Thursday, September 29, 2005
Dorothy tells us of Lina's kidney transplant update
At any rate, I just got this email in and thought to share it. I don't think Dorothy would mind. It is a message of love and hope from an amazing woman who is dedicating all of her energy to making the world a decent place to live in. (God bless little Lina and keep her from harm's way).
Lina's Kidney Transplant Update
So many of you have contributed in one way or another: funds, suggestions, help in other ways, expressing your well wishes for Lina. I therefore take this public way to update you. We now have a date for surgery: Sunday, October 2. Lina and her kidney donor underwent medical examinations all yesterday, after Lina was admitted to Hadassah hospital, where she will stay also until Sunday. Her parents are with her.
Funny little 3 year old Lina adjusts to things with gusto and interest. One would think that having needles stuck in her would have put her off from staying there. But no. She loves the glass elevator which opens to her view the 3 floors underneath as she goes down and up, the games and toys in the children's room, and walking up and down the aisles. Of course she is no stranger to hospitals, having undergone surgery several times in her young life. But this is the big one, and she will remain in the hospital for at least 3 weeks after surgery.
Will update more as she progresses. I wish that we could help all Palestinian children who need help. Israeli children sometimes also need financial assistance to help with medical problems, and they, too, should receive it. But the Israeli government does not prevent them from getting medical treatment, as it does Palestinians. I was very saddened to see on the news that children and adults in Gaza needing chemotherapy were prevented by the military from coming to Israel to receive it. How inhumane Israel has become. But not at Hadassah hospital, where in the children's' ward some of the nurses speak Arabic, and even the computer games are in Lina's language as well as in Hebrew, so that she can understand the vocal parts. Even the clown that came to entertain the children yesterday spoke Arabic. But he was the only element (apart from shots and blood taking) that frightened Lina!
Now all we need to do is hope that the kidney transplant succeeds.
Saturday, September 24, 2005
Reference vs Meaning - a reflection by Gerry Hiles
In this instance the meaning, i.e. the emotional impact of a word, is at stake; but oft-times this isn't so and the question, "What does that word mean?" should be rephrased as, "What does that word refer to?" (or represent, signify, label, correspond to, etc.), because the word "mean(ing)" has itself drifted - rather like "love" - to sometimes signify an inner state (emotion/feeling) and sometimes a virtual object, e.g. the sexual act.
Anyway: to cut to the chase ... which includes that though very many people agree that there is a problem, a lot of them reject dictionaries as being of any help because, it's said, dictionary definitions are circular. And that's true, in the context that if you are really just using a dictionary like a thesaurus, of course all you will find are similes; but if you look to the etymology, then it's a very different kettle of fish.
So let's wade right in with a look at two contentious and/or very woolly words - "democracy" and "society" and, as it were, "deconstruct" them (but not in the manner of the arcane "deconstructionism").
"Democracy" .... demo + cracy (Greek) ... people + rule .. rule by the people ... that's what the word refers to, simple as that.
Now all that needs to be asked is whether or not that state of affairs actually exists, or if it would be desirable if it doesn't. So let's begin by recognizing that "people" is a virtual synonym with "population", i.e. it is an all-embracing term, and it is immediately apparent that large sections of "the people" have no say (nor should have any say) in the governance of a country, for instance, e.g. children and teenagers, regardless of many of the latter having a contrary opinion (like I more or less used to have when I was 16 and pontificating about how the world ought to be run).
To this section can be added anything up to 80% of the adult population, some of whom might believe they have a say (whilst most are probably rightly cynical), but who know too little to cast an informed vote ... let alone that there is little difference between political parties: hence the truism, "It doesn't matter who you vote for, you still get a politician.". And a further observation is that one wouldn't want ill-informed people to have much of a real say ... things are bad enough already.
In any event there is no "democracy", never was and never can be. And the reality is oligarchy usually, i.e. olig = few + archy = government, so all the nonsense, from left, right and centre, about "democracy" is mere sophism, propaganda, or simply ignorance of how things really are, e.g. a continuance of European-originating imperialism, as is amply evidenced by the Washington Empire and the rhetoric about "democracy", whilst manifestly really being hell-bent on ruling the world.
And so to "society", which derives from the Latin for "friends". So the simple question is, "Are all of the people with any given geo-political boundary friends?" And the simple, obvious answer is a resounding "NO". Such populations - all that can legitimately be said about them (because there is little or no commonality of substance) - bear no resemblance to tribes, especially, within which everyone was mainly friends with everyone else and virtually everything was had in common, e.g. from the belief-system to the means of sustenance ... so it is, or at least was, legitimate to call such groups of people societies, or communities and indeed nations - as distinct from mere "nationalism", which preaches abstractions and creates a false sense of unity in the service of the oligarchy.
I'll end by just demonstrating "the method" on a couple of other widely misused words.
"Philosophy" is widely used as a synonym for "ideology", "doctrine" and even "dogma", whereas simply taking the word appart reveals what it really refers to, i.e. philo = love of/desire for sophy = wisdom ... when wisdom refers to the form of knowledge which has been tried and tested. Thus "philosphy" is the search for this kind of knowledge and might lead to a system of belief, for instance, but at that point inquiry has ceased, the search being over.
"Psychology" is widely used as a synonym for neurological research, for instance, or behavioural experiments, etc., whereas taking the word apart reveals: psych-e = mind/soul/spirit + logy = knowledge of, i.e. knowledge of oneself/others as essentially emotional, feeling, sensing creatures who ascribe such as the sense of beauty, for instance, to wide ranges of fundamentally superficial objects/appearances ... which is what Socrates/Plato was trying to get at/make clear over two millenia ago, but without the benefits of all of the inquiries which have subsequently been conducted.
So, finally, I am not claiming novelty for "the method" I have demonstrated; but I do hope to have cut through a lot of crap and shared the understanding of, if you like, "the Socratic method" of question and answer which I have been fortunate enough to be able to come by, over many years.
Friday, September 23, 2005
The Lost Presidential Speech - transcribed by Zaki Boulos
There is a deal in the paplines, it's on route, and on schedule. Ar troops are working round the clock to defend ar great democracy from insurgent saboteurs. These terrorist cells will not prevail, for United Defence and Halliburton are on the scene, protecting ar interests, to ensure we receive ar daily oils, say hallelujah! Ah have put in to effect a program which provides jobs for US citizens and gives unemployed I-raqians the opportunity to work. Ah have a vision, ma fellow americ’ns. As god is my widdness, we are gonna make poverty history by giving equal opportunities to the underprivileged both here at home and elsewhere around the world. Ar global corporations have been working diligently, installing the appropriate mechanisms. Ah envision a papline that taps straight outta Saudi Arabia and South East Asia, yeah, ‘cos sending those ships out and then bringing’em home at great cost is a real bummer, sure is. And even if all that works out, we cain't control the spillage, heh, there are no guarantees. Why we'd have to control the seas to do that, heh, and I'm not saying that this fine country of ars ain't up to taming the sea, hell, we will prevail, ‘cos we americ’ns are at the forefront o’cutting-edge technol’gy. Wah we're the o-riginal innovat’rs man! We built this world in the image of our Lord baby jesus. Wha...oh, uh, where waz ah? oh yeh, and 'course that oil spill in the middle sea causes us great harm. Wah we have to do the renegotiating for the new oil supplies, so 's we can bring it back home again at the cost, to you, the tax payer, and then there's all that pollution, polluting the air, the unsuppressed damage these spillages cause the envir’nmint…Pappy, wah DO we have ta ree-negoshiate? Wah don’t we just go in there ‘n kick their asses? I mean, huh, we got ‘nough firepower, heh…heck, you’re right, we won't worry 'bout that just yet, we’re making WAY too much money, heh, the war effort practically pays for itself, heh...folks, with ma extra tax cuts, bringing relief to many corporations, our economy is booming, huh, and the I-raq is burning, the oil fields that is, but don't you worry yourselves none, you hear? By golly, we are gonna send in thee finest elite killing squad the history of humanity has ever seen! To ensure that democracy and freedom prevail, and we’re gonna bring ar boys and girls back to safety, and in one piece, dead or alive. Yes sir-ree, there is a showdown coming soon folks, El-Kay-duh are on the run, the hunt is on, and we are gonna kick us some serious terrorist ass! Theyz gonna pay for what they done to us, yah!…oh, uh, the speech, sorry pa…and them I-raqians can put their fears to rest, for peace and prosperity is at hand, ma hand! It's mine, all mine! And ah don't want any of you poor folk in New Orleans getting any ideas o’getting a cut o’ma action…Darn it pa! Wah cain't ah say those things in public? Ah am the god damn president! Ah am the man! Top dog, like them untouchables. Ah should…No, ah COMMAND that ah be allowed to express myself as ah see fit! God damn opinion polls!…Now ah owe money to the cussing jar…What ah mean to say is, FEMA is on the case in the aftermath of Katr’na, and Halliburton will fulfil its contractual obligations to the good people of Louisiana...Darned reporters, sticking their noses in every thing ah do. Hell, ah can't even get a decent golf game anymore without some guy with a macr’phone attacking ma person with complex queshtions ‘n’ fancy english, what about ma rights? Queshtions, queshtions, always with the queshtions…Don't these people know anything? It's beginning to affect ma swing! Pappy, are you listening to me? All ah wanted was for you to love me Pappy. Instead, you wanted to play with that damned CIA. Are ya even listening Pappy? Pappy? You promised Pappy, you promised you’d take care o’things, you promised me an easy presidency…though, ah gotta hand it to ya pa, the second election went a lot smoother than the first. Ah still remember the look on Al’s face. Remember? ‘Course you do! Ah do believe ah owe Jeb a beer. Oh yeh, iksnay on the oozbay…Oh, huh, the scripture, ah mean, the speech, ‘course. Ma fellow americ’ns, let us take a moment to say a prayer for the poor folk in New Orleans who are so lucky, to have a man of ma integrity, who will go on national TV, to take full responsibility, for this human tragedy, “Blame me, blame me.” Oh Lord, why have you forsaken me? Nonetheless, ah remain resolute, Lord. Ma faith in baby jesus remains untarnished by your oversights. Heck, you got your work cut out for ya, with all them terrorists running around this great earth…Eh, let us pray for a stronger economy and let us pray for thee finest military death-machine that has graced this land of ars. Shoot, we got some fine hi-tech weap’nry heading towards them evil doers, yep, huh, they’re gonna feel ma rapture. Why I’m just salivating at the prospect of launching ma all new Crusader, The Crucifier, heh, huh…Ma fellow americ’ns, we are under attack by great forces o’evil, there’s evil afoot and them sinners will pay dearly for the wrong they have wronged us with. Make no mistake, ma fellow americ’ns, we are doing god’s work and we will prevail. I have put into effect a zee-row tolerance policy for dealing with these evil doers. Not only have ah deployed the wrath of ar ma-tee o-fensive capabilities, but ah have increased homeland security and rewritten ar bee-loved constitution to protect ar investments further from the evil that lurks within. Be fearful, be vigilant, ar borders have been breeched…huh, heh, yeh, and if any of them terrorists wanna mess with us, I say, “BRING ‘EM ON!”…Lord! Ah am your humble servant, and ah have been listening to your commands with great attenshun. Ah kneel here before you, in solitude, within the confines of ma bomb-proof prayer room at ma ranch which, as you already know, is of vital importance for sustaining ar healthy relationship. Ah am your hands Lord, and just like baby jesus, ah am ridding ar democracies of sinners, in sickness and in health, till death do us part. Just say when. Ay-men…Lord, does this shirt go with this jacket?
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Edward Said’s Brilliance Lives On
Said stopped giving interviews in the latter part of his life, making this final interview, with Charles Glass,particularly significant. In it he discusses his childhood, politics, his career, music, literature, and even his disease. After being diagnosed with leukemia in 1991, Said became increasingly weak, and spoke of his frustration with losing energy when he wanted to work. When he got tired while working, he said, “a picture of Sharon” flashed in his mind, giving him a “shot of energy” to keep going.
During the October 1973 war, he said, everyone in New York—where Said lived and taught at Columbia University—identified with Israelis as “we” and depicted Arabs as the enemy. This caused Said to become particularly interested in “the battle for representation in the Arab world,” and resulted in his book Orientalism.
He proceeded to discuss the evolution of his work since Orientalism, his interest in broadening the territory of anti-colonialist movements beyond the Arab world, and his arrival at the conclusion that “nationalism itself is not enough for independence.”
He also explained his inherent attraction to difficult areas such as modernist literature, music, the role of the intellectual, and the question of Palestine, which he characterized as “not only difficult but almost impossible.”
Said returned to “Israel” in 1992, and said he was frustrated by the idea of how it was “possible to just transform a place.” Describing the Oslo accords as “a sham,” Said noted that he was opposed to them from the beginning, whereas it took most of the world years to realize Oslo’s shortcomings. He criticized not only “the inability of Arafat and his people to protect their own people,” but the absence of living Arab role models, lamenting that those Palestinians who are “superbly educated” were “the ones who are always flirting with Arafat and wanting to get a cabinet position.”
In Said’s opinion, the only hope for peace would be a single, secular state. “Israelis would probably be OK with this,” he speculated, but American Jews would be an obstacle, since, he explained, they idealize Israel as a religious retirement home. Said described their desire to have a “purely Jewish state” as “purely fantasy,” since, he explained, “if you can’t admit into your consciousness the existence of another people, then you’re really on the way to ruin.”
While this latter condition applies to both Israelis and Palestinians, Said attributed the failure of peace and the ongoing violence to the fact that, ultimately, “all that’s being offered to [the Palestinians] is that they negate themselves.”
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs
Omar Barghouti - The Morality of a Cultural Boycott of Israel
21 - 9 - 2005
Israel’s breaches of human rights and international law give moral force to the argument for an international boycott, says Palestinian writer Omar Barghouti.
Linda Grant’s rebuttal of Jacqueline Rose’s courageous support for boycotting Israel reduces boycott to little more than censorship. Shifting the debate from issues of accountability, moral responsibility and legality into clichéd personal stories – in a way as whitewashing as her Guardian series about life in Israel – Grant avoids the fundamental issue evoked in the most recent calls for boycotting Israel: that Israel’s systematic violation of international law, its denial of Palestinian refugee rights, its continued occupation and colonisation of Palestinian land and its entrenched racist system against its own Palestinian citizens demand an effective response from concerned citizens of the world. Institutional boycotts similar to those applied to South Africa are what are called for, not censorship of this or that progressive Israeli writer or academic!
The latest Palestinian Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) – supported by a large majority of Palestinian civil society – does not target Jews or Israelis qua Jews; on the contrary, it actually addresses conscientious Israeli Jews, urging them to support efforts to bring about Israel’s compliance with international law and fundamental human rights, both necessary elements in reaching true peace based on justice. (The full text of the BDS call and the list of signatories to July 2005 is here.)
As a dance choreographer, I often face the question whether cultural bridges between Israelis and Palestinians cannot indeed advance the prospects for such a just peace more than concerted pressure on Israel. Ten years of the so-called Oslo peace process between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), endorsed by most civil-society organisations on both sides, attest to the abject failure of the illusion of peace to evolve into real peace. A decade of joint Palestinian-Israeli projects mostly resulted in providing a figleaf covering up Israel’s relentless colonisation of Palestinian land and its crimes against the Palestinian people.
Many Palestinian artists during that period were attracted for various reasons to such collaborations without being fully aware of the terrible consequences their involvement had in promoting the grand deception of peace without justice. With the ever-present lure of project funding, prestige and personal gain, even progressive artists have acquiesced at times to shifting the focus of their work from resisting oppression to communicating with “the other” to bring about change through persuasion. A joint Palestinian-Israeli theatre work, for example, was highly sought after as the ultimate model for promoting coexistence and mutual-recognition between the “two sides”.
Such an agenda essentially advocates a change in the “consciousness of the oppressed, not the situation which oppresses them”, to borrow Simone de Beauvoir’s perceptive remark. Or worse, it aims at changing the world’s perception of the conflict, by giving the impression of normal, even amiable relations between artists on either side of the colonial divide. The conflict is thus reduced to a psychological gap that needs to be bridged, a visceral tribal hatred that needs to be treated. The inescapable implication is that all that is needed is to accumulate enough of such collaborations eventually to overcome the bitterness embedded in conflict.
Those who support this agenda are guilty of moral blindness and political shortsightedness. Prolonging oppression is not only unethical, it is pragmatically counterproductive as well, as it perpetuates the conflict.
Cultural vision is thus compromised and intellectual honesty forfeited. Affecting a positive change in the relationship of oppression is thrown around at first as an empty slogan and ends up being unsolicited, even undesirable, later on. Consequently, this superficial, even insincere, “coexistence” mentality leads to nothing other than prolonging the suffering, imprisoning hope and inhibiting real resistance to injustice. That is why I regard this as a cynical and deceptive agenda.
Some critics of boycott argue that it is still necessary for Palestinian intellectuals and artists to maintain and foster open communication channels with their Israeli counterparts, to debate, to share, to convince, to learn and ultimately to reach a common vision for peace.
I beg to differ. Those who imagine they can wish away the conflict by suggesting some forums for rapprochement, détente, or “dialogue” not conditioned upon common recognition of international law and universal human rights are either clinically delusional or dangerously deceptive.
Any sincere joint projects aimed at reaching a just peace must be unambiguously based on full respect of international law, rejection of all oppression and racism and recognition of equal humanity. Prior to establishing the latter, any communication is strictly an exercise in asymmetrical negotiations between oppressor and oppressed. The mutual recognition of equal humanity ought to be a necessary precondition for, never a consequence of dialogue.
Israelis who insist on asking the Palestinians to pay a political price in advance in return for their “noble” recognition of a meagre subset of Palestinian rights are not really seeking justice or a moral end to the conflict. Some shamelessly seek European funds; others do it for prestige or fame; and some even participate in this typical colonial behavior as a form of taming the Palestinian shrew, or inhibiting resistance to oppression. Most Palestinians who accept such humiliating conditions are primarily compelled by a resource-starved environment under occupation. They are as free in their “choice” to participate in such projects as a slave is in “choosing” whether or not to oblige when asked by her master to “make love”. Love, however, can only be made between the free.
Many around the world recognise the extent of Israel’s breach of international law. The real challenge now is to do something about it. Only by applying effective international pressure against Israel similar in scope and comprehensiveness to that successfully used to end apartheid in South Africa will intellectuals and academics be fulfilling their moral obligation to stand up for right, for justice, for equality and for a chance to validate the prevalence of universal ethical principles. By doing so, they will also serve in the most effective manner the cause of coexistence and real peace.
Shepherd, know thy sheep
This recent BBC news item tickled my fancy Israelis transplant frozen ovary (the BBC has since amended the title).
The ovary came from a sheep, but the BBC failed to report whether the sheep was Arab or Jewish.
I was reminded of something I read recently by Edward W. Said who, rather un-sheepishly, brought up the vexed problem of the mixing of the Arab-Jewish flocks within in the internationally recognised borders of Israel.
[Edward Said writes] "How many people know the kind of thing suggested by the following incident - namely, the... by-now unconscious adherence to racial classification which pervades official Israeli policy and discourse." (Source material provided and translated by Prof Israel Shahak from an Israeli Journal 'Kol Ha'ir').
"The society of sheep raisers in Israel (an entirely Jewish body from which Arabs are totally excluded) has agreed with the Ministry of Agriculture that a specal sheepfold will be built in order to check the various immunizations on sheep. Which sheep? Jewish sheep in Israel, writes Baruch Bar Shelev, secretary of the sheep raisers' society, in a circular letter to all sheep raisers. In the letter they are asked to pay, toward the cost of the sheepfold, twenty shekels for Jewish sheep. This demand was also received by Semadar Kramer of the secretariat of 'Neve Shalom' near Latron.
Semadar Kramer sent the society of sheep raisers only half of the sum requested for building the Jewish sheepfold because 'Never Shalom' is a Jewish-Arab village, and therefore its sheep are also Jewish-Arab. They also claim that they have no certain knowledge about mixed marriages among sheep, and that lately some difficulties about conversion to Judaism were encountered in their sheepfold."
[Edward writes] "This, one might think, is either insanity or some comic fantasy produced in the imagination of a Swift or Kafka. Jewish sheep? The conversion of Arab sheep to Judaism? Surely these things cannot be real. Such distinctions, however, are part of the system of possessive exclusivism which has been imposed upon the reality by central forces in Israeli society. The system rarely discussed at all in the west, certainly not with anything resembling the intensity with which Palestinian terrorism is discussed."
('Permission to Narrate', first published in the London Review of Books, February 16-29, 1984 - from Chapter 23 p 250 Edward W. Said 'The Politics of Dispossession: The Struggle for Palestinian Self-Determination 1969-1994' (1994, Chatto and Windus, London, ISBN 0 7011 6135 3)
Monday, September 19, 2005
Brilliant interview with Ilan Pappe
I print a very short excerpt here of this fascinating interview.
"My analysis has always been, ever since 1957 there is no chance for peace if the Israeli mentality and Zionist ideology continues. Israel’s adhering to Zionist ideology is the reason we do not have peace with the Palestinians. As long as the ideology of ethnic supremacy exists, I think that whoever the Palestinians choose as a leader (and however corrupt they may be), is a very minor element in explaining the failure of peace. The main explanation comes from the fact that the Israeli society as a whole does not want to reconcile with the people it ethnically cleansed in 1948. It doesn’t want to be part of the area which it penetrated by force in the late nineteenth centaury. As long as these are the fundamental positions of the Jewish society and its leadership, there will be no peace."
Sunday, September 18, 2005
anti war songs
Saturday, September 17, 2005
Ariella Atzmon's blog - Stan Goff's blog
Several of you have already read two fine papers of Ariella's here, "Facing Democracy" and "Exiled Writers, the Joy of Translation", so you have already seen how brilliantly she challenges the basic notions of perception and understanding. I find Ariella's writing an exceptional contribution to thinking about how we create our mental frames and the ways that the accounts of things and the things themselves are sometimes very different. The articles are very challenging, and for this, well worth the effort for the discoveries that are revealed within.
Another blog is by someone whose name has been around, but whom I have never checked out until a few weeks ago, Stan Goff. His Feral Scholar is a real treasure for commentary on militarism, gender, culture.
Visa for the symbol of Abu Ghraib granted! Partial success of the Hunger Strikers
From the hunger strikers before the Farnesina
Rome, Sept. 14, 2005 - 5 p.m.
Fifteen days of hunger strike, fifteen days of sacrifices that have not been in vain.
A wave of solidarity arrived from all over, as well as the greetings of so many comrades who have supported us morally and materially during these two difficult weeks. This solidarity and affection have given us the strength to resist.
We did not succeed in overcoming the refusal of the government and of Foreign Minister Fini, who was subject to U.S. pressure, to approve visas for six highly respected representatives of the Iraqi people.
On the other hand, we have gained two very important results:
1. We turned back the U.S.-driven campaign to criminalize the organizers, which was aimed at crushing all those who support the Iraqi resistance or consider it legitimate.
2. We started the procedure to allow the entrance into Italy of Haj Ali al-Qaysi, the man tortured in Abu Ghraib prison, who can then take part in a tour of meetings protesting the barbarity of war and to denounce the crimes of the occupiers.
With Haj Ali we pledge, together to all those who have been involved in our struggle, to begin a campaign to expose the truth of the ongoing tragedy that is taking place in Iraq, a campaign that will revive and relaunch the battle for the visas regarding the conference of Chianciano that had been planned earlier ("For an just peace, with the Iraqi Resistance"), a conference that frightened the U.S. government and the Berlusconi-Fini government, so that it can finally take place.
The Conference has been postponed, not cancelled. To the government we say: who laughs last, laughs best.
The next appointment is for October 2 in Rome. Here a large international meeting will take place not only to continue the battle to win visas for the Iraqi representatives, but also to open a place for the anti-war movement that asks for a just peace in Iraq, withdrawal of the occupation troops and full respect for the national sovereignty of that country, without which freedom and democracy are only empty words.
Thus, starting today, we end the hunger strike.
We are not returning to our homes, but we dedicate ourselves to working together with all those who want to fight against this war government, so that Italy can finally become a sovereign country and a place of peace and dialogue, not only with the Iraqi people, but with all those who struggle for liberation from imperialist chains.
Free Iraq Committee Italy
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Prisoner-symbol of Abu Ghraib interviewed in Italian paper
The Ghost man is in La Repubblica
We have already spoken of Ali il Pellegrino, l'uomo-fantasma di Abu Ghraib in the Kelebek blog. As often happens, Arab names create some confusion. Here Hajj Ali is called Ali Shalal el Kaissi, elsewhere, and more correctly, al-Qaysi.
The hunger strike that is happening for the granting of the visa to him and other Iraqis is already in its twelfth day. Both Fini the Foreign Affairs Minister and Prodi, the former president and candidate of the Centre-Left in the upcoming elections have not uttered a word on it.
Not maintaining the silence, however, is La Repubblica, who thanks to our friends, was able to make this interview.
Interview with Shalal el Kaissi, who has become the symbol of the abuses to the Iraqi prisoners.
by PAOLA COPPOLA
“They tortured me, they humiliated me, they have destroyed me inside. I want that what has happened to me never happens again, that everyone knows what those months in Abu Ghraib were like. This is my new life: to denounce that which is happening in the Iraqi prisons, to defend the rights of those who are inside of them”. Former prisoner number 151716 of the prison of shame speaks. The man who has been recognised in one of the photo-symbols of the violence of Abu Ghraib: the hooded prisoner, standing balanced on a cardboard box, his shoulders to the wall, with his arms opened and the fingers of his hands connected to electrical wires.
Ali Shalal el Kaissi, 42 years old, was arrested in October of 2003 in a car park near the mosque of El Amariyah and was imprisoned with the accusation of being part of the guerrilla movement. In the disgusting jargon of his torturers, he was “Clawman”, due to a noticeable burn mark on his hand. He was released January of 2004 and, several months later, founded together with another 12 persons, “The association of the victims of American occupation prisons".
Invited to speak at the Conference on Iraq organised by the Anti-Imperialist Camp this October, Hajj Ali (“Hajj is a title that is given to those who have made the pilgrimage to Mecca) knows of the American pressures on the visas which have been denied to the other Iraqis. He is still awaiting a response: “I don’t know if I will be allowed to attend,” he says. In these days he is in Amman, in Jordan, where he has frequented a formation course for humanitarian operators.
When did you see the photo of the hooded man for the first time and did you recognise yourself?
“The volunteers of an Iraqi association that deals with human rights showed me the photos taken at Abu Ghraib. It was a shock, a personal destruction. I suffered that which you see in the images: they covered my head, tortured me and made me undergo such strong pressure. They photographed me many times. But others established that that prisoner was me: human rights organisations and even journalistic investigations, one from the American broadcaster PBS, and another from a magazine, “Vanity Fair”.
When were those pictures taken?
”As soon as I arrived at Abu Ghraib, they took me to the building where the cells were. The second month of imprisonment was when the torturing began and in the same period they also started to take pictures. I wouldn’t know how to say with precision the day because I had lost all cognition of time”.
What was the hardest moment during your months of imprisonment?
“When they put me on a cardboard box, with electrical wires attached to my hands. And when they left me naked for fifteen days. And, in the background on a loudspeaker they made me hear a song in continuation, By the Rivers of Babylon (by Bony M. ed note). I thought I was losing my mind.”
What did they ask you during the interrogations?
“They wanted to know if I was fighting against the occupation. But also if I knew people in the area in which I lived: I had the impression that they were searching for someone who would become a collaborator, they wanted information. They wanted me to become “their eyes” in the region. But I didn’t know anything, and I did not respond to the questions. In that way, they began the torture. They always asked me the same things, they repeated them dozens of times, I think it was a strategy to make me talk. The interrogations were conducted by persons who said to have worked in Gaza and in the West Bank.”
After your release did you denounce that which had happened to you?
“They released me prior to the scandal of the photos, telling me that my arrest was a mistake. I denounced that which they did to me to the Iraqi authorities, but they sent me away accusing me of having invented it all.”
What effect does it have on you to be a symbol of the torture of Abu Ghraib?
“That photo itself for me is a torture, and I would prefer to be remembered for other things. But, I want that which has happened to me to never happen to anyone else. That is why I founded an association, that has nothing to do with political parties. I work to defend the rights of those in prison, to give former prisoners material and psychological help, to be a witness to that which is happening in Iraq.”
Do you believe that in the last year, after the violence of Abu Ghraib was exposed, the conditions of the prisoners has improved?
“No. I believe that when the telecameras enter into the prisons the situation seems better, but I am always receiving emails from family members of prisoners who denounce abuse and violence, and not only in the prisons run by the Americans. In the zone of Al Garma there are also women and children imprisoned, fifteen in all. The worst part of all of this is that in 99% of the cases the prisoners are innocent and they are then released. But in the meantime, in prison they have lost their dignity.”
(11 September 2005)
Monday, September 12, 2005
Sharon to address UN General Assembly - Letter of protest
U.S. OUT OF IRAQ - NO NEW WAR ON IRAN - END OCCUPATION OF PALESTINE
The DC Anti-war Network (DAWNDC.NET) has initiated a call for a Monday, September 26 protest at American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) headquarters at 440 1st Street NW from 8:30 to 9:30 am. Tentatively, we will have a press conference at the protest at 9:00 am. At 9:30 am we will march to the United States Congress to visit congressional offices and attend public sessions sponsored by the congressional U.S. Out of Iraq Caucus and Council for the National Interest (cnionline.org).
This event is timed to complement later civil disobedience and all-day lobby efforts by United for Peace and Justice and other groups. For more information visit http://unitedforpeace.org/ DC Anti-War Network is a member of United for Peace and Justice.
Peace, anti-war and pro-Palestinian rights activists will protest pro-Israel lobby, neoconservative and Christian Zionist-promoted US wars against both Iraq and Iran. These wars are meant not only to control oil resources and ensure United States dominance of the region, but also to secure Israel’s 57 year illegal occupation of Palestinian land and its state-sanctioned discrimination against Palestinians. Two high ranking AIPAC staffers recently were indicted for illegally receiving classified U.S. military information which enhanced AIPAC's ability to promote
aggressive Middle East wars.
In protesting at AIPAC and in approaching Congressional representatives, we call for:
1) a speedy withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq;
2) an end to all U.S. plans for pre-emptive strikes on Iran;
3) Israeli honoring of international law which supports equal rights for all and the Palestinian right of return to homes, properties, villages and cities from which they have been driven since 1948; and
4) an end to political and media labeling as “anti-Semitic” anti-war Americans who speak out for justice for the Palestinians and/or against wars promoted by neoconservatives, pro-Israel lobbyists and Christian Zionists. Three recent examples are accusations against Presbyterian groups urging divestment from companies doing business with Israel and against former CIA analyst Ray McGovern and Gold Star Families for Peace activist Cindy Sheehan, both of whom spoke at Representative John
Conyers’ June 16 Downing Street Memo hearing.
The DC Anti-War Network also initiated the January 21st fifty-strong “March on the Neocons” and the May 23rd seventy-five-strong protest against the AIPAC annual conference at the DC Convention Center. The latter was endorsed by over twenty activist groups nationwide. In 2002 over 1500 activists protested outside the AIPAC annual conference. See relevant calls and photographs of these protests at
** ENDORSE THIS CALL BY SEPTEMBER 19TH AND BE LISTED ON THE WEB PAGE AND
THE PRESS RELEASE http://stopthewarnow.net/protests/aipacprotest-09-05.html
**GET INVOLVED IN ORGANIZING, SEND OUT YOUR OWN PRESS RELEASE SUPPORTING
THIS PROTEST, OR JUST TELL US YOU WILL BE THERE!
CONTACT: AIPACPROTEST@EARTHLINK.NET - CALL 202-635-3739
Sunday, September 11, 2005
VIVA Censorship!! Conference with Iraqis postponed
“We will not back down”
Int'l gathering convened
On September 10 the meeting of the organising committee of the international conference in Chianciano “Leave Iraq in peace – support the legitimate resistance of the Iraqi people” took place in Rome. Beside the presidential committee of the Italian Free Iraq Committees delegates from Spain, Turkey, Germany and Austria were present. Following resolution was approved unanimously:
Despite the protest of a very broad front comprising democratic and anti-militarist personalities, movements and parties, despite the hunger strike which is still running, the government of Berlusconi-Fini-Pisanu continues to negate the visas for the exponents of the Iraqi opposition. They thus maintain their pact of subordination to the Bush administration symbolically expressed by the letter of the 44 US congress members.
We have been denouncing this pretension not only as an offence against the resisting Iraqi people and the global public opinion but also as a grave attack on democracy and the Italian constitution.
The closing of the borders for the six Iraqis, although it impedes the holding of the conference in Chianciano “Leave Iraq in peace – support the legitimate resistance of the Iraqi people” as scheduled, will not make us back down: we will continue our struggle in order to make the conference possible to be held in the forthcoming in Italy period with the six renown Iraqi representatives.
Therefore we convene for October 2 in Rome a big international gathering open to all democratic forces ready to fight for ending the imperialist occupation of Iraq, for the principle that resisting foreign aggression in defence of national sovereignty is legitimate (as it is also being stipulated by the very charter of the United Nations), and eventually for the recognition of the resistance as the authentic representation of the Iraqi people.
Meanwhile the hunger strike continues given the fact that the Foreign Minister not even answered the request for visa for Haj Ali, the torture victim of Abu Ghraib. We have been inviting him for a broad European-wide campaign to denounce the war crimes committed by the occupants not only against the resistance fighter but also against common and innocent citizens.
The respect and the consensus we obtained by our struggle does allow us to go ahead in the consciousness that peace in Iraq is not close, that the struggle to force the aggressors to withdraw is a long and protracted one – a struggle which is linked to the one in the West against the anti-terrorist witch hunt and the one to stop the racist criminalisation campaign against the Muslim communities.
Whatever might be their next steps, we are sure that the Iraqi people, thanks to it steadfast Resistance, will gain its right to self-determination which is fundament as without which all other liberties are pure illusion.
This Resistance deserves the broadest and organised international solidarity. To strengthen it we promote the international gathering of October 2 hoping that it will contribute to coalesce all those who have been fighting these years against the infinite war on the side of the oppressed people.
11th day of hunger strike - conditions of health worsening
Eleventh day bulletin: Diary of the hunger strikers in front of the Italian Foreign Affairs Ministry.
For two days it has been impossible to send the diary of the hunger strikers. The violent thunderstorm Friday destroyed a tent and prevented us from using the computer.
FIRST PROBLEMS IN THE HEALTH CONDITIONS OF THE STRIKERS
Yesterday, eleventh day of the strict hunger strike, some of the strikers have experienced health problems. The intervention of a doctor has acknowledged the presence of a crisis caused by the lowering of blood tension due to the total fasting, combined with the physical weakness that is caused by the conditions of the permanent presidio itself. This morning, all of the hunger strikers will be subject to further medical examinations of their vital parameters.
Despite these problems, yesterday some of the comrades in hunger strike have participated in the riunion of the organising committee for the International Conference, which has decided to convoke a grand assembly 2 October at Rome, as a moment of continuing the struggle underway and as a passage for building the international Conference "Leave Iraq in Peace - We Support the Legitimate Resistance of the Iraqi People".
HAJ ALI IN IL MANIFESTO AND LA REPUBBLICAL
The news of the availability of Haj Ali, symbol of the torture of Abu Ghraib, to come to Italy and speak of his story and of the violence the Iraqi people is undergoing, is finally gaining space in the mass media. Friday and Saturday Il Manifesto dedicated two articles and a long discourse of Haj Ali, written by Lars Akheraug of the Norwegian Free Iraq Committee. Today Haj was interviewed by La Repubblica. His case is by now apparent to one and all. His visa is still awaiting to be approved. Our struggle will go to the bitter end.
Greetings to everyone from the comrades of the hunger strike.
One million reasons
This is a site that has a place for people to write and read reasons why the Iraq war has got to stop immediately, and the foreign troops should leave Iraqi soil.
Saturday, September 10, 2005
Rabbi Lerner - Mazin Qumsiyeh: a virtual debate
A careful reader of a Tikkun Mail piece rightly corrected an error I made in the formulation of my criticism of the withdrawal. While subsequent events (the escalation of settlement activity in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem) demonstrate the basic point made in that communication, that the withdrawal is largely for the purpose of ending pressure on Israel to return to the 67 borders, the criticism of a Tikkun reader deserve attention. And the response of Palestinian advocate below that are also interesting. Check out both: you can here. (I am only putting up the parts relevant to the Lerner- Qumsiyeh "dialogue").
Since the Zionist program started, the idea of coexistence and living together with the people of the land was supported by the majority of Palestinians and opposed by all political Zionists (cultural Zionists like Martin Buber and Judas Magnes had different opinions, as did non-Zionist and anti-Zionist Jews). The problem with the settlers is not that they are Jews but that they are/were racist thieves (if they were Bohemians or Bahai or Buddists, they would be hated just the same).
Never the less, I myself do not think it would be possible nor feasible to either evacuate the 450,000 settlers in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) or to put them as citzens of a fictional proposed Palestinian state (a bantustan). Gaza settlers are <2%> 1967 etc). If we do that, then the solutions become obvious and meaningful. That is what I discuss in detail in my book "Sharing the Land of Canaan" (sharing is a key word here :-)
As for tearing the houses down, I am afraid once you decide to vacate from illegal colonies, psychologically the Israeli government cannot leave such houses for Palestinians. It is a shame actually.
Anyway, my view is coexistence not "us here, them there". Palestinians under occupation/colonization for decades are understandably happy to see any of their oppressors just leave. I am sure if there is real parity in the situation, the feeling would not be like this. It is a byproduct of political Zionist ideology. 99.999% of the people got along regardless of religion before Zionism and they can do so after Zionism (dare we dream of a post-Zionist world). Palestine has always welcomed others and integrated them (Armenians, Circasians, Druze, Ethiopians, Jews and others fleeing persecution).
Mazin Qumsiyeh http://qumsiyeh.org
I certainly share the goal of peaceful coexistence. But I also know that the historical experience of the Jewish people is one of the few powerful arguments I know for keeping a nation state in tact. Given that experience, there are very few Israelis who would agree to have their state merged into a larger reality in which Jews would soon be a minority. As long as there are nation states, minority groups that have previously faced severe oppression and genocide have a strong case for having one of their own, and particularly those groups who already have a state of their own won in the immediate aftermath of surviving genocide. So, I believe that those who support Palestinian rights but can only see them achieved through the elimination of Israel are more likely to prolong rather than shorten the suffering of the Palestinian people--an outcome I seek to avoid by supporting the Geneva Accord's vision of a 2 state solution. I believe that there is considerable evidence of there being a significant majority in both Israel and Palestine for such a solution, and exactly zero support in Israel for a solution based on eliminating the state of Israel. If I were Sharon, I'd be funding one-staters or bionational staters, whether they hope to achieve that goal through violence (Hamas) or through political argument and dialogue (which I take to be Mazin Qumsiyeh's postion), because I'd understand that it is precisely this fear of the elimination of Israel in the aftermath of any peace deal that moves so many Israeli voters to support right-wing politics and a prologation of the Occupation.
There is a part of me, however, that wants to see an end to all nation states and reconfiguration of the planet along different lines altogether--lines of ecological districts aimed at mobilizing people for the major challenge facing the human race: the rectification of 150 years of environmentally irresponsible forms of industrialization. Here is what the Tikkun Community Core Vision says on this point:
Although we do not support any form of nationalism as an ultimate good, we understand why, in this historical moment, the Jewish people need a state of our own. With memories of the murder and genocide of our people still fresh and the perception that we would have been far less vulnerable had we had a state and an army—with the persistence of virulent anti-Semitism in the world today—the Jewish people cannot be asked to be the first to voluntarily eliminate the protections of the nation state. That’s why, at this point in time, the TIKKUN Community is supporting a two-state rather than a bi-national solution to the Israel-Palestinian crisis, even though some members of our community believe that such a bi-national state is the only way to achieve social justice for Palestinians. After what Jews have been through, it is not reasonable to expect them to be the first to give up the protections of an armed state. On the other hand, we see nationalism as a perverting influence in Jewish life—and one that must be overcome. So we do hope Israel will become one of the first 20 percent of countries of the world to overcome the trappings of national chauvinism, militarism, and excessive focus on boundaries-—say, for example, after the United States, Russia, China, Japan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, India, Pakistan, England, France, Germany, Italy, Egypt, Poland, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Uganda, and South Africa have pioneered that path by abolishing borders and accomplished full disarmament. Until then, the Jewish people have a right to their own state, which we hope will eventually move in the direction of confederation with Palestine and Jordan for economic and political cooperation.
So our short term position is for a two state solution, as long as it is implemented in a spirit of generosity and open-heartedness, repentance and atonment on both sides for the cruel and destructive ways that each side has treated the other, and a true desire for mutual reconciliation. Our long term solution is not a one state solution but a no state solution--dissolving existing states into a different form of organization based on the planet's environmental needs.
and thus ends the web page, which continues in email version from Qumsiyeh:
Rabbi Michael Lerner of Tikkun asked me a question about demolishing colonial/settler houses in Gaza and if settlers could have become citizens in the "Palestinian state". My response followed by Lerner's additional comments responding to the idea of coexistence and bringing up other issues.
Lerner's additional comments argue that a human rights advocates help right wing policies and that the human rights argument is about eliminating Israel. This is simply not true. A human rights agenda is about eliminating racism and discrimination no more and no less. How could any rational human being support rejecting the right of refugees to return to their homes and lands because they are not Jewish while accepting that any Jew including converts get automatic citizenship? How could anyone support forced demographic engineering?
Don't we all agree to basic human rights? In South Africa, removing apartheid and giving the native blacks their rights was not about eliminating South Africa, it was about basic human rights and equality. For a detailed discussion/debate on these issues, please read this exchange between Rabbi Lerner and Dr. Abu Sitta: http://www.al-awda.org/debatewthtikkunonrefugees/
My plea to Rabbi Lerner is to read the excellent book of Marc Ellis "Out of the Ashes" (Ellis is a Jewish theologian at Baylor) and for us to join together as one human family working for true equality and justice rather than "us here, them there".
Friday, September 9, 2005
At least I'm a Jew - Greta Berlin
By: Greta Berlin *
Last Saturday, after the demonstration in Bil'in, two of us boarded a bus bound for Hebron, a town of 130.000 Palestinians, 600 lunatic settlers, and 10,000 soldiers and police to 'guard' the settlers. Arriving at noon on Saturday, the day most settlers run rampant over everyone, we were told to immediately go to the top of the hill that separates settlers from Palestinians.
Within a half hour, several settler boys between10-17 came strutting down the road toward the small Palestinian children playing in front of us. The children left immediately, and we turned on our cameras as they advanced toward us. The older boys egged the younger ones to pick up stones and throw them at us two women who were sitting on a stoop. Stones came flying through the air, hitting me in the hand and thigh. Two soldiers who had been standing there watching finally called the police.
I screamed at the settler thugs and started up the hill after them, only to be pulled back by the soldier who said, "I'm sorry, but they get very upset when they see a camera. You need to put it away." "Put it away? Not on your life. You think I'm going to let those damned thugs get away with throwing stones at two women who were sitting there doing nothing?"
"I know, I know, but there's nothing we can do about it. They're under 12 years old."
"Then take their parents in. Collectively punish them the way you do the Palestinians. Fine the crazy bastards."
You get the idea of the conversation. I, of course, have cleaned up my language, because I was furious and have a potty mouth when I get so mad.
We had taken plenty of video and could clearly see which boy had hit me. The soldiers suggested we take it to the police station the next day, and, if we left, they would stop them right away. Well, these nasty kids began a full-on riot, throwing stones at the police and army, throwing pipes off the top of their settler apartment at homes beneath them, screaming obscenities, throwing garbage and flashing mirrors in the faces of the soldiers. Little settler girls started to come down and throw stones. It was so disgusting; I finally left and got treatment for my cuts and bruises. The rioting went on for hours, into the night, where they threw boulders onto the homes of the Palestinians.
One Palestinian man called us and asked us to come to his home. The settlers had come in the week before, and they had cut through every single grape vine that he had, vines that were over 100 years old, thick as my (now aching) thigh. When he called the army, they had come in and said, "Go back in your house or we'll kill you." He had no choice, and every single vine has been cut in half. He took us out and pointed at one. "That one has a shoot growing already. They'll come back someday." My God, what could any of us say?
I spent the next two days at the police station making out a report and giving them video tape of the attack. One policeman said, "I really sympathize, but there's nothing we can do. They're under 12." "That hasn't stopped you from punishing Palestinian families when their kids throw stones... and you have 600 Palestinian children between 13-14 years old in jail."
After an hour of increasingly hostile conversation, he finally admitted that the last time he had tried to stop these thugs, they had slit all 4 of his tires. Another policeman said that they had broken his windshield. I said, "Welcome to Germany." and left.
Nothing will happen. Nothing will be done. These thugs will grow up to be the worst kind of Zio-Nazis, and even the police admit that. 600 of them have made life miserable for the Palestinians, they have closed the stores, thrown excrement and stones on the tops of homes, cut the trees, chain sawed the grape vines.
Today I went to Qawawis, a small village of 40-45 shepherds. We had gone for the day to protect them from the settlers who have beaten them and poisoned their sheep. 8 settlers had beaten a man who had been badly beaten last year and had gone to Iraq for surgery. He refused to make a complaint, more afraid of settlers and knowing that, even with three internationals, two UN observers who came part time and one Israeli from Tayyush, they would come back and kill him.
I am tired, I am hot, I am dusty, I finally had a shower after three days. I am burned, and I wonder what the hell I'm doing here and if we make one God damned bit of difference. Israel is committing silent genocide on a people who have been ignored and villanized. Their children look at us with big eyes and ask us why our government doesn't see what is happening.
What do I tell them? That the police and army refuse to see what they're doing? The policeman, a Sephardic Jew, admitted to me that he knew he was a second class citizen in a racist society. "But at least I'm a Jew." he said.
God help us all.
* Greta Berlin is a U.S peace activist visiting the Palestinian territories. She a member of “Women in Black”, Los Angeles, California
Thursday, September 8, 2005
Italian Ploughshares activist's trial postponed. His hunger strike continues.
He's in Jail for Us, We're on the Streets for Him!
based on the report by Susan Van Der Hijden
Turi Vaccaro has maintained a hunger strike in custody since August 10th.
He appeared in court Sept 1st. He is charged with causing several million € damage while engaged in disarmament of nuclear capable F16's.
The court case against Turi Vaccaro did not reach a verdict last Thursday. The judge was accused twice by the defence of being prejudiced in favor of the prosecution. The second accusation will be dealt with in court next week. Turi did not speak, but he let the audience of about 25 people know that he was doing well.
Turi had to appear before the police judge because of the disarming of two F-16 airplanes at airforce base Woensdrecht in the Netherlands on 10th August. His action has made it impossible to use these planes to drop nuclear weapons (like the ones lying in Volkel in the Netherlands). The estimated costs for restoring this ability are 5.000.000 euros.
Turi's lawyers (Eric Hummels, Quaker, and Meindert Stelling, former airforce officer) started the court case by stating that the charges of the prosecution should be found unacceptable because they had not taken the context of the action in consideration.
As an example he said if witnesses see someone cut another man's throat that last person could be sued for murder if the context is not considered. If however the defendent gets the opportunity to explain that he was doing a life saving trachiometry (making a hole in a suffocating persons throat in order to make him breathe) the charges would have to be dropped.
By disarming F-16 airplanes, serious crimes against international justice were prevented. By doing so Turi performed the duty each of us have to prevent such crimes. Because the prosecution did not consider the fact that the Dutch government is involved in commiting crimes against international law through having nuclear weapons in its country and training Dutch pilots to use them the charges should be found unreasonable and be dropped.
The prosecution did not want to answer this statement and simply said that international law did not have a place in this (lower) court. Turi's lawyers demanded the judge would force the prosecution to give a better answer than that and when the judge refused he was then called a "wraking", a Dutch legal term for accusing the judge of being partial.
After this 3 other judges were called together to see if the defence had a valid point here. They did not think so and after some more delay the case was restarted.
Now the defence asked the judge to put in writing his reason for not accepting the complaints of the defence. The judge refused to do so and said he did not want to talk about the complaint at all any more.
At this point the defence lawyer again called a "wraking". This will again be tested by three other judges some time next week.
Turi was brought back to prison in Breda.
HvB de Boschpoort
Nassausingel 26 4811 DG
Breda the Netherlands
Welcome to firstname.lastname@example.org. This is a mailinglist for international discussions about the Plowshares movement, civil disobedience and nonviolence. The Plowshares movement tries to reach agreements on disarmament by doing symbolical, yet concrete, disarmament of weapons, using household hammers (usually). The disarmament actions are done accountably and nonviolently. The list is not meant for general discussions about the peace movement such as the dangers of war or social change in general. Read about the Plowshares movement at, for example,http://www.plowshares.se/english/
During trials most of the Ploughshares defendants have represented themselves and have been assisted by legal advisers. Many Ploughshares defendants have attempted to show that their actions were morally and legally justified, and that their intent was to protect life, not commit a crime. Almost all US judges have denied this testimony and have prohibited the justification/necessity defenses, whereas in Europe the situation is different.
Some US judges, including those who presided in the trials of the Epiphany Ploughshares and Pax-Christi Spirit of Life Ploughshares, issued gag orders and found defendants in contempt of court for speaking about the truth of their action. Those convicted for Ploughshares actions have received sentences ranging from suspended sentences to 18 years in prison. The average prison sentence has been between one and two years.
Hunger strikers' news
Prodi should speak out. We gave a statement to the press yesterday about our request to meet Romano Prodi, in order to ask him to openly express his mind about the refusal of the visa. Fini's decision to refuse the visa is very serious because it implies the end of even a show of national sovereignity and because it is a violation of the constitutional right to the free expression of thought. A clear position is therefore required from everybody, the more so from a person campaigning to rule the country.
The hunger strike is also aimed at opening an honest and public debate about the future Italian policies on Iraq and about the defence of democratic liberties in our country endangered by the US attempt to impose its imperial claims all over the world.
The letter from Iraq. In the same statement we informed the press about the task we have been given as organizers of the international conference to hand over a letter to Romano Prodi written by 26 Iraqi personalities and organizations representing a very large section of forces opposing the military occupation.
The signatory persons address Prodi directly in view of "a real chance to launch a constructive and fundamental dialogue within the political elite about the moral responsibility of your country following the ongoing Iraqi tragedy, which is a consequence of the American occupation". The Italian press chose today not to write about this letter (the only exception is the PRC daily Liberazione where an article was for the first time devoted to our struggle today). We believe that this silence is the sign of widespread political embarrassment.
Statement by Claudio Martini. The president of the Toscana region, Claudio Martini, released some declarations on the international conference and the refusal of the visa. Martini says that the government should "state the reasons for refusing the visa to the Iraqi speakers" and clear the table "from any suspicion of preemptive censorship or limitation of the right of information".
These are in our opinion clear words aimed at stopping the attack to the conference led in Toscana by Forza Italia. Martini declared also that the request made to him by Forza Italia (in a motion at the Regional Council) to prohibit the conference was unacceptable.
Greetings to everybody from the comrades in hunger strike.
Wednesday, September 7, 2005
Seven People on Hunger Strike Against Censorship Since 1 September!
Leonardo Mazzei, 49, employed by ENEL (national electric company), spokesman for the Italian “Free Iraq” Committee
Anika Persiani, 31, active in the “Free Iraq” Committee
Lara Wintzer, 21, active in the “Free Iraq” Committee in Germany
Ilia Montani, 20, philosophy student, activist in the Umbria Student Movement
Jörg Ulrich, 38, student, former PKK militant, of the “Free Iraq” Committee in Germany
Roberto Gabriele, 66, of the international Foundation “Nino Pasti” of Rome. Well known figure in the anti-imperialist movement
Emanuele Fanesi, student-worker in Perugia, active
in the “Anti-Imperialist Camp”
Their press statement
Knock if you can hear us!
Seven of us are already in our sixth day of a hunger strike so that the Foreign Affairs Minister of Italy, Gianfranco Fini consents to the concession of visas to the exponents of the popular Iraqi opposition to attend the conference in Chianciano “For a just peace, with the Iraqi resistance”.
The ample and sincere solidarity that has come to them from every sector reinforces their morale and gives strength to their struggle.
But to win the arrogance of Fini and of the “American Party” THERE HAS TO BE MORE.
What has to be done? That other persons contribute in some way to the hunger strike.
We are addressing specifically the various organisms who, although not being part of “Free Iraq” are together with us in preparing the Conference. Invite even one of your people to support us!
We invite everyone who is concerned about our struggle and comprehends its political importance, not only to sign the petition “We want to see the visas” web page with many initiatives (and circulate it), but to make a gesture of courage and generosity, to come join the seven at the Foreign Affairs Ministry.
To us, this seems the clearest way to help the hunger strikers, so that they are not alone, so that it is not they alone who are defeated, but a Minister that, for an excess of zeal, does not hesitate to bow down at the commands of Emporer Bush.
To those listening, who would like to come to the aid of the seven who are in front of the Ministry, contact them at 0039 347/781 5904 (Leonardo). the web page of the hunger strikers.
LATEST! The President of the Tuscany Region Martini rejected the request made by Forza Italia and various Pro-Bush newspapers to prohibit the Cianciano Conference on 1 and 2 October. He states that the Foreign Affairs Ministry is making a great mistake in not granting the visas to the Iraqi citizens invited by Free Iraq.
WHY DO THEY WANT TO DENY HAJ ALI (symbol of the Torture of Abu Ghraib) A CHANCE TO SPEAK IN ITALY?
One of the persons to whom the visa has been denied is Haj Ali.
Who is Haj?
He is a symbol of the torture in the prison of Abu Ghraib, the prisoner who was made famous in the photograph with the hood and the electrical wires while standing balanced on a box over a wet floor. Haj was the major of the town of Abu Ghraib. After his tragic experience he founded in Iraq “Iraqi Association of the Victims of American Occupation Prisons” (1h1050 Non Governative Organisation).
We will see if Minister Fini insists upon denying the visa to this man as well. Will he say in this case as well that Haj is “spreading hate” only because he will come to tell Italians and others attending the conference in Europe how the heroic mercenaries wrapped in the stars and stripes tortured innocent citizens? In case the visa is really obtained it would be possible to organise a speaking tour at a national level, and we hope that many movements contrary to the imperialist war join us in providing him access to speak. If you want to read the declaration of the “Iraqi Association of the Victims of American Occupation Prisons” see: here.
Sunday, September 4, 2005
Widow of Italian Intelligence Agent Killed by GIs in Iraq Demands Truth about his Killing
Rosa Calipari “We won’t have peace without justice” from the book published by l’Unità (translated by Mary Rizzo)
3 March 1983 – 4 March 2005 are two dates that signal the beginning and the end of a project of a life shared. Twenty-two years are few for those who have plans, ideals and values in common; they are few for who remains behind and finds himself overcome in a handful of seconds by an endless nightmare.
It is impossible to forget the evening of 4 March when upon returning home I found some friends and colleagues of Nicola awaiting me. It is a scene that comes to mind frequently to whoever has lived with a functionary of the police in an “operative” position, but one that a person tries to remove out of self defence so as not to be overwhelmed by a paralysing anxiety. With horror I screamed my “NO!” when faced with that which I intuited was the truth, but that none of the persons present was able to confirm for me. And then: “Killed by the Americans, an accident… no one knows what has happened.”
Numbed since that evening, I continue to always ask myself the same question, “Why?” even more now than I did after the contrasting results reached by the investigative group comprised of Italians and Americans, entrusted with the task of examining the dynamics of the events which took place on 4 March.
An investigation which by all intents was supposed to have been made together yet, in the end, brought about the publication of two separate rapports. The Italians were given many restrictions and limitations. The prohibitions to the development of the investigations were above all derived form the exclusive application of the United States norms Army Regulation 15-6, that disciplines the procedures and the modalities for the investigation in the milieu of the US Army, and that, as is clearly exhibited in the Italian rapport, had put severe limits on the investigation when compared to that which is foreseen by Italian law for analogous activities. For that which concerns, for example, the manner of witness acquisition, the questions to the witnesses already heard could not be reiterated and direct confrontation was impossible. Not to mention that the questions of the Italian representatives could only be made to the witnesses through General Vangjel, the United States official who had been assigned to the case, already before the arrival of the Italian delegation.
An ulterior element of great limitation for the joint investigation was the lack of “freezing” of the place surrounding the shooting, as had been declared by the American soldiers themselves, was completely cleaned and altered in such as way so that it did not allow the Italians present in Baghdad that evening of 4 March to see the place itself. Not even later, during the work of the joint Commission, was it possible to reconstruct the scene of the “crime”, because the American authorities considered it “Inopportune”, for the reason of the stressed constant and grave danger that is present in proximity of the place of the “event”, even a nocturnal on-the-spot inspection. In such, there is no certainty of the reconstruction of the dynamics of the facts. All of this has not, consequently, allowed a careful analysis in the place of its occurrence, for that which is clear from the results of the expertise made in Iraq on the vehicle – as emerges from the Italian Rapport – it was considered to not have had that decisive of a probatory relevance.
And still: the removal and elimination of the bullet shells, the lack of preservation of the weapons and the ammunition of the unit involved in the fact… and again, the examination of the car, at this time property of the State of Italy, only after two months’ time had already passed…
It is a difficult, painful and agonising path for whoever has to face the tragic loss of his companion but it becomes even worse if this happens in such a context and with this modality.
Nicola was a functionary of the SISMI, an intelligence agency which was allied with the United States, and he acted in the name of and on behalf of the Italian State. He was not a Rambo or a 007 with a license to kill, but a man who in other delicate operations had demonstrated that he was in possession of the qualities of negotiation even with the most fundamentalist elements in the Middle Eastern context. Blessed with grand intuition, reflexive and a great observer, he faced situations with lucid rationality, with noteworthy self-control and with strong determination. Aware of the risks hidden in the tasks he was given, he suggested prudence to his collaborators and weighed the costs and benefits of each option. Nicola, even in his previous career in the Police force, had always set his style as discussion with others and not argument or conflict, “to prevent, not to repress”, he used to say. Even in the relationship with his collaborators, he preferred the policy of “consensus” rather than that of “giving orders”, of calm but authoritative affirmation of his opinion, but not authoritarian, even it if was always he himself who assumed full responsibility for his decisions. A style that, often, confused his adversaries but which created cohesiveness and reinforced the identity of the Group that worked by his side. A particular thought goes to “Nicola’s Team”, to the Caliparians, as some have identified them within the Services and perhaps just to stress the differentiation of his human and working approach.
It was certainly known to the Americans that his participation and collaboration even in the other series of kidnappings which happened in Iraqi territory and even in this case of the kidnapped journalist, even in absence of express formal communication to the USA Military Command of the motive of the mission, Nicola and his team, as they had many other times, requested the authorisation to land in the Baghdad airport, to be housed at Camp Victory and supplied with identification badges and weapons, for their successive movements in the Iraqi capital.
Nicola did not only complete his mission, the liberation of Giuliana Sgrena, but he also sacrificed his life to protect her from “friendly fire”, and precisely for the respect of that flag which draped his casket upon return from Baghdad, I continue to ask with force and determination the truth on what really happened and to throw light on the responsibilities of those who were directly or indirectly the cause of his death.
It is not possible to have peace if there is no justice.
Friday, September 2, 2005
Mubarak endorses Sharon
“If Rabin had lived, Mubarak said, it would have been easier to conclude a full peace agreement with the Palestinians. "When Rabin went, the problems started. Israelis came in and extended the settlements, and things got complicated. The only one left is Sharon."
The Egyptian leader said Sharon had the necessary grasp of security issues, the power and the decisiveness to make peace, and praised him as a man of his word.”
Due to US pressure Italian government negates visas for Peace and Resistance conference
European peoples' quest for just peace in Iraq cannot be stopped by US
Emergency campaign to defend Iraqi resistance conference
Communiqué of the organising committee of the International Conference “Leave Iraq in Peace – Support the Legitimate Popular Resistance”
After having submitted an official request to the Italian embassy in Baghdad as well as to the Foreign Ministry in Rome in the morning of August 1 we received a message saying that “no problem for the visas” asking us even for details to proceed. Then the letter of the 44 US congress members became known. While the activities of the organising committee of the conference “Leave Iraq in Peace – Support the Legitimate Popular Resistance” were in full swing all of a sudden on August 8 the Italian representation in Iraq turned around signalling that “the Foreign Ministry negated your visa request”.
While our protest letter to the Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini (leader of Allianza Nazionale, the former Neo-Fascist Party), which was signed by influential personalities, remained silenced by the mainstream press, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s mouthpiece “Libero” launched a campaign to criminalise the conference and its organisers as “fund raisers for terrorism” along the line given by the US congress. The witch hunt climaxed in the demand to ban the conference, as well as to arrest and indict Leonardo Mazzei, the secretary of the Italian Free Iraq Committees, trying to apply the anti-democratic and un-constitutional laws passed under the guise of the “war on terror”.
Meanwhile in the regional parliament of Tuscany, the province in which Chianciano is located, Forza Italia, the formation of Berlusconi, has launched the initiative to also formally ban the conference while the local press is just joining in. There are rumours that the police is already exerting pressure on the congress centre to cancel the contract for the conference.
US dictate against dialogue with Iraqi people
The reasons for the US drive against the conference under the motto “with the Iraqi resistance for a just peace” are obvious. Washington wants to impede at any cost that high ranking representatives of all major political, cultural and religious forces opposing the US occupation enter into dialogue with the European people. While a political front of the resistance is not yet constituted the conference intends to bring together all its possible components. Not pretending to formally represent the Iraqi resistance nor the Iraqi people it is, however, clear that a legitimate government will be formed based on the forces represented by the scheduled delegates.
The conference organisers and participants firmly hold that a just peace is only possible by ending the occupation, withdrawing the troops and respecting the right to self-determination. Possible peace talks therefore must be conducted with the real representatives of the Iraqi people, i.e. recognising the forces opposing and resisting the occupation as only legitimate interlocutors, and not with the puppet regime set up by the occupants.
The US hegemonic interests clash with this democratic procedure which is in full accordance to international law based on popular sovereignty. That is why they need to discredit us as “terror supporters” against which their “Patriot Act” should be unleashed by intermediary of their European allies.
Contradictions within European political class reflects popular pressure
The European oligarchies and especially those of the countries which continue to participate in the US occupation and their crimes are faced with the overwhelming opposition of the broad masses. The latter want to desist from the US war of aggression for the sole sake of the American empire and they urge to end the occupation leaving Iraq in peace. Only in this way counter-attacks in the asymmetric global US war can be avoided and Europe’s security safeguarded.
So some rulers -- like Zapatero of Spain -- have understood that they cannot permanently trample the will of the popular masses without paying the price. Therefore also in Italy the leader of the parliamentary opposition and former President of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, has announced the withdrawal of the Italian troops in case he will win the forthcoming elections. He went even beyond this calling the foreign armies in Iraq occupation troops.
But even within the governmental coalition there are forces who want to end the subordination to the US and withdraw from Iraq. They signalled that they will not obstruct the conference thus trying to send a veiled signal to the Iraqi and Arab fighters.
The US dictate, having become manifest in the letter of the 44 congressmen, is indirectly also targeting all those tendencies in the European ruling classes which want to stop the confrontation with the Arab-Islamic world. The conference as the most consequent expression of the will of the European people is used by the US both as a scapegoat as well as a prove of strength over their imperial dictate.
we will not give in as the Iraqi people is continuing its resistance
Every day we see that the legitimate opposition and resistance of the Iraqi people is increasing. We neither want nor will abandon the will of the European majority for a dialogue with the Iraqi and Arab people. But this presupposes to make their voice heard. Our conference is a necessary first step to a just peace from which we cannot cede. It will be held sooner or later – in Italy or if necessary elsewhere.
We call upon the democratic and peace-loving public to protest against the negation of the visas for the Iraqi civil society’s representatives and the attempts to ban the conference altogether.
The Italian Free Iraq Committees will stage a hunger strike from August 31 onwards in front of the Italian Foreign Ministry in Rome to make the conference possible as originally scheduled and to get an answer for what reasons the Ministry tries to impede it.
We urge the international movement against war and occupation to protest in front of the Italian representations throughout the world. We invite to demand from the respective EU governments, who claim to democratically represent its people, to allow the conference in their country.
The right of the supporters of the Iraqi resistance to raise their voice is today the acid test for democracy. Either we defend it or we will be eaten up by the European version of the “Black List”, the “Patriot Act” and the “Homeland Security”. Our very freedom is at stake.
Furthermore we ask those forces within the system who speak of peace and withdrawal of the troops to let deeds follow words and not to back down before the US pressure. If the words of Prodi & Co are to be taken serious they have to intervene to make the conference possible and to open the dialogue with the real representatives of the Iraqi people. If we get a political guarantee we would be ready to move the conference to another country or postpone it to after the elections.
For Saturday, September 10, we call for an emergency meeting not only of the organising committee of the conference but the entire movement for peace, against occupation and in support of the resistance to take place in Florence. After weeks of the intensive struggle we will have to collectively decide how to proceed.
Full responsibility of Berlusconi and Co
Those who block the way to a just peace – to which the conference intends to contribute – will have to bear the full political responsibility in front of the Italian, European and international public. Subordinating to the US neocons they violate the will of the people, sell out national sovereignty and curb democratic rights. Furthermore they endanger our security as they align with the US war provoking asymmetric reactions from the aggressed.
The US imperial aspirations is dragging the world into a catastrophic war. Peace can only be established by stopping them aligning with the legitimate popular resistance which spearhead is today Iraq. They might be able to impede the conference now but their power is overstretched. They can be defeated and peace, democracy and self-determination established.
Defend the conference as a step to a just peace!
Repeal the attack on political freedom!
Safeguard national sovereignty as precondition of democracy!
Make the will of Europe’s people for friendship with the Arab world prevail!
Support the legitimate popular resistance against the US imperial drive!
Here is an article by John Catalinotto that explains the background:
Italy pro-resistance conference U.S. blocks Iraqis from speaking
A group of right-wing members of Congress close to the Bush administration has pressured the Italian government into interfering with an October conference -a gathering scheduled to build solidarity with Iraqis fighting to liberate their country from its occupiers. The theme of the Oct 1-2 conference is "Leave Iraq in peace -support the legitimate resistance of the Iraqi people." The Italian government has refused visas to the representatives of Iraqi civilian organizations who have agreed to address the conference. The Italy-based Free Iraq Committee, which organized the conference, has begun a campaign to reverse the government's decision. Among other tactics, organizers are circulating a petition demanding the Iraqis be allowed in to Italy. According to the Free Iraq Committee, Italy´s embassy in Baghdad had earlier agreed to issue the visas. Then, on June 28, 44 members of the U.S. Congress sent a letter to Italy´s ambassador to the United States demanding that the Italian government stop the conference.
Six weeks after this letter was sent, the Italian Embassy in Baghdad said it was reversing its agreement, based on a decision of the foreign ministry. The U.S. members of Congress accused conference organizers of supporting "terrorism.' They especially focused on one of the Free Iraq Committee's coalition members: the Anti-Imperialist Camp, which two years ago held a campaign to collect 10-Euro ($12.50) donations for the Iraqi resistance. Aside from 2,000 Euros used to send a cargo plane of medical supplies to Iraq from Austria, the AIC says the rest is being held to provide political support for whatever Iraqi political front is formed representing the resistance. Among the more notorious U.S. politicians involved is Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida. She is tightly connected with ultra-right Cuban counter-revolutionary groups in the Miami area that helped George W. Bush steal the 2000 presidential election. Florida Gov. Jeb Bush managed her campaign in 1990. Ros-Lehtinen fully supported anti-Castro terrorist Orlando Bosch, who was connected with Luis Posada-Carriles and the bombing of a Cubana airliner in 1976 that killed 73 people. President George H.W. Bush pardoned Bosch. Italy refused visas to Sheikh Jawad al Khalesi, leader of the Iraqi National Foundation Congress; Ayatollah Ahmed al Baghdadi; Salah al Mukhtar, former Iraqi ambassador to India and Vietnam; and Sheikh Hassan al Zargani, international spokesperson of the movement of Muqtada al Sadr, among others. Among the prominent non-Iraqis on the conference speaker list are former Algerian President Ahmed Ben-Bella, philosopher Samir Amin and Philippine leader Jose Maria Sison. The International Action Center plans to participate from the United States.