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Monday, March 31, 2008

Queen Rania Invites All to Send Her Your Sterotypes on Youtube

Isn't she lovely?

Jordan's Queen Rania meets with business leaders accompanied by Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley after touring an after school arts program at Gallery 37 Center for the arts in this Wednesday, May 10, 2006, file photo in Chicago. Jordan's media savvy Queen Rania has launched an appeal on YouTube for a global dialogue to dismantle stereotypes of Muslims and the Arab world, the Royal Palace said Monday, March 31, 2008. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

Jordan's Queen Urges Dialogue on YouTube

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — Jordan's media savvy Queen Rania has launched an appeal on YouTube for a global dialogue to dismantle stereotypes of Muslims and the Arab world, the royal palace said Monday.

Rania vowed to work to break down such preconceptions and wants people to "know the real Arab world ... unedited, unscripted and unfiltered."

Her YouTube page invites viewers to give their opinions of the Middle East and talk about stereotyped images that they may have of Arabs and Muslims.

In the palace statement, Rania was quoted as saying she wanted young people everywhere "to see the personal side of my region, to know the places and faces and rituals and culture that shape the part of the world I call home."

Although traditionally conservative and tribal-oriented, Jordan strives for a degree of modernity that distinguishes it from some other countries in the Middle East.

YouTube is popular among Jordanian youth, who make up more than half of the country's population of nearly 6 million. There is also easy access to the Internet, unlike in some parts of the region, such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and Syria.

"In a world where it's so easy to connect to one another, we still remain very much disconnected," Rania said in her YouTube video.

The Palestinian-born Rania, who married King Abdullah in 1993, promotes education, micro-credit financing and other efforts to lift Jordan out of poverty.

Queen Rania says, "Send Me Your Sterotypes"

Honoring Cesar Chavez On His Holiday

While Cesar Chavez Day is a state holiday in eight states, (Arizona, California, Colorado, Michigan, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin) there is a push to make it a federal holiday.

Please sign the petition HERE to help make this American hero's birthday a national holiday.

Link to the Cesar Chavez Foundation.

Obama, Clinton hail Cesar Chavez.. Obama: holiday

by Mark Silva

Cesar Chavez Day.

That's what Sen. Barack Obama is endorsing: A national holiday in honor of the late, legendary activist for farm-worker rights (1927-1993), pictured here.


Today is Chavez's birthday -- and Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign was first to draw attention to that this morning, with a statement celebrating the 81st anniverary of Chavez's birth. But the senator from Illinois one-upped the senator from New York in joining the call for a new national holiday to commemorate the father of the United Farm Workers.

"As farmworkers and laborers across America continue to struggle for fair treatment and fair wages, we find strength in what Cesar Chavez accomplished so many years ago,'' Obama said in a statement released by his campaign today. "And we should honor him for what he's taught us about making America a stronger, more just, and more prosperous nation.

"That's why I support the call to make Cesar Chavez's birthday a national holiday. It's time to recognize the contributions of this American icon to the ongoing efforts to perfect our union. “

Clinton said, in a statement released today: “Today, I join millions of Americans in commemorating the life of one of our great civil rights leaders, Cesar Chavez. Driven by his strong desire to ensure better quality of life for migrant farm workers across the country, Chavez helped found – along with Dolores Huerta – the United Farm Workers of America, arguably one of the first effective farm workers’ union in the United States.''

Clinton said of Chavez: "Under his leadership -- highlighted by nonviolent protest -- thousands of farmers across the country were able to secure improved wages and benefits, humane living and working conditions, and better job security. Through his lifetime of service, he has paved the way for many, and provided inspiration for countless others.

"Cesar once said ‘We can choose to use our lives for others to bring about a better and more just world for our children.’ It is in that spirit that I join my friends and supporters Dolores Huerta, Cesar’s brother Richard and grandson Cesar Chavez Jr., as well as many Americans across the country in celebration of his birthday. We honor a true American hero and a role model to all of us who are committed to bringing change and fight for justice.”

Obama, sounding a theme of racial and ethnic harmony that he had struck with a recent speech in Philadelphia, said Chavez had worked at “making America a stronger, more just, and more prosperous nation.”

"His life and legacy are important for us all to remember,'' Obama said. "From his beginnings as a farmworker picking lettuce and beets in the American Southwest, Cesar Chavez rose to help found the United Farm Workers, providing hundreds of thousands of people with better working conditions and the chance to live a better life.

"He proved what I have long believed – that together, ordinary people can do extraordinary things. When some said he could not organize farmworkers and take on the growers, he said, "Sí Se Puede" - "Yes We Can." It's a philosophy of hope and aspiration that inspires us today.”

“Chavez left a legacy as an educator, environmentalist, and a civil rights leader,'' Obama said. "And his cause lives on. ' (source)

In Memory of Cesar Chavez

Born March 31, 1927 died April 22, 1993

By Loretta Martinez Williams

I was wet with the morning dew,

I was wet with poison too.

DDT had fallen from the sky,

I was so small, I didn’t ask why.

We lived on their land,

And worked with our hands.

We existed from their store,

Worked ‘til we weren’t needed anymore.

We then went on unto our next stop,

So tired at night into our shack we’d drop.

With a hoe and a shovel,

We had yet to overcome our trouble.

It wasn’t easy living a life like this,

And it’s the loss of our life that we are amiss.

You sacrificed yourself,

In order to seek help,

Trying to change the old way of life,

Helping us to overcome our strife.

Non violently struggling for our rights,

Answering the call and our guiding light.

Steadfast and bringing attention to our plight.

You would become the victor of our rights,

And yet you weren’t with us for very long,

But in your time you helped us to become strong.

¡La Huelga, si se mueve!

¡Si se puede! ¡Si se puede!

These words we remember when we think of you,

Our loyalty and trust eternally true.


Video: "A History of Hispanic Achievement in America-Cesar Chavez"

Knesset Poll: Arabs Should be Transferred

Just in, from the "only democracy in the Middle East", and according to Obama, "our stalwart ally". I ask, is this "democracy" in action, is it an attempt to get the go-ahead to do this? Just HOW would it be accomplished. I say it isn't about DOING it , it is about MALICE and desire. A very telling poll indeed from our "stalwart ally".

76 percent of Israelis support transferring Israeli Arabs to a future Palestinian state, a poll commissioned by the Knesset Channel revealed, Monday.

Hadash Chairman MK Muhammad Barakei.
Photo: Knesset

The poll, conducted over the internet, included 668 adult Israelis representing the entire political spectrum, cites a 3.7% margin of error.

The poll asked participants whether as part of an agreement to establish a Palestinian state there would be justification to demand that Arabs with Israeli citizenship relocate to Palestinian territory.

Only 24% were totally against the idea.

Of the remaining 76%, 29% said all Israeli Arabs should relocate. An additional 19% said only Arabs living in close proximity to the Palestinian state should relocate, and 28% said transfer should be decided based on loyalty or disloyalty to the State of Israel.

The data reflects Jewish Israelis' distrust of Arabs national priorities. 50% said Arabs identify first and foremost with the Palestinian cause and see their Israeli loyalty as secondary. 40% said Arabs identify solely with Palestinians, and only a single percent thought Arabs identify wholly with their Israeli identity.

Notwithstanding their belief that Arabs' right to retain their property was not obvious, 52% thought Israeli Arabs were not discriminated against by the state. 43% said they were discriminated against and one percent remained undecided.

Hadash Chairman MK Muhammad Barakei was furious that the Knesset Channel initiated such a poll.

"The Knesset Channel should express Israeli democracy and cannot act as a private company advancing insane and racist ideology," he said.

Barakei said that "even if 90 MKs would decide the channel has no right to express such ideas, it would still have such a right. Some things are not decided by a majority and minority [referendum or vote], and the right to exist or to express oneself freely are among those privileges. The channel failed colossally by merely raising such a question, and it is appropriate that those in control of the channel would reprimand it, without limiting its freedom of expression.

Barakei and other Arab MKs joined Jaffa's Arabs in events commemorating Land Day over the weekend, where demonstrators hoisted Palestinian flags and described Israel as a "racist and fascist" state.


Sunday, March 30, 2008

Israel: End Systematic Bias Against Bedouin

Israel: End Systematic Bias Against Bedouin
31 Mar 2008 02:24:45 GMT
Source: Human Rights Watch

Reuters and AlertNet are not responsible for the content of this article or for any external internet sites. The views expressed are the author's alone.
(Jerusalem, March 31, 2008) � Israel should declare an immediate moratorium on demolitions of Bedouin homes and create an independent commission to investigate pervasive land and housing discrimination against its Bedouin citizens in the Negev, Human Rights Watch said in a new report released today.

The 130-page report, "Off the Map: Land and Housing Rights Violations in Israel's Unrecognized Bedouin Villages," documents how discriminatory Israeli laws and practices force tens of thousands of Bedouin in the south of Israel to live in "unrecognized" shanty towns where they are under constant threat of seeing their homes demolished and their communities torn apart.

Human Rights Watch based its findings on interviews conducted in 13 unrecognized Bedouin villages and three government-planned Bedouin townships in the Negev. It interviewed dozens of Bedouin residents, as well as activists, community organizations, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), academics, and lawyers in Israel. Human Rights Watch submitted a detailed letter to the government in 2007 with preliminary findings and questions, and incorporated relevant information from the Ministry of Justice's response into the report.

"Israeli policies have put the Bedouin in a lose-lose situation," said Joe Stork, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "The state has forced them off the land they claimed as their own and into illegal shanty towns, cut off from basic necessities like water and electricity."

Israel has demolished thousands of Negev Bedouin homes since the 1970s, and hundreds in 2007 alone. Authorities say that 45,000 existing Bedouin homes in approximately 39 "unrecognized" villages were built illegally and thus potential targets for demolition. Israeli officials contend that they are simply enforcing zoning and building codes. But Human Rights Watch found that officials systematically demolish Bedouin homes while often overlooking or retroactively legalizing unlawful construction by Jewish citizens.

While the Bedouin suffer an acute need for adequate housing and for new (or recognized) residential communities, the state instead is developing new homes and communities for Jewish citizens even though some of the more than 100 existing Jewish communities in the Negev sit half-empty. In theory, any citizen can apply to live in these Negev communities, but in practice selection committees screen applicants and accept people based on undefined notions of "suitability" that systematically exclude Bedouin.

"Israel is willing and able to build new Negev towns for Jewish Israelis seeking a rural way of life, but not for the people who have lived and worked this land for generations," Stork said. "This is grossly unfair."

Israeli officials insist that Bedouin can relocate to seven existing government-planned townships or a handful of newly recognized villages. Human Rights Watch found that the government-planned townships constitute seven of the eight poorest communities in Israel and are ill-equipped to handle any influx of residents. Most Bedouin reject the idea of relocating to the townships, with their deplorable infrastructure, high crime rates, scarce job opportunities, and insufficient land for traditional livelihoods such as herding and grazing. In addition, the state requires Bedouin who move to the townships to renounce their ancestral land claims � unthinkable for most Bedouin who have claims to land passed down from parent to child over generations.

The state controls 93 percent of the land in Israel, and a government agency, the Israel Land Administration (ILA), manages and allocates this land. No Israeli law requires the ILA to ensure fair and just distribution of land. Almost half its governing body are members of the Jewish National Fund, which has an explicit mandate to develop land for Jewish use only. Today, the Bedouin community comprises 25 percent of the population of the northern Negev, but controls less than 2 percent of the land there.

Authorities have allocated large tracts of land and public funds for family ranches or farms. The state connects these farms to national electric and water grids despite the fact that some lack proper planning permits and retroactively legalizes them rather than demolish them.

"The hypocrisy in the policy towards these large individual farms is not lost on the Bedouin," said Stork. "The state's claims that the Bedouin villages are too dispersed to receive state utilities don't seem to matter when it comes to the farms."

In October 2007, the Ministry of Housing appointed a commission headed by former state comptroller and retired Supreme Court Justice Eliezer Goldberg to examine the land-ownership dispute between the state and the Bedouin community in the Negev. The eight-member Goldberg Commission, which does not include a representative from the unrecognized Bedouin villages, began work in January 2008, proposing to publish its findings and recommendations within six months.

Human Rights Watch urged the commission to base its recommendations on Israel's international human rights obligations prohibiting discrimination and guaranteeing rights to adequate and secure housing, and protection from forced evictions.

"One recommendation should be for a special commission that can conduct an impartial and comprehensive examination of the problem of the unrecognized villages," Stork said. "Because the state itself is responsible for this systematic discrimination and denial of basic rights, an independent investigative body is needed."

Many Bedouin told Human Rights Watch about the devastating impact of home demolitions on their families. The authorities typically demolished the homes without specific advanced warning, often leaving families with nothing more than a tent for shelter.


Sarah Kishkher of Um Mitnan told Human Rights Watch what this meant. "Everything used to be so clean and neat. We could keep the home organized � we had cupboards to fold the children's clothes and keep them in. We could bathe the children whenever we wanted. Everything [in a tent] is in this sandy dirt. We can't keep food for the baby in a fridge. We have lost everything."

Some Bedouin have seen their homes destroyed more than once. Fatima al-Ghanami, a 60-year-old widow in Um Mitnan, suffers from diabetes. Officials demolished her home several years ago. Shortly after she rebuilt, she received another demolition warning order. "When I got the demolition order for the old house, I was sure they would never come. Now I know better. I know they'll come and do it. � They might come tomorrow, they might come anytime. If they demolish this place, I have nowhere to go and no money left. I have no idea what I'll do."


Some Bedouin villages pre-date the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, while others sprang up after Israel forcibly displaced the Bedouin from ancestral lands in the early days of the state. Israel passed laws in the 1950s and 1960s enabling the government to lay claim to large areas of the Negev where the Bedouin had formerly owned or used the land. Planning authorities ignored the existence of Bedouin villages when they created Israel's first master plan in the late 1960s, embedding discrimination in policies that continue today, some 40 years later.

According to the United Nations committee responsible for interpreting the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which Israel ratified in 1991, governments can carry out forced evictions only in "the most exceptional circumstances," and in accordance with international law. Even in exceptional circumstances, human rights principles require that the government must consult with the affected individuals or communities, identify a clear public interest requiring the eviction, ensure that those affected have a meaningful opportunity to challenge the eviction, and provide appropriate compensation and adequate alternative land and housing arrangements.

In almost all cases, Human Rights Watch found that the state met none of these criteria.

In the unrecognized villages of Um al-Hieran and Atir, near the Yatir forest, the state filed lawsuits to evacuate and expel the approximately 1,500 residents in April 2004. In September 2006, the state obtained approximately 40 judicial demolition orders against almost all the houses in Um al-Hieran, and in June 2007 the ILA demolished 25 of those homes. Um al-Hieran dates from 1956, when the government moved the residents from their land in the western Negev, around today's Kibbutz Shoval. Now the government wants the land of Um al-Hieran to construct a larger Jewish settlement, Hiran. The government never informed Um al-Hieran's residents of its plans or invited them to be a part of the new community before attempting to displace them forcibly again.

After planning officials distributed demolition warnings or orders on all the homes in the village of al-Sira in September 2006, village residents approached the authorities but found there were no alternatives envisaged for the community. Resident Khalil al-Amour told Human Rights Watch: "They always say 'maybe'. Maybe you'll get a neighborhood when [the township of] Rahat expands; maybe you can go to the [newly planned] township of Marit which does not even exist yet. We are invisible people to them, so perhaps we can live in invisible houses." All the homes in the village now have demolition orders.

The Human Rights Watch report discusses examples of countries where governments have attempted to address indigenous land claims and provide redress where there have been historical injustices. New Zealand, Canada, and Australia, for instance, have established national processes, ranging from commissions to tribunals, and in some cases these have resulted in returning land which was owned or traditionally used by indigenous populations to their control.


Sunday Offering #53: Prayer for Mankind

Saturday, March 29, 2008

What the US Has Wrought in Iraq

For the complete IRC report (pdf) link HERE

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Picture source

The untold disaster of Iraqi refugees

Noting the Iraq war anniversary this month, the International Rescue Committee ( released a report: ''Five Years Later, A Hidden Crisis.'' Below are excerpts.

The war that was launched in Iraq five years ago has produced one of the largest humanitarian crises of our time. Yet this crisis is largely hidden from the public and ignored by the international community. More than four million Iraqis are estimated to be uprooted by horrific violence and death and are in dire need of help. . . .

There is a remarkably wide range of estimates, from 1 million to 2 million, of the number of Iraqi refugees in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and other host countries. Whatever the exact number, it is substantial -- and their experience has been grim. Before leaving Iraq, many suffered torture, kidnappings and the deaths of loved ones. Many are in danger because they have worked for Americans -- U.S. military, media, contractors and aid agencies.

Single women with children and the elderly are particularly vulnerable. Others, especially adult men who are unable to work and provide for their families, suffer from depression, anxiety and chronic disease. Many grow increasingly destitute with each passing day.

They need healthcare, housing, jobs and schooling, and safe places for children to play. Instead, they remain isolated, unwanted and insecure, overwhelmed by feelings of hopelessness, paralyzed without prospects for a better future.

The world is unaware of the massive scale of this disaster and the deplorable conditions in which these refugees find themselves. The international response has been completely inadequate. Help is urgently needed.

Displaced refugees need substantial aid delivered effectively and efficiently. The United States should provide $1.5 billion to $2 billion per year toward a global total of $3 billion to $4 billion. This may seem like a large amount, but is minuscule in relation to the hundreds of billions of dollars already spent on the war. The United States should cover half of the anticipated $800 million in appeals from international organizations to help displaced Iraqis inside and outside Iraq in 2008.

Host countries also need much more help, beginning with at least $900 million in bilateral assistance from the United States to Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt. Iraq can provide more reliable deliveries of oil at reduced prices to help neighboring countries that are helping the refugees. European countries and the oil-producing Gulf states can and should contribute.

The best solution for most of the refugees is to return to their homes in Iraq, but safe repatriation cannot be undertaken now or in the foreseeable future. The international community must work to achieve conditions in Iraq that will allow for the eventual safe, voluntary and sustainable return of many refugees and displaced people to their homes. In the meantime, the international community must recognize that the refugees may have to remain where they are for the medium or long term and require help where they have sought refuge.


About This Video
Iraqi refugees: "We can't return"
Added: January 04, 2008
Iraqi refugees: "We can't return"

Friday, March 28, 2008

US Labor Against the Siege of Gaza


Since it was first issued on Monday, New York City Labor Against
the War's statement on Gaza has been posted at:




But to break the silence on this issue, we need all the help we can
get -- from trade unionists and others, in the U.S. and around the world.

Therefore, this is a request to you and/or your organization to:

1. Endorse:

2. Post and forward.

3. Otherwise publish.

Thank you!


Please endorse, post and forward

New York City Labor Against the War
March 23, 2008

New York City Labor Against the War joins the Congress of South Africa
Trade Unions in denouncing Israel's recent massacres in Gaza, the
victims of which include at least 130 Palestinians -- half of them
civilians, including dozens of women and children -- since February


Israel claims that it is fighting "terrorism" in Gaza. This is the
same hollow excuse with which the U.S. seeks to justify war in
Afghanistan and Iraq, and the erosion of civil liberties and labor
rights at home.

In fact, Israel's attacks are part of a relentless, U.S.-orchestrated
campaign of collective punishment -- with complicity of the corrupt
Palestinian Authority -- to overthrow the democratically-elected Hamas

Long before its latest massacres, Israel had turned Gaza into the
world's "largest open air prison," assassinating activists, and
cutting-off essential goods and services to 1.5 million people. Only
as a result did Hamas abandon a unilateral two-year truce.

Even now, Israel seeks to derail Hamas truce offers by escalating
arrests, home demolitions, settlements and murder in the West Bank --
from which no rockets have been fired.

Despite media portrayals, this violence is overwhelmingly one-sided
against Palestinians, who have no aircraft, artillery or tanks.

Thus, while only one Israeli has been killed by rockets launched from
Gaza since May 2007, Israel's modern arsenal killed 60 Palestinians on
March 1 alone.

On February 29, Israel's Deputy Defense Minister, Matan Valnai,
threatened a bigger "Shoah" -- a reference to the Nazi Holocaust.

As UN official John Dugard has pointed out, Palestinian rockets are
not the cause, but the "inevitable consequence," of Israeli state
terror in Gaza, the slow-motion genocide which human rights
organizations describe as "worse than at any time since the beginning
of the Israeli military occupation in 1967."

Following the latest attacks, a Council on Foreign Relations expert
explained, "You have Palestinians who wouldn't necessarily support the
violence but they are saying, 'Well, what choice do we have?'"


Israel's war on Gaza can only be understood as an attempt to stamp out
all resistance -- including nonviolent protest -- to Israel's ongoing
ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.

Indeed, most of Gaza's population are survivors of Zionist expulsions
since the Nakba (Catastrophe) of 1948, when 13,000 Palestinians were
massacred, 531 towns and villages erased, 11 urban neighborhoods
emptied, and more than 750,000 (85 percent) driven from 78 percent of
their country.

In 1967, Israel seized the remaining 22 percent of Palestine --
including East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza -- which, in
violation of UN resolutions, remains under Israeli military rule.

Today, as a result of these policies, at least 70 percent of the 10
million Palestinians are refugees -- the largest such population in
the world. Despite other UN resolutions, Israel vows that it will
never allow them to return.

Palestinians who managed to remain within the 1948 areas -- today, 1.4
million (or 20 percent of the population in Israel) -- are permanently
separated from their families in exile, subject to more than 20
discriminatory laws, treated as a "demographic threat," and threatened
with mass expulsion.

In East Jerusalem and the West Bank, 140 illegal, ever-expanding
Jewish-only settlements and road systems dominate the water resources
and control 40 percent of the land. Palestinians are confined,
separated, denied medical treatment, and degraded by an 8-meter-high
separation wall, pass laws, curfews and 600 military checkpoints.

From 2000-2007, 4,274 Palestinians in these 1967 territories were
killed, compared with 1,024 Israelis. The military has seized 60,000
political prisoners; it still holds and tortures 11,000.

All of these conditions have dramatically worsened since the Annapolis
"peace conference" in November.


Israel's war on Palestine depends completely on U.S. money, weapons
and approval.

Since 1948, Israel -- the top foreign aid recipient -- has received at
least $108 billion from the U.S. government. In the past ten years
alone, U.S. military aid was $17 billion; over the next decade, it
will be $30 billion.

Israel's recent assault on Gaza was endorsed by a Congressional vote
of 404-1. Democratic and Republican presidential candidates fall over
themselves to offer more of the same.

On March 22, Dick Cheney reassured Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
of "America's. . . . commitment to Israel's right to defend itself
always against terrorism, rocket attacks and other threats," and that
the U.S. and Israel are "friends -- special friends."

This "special friendship" means that, as in Afghanistan and Iraq, it
is U.S. aircraft, cluster bombs and bullets that kill and maim on
behalf of the occupiers. Just one of many targets was the Palestinian
General Federation of Trade Unions headquarters in Gaza City,
destroyed by F-16s on February 28.

Such support bolsters Israel's longstanding role as watchdog and
junior partner for U.S. domination over the oil-rich Middle East --
and beyond. In that capacity, Israel was apartheid South Africa's
closest ally.

After 9/11, it helped intensify the demonization of Arabs and Muslims.
It has 200 nuclear weapons, but helped manufacture "evidence" of Iraqi
WMD. With U.S. weapons and support, it invaded Lebanon in 2006.

Together, these wars and occupations have killed, maimed and displaced
millions of people, thereby creating the world's largest humanitarian
crisis. Now, Israel is the cutting edge of threats against Syria and

In other words, oppression and resistance in Palestine is the
epicenter of U.S.-Israeli war throughout the Middle East. These stakes
are reflected in the ferocity of Israel's attacks against Gaza.


In Palestine, South Africa, Britain, Canada and other countries, labor
has condemned Israeli Apartheid.

Workers in the United States pay a staggering human and financial
price, including deepening economic crisis, for U.S.-Israeli war and

But through a combination of intent, ignorance and/or expediency, much
of labor officialdom in this country -- often without the knowledge or
consent of union members -- is an accomplice of Israeli Apartheid.

Some 1,500 labor bodies have plowed at least $5 billion of union
pension funds and retirement plans into State of Israel Bonds.

In April 2002, while Israel butchered Palestinian refugees at Jenin in
the West Bank, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney was a featured speaker
at a belligerent "National Solidarity Rally for Israel." In 2006,
leadership of the American Federation of Teachers embraced Israel's
war on Lebanon.

These same leaders collaborate with attempts by the Jewish Labor
Committee (JLC) to silence Apartheid Israel's opponents -- many of
whom are Jewish.

In July 2007, top officials of the AFL-CIO and Change to Win signed a
JLC statement that condemned British unions for even considering the
nonviolent campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions against

Just days ago, the JLC and the leadership of UNITE-HERE bullied a
community organization in Boston into revoking space for a conference
on "Zionism and the Repression of Anti-Colonial Movements."

Even the leadership of U.S. Labor Against the War, which receives
funding from several major unions, remains adamantly silent about U.S.
government, corporate and labor support for Israeli Apartheid.

Labor leaders' complicity parallels infamous "AFL-CIA" support for
U.S. war and dictatorship in Vietnam, Latin America, Gulf War I,
Afghanistan and elsewhere. It strengthens the U.S.-Israel war machine
and labor's corporate enemies, reinforces racism and Islamophobia, and
makes a mockery of international solidarity.


More than forty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came under
intense public attack for opposing the Vietnam war. Even within the
Civil Rights Movement, some dismissed his position too "divisive" and

In his famous speech at the Riverside Church in April 1967, Dr. King
answered these critics by pointing out that "silence is betrayal," and
that "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today . . . [is]
my own government."

At the National Labor Leadership Assembly for Peace in November 1967,
he reiterated the most basic principles of labor solidarity:
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. . . .
Ultimately a genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a
molder of consensus."

These principles are no less relevant today.

Yes, the Israel lobby seeks to silence opponents of Israeli Apartheid.
All the more need for trade unionists to break that silence by
speaking out against Israeli military occupation, for the right of
Palestinian refugees to return, and for the elimination of apartheid
throughout historic Palestine.

Therefore, we reaffirm our support for an immediate and total:

1. End to U.S. military and economic support for Israel.

2. Divestment of business and labor investments in Israel.

3. Withdrawal of U.S. and allied forces from the Middle East.

Issued by NYCLAW Co-Conveners
(Other affiliations listed for identification only):

Larry Adams
Former President, NPMHU Local 300

Michael Letwin
Former President, UAW Local 2325/Assn. of Legal Aid Attorneys

Brenda Stokely
Former President, AFSCME DC 1707; Co-Chair, Million Worker March

NYCLAW, with Al-Awda-NY The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, is a
cofounder of Labor for Palestine .

Previous NYCLAW materials on Palestine include:

Response to Anti-Boycott Attacks (October 19, 2007)

Open Letter to UTLA President A.J. Duffy (October 9, 2006)

U.S. Government and Labor Aid to Israel (September 1, 2006)

Labor and the Middle East War (August 11, 2006)

Conference: Palestine, Labor and the AFL-CIO (July 23, 2005)

From Palestine to the US - Labor Fights Back! (October 7, 2004)

Report on the New York Visit by Representatives from the PGFTU
(December 22, 2002)

An Evening With Palestinian Trade Unionists (December 13, 2002)

Protest Israeli Consul's Speech to AFL-CIO (May 21, 2002)

No Labor Money for Israeli War Crimes! (May 21, 2002)

Monday Israeli Consul Protest Postponed April 26, 2002)

Subscribe to the NYCLAW low-volume listserv:

New York City Labor Against the War (NYCLAW)
PO Box 620166, PACC, New York, NY 10129

Apartheid Road

Be sure to link to the New York Times article. Needless to say, ALL of the settlements in the West Bank are illegal per International Law.

Source of below

A Freeway in Israel Provokes a Cringe: Apartheid

"They took our land to build this road, and now we can't even use it," bitterly says Abu Safia, a Palestinian in an excellent piece by Ethan Bronner in today's "New York Times."

The highway in question is 443, a major access road to Jerusalem. A recent decision by Israel's Supreme Court has tacitly endorsed the idea of separate roads for Palestinians in the occupied territories. It certainly magnifies the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But it also shows how roadways all over the world have often been used to divide communities, often along racial or ethnic lines. It echoes many of the critiques Jane Jacobs, Lewis Mumford and others have brought against modern urban planning.

Who gets to use it? Read after the jump.

Highway 443 was built hugely on private Palestinian land. It was legally challenged in the early 1980s, but the Supreme Court allowed the project to go ahead because the Israeli army claimed its purpose was to serve local Palestinians, not Israeli commuters. In the wake of stone throwings and several drive-by shootings (five people have been killed since 2001), however, Israeli authorities have blocked Palestinian access to the road.

Today 443 is a conduit for some 40,000 cars headed to Jerusalem, almost all of them Israeli. The Israeli Supreme Court ruling was based on a promise by the army to build separate, commensurate roads for Palestinians.

Urban planners around the world have pushed major thoroughfares through poor neighborhoods to disperse communities or otherwise cut them off from urban centers. The current ruling from Israel's Supreme Court seems more likely to usher in a two-tiered system.

Read More

And More

Sources: New York Times, International Herald Tribune, Jerusalem Post
Photo: Tess Schaflen via ActiveStills

Video: "Apartheid Road":312 KM of West Bank Apartheid roads are forbidden for Palestinian use.
The highway 443 is one of the most prominent and upsetting. about 15 Km of highway 443 from Modi'in to Jerusakem are going on Palestinian land in the area of the West Bank.
It is safe to assume that the majority of 40,000 Israeli citizens that use this road for shorten their way from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on a daily basis, are unaware to the fact that they are traveling through the occupied territories. As well as they are unaware that 80,000 Palestinians that live aside the road which had been built on their land, are not allowed to use it to their Metropolice Ramalla.

Part 1 - the injustice and the discrimination of the apartheid highway 443.

Some Things American Investors Could Learn From Muslims

In today's mortgage meltdown and economic crisis, some are thriving by doing things differently.
A lesson sent to our government perhaps?

Islamic Principles Help Steer Muslim-American Investors Through Economic Shoals

27 March 2008

Elshinnawi report voiced by Ted Landphair - Download (MP3) audio clip
Elshinnawi report voiced by Ted Landphair - Listen (MP3) audio clip

Muslim American businesses avoid alcohol and interest
Muslim American businesses avoid alcohol and interest
At a time when the American economy is buffeted by the aftershocks of a mortgage crisis involving loans at sub-prime rates to consumers with shaky credit, many Islamic investment funds are prospering. They avoid banks, mortgages, and interest-related transactions. And they are attracting non-Muslim investors.

Muslim Americans used to joke about what they called the cost of being a Muslim, because their religion restricts them from paying or earning interest on investments. Over the years, they developed their own organizations that found ways to achieve high yields while abiding by Islamic teachings, which require that investors share in profit and loss. One such organization, Amana Mutual Fund, was developed to provide investments that are consistent with Islamic principles.

Monem A. Salam
Monem A. Salam
Munem Salam is an investment adviser there. He says Amana initially was started by a group of Muslims as an investment club in 1984. The demand grew so quickly that they realized they could not operate as an investment club anymore.

With the help of experts in mutual funds, Muslim Americans established Amana – the first investment fund of its kind – in 1986. Eight years later, in 1994, they launched the Amana Growth Fund.

Salam says the Amana Income Fund is now worth more than $1 billion, and both funds are doing well. "For the (last) three-year and five-year periods, the Amana income fund is the number one fund in the country in the category of equity income, where there are about 1,100 companies."

Munem Salam notes that while Islamic funds may not invest in businesses that deal in pornography, gambling, alcoholic beverages, or interest-based finance, he says Amana's success proves there is no special cost of being a Muslim in America. To the contrary, he says, its return of 9 to 22 percent over the past five years has caught the eye of non-Muslim investors as well.

"There are two basic categories of non-Muslim Americans who are coming to our fund," Salam says. "The first category is ethically or socially-based, because if you look at all of the socially responsible investing funds or the ethically-based funds, we are outperforming them as well. And we are seeing a lot of demand from brokers that are buying our fund just because of our performance alone."

Muslim Americans try to stick to their traditions
Muslim Americans try to stick to their traditions
Salam says that at a time when thousands of Americans are losing their homes because they were allowed – or even enticed – to borrow more money than they could afford to repay, more Americans would welcome the Islamic way of financing a home.

Ajaz Khan, who heads the Ameen Housing Cooperative in California, explains it as a "partnership."

"There is no fixed interest rate; it does not matter if the house price goes down or up. At Ameen Housing it is shared by the homeowner and members of Ameen Housing."

A member buys shares in a cooperative that purchases many units of housing. Once the member has invested about one third of the cost of a particular house, the fund buys the house, and the member and member's family move in. They pay rent, part of which becomes a return on shareholders' investment, and part of which builds equity in the house until the loan is paid and the member gains full ownership.

Ajaz Khan says that although Islamic fund members make a larger down payment compared to most Americans, they usually own their homes within six years, rather than the 30 years of the most popular conventional mortgage.

Kahn says the partnership would not extend sub-prime loans to risky prospects, and thus not face an implosion if loans were not repaid. Nevertheless, he says Muslim investors are plenty concerned about the subprime crisis. That's because worried consumers cut their consumption of gasoline and retail goods – two portfolios in which Muslim investors have lot of stock.


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Reverand Wright Redux

Here we go again, more attacks on Obama via Reverend Wright. Let it be known, I am not a major Obama fan whatsoever, but as a mere citizen I find these attacks absolutely ludicrous.

So let's break it down:

Obama weathers Wright storm as new details emerge

By Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A controversy over Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's former pastor has not hurt Obama, a new poll found on Thursday, even as more potential trouble surfaced involving his church.

A poll by the Pew Research Center said videos of sermons by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Obama's subsequent speech on race in America last week have attracted more public attention than any events thus far in the 2008 presidential campaign.

The March 19-22 survey of 1,503 American adults found that despite the flap, Illinois Sen. Obama had maintained a 49 percent to 39 percent advantage over New York Sen. Hillary Clinton in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

While he seemed to have weathered the storm so far, the poll said most voters aware of the sermons were offended by them.

Wright argued from the pulpit that the September 11 attacks were payback for U.S. foreign policy and expressed anger over what he called racist America.


Firstly, the comments referred to here are taken out of context. Secondly, one needs to refer to the book written by Chalmers Johnson, "Blowback". The term "blowback" is a CIA term.

For Americans who can bear to think about it, those tragic pictures from New York of women holding up photos of their husbands, sons and daughters and asking if anyone knows anything about them look familiar. They are similar to scenes we have seen from Buenos Aires and Santiago. There, too, starting in the 1970s, women held up photos of their loved ones, asking for information. Since it was far too dangerous then to say aloud what they thought had happened to them--that they had been tortured and murdered by US-backed military juntas--the women coined a new word for them, los desaparecidos--"the disappeareds." Our government has never been honest about its own role in the 1973 overthrow of the elected government of Salvador Allende in Chile or its backing, through "Operation Condor," of what the State Department has recently called "extrajudicial killings" in Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil and elsewhere in Latin America. But we now have several thousand of our own disappeareds, and we are badly mistaken if we think that we in the United States are entirely blameless for what happened to them.

The suicidal assassins of September 11, 2001, did not "attack America," as our political leaders and the news media like to maintain; they attacked American foreign policy. Employing the strategy of the weak, they killed innocent bystanders who then became enemies only because they had already become victims. Terrorism by definition strikes at the innocent in order to draw attention to the sins of the invulnerable. The United States deploys such overwhelming military force globally that for its militarized opponents only an "asymmetric strategy," in the jargon of the Pentagon, has any chance of success. When it does succeed, as it did spectacularly on September 11, it renders our massive military machine worthless: The terrorists offer it no targets. On the day of the disaster, President George W. Bush told the American people that we were attacked because we are "a beacon for freedom" and because the attackers were "evil." In his address to Congress on September 20, he said, "This is civilization's fight." This attempt to define difficult-to-grasp events as only a conflict over abstract values--as a "clash of civilizations," in current post-cold war American jargon--is not only disingenuous but also a way of evading responsibility for the "blowback" that America's imperial projects have generated.

"The term “blowback” first appeared in a classified government document in the CIA’s post-action report on the secret overthrow of the Iranian government in 1953. In 2000, James Risen of the New York Times explained: “When the Central Intelligence Agency helped overthrow Mohammed Mossadegh as Iran’s prime minister in 1953, ensuring another 25 years of rule for Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, the CIA was already figuring that its first effort to topple a foreign government would not be its last. The CIA, then just six years old and deeply committed to winning the cold war, viewed its covert action in Iran as a blueprint for coup plots elsewhere around the world, and so commissioned a secret history to detail for future generations of CIA operatives how it had been done. . . . Amid the sometimes curious argot of the spy world—‘safebases’ and ‘assets’ and the like—the CIA warns of the possibilities of ‘blowback.’ The word . . . has since come into use as shorthand for the unintended consequences of covert operations.”

The attacks of September 11 descend in a direct line from events in 1979, the year in which the CIA, with full presidential authority, began carrying out its largest ever clandestine operation—the secret arming of Afghan freedom fighters (mujahideen) to wage a proxy war against the Soviet Union, which involved the recruitment and training of militants from all over the Islamic world. Various members of the current Bush cabinet were complicit in generating the blowback of 9/11. Former general Colin Powell certainly knows why “they” might hate us. He was Ronald Reagan’s last national security adviser and then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the George H. W. Bush administration. Others include former secretary of defense Dick Cheney, former National Security Council staff official Condoleezza Rice, former Reagan confidant and emissary to Saddam Hussein Donald Rumsfeld, former Pentagon official in both the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations Paul Wolfowitz, and many more. Throughout the 1980s, these officials designed and implemented the secret war in Afghanistan and then, after the Soviet Union’s withdrawal, made the decision to abandon America’s Islamic agents." (source)

Are we as a nation not able to have a mature conversation about the possible repercussions of our foreign policy? The CIA does! They even coined a term for it!

Furthermore, the ENTIRE sermon given that day is necessary to watch. Reverend Wright is simply discussing "blowback" amongst other issues. But then again, maybe it's only the US who has the right to retalliate for anything, because God only knows, no matter what we do, we are ALWAYS right. And NO NO NO I am not justifying 9/11, I am TRYING to have a mature conversation about REPERCUSSIONS. I am 100% committed to non-violence by ALL PARTIES.


(Reuter's article continued)

The new survey was released as new information came to light about Obama's Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, which Obama attended for two decades.

A Christian publication called Baptist Messenger reported that the church published a pro-Hamas, anti-Israel opinion article in a church bulletin in July.

It said the church republished the article from The Los Angeles Times. In the article, an official from the Palestinian group Hamas defended the group's refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist.

Baptist Messenger said the column was posted on Wright's "Pastor's Page."


Here is the article from the LA Times which is referred to.

Hamas' stand

An official of the movement describes its goals for all of Palestine.
By Mousa Abu Marzook, MOUSA ABU MARZOOK is the deputy of the political bureau of Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement.
July 10, 2007
Damascus, Syria — HAMAS' RESCUE of a BBC journalist from his captors in Gaza last week was surely cause for rejoicing. But I want to be clear about one thing: We did not deliver up Alan Johnston as some obsequious boon to Western powers.

It was done as part of our effort to secure Gaza from the lawlessness of militias and violence, no matter what the source. Gaza will be calm and under the rule of law — a place where all journalists, foreigners and guests of the Palestinian people will be treated with dignity. Hamas has never supported attacks on Westerners, as even our harshest critics will concede; our struggle has always been focused on the occupier and our legal resistance to it — a right of occupied people that is explicitly supported by the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Yet our movement is continually linked by President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to ideologies that they know full well we do not follow, such as the agenda of Al Qaeda and its adherents. But we are not part of a broader war. Our resistance struggle is no one's proxy, although we welcome the support of people everywhere for justice in Palestine.

The American efforts to negate the will of the Palestinian electorate by destroying our fledgling government have not succeeded — rather, the U.S.-assisted Fatah coup has only multiplied the problems of Washington's "two-state solution."

Mr. Bush has for the moment found a pliant friend in Abu Mazen, a "moderate" in the American view but one who cannot seriously expect to command confidence in the streets of Gaza or the West Bank after having taken American arms and Israeli support to depose the elected government by force. We deplore the current prognosticating over "Fatah-land" versus "Hamastan." In the end, there can be only one Palestinian state.

But what of the characterization by the West of our movement as beyond the pale of civilized discourse? Our "militant" stance cannot by itself be the disqualifying factor, as many armed struggles have historically resulted in a place at the table of nations. Nor can any deny the reasonableness of our fight against the occupation and the right of Palestinians to have dignity, justice and self-rule.

Yet in my many years of keeping an open mind to all sides of the Palestine question — including those I spent in an American prison, awaiting Israeli "justice" — I am forever asked to concede the recognition of Israel's putative "right to exist" as a necessary precondition to discussing grievances, and to renounce positions found in the Islamic Resistance Movement's charter of 1988, an essentially revolutionary document born of the intolerable conditions under occupation more than 20 years ago.

The sticking point of "recognition" has been used as a litmus test to judge Palestinians. Yet as I have said before, a state may have a right to exist, but not absolutely at the expense of other states, or more important, at the expense of millions of human individuals and their rights to justice. Why should anyone concede Israel's "right" to exist, when it has never even acknowledged the foundational crimes of murder and ethnic cleansing by means of which Israel took our towns and villages, our farms and orchards, and made us a nation of refugees?

Why should any Palestinian "recognize" the monstrous crime carried out by Israel's founders and continued by its deformed modern apartheid state, while he or she lives 10 to a room in a cinderblock, tin-roof United Nations hut? These are not abstract questions, and it is not rejectionist simply because we have refused to abandon the victims of 1948 and their descendants.

As for the 1988 charter, if every state or movement were to be judged solely by its foundational, revolutionary documents or the ideas of its progenitors, there would be a good deal to answer for on all sides. The American Declaration of Independence, with its self-evident truth of equality, simply did not countenance (at least, not in the minds of most of its illustrious signatories) any such status for the 700,000 African slaves at that time; nor did the Constitution avoid codifying slavery as an institution, counting "other persons" as three-fifths of a man. Israel, which has never formally adopted a constitution of its own but rather operates through the slow accretion of Basic Laws, declares itself explicitly to be a state for the Jews, conferring privileged status based on faith in a land where millions of occupants are Arabs, Muslims and Christians.

The writings of Israel's "founders" — from Herzl to Jabotinsky to Ben Gurion — make repeated calls for the destruction of Palestine's non-Jewish inhabitants: "We must expel the Arabs and take their places." A number of political parties today control blocs in the Israeli Knesset, while advocating for the expulsion of Arab citizens from Israel and the rest of Palestine, envisioning a single Jewish state from the Jordan to the sea. Yet I hear no clamor in the international community for Israel to repudiate these words as a necessary precondition for any discourse whatsoever. The double standard, as always, is in effect for Palestinians.

I, for one, do not trouble myself over "recognizing" Israel's right to exist — this is not, after all, an epistemological problem; Israel does exist, as any Rafah boy in a hospital bed, with IDF shrapnel in his torso, can tell you. This dance of mutual rejection is a mere distraction when so many are dying or have lived as prisoners for two generations in refugee camps. As I write these words, Israeli forays into Gaza have killed another 15 people, including a child. Who but a Jacobin dares to discuss the "rights" of nations in the face of such relentless state violence against an occupied population?

I look forward to the day when Israel can say to me, and millions of other Palestinians: "Here, here is your family's house by the sea, here are your lemon trees, the olive grove your father tended: Come home and be whole again." Then we can speak of a future together. (source)

Now, I personally find nothing at all factually wrong with that article, NOTHING. Furthermore, it was published in the LOS ANGELES TIMES.

In addition, Trumpet Newsmagazine, of which Wright is the chief executive officer, published an article written by Wright in which he described the crucifixion of Jesus as "public lynching Italian style."

"(Jesus') enemies had their opinion about Him," Wright wrote in a eulogy of the late scholar Asa Hilliard in the November/December 2007 issue, according to "The Italians for the most part looked down their garlic noses at the Galileans."


Here is the complete text of that eulogy. Read about Asa Hilliard HERE

I don't know about you, but I want to hear the inflection and metaphor in one's speech. Was he referring to "garlic eaters" and bad breath as a racist epitat, or was he saying something else, that the Roman occupation of Palestine stunk? I might be way off here, but that's what I read, because again, I don't jump to conclusions, but look to the nuance of intention when using metaphors.


Obama was asked about the latest information about Wright during a CNBC interview.

"I've, I think, talked thoroughly about, you know, the issue with Rev. Wright. And, you know, everybody, I think, who examines the church that I attend knows that it is a very traditional, conventional church," he said.

He said Wright had made some "troubling statements and some appalling statements that I have condemned."

The End...................................................(source)

Now can we get on to something much more important, that would be the issues. Better yet, listen to Reverend Wright APART from Obama, and try to REALLY listen without prejudiced ears.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Riyadh's Hip New Spa Hotel for Women Only

Check out KSA's hip new spa hotel for women only HERE

Women only at the Luthan.
Thursday, 27th March 2008
Source : Luthan Hotel and Spa

Luthan is today the ONLY all Women’s Hotel and Spa in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Endorsed by the Minister of Tourism, Prince Sultan Bin Salman Bin AbdulAziz and Prince Turki Bin Mohammed BinFahad– the launch of this unique hotel heralds a new beginning for women residents and travellers through The Kingdom. Affording an unparalleled sense of security to the local women and the international traveller alike.

Launched on the 18th of March, 2008, the Hotel was preceded by a State-of-the-art Spa on the same premises in December 2005. Today, the two facilities, unmatched for the quality of services are the pride of all the women who envisaged this project a few years ago.

Luthan Hotel and Spa offers an unusual blend of Health and Wellbeing to each guest. On the list of rejuvenating amenities we have methods and processes that span the globe. From alternative procedures of the Far East, special beauty treatments from the Americas to time tested spa related Bedouin healing methods of the stunning Arabian women themselves.

Services at Luthan:

  • Ayurveda
  • Aromatherapy
  • Aqua Healing
  • Reiki
  • Tibetan Sound Bowl Therapy
  • Wraps: Seaweed, Sea Algae, Sea Clay
  • Balinese and Thai Massage Treatments
  • Infra Red Treatments
  • Ultra Sound Treatments
  • Vaccum Suction Treatments
  • Micro current Treatments
  • Pulse Light Treatments
  • Oxygen treatments
  • Personalized fitness programs : Fat Burn circuit training,Aqua Excercises,Yoga, Pilates, Callenetics, Spinning, Fit Ball
Every service has been carefully chosen to make our women-only guests feel pampered and special. Whether she is taking a break from domesticity or is a stressed international women traveller dealing with a demanding business 24x7…she can be assured of a sanctuary - a haven - a Luthan. This is what our name connotes!

Uncompromising quality belies every one of Luthan’s 150 services. With personal care products from international brands like Phytoceane, Camille Darmont, Lillian Terry and Forest Essentials, every lady at Luthan simply knows she’s special.

Luthan is also planning to launch retail products from the Bayan line, a creation by a Saudi woman Dr Enam Bagedo. This 100% natural and organic product is a revival of Bedouin traditions.

On the anvil:

  • Expansion plans are being carefully developed and one will see similar projects under the aegis of Luthan in other parts of the Kingdom soon
  • Luthan Hospitality School: As an ongoing contribution to Saudisation and the development of peripheral industry requirements, Luthan will train Saudi women.
The Luthan Hospitality School will offer a one year Diploma Course followed by a two year internship program. Luthan Hotel and Spa plans to work in tandem with other female organisations and values associations with all organizations that aims at training local workforce, especially the empowerment of females. Luthan seeks to apply its assets for social purposes. When we successfully assist Saudi women to benchmark such unique projects, we will have achieved our goals. Luthan is definitely striving to realize the vision of excellence in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.


And another article:

Saudi Arabia opens first women-only hotel


SAFE HAVEN? Saudi Arabia's first women-only hotel has opened, offering plush lodgings with a full-range of health and beauty facilities away from the accusing eyes of a male-dominated society.

Read further>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Racism, media stereotypes, and the Middle East

Racism, media stereotypes, and the Middle East

Teresa Cambria

Issue date: 3/26/08 Section: News/Features

Lately I've been going through a little something I like to call West Wing television withdrawal. In the years since "The West Wing" finale, I have missed the show's sharp, fast paced humor and cutting political commentary. To alleviate my withdrawal symptoms, I recently revisited an old episode - but instead of feeling warm and fuzzy liberalness, I was unsettled.

"Isaac and Ishmael" was an effort by the writers and producers to address the changes in the world directly after September 11, and thus was suspended from the plot and chronology of the rest of the series. In this episode, Josh Lyman (deputy White House chief of staff/sexy protagonist) speaks to a group of high school students while the White House is in lock down during a potential terrorist threat. This framework provides an ideal opportunity for an extensive discussion about terrorism, Arabs, Muslims, and the interactions between the United States and the rest of the world. The show focused on breaking down stereotypes and understanding those who are different from us.

The content was not what was unsettling. What left me so perplexed was that an episode with content that should have been extremely dated to a hostile, post-9/11 climate still seemed so relevant to today's political discourse. It seems to me that despite our increased interaction with the Arab and Muslim world, as a nation we haven't moved passed many of the incorrect and absurdly negative assumptions and stereotypes held directly after the attacks.

How is it that as a nation we can be at war for five years in a region and still be so ignorant about it? People continue to conflate Arab with Muslim, despite the fact that not all Arabs are Muslim, and not all Muslims are Arab. Naturally, the most alarming is that both of these groups have become synonymous with "terrorist" in the typical American mind set. There is a large population in this country who would take issue with the terms "Muslim American" or "Arab American" and have absolutely no problem completely stripping all people who fit either of those bills of all their civil liberties and rights in the name of "national security." Although there has been some effort to fix these misconceptions, I have yet to see a true concerted effort as everyone clamors to avoid being called unpatriotic. A recent poll demonstrated that around 50% of Americans would approve of restricting the civil liberties of Arab Americans, and 25% of people would not feel comfortable living next door to these groups.

At MESA's Middle Eastern Night, Dr. Jack Shaheen pointed out that negative stereotypes about the Arab world have been rampant in visual culture for centuries. Especially with the rise of the movie industry and television, depictions of Arabs have typically been of backward, ruthless desert dwelling foreigners, and yet no one calls out this obvious racism. In ten minutes from his documentary "Reel Bad Arabs," there must have been at least forty film clips spanning the history of the movie industry with absurd characterizations of Arabs. He also pointed out that while before, these imaginary Arabs with scimitars in the movies were in a far away desert land, more recently the media has begun to demonize Arab and Muslim Americans as well. TV shows such as Fox's "24" and "Sleeper Cell" on Showtime portray Arab characters in a constantly negative light. As Dr. Shaheen pointed out, where are all the normal Arabs and Muslims? In Hollywood, good Arabs are seemingly nowhere to be found.

As a non-Arab and non-Muslim, I had never truly considered the cultural and social ramifications of movies like Aladdin where Arabs believe that where they live is "barbaric, but hey, it's home!" And yet, continually negative portrayals of Arabs and Muslims in the media do have an impact.

I am constantly frustrated with the news media creating words like "Islamo-fascism," as well as the rise of evil Arab/Islamic characters that are always terrorists. If I feel frustrated, I can not even begin to imagine how it must be to constantly turn on your television, and watch the media turn you into a terrorist. As Dr. Shaheen pointed out, this is systematic barbarization of a people, and there remains little opposition or honest discussion about it.

What we have really done is lumped all Arabs and Muslims together, and made them "the other." I think the crux of the issue is that believing Iraqis, Arabs, and Muslims all make up the "other" does make what we are currently doing in the Middle East easier to digest. We like to think that we are doing some modicum of good for these backward, unfortunate people, but we have separated them enough from ourselves that we have no problem with mass civilian casualties abroad, or throwing Arab U.S. citizens in jail without just cause here at home. For example, on the weekend before the re-election of George W. Bush in 2004, there was a crackdown in which thousands of Muslims and Arabs (including noted comedian and guest at Middle Eastern Night Ahmed Ahmed) were arrested without charges. Some argue that this is all in the name of national security, and when at war, we must fight by any means necessary, here at home as well as abroad. The truth is that we are not benevolently helping a backward people, nor are we protecting anyone by throwing someone in jail based upon their religion and/or ethnicity. We are allegedly fighting to protect our freedom, but by "our freedom," it seems that what we really mean is the freedom of those who don't happen to be Arab and/or Muslim - their freedom and rights mean little to us.

There is absolutely no way we can ever move forward towards any kind of peaceful resolution if we don't have any desire to know who we are dealing with abroad. If we refuse to relate on any level to the people affected by U.S. foreign and domestic policy, we will only continue to deepen the rift. At home, we must first accept Arab and Muslim American citizens as Americans just like the rest of us. In the Middle East, we must try to understand the perspective of those who may drift into radicalism. If we begin to see the "other" as less intimidating, then perhaps we can begin a dialogue that will lead to increased understanding and a de-escalation of current tensions.

Towards the end of the special episode of the West Wing, Josh recounts the biblical story of Isaac and Ishmael. In the end, despite their differences and quarrels, Isaac and Ishmael come together for the common cause of burying their father. There is hope for peace and reconciliation, and above all, there is a commonality between even those who seem irreconcilably in conflict. Despite all the animosity that has built up between them, if you tear it all away, at the most basic level there is common ground upon which to start building.

I just hope that when another five years has passed, I can watch "Isaac and Ishmael," and it will seem as dated as Rocky fighting a Soviet.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Ukeleles for Peace

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Ukeleles for Peace

"Ukuleles for Peace" is a grass roots project founded by Israeli citizen Paul Moore to familiarize and unite Israeli and Arab children through fun and music.
After years of living through the miserable situation between Israel and the Palestine Arabs, Paul asked himself what he could do to create more opportunities for Jews and Arabs to meet in a positive way.
Paul, an internationally acclaimed musician, decided to combine his love for the Ukulele and his experience in teaching music to children to create "Ukuleles For Peace".
Paul is now teaching the Ukulele in Jewish and Arab schools and forming orchestras of children who meet once a week in the Jewish schools and once a week in the Arab schools to practice and then, perform together.
The ultimate goal is to have Israeli and Arab school children performing together with the full support and involvement of both parents and school officials.

Monday, March 24, 2008

US: Israel Policy Forum Encourages Rice to Engage Hamas for Peace

As Israel has wound down it's super-aggression in Gaza after the recent blitzkrieg attacks which killed over 130 Palestinians gained them world scorn, Israel is STILL implementing extra-judicial assassinations and closure on Gaza.

Our own pro-Zionist government just had it's own presidential candidate, John McCain visit who again reiterated the Bush administration's refusal to talk to Hamas.

Today the Christian Science Monitor posted this essay, "Should the World Talk to Hamas?" But who really matters when it comes to the possibility of talking to Hamas is raised? It boils down to two entities, the US and Israel.

In that article it refers to a letter which was written to Secretary Rice from the Israel Policy Forum, who on their own website describe themselves as:


Founded in 1993 in the wake of the Oslo Accords, Israel Policy Forum (IPF) has grown to become the most important independent, mainstream organization dedicated to mobilizing American Jews in support of sustained U.S. diplomatic efforts in the Middle East. IPF is increasingly recognized as a central clearinghouse for policymakers seeking to more effectively engage the United States in the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (source)

Furthermore, this organization that wrote this letter to Rice encouraging engaging Hamas has as president currently Seymour D. Reich, no slouch Zionist himself, indeed he is the former president of B'nai Brith and the American Zionist Movement. Read HERE.

So if this organization is writing a letter urging engagement with Hamas then I ask, what are we waiting for Secretary Rice? Or are you pregnant again anticipating more "birth pangs"?

Following is the letter sent to Secretary Rice from the Israel Policy Forum. This is called DIPLOMACY Secretary Rice, something you are SUPPOSED to be doing.

Reaching an Israeli-Palestinian Agreement

Requires Finding a Way To Bring Hamas Into the Process,
Israel Policy Forum Writes to Rice

NEW YORK, March 21, 2008

In a letter sent yesterday afternoon to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Israel Policy Forum, noting that “we share your concerns over direct engagement with Hamss,” declared that reaching an Israeli-Palestinian agreement “requires finding a way to bring Hamas into the process.”

Israel Policy Forum (IPF), which advocates for sustained American diplomatic efforts to end the conflict between Israel and her neighbors and to actively promote the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, urged Rice “to continue and intensify your efforts to end the violence along the Israel-Gaza border” and supported her “encouraging” a third-party “to determine Hamas’s willingness to establish a cease-fire and to help stabilize the current situation.”

The full text of the letter follows:

Dear Madame Secretary:

We are writing to urge you to continue and intensify your efforts to end the violence along the Israel-Gaza border and to help establish conditions that would enable Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas to implement any agreements they may have reached in their bilateral discussions. Clearly, until all violence ends, any Israeli-Palestinian agreement, no matter how acceptable to the respective sides, will languish on the shelf.

With your determined and sustained personal involvement, a Hamas-Israel cease-fire and a border agreement among Israelis, Egyptians, and Palestinians could be reached. This could facilitate the conditions for reaching a Final Agreement on Permanent Status by the end of the year.

This requires finding a way to bring Hamas into the process. While we share your concerns over direct engagement with Hamas, we believe that it is impossible to achieve an agreement on any of the key issues -- including the release of Corporal Shalit -- without engaging Hamas through some means, simply because Hamas is the governing authority in Gaza.

Furthermore, no progress can be made with a divided Palestinian polity. Abbas cannot make peace alone. Nor can Israel reach a binding agreement with the Palestinian Authority while at war with the de facto Palestinian government in Gaza. Israelis cannot be expected to make the sacrifices needed to establish peace if Hamas, the most violent actor, is not included, at least tacitly.

Accordingly, we support your actions encouraging Arab states such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar or whichever interlocutor you deem appropriate, to determine Hamas’s willingness to establish a cease-fire and to help stabilize the current situation. We say this with the recognition that -- as in the case of Israel's indirect dealings with Hamas to free Gilad Shalit -- no progress can be made if Hamas is totally excluded from the process.

Should a ceasefire be established, we urge you to craft a new regime for protecting the ceasefire, either through international monitors, a multinational force on the Gaza borders, or at least through better coordination among Israel, Egypt, and the Palestinians. A ceasefire must not only be created; it must be sustained.

This is a moment of decision. An immediate end to the Israel-Hamas violence and a rejuvenated peace process are of critical importance to the Israeli and Palestinian people, and to American interests in the Middle East. This is an essential step on the difficult road leading to Israel living in peace and security alongside a stable and peaceful Palestinian state.

The Bush administration should act decisively to help bring an end to the deaths and suffering on both sides and to immediately revive the peace process. Otherwise, the initial gains of Annapolis and the President's trip to the region in January will be lost, and the current American policy will have failed.


Seymour D. Reich Peter A. Joseph Nick Bunzl

President Chair Executive Director