Popular Committee Leader: “My Next Letter Will Likely Be Written From Inside A Prison Cell”

Mohammad Khatib, Jawaher Abu Rahmah, Abdallah Abu Rahmah, Jonathan Pollak
Mohammad Khatib, Jawaher Abu Rahmah, Abdallah Abu Rahmah, Jonathan Pollak

New Year’s greetings from Mohammad Khatib, one of the remaining Bil’in popular committee leaders:

At the threshold of the New Year, I write to wish you a new year of freedom and liberation. This has been an unbelievable year for me in both highs and lows. A year during which I have witnessed how, despite repression, ordinary people all across Palestine take to the streets for freedom.

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Horror and Hope

Egyptian police break a Copt's leg. Photo by Nasser Nouri

It currently seems there is a real danger of the Middle East losing its millenia-old diversity. Iraq’s post-invasion civil war separated the country’s Shia and Sunni communities, driving millions into exile. Pro-Western Arab regimes continue to spew vicious anti-Shia propaganda, which is heard by important sections of society. Now Wahhabi-nihilists have declared open season on Iraq’s ancient Christian community. Palestine was cleansed of its natives in 1947/48 and transformed into a Jewish ethno-state. Zionism and a new Muslim chauvinism have reduced the Christian proportion of the West Bank from 15% in 1950 to 2% today. And the New Year brought news of an appalling attack on Egyptian Copts, an increasingly oppressed and alienated community.

Informed observers will know that there is nothing essential or ‘ages-old’ about the emerging sectarian chaos. Sectarianism had receded almost to irrelevance amongst the generations of Arabs that believed they were on their way to true independence. Foreign partitions and occupations did a large part to crush that dream. Totalitarianism and economic and educational failures (often the policies of foreign-backed regimes) did the rest. In Egypt’s case, the Mubarak regime has dealt with its Islamist challenge in two ways: politically, it has rigged elections ever more blatantly and persecuted its visible opponents; socially, it has given way to the most retrograde desires of Islamism (forbidding the construction of churches, banning books) and done its best to whip up petty chauvinism over the most ridiculous of pretexes (for instance the mutual football hooliganism of Egyptian and Algerian fans).

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New Year’s Day in Bil’in: Israel kills female protester

Press release from the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee.

Jawaher Abu Rahmah, 36, was evacuated to the Ramallah hospital yesterday after inhaling massive amounts of tear-gas during the weekly protest in Bil’in, and died of poisoning this morning. Abu Rahmah was the sister of Bassem Abu Rahmah who was also killed during a peaceful protest  in Bil’in on April 17th, 2010.

Doctors at the Ramallah hospital fought for Jawaher Abu Rahmah’s life all night at the Ramallah Hospital, but were unable to save her life. Abu Rahmah suffered from severe asphyxiation caused by tear-gas inhalation yesterday in Bil’in, and was evacuated to the Ramallah hospital unconscious. She was diagnosed as suffering from poisoning caused by the active ingredient in the tear-gas, and did not respond to treatment.

Jawaher Abu Rahmah was the sister of Bil’in activist, Bassem Abu Rahmah, who was shot dead with a high velocity tear-gas projectile during a demonstration in the village on April 17th, 2009. See here for a video of his shooting.

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PULSE’s Top 10 Media Figures of 2010

This list is an attempt to honor those individuals and institutions responsible for exemplary reportage and awareness-raising in 2010. It is aggregated from the suggestions of PULSE writers and editors and is comprised of journalists, editors and publishers who have shown a commitment to challenging power, holding it to account, highlighting issues pertaining to social justice and producing output that bucks conventional wisdom and encourages critical thinking. (Also check our Top 10 Global Thinkers of 2010)

Julian Assange

2010 was the year of Wikileaks. From the antiseptic cruelty of the Apache attack on Iraqi civilians, the matter-of -fact entries of routine horrors recorded in the Afghan and Iraq war logs, to the locker-room candour of the US State Department diplomatic cables, Wikileaks has laid bare the casual attrition that sustains empires. Behind it all is Julian Assange, an enterprising, politically savvy, and morally upstanding individual who has shown the transformative potential of new media, which, through courage and imagination, could be made to serve as a check even on a hyper-power. By leveraging the mainstream media’s need for exclusives, Assange has ensured the broadest possible audience for his revelations. True, Assange is not Wikileaks, but from listening to the statements of his defecting colleagues–who fault him for needlessly confronting a superpower when he should have been concerned with building his institution–we are convinced that without someone as assertive and clear-headed as Assange, Wikileaks would have ended up as yet another web project with interesting information, infrequently cited, but with none of the amplification that it currently enjoys.

Helen Thomas

A rare critical voice in the mainstream media, particularly during George W. Bush’s reign, Helen Thomas was the first woman officer of the National Press Club, the first woman member and president of the White House Correspondents Association and the first woman member of the Gridiron club. Her career as one of history’s gutsiest female US press corp reporters was ended in her 90th year after some off-the-cuff comments she made to a roving rabbi with a camcorder were made public. She later apologized for her words, citing her “heart-felt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance.” While Thomas was attacked from all fronts, she was also defended by progressive media figures like Real News Founder Paul Jay who directed attention to the “hyper-pro-Israel lobby” which was just waiting for an opportunity to silence Thomas, and progressive American Jews like Medea Benjamin who stated on camera: “We should look at the 50+ year record of a very probing journalist and insightful commentator and not look at a 30 second soundbite.” Even the Washington Post felt compelled enough by Thomas’s outstanding legacy to allow The Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel to bring attention to Thomas’s “legendary career” as a “a trailblazer for women journalists.”

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