Friday, July 21, 2006
Enough! A Demo against a second Lebanon war Sat. July 22, in Tel Aviv
Demonstration call from the Anti-War Coalition
Enough! Stop the killing and the destruction in Lebanon, Gaza and Israel!
A demonstration against the second Lebanon War
Saturday, July 22, in Tel Aviv
Meeting point: 6:30 pm at the Rabin Square
The policy of brute force a war, backed by the Bush Administration,
exacts a heavy price from Israelis, Lebanese and Palestinians. The attempt to
creat a "New Regional Order", and the plans to attacks Syria as well are bound to lead to new disasters.
This is the time to confront the war crimes and the deliberate targeting of civilians. This is the time to demand: Silence the guns, start talking!
There are no military solutions. The bombings do not prevent attacks on the Israeli civilian population, nor will they restore the captive soldiers to
We call upon all citizens of Israel - men and women, Jews and Arabs, each and every person of conscience - to work together for the restoration of
sanity, against the illusion of a military dictat. Let us demonstrate for an alternative way, a way of peace and security based upon the withdrawal of the
IDF from all Occupied Territories, dismantling of the settlements, a peace agreement between the State of Israel and the State of Palestine, and respect
for the sovereignty of all states in the region.
Haifa, 16:45, Kikar Solel Bone. Binyamin: 050-535-8601
Jerusalem, 17:00, Gan Hapamon. Gilad: 050-868-2992
Nazarat, 16:00, Beit Hayedidut, Zahar: 050-314-8805
Yesh-Gvul, Maki, Hadash, Women's Coalition For Peace, Gush-Shalom, Tandi,Bat-Shalom, Banki, AIC, Combatants For Peace, Shministim, Taayush
A proposal to reestablish the Department for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in Afghanistan raises serious concerns about potential abuse of the rights of women and vulnerable groups according to several human and womens rights groups.
“Our concern is that the Vice and Virtue Department doesn’t turn into an instrument for politically oppressing critical voices and vulnerable groups under the guise of protecting poorly defined virtues,” said Sam Zia Zarifi of Human Rights Watch (HRW). “This is especially true in the case of women, because infringements on their rights tend to be justified by claims of morality.”
HRW reports President Karzai came under pressure from conservative political figures two months ago to reestablish the department in order to counter anti- Western propaganda by opposition groups. The president then appointed a panel with representatives from the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Haj and Religious Affairs, and the Supreme Court, which drafted a proposal and presented it to the cabinet. The cabinet approved the draft and plans to submit it for parliamentary approval when the Afghan National Assembly reconvenes later this summer.
Under Taliban rule, the religious police monitored the streets, whipped women who did not wear the burqa in public, beat men with unorthodox beards or anyone who listened to music, all this in order to enforce their fundamentalist interpretation of Islamic law.
Oh yeah, they also executed people in public for more serious violations of "Islamic teaching."
Government’s spokesperson Mohammad Asif Nang said that the country’s clerics wanted to re-establish the department to enforce Sharia rule.
The Minister for Haj and Religious Affairs, Nematullah Shahrani, defended the proposal to Asia News. “The job of the department will be to tell people what is allowable and what is forbidden in Islam." He claimed the group would not have police powers.
Asia News reports that fundamentalism is gaining ground in the country without any opposition from the authorities. In fact, many of the Taliban's strict laws remain in place under the new Afghan government.
Karzai, who has a reputation of being a moderate Muslim, has more recently tried to give the country a more conservative outlook after Taliban propaganda tried to depict him as leading a pro-Western and unislamic government.
Uh, so his recourse is to become a "snapily dressed" Taliban?
The following is from the Feminist Daily Newswire.
Possible Return of Taliban’s Religious Police Threatens Afghan Women's Rights
Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his cabinet have approved the reestablishment of the Department for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. The Afghan Parliament will consider the proposal when it reconvenes later this summer. Initiated by the Taliban, the Vice and Virtue Department sent religious police to patrol the streets where they brutally punished Afghan citizens for disobeying the Taliban's interpretation of Sharia law.
Women were particularly affected by the religious police as they were publicly beaten for such arbitrary offenses as wearing white shoes, showing their wrists or ankles, or going outside their home without a male relative. Women were also prevented from attending school, working, or being seen by a male physician, while women doctors and nurses were banned from working.
It is not clear what powers the proposed Vice and Virtue Department would have. Nader Nadery of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission told The Independent, "It will remind people of the Taliban. We are worried that there are no clear terms of reference for this body." The Minister for Haj and Religious Affairs, Nematullah Shahrani denied that the Department would have police powers, instead claiming that it's duty would be to "tell people what is allowable and what is forbidden in Islam…through radio, television and special gatherings," reports The Independent.
This proposal comes at an especially critical time for Afghan women and girls as the burning and bombing of girls' schools has reached crisis proportions. Ahmed Rashid, a well known author and expert on the Taliban recently wrote in the Washington Post that "...every single day somewhere in Afghanistan a girls' school is burned down or a female teacher killed by the Taliban." Many districts have closed all of their schools according to a recent Human Rights Watch Report
"Afghan women and girls face increasing insecurity, and it's more important for the government to address how to improve their access to public life rather than limit it further," said Coursen-Neff of Human Rights Watch, "Reinstatement of this controversial department risks moving the discussion away from the vital security and human rights problems now engulfing the country."
Protesters have taken over the center of folkloric Oaxaca. Police are nowhere in sight. Since the attack on teachers by police on June 14, Oaxaca has
been in a state of civil rebellion, Two weeks ago,the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO, by its Spanish initials) declared itself the governing body of Oaxaca. The Popular Assembly (which formed in June) convened representatives of Oaxaca’s state regions and municipalities, unions, non-governmental organizations, social organizations, cooperatives, and parents. APPO is urging everyone to organize popular assemblies at every level: neighborhoods, street blocks, unions, and towns. “No leader is going to solve our problems,” members of APPO repeat.
According to Narco News, the Popular Assembly of Oaxaca "aims at nothing less than expanding the traditional idea of general assemblies of citizens to form a new state government. Such assemblies, under usos y costumbres, oversee the execution of their resolutions by their municipal authorities. That is to say, 'the executive branch' (the authorities) is charged with accomplishing the tasks the assembly gives it. The municipal president, foremost among the authorities, leads (as the Zapatistas’ phrase explains) by obeying."
"For the population of Oaxaca, the idea of governing by consensus remains part of the common cultural heritage. Therefore, as APPO was convoked, the modest people who comprise 80% of Oaxaca’s population, recognized it immediately. And they support it, despite the obvious difficulties of convening authorities from around the state. Since these authorities receive no pay, a trip to the capital city is not easy. But it’s happening."
The rising tide of popular movements in southern states which include Oaxaca may also provide support to those contesting the recent presidential election. Although the popular movements are more radical than the "defeated" candidate, there are growing indications that they could view the "election fight" as one front of their battle.
Por el Bien de Todos leftwing coalition presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) asserted he will not recognize any ruling of the Judicial Power Electoral Court (TEPJF) without a vote-by-vote recount.
Prensa Latina reports AMLO ratified his stance in an interview on Friday, describing the July 2 elections as a fraud and condemning the triumphant seizure of power by governing candidate Felipe Calderon, of the National Action Party (PAN).
"Vote recount is the best for the nation," noted ANLO, who buttressed his request by producing 21 packages of 30,000 votes with alleged arithmetic errors.
He said his coalition possesses evidence of errors in 50,000 polling booths, although there are indications of 72,000, accounting for nearly 1.5 million votes.
For further background from the Oread Daily go to http://oreaddaily.blogspot.com/2006/06/teachers-fight-repression-in-oaxaca.html.
The following article is from The Agonist (originally from the Christian Science Monitor).
Mexican state may fuel election protests
Recent unrest in the heartland of southern Mexico could merge with leftist candidate's call to press for vote-by-vote recount.
Sara Miller Llana | Oaxaca, Mexico
When leftist candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador this week called for a wave of civil resistance to press for a vote-by-vote recount of the disputed July 2 presidential election, nowhere did his appeal resonate more than in the restive city of Oaxaca.
A variety of groups, mostly leftist, have recently launched a series of protests in Oaxaca - transforming an annual teacher strike into a massive people's movement aimed at ousting the state governor. The city's main plaza has been a sea of tents and tarps, manned day and night. The windows of the government palace are shattered .
Observers say demonstrations here have primed the area to be a hotbed of pro-Obrador protest if the people ultimately feel the election was stolen, and that what happens here in coming days and weeks will be a good indicator of whether Obrador's call for resistance will gain much traction beyond Mexico City.
"This is a region that is excited about the fact that maybe there will be a president who cares about the southern states, and [a region that] would be willing to be quite militant [to defend Obrador]," says Chuck Collins, an Oaxaca-based scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington. "If there was a call to shut down the state of Oaxaca, it would just be like rolling out of bed."
Obrador has refused to concede defeat to Felipe Calderón of the National Action Party (PAN), who won the election by a little more than half a percentage point, alleging ballot stuffing and illegal support for the PAN on the part of the government and businesses. The electoral court is currently reviewing those appeals, and has until Sept. 6 to certify a winner.
At a massive rally Sunday in Mexico City, which organizers say over a million supporters attended, Obrador told the crowd: "To defend democracy, we are going to begin peaceful civil resistance." He says he wants to double the crowd at another rally scheduled for July 30, and has said he will continue calling for protests until a vote-by-vote recount is undertaken.
Poised for protest
The goals of Oaxaca's multiparty movement are distinct from the national election. "We are not following the PRD," says Florentino López Martinez, a member of the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO), the name given to the 350-some organizations that he says have mobilized alongside the teacher strike in Oaxaca. "But we would see [fighting against fraud] as necessary to defend the people's will, and the people's vote. We have a necessity to participate, to take to the streets and say no to fraud."
For the protest-weary in Oaxaca, who fear the city could become an extended outpost of political resistance, such calls are unwelcome. "They have the same ideologies and are impassioning each other," says Blanca Leon, as she swept the sidewalk outside her tiny convenience store just blocks from the staging area of the protest. "One thing provokes the other. It is not a coincidence that the strike is so big this year and that the election is contested."
Oaxaca's recent unrest
Protesters in Oaxaca have blocked local buses and highways. This week, the city's biggest tourist event, the Guelaguetza festival celebrating indigenous culture, was canceled due to fears of violence.
The teacher strike on the part of the 70,000-member teacher union in Oaxaca has been an annual ritual for the past 26 years: teachers stage a protest in the city center, make demands on issues such as pay raises, negotiate with the state government, and leave within a few weeks, locals say.
But this year Governor Ulises Ruiz of the long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) ordered state police June 14 to displace the teachers, which they reportedly did using tear gas. Many groups then joined forces to demand his resignation, and marches have drawn hundreds of thousands of sympathizers.
Experts agree the movement played a decisive role in the July 2 vote, as they banded together to vote against the PRI, contributing to its stunning loss in a traditional stronghold. Of 11 districts across the state, the PRI lost nine. But Gloria Zafra, a sociologist at the Benito Juarez Autonomous University in Oaxaca, says their role ends there. "The PRD benefited from their movement, but [Oaxaca's protesters] are more against the PRI than supporters of the PRD," she says. "They are busy trying to overthrow Ruiz."
In fact, only a fraction of the bellicose signs and graffiti splayed across colonial-style buildings here make reference to the presidential election.
Still, members of the movement say they will support a recount. "We respect the people's will and [electoral] transparency," says Daniel Rosas Romero, the spokesman for the teachers' union.
"[Obrador] won, and we will demonstrate that in the south and southeast of the country where citizens have been marginalized," says Tomas Basaldu, the president of the PRD's state committee.
For many supporters of a recount, the power of the people's voice in Oaxaca has given them hope. "The teacher's movement has already gotten stronger. If anyone can lead a protest to recount, it is the teachers," says Carlos Maya, an agave farmer from the outskirts of Oaxaca. "But," he adds, "maybe the people here are getting sick of the protests."
"No," interrupts his colleague Santiago Lucas. "What the people are sick of is bad government."
Thursday, July 20, 2006
The current crisis in Israel, Lebanon and the Occupied Palestinian Territories
- Bat Shalom Statement
We, members of Bat Shalom, an Israeli women’s peace organization, dedicated to ending the occupation and achieving a just, sustainable peace based on a two-state solution, regard the continuously escalating use of violence and force in our region as a direct threat rather than a potential solution.
It is our belief that the current escalation is a direct result of lack of political process to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian Territories, including Gaza. Furthermore, the Israeli policy to de-legitimize a democratically elected Palestinian government, and thus unilaterally managing the conflict, led to the siege of Gaza and the violation of the basic human rights of an entire civilian population.
This political vacuum was misused both by Hammas and Hezbollah for their own political aims and the counter attacks on Israeli innocent civilians.
Therefore, as Israeli citizens, we call upon our government to enter into negotiations with the elected Palestinian government. An immediate step should be stopping the further destruction of Lebanon, a total cease-fire, and negotiations to bring about a prisoners exchange.
We call upon the international community, both individual states and through collective bodies, to bring the parties to the political track and to address the need for ending the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories, which will lead to the two states solution.
Only political negotiations and a just and sustainable peace will guarantee security for all the civilians in the region.
A Women's Vigil Against The War in Lebanon
How many more victims will die on the way to negotiation?
BaT Shalom and Women Against War
Call upon women to join a permanent vigil infront of the prime minister's home.
First vigil will be held on Sunday, July 23 between 6pm and 8pm
For more information and registration please contact
Bat Shalom: 02-6245699
A 292-page special prosecutor's report released Wednesday paints for the first time the complete and utterly disgraceful picture of institutional abuse under former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge.
Of course, we already knew what the report told us.
No charges were filed because of how long ago all this took place.
Give me a break.
"We understood what [Special Prosecutor Edward] Egan was going to do -- he was going to continue to keep stuff covered up," David Bates, who says Burge tortured him in 1983 told the Chicago Sun Times. "We didn't look for a remedy here."
But Bates, addressing dozens of reporters at a downtown law office, appeared weary and frustrated. "I'm at a loss for words to look at this [expletive] report and to hear that torture existed but that there was no way we can deal with it," Bates said.
Lawyer Flint Taylor says charges can and should be brought.
The People's Law Office with which Taylor is associated brought federal lawsuits against Burge and his men. He argues that in 2003, Burge, in a written statement for a federal lawsuit, denied knowing about or seeing torture or abuse of freed Death Row inmate Madison Hobley.
Taylor outlined for prosecutors more than a dozen recent incidents where detectives answered questions in civil lawsuits.
He calls that a continuing cover-up, which could bring new charges including racketeering conspiracy or obstruction, he argued. The FBI and Assistant U.S. Attorney Sergio Acosta, civil rights coordinator in the U.S. attorney's office here, are reviewing the report, but a spokesman had no comment on what options, if any, are available.
Lawyer Rick Halprin said Burge's written statement could be enough for a charge.
"If it was a material false statement made under oath within the last five years: Bang, it's indictable," he said.
The first report below comes from Democracy Now. The next piece comes from the Chicago Defender which serves the African American community. For further background information from the Oread Daily go to http://oreaddaily.blogspot.com/2006/05/activists-and-un-calls-for-action-on.html.
Report Confirms Chicago Police Tortured Black Prisoners
Special prosecutors in Chicago have released a major report confirming that African American men have been systematically tortured inside the Chicago prison system. We speak with one of the lead attorneys in the case and a torture survivor.
We take a look at torture and brutality here in the U.S. For nearly two decades an area in Chicago's city jails known Area 2 was the epicenter for the systematic torture of dozens of African-American males by Chicago police officers. Close to 150 people say they were subjected to abuse including having guns forced into their mouths, bags places over their heads, and electric shocks inflicted to their genitals. Four men were released from death row after government investigators concluded torture led to their wrongful convictions. Yet to date no police have been charged with any crime.
Well, yesterday the findings of a four-year investigation into the cases were released. The investigation found evidence that several officers in the department tortured criminal suspects but concluded that they cannot be prosecuted because too much time has passed.
Flint Taylor, an attorney with the People's Law Office in Chicago. He represented many of the torture victims and was directly involved in spearheading the special prosecutor's investigation.
David Bates, one of the men to come forward with allegations of torture.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined by Flint Taylor and David Bates. Flint Taylor is an attorney with the People’s Law Office in Chicago, represented many of the torture victims, was directly involved in spearheading the special prosecutor’s investigation. And David Bates is one of the men to come forward with the allegations of torture.
Let's begin with Flint Taylor. Can you assess for us this report that has -- well, we last talked to you -- what was it? -- a month or two ago. The report had been done, but wasn’t being released to the public. Many were trying to suppress it for good.
FLINT TAYLOR: That's right. You want me to talk about the report? It’s a very -- it’s kind of a mixed bag in the sense that the evidence was so strong that the special prosecutor found that over half of the 148 people that said they were tortured and abused were, in fact, that they believed they were. But they used the legal out of saying it wasn't beyond a, quote, “reasonable doubt.”
They also found, very interestingly, that there was a high governmental cover-up of the torture, the criminal torture, which they found it to be, of one victim, Andrew Wilson, in 1982. However, what makes it a whitewash at the political level not only is the fact that they did not indict anybody, but they did not condemn the people who were truly responsible for the whitewash and the cover-up that occurred in the Andrew Wilson case. In other words, Andrew Wilson, what they say, was criminally tortured in 1982. They say that the higher ups, the police superintendent, was aware, which he was, of the torture, and he did nothing about it.
The reality is, what he did do and what the report in fact whitewashes is that he wrote a letter directly to the Mayor of the -- at that time the State's Attorney of the County of Cook, Richard Daley, who’s now the mayor -- and directly asked him to investigate criminally. And the Mayor, Richard Daley, and his first assistant, Richard Devine, who is now the Cook County State's Attorney, did nothing. But they give Daley and Devine, the ruling powers here in the city of Chicago, a complete pass and blame Richard Brzeczek, who is now a private lawyer, the former police superintendent, for not only covering up the torture of Andrew Wilson, but what follows, which is David Bates and 55 -- many of those 75 men, who they found had been tortured, wouldn't have been tortured if, in fact, there was action in 1982.
So what we have here is a report, which, de facto, sets forth the predicate for the indictment -- politically, at least -- of the Mayor and the State's Attorney of Cook County for failing to prevent this torture, and yet blames a subordinate police superintendent.
AMY GOODMAN: And the police have --
FLINT TAYLOR: And that’s what’s outraging everybody.
AMY GOODMAN: And the police official in charge, Jon Burge, talking about -- admitting that this happened, that people were tortured, but that they will not be prosecuted.
FLINT TAYLOR: That’s the other thing that’s outrageous about the whole thing, is we see now that there is a blueprint that’s been developed in various cases for prosecuting people for perjury, for obstruction of justice, when in fact they’re able to cover things up for so long and avoid prosecution until the, quote, “statute of limitations” has run on the acts themselves, that being the torture, etc. If you accept the fact that there's not a continuing conspiracy, which we say there was, that starts with the torture and continues to this day in covering it up, if you just look at it in terms of obstruction of justice and perjury and racketeering violations under the RICO Act, there are still major statutes that you can prosecute under.
And we‘ve seen it happen. We saw it in the Judith Miller case. We saw it with regard to Libby. We saw it with regard to many prosecutions of daily subordinates in corruption cases here in the city of Chicago. And we’re going to see it in another field with regard to a baseball player, Barry Bonds. Now, if they can indict Barry Bonds for perjury and obstruction of justice, they can certainly indict Jon Burge, a torturer, for obstruction of justice, perjury, and –
AMY GOODMAN: David Bates, we don't have much time. Can you briefly describe what happened to you and then talk about what you think of the conclusion that they cannot prosecute people here?
DAVID BATES: Hi. October the 29th, 1983, for almost two days I was tortured, but not Jon Burge, but detectives under him, things such as a plastic bag being placed over my head in a couple of sessions. And I was slapped and kicked and punched. Derogatory terms. Threats. Threatened with killing me. And my whole point, my issue with this report, my issue with this whole thing is that there's a concentration on Jon Burge, but Jon Burge did not torture me. It was people under him that tortured me, and there was not a concentrated effort to deal with those detectives under him.
And this is why this report is wrong, because it don't deal with the victims. It acknowledges that we were tortured, but it doesn't offer no type of remedy or recourse to deal with that torture. There is grounds for prosecution and evidence beyond anyone's imagination, but there was not a course for action. And that’s where I think there was an error in spending over $7 million of county money to give us a $500 report that I could’ve did in high school.
AMY GOODMAN: David Bates, I want to thank you for being with us. And, Flint Taylor, does it end here?
FLINT TAYLOR: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Flint Taylor, does it end here?
FLINT TAYLOR: Oh, I’m sorry. Does it end here? No, it certainly doesn't end here.
AMY GOODMAN: We have ten seconds.
FLINT TAYLOR: We’re going to go to the U.S. Attorney. We’re going to demand that there be federal prosecutions and, in fact, reparations for people like David Bates, and to deal with all the cases that are pending in civil court; and we’re certainly just --
DAVID BATES: And we’re going to the streets, too.
FLINT TAYLOR: We certainly are.
AMY GOODMAN: We will leave it there and certainly cover the developments. David Bates, I want to thank you for being with us, and Flint Taylor, both from Chicago. And we’ll post the report on our website at democracynow.org.
A Damn Shame: Report details massive abuse of Black men by Chicago police
by Mema Ayi, Defender Staff Writer
July 20, 2006
It is unlikely any indictments will follow Wednesday's release of the long-awaited investigation into more than 180 allegations of torture under former Chicago Police Lt. Jon Burge.
Despite the findings of abuse and wrongdoing, no one will be charged because the statute of limitations has run out for many of the crimes detailed in the 1,700-page report, special prosecutors Edward Egan and Robert Boyle said Wednesday.
"We have concluded that the statute of limitations would bar any prosecution of any offenses our investigation has disclosed," the special prosecutors said in the report.
"In three cases we could prove torture beyond a reasonable doubt," Egan said.
In many other cases, Egan and Boyle believed the torture allegations, but lacked sufficient evidence to prove the claims beyond reasonable doubt.
In Illinois, felonies cannot be prosecuted more than three years after the crime is committed.
Lawrence Kennon, a petitioning attorney for the alleged torture victims told the Defender Wednesday that it is disappointing that no indictments will follow the release of the document.
It is not a surprise, he added, that then-State's Attorney Richard M. Daley or his assistant, now-State's Attorney Richard Devine, were not indicted.
"Four years and $7 million and there's not enough evidence to prosecute anybody? That's what I'm calling a cover-up because of political clout," Kennon said.
Boyle said the special prosecutors too were disappointed that there was no further recourse.
"It isn't that nothing can be done, because when we got this case, nothing had been done," Boyle said. "It certainly put issues on the table that we have no power to deal with."
Kennon said he hopes for federal indictments, but Boyle said a copy of his report was delivered to the U.S. Attorney's office, which twice before concluded it could not proceed.
But Kennon said he and the other petitioning attorneys will pursue federal charges of obstruction of justice, conspiracy and perjury.
Burge and a "midnight crew" of about a dozen officers at Areas 2 and 3 Violent Crimes division allegedly tortured more than 180 men into confessions between the early 1970s and the early 1990s.
None of the officers are currently Chicago Police officers. Burge was fired from the Chicago Police Department in 1991 and lives in Florida on a taxpayer-funded pension.
Egan and Boyle began the investigation with 64 allegations, but the number of men with credible cases of police torture ballooned to nearly 200 cases over the course of the investigation.
Burge's torture techniques included electronic shock to the genitals and other body parts, as well as Russian roulette. Those forms, however, were less common than the fists, feet and telephone books most often used to illicit confessions, Boyle said.
The investigation found the Chicago Police Department's Office of Professional Standards and county prosecutors mishandled brutality complaints.
Egan and Boyle blame former Police Supt. Richard Brzeczek and former assistant State's Attorney William Kunkle for not properly investigating the claims of torture by Andrew Wilson before the statute of limitations ran out.
Wilson, who is serving a life sentence for the murder of two police officers, was sentenced to death in 1983.
In 1987, the Illinois Supreme Court reversed the death sentence on the grounds that his confession should have been suppressed because prosecutors failed to explain adequately how Wilson suffered certain injuries while in police custody.
Wilson said Burge, who was one of the arresting officers, was not in the room at Area 2 where he was beaten by several officers who began kicking, slapping and hitting with their fists after his February 1982 arrest for the murders. Detectives then put a plastic bag over his head and burned him on the arm with a cigarette.
Wilson said another officer used electric shocks on his nostril and ear.
After the initial interrogation, Wilson said told Assistant State's Attorney Lawrence Hyman that he was being mistreated.
Hyman - the only former assistant state's attorney to refuse to be interviewed by the special prosecutors - allegedly told officers to remove Wilson. Detectives then took Wilson into a room where he received electric shocks to the genitals.
He agreed to make a statement to keep from being shocked again.
After making oral and written confessions to Hyman, Wilson was taken to the lockup at 11th and State Streets by uniformed officers. However, personnel refused to accept him because of his condition.
A Cook County Jail physician later examined Wilson and detailed his injuries in a letter to Brzeczek and called for a thorough investigation of "alleged brutality."
Days later, Brzeczek sent a letter to Daley asking for direction in the investigation of the brutality claim.
"I have publicly stated that we will scrupulously investigate every allegation of police misconduct brought to our attention. However…I do not want to jeopardize the prosecution's case in any way," Brzeczek's 1982 letter read.
Wilson filed a civil right suit naming Brzeczek, Burge, the City of Chicago and other police officers. The first trial ended in a hung jury, a second jury found Wilson's constitutional rights had been violated but exonerated all of the police officers.
"The superintendent of police was convinced (Wilson) was abused, yet he did nothing about it," Boyle said. "He failed to live up to his sworn duty."
The Chicago Police OPS file on Wilson's complaint showed no police officers were interviewed, Boyle said.
"The superintendent did not conduct a meaningful investigation. If Brzeczek had done his duty, we wouldn't be here today," Boyle said.
Brzeczek defended himself Wednesday."They can blame me for whatever they want to blame me for," he said. "I know what I did was correct. It was not dereliction of duty."
Kunkle, now a Cook County circuit court judge, took control of the investigation of Wilson's claim procedurally and unilaterally, but should have shared the information with his superiors, Boyle said.
"He did not talk to people about it and that's the problem," Boyle said.
Kunkle, who represented Burge in two civil rights trials and his case against the city for his 1991 firing, was not available for comment, his staff said Wednesday.
Egan and Boyle said then-States Attorney Richard M. Daley ran the office by delegating duties and was not at fault for mistakes made by Kunkle.
Daley was not subpoenaed, but special prosecutors took court-recorded statements from the mayor under oath. Daley's statement is not in the report.
"We didn't deem it would have made any difference," Boyle said.
In a statement to special prosecutors, Daley said he was aware of the letter detailing Wilson's injuries and transferred the investigation to Kunkle, Boyle said.
"Daley thought all procedures were properly followed," Doyle said.
The Daley administration had no immediate comment.
Former Mayor Jane Byrne, who appointed Brzeczek, State's Attorney Richard Devine and former State's Attorney Jack O'Malley were also not subpoenaed.
Copies of the report will be available at the offices of the clerk of the circuit court of Cook County criminal courts building at 26th Street and California Avenue.
For a number of years we've been hearing about increased disciplinary practices in schools and zero tolerance policies. We often read about strange cases of a kid tossed out of school for amazingly minor action.
More than five years ago a major study found that:
"There is some tendency to assume that these suspensions or expulsions for trivial incidents are simply idiosyncratic or aberrations that occur in districts characterized by an overzealous administration. Yet the ubiquity of these "trivial incidents" across time and location suggests that the over-extension of school sanctions to minor misbehavior is not anomalous,but rather is inherent in the philosophy and application of zero tolerance."
That same report, put toether by the Indiana Education Policy Center and funded by Lilly Endowment, Inc. and Indiana University, stated:
"The most frequent disciplinary events with which schools wrestle are minor disruptive behaviors such as tardiness, class absence,disrespect, and noncompliance. A broad policy that seeks to punish both minor and major disciplinary events equally will, almost by definition, result in the punishment of a small percentage of serious infractions, and a much larger percentage of relatively minor misbehavior. We might expect then that the "trivial incidents" connected with zero tolerance will not abate, but may even accelerate as those policies continue to be extended by local districts."
The predictions of the report have certainly come true. The enactment of zero tolerance policies related to discipline in school districts has contributed to a significant increase in the number of children who are being suspended and expelled from school.
Pedro A. Noguera, Ph.D., professor in the Steinhardt School's Department of Teaching and Learning at New York University tells the following story of the shocking belief system of one school administrator.
"Not long ago, I was taken on a tour of an elementary school in northern California by an assistant principal. The purpose of my visit was to learn more about the ways this school was implementing a grant designed to increase the provision of social services to students, most of whom came from a low-income, economically depressed neighborhood. As we came to the end of the tour and walked toward the main office, the assistant principal shook his head and pointed out a boy, no more than 8 or 9 years old, who was standing outside the door to his office. Gesturing to the child, the assistant principal said to me "Do you see that boy? There's a prison cell in San Quentin waiting for him." Surprised by his observation, I asked him how he was able to predict the future of such a young child. He replied "Well, his father is in prison, he's got a brother and an uncle there too. In fact, the whole family is nothing but trouble. I can see from how he behaves already that it's only a matter of time before he ends up there too." Responding to the certainty with which he made these pronouncements, I asked "Given what you know about him, what is the school doing to prevent him from going to prison?"
I could tell by his flustered response that the assistant principal was surprised by my question. He did not think it was his responsibility to keep the child from following a path that would lead to prison. In fact, he informed me that he was preparing to put this child on an indefinite suspension from school."
I do know from experience that schools today can be damn chaotic. I don't pretend to have answers to how to deal with the many problems faced by teachers and other educators.
I do know however that lumping minor disciplinary problems with major criminal acts and that putting kids on the express train to prison is not a good idea.
The following article is taken from the New Standard.
School Officials Promote Fast Track to Incarceration
by Catherine Komp
Youth- and civil-rights advocates are speaking out against the rising presence of cops on campuses and administration complicity in what critics call a school-to-prison pipeline.
July 14 - The testimony of Florida parents and young people compiled by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund is alarming.
Fifteen-year-old Latia Smith said she was a bystander during a fight at school between two girls when a police officer threatened her with arrest, grabbed her and dislocated her shoulder.
The ten-year-old son of Latrell Brassfield was arrested at school for "disruptive behavior."
And five-year-old Ja'eisha Scott was arrested, handcuffed and put in the back of a patrol car for hours for having a temper tantrum.
From Florida to California to Connecticut, students and parents across the country are contending with an education system that is increasingly implementing harsher methods of disciplining students, and placing thousands of armed officers on school campuses. Youth and civil-rights advocates call the growing presence of law enforcement in schools, along with increasingly punitive punishment for misbehavior, the "school-to-prison pipeline."
Damon Hewitt, assistant counsel at the Legal Defense Fund (LDF), says schools started by implementing "zero tolerance policies" resulting in mandatory suspensions or expulsions for certain infractions. "But what we see now are next-generation policies that more often than not involve significant police activity on school campuses," he said.
The April LDF report looked at arrests and suspensions of children in six school districts in five different Florida cities. Co-written by the NAACP and the Advancement Project, a national advocacy group that provides legal and research assistance to local communities, the report compiles state Education and state Justice Department data with testimony from parents and youth.
According to the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, out of 28,008 school-related referrals to the department in the 2004-2005 school year, the most serious offense for 63 percent was a misdemeanor.
The LDF report chronicles dozens of stories of police using excessive force when arresting children for these offenses. One of the most egregious cases was in Duval County, in which police - in front of TV cameras - arrested, handcuffed, shackled and took to jail twelve black high-school students for allegedly stealing $60 worth of soda and food from the cafeteria. The report states, "While it appears that students of other races were involved in the incident, only black students were interrogated and arrested by police officers two days later with little to no evidence to support the arrests."
These officers, also called School Resource Officers (SROs), often lack any specialized training in working with children and youth. Kevin Campana, executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers, said they often need to "soften up" officers.
Campana told The NewStandard that because many police officers are used to "clearing the call" - responding to and resolving complaints as quickly as possible - his organization tries to "slow [officers] down and get them in touch with kids and how to interview kids and how to work with them."
Campana's organization, which includes 9,000 officer-members, offers voluntary training courses to police taking positions in schools. He said officers wear uniforms, carry firearms and are encouraged to walk the halls between classes.
Hewitt of LDF says the origins of the school-to-prison pipeline are found in the prison-industrial complex - the privatization of prison and related services that has accompanied a dramatic rise in US incarceration rates.
"I think it's no coincidence that society is getting more and more punitive," Hewitt told TNS. "But on top of that, the people who end up in prison are those who are excluded from a mainstream school environment as youth - the folks for whom quality education is just kind of a cruel illusion."
Hewitt explained that as students are punished more severely for common misbehavior, they are often taken out of the classroom and relegated to inferior education settings or even in and out of juvenile detention. He said the people affected are the same populations as those disproportionately incarcerated as adults: blacks, Latinos and low-income whites.
"And to be clear, we're not talking about children who are bringing guns and knives and drugs to school," Hewitt said. "It's not the activity that's changed among the students, it's more our responses that have changed over the last few decades."
Youth in New Haven, Connecticut, frustrated by what they said was unfair treatment of students, are currently screening a short film they made last year with the help of Youth Rights Media, an organization focused on young people's empowerment.
"I had not heard the phrase 'school-to-prison pipeline' before you folks contacted us," says an attorney interviewed in Book 'Em: Undereducated, Overincarcerated. "And yet it completely crystallizes something I've been really angry about a really long time."
Ashley Burney, videographer and interviewer for Book 'Em, said although she has not been suspended herself, she's seen her friends receive five- or ten-day at-home suspensions for merely walking in the hall without a pass or for insubordination. She said school officials use suspensions as a "first resort rather than a last resort."
Meanwhile, across the country in South Los Angeles, youth and parent advocates have documented similar examples of extreme disciplinary action for minor infractions that have resulted in a ballooning rate of suspensions and dropouts.
Maisie Chin is co-founder of Community Asset Development Re-defining Education (CADRE), an organization that formed in response to the mistreatment of both parents and students in the education system. She says the dropout crisis is really a "pushout" crisis, stemming from suspensions, harsh discipline and disrespect by teachers and other school officials.
"[If] the teacher has it out for you and is humiliating you in front of your peers, you're going to stay out of that class and eventually you're going to stay away from school," Chin said. "And you know, when this is happening in middle school, the chances of you graduating from high school are already reduced."
In the past, school officials commonly dealt with minor infractions using detentions, extra homework, or counseling measures that permitted the student to remain in the classroom.
After conducting surveys with parents and students about their treatment by school officials, CADRE recently issued a report and "call to action" last month documenting what the group calls human-rights violations in LA Unified School District 7. The report's findings stated that teachers and administrators mistreated students during the suspension process, using name-calling, teasing and hostility, sometimes in front of parents or other students.
Researchers also found that school officials violated students' right to due process, failing to listen to accused students' side of a story or to interview student witnesses. CADRE also found that parents were humiliated and disrespected by school staff and rarely given the opportunity to advocate on behalf of their child.
"The problem is," said Chin, "it's difficult to substantiate all of this. Because, one, there is a denial of the practices. Two, there's a denial of the correlation because it's seen as individual behavior problems or individual failings of parents. And that's what Â CADRE is trying to debunk, is that there are intentional practices by schools that are employed to get rid of certain children that don't fit the agenda the school has."
One way the LA district accomplishes this is through "opportunity transfers," in which students are forcibly reassigned to another school. Chin said students are also "counseled out," when administrators urge them to transfer to "alternative schools" or even to drop out. According to CADRE's survey of 50 parents and 120 young adults who left regular high school before graduating, nearly half stated that they were asked to leave their regular high school.
LDF's Hewitt said their research in Florida indicates a similar trend of "perverse incentives to push children out of school." Pressure by school administrators to exhibit high performance, pressure from the No Child Left Behind Act to avoid being labeled "persistently dangerous," and pressure on teachers who receive so-called "merit based" salary increases as reward for producing good statistics.
"So teachers know that certain students are struggling and they may not achieve at a very high level, at least without very focused individualized attention," said Hewitt. "then there's every incentive for teachers or school administrators to make these students someone else's problem, to push them into [general equivalency diploma] programs, to push them into alternative education."
Â© 2006 The NewStandard. All rights reserved. The NewStandard is a non-profit publisher that encourages noncommercial reproduction of its content. Reprints must prominently attribute the author and The NewStandard, hyperlink to http://newstandardnews.net (online) or display newstandardnews.net (print), and carry this notice. For more information or commercial reprint rights, please see the TNS reprint policy.
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Another post from Uri Avnery.
"Stop that shit!"
A WOMAN, an immigrant from Russia, throws herself on the ground in total despair in front of her home that has been hit by a missile, crying in broken Hebrew: "My son! My son!" believing him dead. In fact he was only wounded and sent to the hospital.
Lebanese children, covered with wounds, in Beirut hospitals. The funeral of the victims of a missile in Haifa. The ruins of a whole devastated quarter in Beirut. Inhabitants of the north of Israel fleeing south from the Katyushas. Inhabitants of the south of Lebanon fleeing north from the Israeli Air Force.
Death, destruction. Unimaginable human suffering.
And the most disgusting sight: George Bush in a playful mood sitting on his chair in St. Petersburg, with his loyal servant Tony Blair leaning over him, and solving the problem: "See? What they need to do is get Syria to get Hizbullah to stop doing that shit, and it's over."
Thus spake the leader of the world, and the seven dwarfs - "the great of the world" - say Amen.
SYRIA? BUT only a few months ago it was Bush - yes, the same Bush - who induced the Lebanese to drive the Syrians out of their country. Now he wants them to intervene in Lebanon and impose order?
31 years ago, when the Lebanese civil war was at its height, the Syrians sent their army into Lebanon (invited, of all people, by the Christians). At the time, the then Minister of Defense Shimon Peres and his associates created hysteria in Israel. They demanded that Israel deliver an ultimatum to the Syrians, to prevent them from reaching the Israeli border. Yitzhak Rabin, the Prime Minister, told me then that that was sheer nonsense, because the best that could happen to Israel was for the Syrian army to spread out along the border. Only thus could calm be assured, the same calm that reigned along our border with Syria.
However, Rabin gave in to the hysteria of the media and stopped the Syrians far from the border. The vacuum thus created was filled by the PLO. In 1982, Ariel Sharon pushed the PLO out, and the vacuum was filled by Hizbullah.
All that has happened there since then would not have happened if we had allowed the Syrians to occupy the border from the beginning. The Syrians are cautious, they do not act recklessly.
WHAT WAS Hassan Nasrallah thinking of, when he decided to cross the border and carry out the guerilla action that started the current Witches' Sabbath? Why did he do it? And why at this time?
Everybody agrees that Nasrallah is a clever person. He is also prudent. For years he has been assembling a huge stockpile of missiles of all kinds to establish a balance of terror. He knew that the Israeli army was only waiting for an opportunity to destroy them. In spite of that, he carried out a provocation that provided the Israeli government with a perfect pretext to attack Lebanon with the full approval of the world. Why?
Possibly he was asked by Iran and Syria, who had supplied him with the missiles, to do something to divert American pressure from them. And indeed, the sudden crisis has shifted attention away the Iranian nuclear effort, and it seems that Bush's attitude towards Syria has also changed.
But Nasrallah is far from being a marionette of Iran or Syria. He heads an authentic Lebanese movement, and calculates his own balance sheet of pros and cons. If he had been asked by Iran and/or Syria to do something - for which there is no proof - and he saw that it was contrary to the aims of his movement, he would not have done it.
Perhaps he acted because of domestic Lebanese concerns. The Lebanese political system was becoming more stable and it was becoming more difficult to justify the military wing of Hizbullah. A new armed incident could have helped. (Such considerations are not alien to us either, especially before budget debates.)
But all this does not explain the timing. After all, Nasrallah could have acted a month before or a month later, a year before or a year later. There must have been a much stronger reason to convince him to enter upon such an adventure at precisely this time.
And indeed there was: Palestine.
TWO WEEKS before, the Israeli army had started a war against the population of the Gaza Strip. There, too, the pretext was provided by a guerrilla action, in which an Israeli soldier was captured. The Israeli government used the opportunity to carry out a plan prepared long before: to break the Palestinians' will to resist and to destroy the newly elected Palestinian government, dominated by Hamas. And, of course, to stop the Qassams.
The operation in Gaza is an especially brutal one, and that is how it looks on the world's TV screens. Terrible pictures from Gaza appear daily and hourly in the Arab media. Dead people, wounded people, devastation. Lack of water and medicaments for the wounded and sick. Whole families killed. Children screaming in agony. Mothers weeping. Buildings collapsing.
The Arab regimes, which are all dependent on America, did nothing to help. Since they are also threatened by Islamic opposition movements, they looked at what was happening to Hamas with some Schadenfreude. But tens of millions of Arabs, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Persian Gulf, saw, got excited and angry with their government, crying out for a leader who would bring succor to their besieged, heroic brothers.
Fifty years ago, Gamal Abd-el-Nasser, the new Egyptian leader, wrote that there was a role waiting for a hero. He decided to be that hero himself. For several years, he was the idol of the Arab world, symbol of Arab unity. But Israel used an opportunity that presented itself and broke him in the Six-day war. After that, the star of Saddam Hussein rose in the firmament. He dared to stand up to mighty America and to launch missiles at Israel, and became the hero of the Arab masses. But he was routed in a humiliating manner by the Americans, spurred on by Israel.
A week ago, Nasrallah faced the same temptation. The Arab world was crying out for a hero, and he said: Here am I! He challenged Israel, and indirectly the United States and the entire West. He started the attack without allies, knowing that neither Iran nor Syria could risk helping him.
Perhaps he got carried away, like Abd-el-Nasser and Saddam before him. Perhaps he misjudged the force of the counter-attack he could expect. Perhaps he really believed that under the weight of his rockets the Israeli rear would collapse. (As the Israeli army believed that the Israeli onslaught would break the Palestinian people in Gaza and the Shiites in Lebanon.)
One thing is clear: Nasrallah would not have started this vicious circle of violence, if the Palestinians had not called for help. Either from cool calculation, or from true moral outrage, or from both - Nasrallah rushed to the rescue of beleaguered Palestine.
THE ISRAELI reaction could have been expected. For years, the army commanders had yearned for an opportunity to eliminate the missile arsenal of Hizbullah and destroy that organization, or at least disarm it and push it far, far from the border. They are trying to do this the only way they know: by causing so much devastation, that the Lebanese population will stand up and compel its government to fulfill Israel's demands.
Will these aims be achieved?
HIZBULLAH IS the authentic representative of the Shiite community, which makes up 40% of the Lebanese population. Together with the other Muslims, they are the majority in the country. The idea that the weakling Lebanese government - which in any case includes Hizbullah - would be able to liquidate the organization is ludicrous.
The Israeli government demands that the Lebanese army be deployed along the border. This has by now become a mantra. It reveals total ignorance. The Shiites occupy important positions in the Lebanese army, and there is no chance at all that it would start a fratricidal war against them.
Abroad, another idea is taking shape: that an international force should be deployed on the border. The Israeli government objects to this strenuously. A real international force - unlike the hapless UNIFIL which has been there for decades - would hinder the Israeli army from doing whatever it wants. Moreover, if it were deployed there without the agreement of Hizbullah, a new guerilla war would start against it. Would such a force, without real motivation, succeed where the mighty Israeli army was routed?
At most, this war, with its hundreds of dead and waves of destruction, will lead to another delicate armistice. The Israeli government will claim victory and argue that it has "changed the rules of the game". Nasrallah (or his successors) will claim that their small organization has stood up to one of the mightiest military machines in the world and written another shining chapter of heroism in the annals of Arab and Muslim history.
No real solution will be achieved, because there is no treatment of the root of the matter: the Palestinian problem.
MANY YEARS ago, I was listening on the radio to one of the speeches of Abd-el-Nasser before a huge crowd in Egypt. He was holding forth on the achievements of the Egyptian revolution, when shouts arose from the crowd: "Filastine, ya Gamal!" ("Palestine, oh Gamal!") Whereupon Nasser forgot what he was talking about and started on Palestine, getting more and more carried away.
Since then, not much has changed. When the Palestinian cause is mentioned, it casts its shadow over everything else. That's what has happened now, too.
Whoever longs for a solution must know: there is no solution without settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And there is no solution to the Palestinian problem without negotiations with their elected leadership, the government headed by Hamas.
If one wants to finish, once and for all, with this shit - as Bush so delicately put it - that is the only way.
Thousands of immigrant rights advocates gathered at a park on the near West Side of Chicago and listened to speakers, then began a march through downtown to the city's lakefront which is continuing as I write this.
Participants carried signs with slogans such as "We are America," "Stop family separations now" and "Dear Bush: Stop all raids deporting families."
The rally was being promoted by a core group of Latino activists, such as Centro Sin Fronteras and the Puerto Rican Cultural Center.
Organizers say today's rally comes at a critical time. House leaders have scheduled hearings around the country to stress the need for tougher enforcement of immigration laws.
“We need to say stop deportations until you finish debating and come up with some sort of legalization reform we can all live with,” Emma Lozano, director of Centro Sin Fronteras told the Daily Herald. “We’re saying, ‘Wake up.’”
"This is an important event," Becky Belcore, executive director of the Korean American Resource and Cultural Center told the Chicago Tribune. "Everyone is doing whatever we can to support just and humane comprehensive immigration reform."
The 2006 National Survey of Latinos just released by the PEW Hispanic Center which is first major public opinion poll of the Hispanic population to be conducted since this spring’s pro-immigration marches and congressional debate helps provide answers to some of the most pressing questions that arose from those events. Among them:
• Do native-born Latinos feel threatened by a policy debate that has
generated widespread denunciation of illegal immigration and resulted in
numerous proposals to reduce or contain it? The survey indicates that this
does seem to have happened. Among native-born and foreign-born
Latinos, more than half (54%) say the immigration policy debate has made
discrimination against Latinos more of a problem.
• Could the immigrant marches be the start of a new Latino social
movement? Most Latinos think so. Native- and foreign-born Latinos in
almost equal measures (62% and 64%, respectively) view the marches as
indeed the beginning of a new Hispanic social movement that will go on
for a long time rather than a one-time phenomenon. The share of Latinos
who see Hispanics from different countries working together to achieve
common political goals is also on the rise, and a clear majority of foreignborn
Latinos (66%) and a substantial minority of the native born (44%)
said they would participate in a future march.
• Will the marches and the debate have an impact on how Latinos will
vote? Unclear. Across the board, including among registered voters, about
three-quarters of Latinos predict that more Hispanics will vote in the
November election as a result of the immigration debate, but the survey
did not produce clear signs of a shift in Latino loyalties toward the two
major political parties compared with surveys conducted in 2004 and
• Is the immigration debate relevant mainly to Mexicans, or are all Latinos
equally affected by it and in general agreement on its consequences? Yes
and no. A majority of Latinos, regardless of country of origin, believe that
the immigration debate will drive more Hispanics to vote and that the
marches signal the rise of a new and lasting movement. But Puerto Ricans
and Cubans, who are not directly affected by the immigration debate and
who are political opposites in many ways, have more restrictive views
about immigration policy and are not convinced the marches created a
favorable impression of undocumented migrants.
The Pew Hispanic Center is a highly regarded, nonpartisan research organization founded in 2001 and is associated with the the nationally recongized Pew research center which is itself a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts, a Philadelphia-based public charity.
The following is from Chicago's ABC7 News.
Immigrant rights rally underway
Thousands gather for march
July 19, 2006 - Thousands of people are marching for immigration rights in downtown Chicago. The group, which started marching at Union Park, will end with a rally in Grant Park around 2 p.m.
Participants want Congress to take a more lenient approach to immigration laws.
"The issues at stake are too important. This is a crisis. We told people to wake up and call for a moratorium like they did then. It is only logical," said Emma Lozano, Center Without Borders.
"We are here to work and have a better life. We are not here to do nothing bad to the country," said Audelia Soto, participant.
The timing of the march coincides with the Department of Homeland Security's double checking of employers' records for people who may be working with fake social security numbers. The Homeland Security plan, according to the organizers of Wednesday's march, makes no sense in light of the current debate going on in Congress.
"Why would you start doing raids and deportations and sanctions when they are on the verge of passing some form of legalization, and when the Senate has just passed legislation that would legalize the very people they're going to deport," said Lozano.
"There are, right now, people who are waiting for deportation, and their families -- the kids would be without fathers and mothers. They don't know what will happen to their kids," said Luz Hernandez.
The rally in Grant Park is expected around 2 p.m.
The group, The World Can't Wait, describes Operation Save America thusly,
Operation Save America, who's message is "Homosexuality is a sin. Islam is a lie. Abortion is murder.", is attempting to shut down the last abortion clinic in Mississippi this week. They are not just a lunatic fringe group, but the storm troopers of a theocratic ideology and program that has, under the Bush regime, increasingly been established in the halls of Congress, in the judiciary, and in the White House itself. The WCW bus tour is in Jackson this week to keep the last clinic open, and to repudiate the attacks on women's right to choose and the whole Bush agenda this is part of.
And that is a perfect description.
Operation Save America train and rally their thugs to harass and terrorize women going into abortion facilities and try to close clinics by blockading the doors. They block access to clinics, picket doctors' homes, and hold protests outside of gay bars and progressive churches. "Operation Save America" is not just anti-choice. They have a whole repressive agenda which they seek to force on society, and they see the anti-abortion movement as the 'gateway' to achieve their overall goals. Anti-abortion leader the Reverend Keith Tucci has said, "The most effective money and energy spent is in pro-life activism. It brings more people into the kingdom than any mission and it's the best way to disciple the culture."
When the group showed up in Charlotte, North Carolina to attack gay rights, local police warned abortion clinics, gays, churches and others to watch out for bombs.
Today Operation Save America tore apart a copy of the Koran as part of their biblical mission.
The first article below was taken from InfoShop News and is a report from Anti-Racist Action. The second report is from World Can't Wait. The next two are from the Jackson Clarion Ledger.
First Report : ARA campaign against the pro-life assault in Jackson, Mississippi
Sunday, July 16 2006 @ 01:40 PM PDT
Anti-Racist Action is in Jackson, Mississippi for the next three weeks, fighting to keep the last abortion clinic in the state from being shut down by militant pro-lifers.
This issue couldn't be more relevant or important. If these pro-life wingnuts are allowed to win, abortion will be essentially illegal in Mississippi. Also, a pro-life victory here will embolden these groups and harden their resolve, leading to many, many more right-wing assaults on clinics across the country. A failure to stop them here could well snowball out of control.
We are currently fighting Operation Save America, a confrontational anti-choice group made up of families and hotheaded, super masculine men. The Minutemen are rumored to be in town, with reinforcements on the way. At the end of the month, a notoriously militant group known as Oh, Saratoga will be arriving for a week of actions. These are our identified enemies at this point, not counting lone wolf wingnuts and various white supremacist and fascist groups who may make an appearance at any time.
After driving for two days and 17 hours, we arrived on the morning of Friday, the 14th. We immediately dove into preparation, securing places for everyone to stay and working out logistical, intelligence, and security matters. Our plate was especially full when one considers that four of the five initial advance vehicles broke down on the way, two of them breaking down twice. Bad luck? Who knows...
After working out the infrastructure we needed to operate here, we rolled on Saturday the 15th with about 20 people to help protect a NOW (National Organization of Women) rally from the pro-lifers. Although the area was crawling with uniformed and plainclothes police and two school buses of riot cops were sitting right at the edge of the event, the OSA fascists came right in and were met with an effective ARA blockade. We were able to hold their initial scout team, who were carrying signs displaying aborted fetuses and bible scripture, for about 30 minutes. At that point, OSA members came into two other sides of the park carrying massive, six foot high pictures of dead fetuses. Although we were stretched very thin at this point, we were still able to go person-to-person and hinder their movement towards the stage. Things escalated when the fascists began shoving and hitting ARA members with their signs. Seeing this, the police broke out their beating sticks and riot shields and began to try to intervene.
After a few more minutes of this, and repeated warnings and threats from the police, NOW members began adopting our harassment tactics, pushing OSA members back, blocking them with their pro-choice signs, and even linking arms and surrounding individual members! It was an exciting time; OSA was being blocked on all sides, the pro-choice rally was protected, and we were winning. At this point, the police declared that there was a "bomb threat" and began pushing EVERYONE out of the park, whacking some of us with their shields as they herded us onto the sidewalk. With half of the crowd on one side of the street and the other half on the other, chaos began to creep into the equation. The police began to lose their cool, and there were several heated shouting matches. Shortly thereafter, the permit ended and everyone was ejected from the area. Apparently the ATF bomb robot was brought out and blew up a "suspicious package" but many of us are somewhat skeptical. Whether it was a legitimate bomb threat or the police fabricated one, it sure seemed like they were on OSA's side.
I am about to run out of time on this public computer, but I will be writing a report on today's actions sometime tonight or tomorrow. We are acting effectively, but we desperately need more people. Contact us and get down here! There's the widest range of tactics imaginable being employed here at this point and it's only day three of the three week campaign.
Come down South and help us put these fundamentalist bigots in their place. Let's give 'em the boot and keep abortion safe and legal in Mississippi!
For Unrestricted Reproductive Freedom for All.
No Pasaran! Pasaremos
Asheville Anti-Racist Action.
Jackson, Day 2: Unrelenting Drive For Theocracy - And the Need to Bring This to a Halt
The following report is compiled from first-hand accounts by World Can't Wait organizers in Jackson, as well as from the Jackson Clarion-Ledger ("5 abortion opponents arrested", 7/17/06).
July 16: Today said much about the relentlessness with which Operation Save America and their allies in the White House, Congress, and judiciary are seeking to impose a theocracy on the whole country.
The morning began with the Unitarian Universalist Church hosting a pro-choice forum that brought together activists and progressive people from Jackson and others who had come from around the country to defend Mississippi's last abortion clinic. Operation Save America's attempt to shut down the state's last clinic has also compelled many people to act to defend what they see as a basic women's right, without which women cannot be free or equal members of society. And to one degree or another, everyone recognizes that this is not just about a small group of religious fanatics and one clinic, but that the very future of society is at stake right now.
The Bush agenda, for which OSA serves as storm-troops on the ground, is about not only overturning Roe v. Wade (as horrible as that would be), but banning birth control, imposing a narrow and hateful brand of Christian fundamentalism as the law of the land, and using all this as part of its rationale for global empire. So the fact that in the face of this, pockets of resistance are developing that include everyone from church ministers, outspoken Black women in Jackson, university professors, long-time pro-choice activists, and youth awakening to the ugly reality of where this society is headed is a good thing - and says much about the potential for Thursday, October 5 to be a day when all across the country, people gather in the streets to bring the Bush agenda to a halt.
Nonetheless, a Unitarian Universalist Church opening its doors to pro-choice people was more than OSA could tolerate (they do, after all, wear t-shirts that read "Homosexuality is a sin. Islam is a lie. Abortion is murder."). OSA members showed up at the church in the morning with their fake pictures of "fetuses", shouting over bullhorns, and even attempting to get inside the church to disrupt not only the pro-choice forum, but the church service as well. They even sent in two "undercover" OSA members who made it into the church and went on to preach their narrow Christian fundamentalist worldview, which, when challenged, could not stand any test of reality.
All this was a big wake up call to anyone who thought that theocracy wouldn't encroach on progressive pockets - OSA doesn't intend to leave a stone unturned. Sunday church services had to be defended by pro-choice activists putting their bodies between the Unitarian Universalist and the OSA - with one person even being hit by an OSA member's car. (It should be noted that this is in stark contrast to the Democrats utter lack of opposition to the assaults on the right to choose, letting people like Alito and Roberts get on the Supreme Court with the sorriest of excuses.)
Stepping back from this particular experience, we can see how it's not only with OSA in Jackson that theocrats are ramming their agenda down everyone's throats - the highest court in the liberal state of New York just refused to allow gay couples to get married, a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage received 49 votes in the Senate and the full support of the White House, abortion is being banned in one state after another, and the Supreme Court is being stacked with Justices set on overturning Roe v. Wade. These people are relentless, and will not confine their agenda to the "red states", but firmly believe that America (including the "blue states") must be radically reshaped in conformity with their worldview.
Not only did OSA attempt to disrupt the church services, but they went on to threaten the minister, calling her a "fake minister" and saying their protest was aimed at her. To OSA, the most repulsive thing is the notion that a church leader would believe in tolerance and equality, and theocrats like them are on a mission to purge anything progressive from churches. Later, five OSA members were arrested outside the St. James Episcopal Church because nearby business owners complained about their disruption, leading Flip Benham, their lead, to complain of being victimized by the police.
All this points to what's ahead in the next week in Jackson, and in the coming months throughout society - nothing short of an all-out political struggle whose outcome will determine whether the right to abortion exists, whether or not we live under a theocracy, whether or not torture, new wars and war crimes become legitimized, and more. The outcome of this has everything to do with whether people who want to bring the Bush agenda to a halt step out of the confines of compromise and common ground being by the Democrats - in Jackson this week, and even more importantly on October 5th across the county. The potential is there in the widespread feeling of disgust for this regime, but needs to be galvanized all summer through uncompromising resistance - which is exactly why we set out on this bus tour, and exactly what brought us to Jackson this week.
Anti-abortion group takes protest to '23 gates' in metro area
By Leah Rupp
The national anti-abortion group that arrived Saturday in Jackson with the purpose of trying to close Mississippi’s remaining abortion clinic is expanding its mission today.
It is fanning out in small groups to 23 locations in the metro area, which the Rev. Philip "Flip" Benham, director of Operation Save America, said represent "the gates of hell."
Among the targeted locations are Millsaps College, down the street from the abortion clinic, and Pearl High School, where a student gunman in 1997 killed two students and wounded seven others after stabbing his mother to death.
They are reading the Bible from cover to cover at each location, which Benham said will take about 3› hours.
The group Tuesday night at Making Jesus Real church in Pearl burned the Quran, the Moslem holy book. Asked what it had to do with the abortion issue, Benham said this morning: "We deal with all the issues we possibly can because there are different manifestations covering the same cyst, the cyst of the devil."
This morning, for the first time since the anti-abortion activists began amassing in Jackson, the clinic they have targeted to shutter was open for business.
Jackson Women's Health Organization, 2903 N. State St., opened its doors at 6:30 a.m.
McCoy Faulkner, security consultant for the clinic, said there were three or four protestors outside the clinic at the time. By shortly after 8:30 a.m., their numbers had grown to about 30, and they were spread out to Millsaps College, several blocks away.
Faulkner said the protestors have verbally abused the patients and staff as they entered and exited the clinic.
Across the street are 10 abortion rights activists from a group identified as World Can't Wait — Drive Out the Bush Regime.
So far, there have been no confrontations between the groups.
The city permit to protest issued to Operation Save America, formerly Operation Rescue, limits members to protest from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. with no more than six people and only on the sidewalk on the side of the abortion clinic. But the group has exceeded those limits every day.
The national anti-abortion group is in the fifth day of its planned eight-day campaign aimed at closing the last abortion clinic in Mississippi.
Jackson police have arrested 14 anti-abortion protestors.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge William Barbour Jr. denied anti-abortion protesters’ request for a temporary restraining order against the Jackson Police Department for alleged First Amendment violations.
But this morning, the abortion protestors appeared to have taken a friendlier attitude with the police, coming up to them and having conversations unrelated to the abortion issue.
Since the protests began Saturday, thre also have been skirmishes with counter-protesters and police, a bomb threat, tires slashed and a false call about a fetus being disposed of in a downtown office building.
After an impassioned rally at the state Capitol Tuesday, the Rev. Philip "Flip" Benham, director of Operation Save America, expressed frustration with restrictions placed on the group by Jackson police.
"It’s been a real battle with the police," Benham said.
During the federal court hearing, attorneys for Operation Save America alleged the police department was not equally forceful with abortion rights advocates and ignored complaints of violence against one of its members.
Barbour ruled there was enough doubt about the facts of the case for him to not grant the restraining order.
"The real issue before the court is whether the plaintiffs proved the substantial likelihood of prevailing on the merits of the case," Barbour said.
But Barbour expressed concern about the Police Department’s handling of an incident Sunday in which abortion rights advocates allegedly jumped on a vehicle being driven by a member of Operation Save America and smashed the windshield.
"This is not to say that the court is not disturbed that the police did nothing while a group attacked the vehicle of a member of the pro-life group," Barbour said.
Pieter Teeuwissen, special assistant to the city attorney, noted that none of the 14 protesters was arrested in permitted areas. He said the city has granted the protesters every permit requested.
"We want them to express their First Amendment rights, but in a reasonable time, place and manner," Teeuwissen told Barbour.
Stephen Crampton, a Tupelo-based attorney for the anti-abortion group, said he plans to appeal to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Earlier Tuesday, six anti-abortion activists entered not guilty pleas in Jackson Municipal Court. They face charges of obstructing traffic, protesting in a residential neighborhood without a permit and disorderly conduct.
Both Benham's group and the abortion rights advocates who have launched counter-protests have been upset with their treatment by police.
Deborah Watkins of Madison, an abortion rights advocate, said she was threatened with arrest for holding signs at a Capitol rally on Monday. “We have a First Amendment right to carry a sign,” Watkins said. “We weren't disruptive at all.”
Unrest at rallies
Bomb scare doesn't deter abortion protesters
By Leah Rupp & Jean Gordon
A bomb scare interrupted an abortion rights rally at Smith Park in Jackson on Saturday, but leaders on both sides of the abortion debate said demonstrations and counter-demonstrations planned for this week would not be deterred.
No arrests were made Saturday, though there were verbal confrontations at a rally sponsored largely by the National Organization for Women.
"All of the activists cooperated very well today," police Cmdr. Tyrone Lewis said.
Earlier in the morning, activists with Operation Save America faced an empty parking lot because the clinic had already conducted its business for the day.
The abortion rights rally at Smith Park drew more than 200 people from across the nation, leading to confrontations with anti-abortion demonstrators before the bomb scare.
The park was evacuated after authorities were told a bomb might have been placed in a trash can. The suspected bomb turned out to be a suitcase containing several pill bottles, according to a preliminary police investigation.
About 15 officers already were on hand initially, but by the end of the day, the bomb squad and federal agents had been called in.
Individuals who may have placed the suitcase in the bin were being questioned.
"The trash can is safe and intact," Lewis laughed.
The mood wasn't as light earlier in the day.
Activists from as far as Boston came to the Jackson park to counter protests planned by Operation Save America.
But an hour into the afternoon rally, members of Operation Save America and individual anti-abortion protesters began to filter in, many carried Bibles and 5-foot-tall signs featuring pictures of fetuses.
Abortion rights demonstrators linked arms to try to keep anti-abortion supporters out and blocked their signs with their bodies.
"We just came here to see what they had to say - you're the one making all the trouble," said Canton resident E.C. Smith, pointing at Jerry Bellow, who is part of an abortion rights organization in North Carolina called Anti-Racist Action.
Smith held a sign reading "Thou Shalt Not Kill," called himself a "messenger of God" and carried a worn, maroon Bible.
"You don't get to play with the nice liberals today," Bellow shouted back at him, an inch from his face.
A group of abortion rights demonstrators from Boston wore black handkerchiefs over their faces, showing only their eyes and refused to give their last names to reporters. They also tried to block anti-abortion activists from entering the park.
Anyone is allowed to gather in a public park as long as the gathering is peaceable, police Lt. Jesse Robinson said.
A pregnant Elizabeth Johnston, an Ohio resident, attempted to get through the crowds several times while carrying one of the signs with a photograph of a fetus.
Abortion rights demonstrators were aggressive in their attempts to block her sign and keep her out of the park. "Are you concerned, sir?" Johnston said to one of the nearby officers.
Johnston said she and her husband bring their five children - ranging in age from 1-year-old to 7 - to many similar rallies. "Children see things clearly," she said. "When they look at this picture, my children know this is wrong."
Abortion rights activists who gathered for the rally said they were merely responding to the anti-abortion crowd.
"This is about women having control over their bodies," said Sunsara Taylor, who is from New York and part of the World Can't Wait: Drive Out the Bush Regime Now organization. "They were trying to shut us down and we were just responding to that."
While the verbal confrontations grew louder on the outskirts of the rally, Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women and keynote speaker, addressed the bulk of the crowd.
"A lot of women don't have options outside of this clinic," said Gandy, adding that the organization doesn't only deal with abortion issues, but also birth control, adoption and comprehensive sex education.
Near the end of Gandy's message, officers announced the park needed to be vacated immediately because of the bomb scare.
"Our rally was done - I was about to make closing statements," said Michelle Colon, president of the Jackson area chapter of National Organization for Women.
Colon said she's never heard about a bomb scare at a Mississippi rally, but that they are common at clinics across the county. "This is nothing compared to what doctors and patients at these places face every single day," Colon said.
The shock for the Rev. Flip Benham, leader of Operation Save America, was that officers were interested at all.
"What is going on in Jackson?" he said. "I thought we were in a state of emergency? Don't they have anything else better to do?"
Benham said at the church he operates out of in North Carolina, bomb-sniffing dogs routinely check the building.
The crowd at the rally was much larger than the one at the clinic earlier Saturday. Some 60 people stood behind police barricades set up on the sidewalk.
To prepare for any public disturbance, Jackson police sent four officers mounted on horses and two school buses carrying police in riot gear. The officers stood in the street as the abortion protesters prayed, read Scripture and shouted at clinic security staff.
Clinic operator Susan Hill, president of the National Women's Health Organization, asked that abortion rights activists not demonstrate outside the clinic this week to minimize crowds.
Jackson police said Saturday's bomb scare and the verbal altercations at the rally and clinic will not change the way officers are planning to handle activities by both groups throughout the week.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
The following analysis comes from Jewish Voice For Peace.
JVP In-Depth: Israel's Attacks on Gaza and Lebanon
From Gaza to Lebanon, the conflict over Israel has once again flared up into major violence, with civilians being the overwhelming majority of the victims. And, true to form, the blame game is in full swing. Cries of “they started it” can be heard loudly from all sides, and the voices talking about reasonable ways to end “it” are once again muted.
It looks very much like we are at the beginning of a long period of renewed and intensified conflict in the Middle East. It is important to understand how these events came about, and to at least try to understand the motivations of the players involved. Jewish Voice for Peace brings you this extensive in-depth analysis. There's a lot of information here, so you can use the Table of Contents below to get to the subjects you want to learn more about.
The latest chapter in this seemingly endless tragedy begins last year with the Israeli “withdrawal” from the Gaza Strip. That plan, which was more accurately called redeployment than withdrawal, was born of the new-found love affair between Israel and the idea of unilateral withdrawal. Because it was carried out unilaterally, it served to undermine the existing Palestinian government, and Gaza, while left without settlements or Israeli soldiers inside it, was also left in chaos. Worse, Israel maintained full control of the borders and border crossings as well as the air and sea spaces. By closing off all routes in and out of the Strip, Israel prevented any recovery of the devastated Gazan economy. With regular shellings (which caused numerous civilian deaths and extensive damage) and fly-overs causing sonic booms, Israel also kept the population terrorized. Very little of this was reported in the media.
In January, Hamas’ election upped the ante. Now, Israel and the United States had their public justification to refuse to talk with the Palestinians, even though there had been no talking even with the previous regime for years. Hamas, for their part, had to struggle with their own ideology and rhetoric. They had to find a way to be responsible leaders and represent the Palestinian people but, even though Palestinian polls all reflected a desire for Hamas to negotiate with Israel, Hamas’ own charter precluded recognizing Israel. With Israel increasing its belligerency, Hamas, like its predecessor, had neither the political motivation nor the political space to do anything to stop the regular launching of Qassam missiles at the Israeli town of Sderot. Although the overwhelming majority of these missiles landed harmlessly in the Negev desert, they did serve to unnerve the Israeli populace and cause them to demand that their government act to stop them, increasing the Israeli government’s impetus to escalate the boiling conflict with the Palestinians.
Palestinians infiltrate IDF outpost inside Israel
On June 25, a group of Palestinian guerrillas from Hamas’ armed wing, the Popular Resistance Committees and a new group called the Islamic Army entered an Israeli army outpost on the Israeli side of the border, killing two soldiers and taking one prisoner.
From initial responses, it was clear that this operation was executed without the knowledge or consent of the Hamas political leadership, the leadership of the Palestinian Authority. It was orchestrated, at least in part, by Khaled Meshal, the most prominent leader of Hamas’ armed wing, who resides in Damascus. Meshal was being increasingly marginalized as the elected Hamas leadership became more prominent. The attack on the IDF not only restored and even increased Meshal’s prestige, but also overshadowed and undermined the agreement, announced almost simultaneously, between Fatah and Hamas on the “prisoners’ agreement”, a blueprint for national Palestinian unity that included an agreement to limit military activity to the Occupied Territories.
But whatever one might believe about the legitimacy or wisdom of the Palestinians’ attack, the Israeli response was illegitimate. Israeli leaders themselves conceded that the attacks, initially almost exclusively against civilian targets and infrastructure, had no chance of freeing their soldier or of stopping the firing of Qassam rockets, whose range had been improved and could now reach the town of Ashkelon, which is a bit further inside Israel than Sderot.
Israel’s assault began with bombing Gaza’s main electrical plant, leaving the majority of the Strip without electricity or running water, and crippling the ability of medical facilities to treat their patients. Israel devastated roads inside Gaza and, while the majority of the initial casualties were combatants, as the bombardment went on, the ratio of civilian casualties to combatant ones rose quickly.
Israel detained without charge dozens of Palestinian legislators, many not even affiliated with Hamas, despite the fact that Israel was well aware that the Hamas political leadership was not involved in the attack.
As of this writing (July 15) the assault on Gaza continues full force, with civilian casualties mounting. Israel has also escalated operations in the West Bank, though not nearly to the same degree as Gaza. The escalation with Lebanon means that attention is drawn away from the ongoing bombardment of Gaza, and that threatens to allow Israel to continue or even escalate their assault with impunity.
Hizbullah enters the fray
On July 12, Hizbullah crossed the southern Lebanese border into Israel, and attacked an IDF post. They killed three soldiers and took two. It is crucial to point out that the conditions between Israel and the Palestinians, on the one hand, and Israel and Lebanon on the other are not the same, even though the similarity of the two actions against IDF outposts draws comparisons.
The Palestinians are a people under occupation and they have the right to resist that occupation, even with force. One may argue over the advisability of their action, but it was permitted under international law. This is not the case with Hizbullah. Their act was a clear violation of international law, as was their subsequent attack on civilian targets within Israel.
The Hizbullah attack also precipitated a major escalation in the already dangerous situation in the Middle East. It gave Israel the excuse it needed to launch a major attack on Lebanon. It has to be unequivocally stated that, having said that Hizbullah violated international law, Israel’s immediate targeting of civilians and use of disproportionate and overwhelming force is a much greater crime.
Israel bombards Lebanon
Israel declared that the Hizbullah action constituted an act of war. As in Gaza, Israel immediately targeted the Lebanese civilian infrastructure, bombing the major Lebanese airport as well as many roads and bridges. Unlike Gaza, the death toll in Lebanon quickly rose and was almost entirely civilian. Hizbullah responded with missile attacks on Israeli cities, killing several civilians. Israel then put the Lebanese shoreline under siege and has continued its bombardment of the country.
And that is where we are today. Israel is continuing its completely illegal collective punishment in Gaza, now with the eyes of the world almost completely diverted to Lebanon. Hamas’ repeated calls for negotiations have been completely ignored. The Lebanese government, a very weak leadership body, has called for an immediate cease-fire between Hizbullah and Israel, but is not capable of stopping Hizbullah’s actions. Their calls for mediation and international intervention have been taken more seriously but, as usual, the United States vetoed a UN Security Council resolution calling for a cease-fire.
The US is not the only foreign player in these events. It’s time to look at what might be the goals and thinking of Israel, Hamas and Hizbullah as well as the US, Syria and Iran, all countries that are also involved, albeit in less visible ways.
One thing that must be understood is just how weak Israel’s political leadership is right now. It is the military, to an extent even greater than usual, which is making the decisions regarding Gaza and Lebanon. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz are following, not leading. And they appear more than content to do so. Their own lack of military experience, itself unprecedented among Israel’s major leaders historically, leads to a lack of confidence, both on their parts and on the part of the Israeli public, in their ability to act. It certainly precludes any possibility of reason entering into the thought process.
When the Palestinians successfully launched their June attack, the military was humiliated. They lashed out, determined to punish the Palestinian people for their own embarrassment. The operation in Gaza seemed to have little more rationale than that, other than to simply continue a program of trying, futilely, to beat the Palestinians into submission.
In Lebanon, the situation is different. Humiliation is not outside of this equation either. Not just the humiliation of the Hizbullah attack this week, but also the open wound from the withdrawal from Lebanon six years ago, a move the military never supported, and which the current military leadership, especially Chief of Staff Dan Halutz, sees as an embarrassment. The Hizbullah attack provided the excuse Halutz has wanted for some time to attempt to wipe out Hizbullah.
Some have suggested that this is an attempt at regime change in Lebanon. That’s only true to a certain extent. The Lebanese Prime Minister is backed by the US. It is not a full change in government that Israel wants, but the removal of Hizbullah from that government. This would also have the effect of further diminishing Syria’s role in Lebanon (which is still considerable, even though it was diminished by the forced withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon) as well as Iran’s influence. Both countries are closely tied to Hizbullah.
In the days since the Palestinian attack on the IDF outpost, the military and political wings of Hamas have very much come together on their plans and actions. There has been real unity in Hamas and the message has been very clear: if Israel refuses to talk, Hamas will pursue other options, but Hamas has been equally clear about its willingness to negotiate with Israel.
Israel’s great assault on both the Palestinian infrastructure and Palestinian Authority buildings and officials have forced Hamas and the entire PA to simply hunker down and try to survive this assault. The fact that less and less attention is being paid to Gaza and the West Bank with each passing day will make that even more difficult. Still, while many parties are eager to see Hamas fall (including, but far from limited to, the US—many Arab states are eager for this as well), Israel is the only one that needs to be concerned about the repercussions of such an event. Though the bombardment of Gaza continues, including most recently the Palestinian Foreign Ministry, it has remained largely directionless. For now, the Hamas government is not in immediate danger of collapse. That could change very quickly, though.
Hizbullah and Lebanon
While Israel, as well as a great many others on all sides of this debate, is not drawing a distinction between Hizbullah and Lebanon more broadly, the two are far from the same and their interests are far from identical.
Many Lebanese are very supportive of what Hizbullah has done, but many are not. What is much closer to a consensus position is that Israel has no right to kill civilians and devastate Lebanon as a result. Even those opposed to what Hizbullah did are currently, and appropriately, directing their anger at Israel.
The Lebanese Prime Minister is trying hard to secure a cease-fire, but divisions within the country and the huge obstacles the United States has put up to any international involvement have made that exceedingly difficult. In essence the government has been largely impotent in all of this, and, while they have not brought the national military into this conflict, continuing Israeli aggression may well force them to do so.
Over the coming weeks, we may learn with much more certainty what exactly motivated Hizbullah to act now as it has. But we can explore a few different possibilities.
One that has been suggested is that the Hizbullah action was motivated purely by a wish to help the besieged Palestinians in Gaza. There’s no doubt this was a factor on several levels—including many in Hizbullah who wanted to help the Palestinians, and the fact that Hizbullah is now the one Arab group that has come to the Palestinians’ side in all of this, increasing their popularity. But there have been many such opportunities in the past six years, and Hizbullah has never acted like this before, implying that there is much more to it.
Hizbullah’s own position in Lebanon has been a bit more tenuous since the UN Security Council passed a resolution calling for the disbanding of all militias in Lebanon. Though Hizbullah was not named in the resolution, everyone understood that they were its prime target. With the departure of the Syrian forces that supported Hizbullah and the election of a government that was much more pro-Western than the previous, Hizbullah may well have felt even more threatened. Hizbullah still enjoys tremendous support because it is perceived (in many ways, correctly) as having driven Israel out of southern Lebanon after 18 years of Israeli occupation of that area, that was six years ago. They may have felt a need to boost their prestige and support back up.
It is certain that Hizbullah would not have done this without at least the approval of Iran. Some believe, in fact, that Hizbullah did this at Iran’s behest. Hizbullah is not simply an arm of Iran, of course, but it would also be incorrect to believe that Hizbullah would take such a bold step, with so many regional implications, without at least Iran’s permission. The extent of Iran’s involvement may become clearer in the coming weeks, but in any case, it is important to examine why they might have wanted this escalation.
Iran’s role in all of this is not extremely clear, but we can be certain that they are somehow involved. On one level, the escalating tensions between Iran and Israel certainly made it much more desirable for Israel to try to cut off Iran’s agents in Lebanon, Hizbullah.
Aside from Israel, Iran is the most economically and politically stable and most powerful military in the Middle East region. Iran most certainly has ambitions of much greater regional influence, and certainly sees opposition to Israel as the best way for them to increase that influence.
With Iran under increasing US pressure for its nuclear program and knowing that the US and Israel would like nothing more than regime change in the Islamic Republic, Iran has every reason to want to act against the US and its ally, Israel. But none of those parties are eager for open warfare between Iran and Israel, let alone the US. Having Hizbullah fight Israel instead is a way to assert Iran’s influence by demonstrating that there were forces capable of opposing US-Israeli aims in the region. It is this consideration that led Saudi Arabia to bitterly condemn Hizbullah’s attack on Israel.
It is a particularly opportune moment for Iran to make such a move because of the US’ continuing stagnation in the mire of Iraq and Israel’s absorption with battling Hamas. These conditions lessen the already moderate risk of the fighting spreading to include Iran.
The same cannot be said for Syria. Israel has been increasing its antagonistic stance toward Syria for some time. In part, this is in support of US anti-terror rhetoric, and in part it is due to Bashar al-Asad’s uncertain strategy regarding Israel. This stands in contrast to his father, Hafez al-Asad, who was a stronger leader and whose agenda was much clearer. Still, Israel has also objected to American notions of de-stabilizing the Syrian regime, believing that deposing Asad would lead to a regime that was much more threatening to Israeli interests.
Since Syria’s departure from Lebanon, and despite their continuing influence in Lebanon, they have had much less influence over Hizbullah. This likely explains why Syria has made some efforts to defuse the situation. They have been engaging with both Hamas and Hizbullah to secure the release of Israeli soldiers, although these efforts have not exactly been maximal.
Israel is already beginning to threaten Syria with attack. As of now, there is no evidence that they are sending any material support to Hizbullah, but if Hizbullah is routed from Lebanon as the Israelis hope, Syria is where they will flee.
Syria is largely caught in the middle now. They are outside the world of Arab states friendly to the US. They are the only Arab country that has offered anything like significant support to Palestinian militant groups, although even that support is often vastly overstated. Yet they have also tried to mend their relations with the West, although certainly not with Israel, a reconciliation that will remain impossible as long as Israel holds the Golan Heights. They’re trying very hard to stay out of the current violence. Whether they can do so or not will probably be up to Israel.
No party could have been done as much to change this entire scenario as the US. The escalation in Gaza is directly attributable to the Bush Administration’s decision to abandon the entire Israel-Palestine issue with the lone exception being efforts to undermine the legitimately elected Hamas government. Nothing dramatic would have been necessary, just keeping some slight restraint on Israeli actions and maintaining the material support on which the Palestinian people are dependent. Instead, the US acted to increase the tensions until they blew up.
That the US is fully supportive of Israel’s targeting of civilians is not a surprise. Still, the veto at the UN earlier this week of a remarkably balanced resolution that would have called not only for Israeli withdrawal from both Lebanon and Gaza, but also the return of Israel’s soldiers and the cessation of rocket fire at Israel meant that there would be no international constraints on Israel whatsoever.
The Bush Administration’s lack of any informed or clear thinking on the Middle East is bearing its poisonous fruit. Policy, such as it is, is even turned against itself. Israel’s attacks are harming the long-term stability of the Lebanese government, a government the US supports. The US’ main concern in the region is Iran, and, while Israel certainly uses Iran for rhetorical and propaganda purposes, and is definitely concerned about Iran’s nuclear potential, Israel is far more concerned about the actions of Hamas and Hizbullah. Whether this obvious fracture in US policy will have any impact on the situation remains to be seen.
As always, it is the US that has the most power to change things.
Mission Statement of Jewish Voice for Peace
Jewish Voice for Peace is a diverse and democratic community of activists inspired by Jewish tradition to work together for peace, social justice, and human rights. We support the aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians for security and self-determination.
A U.S. foreign policy based on promoting peace, democracy, human rights, and respect
for international law
An end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem
A resolution of the Palestinian refugee problem consistent with international law and equity
An end to all violence against civilians
Peace among the peoples of the Middle East
We are among the many American Jews who say to the U.S. and Israeli governments: "Not in our names!"
JVP supports peace activists in Palestine and Israel, and works in broad coalition with other Jewish, Arab-American, faith-based, peace and social justice organizations.
FOR A CHANGE IN U.S. POLICY
Jewish Voice for Peace calls for a U.S. foreign policy that promotes democracy and human rights. The United States must stop supporting repressive policies in Israel and elsewhere. U.S. military aid to countries in the Middle East must be based on rigorous enforcement of the Arms Export Control and Foreign Assistance Acts, which mandate that military aid may be used for only defensive purposes within the recipient country's borders, and that aid may not be delivered to countries that abuse human rights.
Under these guidelines, U.S. military aid to Israel must be suspended until the occupation ends, since the occupation itself is in violation of these guidelines. Military aid allows Israel to avoid making serious efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as conflicts with its other neighbors. It enables the occupation, contributes to the devastation of Palestinian society and fosters the increasing militarization of Israeli society.
JVP also calls for suspension of military aid to other human rights abusers and occupiers in the Middle East. This aid helps prop up autocratic and repressive regimes, promotes violations of human rights and international law, obstructs democratic movements, prolongs the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and fosters militarism and violence at home and abroad.
FOR PALESTINIAN-ISRAELI PEACE
Israelis and Palestinians have the right to security, sovereignty, and self-determination within political entities of their own choosing.
Israel must end its occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem, completely withdraw from these Occupied Territories and relinquish all its settlements, military outposts and by-pass roads.
Jerusalem has to be shared in a manner that reflects its spiritual, economic, and political importance to both Israelis and Palestinians, as well as to all Jews, Muslims and Christians.
The plight of Palestinian refugees needs to be resolved equitably and in a manner that promotes peace and is consistent with international law. Within the framework of an equitable agreement, the refugees should have a role in determining their future, whether pursuing return, resettlement, or financial compensation. Israel should recognize its share of responsibility for the ongoing refugee crisis and for its resolution.
The parties must equitably distribute water and other natural resources.
Diplomatic negotiations between the two parties must be held unconditionally. Countries other than the U.S. should be involved in peace negotiations. An international peacekeeping force should be established to protect all civilians.
FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
All people of the Middle East deserve the right to democratic participation and equality within their societies, regardless of religion, ethnicity, culture, national origin, language, race, sex, gender, sexual orientation, or other status.
Israel must cease its use of military force against Palestinian civilians, including attacks involving American-supplied F-16s and Apache helicopters. Moreover, Israel must stop land seizures; destruction of homes, infrastructure, orchards and farms; arbitrary arrests and imprisonment; torture; assassinations; expulsions; curfews; travel restrictions; abuse at checkpoints; raids; collective punishment; and other violations of human rights.
Palestinians must stop suicide bombings and other attacks on Israeli civilians.
The international community must support Palestinian efforts to promote democracy and human rights, while understanding that this aim cannot be fully achieved under occupation.
Racism and bigotry cannot be tolerated, whether in the U.S. or abroad, whether against Arabs or against Jews. U.S. or abroad, whether against Arabs or against Jews.