of Manhattan  Sunday April 26th .  It stretched twelve long city blocks along one car lane from Union sq. 14th St. to 47th St. at the U.N where nuclear disarmament talks are now under way. The estimated number of marches was 5,000+.  

Marchers came from various areas of the U.S.  There was International participation also. The Japanese contingent was by far the largest ( more Japanese participants than US participants), with some people also from Belgium, France and Korea, who joined  the march. At the U.N. a massive rally was held. There were speakers,  dancers and singers. Petitions signed by over 6 million people was delivered to the U.N. demanding an end to nuclear weapons.

There were no mainstream media T.V. mobile units to record this march for  the public.  Once again  Americans  are made to remain ignorant of peace movement events going on around them.

Photos © by Bud Korotzer Commentary by Chippy Dee

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IN PHOTOS ~~ BRINGING THE OCCUPATION TO NEW YORK

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Photos © by Bud Korotzer Commentary by Chippy Dee

Last Friday evening, April 24th, Haneen Zoabi, Palestinian citizen of Israel and member of the Knesset, spoke to a packed crowd of about 300+ in an auditorium at New York University in NYC.  The room was filled beyond capacity with people standing on the sides and sitting on the ground in the aisles.  She was invited there by the NYU chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine.  Before she arrived an unsigned leaflet was circulated accusing her of being a friend of Hamas and a supporter of terror.  A very small group of Israel’s supporters stood in the rear of the auditorium waving 2 Israeli flags.

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MK Zoabi entered from the rear, walking briskly, surrounded by 3 bodyguards.  The crowd stood up applauding enthusiastically for many minutes.  She appeared moved and a little surprised by the welcome saying that she does not receive such a greeting very often.  The bodyguards, ever vigilant, remained close to her. 

She then addressed the leaflet attacking her that had been handed out – she was holding a copy in her hand.  She said she was elected  to the Knesset in 2009, the 1st woman to win election as part of an Arab party.  Since then there have been repeated attempts to silence her.  She stated that Israel claims to be the only democracy in the Middle East but compared to what, Arab dictatorships?  There is certainly no comparison to the U.S. and other western democracies – it is very different in Israel.  The democracy in Israel is only for the Jews.  She added that she stands against all injustice, not only the injustices against Palestinians.  She is a feminist, standing for full equality between men and women and will never agree to give others advantages over Palestinians in our homeland.

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She is fighting against racist Zionism, not against Jews.  85% of the Palestinians have been expelled during the ongoing Nakba and have been made refugees.  574 cities, towns, and villages have been destroyed.  The names of everything has been changed robbing Palestinians of geographic familiarity and now Palestinians are being driven out of the Negev. She then looked to the back of the room where Israeli flags were still being waved and asked, “What are  you so proud of?” 

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Zoabi said that Israel is threatened by a real democracy because there is a conflict between being a Jewish state and a democracy.  Palestinians are the indigenous people of their land and, as here in the U.S., indigenous people have to demand their rights in a democracy.  Usually when immigrants arrive in a new land they have to fight for their rights but in Israel it is the other way around.  Israel is demanding that she be loyal to the group that is oppressing her.  There is a tyranny of the majority there.  Over 50 laws discriminate against Palestinian citizens within Israel.  Family unification is not allowed, Palestinians cannot bring a spouse into the country.  The income of Jews is 3 times higher than that of Palestinians who are marginalized and not allowed to develop an economy.  An oppressive legal system is directed against Palestinians.

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Then Zoabi noted that she had been talking mostly about Israel and not Palestine.  What do Palestinians want?  “WE DON’T WANT TO THROW ANYONE INTO THE SEA.”  We want to live in full equality with the right of return in 1 state or 2 and we want the occupation ended now.  There was no talk about the occupation in the past 3 Israeli elections.  Israelis believe nothing is wrong while 50 rabbis recently published a demand that housing should not be rented to Palestinians, 33% of Israeli Jews agreed to imprison Palestinians in concentration camps if a war broke out, and 53% say that Palestinians  should not be represented equally with Jews when budgets are created even though they pay taxes.  She believes that Palestinians should go to the international court, demand that Oslo be reconsidered, and reject negotiations that have proved pointless.  Her conclusion was that, most of all, Palestinians must challenge Israeli racism and be very clear about respecting the rights of Israeli Jews.

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Then there was a Q & A period where the audience was able to respectfully ask questions about subjects she did not address in her speech.  One of the more interesting questions was, to paraphrase, Do you support BDS even if it means that Palestinians are hurt by it?  Her response was an unequivocal, YES, even if it hurts us.

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When she finished her presentation she received another standing ovation.  People rushed forward to talk to her, pose for photos with her, and shake her hand.  When she moved to leave a group of about 30 young men who had come to hear her joined her bodyguards to see that she exited safely.  And she left through the front door.

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WHY ALL THE FUSS ABOUT BDS?

Boycotts are certainly not a new tool used to fight injustices or to show solidarity with a given Movement ….

My son was almost ten years old when he tasted his first grape …. here’s why;

We supported the strikers of Southern California, led by Cesar Chavez, when the grape workers called for a boycott …

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In September 1965, a collaboration of Filipino and Latino farm workers against the deleterious policies of Californian grape growers initiated one of the organization’s largest boycotts. Protest support reached unprecedented heights as laborers received aid across the country. Commercial establishments, including the Trans-World Airlines, withheld the sale of “California’s poison grapes,” raising worldwide attention to the urgency of farm labor rights. (FROM)

We boycotted grapes and other products imported from Chile during the years of the fascist coup in that country, a coup established and protected by the US Government.

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We boycotted all fruit imported from Israel because of the occupation, also supported by the US Government.

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And, last but not least, we boycotted all goods imported from the apartheid regime in South Africa.

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In most of the above, our International efforts helped Justice finally prevail. All except the boycott of Israeli goods. But finally this Movement is taking on great proportions. So great are they that the greatest supporter of Human Rights violations in Israel and Palestine, again the US Government, is doing everything in its power to crush BDS.

As much as they would like to, the US cannot stop the clocks of progress. BDS WILL WIN and the occupation will end! Nothing and no one can stop that!!

But why all the fuss about this particular boycott?

Israel, as well, has new legislation in an attempt to stop the growth of the Movement.

They as well cannot stop the clocks of progress.

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And in Israel itself …

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IN PHOTOS ~~ NEW YORKERS DEMAND MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE

No commentary necessary …. the 2,000 Plus demonstrators say it all on their placards … 

Photos © by Bud Korotzer

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Related Article from CounterPunch

Wage Gains Won’t Last, Unless Fight for 15 Builds Worker Power

by ARUN GUPTA

When fast-food workers first took the streets in New York City in November 2012 to protest for higher wages and a union no one could have imagined how successful the campaign would be. Since then the low-wage workers movement, known as Fight for 15, has helped spureleven states and numerous cities to raise the minimum hourly wage. It’s enabled campaigns in Seattle and the Bay Area to pass citywide measures for $15-an-hour minimum wage. Fight for 15 and a separate campaign called Organization United for Respect at Walmart has also pushed companies like McDonald’s, Target, and Walmart to announce in early 2015 that they would raise the minimum wage for hundreds of thousands of employees.

The success of the organizing is due to everything from the abysmal recovery from the 2008 economic crisis to Occupy Wall Street’s role in shifting the national dialogue from austerity to economic inequality. But Fight for 15 is due primarily to the Service Employees International Union, which initiated the campaign in 2011 and has poured tens of millions of dollars into growing waves of protest that are battering the image of the fast-food giants.

As the protests have grown, the campaign has become both broad and narrow. SEIU has linked the plight of fast-food workers to that of retail and convenience-store workers, home healthcare aides, childcare workers, and adjunct professors. At the same time Fight for 15 is focusing its fire on McDonald’s. One SEIU insider says the strategy is, “Pummel them until they come to the table.” Another organizer outlined the thinking back in 2013: Fight for 15 was trying to cause enough problems for McDonald’s image and stock price that SEIU could say to the company, “We can make this all go away” if it agreed to a deal on wages and unionization.

Using the National Labor Relations Board, SEIU has filed charges of unfair labor practices and wage theft against McDonald’s franchises. The strategy paid off after the NLRB general counsel ruled in July 2014 that McDonald’s has joint employer responsibility, opening space for SEIU to pressure the corporate parent, rather than dealing with 3,100 U.S. franchisees. SEIU is also raising the heat overseas. The European Union is investigating McDonald’s for allegedly dodging more than $1 billion in taxes and labor federations in Brazil are suing McDonald’s largest franchisee in Latin America for wage and workplace violations. A participant in a recent strategy session held with Scott Courtney, said to be SEIU’s mastermind for Fight for 15, says the next step under consideration is to create trouble for McDonald’s on the property front, which is as much a titan of real estate as it is of hamburgers.

McDonald’s claims the campaign has had no effect on its operations and that it could not afford to raise wages. Over the last year its internationalsales have been flat and its profits have fallen sharply. So its announcement on April 1 that it would raise pay for workers at corporate-owned U.S. stores was widely viewed as a concession to Fight for 15. That move backfired, however, as the raise is only 89 cents an hour on average and affects just 10 percent of its U.S. workforce. Plus, sources say McDonald’s has quietly approached SEIU and is looking for a deal. For nearly two years there have been rumors that SEIU was considering some alternative to a union for the fast-food sector, such as a workers association.

A workers association, however, would mean fewer rights and protections for workers than a traditional union. This points to the question that’s been hanging over Fight for 15 since it caught fire. What is SEIU’s end game? I asked one organizer if the campaign is building working power, and the response was blunt: “The goal is not worker power. It’s a contract.”

Since a traditional union contract with McDonald’s or any other fast-food company remains unlikely, the campaign goals need to be better aligned with reality. Fight for 15 has been remarkably successful on wages, but unless it is trying to increase worker’s power on the job, any wage and benefit improvements won through public pressure, negative publicity, and community-based protest activity will be hard to sustain in the absence of ongoing workplace organization or networks of some sort.

Now, many Fight for 15 organizers point out SEIU is the only big union gambling on trying to organize an industry with millions of unorganized workers, and it’s putting thousands of workers in motion. Organizing low-wage workers is a long overdue response to the neoliberal turn that dealt a historic defeat to organized labor during the 1980s. Millions of new jobs are projected to be in occupations like food prep, retail, and healthcare aides that pay $9 to $12 an hour. The jobs have few benefits, schedules and hours are erratic and there tends to be high turnover. This is the base for Fight for 15, OUR Walmart and a broader campaign known as 15 Now, initiated by the Seattle-based Socialist Alternative.

A fundamental goal of labor organizing is to take labor out of competition with itself. But that is nearly impossible when low-skilled, low-wage workers have few rights and number in the tens of millions. Fight for 15’s approach is unorthodox, but it is constrained by organized labor’s history. Class-struggle unionism has been abandoned by labor leaders who act as junior partners to corporations, like SEIU and Kaiser Permanente, the UAW and auto companies, the machinists union and Boeing, and the building trades and real-estate developers. Many union leaders are also in the pocket of the Democratic Party despite it being in the pocket of Wall Street.

Fight for 15 trying to make trouble for global corporations, but it’s not pursuing a working-class struggle. (Few unions are interested in that; that’s the job of the organized left.) Fight for 15 is more of a legal and public relations campaign, as I explain, than an organizing campaign. It is bearing fruit, but mainly as a spillover than in the fast-food sector. This includes adjunct professor organizing, which with the assistance of unions, especially SEIU, have notched many victories since 2013. Thousands of healthcare workers, who make up about half of SEIU’s membership, are agitating for $15 an hour, which is also in response to the 2014 Supreme Court ruling that imposed limits on union membership for home-care aides. There are also linkages with the Black Lives Matter movement, which is significant given Fight for 15 is the biggest mobilization of African-American workers since the 1960s. While these are inchoate forms of solidarity and social-justice unionism, they remain underdeveloped because of the top-down nature of Fight for 15.

The most intriguing outcomes of Fight for 15 are citywide campaigns for a raise in the minimum wage, which has opened up organizing space for the left. Fifteen dollars an hour is now reality in Seattle, albeit it with loopholes, with most low-wage workers expected to earn that by 2017. San Francisco’s ballot measure for $15 an hour was spearheaded by SEIU Local 1021, which one observer calls a model for a worker-run union. Fight for $15 campaign helped legitimize the idea in Seattle. The local SEIU affiliate’s biggest contribution was a $15-an-hour ballot measure that won in the SeaTac suburb. But the heavy lifting was done by Socialist Alternative and its inside and outside political approach, aggressive reporting and support from The Stranger, a well-regarded newsweekly, and incoming Mayor Ed Murray’s decision to back the measure and establish a committee to shape, for good and bad, the final bill. 15 Now is currently pushing $15 an hour statewide in Oregon and according to sources is encountering resistance from some unions that are reluctant to challenge Democratic politicians.

In terms of Fight for 15, its efforts have been more effective in the digital realm than in the real world when it comes to fast-food workers. One Fight for 15 organizer says, “SEIU would like the public to perceive this as a large and growing movement creating a crisis. They are creating the perception of a wave.”

But the campaign is also hamstrung, and SEIU’s media-centric strategy inhibits it from making hay from it. The organizer explains, “Workers are afraid to stand up. The number one problem is fear. I would say less than 4 percent of the workers we contact stay on board. They jump on and jump off [Fight for 15] all the time.” Workers have every reason to be afraid. One study from 2005 estimated 23,000 workers a year are penalized or fired for legitimate union activity, making a mockery of laws meant to protect workplace organizing.

A rich account of the difficulty and potential of worker-run, shop-based organizing in the fast-food industry is provided by Erik Forman in New Forms of Worker Organization. He recounts an IWW campaign in Jimmy John’s sandwich shops in Minneapolis, which narrowly lost a union vote but gained many concessions, wage increases and most important, worker consciousness, solidarity and power. Provocations and illegal acts by the bosses were used to build organization and militancy, not shunted over to law firms and P.R. agencies as in Fight for 15. But the campaign was dealt a serious blow by the mass firing of six organizers. (Forman’s scathing critique of a complacent union bureaucracy as an outcome of labor law and how labor law proved to be a dead end is also important to consider.)

SEIU has far more resources to confront employer threats of firing and retaliation, but creating a shop-by-shop base of power would still be a monumental task. Fight for 15 could nurture worker power other ways, but it has forgone a bottom-up struggle. Its worker leaders serve to energize other workers, relate a compelling personal story and act as a media spokesperson. In other words, they provide the image of a leader rather than the substance of a leader who can organize the workplace, engage in shop-floor warfare against the boss, develop worker solidarity, and force concessions while building a militant rank and file.

The site of worker power in Fight for 15 is supposed to be the organizing committees, but within the staff-driven campaign participants say workers have little power. Strike votes are usually not held unless the staff leadership is confident it will win. Meetings are for pumping up workers and feeding them information, not democratic debate and decision-making. The annual Fight for 15 conferences, with the next one reportedly set for this summer in Detroit, are described as heavily scripted. I asked one organizer if it was true that worker leaders made decisions during weekly national conference calls. The response was, “That’s bullshit, and I know because I participate in those calls.” Plus, a one person says during a strategy session Scott Courtney was introduced to workers as “the reason you are all here.” Compare this SEIU’s claim in 2013 that it is following the lead of fast-food workers and “We don’t yet understand the scale of it” when in fact it gave birth to the fast-food workers campaign.

Where there is organizing in Fight for 15, it is more in the streets than in the workplace. The big days of action are vital for the sense of momentum. Allies from community groups, students and union staff swell numbers, add to the festivity, make a more favorable media impression, sway public opinion, and make it look as if the campaign is growing.

One can make the case that SEIU made a sound decision in forgoing a worker-centric campaign for a P.R. and legal strategy. But then it can no longer said to be a worker-driven movement. If SEIU admitted workers’ fear of being fired or disciplined by employers leads to high turnover in Fight for 15, it would undermine the perception that more and more fast-food workers are joining and staying with the campaign. A lack of power also means workers follow the dictates of paid organizers, who in turn say they get their marching orders from SEIU leaders.

A few organizers have mentioned SEIU’s P.R. firm, BerlinRosen Public Affairs, is involved in the strategy. In fact, a 25-page document entitled “Strike in a Box,” which bears BerlinRosen’s logo, is presented as a how-to-guide for building a successful strike. This and other documents provide more evidence for the top-down management of Fight for 15, which is logical given the enormous effort devoted to organizing just one protest in one city. The fact that Fight for 15 staged more than 200 protests in U.S. cities on April 15 indicates how many resources SEIU has committed.

For example, one fast-food protest in 2013 was run like a military campaign. The staffing plan included the local organizing leadership, four different media workers, half-a-dozen “defusers” to soothe any trouble, a photographer, videographer, police liaison, chant leader and energizer, a supply team, drivers, onsite legal, a criminal lawyer on standby, breakfast and lunch coordinators, and people designated to hand out signs, flags, t-shirts, and water. A spreadsheet mapped out protests by the minute, noting times and location for loading vans, picking up workers, talking points for press conferences, skits, prayers, dancing in the streets, and “walk backs” of workers the next day to minimize retaliation. Insiders say to maximize turnout, Fight for 15 will sometimes rent hotel rooms for workers the night before a protest, rent vans to drive them to the start point, and provide meals.

Strike in a Box appears to be from an earlier stage of Fight for 15, but it is insightful. It starts with a “Legal FAQ” that describes different types of strikes under labor law. It cautions against any conduct that can be classified as picketing as “picketing is considered coercive and incurs more liability for the union,” such as forcing a union election. Instead it says to focus on unfair labor practices as “ULP strikes are the legal crown jewel of strikes.”

The document gives tips for discovering, recording and tracking unfair labor practices. Workers in various Fight for 15 chapters say uncovering ULPs became a priority nearly two years ago, with organizers regularly asking for incidences of employer retaliation or discrimination.

The link between the legal and media strategy is in the section on “Site Assessments,” which begins by asking how many active and strong ULP’s there are at a particular establishment. The section also asks if it’s a good site to focus on, the existence of strong leaders, and then shifts to questions about messaging:

“Is it an iconic brand? Does the brand help tell a story, locally and/or nationally?

“Do we have spokespeople?

Trained? Reliable? Experienced?

“Do we have stories?

Compelling worker stories

Horror stories about site practices (wage theft, sexual harassment, etc)

Connection to broader themes (cutting hours because of Obamacare, etc)”

Much of the remainder of Strike in a Box is devoted to recruiting workers with strong stories, organizing the strike vote, how to build a “pull plan” to maximize strike-day turnout, shoring up workers confidence, carrying out the actual strike, and the need for compelling visuals, stories and a narrative. Little is said about workplace organizing. This matches the experiences of many workers in the campaign who say they are not provided with any training on how to build shop-floor organization.

None of this is meant to dismiss Fight for 15. It is having a more profound effect than anyone could have hoped for when it began. But politics don’t just happen. By denying a central role SEIU leaders can deflect questions about controversial strategies and on-the-ground organizing. Likewise, analyzing strategy and tactics years from now is little use in books few people will read. There are many more questions that can and should be asked about Fight for 15.

For example, the campaign is focused primarily on wages and then on scheduling. But once they clock out, fast-food workers confront the dilemmas of childcare, healthcare, transportation, and rent. Fight for 15 talks about the difficulty of living on a poverty wage, but does so in moralistic terms: “fairness.” It avoids a deeper critique because “the goal is a contract.” As much as workers need a pay raise, $15 an hour is of little help in many cities where the average rent on a one-bedroom apartment would eat up the entire income of a full-time worker on this wage. In Seattle, Socialist Alternative has pivoted to organizing around runaway rents, but it’s rare for big unions to seriously organize around rent control or tenants’ rights despite the fact that escalating housing costs are one of the biggest burdens that workers shoulder.

Beyond issues of daily life is workers’ role in the labor process. Building worker power would stop promotional campaigns like McDonald’s embarrassing “Pay with Love” or Starbucks clumsy “Race Together” before they happen. This is not all the responsibility of one organizing campaign but without a serious debate about the strategy Fight for 15 is pursuing and shifting to worker-oriented strategies, it’s hard to see how wage gains will translate into a gain of power for workers.

The campaign has raised hopes on the left of a revival of class consciousness and a working-class movement, but will it come to fruition under SEIU? If history and current events are any guide, the missing ingredient is the organized left. It’s anarchists who made Occupy Wall Street happen, socialists who have revitalized many teachers unions, and socialists and the left that have turned $15 an hour into reality. Without a similar effort, Fight for 15 may give fast-food workers more change in their pockets, but not the power to change their lives.

Arun Gupta contributes to outlets including Al Jazeera America, Vice, The Progressive, The Guardian, and In These Times.

LOOKING BACK TO THE FUTURE

A WEE GLANCE AT MY PAST AND WHY I BELIEVE IN A BRIGHT FUTURE

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Today, April 13th, would be the 80th wedding anniversary of my parents. In 1960, on this day, their family and friends organised a surprise party for their 25th anniversary. I was sent to our local Woolworth Store to buy some crepe paper rolls to decorate the walls. When I got there I was greeted by a picket line, was handed a leaflet that I did not read and went into the store to buy what I needed.

When I came out the demonstrators asked if I read the leaflet I was given, I responded “not yet” … it called for a boycott of Woolworth because their stores in the South refused to serve Blacks at their lunch counters. I felt as if I committed a crime by not heeding their call, so I promised to join their demonstration the following week. I kept my word and continued with these good people for over a year until Woolworth finally changed their policies.

That's me under the third 'O'

That’s me under the third ‘O’

The reception from those passing by was not always the friendliest, I was called every name in the book, from ‘N’ Lover to Communist … I didn’t even know what a Communist was even though I was around during the McCarthy days and the Rosenberg Spy Case. I found it strange that suddenly, because I was against segregation in the South I was a Communist. There were shouts of ….

Russia??? That was a place that my mother left in 1922 for good reasons. Why would I want to go there???

The 60’s were years of change in America. A Catholic was elected President, the Civil Rights Movement grew by leaps and bounds as did the Peace Movement. Fidel Castro was the leader of a new Cuba, just 90 miles away putting an end to the infamous dictatorship of Batista. Times were good and the future looked promising.

It was a natural move to get involved in the ‘Ban The Bomb Movement’. There I found myself in the company of great notables like Eleanor Roosevelt, Dr. Spock, Linus Pauling, Bertrand Russell and so many more … and we were all called Communists (sic). Some of us investigated the name calling and realised that the shoe fit, so we wear it to this day.

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It was also natural to define 'Communist' and realise that I was one .... that's me next to the cop.

That’s me next to the cop.

Despite the horrible situation that the world is in today, the hope for a bright future prevails. Just yesterday America’s Afro-American President met for the first time with the leader of Cuba. 

There are moves to control the spread of nuclear arms throughout the world.

We lost many Brothers and Sisters along the way, but our ranks continue to swell. Both are the reasons that I never lost the hope of a bright and peaceful future …. and that all started on April 13th.

The rest is history!

Welcome To The Future Green Road Sign with Copy Room Over The Dramatic Clouds and Sky.

A Blessing to the memory of those who are no longer with us to see the great changes taking place.

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IN PHOTOS ~~ NEW YORK SOLIDARITY WITH YARMOUK REFUGEE CAMP

March from Bryant Park to United Nations Headquarters

Photos © by Bud Korotzer

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See THIS recent post  (Click on link)

WORLD TURNS A BLIND EYE TO ISIS’ MASSACRE OF PALESTINIANS

IN PHOTOS ~~ PALESTINE IS A ‘SELL OUT’ IN BROOKLYN

We are happy to report that yesterday was a very positive day in front of the Park Slope Food Coop, as we spent a second day offering members a taste of Palestinian olive oil and za’atar on both matzoh and pita bread. By the end of the day the Coop sold out of the Palestinian olive oil and more will have to be ordered. We will continue to put Palestinian olive oil on the table and invite people to join us in an appreciation of Palestine and it’s right to liberation.

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Photos © by Bud Korotzer

Commentary From We Will Not Be Silent

In the days leading up to Passover, Park Slope Food Coop members  gather outside the coop to offer free samples of the Palestinian olive oil sold inside, on matzoh and pita bread. We have handed out
Four Questions” to add to the traditional Seder questions, and encouraged shoppers to liberate the Passover story of liberation and talk about the Occupation. 

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    Click here to view more photos from this action. 

Click on link below to see our Holiday Post

DON’T PASSOVER PALESTINE THIS HOLIDAY

IN PHOTOS ~~ 5K GAZA RUN

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On Saturday morning, March 28th, the sky over Prospect Park in Brooklyn was leaden, the temperature was more appropriate to January than March, and it seemed to get worse as the hours passed.  However, that did not stop a spirited group of about 600 participants which included every race, ethnicity, and age from gathering to run, or walk, a 5K loop in the park. The event was organized by UNRWA USA in order to raise money to provide mental health services for the traumatized children of Gaza.  Buoyed only by the comradery and love for the children of Gaza, the runners took off at about 9:30 AM with the swifter among them crossing the finish line fairly shortly thereafter.  The walkers returned much later. 

The original goal was for the Brooklyn runners to raise about $50,000 but the amount collected far exceeded that.  $103,000 was raised and money is still coming in showing great support for this cause.  Races like this one have been organized by UNRWA USA in cities throughout the country.  

There was much elation among the participants because the event was so successful and because everyone felt good about being able to do something to help.  But at the same time it is very disturbing to recognize that with all the wealth in the world a UN agency has to create the equivalent of a school ‘bake sale’ to raise money to attempt to heal some of the scars that Israel inflicted on the children of Gaza last summer, destroying their bodies and their homes and murdering their families.  Also, nothing is getting better.  According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in 2014 more civilians were murdered on the West Bank and in Gaza then at any time since 1967. 

So, while the UNRWA  USA events are very important and should continue because they raise money and help galvanize the many people in the Palestine justice community we all have to do more.  For now, Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) remains our most potent tool.

Photos © by Bud Korotzer

Commentary by Chippy Dee

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Some of the 'older' folks called this event the 5K 'Schlep'

Some of the ‘older’ folks called this event the 5K ‘Shlep’ :)

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THE JEWISH VOICE FOR PEACE IS BEING HEARD LOUD AND CLEAR

Group Now Has More Facebook Followers Than AIPAC and J Street

JVP’s full embrace of BDS includes endorsing a right of return for Arabs and for descendants of Arabs who fled or who were expelled by Israel’s army in the 1948 war that established the state. That population, most of whom remain stateless refugees, now numbers more than 5.2 million. Israel and its supporters, including even dovish Zionist parties such as Meretz, argue that full implementation of the United Nations resolution calling for their return would render Jews a minority in their own state. It would mean, they say, the end of Zionism.

COURTESY OF REBECCA VILKOMERSON

COURTESY OF REBECCA VILKOMERSON

Embracing Israel Boycott, Jewish Voice For Peace Insists on Its Jewish Identity

By Evan Serpick

At the opening plenary of Jewish Voice for Peace’s recent national conference, Rabbi Alissa Wise, JVP’s co-director of organizing, asked the crowd of some 600 how many were attending their first such gathering; about three-quarters of the room shot up their hands.

For the group whose advocacy of boycotting, sanctioning and divesting from Israel makes it a pariah in most of the rest of the Jewish community, these have been boom times. And for many of its members, the reason appears to be a continuing desire to assert their opposition to Israel’s fundamental policies in a Jewish context rather than abandon their Jewish identity altogether.

One of those raising his hand was Noah Knowlton-Latkin of California’s Claremont Colleges. Like many of those in attendance, Knowlton-Latkin, a sophomore, was involved earlier in Students for Justice in Palestine, a campus group devoted to organizing students to oppose Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and siege of Gaza. The group also pushes college administrations to cut their economic and academic ties to Israel.

But last summer, Knowlton-Latkin reached out to JVP to express his concerns in a Jewish context. “It was great to find out that this existed,” said Knowlton-Latkin, who came to the conference with two other Jewish Claremont students, both members of SJP.

JVP’s recent conference, which took place in Baltimore from March 13 to 15, was notable for several new developments. Two weeks earlier, after a lengthy process that included study committees and membership surveys, JVP’s board of directors voted to fully support the movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel, or BDS, as it is popularly known. JVP’s call for a full economic boycott of Israel comes after years of supporting a more limited boycott of only companies that operated in the occupied territories.

JVP’s full embrace of BDS includes endorsing a right of return for Arabs and for descendants of Arabs who fled or who were expelled by Israel’s army in the 1948 war that established the state. That population, most of whom remain stateless refugees, now numbers more than 5.2 million. Israel and its supporters, including even dovish Zionist parties such as Meretz, argue that full implementation of the United Nations resolution calling for their return would render Jews a minority in their own state. It would mean, they say, the end of Zionism.

But JVP’s president, Rebecca Vilkomerson, told the Forward: “For there to be a sustainable and just peace, that is one of the issues that we have to grapple with. We believe that there can be a homeland for Jewish people that is not based on the systematic denial of rights of Palestinians.”

JVP does not offer details on how that could be if such a return indeed took place.

Most striking at this conference was the way Israel’s hard-right turns, and particularly last year’s war in Gaza, have fueled JVP’s growth among a cohort of mostly young people who find the response of other Jewish groups, including the dovish group J Street, simply inadequate. JVP’s leaders anticipate that this trend will only quicken following the recent election victory of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. They point to his election eve disavowal of a two-state solution and his election day warning about Arabs voting, plus the prospect that he will soon lead an even more right-wing government.

There are now 65 JVP chapters, up from 40 a year ago. Vilkomerson says JVP now has 9,000 dues-paying members, compared with 600 when the Forward last profiled the group in 2011. In the tax year that ended in June 2013, JVP had $1.1 million in donations. Vilkomerson said she expects this year’s total to top $2 million, almost all of it from individuals. The group has more than 204,000 Facebook followers, more than twice as many as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and about eight times as many as J Street.

For all their alienation from the mainstream community, JVP members seem to share an urgent need to voice their angst in a Jewish context, and to project it outward to the world, also citing their status as Jews. Critics condemn this as mere exploitation of their Jewishness in order to gain a hearing the group would otherwise be denied.

But many JVP members do come from backgrounds of serious Jewish engagement. The conference itself opened on a Friday night, with the group celebrating Kabbalat Shabbat, and included a memorial service for those killed in the war in Gaza, during which members chanted the Mourner’s Kaddish and the prayer for the dead, El Maleh Rachamim. JVP says the group offers the members a place to be their “whole selves.”

“21yrs in many jewish spaces & I’ve never felt so at home,” one participant, Talia Bauer, wrote on the group’s Facebook page after the conference.

Another participant wrote, “For three days, I was immersed in a Jewish community unlike I have ever been a part of, one rooted in justice that welcomed all of me.” She wrote anonymously, she said, to avoid her family learning of her involvement with JVP.

In Vilkomerson’s view, “the mainstream Jewish community should be thanking us. We are bringing many people back into a Jewish community. There’s so much angst in the Jewish community about the loss of community, and losing the young people, and what is going to happen, and the apathy. Nobody here is apathetic; nobody here is unconnected. To the contrary.”

Some in the mainstream grant them this point. “Any sort of Jewish engagement by young people is a positive thing,” said Steven M. Cohen, a professor at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion who studies the American Jewish community. He said that JVP, along with anti-democratic far-right groups and “any group that represents lots of Jews,” should be invited to be members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and similar mainstream organizations. “JVP doesn’t show concern for the security of the State of Israel and doesn’t care if there is a Jewish State of Israel or not,” he added. Nevertheless, he said, “We should not exclude JVP from conversations — we should engage them.”

That view is unthinkable to many Jewish community standard-bearers.

“The positions and actions taken by Jewish Voice for Peace are anathema to mainstream Jewish organizations,” said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, in a statement to the Forward. “The group’s activities, which include partnerships with anti-Israel organizations that deny Israel’s fundamental right to exist, put them at the farthest fringe of the Jewish community and would certainly preclude their participation among mainstream organizations.”

JVP, he said, “uses its Jewish identity to provide the anti-Israel movement with a veneer of legitimacy and to shield the movement’s most demagogic supporters from allegations of anti-Semitism.”

For many, the decision to join JVP was a painful, personal one, reflecting a lost faith in the State of Israel. Rabbi Brant Rosen, a co-chair of JVP’s rabbinical council, who served as a congregational rabbi in suburban Chicago for 17 years, joined in 2009, after Israel launched Operation Cast Lead, its military campaign into Gaza, with numerous reports — contested by Israel — of high civilian deaths rates.

Michael Davis, a congregational cantor in the Reform movement and a member of JVP’s rabbinical council, grew up Orthodox in Israel. He said that his own worldview changed after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin at a fateful Tel Aviv peace rally in November 1995. “That was the end of the dream for me,” he told the Forward.

For Vilkomerson, it was the second intifada, starting in 2000. “There are these moments of cracking open, where people sort of make the leap,” she said.

Rosen added, “Historically, that’s how JVP has grown, unfortunately, tragically.”

Speaking after the Israeli election, Vilkomerson says she now expects another wave of people to come into the JVP fold. “Given that the American Jewish community is generally interested in peace and democratic values, we expect a lot of self-reflection about how to support a true peace in the days to come,” she said.

104 YEARS LATER ~~ REMEMBERING THE TRIANGLE FIRE AT THE SCENE — PHOTO ESSAY

Never were they forgotten!

The workers died because of the sickening greed of their bosses and the malfeasance of local officials who looked the other way. The bosses never paid for the murder of these workers but in the months and years that followed, American unionism took off and laws protecting workers and improving their conditions were established.

Photos © by Bud Korotzer

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NYC Fire Dept. displays the ladder they have today which they didn't have 104 years ago ... it was raised to the floor where the fire occurred.

NYC Fire Dept. displays the ladder they have today which they didn’t have 104 years ago … it was raised to the floor where the fire occurred.

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The victims were remembered by name

The victims were remembered by name

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Trade Union members and their children came out to remember the tragedy

Trade Union members and their children came out to remember the tragedy

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White carnations were left at the foot of the building .. each with the name of a victim attached to it

White carnations were left at the foot of the building .. each with the name of a victim attached to it

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And red carnations for the more recent victims in Pakistan ... see the poem that follows

And red carnations for the more recent victims in Pakistan … see the poem that follows

TriangleShirtwaist-Baldia 1911, 2012

 © By Tom Karlson

doors chained

exits blocked

!fire!

the elevator buckles,

fire-escape collapses

women roast or leap

their bodies,

smashed, shattered

sculpted by fire or the fall

charred pick-up sticks

counted, named, mourned

by lovers and family

146 six workers

laid out

on that sidewalk morgue

an unwanted mausoleum

lined with

tear and blood and a desolate dream

this mass death births law, unions,

strikes, reduced profits

the factories abandon the city

the law of maximum profit rules

riding the air-slip of gluttony, and greed

pigs after truffles

suits hunting surplus value

vampires, of the eighty-hour work week

medicated by NAFTA

union maids, law, labels, and lady liberty

are renditioned, shackled

flying Air America to points

south then east

and finally Baldia town, Pakistan

one hundred and one years from Triangle

the traveling factory, this profit making monster

with windows, doors

yes locked, barred

!fire!

314

dead, executed

bones broken

blackened lungs never to sing

crushed skulls never to read

broken feet never to dance

three hundred fourteen dreamless bodies

Chilling Factory Fire In Pakistan Kills Over 300…Similar To The 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire In The US Which Killed 146

Chilling Factory Fire In Pakistan Kills Over 300…Similar To The 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire In The US Which Killed 146

GROWING SUPPORT FOR BDS AT CANADIAN UNIVERSITIES

Student union at McMaster University in Hamilton votes to support the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Anti-Israel boycott movement (file)Reuters

Anti-Israel boycott movement (file)Reuters

Students at Canadian University Vote in Favor of BDS

The student union at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, has voted in support of the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, the CBC reported on Tuesday.

Students at the student union’s annual general assembly voted to endorse the BDS campaign, with 622 people voting for the resolution and 28 voting against.

According to a BDS committee press release, some pro-Israel students walked out of the meeting just before the vote to “try to reduce the attendance at the general assembly below the 632-member quorum.”

A similar vote happened in March of last year, but the assembly didn’t have quorum, making it a non-binding vote, noted the CBC.

“We will continue to work such that BDS becomes a way of life at McMaster University, using this non-violent tactic to help end the Occupation and bring about positive changes for the Palestinian people,” the BDS committee said in a press release quoted by the broadcaster.

In an opinion piece in McMaster’s student newspaper The Silhouette, Sean Haber of McMaster Israel on Campus denounced the BDS movement.

“By rejecting BDS, we can move forward with integrity as a community and make McMaster a model for civil discourse; a campus where all students – regardless of their political belief and national origin – are free to learn, debate, discuss and grow,” he wrote.

“Unfortunately, at McMaster and elsewhere, it has become incredibly clear that BDS not only silences opposition, but also shuts down the debate.”

In 2014, the student union at Toronto’s York University voted to join the BDS movement. It was preceded by Windsor University in Ontario.

Also last year, students at the University of Ottawa launched a campaignto have Sabra hummus banned from campus because of its alleged connection with “Israel apartheid.”

 

FROM

IN PHOTOS ~~ REMEMBERING THE NAKBA AND THE WAR IN IRAQ

Remembering the Nakba

"Facing the Ongoing Nakba” tour schedule

“Facing the Ongoing Nakba” tour schedule

 

LogoBut

zion wants us to forget about it …

On the eve of an important event to discuss the Nakba* scheduled to take place this evening, the Executive Director of a tony uptown synagogue in New York City where the event was contracted to take place has attempted to cancel the event with no explanation in what can only be perceived as an effort to shut down discussion of the “ongoing Nakba” within the Jewish community.

The event was to feature the Palestinian human rights organization, Badil (whose timely recently released Corporate Complicity in Violations of International Law in Palestine [pdf] is a must read), and Israeli human rights organization Zochrot. It is part of multi-city speaking tour, and was sponsored in New York by four organizations: Jewish Voice for Peace-New York; Nakba Education Project; Jews Say No!; and the National Lawyers Guild Palestine Subcommittee.

*Nakba, means “catastrophe” in Arabic and refers to the forced displacement of Palestinians that began with Israel’s establishment in 1948, and continues to this day.

Read the full report at Mondoweiss

The cancellation results …

unnamed (18)

Photos © by Bud Korotzer

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On the other side of town, the 12th anniversary of Bush’s catastrophe was remembered

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