Divesting From Injustice

Last week the University of Johannesburg, following a campaign endorsed by over two hundred of South Africa’s most prominent public intellectuals, voted “not to continue a long-standing relationship with Ben Gurion University (BGU) in Israel in its present form” and to set conditions “for the relationship to continue.” Though falling short of an outright boycott of BGU, the UJ Senate set an ultimatum of six months for BGU to comply with two conditions:

(1) that the memorandum of understanding governing the elationship between the two institutions be amended to include Palestinian universities chosen with the direct involvement of UJ;

(2) the UJ will not engage in any activities with BGU that have direct or indirect military implications, this to be monitored by UJ’s senate academic freedom committee

Interestingly, the AP report following the vote, reprinted in both the Jerusalem Post and Haaretz, fails to mention the second condition nor anything pertaining to BGU’s direct complicity with the occupation of Palestine. But as the tireless campaigner for justice, Desmond Tutu , notes: “Israeli Universities are an intimate part of the Israeli regime, by active choice. While Palestinians are not able to access universities and schools, Israeli universities produce the research, technology, arguments and leaders for maintaining the occupation.” (see Tutu’s full letter below the fold)

How subtle censorhip can be in the Middle East’s only democracy…

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Photographing Poland

by Amelia Opalinska

For many years I have wanted to photograph my grandparents’ home and related scenes from my childhood in Poland, the country from which I emigrated in 1991. It was not until I visited this past January, however, that I felt equipped with the proper sensitivity to capture the images that have served as constants in my life, despite my distance and despite structural changes to Poland itself. The following is my attempt at preserving those moments which in turn preserve me.

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Spend 4 days inside Guantánamo

YOU DON’T LIKE THE TRUTH – 4 days inside Guantánamo is a documentary based on security camera footage from the Guantánamo Bay prison.

This encounter between a team of Canadian intelligence agents and a child detainee [Omar Khadr] in Guantánamo has never before been seen. Based on seven hours of video footage recently declassified by the Canadian courts this documentary delves into the unfolding high-stakes game of cat and mouse between captor and captive over a four day period. Maintaining the surveillance camera style this film analyzes the political, legal and scientific aspects of a forced dialogue.

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US Court Denies Justice to Dead Men at Guantánamo

by Andy Worthington

Last Wednesday, in the District Court in Washington D.C., Judge Ellen Huvelle turned down (PDF) a second attempt by the families of Yasser al-Zahrani, a Saudi, and Salah al-Salami, a Yemeni (two of the three men who died in mysterious circumstances in Guantánamo on June 9, 2006, along with Mani al-Utaybi, another Saudi) to hold US officials accountable for the circumstances in which their family members were held and in which they died.

Judge Huvelle’s ruling came in spite of additional evidence submitted by the families (PDF), drawing on the accounts of four US soldiers who were present in Guantánamo at the time of the deaths, and who have presented a number of compelling reasons why the official story of the men’s triple suicide (as endorsed by a Naval Criminal Investigative Service report in 2008) is a cover-up. That story, written by Scott Horton, was published by Harper’s Magazine in January this year, and I covered it here, and also in an update in June, although it has largely been ignored in the mainstream US media.

The case, Al-Zahrani v. Rumsfeld, was initially filed in January 2009, and primarily involved the families of the dead men seeking to claim damages through the precedent of a case known as Bivens, decided by the Supreme Court in 1971, in which, for the first time, damages claims for constitutional violations committed by federal agents were allowed. The families claimed relief under the Fifth Amendment Due Process Clause (preventing individuals from being deprived of life, liberty, or property without “due process of law”) and the Eighth Amendment (which prohibits the infliction of “cruel and unusual punishments”), as well as submitting a claim, under the Alien Tort Claims Act, “alleging torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and violations of the Geneva Conventions.”

Despite the families’ claims, the case was dismissed by the District Court on February 16, 2010, for two particular reasons. One involved a handful of legal precedents — including Rasul v. Myers, a case brought in 2006 by four former Guantánamo detainees from the UK, which was finally turned down by the Supreme Court in December 2009. In the hope of making tortuous legal reasoning comprehensible to the lay reader, these rulings essentially provide precedents for preventing the courts from providing a Bivens remedy and entitle the defendants to “qualified immunity against plaintiffs’ constitutional claims.”

Rather more readily comprehensible, and deeply shocking, is a clause in the Military Commissions Act, passed by Congress in the fall of 2006 and unchanged in the legislation revived under President Obama in 2009, which, as well as creating — or bringing back to life — the much-criticized Military Commission trial system for Guantánamo prisoners that was ruled illegal by the Supreme Court in June 2006, also granted blanket immunity to anyone involved in any activities relating to the detention and treatment of prisoners held in the “War on Terror.”

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Venezuela Election: Victory or Setback for Chavez?

The Real News — Gregory Wilpert is a sociologist, freelance journalist, editor of Venezuela Analysis, and author of the recently published book, Changing Venezuela by Taking Power. During this episode of The Real News with Paul Jay Wilpert argues that the Venezuelan election results will make governing more difficult for Hugo Chavez.

The Making of a Virtual Palestinian State

Mosaic Intelligence Report: October 1, 2010 — Direct talks between the Palestinians and Israel might collapse. Will Netanyahu agree to extend the settlement freeze? And, does the prospect for a Palestinian Sate remain viable?

The letter Dajani talks about was actually Dennis Ross’s initiative, who was once described by his own subordinate as ‘Israel’s lawyer’. MJ Rosenberg’s blistering take on Ross’s treacheries is a must read.

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Infamous Israeli Interrogator becomes police chief in Israel

RussiaToday – The appointment of an infamous Israeli interrogator to a high-ranking police post has sent shockwaves among human rights groups. Known among inmates as Captain George, he’s accused of numerous cases of torture and abuse of Arabs. Now that he’s in charge of Arab affairs, many Palestinians fear for their lives. RT’s Paula Slier reports from Israel.

Honduran Taliban Vows to Protect Sharks

Music shop owner in Jalalabad, where Taliban has yet to express concern for marine life. (Photo: Hashim Shukoor/McClatchy)

by Jesse Freeston

Lots of news came out of Afghanistan this month, but perhaps the most terrifying is evidence that the pre-invasion ban on music is being implemented in the eastern city of Jalalabad. McClatchy journalist Hashim Shukoor reported attacks and threats against the city’s music vendors. The story was reprinted hundreds of times, and rightfully so, because editors and readers alike understand the importance of music to any society. But what if a similar attack was taking place somewhere else? Would we know about it?

Honduran percussionist Carlos Roman, from the group Montuca Sound System, explained to me in a recent interview that “what musicians and poets say is a reflection of their reality” and added that “music is one of the ways that societies have developed over time.”

Roman understands very well the significance of a regime that sees music as a threat. He is currently recovering from a joint attack by the Honduran military and police that left him with his head split open and his equipment destroyed or confiscated.

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The Criminalization of BDS in France

by Najate Zouggari

BDS activists in Paris. (Photo: Campagne BDS France)

French authorities received the request of pro-Israeli plaintiffs who finally managed to turn the international solidarity movement – and its non-violent expression of resistance against the colonial state of Israel – into a potentially punishable action.

Before reaching the tribunals and the symbolic weight of a juridical expression, this criminalizing discourse was previously set as a clear position on the opinion battlefield: many journalists and commentators harshly criticized the BDS campaign, some of them even smart enough to admit that even if the IDF — “the most moral army in the world” of “the only democracy of the Middle-East” — was perhaps not perfect, Israeli artists should still be encouraged to meet up and present their work in French festivals, universities. Apart from the fact that with such a specious reasoning racial segregation would still exist in South Africa, this discourse is omitting – either by dangerous naïveté or immoral bad faith – that culture is strictly related to the state’s apparatus: materially, through the reception of grants-in-aid, and ideologically, as an instance of reciprocity with the rest of the society. Israeli artists based in Israel are not floating in the air of abstraction: whether some complacently idealist French commentators like it or not, artists are legitimate and recognized members of the society they live in — the margin is still inside the sheet. The fact Israeli artists pay taxes to the Israeli state and serve in the Israeli military while their army bombs Palestinian civilians (with even white phosphorus as some allege) makes them indirectly but firmly responsible of the ongoing colonization, ethnic-cleansing and racist policies promoted by their government. Exempting Israeli artists and intellectuals of their moral responsibility is subsequently a poisoned gift in the long-term, and an easy way to criminalize the BDS movement in the short-term.

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