ISRAEL APPLAUDS THE WORLD’S SILENCE

In a statement Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu justified the seizure of the Marianne, claiming that the “flotilla is nothing but a demonstration of hypocrisy and lies that is only assisting the Hamas terrorist organization and ignores all of the horrors in our region.”

Netanyahu insisted that “preventing entry by sea was done in accordance with international law and even received backing from a committee of the UN Secretary General.”

“Israel is the only democracy that defends itself in accordance with international law,” Netanyahu insisted, adding that “there is no siege on Gaza.”

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Israel seizes Gaza-bound boat in “act of piracy”

Palestinian children take part in a rally to show support for the latest attempt to break the siege of Gaza by sea, at the Gaza City port on 28 June 2015. (Ashraf Amra APA images)

Palestinian children take part in a rally to show support for the latest attempt to break the siege of Gaza by sea, at the Gaza City port on 28 June 2015. (Ashraf Amra APA images)

Israeli forces boarded and commandeered the Marianne on Monday, one of four boats that were bound for Gaza in the latest attempt to break the tight Israeli siege of the occupied territory.

At around 2 am Gaza time Marianne was surrounded by three Israeli navy boats while in international waters more than 100 miles off the coast of Gaza, organizers Freedom Flotilla III said in a press release.

“After that we lost contact with the Marianne and at 05:11 am (Gaza time) the IDF [Israeli army] announced that they had ‘visited and searched’ Marianne,” the press release states. “They had captured the boat and detained all on board ‘in international waters’ as they admitted themselves. The only positive content in the IDF announcement was that they still recognize that there is a naval blockade of Gaza, despite the Netanyahu government’s recent denial that one exists.”

Organizers called the seizure of the boat and its passengers an “act of piracy.”

Israel’s Haaretzreports that the boat is being towed to Usdud (Ashdod), a port in present-day Israel, where the passengers “will be interrogated before being escorted to Ben Gurion Airport and flown out of Israel.”

The 18 passengers aboard the Marianne include Basel Ghattas, a Palestinian citizen of Israel and member of the Israeli parliament, former Tunisian president Moncef Marzuki, Spanish member of the European Parliament Ana Miranda and Professor Robert Lovelace, retired chief of the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation in Canada.

Many Palestinians in had eagerly awaited the flotilla, hoping that it would call international attention to the siege which Israel imposed eight years ago.

Members of the crew of the Marianne, which was seized by Israeli forces in international waters early on 29 June as it headed toward Gaza. (Freedom Flotilla III)

Members of the crew of the Marianne, which was seized by Israeli forces in international waters early on 29 June as it headed toward Gaza. (Freedom Flotilla III)

Three other boats – Rachel, Vittorio and Juliano II – that also made up the flotilla have headed back to their ports of origin.

In total, 47 passengers from 17 countries were aboard the boats, which carried medicines, solar panels and above all a strong message of solidarity for the 1.8 million Palestinians still besieged in Gaza one year after Israel began its 51-day destructive assault that killed more than 2,200 people.

An independent UN Human Rights Council inquiry into the attack, published last week, found extensive evidence of war crimes approved by Israel’s leaders at the “highest level.”

Violence incitement

Ghattas joined the flotilla despite violent threats and incitement from fellow lawmakers in Israel to lift his parliamentary immunity so that he could be prosecuted.

Yair Lapid, head of Israel’s purportedly centrist Yesh Atid party, for instance denounced the flotilla as a “provocation against the state of Israel.”

“This is a flotilla of a group of terror supporters a heinous flotilla that needs to be stopped,” Lapid added. “We need to act against the flotilla the same way we do when dispersing a violent protest and these guys need to all be arrested.”

In a Huffington Post column on Sunday, Ghattas defended his right to take part in the flotilla.

Bigots in “a discriminatory Jewish state as a white Southern extremist in a Confederate state, seek to diminish the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel and their representatives in the parliament,” Ghattas writes.

“More than anything, it is obvious that the situation of Palestinians in Gaza will inevitably lead to another round of bloody war, perhaps even more horrifying than the one we had less than one year ago,” Ghattas adds. “Still, my very outspoken colleagues in the Knesset would not even consider lifting the blockade as a means to avoid future war.”

“No siege on Gaza”

In a statement Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu justified the seizure of the Marianne, claiming that the “flotilla is nothing but a demonstration of hypocrisy and lies that is only assisting the Hamas terrorist organization and ignores all of the horrors in our region.”

Netanyahu insisted that “preventing entry by sea was done in accordance with international law and even received backing from a committee of the UN Secretary General.”

“Israel is the only democracy that defends itself in accordance with international law,” Netanyahu insisted, adding that “there is no siege on Gaza.”

The fact that 18 civilians aboard a yacht cannot sail to Gaza, and that there has been virtually no reconstruction in Gaza since Israel’s attack last year would tend to undermine Netanyahu’s contention.

According to Haaretz, after boarding the boat, Israeli army gunmen were “to hand out a letter issued by the Prime Minister’s Office, welcoming [the captives] to Israel and wondering why they sailed to Gaza and not Syria.”

“Perhaps you meant to sail somewhere else nearby – Syria, where Assad’s regime is massacring his people every day, with the support of the murderous Iranian regime,” the letter would reportedly state.

Netanyahu’s statement did not specify which UN “committee” he was talking about, but this was a likely reference to the 2011 “Palmer report” commissioned by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon into Israel’s attack the previous year on the Mavi Marmara.

Turkey rejected the report into the assault that killed 10 of its citizens on the Mavi Marmara in international waters and imposed sanctions on Israel.

The inquiry was heavily criticized for bias. The four-member committee that wrote the Palmer report was chaired by former New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer and vice-chaired by former president of Colombia Alvaro Uribe, a notorious human rights abuser close to Israel.

The inquiry commissioned by Ban was in addition to an official UN Human Rights Council fact-finding missionwhich found that Israel’s attack on the 2010 flotilla was illegal.

Determined

“It is disappointing that the Israeli government chose to continue the absolutely fruitless policy of ‘no tolerance,’ meaning it will continue to enforce an inhumane and illegal collective punishment against 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza,” flotilla organizers said in their statement.

“Israel’s repeated acts of state piracy in international waters are worrying signs that the occupation and blockade policy extends to the entire eastern Mediterranean.”

They also urged governments”to ensure that all passengers and crew from the Marianne are safe, and to strongly protest against the violation of international maritime law by the Israeli state.”

“We call on all civil society organizations to condemn the actions of Israel,” the statement concludes. “People all over the world will continue to respond and react to this injustice, as will we, until the port of Gaza is open and the siege and occupation is ended.”

This video, published on 20 June, shows Marianne calling at the Italian port of Messina for a solidarity visit.

Complicity kills!

Complicity kills!

NETANYAHU PREPARES TO ‘WELCOME’ FLOTILLA lll TO GAZA

Four boats carrying 47 pro-Palestinian activists will be welcomed with letter from PM: ‘It looks like you took a wrong turn. Perhaps you meant to sail to a place not far from here – Syria’.

The flotilla on its way to Gaza.

The flotilla on its way to Gaza.

Israeli Navy preparing to take over Gaza-bound flotilla

The Navy has been preparing to meet on Monday a flotilla carrying 47 pro-Palestinian activists to the Gaza Strip in an attempt to break the Israeli blockade.

The Navy commandos are expected to meet the four boats at an undetermined time – sometimes between the early morning hours and evening time, some dozens of kilometers from the coasts of Israel.

There are 18 passengers aboard the main boat, Swedish vessel “Marianne av Göteborg,” including Joint Arab List MK Basel Ghattas, former Tunisian president Moncef Marzouki and activist Dror Feiler.

The “Marianne” is accompanied by three smaller boats: “Rachel,” with eight passengers on board; “Vittorio” with nine passengers on board; and “Juliano II” with 12 passengers.

The commandos will try to take over the boats using non-violent measures and lead them to the Navy base in Ashdod.

After the takeover, the activists will be taken for questioning upon their arrival to Israel and then expelled out of the country through Ben-Gurion Airport.

The Prime Minister’s Office decided to take an unusual approach to the flotilla’s arrival.

The letter goes on to say that “If you were truly interested in human rights, you would not be sailing in solidarity with a terror regime that executes Gaza residents without trial, and uses the children of Gaza as a human shield.”

“Here in Israel we are dealing with a reality in which terror organizations like Hamas are trying to harm innocent civilians. We are protecting the citizens of Israel against these attempts in accordance with international law,” the letter continues.

“Despite this, Israel is aiding in the transfer of goods and humanitarian aid to Gaza – some 800 trucks a day, which transported over 1.6 million tons of goods over the past year … Israel is aiding hundreds of humanitarian projects using international organizations, including building clinics and hospitals.

The activists on board the four boats will receive a letter when they arrive in Israel welcoming them to the country and adding, “It looks like you took a wrong turn. Perhaps you meant to sail to a place not far from here – Syria. Where Assad’s regime is slaughtering its people on a daily basis, and this is done with the support of Iran’s murderous regime.”

“However, we will not allow the transfer of weapons to terror organizations in Gaza, as has been done before through the sea. Only a year ago we thwarted an attempt to smuggle via the sea hundreds of arms meant to hurt innocent civilians.”

The PMO stresses that “there is no siege of the Gaza Strip, and you are welcomed to transfer any humanitarian equipment through Israel,” adding that “preventing entrance (to Gaza) through the sea is done in accordance with international law, and even has the backing of a UN committee.”

The IDF, meanwhile, said the flotilla was an attempt at provocation and that its troops will not fall into any traps. The commandos taking over the boats will offer the activists food and drinks, the army said.

As a lesson learned from the takeover of the Mavi Marmara flotilla in 2010, the commandos will document the takeover and the IDF Spokesman’s Office will work to quickly distribute the footage to world media before the activists could post a “victory picture” of their own.

Source

UPDATE …

Israel seizes activist flotilla headed to Gaza

Naval special forces take control of ship, which carried 20 activists including MK Basel Ghattas, without violence.

Click HERE to see report

#SailingToGaza ~~ THE BASTARDS TRY TO STOP US AGAIN

The Israeli military is preparing to stop the pro-Palestinian flotilla from reaching Gaza.

The Israeli military is preparing to stop the pro-Palestinian flotilla from reaching Gaza.

‘Juliano’ attacked on its way to break the siege on Gaza

Statement by The Freedom Theatre
June 27th, 2015

Passengers of the Freedom Flotilla III bound for Gaza have announced that one of the boats, named Juliano after the co-founder and director of The Freedom Theatre, Juliano Mer Khamis who was assassinated in 2011, has been sabotaged. Divers damaged the boat’s propellers, causing it to take in water and the boat barely made it into port in Greece before it sank. On Saturday June 27th, passengers reported that the flotilla was followed by an unidentified patrol boat and a military aircraft.

Israel has engaged in a massive campaign to prevent the flotilla from reaching Gaza, threatening the participants in a similar fashion as during earlier attempts to break the illegal siege on Gaza. In 2010, Israeli troops attacked a similar flotilla in international waters, killing ten of the activists onboard and detaining many others.

Juliano Mer Khamis oftentimes declared that he was 100% Jewish and 100% Palestinian. He spoke of the necessity of a bi-national state where true democracy and justice may rule. Juliano’s work and vision inspired many people worldwide to act for justice in Palestine. The Freedom Flotilla does the same.

The sabotage of a boat named after a freedom fighter that believed in art as the most righteous form of resistance, proves to what length Israel is willing to go to silence criticism and activism against the occupation and apartheid system.

The boat Juliano is part of an international Freedom Flotilla Coalition calling for an end to the inhuman siege on Gaza, which violates the most basic human rights of the Palestinian people. The Flotilla comes less than a year after Israel’s brutal war against the Gaza strip in which more than 2,200 Palestinians were killed.

The Freedom Theatre welcomes the Freedom Flotilla initiative just like we welcome any other form of legitimate resistance against the Israeli oppression. No single person, organisation or movement can overcome the Israeli occupation and apartheid, but by considering us all part of a joint movement, supporting and complementing each other, we can and will succeed in bringing justice and peace to Palestine.

In just a few days the Freedom Flotilla will reach international waters outside the coast of Gaza, carrying more than 50 people from over 20 countries. The boats are also carrying urgently needed supplies and most importantly a message of solidarity to the besieged population of Gaza.

The Freedom Theatre wishes the flottilla a safe and successful journey to Gaza! Long live the Freedom Flottilla, long live Gaza and Palestine!

Website: https://freedomflotilla.org and https://ff3.freedomflotilla.org
Twitter: @GazaFFlottilla, @ShiptogazaSE

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More from USTOGAZA …

Freedom Flotilla III is Sailing to Open the Port of Gaza

Boats, with more than 50 crew and passengers from 20 countries are prepared to reach the port of Gaza and call on the international community to open it

Delegates from left: Mohammed El Bakkali, Al Jazeera journalist; Dr. Moncel Marzuki, former president of Tunisia; Dr. Basel Ghattas, Knesset MP; Claudio Tamaglini; Charlie Andreasson; Ann Wright

Delegates from left: Mohammed El Bakkali, Al Jazeera journalist; Dr. Moncel Marzuki, former president of Tunisia; Dr. Basel Ghattas, Knesset MP; Claudio Tamaglini; Charlie Andreasson; Ann Wright

This year’s mission, organized by the Freedom Flotilla Coalition against the naval blockade and the siege of Gaza, is about to sail to highlight the violation of the rights of 1.8 million Palestinians living in the world’s largest open-air prison.

The Israeli government claims that there are ‘unauthorized boats trying to illegally enter Israeli territorial waters’. There are no ‘unauthorized boats’, only an illegal and inhumane blockade; the UN has recently called to end it and Freedom Flotilla III sails to challenge it, without any need or desire to enter Israeli territorial waters. This fact is highlighted by the practices of Israeli naval forces against previous sea missions, which have intercepted all boats since 2009 in international waters, headed towards Palestinian waters off Gaza, never towards Israel or Israeli waters.

Freedom Flotilla III is invited by Palestinians in Gaza through various organizations that work for a relief of the thousands that were left heavily wounded, homeless, jobless, and displaced after recent Israeli operations in the Gaza Strip. We also have among our passengers Dr. Basel Ghattas, Member of the Israeli Knesset, who called in an open letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu to allow our mission to reach the port of Gaza.

Israel’s right-wing is now moving to penalize MK Ghattas for his participation in a legitimate political action of people from all around the world, while Deputy MFA Hotovely has announced international diplomatic action against the Freedom Flotilla III. Lawyers around the world are making legal moves against the mission, just as they did in 2011. We regret that “the only democracy in Middle-East” thinks this is the best course of action, instead of addressing the real problems of occupation, blockade and division of Palestine, as well as the openly legal discriminations against Palestinians and Israeli Arabs.

We remain undeterred, because our purpose is not to act against Israel, but against occupation. Our actions would not be needed, if governments worldwide and international bodies like the EU and the UN would take steps to ensure accountability of Israeli governments for war crimes and collective punishment against the 1.8 million Palestinian population in Gaza Strip. We welcome voices from Israel who publicly state that the State of Israel is not threatened by the action against the blockade.

The international community should stop turning a blind eye on the blockade and occupation and take steps urgently towards the direction of ensuring the opening of the port in Gaza, the only port of Palestine to the rest of the world.

DESPITE THE ODDS, BDS IS WORKING!

Foreign investment in Israel plummeted almost 50 percent in 2014, a fact attributed to last summer’s assault on Gaza and the growing impact of boycotts.

How zion sees us

How zion sees us

Foreign investment in Israel plummets by half since Gaza massacre

Foreign investment in Israel plummeted almost 50 percent in 2014, a fact attributed to last summer’s assault on Gaza and the growing impact of boycotts.

This week the UN’s trade and development agency UNCTAD released its annual World Investment Report on foreign direct investment (FDI) – a measure of money that investors from overseas put into a country to invest in businesses, build factories or start other economic projects.

According to the report, FDI into Israel in 2014 plummeted to just $6.4 billion from almost $12 billion in 2013.

The 2014 figure appears to be the lowest in more than a decade. Foreign direct investment into Israel averaged around $9 billion per year from 2005 to 2012.

“We believe that what led to the drop in investment in Israel are Operation Protective Edge and the boycotts Israel is facing,” Roni Manos, an Israeli economist who co-authored the report, told Israel’s Ynet.

“Operation Protective Edge” is the name Israel gave its 51-day assault last summer that devastated much of Gaza and killed more than 2,200 Palestinians, including 551 chidren.

In line with global trends, FDI fell in other regional countries, but nowhere near as sharply as in Israel. FDI fell 1.7 percent in Turkey, 6.8 percent in Iraq, 4 percent in the United Arab Emirates and 9.6 percent in Saudi Arabia. But it actually rose by 6.6 percent in Lebanon.

Iran, which has been under brutal international sanctions, saw inward investment decline by about a third to just over $2 billion.

“The tourists have stopped coming”

The news that investors are fleeing is only the latest economic blow to Israel as a result of its attack on Gaza.

In May, Ynet revealed a dramatic plunge in visits to the country in an article headlined “Tourists have stopped coming to Israel.”

During the Gaza assault, Palestinian resistance organizations considered it a significant strategic achievement that they managed to force a shutdown of Israel’s main international airport for several days, dealing Israel a severe economic and reputational blow.

But it appears the damage may have lasted far longer than the airport shutdown.

“Despite the hopes for a recovery two or three months after last summer’s operation in Gaza, it seems the crisis is only getting worse,” Ynet reported, “the number of tourists is dropping, the number of hotel stays is declining and the number of organized tours has been significantly cut.”

Ynet cited figures from the Israel Hotel Association for the first quarter of this year pointing to a 28 percent drop in tourist stays, with some areas including the Red Sea resort of Eilat – heavily marketed as a seaside destination for Europeans – seeing a 51 percent decline.

The report quoted one tour operator saying he didn’t expect matters to improve next year. “We are only left with the pilgrims and Jewish tourists,” the tour operator complained, adding that Christian religious tourists spent most of their time in the Palestinian city of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank.

Economic damage

This week, the UN Human Rights Council issued its independent report into the Gaza assault, and on Israel’s simultaneous violent crackdown in the occupied West Bank, finding evidence of numerous war crimes likely authorized at the “highest level” of the Israeli government.

The UN inquiry, citing Bank of Israel figures, also noted that “Operation Protective Edge caused a contraction of output in the tourism and manufacturing sectors” in Israel of about $900 million and caused “indirect damage” of another $440 million.

The economic damage Israel is doing to itself by continuing its regime of occupation, apartheid, siege and massacres of Palestinians may be mounting faster than previously thought.

This might also help explain why Israel is dramatically escalating its efforts to try to halt the momentum of the growing BDS – boycott, divestment and sanctions – movement.

IN PHOTOS ~~ VETERANS FOR PEACE ON MEMORIAL DAY

On Memorial day weekend the Veterans For Peace held their annual  event at Battery Park NYC in front of the massive World War II memorial  remembering those killed in the war. Attending were the family and friends of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, veterans of WWII, veterans of  The Korean War, Iraq and Afghanistan. Participants came to the mike and spoke of those family members and friends killed in war. Chippy Dee, a Desertpeace associate, also memorialized the Palestinians: adults and children murdered by the Zionist Attack Force (also known as the IDF). As each speaker finished they threw a rose into the waters of the Hudson river. At the end of the memorial event the sad musical notes  of “taps” sounded in the park.

Photos  and Commentary © by Bud Korotzer

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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.

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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

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