Friday Night Lights: American and Israeli human rights activists disrupt ballet performance in Vermont

BURLINGTON, VT- Greetings from the Green Mountain State! I want to give a shout out to those who participated in a successful night of activism. Several activists leafleted 249 people attending last night’s Israeli Ballet performance at the Flynn Theater.

The leaflet asked “Would you like some information about Don Quixote and the Israel Ballet?” — which was an accurate presentation of last night’s performance. “Israel’s ‘Golden Helmet of Mambrino’ — which makes one invisible, thus capable of all actions — is slowly turning into Don Quixote’s version of it — a upside-down shaving bowl plopped on the head — incapable of nothing but making its wearer more obvious and actionable to the world. Brand Israel will continue to call forth increasing protests as audiences realize they are being used,” said author and activist Marc Estrin.

The headline said “A Modern Don Quixote.” Estrin said almost all ballet-goers accepted it, even those glancing at the opening before continuing into the theater. There are no trash cans inside the actual theater, so he assumes most flyers made it to people’s seats for reading before the show began. Estrin said one elderly man “came all the way out again to present us with a crumpled up ball with instructions to ‘shove this up your ass,’ but the other 249 copies all made it in.”

The other highlight was one Israeli and three Vermonters unfurled a banner during the performance. Check out the YouTube Vimeo below the fold!

Continue reading “Friday Night Lights: American and Israeli human rights activists disrupt ballet performance in Vermont”

Members of Congress sign letter urging Obama to stop the siege of Gaza

Some good news came out of Washington yesterday that went largely unnoticed. Ha’aretz reported 54 members of Congress sent a letter to president Barack Obama urging him to pressure Israel to end the siege on Gaza.  Ha’aretz correspondent Natasha Mozgovaya writes:

The letter was the initiative of Representatives Jim McDermott from Washington and Keith Ellison from Minnesota, both of whom are Democrats. Ellison is the first American Muslim to ever win election to Congress. McDermott and Ellison wrote that they understand the threats facing Israel and the ongoing Hamas terror activities against Israeli citizens but that “this concern must be addressed without resulting in the de facto collective punishment of the Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip.” “We ask you to press for immediate relief for the citizens of Gaza as an urgent component of your broader Middle East peace efforts,” they wrote, adding that the siege has hampered the ability of aid agencies to do their work in Gaza. The congressmen urged Obama to pressure Israel to ease the movement of people into and out of Gaza, especially students, the sick, aid workers, journalists and those with family concerns, and also to allow the import of building materials to rebuild houses. Israel has warned that such materials would be used to rebuild Hamas infrastructure and not civilian homes.

Fifty-four members of Congress urging the president to pressure Israel to treat Gazans like human beings is a positive development, albeit a VERY small one.  Critics may content that the letter protects Israel’s image. I understand that. But I still think it’s encouraging.

Operation Cast Lead blew the lid off Israel’s rationale for the occupation and the congressional visits to Gaza have exposed to them what Gazans encounter on a day-to-day basis. More members of Congress need to do this.

Full text of the letter below.

Continue reading “Members of Congress sign letter urging Obama to stop the siege of Gaza”

Gaza Never Forget

One year ago, this pro-Israel rally took place in New York City. American independent journalist Max Blumenthal was there to get people’s responses to the attacks on Gaza. Watch for yourself.

As boxing promoter Don King always says: “Only in America!”

Peeling away the “Obama phenomenon”: An interview with Paul Street

obama-book3 How progressive is Barack Obama? It’s a question pundits, bloggers, and journalists have trouble grappling with. But one individual goes beyond the Obama phenomenon andinvestigates who Obama is and what he’s all about. In Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics, author Paul Street cuts to the chase and takes a closer look at the man who became the 44th president of the United States. What Street uncovers is a man crafted by campaign consultants with political beliefs consistent with elite party interests.

Street is an independent journalist, policy adviser, and historian. He is a former vice-president for research and planning at the Chicago Urban League, and author of Racial Oppression in the Global Metropolis: a Living Black Chicago History and Segregated Schools: Educational Apartheid in the Post-Civil Rights Era.

I caught up with Street to discuss his new book by Paradigm Publishers.

Continue reading “Peeling away the “Obama phenomenon”: An interview with Paul Street”

Breaking News: Journalist Amira Hass arrested while leaving Gaza

Amira Hass

This just in. Ha’aretz reports:

Israel Police on Tuesday detained Haaretz correspondent Amira Hass upon her exit from the Gaza Strip, where she had been living and reporting over the last few months.

Hass was arrested and taken in for questioning immediately after crossing the border, for violating a law which forbids residence in an enemy state. She was released on bail after promising not to enter the Gaza Strip over the next 30 days.

Hass is the first Israeli journalist to enter the Gaza Strip in more than two years, since the Israel Defense Forces issued an entry ban following the abduction of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit in a 2006 cross-border raid by Palestinian militants.

Last December, Hass was arrested by soldiers at the Erez Checkpoint as she tried to cross into Israel after having entered the Gaza Strip aboard a ship run by peace activists from Europe.

Upon discovering that she had no permit to be in Gaza, the soldiers transferred her to the Sderot police.

When questioned, Hass pointed out that no one had stopped her from entering the Strip, which she did for work purposes.

To read the rest click here.

Surviving Within: Helen Benedict and the harsh realities of women in the U.S. military.

“I’m more afraid of men [in my unit] that I am with the enemy.”

Those were the words that Helen Benedict heard from several female soldiers. The enemy was within. Since March of 2003, more than 160,500 women have served in Iraq. More women have fought and died during this war than in any other since World War II, yet they still account for one in ten soldiers. But behind their noble service and love for their country, many female soliders find themselves in virtual isolation among men. Their seclusion, combined with the military’s history of gender discrimination and the uniquely challenging conditions in Iraq, has resulted in a mounting epidemic of sexual abuse, physical degeneration, and emotional distress among many female soldiers.

Author Helen Benedict uncovers the harsh realities female soldiers face in her latest book The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women in Iraq. Weaving together the poignant and grueling accounts of the war in Iraq, Benedict offers new insight into the lives of women in the military, before, during, and after the war. The Lonely Soldier was released last month by Beacon Press and I recently spoke with Benedict about her latest work.

Continue reading “Surviving Within: Helen Benedict and the harsh realities of women in the U.S. military.”

Rachel Corrie through her own eyes

On March 16, 2003, I was a graduate student at the School for International Training in Brattleboro, VT, USA. That morning I recall hearing on Democracy Now! that an Evergreen State College student was run over by an Israeli bulldozer. The girl’s name was Rachel Corrie.

Corrie was defending property belonging to Samir Nasrallah, a local pharmacist. Eyewitness accounts say the bulldozer ran over Corrie twice. The driver claims he didn’t know Corrie was there… That’s pure rubbish. We all know it was deliberate.

I remember going to my Assessment & Evaluation class that day knowing the news. Yet what I remember most were the reactions of two friends and classmates of mine, both of whom went to Evergreen State College with Rachel. Neither of them came to class that day.

One wrote an impassioned e-mail to all my classmates about Rachel and the wonderful life she lived. The other was in our on-campus coffee shop. I will never forget her not crying but “wailing” upon hearing the news that Corrie was killed. That memory will forever haunt me. 

The following interview was conducted on March 14, 2003… two days before Rachel Corrie was killed. As today marks the sixth memorial of Rachel’s death, I want to play back this YouTube so you can hear Rachel’s words and understand the oppression Palestinians experience on a day-to-day basis. It prides me that there are Americans out there who believe the Israeli occupation is an occupation of violence. We will never forget you Rachel!

Holocaust in Palestine

H/t to Mohammed Omer for posting this on Facebook.

The following YouTube from France is a powerful depiction contrasting life in Palestine and for Jews during the European Holocaust. When will ordinary Americans and American politicians understand these similarities? Who knows. But we will do whatever it takes to change American views toward Palestine and the Mideast… one step at a time.  

Mohammed Omer wins Reporters Without Borders journalism award

I just got an e-mail from Mohammed Omer and I’m pleased to tell you he received a journalism award from Reporters Without Borders.

Swedish press freedom prize to Gaza journalist Mohammed Omer

Photojournalist Mohammed Omer has been awarded the Swedish section of Reporters without borders Press freedom prize 2008. His courageous reporting gives a voice to the confined and oppressed people of Gaza. At 24 Mohammed Omer is one of the most important young voices from the region.

Mohammed Omer reports for numerous media outlets, including the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Pacifica Radio, Electronic Intifada, The Nation, and Inter Press Service; he also founded the Rafah Today blog.

In 2006 Mohammed Omer was awarded the Best Youth Voice Award from New American Media.

In 2008, Omer was awarded the 2007 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism. In the award citation, Omer was honored as “the voice of the voiceless” and his reports were described as a “humane record of the injustice imposed on a community forgotten by much of the world.” Continue reading “Mohammed Omer wins Reporters Without Borders journalism award”