Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Women In Black Calling Attention To The Occupation Of #Palestine Are Under Attack In Israel

Sometimes my email brings me news of actions I can join, and sometimes it brings me news of good people under duress whom I can support. The report below came via Women in Black and Veterans for Peace members who shared it with a Codepink Maine member who shared it with me. 

I am thankful for my networks that bring me real news.

The account below was written by Hadass Gertmann who gave her permission to repost it with the note, "It happened in Gan Shmuel junction, which is near Hadera (between Tel Aviv and Haifa)... it was on December 4th, Friday. Since then we had  one more vigil that was surprisingly quiet."

Let’s begin with an event. An event that took place today, early afternoon, at Gan Shmuel Junction. At a routine vigil of “Women in Black”, between 1 and 2 p.m., myself among them.
Three very young men drive by us, hurling strings of curses at us, to which we are quite accustomed. Some minutes later they come back from the opposite direction, turn left into the shopping compound behind us, yelling at us again and wishing us dead. A moment later they show up on pavement where we stand, one with an Israeli flag, the other filming. The one with the flag gets down into the road and dances in front of us, risking his life in the traffic, hopping and jumping, waving his flag and roaring "The people of Israel live!” trying to approach us up close. When I retreat, he advances even more, nearly touching me. Around us cars stand at the stoplight. At best, drivers ignore the scene. More commonly they honk, clap, cheer and yell that we deserve it, making obscene gestures. One lady, out of the ordinary, rolls down her window and says to the young man “But no violence!”
His buddy films the scene and they both scream at us that we are to blame for all the stabbings and run-overs and murders and why don’t we demonstrate against THAT and wish us dead…
I simply lose it. Out of my wits. Shocked.
One man approaches with a camera, tells them he wants to film, too. They give him a big show and then he tells them he’s a journalist and that he filmed them in order to show the police and go public that they’re violent and dangerous. He also summons the police. They evaporate immediately. The police arrive, and finally the policeman scolds us. (Got a permit? Who’s responsible? If you don’t lodge a complaint what do you want? Why are you cynical?)
I was born in 1966. One year before the Six-Day War. I grew up into the Occupation. Until I completed my military service I had no political identity. The day after my discharge the First Intifada broke out. I began to ask, understand, think, have opinions and discovered I was a leftie.
A leap in time
During Operation Defensive Shield I joined “Women in Black” at Gan Shmuel Junction. As mentioned above, every Friday between 1 and 2 p.m. It’s a veteran shift that has been standing vigil over 25 years now. We are not many and not that young. I have already disclosed my own age, and I’m one of the younger ones.
It’s not easy to stand there very week. Doesn’t much help either. So it seems. Really?
Over the years I have experienced all sorts of unpleasant moments. Eggs were thrown at me, a stone hit me in the head, we have been endlessly cursed… This is routine and familiar and we more or less brace ourselves for it. 
We answer our assailants in various ways, but at least I tell myself that our weekly, Sisyphean presence is mostly for our own sake. So we don’t forget the Occupation. So that the word Occupation would not be erased from the vocabulary of public space.
People used to ask us – What Occupation? 1948? 1967?
By now this word has been erased. Children grow up not knowing there is an ongoing Occupation. And how would they know if they’re not taught? It happened when I was a baby, and as I’ve already said, I’m no spring chicken myself. And in fact I wasn’t taught either…
At every escalation, in time, the situation is reflected at the junction. The curses get louder, anger at us seethes - as if we, by our very standing there, are the cause of terrorist attacks, violence. As if we are not citizens of this state. As if our own children are not in the same school system that sends them into the army. People wish us harmed, our families injured. Then we’ll know…! (Sadly, some of the women standing with me have experienced terrorist attacks, even been victims, and still insist on saying – enough!)
Today’s event shocked me. I was terribly scared. I was afraid they were about to lose it. Another moment and they’d have touched me. Hurt me. And I didn’t want this. Not for me, not for them. Not for whoever’s waiting for them at home, nor for those waiting for me at home.
I feel at the edge of the abyss. I am very frightened, for myself but also for all of us. How could such violence, towards an opinion and of course towards women, be accepted with such sympathy? (Would they have jumped at us like this if a man were standing with us? I doubt it. After all, when the journalist showed up and faced them, they simply evaporated).
Although I am afraid to go back there, I think I should. That this voice of ours should be present. Even if it is unpopular right now. People have to know there is still Occupation ongoing. That we are still oppressing nearly 2 million people. And that this oppression exacts terrible prices, besides being outright immoral.
It corrupts us, makes us unwillingly violent. It endangers our children and all of us on the everyday level of personal safety, as well as in the deeper sense of what kind of society we are. What happened today (and surely happens all the time to others) has revealed the face of a violent society that treats women, opinions, minorities, and weaker persons with fundamental disrespect, lack of appreciation, brutally, cruelly and roughly.
I run out of words. 

You can stand with Women in Black in Portland, Maine (pictured above) on Fridays from 5-5:30pm in Congress Square. Or join me at a weekly vigil for peace in Skowhegan on the Margaret Chase Smith Bridge every Sunday from noon-1pm. 

Or, find your own way to stand up for peace and good will toward all humankind. It's always the right season for that.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

#PentagonClimateCrime Accountability Could Be The Best Thing To Emerge From #COP21

Image: Anthony Freda
Finally! The silver lining in an otherwise tepid and ineffective climate agreement out of Paris this month: military carbon emissions will no longer be exempt from official reckonings. 

The Pentagon's exemption was a terrible legacy from the Kyoto Protocol which extended the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change but did not stop temperature rise or climate chaos unfolding around the planet.

Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! interviewed a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War in the streets in Paris on the last day of climate talks there:

DEREK MATTHEWS: Well, the U.S. military is the largest polluter in the world, and so I think it’s difficult to have an agreement, at the COP agreement, that excludes U.S. military’s pollution.
AMY GOODMAN: How is it excluding?
DEREK MATTHEWS: Well, they’re not tracking the amount of pollution that is emitted from the U.S. military as part of U.S. emissions. In addition, the U.S.—the military, militaries across the world help enforce extractive economies. And so, when people, local communities and frontline communities are trying to build movements to keep extractive corporations from taking the resources out of their lands, it is the military, the police and militarism, in general, that is stopping that from happening.
People suffer on the frontlines of opposing corporate profiteers greedy for even more fossil fuels to burn. And failure to address carbon pollution is a death sentence for many in poor communities where drought, flooding, and megastorms destroy livelihoods and housing. 
Image: from "Official Response to COP21 Agreement"

Indigenous peoples came to Paris in large numbers because they understand that the matters under consideration are a matter of life or death for human beings.

Meanwhile, liberals in the U.S. congratulated themselves on a deal they characterized as "important progress" -- even though they conceded it won't get the job done. Most of them are kept busy bickering over which warmongering candidate they would support in next year's presidential elections, and vilifying the other corporate war party's candidates. It's easy to do as that party's candidates deny climate change is even occurring (or is caused by human choices) and are openly contemptuous of the rights and prospects of anyone except rich white people. 

But is it any safer to pretend that the Pentagon and its wars are worthy of at least half of every federal budget while decrying climate chaos -- which is driven by militarism? 

Where does the path of denial of the real causes of climate change lead?

My artist friend Kenny Cole created this print entitled "Iceberg/Last Run" in response to folks in Maine fiddling while Rome burns i.e. focusing on their upcoming ski holidays while wars they failed to oppose raged on. (You can see a better photo of it and buy a copy here.)

This year they will have a hard time finding any snow in Maine to ski on. It's December 15 and my lawn is still green.

Climate change is alarming scientists who study northern New England, but my elected "representatives" are most excited about jobs building weapons of mass destruction for the Navy. Maine's senators applaud the concessions made by the workers' union at General Dynamics' Bath Iron Works shipyard in order to hold onto those Pentagon contracts.

Because our collective quality of life in the U.S. depends on our full participation in global militarization -- right?

The Indigenous peoples have the solution, and they will have the last word"Any solutions that do not talk about cutting emissions at the source, or keeping fossil fuels in the ground, are false solutions." Dallas Goldtooth, Dakota/Dine

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Corporate Government's Ugly Face Links #Jeju Island, South Korea And Maine

Photo by Ellen Davidson of Father Mun surrounded by police outside the navy base construction site on Jeju Island
A news dispatch from South Korea by Mainer Dud Hendrick of Veterans for Peace came via email. It's inspiring and also ominous. 

I was particularly struck by the efforts of corporation Samsung to collectively punish a village fighting to preserve natural resources and their traditional fisheries from destruction by militarization. It reminded me of the Trans Pacific Trade treaty (TPP) which, if adopted, would allow corporations to punish anyone interfering with their "right" to profit.
Photo by Dud Hendrick
Unbelievably, we're on our last day here in Gangjeong Village on Jeju Island, Korea.  It has been an emotional five days, as we have been given a crash course on the crime being perpetrated on this coastal community.  The completion of the base is nearly a fait accompli--the government is projecting that it will be completed in the coming year.  Having been here in April of 2013 and remembering the status of the base then has made this visit all the more disturbing--at the same time it has been uplifting.    
Photo of VFP delegation, provided by Dud Hendrick (front row, on right)
The protest has been continuing virtually non-stop for over 8 years, testimony to the depth of the passions the base has ignited.  During my first visit it was already clear that it would take a miraculous turn of events to stop the project.  Then I was impressed by the resolute dedication of the protesters; a conglomeration of Gangjeong villagers at the helm along with other Jeju islanders, mainland Koreans, and international activists. The resolve now goes way beyond "impressive."  One observation is that the leadership, a diverse array of characters,  seems to have remained stable.  Many of those who played critical roles in 2013 and prior---even going back to 2008--continue to do so. The rank and file come and go, but many, particularly the young, have stayed for years.   
Others, like a few in our 13-person delegation have returned several times--the most notable being Bruce Gagnon who you might say has been adopted by the village and Ann Wright, the famed peace activist and former U.S. Army colonel and foreign service diplomat who resigned her position in opposition to the Iraq war.  Bruce is deserving of the village's high regard that he is accorded--having visited five times and being, probably, the single person whose work has most brought Gangjeong to the world's attention. (My note: you can read Bruce's report back here.) 
An ironic twist--Samsung, the primary contractor on the project is attempting impose a hefty fine on the village of Gangjeong in penalty for all the delays caused by the protests.
 During our visit we have been honored to have received briefings from some of the prominent leaders who have provided the inspiration behind this enduring resistance:
Photo by Dud Hendrick of Ann Wright of Veterans for Peace with Father Mun Jeong Hyeon of  the Catholic Church Solidarity to Make Peace on Jeju Island

Father Mun Jeong Hyeon, the iconic leader of the protest, was awarded the 2012 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights.  The founder of Catholic Priests' Organization for Justice in opposition to South Korean dictatorships, he conducts the daily mass at the naval base gate and is generally the point person in protest from dawn 'til dusk.  He has been a leading voice against the U.S. military presence in Korea for decades. 
Father Mun contributed his $50,000 Gwangju (cash) Prize to the anti-naval base campaign.  He is a strong proponent of reunification between North and South Korea and sees the U.S. as the primary obstacle preventing that dream, embraced by many Koreans, from becoming reality.

You can read more on how to support the struggle to save Jeju Island from U.S. Navy destroyers and other warships here on the website Save Jeju Now

The base is intended for warships such as the Zumwalt built in Maine at Bath Iron Works by General Dynamics; here, the Kennebec River ecosystem is disturbed by dredging so that the highly profitable ships can be moved out to sea and then to Jeju Island where a soft coral reef has been entombed in concrete to make a port for them.

How many public housing units could we have built with the money we spent on this thing?
Posted by Asher Platts on Thursday, December 10, 2015

Asher Platts, Managing Director of the Green Shadow Cabinet, posted this recent video of a $4 billion weapon of mass destruction moving through Portland's Casco Bay with the comment, "How many public housing units could we have built with the money we spent on this thing?"

Jeju Islanders recently heard bad news that the government also has plans to build an airport on their island, in an area considered sacred to agriculture. As reported by Sunny on the Save Jeju Island website: "This revelation came as a huge shocker for the Jeju Islanders, who had no say in the decision-making process."

South Korea's right-wing government, a close ally of the U.S., recently tried unsuccessfully to ban all demonstrations in order to suppress a growing mobilization of farmers, labor unions, and students on the mainland. Some responded to the government's ban on masks at demonstrations by making up as clowns and marching anyway on December 5 in Seoul.

What connects all this news is the theme of governments who represent corporate profits rather than their people. Democracy is a sham under such a system, and the police enforce corporate agendas rather than serving the public. Politicians in Maine like to call such arrangements "public-private partnerships" but fascism is more concise and accurate, and I know we must resist while we are still able. As Bruce Gagnon puts it, "Rattle your chains!"

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Islamophobia And Anti-Immigrant Rants Cover Up Real Fear: Not Being Able To Compete

The false dichotomy that says "we" are not "them" has been getting a lot of play via the demagogue with bad hair whom the corporate media have made the front runner for the Republican Party presidential nomination. It feeds into that other false dichotomy: that there is any fundamental difference between the two corporate parties, the only ones that are allowed to field candidates, the ones that fund the endless wars on terror and also fund terrorist groups like ISIL who keep the wars churning. The parties that can't agree to limit their carbon emissions or even to count the emissions of their sacred Pentagon. The parties that fund mass surveillance of me and thee in the name of "security."

I loved this eloquent rant by British veteran Chris Herbert who lost a leg in Iraq, explaining why it is stupid when people assume he must hate all Muslims:

Getting frustrated by some people expecting racism from me, because I got blown up. Here it is:Yes. A Muslim man blew...
Posted by Chris Herbert on Tuesday, December 8, 2015

I also loved this article in the mainstream regional magazine Down East about an amazing Muslim immigrant in Maine, ZamZam Mohamud. A refugee from war in Somalia, Mohamud settled in Lewiston, an aging mill town that has been revived by decades of receiving immigrants. 

Our governor is from the old Lewiston and is now infamous for his hate speech aimed at immigrants. As usual, he and other Know Nothings trot out the old trope about not being able to afford to take care of "our own." As in, who needs more welfare recipients? And who want the crime rate to soar due to all those unemployed young men? 

These same arguments were used against accepting Catholic immigrants in the 19th century, and against accepting Jewish immigrants in the 20th century.

Facts on the ground in Lewiston show just the opposite. From Jesse Ellison reporting in Down East:
Crime was beginning to decline in Lewiston as its Somalis were first arriving. The state’s second largest city now ranks 26th for crime, well below Bangor, Ogunquit, and Ellsworth, to name a few. Juvenile crime rates — important predictors of future crime statistics — are also on the decline, despite a sizable increase in the number of juveniles. Few will go so far as to credit the city’s new arrivals for its falling crime rate, but many police officials and city administrators have expressed, if delicately, that it’s at least impressive the swelling immigrant population hasn’t caused crime to go up.
ZamZam Mohamud has already served on the Lewiston school board, raised two daughters and sent them to college, served as a translator for the hospital, and formed any number of community groups that bring together, for example, police and Somali immigrants, for dialogue. Clearly she is a highly gifted person, exceptional rather than typical. Or is she?

I have long believed that claiming to fear crime and welfare loafers as the rationale for opposing immigration is false. (Less so the claim of fearing Islam as a cult of violence. More on that in a minute.) What white, working class people really fear -- and they should -- is competing against the self-selected group of people resourceful and determined enough to make it out of their war-torn country. Very often such people are educated already, though they likely won't be able to work in their field. Nearly always they highly value education for their children, and will make any number of sacrifices to see them through college and graduate school. They will start small businesses. They will take the jobs that actual welfare loafers won't do. They will outcompete the drug addicts and alcoholics currently driving up the mortality rate among white people aged 45-54 with only a high school diploma. 

From Olga Kazan reporting in The Nation:
The reasons for the increased death rate are not the usual things that kill Americans, like diabetes and heart disease. Rather, it’s suicide, alcohol and drug poisonings, and alcohol-related liver disease. 
The least-educated are worst off: All-cause mortality among middle-aged Americans with a high-school degree or less increased by 134 deaths per 100,000 people between 1999 and 2013, but there was little change in mortality for people with some college. The death rate for the college-educated fell slightly.
Let in Syrian immigrants, and in a generation they may produce another Steve Jobs.
This mural by the artist Banksy depicting Apple's founder as a refugee popped up in a French refugee camp.
Islamophobia though -- what's that all about?

Reference the fear of Catholic immigrants whose Popery was alleged to be a conspiracy to bring down the established WASP order, or of Jewish immigrants, presumed communists.

The masses are easily manipulated by propaganda that says to fear and hate the unfamiliar. Many Israelis, for example (whose government applies the same kind of religious test for immigration as is advocated by the demagogue) say they have never talked with an Arab. Never. Keeping "them" out is a great way to make sure that groups of differing faiths never come together as ZamZam Mohamud would have them do.

What happens when people reach across the divide of religious-based phobias and listen to others tell their stories? Healing occurs. Friendships blossom. And love wins.

For evidence to support my claim, I suggest you watch (or re-watch, as I did this week) Alice Rothchild's documentary Voices Across the Divide. As an American Jew who had visited Israel many times but never met an Arab, Rothchild set out to interview Palestinians of the diaspora about their families' experiences of al-Nakba, the ethnic cleansing that began in 1948 and continues today. Some of those interviewed were Arab Christians, but most were Muslim. By the time you finish watching this powerful film, I think you will feel deeply, as I do, that there is no "them" -- there is only "us."

Image of Palestinian kids in a refugee camp in Rafah from the study guide for  Voices Across the Divide.

Monday, December 7, 2015

#Refugees Are Deserving Of Our Love, So That We Can Remain Human Beings

Several hundred people gathered in Portland, Maine last night to say that our governor is wrong: Maine does welcome Syrian refugees. 

As my family arrived at the event organized by the Portland Racial Justice Congress, a white man sitting on his windowsill above Monument Square began shouting "Send them back! Send them back!" I impulsively yelled back: "Shut up!" and several safety monitors hurried over to admonish me not to respond. The man stopped soon afterwards and a woman at the microphone began offering a prayer (video below).
This morning when I rose it was to this post by a facebook friend sharing news from those meeting the boats full of refugees:
Huwaida Arraf with Adam Shapiro.21 hrsFriends,
Thanks so much for the great response. After last night, we are compelled to raise our fundraising goal. 
Adam just got off working an early morning shift searching for and meeting boats of refugees. From 4am-11am, at least 12 boats arrived on the shores of Chios, each carrying 50+ people. Amongst those arriving was a 3 month old baby, an 8.5 month pregnant woman from Afghanistan who feared that her baby was no longer moving, an elderly Afghan man who made the journey with his stretcher, and 3 unaccompanied Iraqi siblings – 9 years old, 5 years old and 2.5 years old, who had been separated from their parents, likely by the smugglers, in Turkey. After last night, A Drop in the Ocean is nearly out of supplies (dry clothes that we try to pass out to people when they arrive) and, undoubtedly the Registration Center is going to be a cold, miserable process for those still wet, for those with small children. 
The people of this island are truly wonderful and doing what they can, but more is needed. I want to describe to you what is happening without being overly critical of the international organizations that are here but I'm not sure how. For now, suffice it to say that a woman seeking a jacket for her 2 year old baby should not be turned away by a worker who doesn't understand her, under the pretext that she had already been given dry clothes (although not a jacket). A father of four who had lost all his money at sea shouldn't have to be left wondering how he is going to feed his kids (then told that after a few days, an organization will come to give out food to those that have no money. A few days!) Fleeing war and persecution and the route that these refugees have to travel is scary and dangerous enough, without also having to be humiliating. 
The strength and resilience of the refugees that we are meeting is truly humbling. The 9 year old girl I mentioned earlier just crossed the Aegean Sea with her 5 year old and 2.5 year old brothers and got off the dinghy calm and collected! When her 5 year old brother started crying, she told us “he just misses our mom and dad.” These people are not seeking our charity, but rather our support and solidarity on their journey to find the safety and security that so many of us take for granted every day.…/…/huwaidaarraf
Who will remain human in these times? I heard that President Obama was to give a speech on "terrorism" last night at 8pm. I did not bother to listen to the empty words of one who has lost his humanity. What could he say at this point in his warmongering career that I would need to hear?

That the U.S. war machine has created millions of refugees, killed and injured millions, and orphaned millions in the endless war on "terror" was noted in last night's remarks. 

I also heard from a friend last night reports that French police had raided the homes of 4,000 activists. Just as the staged events of 9/11 were the pretext to shred the U.S. Constitution (which one of last night's speakers noted protects everyone in the U.S., not just citizens).

My goals: to remain human, and to use my voice as long as I still have one.

Posted by Lisa Savage on Sunday, December 6, 2015

Saturday, December 5, 2015

'Tis The Season To Bomb Civilians

Image: Anthony Freda
It's the dark time of year when we of the North get up before sunrise and eat supper after sundown. As we approach the turning point of the winter solstice, we are encouraged to be kind to one another, to keep the light of love burning in our hearts in order to help us endure the darkness.

So that's why the Pentagon and the White House have decided to send more special operations troops to Iraq and Syria. Veterans have told me that these troops are mostly scouts for where to bomb. Because the Pentagon and the White House are also planning to continue bombing civilians right through the Christmas season.

The doublespeak employed by the blood-spattered officials who try to explain and justify all this mechanized killing for profit is absurd.

Top brass could hardly be expected to talk about how they are counting on cushy post-retirement jobs in the military contracting corporations that are predicting a "significant uptick" in business as a result of more combat. 

So they make up other, implausible reasons e.g. more attacks on areas that sometimes produce terrorists will, in the magical thinking the U.S. government continues selling to a somnolent public, reduce terrorism emanating from those areas. Even though many of these very officials have observed that bombing innocent civilian populations and occupying their countries tends to breed still more terrorists. As Democracy Now! reported:
Speaking to Congress Tuesday, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said the U.S. special forces are authorized to conduct raids, gather intelligence, free hostages and capture members of ISIS. He also said the troops would conduct unilateral operations inside Syria. Facing questions from Virginia Republican Rep. Randy Forbes, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford acknowledged the U.S. is not technically at war in Iraq or Syria, even as the military ramps up combat operations. 
Randy Forbes: "You heard the Secretary of Defense say both in writing and verbally that we are at war. Who declared that war?"
Joseph Dunford: "I think what the secretary is saying, because we discussed this, is that we view the fight against ISIL as a threat to the United States and we are mobilizing all of the military capabilities that are necessary—"
Randy Forbes: "Who would have actually made a declaration? Is that something that you would make?"
Joseph Dunford: "Congress."
Randy Forbes: "Has a declaration been made?"
Joseph Dunford: "No, it has not."
Randy Forbes: "So how does the secretary say we’re at war? I only have five minutes."
Ashton Carter "I’m just going to tell you—"
Randy Forbes: "I would ask if he wants to elaborate, he can submit written statements, but he is taking my five minutes. General, can you tell me as the joint Chiefs, if you know?"
Joseph Dunford: "We are technically not at war."
When our system of government was founded, the intention to avoid the standing armies and endless wars of European monarchies was expressed by a plan to have the people's representatives oversee the military. 

Now that our government represents mostly corporations and other moneyed interest groups, that oversight has been rendered null and void.

"Defense" Aerospace Top Contributors, 2015-2016

As a result, I think the dark days will extend far beyond December 21 this year.

As hate media pundits spew invective about Islam as an inherently violent religion, so-called Christians will ignore the ten commandments and the Golden Rule to bomb oil rich countries. 

Meanwhile, I am left worrying and wondering: is it World War III yet?