Saturday, July 26, 2014

Gaza massacres are the price of a Jewish state

As the Israeli army pauses its shelling of neighborhoods, hospitals, and ambulances in Gaza, Ali Abunimah distills the situation to its essence:
Israel cannot exist “as a Jewish state” without violating the rights of all Palestinians to varying degrees... The massacre in Gaza is at the extreme end of the spectrum of abuses necessary to maintain Jewish sectarian rule in Palestine, but it is part of the same policy that requires employment and housing discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel, and outright land theft and ethnic cleansing in the Naqab (Negev) and the occupied West Bank.

If you support Israel’s “right to exist as a Jewish state” in a country whose indigenous Palestinian people today form half the population, then you ... must come to terms with the inevitability of massacres. If you oppose the horrific, repeated massacres in Gaza, then join the movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), a movement that aims to decolonize Palestine and restore to all the people all their legitimate and inalienable rights.

Resources: Abunimah's book The Battle for Justice in Palestine. The U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation holds its annual conference for organizers September 19-21 (wish it were closer than San Diego). The Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions. A more recent petition calling for international arms embargo to Israel.

Photo: Shejaiya neighborhood in Gaza 26 July 2014, destroyed this week by Israeli shelling and aerial bombing. Photo via Kate Benyon-Tinker (@katebt3000), Middle East producer for BBC.

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Msgr. Oscar Romero: ¡Presente!

Peace is not the product of terror or fear. Peace is not the silence of cemeteries. Peace is not the silent result of violent repression. Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all. Peace is dynamism. Peace is generosity. It is right and it is duty.

Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, assassinated March 24, 1980.

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Friday, February 11, 2011

Egypt: huge milestone

Congratulations, people of Egypt!

I look forward to this banner being re-hung in Tahrir Square with the first demand checked off, because the next several are just as crucial.

1. Resignation of the president
2. End the State of Emergency
3. Dissolution of the People’s Assembly and Shura Council
4. Formation of a national transitional government
5. An elected Parliament that will amend the Constitution to allow for presidential elections
6. Immediate prosecution for those responsible of the deaths of the revolution’s martyrs
7. Immediate prosecution of the corrupters and those who robbed the country of its wealth.

Youths of Egypt

The banner first appeared on February 4. Photo by Hossam el-Hamalawy (3arabawy)

Friday, January 15, 2010

How to help Haitians

Partners in Health has been working in Haiti in an exemplary way for years. The literal collapse of many medical facilities in Port au Prince and other areas hardest hit by the quake has made their network of clinics and local health workers an even more important part of the country's sparse medical infrastructure. Please support them today.

Some people consider it unseemly to speak about the political context in which a massive, tragic catastrophe is happening. If you're one of those people, please stop reading this post now.

On February 29, 2004, the U.S. government helped depose the elected President of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Marines forced him onto a plane in the middle of the night and flew him to the Central African Republic. With U.S. and U.N. military and economic support, Haiti's new rulers launched a campaign of assassination, detentions, and intimidation against leaders and activists of Aristide's Lavalas party. The U.N. "peacekeepers" have participated in this campaign, firing on demonstrators, ignoring crimes committed against Lavalas activists by the police (who are being trained by the U.N. troops), and massacring civilians while carrying out sweeps in Lavalas neighborhoods against "criminal gangs".

Lavalas candidates have been prevented from running in subsequent elections. Their exclusion from this past spring's Senate election resulted in a massive boycott; even the government claimed only 11% participation. Now they have been barred again from the general elections scheduled for February 28, the eve of the coup's sixth anniversary.

Through all this, most of the U.S. political class has painted the overthrow and forced exile of Aristide and the reimposition of government for the rich as a good thing, a "transition to democracy". (This piece by Mark Leon Goldberg of UN Dispatch is typical.) This is a lie, as big a lie as the claim that the coup against Pres. Manuel Zelaya in Honduras was a legal "democratic transition".

The Obama administration, and the State Department run by Sec. Clinton, are firmly committed to this lie and the policies for which it is a cover story. But suppression of the largest political party in the country is not going to make it, or Haiti's poor, disappear. Haiti can only rebuild and develop if its people drive that development. An organization supporting such work is the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund. Your solidarity can make a difference to Haitians struggling for something they need as badly as shelter, food, and water: genuine democracy.

Update: 3:15pm, 19 Jan - Media analyst Danny Schechter forthrightly assesses the near-FUBAR relief effort, which is making the situation even more explosive. [Hat tip to Rupa Shah in comments at A Tiny Revolution.] Mark LeVine has an incisive overview of exactly how the U.S.-imposed economic model has set Haiti up for maximum damage from the recent series of natural disasters.

On the horizon is a prolonged U.S.-U.N. occupation of Haiti, even more comprehensive than the MINUSTAH mission that's been in place for the last five years. The proconsuls of the "international community" will do everything in their power to prevent Aristide from returning, but that demand will be heard again and more often as the crisis deepens.

State spokesman P.J. Crowley, a reliable fount of empire-speak,
says the Obama administration is discouraging visits to Haiti by prominent political figures, including Mr. Aristide. "The last thing that we need is to have someone land and put an additional burden in an already-stressed situation," said Crowley. "We've sent that same message to our members of Congress."
Ass. Aristide wouldn't be jetting in for a "visit" like prominent political figure Secretary of State Clinton (whose arrival caused the U.S. to hold up landings of relief planes for hours), he'd be a citizen of Haiti returning to his country, from which he is illegally being barred.

Update 2: 6:15pm, 19 Jan - People-to-people solidarity ties are the way around our overlords' high-handed approach of creating ever-deeper dependence. The program developed by Haitian popular organizations themselves should be the rebuilding project that we support by word and action, not the kind of "help" our government wants to impose. (Did you know that the International Monetary Fund conditioned disaster relief funds to Haiti on an immediate freeze in public sector wages and a rise in electricity rates? No, apparently there's not a minute to waste in even a fleeting gesture of human compassion; the only thing to do in a crisis on this scale is to press the advantage.)

Beverly Bell puts it well:
Friends: There are ways that your donation, no matter how small, can have a big impact. They are not via the huge bureaucracies, but via the foundations who have long histories of accompanying, trusting, and strengthening the grassroots groups which, in Haiti, are the only ones who have ever made a sustained difference. These are small foundations that know that the only thing that ever works in Haiti is for people to have control over their own rebuilding, over their own communities, and over their own needs and destinies. These are the small foundations who understand that the best that they can do is strengthen those groups' capacities and strength with funding, infrastructure, and technical support.

The need today is of course enormous and overwhelming. Even the UN and Red Cross have no idea how to respond to a calamity of this size. Past the urgency of everyone now getting food and water (which will not happen) and the wounded getting care
(neither), what will be needed is what the Lambi Fund called today "second responders." That involves rebuilding the efforts that were under way to move Haiti "from misery to poverty with dignity," as it is known there. That is the slow, careful work of helping grassroots movements get back on their feet, reclaim what they lost, and move forward - both individually, and as organized movements working for change and justice.

We're not yet beyond the first responder stage, for which Partners in Health is the best "multiplier" channel. But the Lambi Fund and Grassroots International, along with the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund, are organizations of integrity that have earned the respect and trust of Haiti's real leaders.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Honduras: death toll update

For more than a month I haven't been able to bring myself to post; I haven't even done much commenting on other sites following the situation.

But my promise to update the post summarizing murders of resistance activists (Honduras: high price of the struggle) forces me to note a number of additions:

Luis Gradis Espinal, a teacher from the department of Valle, was found dead on Wednesday, November 25 in Las Casitas neighborhood in western Tegucigalpa. He was tied and had been executed. His family reported him disappeared when he didn't return after having left for the capital on Sunday, Nov. 22. During the weeks before the election (and since) there were dozens of police search and captures for resistance participants.

Isaac Coello, 24; Roger Reyes, 22; Kenneth Rosa, 23; Gabriel Parrales; and Marco Vinicio Matute, 39. The five men, active in the resistance from the Victor F. Ardon and Honduras neighborhoods of Tegucigalpa, were massacred [Sp.] on December 7 by men in military and police uniforms. A young woman working with them was also shot, but not fatally; she survived by pretending to be dead.

Santos Corrales García was found dead [Sp.] on Thursday, December 10, near Talanga (50 km east of Tegucigalpa). His body was headless. On December 5 Corrales had been taken away with four others from the Nueva Capital neighborhood of Tegucigalpa by five men dressed in uniforms of the national criminal investigation directorate (DNIC). He was tortured and interrogated about the location of a businesswoman who provided supplies to the resistance during demonstrations. The two men and two women who were taken with Corrales were transported, tied hand and foot, dumped at highway exits far from home and told not to return to their neighborhoods.

Walter Orlando Tróchez, a human rights advocate, member of the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transsexual community, and active member of the Resistance Front was assassinated with two shots the morning of December 14, just outside of Larach & Co. in the center of Tegucigalpa. On December 4 Tróchez had been kidnapped outside the "El Obelisco" Park in Comayaguela by four masked men who drove a gray pickup without plates (presumed to be DNIC). They hooded and beat him, and demanded information about resistance activities; Tróchez managed to escape and filed a formal complaint. More from Adrienne Pine and Feminists in Resistance, via Honduras Resists.

There have been several attempted assassinations, and continued police sweeps of homes and offices in which resistance participants have been sought and many taken away. Most of those taken have resurfaced alive, but have been forced to move. Four activists who were taken from the Carrizal neighborhood of the capital on December 5 have not been seen since and are considered disappeared.

Assistant Secretary Valenzuela now freely describes the current regime as a military coup, yet no one in the State Department at any level will acknowledge, much less condemn, these ongoing acts of terror. What a sickeningly familiar feeling.

Update: 7:00 pm, 15 Jan 2010 - Added another couple of entries to the archive post. The last month has seen a wave of murders, kidnapings, and disappearances of both resistance activists and ordinary Hondurans, as well as ongoing violence directed against farmworkers in Aguan by those trying to drive them off their land. A Garifuna radio station was torched. It's difficult to sort out the targeted political killings from the background violence, which is no doubt the point for some of the assassins involved.

[Images from Honduras Resists]

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Friday, November 06, 2009

Honduras: elections a sick joke

The coup regime has made a mockery of the agreement, the U.S. is playing along, and Bertha Oliva of COFADEH (Committee of the Families of the Disappeared/Detained, Honduras' largest human rights organization) has the appropriate response:

...[T]he United States government is silent while Hondurans are subjected to arbitrary arrest, the closure of independent media, police beatings, torture and even killings by security forces. ... And now the U.S. government says we can have free elections in less than three weeks. That is a sick joke.

She was speaking in Washington yesterday, where she met with members of Congress.

While Oliva was in DC, the State Department continued its months-long practice of issuing statements encouraging rightist intransigence and undercutting the pretense that this administration supports democracy. Undersecretary Thomas Shannon, who negotiated the agreement a week ago, said that the U.S. would recognize the November elections whether or not Zelaya was restored. Sen. Jim DeMint said that Sec. Clinton told him the same thing, and expressed his satisfaction by releasing the long-standing holds he'd put on two nominations (Shannon as ambassador to Brazil and Arturo Valenzuela as his successor for Western Hemisphere Affairs). The closest State Dept. spokesman/punching bag Ian Kelly came to walking back the damage: "[W]e believe [Zelaya] should be restored to power. ... Let’s just see how it works out."

How it's working out: Verification commission members Richard Lagos and Hilda Solis returned to their countries yesterday after barely 48 hours in Honduras. That's a mighty casual approach to implementation of a difficult agreement on a tight deadline. The coup-supporting leaders of the national congress are stalling on a vote on Zelaya's restitution. Micheletti has named a "unity government" headed by himself, with no nominations from Zelaya or from the Liberal or National parties -- apparently taking 'unity' in its sense of 'one'.

Brazil and the ALBA governments aren't amused, reaffirming their refusal to recognize the result of elections without Zelaya's restoration as president. The resistance is at the point of no return on rejecting the elections. Sec. Clinton has not had the courtesy to respond, in person or through intermediaries, to Pres. Zelaya's request four days ago for a formal clarification of U.S. policy. Even the LA Times can see what's going on: 'A U.S.-brokered deal to return ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya to office is unraveling, and the Obama administration seems to be wavering'. Conclusion:

If the Obama administration chooses to recognize the election without Zelaya first being reinstated, it will find itself at odds with the rest of Latin America. That would be a setback for democracy and for the United States.

When fascists like Jim DeMint are satisfied with your foreign policy, you're doing it wrong.

Update: 3:15pm, 6 Nov - The agreement is dead. Zelaya retains his dignity and integrity; the coup-makers blew their chance to have their phony elections blessed. The crisis is bigger than ever now. Heckuva job, U.S. gov!

Update 2: 10:20am, 9 Nov - Another excellent video report by Jesse Freeston of the Real News Network on the breakdown of the agreement, including footage of Shannon's damning remarks. Carlos Reyes has withdrawn his candidacy, and the Front reaffirms it's actively rejecting the elections regardless of what happens with Zelaya's restitution. There are talks to try to revive the agreement, but given the U.S. government's apparent determination to pretend that elections are a way out of the crisis, there's little basis for optimism. The agreement appears more than ever to have been a way out of Tom Shannon's personal crisis of having his ambassadorship held up, and to hell with the Honduran people.


Friday, October 30, 2009

Honduras: figleaf restitution, not real democracy

As expected, an agreement has apparently been reached for a last-minute, highly symbolic restoration of Zelaya to the presidency, now that the U.S. has involved itself directly. A comparison of the points reported in Honduran papers with Laura Carlsen's October 15 summary of agreements reached at that point shows that the only change is the crucial one, restitution -- dependent on a vote of Congress (as Zelaya's delegation proposed at the time).

The only people at any level of the U.S. government who come out of this sorry episode with my respect are the members of Congress who pushed the administration to put more effective pressure on the coup regime and to explicitly condemn the dictatorship's violence. Their most recent letter to Pres. Obama, sent just before the State Dept. delegation left for Honduras, contains two passages that are worth remembering:

While the siege of the [Brazilian] Embassy is a serious violation of the Vienna Convention, more disturbing is the broad assault against the Honduran people unleashed by the coup regime.
Free and fair elections cannot take place under these conditions.

Though we commend the administration for having strongly stated their support for the restoration of democracy in Honduras, we are concerned that neither you nor the Secretary of State has denounced these serious human rights abuses in a country where US influence could be decisive.

It is now more urgent than ever to break this silence. It is critical that your Administration immediately clearly and unequivocally reject and denounce the repression by this illegitimate regime. We can say sincerely and without hyperbole that this action on your part will save lives.

Obama and Clinton have not done so, and never will. Message received.

Update: 7:45pm, 30 Oct - The agreement has been signed, but its actual text is unlikely to become public for a while, so the coup regime is already citing obstacles in it that are denied by the Zelaya delegation. There's going to be a difficult, tedious process of implementation; see RNS and Laura Carlsen for good overviews.

So it may well be that Zelaya will not even be restored to office until just before the elections, the "last minute goal" alluded to by OAS snake John Biehl. Even in the best-case scenario, too much time has already been allowed to pass for anyone to feel obliged to respect the legitimacy of the upcoming elections -- presided over by an illegally constituted election tribunal, who will now have nominal command of the murderous armed forces.

Update 2: 3:25pm, 31 Oct - The signed agreement is posted as a PDF at Adrienne Pine's and as plain text in a comment by El Cid at Al Giordano's. RAJ has an English translation. The Honorable Raúl Grijalva does even more to earn that title by hosting a visit to Congress on November 5 by Berta Oliva of COFADEH, the Committee of Families of the Disappeared and Detained.

[Image: Resistance participant beaten by police yesterday when they charged a peaceful demo with tear gas and batons, while the State Dept. delegation met with coup negotiators. Honduras Resists]

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