Pro-Justice Activists Continue the Fight

Nora Barrows-Friedman, Senior Producer and co-host of the excellent Flashpoints Radio, on direct action across the international spectrum (I am one of the people mentioned in this article). This article first published in Arabic in al-Haq al-Awda.

Linking arms through metal tubes and jamming the doorways with steel bicycle locks, dozens of pro-justice activists blocked the entrance to the Israeli consulate in downtown San Francisco on January 15th — Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday — at the height of Israel’s siege on Gaza, on a day when its military killed at least forty Palestinian men, women and children in a series of attacks that also decimated several mosques, schools and an UNRWA building. 24 hours before, in Los Angeles, protesters chained themselves to their local Israeli consulate and unfurled a banner reading “The Israeli consulate has been closed for war crimes.”

As Israel’s destruction of Gaza raged on, carried out by the Middle East’s only nuclear superpower against an entrapped, occupied and virtually defenseless population, so did countless actions across the world. Protests, marches and demonstrations were called by the usual peace and justice organizations — hundreds of thousands came to express their dissent in major international cities — but smaller, more direct actions were being taken with little to no media fanfare. And some of these quieter operations, activists say, have begun to make an impact.

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Focus on Gaza – Rebuilding Gaza

Israel’s war on Gaza left 4,000 homes destroyed and 17,000 damaged, not to mention a state infrastructure in ruins. The international community has pledged $5bn to fund reconstruction but the Israeli government will not allow even the most basic building materials to cross into Gaza. In this week’s Focus on Gaza, correspondent Todd Baer reports on how this is hampering reconstruction efforts.

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anti-zionism and good manners

Anyone who doubts that liberal intellectuals have a habit of conflating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism should read a bizarre and rather pitiful column in the New Statesman this week.  The author is a London based Jewish-American journalist called Rhoda Koenig.  Koenig’s piece seems to be intended as an exposé of an alleged undercurrent of anti-Semitism amongst the British upper middle classes.  However, whilst the article does make mention of an anti-Semitic comment, in the main it focuses on the betrayal felt by the author when one of her friends casually agreed ‘that Israel is becoming very unpleasant’ and then had the nerve to suggest visiting Syria.  Koenig describes how her ‘heart sank deeper and deeper, [as] he enthusiastically described the archaeological treasures, the history, the romance.’ 

Its a silly article and I think only worth mentioning because the New Statesman apparently considered it worth publishing.

Suing for War Crimes

‘Any recourse to international law in seeking to bring Israeli officials to book must be carefully considered,’ writes Azmi Bishara.

It is not my intention to discuss the definitions of resistance, the legitimacy of resistance or the laws of war in general. Nor will I delve into the definition of war crimes, the relevant articles in international conventions, the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, the duties and obligations of its member states, the powers of its prosecutor and the difference between this court and those that were established for the prosecution of war crimes and crimes against humanity in specific countries, such as the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia. All these subjects have been treated extensively in numerous other publications. My purpose here is to shed light on some possibly unfamiliar aspects of the notion of appealing to this form of international arbitration.

All such tribunals and conventions have derived their impetus from the will on the part of powerful nations to bring war criminals to account and from the ability of these powerful sovereign nations not only to draw up the law but to put it into effect when they want. Given this, it is fundamentally erroneous to liken international law to the rule of law in sovereign countries. International law does not prevail internationally, is not applied around the globe as though the world was a single sovereign country, and has no executive authority to put it into effect apart from powerful nations. It is thus subject to political aims and interests. Above all, the principle of equality before the law that applies in democratic countries does not exist in international law, either practically or theoretically.

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The Take: Occupy, Resist, Produce

With a massive economic crisis underway I thought it timely to post The Take by Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis on Argentina’s experience. An inspirational look at how workers reacted to losing their livelihoods by occupying their factories, resisting the authorities and co-operatively producing goods for the benefit of themselves and their communities.

In suburban Buenos Aires, thirty unemployed auto-parts workers walk into their idle factory, roll out sleeping mats and refuse to leave. All they want is to re-start the silent machines. But this simple act – the take – has the power to turn the globalization debate on its head. Armed only with slingshots and an abiding faith in shop-floor democracy, the workers face off against the bosses, bankers and a whole system that sees their beloved factories as nothing more than scrap metal for sale. With The Take, director Avi Lewis, one of Canada’s most outspoken journalists, and writer Naomi Klein, author of the international bestseller No Logo, champion a radical economic manifesto for the 21st century.

War Comes Home to Britain

John Pilger describes “the erosion of liberal freedoms” as “symptomatic of an evolved criminal state.”

Freedom is being lost in Britain. The land of Magna Carta is now the land of secret gagging orders, secret trials and imprisonment. The government will soon know about every phone call, every email, every text message. Police can willfully shoot to death an innocent man, lie and expect to get away with it. Whole communities now fear the state. The foreign secretary routinely covers up allegations of torture; the justice secretary routinely prevents the release of critical cabinet minutes taken when Iraq was illegally invaded. The litany is cursory; there is much more.

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Rice is aid, pasta not

Another excellent report by Mel Frykberg, this time about Israel’s relentless punishment of Palestinians through the continuing obstruction of the delivery of desperately-needed aid  – including such items as pasta, paper and hearing aids – to Gaza.

Red-faced and unusually tongue-tied Israeli officials were forced to try and explain to United States Senator John Kerry during his visit to Israel last week why truckloads of pasta waiting to enter the besieged Gaza Strip were not considered humanitarian aid while rice was.

Kerry, chairman of the US Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, visited the coastal territory on a fact-finding mission. The purpose of the visit was to assess the humanitarian situation on the ground and the level of destruction wrought by Israel’s three-week military assault on Gaza, codenamed Operation Cast Lead.
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Robert Fisk on Flashpoints

Note: The interview begins at 3:40.

Today on Flashpoints: Internationally-renowned Middle East reporter Robert Fisk talks to Dennis Bernstein about Afghanistan, Iraq and the recent attacks in Gaza and the way in which the Western press continues to fail in covering these stories

Pakistan’s drift into the hands of extremists

‘The intention of the attack on Sri Lanka’s cricket team was to send a clear message to Washington: Pakistan is ungovernable,’ writes Tariq Ali.

The appalling terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricketers in Pakistan had one aim: to demonstrate to Washington that the country is ungovernable. This is the first time that cricketers have been targeted in a land where the sport is akin to religion. It marks the death of international cricket in Pakistan for the indefinite future, but not just that, which is bad enough. The country’s future is looking more and more precarious. We do not know which particular group carried out this attack, but its identity is hardly relevant. The fact is that it took place at a time when three interrelated events had angered a large bulk of the country and provided succour to extremist groups and their patrons.

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