60 Minutes on the Holy Land’s dwindling Christians

This is a very significant moment in American television history. Over a year back Bob Simon of CBS’s 60 Minutes had provided first glimpses to an American mainstream audience of the Palestinian lives being disrupted by Israeli occupation. He now returns to the Holy Land to debunk Israeli claims (made most recently by Israeli ambassador Michael Oren) about the thriving Christian presence in the historic lands. If you can ignore Simon’s statements about the security allegedly being provided by the wall, you’ll find the last couple of minutes, where he makes the generally composed Michael Oren squirm by confronting him over his attempts to suppress the 60 minutes investigation, quite satisfying. You can measure the significance of this segment from the fact that Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself got involved in attempts to pressure CBS into abandoning the investigation; it has since been described by Israeli officials as a ‘strategic terror attack‘, and ADL has issued an official condemnation.

Meanwhile, our friends at Jewish Voices for Peace have launched a campaign to thank 60 Minutes for its hard-hitting coverage. We’d encourage all readers to take a few minutes to sign their petition.

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No Way to Honor Dr. King

by Medea Benjamin

The ceremonies for the new Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington DC were kicked off on August 24 at an event billed as Honoring Global Leaders for Peace. But some of those honored are a far cry from King’s beloved community of the poor and oppressed. The tribute to peacemakers, organized by the MLK National Memorial Foundation, was mostly a night applauding warmakers, corporate profiteers and co-opted musicians.

The night started out with great promise when MC Andrea Mitchell mentioned Dr. King’s brilliant anti-war speech Beyond Vietnam as a key to understanding the real Dr. King. And sure, there were a few wonderful moments—a song by Stevie Wonder, a speech about nonviolence by the South African Ambassador and a quick appearance by Jesse Jackson in which he managed to spit out a call to “study war no more.”

But most of the evening’s speakers and guests of honor had little to do with peacemaking. One of the dignitaries thanked at the start of the program was Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, representing a country that uses $3 billion a year in precious U.S. tax dollars to commit war crimes against Palestinians.

Then came a parade of representatives of corporations that want to cleanse their image by being associated with Dr. King. The first was General Motors VP Eric Peterson. His company took billions from government coffers to keep it afloat, then showed its “generosity” by donating $10 million of our tax dollars to the memorial. Mr. Peterson gave a speech paying tribute to the company’s first black board member, Rev. Leon Sullivan. Peterson claimed that the Sullivan Principles, principles that established a social responsibility code for companies working in South Africa, helped abolish apartheid. The truth is that the Sullivan Principles ended up being a cover for U.S. corporations—like General Motors–to continue doing business in racist South Africa instead of respecting the international divestment campaign.

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Taher, a UCI protester originally from Gaza, writes that heckling Oren was right

Taher Herzalla is a third-year political science major at UC Riverside and was part of the “Irvine 11” that protested Michael Oren’s recent address. Taher is himself originally from Gaza and has been directly affected by the hafrada regime’s brutality. He had this piece published in the Orange County Register: be sure to write to the editor or leave a quick comment to thank them for publishing it. Check out their blog, Stand with the Eleven and spread their Stand With the Eleven action flyer.

Today, our American civil rights movement is praised worldwide for its humanism, righteousness, and courage. But, it was not always this way.

The same leaders we now hold in high esteem were once labeled as rabble-rousers for their principled and unpopular stands. It is no surprise then, that those who stand today against one of the greatest injustices of our time are similarly labeled. I am in a worldwide movement advocating for the indigenous Palestinian population and opposing the apartheid policies of Israel. The United Nations has condemned Israeli actions with more resolutions than any other nation.

I know the pain of Israel’s brutal military tactics firsthand. Three members of my immediate family were killed in Gaza last year during “Operation Cast Lead,” in which more than 1,400 Palestinians were killed and more than 5,300 wounded.

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