Archive for September, 2006

Taking Notes in Oaxaca, Mexico

Friday, September 29th, 2006

“What we manage to do each time we win a victory is not so much to secure chance once and for all, but rather to create new terrains for struggle.” —Angela Davis, from Abolition Democracy

Oaxaca is wide awake.  While many of us seem to be in a deeply unconscious state, oblivious to the world’s realities of violence, exploitation and oppression, the people of Oaxaca are rising up.  Tired of their historical suffering under policies of domination, the people have organized a liberation movement that is opening eyes around the world.  The movement in Oaxaca is a current, inspiring demonstration of popular power, and although every people’s struggle must create its own path, Oaxaqueños are offering us valuable lessons about organization, solidarity, and resistance.

Rapping in Aymara: Bolivian Hip Hop as an Instrument of Struggle

Friday, September 29th, 2006

At 13,000 feet, the hip hop movement in El Alto, Bolivia is probably the highest in the world. The music blends ancient Andean folk styles and new hip hop beats with lyrics about revolution and social change.

As the sun set over the nearby snow capped mountains, I sat down with Abraham Bojorquez, a well known El Alto hip hop artist. We opened up a bag of coca leaves and began to talk about what he calls a new “instrument of struggle.” We were at Wayna Tambo, a radio station, cultural center and unofficial base of the city’s hip hop scene. Bojorquez pulled a leaf out of the bag to chew and said, “We want to preserve our culture through our music. With hip hop, we’re always looking back to our indigenous ancestors, the Aymaras, Quechuas, Guarani.” He works with other hip hop artists in El Alto to show “the reality of what is happening in our country. Through our lyrics we criticize the bad politicians that take advantage of us. With this style of hip hop, we’re an instrument of struggle, an instrument of the people.”

Don Quixote de Havana

Friday, September 29th, 2006

It is amazing the way life sometimes manages to reproduce the designs of human imagination so well. Little could Gustave Doré have imagined when he drew Don Quixote in the second half of the 19th century that at the beginning of the 21st, reality would replace fiction in the person of a gentleman commander —quixotic as they come— who, since his youth, has spent his nights from clearing to clearing and his days from turbulence to turbulence undoing wrongs and fighting for the galley slaves of the land.

Driving While Muslim

Friday, September 29th, 2006

Ali Houssaiky and Osama Abulhassan left their homes in this historic Muslim-American enclave as college students and came home as terrorists. On August 8 Houssaiky and Abulhassan drove to an Ohio Wal-Mart to buy hundreds of cheap cellphones, intending to sell them back to a distributor they knew to earn some extra cash for tuition. The Wal-Mart employee, fearing two young men of Arab heritage were terrorists, called police, who promptly apprehended Houssaiky and Abulhassan. Making matters worse, they were in Houssaiky’s mother’s car, which contained a manual outlining airline checkpoints, a necessity for her job at Royal Jordanian Airlines. To the police and the Washington County, Ohio, prosecutor, Houssaiky and Abulhassan were the sum of all fears: two young Arabs with airline manuals and hundreds of devices that could be used as bomb detonators.

Houssaiky and Abulhassan were quickly convicted in the press. “I went to our cell,” Houssaiky remembers. “The inmates showed us on TV, there was a line going across the screen [saying], Is This an Act of Terrorism at Work?” Yet within a week of their arrest, it became clear to prosecutors that there was no evidence linking either student to terrorism. Returning home to Dearborn, Houssaiky and Abulhassan called a press conference to denounce the “paranoia and xenophobia that is gripping the country.” To Houssaiky, the fact that he and his friend were cleared of all charges is no comfort. “The media made us into animals,” he says. “This is going to stick to us the rest of our lives.”

The persecution of Houssaiky and Abulhassan–two former high school football stars–underscores the sense of besiegement felt widely in this community of 35,000. Dearborn has been a magnet for Arab and Iranian immigrants for more than 100 years, and its streets and storefronts proudly display the signs of Middle Eastern-American culture: Mosques and community centers sit peacefully next to McDonald’s and Burger King along Dearborn arteries like Schafer Road and Warren Avenue. Yet over the past few months, and particularly during the Lebanon war, the Justice Department and the FBI have increasingly put Dearborn under collective suspicion. Nearly thirty people in the Dearborn area have been indicted on often-flimsy charges related to terrorism in the past three years, and more than half of them have been accused in the past four months. Assistant US Attorney Kenneth Chadwell, who heads the Justice Department’s efforts to investigate terrorism connections in Dearborn, told the Chicago Tribune in late July, “The question is: Are they loyal to the US or to this terrorist group Hezbollah?”

Evangelical delegates from around the world arrive at Knesset to express ‘love for Israel’

Friday, September 29th, 2006

Millions of Evangelical Christians around the world support and constantly pray for the State of Israel , representatives at a meeting of the Knesset’s Christian Allies Caucus said Wednesday.Dozens of Evangelical pastors, parliament members, and leaders from an array of countries gathered at the Knesset in Jerusalem to proclaim their support for the country, during a meeting of the Caucus, which was also attended by Knesset Members from across the political spectrum.

“We see Israelis as our spiritual mothers and fathers. It’s an honor for us to be here,” Pastor Norman Miller of Australia told Ynetnews. “We love your God, Israel,” Miller told the meeting, to a round of warm applause.

“The line between the political and the biblical is disappearing,” Josh Reinstein, Director of the Caucus, told the meeting. “Around the world, we see the rise of radical Islam come against our Judeo-Christian values, and we must meet it with a well organized response,” Reinstein said. “We formed the Christian Allies Caucus to coordinate cooperate and communicate with our Christian allies around the world… we want to work with you, and we thank you for your support,” he told delegates.

Speaking to Ynetnews, Reinstein said that modern events were shaping up to fit well with Torah prophecies. “If you can read the newspaper, than you can read the Torah, because things are coming into place like people have predicted many years before us.” “This isn’t just a time to shake hands… this is really the start of a relationship, of a political relationship, and that means an economic relationship, a social cooperation, and that also means political support for the State of Israel,” he said.

Addressing concerns voiced by some about an alliance with Evangelical Christianity, Reinstein said: “Of course we have to be vigilant to make sure that we’re not working with organizations that are just befriending us to convert us, but what we are doing is finding real friends and creating real relationships, so we can promote each other.

“Evangelical Christians around the world are the greatest friends Israel has.”

Gosh, how heartwarming…

The Human Catastrophe of Gaza Is a Time Bomb

Friday, September 29th, 2006

 While global attention is still centered on Lebanon, less than 200 km to the south, Gaza constitutes a time bomb. Some 1.4 million people, mostly children, are piled up in one of the most densely populated regions of the world, with no freedom of movement, no place to run, and no space to hide. Virtually without external access since June, Gaza is experiencing a rise in poverty, unemployment, penury, and despair. Sadly, that which Gaza most needs today is precisely what it lacks the most: hope.    Earlier in September, 35 countries, to which were joined the UN, the Red Cross movement and NGOs, met in Stockholm to contribute to the restoration of some small measure of hope for the Gaza population. Donor countries announced a supplementary 116 million dollars for urgent humanitarian needs in the occupied Palestinian territories, half of which was in response to the appeal for 384 million dollars from the UN. While we must congratulate the donors on their constructive initiative, the Gaza population needs much more, and quickly. The UN’s humanitarian appeal still requires 42% of the funds requested in spite of the warnings about a situation that is deteriorating rapidly, susceptible to destabilizing many families.

    Since the Israeli operation “Summer Rain” began end-June in response to the kidnapping of an Israeli Defense Forces soldier, one Israeli soldier has been killed. During the same period, 235 Palestinians have been killed, including 46 children. Every loss of human life must be deplored. But there is no doubt that the response, measured in terms of civilian victims, is disproportionate. For the Palestinians, as for the Israelis, the consequences of the confrontations of the summer are devastating, just as they are pernicious to the perspectives for peace in this troubled region.

    Access by air, sea, and land has been virtually cut off for Gaza. The movements of goods and peoples have practically ceased. Supplies of electricity and water, interrupted by Israeli Defense Forces attacks on electric power stations, is irregular and insignificant. Civilian infrastructures have been affected. Gaza today remains dependent on outside sources for its food and commercial supplies. Hygienic conditions are deteriorating, while access to potable water is inadequate. With a Palestinian economy in continuous freefall, we must expect a more severe deterioration in sanitary conditions.

    Imagine: You are a mother or a father in Gaza, living in a space inferior to a quarter of that of greater London (1,620 sq. km) with a population the size of Leeds (1.49 million inhabitants). You cannot leave this territory, nor import nor export products. Your children live in continuous fear of violence. Shortages of essential goods, including water, increase the propagation of contagious illnesses and reinforce the problems of daily life. Every day, as many as 185 artillery shells strike your territory. Every night, you witness blind rocket attacks on Israel by militant groups. You know that when the reprisals come, you and your family will not be spared their effects.

    Now, imagine that you live in Israel, where every night the rockets fall. Armed groups undermine your country, your daily life and your existence. We think it is not in either party’s interest for violence to prevail in Gaza and the West Bank, situated at the crossroads of all the great world cultures and religions. To help disarm the Gaza time bomb, we need action on three fronts: humanitarian, economic, and political. In the first place, civilians and civilian infrastructure must be protected by all parties. We ask the Israeli government in its capacity as occupying power, the Palestinian Authority, and all armed groups to acquit themselves of their responsibilities in the eyes of international law.

    A cessation of hostilities must be accompanied by freedom of movement for civilians and humanitarian workers. For the Gaza population, the perception of being trapped, confined, of living in a cage is intolerable and feeds the feeling of despair. The November 15, 2005, agreement on movement and access must be wholly carried out.

    Freedom of movement is also essential to allow humanitarian personnel to reach those in need in Gaza and the West Bank. The Karni passage, the main passageway between Israel and Gaza, must be transformed into a no-conflict, protected zone, open to the flow of products essential for the Palestinian population. An independent third party could be designated to maintain surveillance of this zone in response to Israel’s security expectations. With the majority of Gaza’s population dependent on outside aid for its basic survival, restricting humanitarian access becomes a matter of life and death. On the economic front, we ask Israel to free up the roughly 500 million dollars of income from taxes and duties that it retains.

    These funds are indispensable to respond in all urgency to humanitarian and economic needs. But money alone is certainly not the answer, any more than are “humanitarian Band-Aids on open wounds.” In the end, only a return to the peace process and a durable two state solution can bring hope and healing to this troubled region. The need is urgent. The time is now. It’s a question of solidarity and a question of security for all of us.

    Jan Egeland is the UN Assistant Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs and Coordinator of Emergency Aid. Jan Eliasson is Sweden’s Foreign Affairs Minister and former (1992-1994) UN Assistant Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs

Why Hamas Resists Recognizing Israel

Palestinian Muslims are currently joining the faithful the world over in denying themselves food between sunrise and sundown. But while most Muslims elsewhere break their Ramadan fast with sumptuous iftar meals, those unfortunate enough to live in the West Bank and Gaza are finding that they have less and less to put on the table come nightfall. That’s because they remain under a financial siege imposed by Israel, the U.S. and Europe, in the hope of forcing Hamas, the Palestinian ruling party, to recognize Israel. The premise of the siege strategy appears to be that by increasing Palestinian misery, domestic pressure will mount on Hamas to submit or quit.

But such collective punishment may be as misguided as it is cruel; even if it did work, any “recognition” achieved this way would mean little in the pursuit of peace. An authoritative Palestinian polling organization last week released telling findings on Palestinian public opinion in the West Bank and Gaza. It found 54% of voters dissatisfied with Hamas’s performance in government, the figure rising to 69% when it came to financial matters such as payment of salaries. Only 38% would vote for Hamas in an election now. But when asked whether Hamas should submit to the Western demand that it recognize Israel, 67% said no.

Poll: Iraqis back attacks on US troops

Friday, September 29th, 2006

(AP) WASHINGTON About six in 10 Iraqis say they approve of attacks on U.S.-led forces, and slightly more than that want their government to ask U.S. troops to leave within a year, according to a poll in that country.

The Iraqis also have negative views of Osama bin Laden, according to the early September poll of 1,150.

The poll, done for University of Maryland’s Program on International Policy Attitudes, found:

–Almost four in five Iraqis say the U.S. military force in Iraq provokes more violence than it prevents.

–About 61 percent approved of the attacks — up from 47 percent in January. A solid majority of Shiite and Sunni Arabs approved of the attacks, according to the poll. The increase came mostly among Shiite Iraqis.

–An overwhelmingly negative opinion of terror chief bin Laden and more than half, 57 percent, disapproving of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The return of Palestinian refugees is an existential necessity for Israeli Jews

Thursday, September 28th, 2006



In order to maintain the cohesion of Israeli Jewish society against the spectre of a “warm peace” with its neighbours, the Zionist state must maintain distrust among Jews towards the Arab nation, emphasize the “European” identity of their state (as distinct from the surrounding “barbarian” states) and engage in provocations whenever the “threat” emerges that a peace may ensue. For this reason, the Zionist state is, by its very nature, a permanent threat to its environment.


 It is often assumed that a massive return of Palestinian refugees to locations within the State of Israel – in accordance with international law and human rights – would be contrary to the interests of Israeli Jews and may endanger their physical existence. It cannot be denied that a massive return would significantly change the demographic composition of the population. There is, however, no particular reason to believe that such a return would physically endanger Israeli Jews, if the consequent population movement is properly organized in order to ensure the availability of housing and work opportunities.

However, there is another aspect of the argument for the Palestinian right of return which is often not addressed, namely the desirability of such a return for Israeli Jews. I will briefly explain why this is so.

Zionism, Israel’s official ideology, is predicated upon the necessity for Jews to remain in control of their state. This means that it must at all times and by all means ensure that Jews remain a demographic majority within the state. A situation of “warm peace” between the State of Israel and its neighbours would, however, undermine the Jewish character of the state through a gradual integration of Jews within the Arab (mostly Muslim) Middle East. Economic and cultural intercourse between Israel and its neighbouring Arab states would bring Israelis to Arab capitals and Arab businessmen, tourists, workers and students to Israel. From a Zionist perspective, such a scenario is a threat, as it would dilute the Jewish character of the state, culturally and demographically.

The most effective deterrent against Jewish assimilation in the “diaspora”, apart from self-imposed isolation (which is particularly the case with ultra-orthodox Jews), is anti-Semitism. Zionists are keen to dramatize anti-Semitism or, at times, to give it a helping hand, in order to keep Jews from assimilating or cause them to move to Israel.

In order to maintain the cohesion of Israeli Jewish society against the spectre of a “warm peace” with its neighbours, the Zionist state must maintain distrust among Jews towards the Arab nation, emphasize the “European” identity of their state (as distinct from the surrounding “barbarian” states) and engage in provocations whenever the “threat” emerges that a peace may ensue. For this reason, the Zionist state is, by its very nature, a permanent threat to its environment. While the Zionist state may be able to maintain its provocative existence for a number of years, its aggressive nature will inevitably undermine the moral fabric of its Jewish population and its capacity to sustain itself.

Since World War II, Jews have been living in many predominantly Christian countries as religious minorities with full civil and political rights. There is no reason to believe that Jews cannot live with full rights within predominantly Muslim societies, which have traditionally been less discriminatory towards Jews. If Jews wish to remain living in the Middle East, they will have to gracefully accept that they are a minority in an Arab region and do so in a positive manner.

The return of Palestinian refugees will create for Israeli Jews unique opportunities to demonstrate their will to live in peace and equality with Arabs within a democratic unitary state. Such a vision would accommodate both the interests and aspirations of Palestinians and those of Jews. Such a vision would help liberate Jews from their self-imposed concept of a ghetto-state and end their isolation in the Middle East. The same rationale was pursued successfully by the African National Congress, which provided not only the liberation of the black majority from apartheid, but also the liberation of the white settler community from the role of oppressors from which they could not escape by themselves.

Hi-tech firm boycotts Israel over ‘war crimes’

Thursday, September 28th, 2006

Following the recent war in Lebanon, Ynet has received several complaints from Israeli companies that have encountered refusal of companies from various countries to cooperate with Israelis because of the war.  

Avner, an Israeli businessman specializing in product management and consulting approached a Belgian company in hopes of business cooperation. The company, U2U, refused to cooperate with the Israeli businessman because of what they called “Israel’s war crimes and apartheid regime.”


U2U manager Wim Yotrasprot wrote in a statement to Avner obtained by Ynet that “I appreciate your interest in my company, but after the devastating and inhumane war crimes Israel perpetrated in Lebanon, and because of the apartheid regime it rules on Palestine, U2U does not wish to tie itself with Israeli products.”

U.S., Syria spar and Rice calls for sanctions

Thursday, September 28th, 2006

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The United States and Syria locked horns on Tuesday, with Washington urging others to join it in imposing sanctions on Damascus and Syria telling America to stop trying to impose its will on Arabs.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem told the United Nations General Assembly that the world pays the price when the U.S. government thinks it knows what Arabs want better than the Arabs themselves.

Washington has long listed Syria as a “state sponsor of terrorism” and relations have worsened with the United States accusing Syria of helping to fuel the insurgency in Iraq. Damascus denies both charges.

…In his U.N. speech, Rice’s Syrian counterpart said it was essential that the United States and other countries draw up a schedule for withdrawing from Iraq. He insisted it would help curb the violence there.

“Tragically enough, we all end up paying the price when the decision makers in Washington believe that they know better, and are in a better position to understand and grasp the needs and circumstances of the Arabs,” Moualem said.

“They diagnose the ambitions and aspirations of the Arab individual in a manner that is tailored to their own vision.”

Moualem assailed the United States for its support of Israel and other policies in the Middle East, saying the flow of U.S. weapons to Israel was sowing destruction. He also criticized those who finance and support what he called the injustices of the Israeli occupation of Arab territories.

“The Palestinians are subjected to a crippling blockade because the advocates of democracy were dissatisfied with the results of the elections in the Palestinian territories,” Moualem said.