Saturday, September 16, 2017

Palestinian Children Will Share Their Visions Of Peace With Congress On Sep. 19

To save homes, Palestinian children share visions of peace with Congress 
September 19th International Peace Day Senate Briefing
10:30am in the Capitol Bld. SVC 212-10, and House Reception

Sept. 15, 2017,  Washington, DC — Palestinian children from West Bank villages and from Gaza will share their vision of peace with Congress, to commemorate International Peace Day. Joining the children will be human rights defenders including Rabbi Arik Ascherman from the Israeli human rights group, Torat Tzedek. On behalf of their villages of Susiya, Al Aqaba, and Gaza City, the children are asking Americans to urge their Senators and Representatives, as friends of Israel, to press the Government of Israel to stop the demolitions of Palestinian communities, recognize Palestinian planning rights, assure due process, and turn on the lights in Gaza.
  •       Please join them on Tuesday, September 19th at 10:30-11:30am for a pubic briefing in the Capitol Building SVC 212-10 (Senate side).
  •       Following the briefing, all are invited to the Rayburn House Office Building, Rayburn Foyer from 1:00-5:00pm for the U.S. premiere of the art exhibition, We All Live in Gaza: Art Under Siege. The reception will begin at 1:30pm with a presentation by curator Maurice Jacobsen and a few words from the children. Light refreshments will be served.
June 2, 2004, Palestinians look on as Israeli authorities demolish a house in the West Bank village of Anata near Jerusalem. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty, File)
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman recently stated that he intends to 'wipe Susya and Khan Al Akhmar off the map.’ So I come to Washington to plead for the lives of these Palestinian villages," said Rabbi Arik Ascherman, founder of Torat Tzedek, an Israeli human rights organization. “This year, International Peace Day coincides with Rosh HaShana. Jewish tradition teaches that God decides the fate of every human soul for the coming year on this day and ‘Who shall live and who shall die’ also applies to villages. I urge the U.S. administration to safeguard the furture of Palestinian communities such as Susiya.”
These Palestinian children are among thousands of children in the U.S. and around the world who are making Pinwheels for Peace, writing what peace means to them and drawing what peace looks like, then forming a pinwheel that turns in the wind.  This is the third year Rebuilding Alliance, an American non-profit dedicated to rebuilding war-torn communities and bringing the world together to keep them safe, is holding the #ICareAboutPeace Congressional Briefing.
I want Congress to keep my village safe and standing,” said Aysar, age 15, from Susiya, “Because a brave Senator took action, Susiya’s demolition orders were put on hold.”
As soon as October 1st,  Israel’s Minister of Defense, Avigdor Lieberman, will state the Government of Israel’s position to Israel’s High Court as the justices consider the Palestinian Village of Susiya’s petition to overturn the denial of their master plan. Despite the villagers’ undisputed title to their land, the Israeli High Court will then decide Susiya’s fate, either recognizing their right to plan and build on the land they own or ordering demolition of their homes.  Senator Feinstein’s letters to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu have been instrumental in keeping Susiya standing so far.
About the Delegation:
Aysar (15) has lived his whole life in Susiya. Since he was little, he always accompanied his uncle Nasser Nawaja, who works with the Israeli Human Rights group, B’Tselem, to help film the incidents with the Israeli army and the settlers in the South Hebron Hills. Despite Aysar's young age, he has a deep insight into the local situation, and he is also a huge help for both his parents. He gets up at five o'clock in the morning to feed all the animals, herd the sheep, and help his father with his daily chores, since he is undergoing cancer treatment. Due to Susiya being surrounded by both settlements and a military camp, when the children walk to school they are under constant risk of harassment by the Israeli army and settlers. Aysar always stands up for the other children and does his best to protect and comfort them on the daily 1.5 mile walk to school.
Palestinian school children at a checkpoint with Israeli soldiers
Tia (12) is a 12-year-old student from Gaza City. She is currently in the seventh grade at the American International School in Gaza, where she is getting straight A’s. Tia likes horseback riding, basketball, and swimming. All families in Gaza are experiencing massive rolling blackouts for up to 22 hours per day in an extreme energy crisis that has grown progressively worse over the past 10 years.
Shadi (10) is in the fourth grade and plays violin as part of the Collective Song Music Program in Al Aqaba under the direction of teachers from the Edward Said National Music Conservatory. Shadi and his family live in one of the first “Rebuilding to Remain” homes, designed with the returning villagers and crowd-funded by Rebuilding Alliance under building permits issued by the Al Aqaba Village Council.  Al Aqaba is the first Palestinian village in Area C to issue its own building permits. Though the Israeli Army issued demolition orders in 2004 against Al Aqaba’s kindergarten, the medical clinic, and most homes in Al Aqaba and a stop-work order on their water system, the Israeli High Court ruled that ‘for the time being, the center of the village will remain standing’ and because of that the new homes are standing, free of demolition orders.
August 11, 2017 post on Arik Ascherman's Facebook page: "The Yoav Unit informed the Abu Sneineh family in Tel Sheva that on Sunday or Monday they are going to demolish their tent housing 13 souls for the 9th time since 2014. If you can stand with them, call me after Shabbat..."
Rabbi Arik Ascherman is the founder of Torat Tzedek, a new Isaraeli human rights organization founded to (1) strive for a society that honors God's Image in every human being, and for the human rights that this necessitates; and (2) educate our society that honoring God's image in every human being, protecting human rights and taking concrete action to further these goals is a human and religious obligation in general, and in particular a Jewish religious obligation. Rabbi Ascherman is internationally recognized as leading advocate for human rights and social justice. He served as co-director of Rabbis For Human Rights, executive director from 1998-2010, and co-founder of Haqel and has received numerous awards and recognition for his human rights work.
Donna Baranski-Walker is Founder & Executive Director of Rebuilding Alliance , and an MIT engineer with an M.S. from the U. of Hawaii. Rebuilding Alliance and Donna have been awarded Special Congressional Recognition by Rep. Barbara Lee and Rep. Anna Eshoo. In April 2016, Donna was awarded Rotary District 5150’s Service Award, and will soon be receiving the Rachel Corrie Conscience And Courage Award, from American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee of Orange County. In 2010, on the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Polish Solidarity movement, Donna was awarded the Medal of Gratitude. She began her work in the Middle East in 1990 with a New York Times oped, “Small Lights in the Darkness ,” which was translated into Arabic and presented to the Iraqi Women’s Federation just before the First Gulf War began.
For more information:
Contact: Tamsin Avra
Phone: (650) 651-7165

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Natural Guard Pledge: Speak Up To Call Out The Pentagon For Its Major Role In Causing Climate Chaos

The Eagle Creek wildfire burns in the background as golfers play at the Beacon Rock Golf Course in North Bonneville, Washington, on September 4, 2017.  Kate Beckwith, Facebook
My friend Janet Weil has been updating me about forest fires raging in the Columbia River basin. As the daughter of a forester, she is heartbroken at news that these forests may never be restored. Global warming means the conditions for such living organisms may no longer be present in the U.S. Pacific Northwest.

Meanwhile, another friend who relocated to the Florida Keys this year to teach school has finally updated her blog so I know that she and her family are alive. They evacuated to northern Florida and then, ultimately, to Alabama to get out of harms way from Hurricane Irene. They expect to find nothing left worth saving when they return home to see the effects of the 10 foot storm surge.

A new acquaintance who grew up in Texas told me last weekend that where he's from is either on fire or under water right now. Hurricane Harvey's toxic flood waters, full of fecal bacteria and chemicals from oil refineries, are a menace to life in Houston and an enormous surrounding area.

But hey, it's beautiful in Maine this time of year and a young moose was sighted at the end of our driveway a couple of days ago. 

The photo of golfers ignoring the raging fire in the distance kind of says it all.

This coming weekend I'll be at the Sierra Club of Maine's annual climate conference tabling for the Maine Natural Guard.

I'm going to be there because environmental organizations continue to ignore the carbon belching elephant in the room: the military. Liberals or progressives or whatever you want to call them willfully ignore the role of the Pentagon as the largest consumer of fossil fuels on the planet. It consumes more than many countries, and more than any other organization.

Should the Sierra Club really need to be reminded of this fact?

Actually, it's not a reminder because many people never knew this central truth about climate change to begin with.

The corporate media have done such a thorough job of directing our gaze away from the truth about the environmental, social and moral costs of the "war on terror" that the public remains profoundly ignorant.

Even socialist publications like Jacobin can publish an entire summer issue devoted to climate change and not mention the Pentagon or its wars once. WTF? (Janet sent them a corrective message. You can, too.)

Image: Anthony Freda
I'm looking forward to spending this Saturday with my husband and our friends Mary Beth Sullivan and Bruce Gagnon sharing some useful information. I'll also be offering people a chance to buy a good looking Maine Natural Guard t-shirt printed on 100% organic cotton.

People can join the Natural Guard from wherever they find themselves in climate chaos. 

Taking the pledge is easy. Just read it:

I pledge to speak out about the effects of militarism on our environment, because the commons we all share that sustain life are valuable to me. 

IN DISCUSSIONS ABOUT SECURITY and safety, we remind others of the need to count in the cost in pollution and fuel consumption of waging wars all around the planet.

IN DISCUSSIONS ABOUT ACTING SOON TO PROTECT OUR LOVED ONES FROM THE EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHAOS, we remind others of the need to examine the role of the Pentagon and its many contractors in contributing to planetary warming.

and click here to add your name.

Then, get busy sharing some truth.

P.S. If you can make it to Washington, DC this month you can attend the first ever (?!) conference to connect the dots between the Pentagon===>climate change. Details on No War 2017: War and the Environment here.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Getting It Wrong In Afghanistan: Bagram Air Base And Prison Complex

After 16 years of bloody occupation, the kleptocracy is poised to make even more money in Afghanistan. The demagogue with bad hair is listening to an inner circle that includes Erik Prince of the notorious Blackwater mercenary firm that helped occupy Iraq. Privatize even more of the war, they whisper. Endless war means endless profits!

The fact that Afghanistan's sovereignty is vigorously defended by freedom fighters posing as religious fanatics is super convenient.

During the Soviet occupation a fierce young man in Kabul told me, "As long as there is one Afghan left alive, the Soviets will never rule our country!" 

Fast forward to 2017.

Bagram Air Base and Prison Complex, constructed on the ruins of a Soviet base, is the largest U.S. military base in Afghanistan. A suicide bomber inside the gates killed numerous troops gathered to observe Veterans Day there (formerly Armistice Day) last November. It was again targeted this month by a motorcyle-riding suicide bomber who detonated at a security gate. In June, eight Afghan guards headed for the night shift at Bagram were killed when their car was attacked in a driveby shooting.

Back in 2002, prisoners were tortured and beaten to death in the "detention" facility there; a few soldiers were court martialed for their role in the abuse. In 2010 the Pentagon released the names of 645 souls being held prisoner at Bagram. For seven years the detainees included Pakistani neuroscientist Dr. Aafia Siddiqui and her three children.

Building big, expensive compounds where military personnel can enjoy air conditioning, fast food burgers and wifi is what the U.S. is good at. Winning hearts and minds, not so much.

The latest suicide bombing was said to be connected with a public relations faux pas on the part of the occupation. As reported by the Associated Press:
Earlier Wednesday, a U.S. commander had apologized for dropping leaflets in Afghanistan that were deemed offensive to Islam. 
The leaflets dropped Monday night, which encouraged Afghans to cooperate with security forces, included an image of a dog carrying the Taliban flag, said Shah Wali Shahid, the deputy governor of Parwan province, north of Kabul. The flag has Islamic verses inscribed on it, and dogs are seen as unclean in much of the Muslim world.
There have even been allegations that dogs were used to rape prisoners held at Bagram.

An Afghan interpreter interviewed by Emran Feroz for Alternet stated: "Guantanamo is a paradise if you compare it with Bagram."

How much has it cost U.S. taxpayers to create and maintain the cruelest military installation on Earth?

By Staff Sgt. Craig Seals -
Due to the lack of accountability in Pentagon budgets and contracting practices, the price tag is impossible to determine with any certainty. Chronicles of waste and corruption abound, but accurately quantifying this mammoth corporate welfare scheme will probably not be possible.

Of the 800+ military bases that U.S. taxpayers support abroad, Bagram is at the top of my list to just close already. The U.S. and or NATO will never "win" the war in Afghanistan. Bagram has been called a "factory for terrorism" and even without the torture its mere presence is enough to help Taleban recruiters find the next generation of suicide bombers. 

Just bring the homesick troops back already, and close the base. Erik Prince is already rich enough.