Monthly Archives: August 2014

And yet, here we all are: dying by a thousand cuts

A real crie de coeur.

Every little kindness helps to build a better future.
It’s up to us!
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juxtaposed

I’m looking at the state of my country and the state of the world. I’m enduring political-social-economic breakdown, war and general meltdown; I’m witnessing agendas that require the deliberate construction of societal divisions and the fabrication of conflicts – even mass murder by sovereign nations and marauding fascist hordes. I’m seeing that when action is taken, it’s either simplistically eager and over the top or it’s reluctant and insultingly piecemeal. Nuance and subtlety; the simple and straightforward are in a right old jumbled-up mess. Priorities are twisted; evidence is skewed; manipulation of emotion and mind is rife in the pursuit of dubious outcomes. We are going everywhere at once and nowhere, really fast.

I’m feeling embarrassment, contempt and despondency for the political climate; for the calibre of leadership; for the level of debate among all peers and within all spheres. It is little wonder that we are deaf and blind…

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The ugly face of New Labour rears up again: Chris Leslie and Nita Clarke

Worth reading if a little late in posting it! Please support 38degrees TTIP protest day on Saturday 31st around the country.
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Vox Political

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It seems the neoliberal Blairites of New Labour are coming out of the woodwork in an effort to ensure that nobody in their right mind supports the modern Labour Party next year.

According to the Huffington Post, shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Chris Leslie reckons that a future Labour government will not undo the Coalition’s hugely unpopular cuts but will continue to impose the austerity that has kept our economy in crisis for the last four years.

In that case, why bother voting for Labour? We’ve already got one lot of Conservatives in power; there’s no need for any more.

Just to recap what we all know already, austerity is no way out of a recession. Economies grow when an increased money supply travels through the system, making profits for businesses and creating the fiscal multiplier effect. This means more tax comes to the government and it is able…

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The Bulgarian Peasant Party’s Solution to the Housing Problem

Very useful thoughts!

Beastrabban\'s Weblog

Last week I blogged on the several contemporary issues, which were similar to those tackled by the Bulgarian peasants’ party, BANU, nearly a hundred years ago. These were a local village power company, which was run as a co-operative by the whole community. It was thus similar to the idea of the Utopian British Socialist, Thomas Spence, for the communal ownership of land by the individual parishes, and also to the idea of the Bulgarian peasants’ party for the transformation of Bulgarian agricultural society through the formation of peasant cooperatives. I also remarked on the way the Bulgarians had also set up a policy of allowing the banks to provide loans on reasonable rates to credit cooperatives as a way of driving out the moneylenders. This is a problem that now besets British society, through the return of loan sharks and payday loan companies, like Wonga, that offer extortionate rates…

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It’s absolute poverty, not “market competition” that has led to a drop in food sales.

Totally shocking.

Politics and Insights

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Public spending in food stores fell for the first time on record in July this year, putting the UK recovery in doubt after a very worrying, unprecedented record fall in food sales, with many consumers evidently yet to feel the benefit of the so-called recovery.

The price of food was 0.2% higher than a year ago. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) started collecting the data in 1989.The volume of food sales was also down last month, by 1.5% on an annualised basis.

There was also a marked fall in petrol consumption, and the only prominent area of growth was in spending that entailed use of mail order catalogues, and at market stalls, as people use credit to buy essential items and shop around for cheap alternatives and bargains.

Food manufacturing is the UK’s single largest manufacturing sector. The food and drink supply chain is a major part of the…

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The Mike Brown Shooting – What we are not being told. StormClouds Gathering

Can we all agree that militarised police on the streets is not ok?

Can we look at Ferguson, the Ukraine and Gaza and see the similarities?

Can we read about the incredible wealth that is accruing to the super rich 0.01% and not make the connection that when there is so much inequality the haves are going to want to feel safe and protected in their havens.

And so what are we going to do about it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Gaza to Ferguson: Exposing the Toolbox of Racist Repression. Reblogged from Common Dreams.

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From Gaza to Ferguson: Exposing the Toolbox of Racist Repression

Published on
Friday, August 22, 2014
by Foreign Policy In Focus
From Gaza to Ferguson: Exposing the Toolbox of Racist Repression
Mass incarceration and militarized police forces are two of the most potent tools in a panoply of repressive instruments of power used by Israel and the U.S.
byCorinna Mullin, Azadeh Shahshahani

From Israel to the United States, mass incarceration and police militarization underpin racial hierarchies. (Photo: Helium Factory / Flickr)
From the death and destruction in Israel’s latest war on Gaza to the dramatic arrival of the national guard on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, there have been plenty of brutal reminders on display of the violence that underpins racial hierarchies in Israel and the United States.

But amid the headlines, one could easily forget the more sustained and entrenched forms of oppression through which hierarchies of race, citizenship, nationality, and class are produced and maintained—in the United States as well as Israel. Among the most significant of these is mass incarceration.

In his acclaimed novel No Name in the Street, James Baldwin suggested asking “the wretched how they fare in the halls of justice” to determine whether a country has “any love for justice, or any concept of it” at all. If, as Baldwin insinuates, the law itself “is guilty” in the production of local and global inequalities, what does that tell us about the prospects for justice in Israel and the United States?

With U.S. military and political aid continuing to flow to Israel and Israel contributing to the evolution of U.S. techniques of control, the politics of incarceration in both countries, despite their distinct histories and contexts, are not only parallel but connected.

Israel’s Policy of Mass Incarceration

The draconian conditions imposed by Israel’s siege of Gaza have often led critics to liken the embattled strip of land to an “open-air prison,” pointing to Israel’s panoptical control of Gaza’s borders, airspace, and sea coast.

But conventional brick-and-mortar prisons continue to enjoy robust use throughout Israel-Palestine. Since its inception in 1948, in fact, the state of Israel has imprisoned approximately 20 percent of the total Palestinian population, including 40 percent of the male population.

Today, Israel holds over 6,500 Palestinians in its prisons and detention centers. These include over 466 Palestinians subjected to “administrative detention” (detention without trial), 27 Palestinian members of parliament, and three former ministers.

Though media coverage has rightly focused on the atrocity of the hundreds of Palestinian children killed in Israel’s latest Gaza assault, it is important to remember how precarious life is for Palestinian children even in “normal” times. Since 2000, more than 8,000 Palestinian children have been detained and nearly 2,000 children have been killed—with almost complete impunity for the Israeli soldiers and settlers involved.

Around 230 Palestinian children are currently imprisoned—50 of them under the age of 16. Human rights groups including Amnesty International and the Israeli organization B’Tselem, as well as the United Nations, have condemned Israel’s routine mistreatment of these children, many of whom were pulled from their homes in the middle of the night and have faced solitary confinement, torture, and denial of contact with their families.

Israel’s use of imprisonment as a political tool was on full display in the latest violence in Gaza. Following the disappearance of three Israeli settler teens who were subsequently found dead last June, Israel detained thousands of Palestinians, effectively using mass arrest and incarceration as a form of “collective punishment,” which is considered a war crime under the Fourth Geneva Convention. Of those individuals arrested, 62 had only recently been freed in the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange. Their release, along with an end to the siege of Gaza, has been among Hamas’ most strident demands during negotiations to end the conflict.

Hamas has clearly been the immediate target of Israel’s latest wave of arrests, in which well over 2,000 Palestinians were captured in July alone. But Israel’s broader political aim is to terrorize the entire Palestinian population and deter unity and resistance. As Noura Erakat explains, Israel’s long-standing “emergency rule” in the occupied territories means that Palestinians are subjected to “a matrix of 1,500 military laws” that “can be changed arbitrarily, without notice, and applied retroactively, in violation of the most basic tenets” of the rule of law—this on top of at least 50 laws that discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel.

In Gaza, we see yet another example of the law’s injustice. At least 250 Palestinians were arrested during Israel’s ground operation in Gaza, many of whom were charged with “belonging to an illegal organization”—which, according to the Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, generally refers to Palestinian political parties, especially but not only Hamas. Others are undergoing interrogation and have been denied access to a lawyer.

At least 15 of those arrested and later released were held under the “Unlawful Combatants Law.” Providing even less protection than administrative detention orders, this law allows the detention of Gazans for an unlimited period of time without charge or trial, in violation of international human rights norms. Enacted by the Israeli Knesset in 2002, the Unlawful Combatants Law embodies some of the many practices shared between Israel and the United States, which codified its own legal definition of “unlawful combatants” who could be indefinitely detained under the Military Commissions Act of 2006.

The death and destruction inflicted on the Palestinian people in recent weeks, part of what Israeli historian Ilan Pappé has referred to as Israel’s policy of “incremental genocide,” is one reminder that incarceration and more overt forms of violence are not mutually exclusive.

The Israeli government also employs a variety of other tools to repress and dispossess the Palestinian population. These include forced evictions, land grabs and other forms of ethnic cleansing, the denial of the right of return of Palestinian refugees, significant monetary and military support for settlements, and apartheid policies and practices—including the “community-shattering” separation wall and the system of checkpoints and permits restricting the free movement of Palestinians.

Mass Incarceration in the Land of the Free

On the other side of the globe, the burgeoning U.S. prison population now comprises a quarter of all the prisoners in the world.

Close to 70 percent of all people in U.S. incarceration, moreover, are people of color. As Adam Gopnik observed in The New Yorker, “there are more black men in the grip of the [U.S.] criminal-justice system—in prison, on probation, or on parole—than were in slavery” on the eve of the civil war.

Over the past three decades, the U.S. prison population has quadrupled. This is in large part a result of the “war on drugs.” Since the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 was passed, incarceration for nonviolent offenses dramatically increased—disproportionately impacting poor black people. “Relegated to a second-class status” by their experience with prison, notes legal scholar Michelle Alexander, an inordinate number of black men have once again become “disenfranchised,” losing the right to vote, to serve on juries, and to be free of legal discrimination in regards to employment, education, and access to public services.

This exponential increase in incarceration has accompanied the unprecedented rise in the detention of undocumented immigrants as well as the growth of the prison-industrial complex, demonstrating the salience of the political economy of incarceration. These developments are rooted in the socio-economic changes of the post-industrial era and the retrenchment of social safety net programs that occurred in the United States from the 1980s forward, paralleled by the spread of the neoliberal economic paradigm to the Global South. As the scholar and social justice activist Angela Davis has highlighted, prisons were central to the government’s strategy of addressing the structural violence “produced by the deindustrialization, lack of jobs,” and “lack of education” that has characterized this era, impacting poor people of color in particular.

Although mass incarceration as a tool of oppression entails less blatant violence than past forms of racial control practiced in the United States, its impact has nevertheless been harmful and extensive. The institutionalized racism inherent in this system has led Alexander to describe U.S. mass incarceration as the “new Jim Crow,” likening it to the “racial caste system” maintained through racist laws and violence after the formal abolition of slavery.

University of London professor Laleh Khalili agrees. In Time in the Shadows: Confinement in Counterinsurgencies, she examines continuities in carceral strategies from 19th-century colonial rule until today. Khalili shows that while the use of mass incarceration rather than brute force to control “problematic populations” may have developed as one of the “more humane,” “administrative and legal solutions” to social unrest, their aims have often been the same: “to oblige” an oppressed or “occupied people to admit defeat and recognize their own subjugation.”

With the “war on terror,” the practice of mass incarceration has expanded in use and impact, with a dramatic increase in the targeting of Muslim and Arab communities. An Associated Press report in 2011 found that in the United States alone, there had been 2,934 terrorism-related arrests and 2,568 convictions since 9/11—eight times the number of such arrests in the previous decade.

Activists have raised serious concerns regarding the “discriminatory investigations” and “questionable” prosecutorial tactics that have characterized many of these cases. These allegations were detailed in a report by Human Rights Watch and Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute, which cited prosecutors’ use of “evidence obtained by coercion, classified evidence that cannot be fairly contested, and inflammatory evidence about terrorism in which defendants played no part” to convict suspects of terrorism.

Another unsavory feature of these cases has been “fabricated war crimes,” including “conspiracy” and “material support,” that have been widely used to convict people when in normal legal circumstances there would be no grounds for charge. Moreover, nearly three-quarters of convictions in the “war on terror” are “based on suspicion of the defendant’s perceived ideology and not on his/her criminal activity,” according to a report published by the Muslim civil rights group SALAAM and the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms.

Additionally, “war on terror” cases in the United States have reinforced the widespread use of plea-bargains against individuals from marginalized and oppressed communities, with over 90 percent of cases settled through pleas before going to court. According to SALAAM, “terror enhancement” effectively quadruples normal sentences, enabling prosecutors to “force defendants to accept plea-bargains as the only alternative to draconian prison terms.” Once in prison, these detainees and prisoners are subjected to “harsh and at times abusive conditions,” including “prolonged solitary confinement and severe restrictions.”

Perhaps the most notorious of the U.S. “war on terror” incarceration sites has been the extralegal regime at Guantanamo Bay, where a majority of the remaining 149 prisoners have been long cleared for release. Inmates in this island prison have been subjected to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment—including torture and long periods of solitary confinement—without the opportunity to see or challenge the alleged evidence that sent them there. Detainees who have launched hunger strikes in protest of their conditions have been force fed through tubes brutally shoved down their throats.

Added to that are the numerous “war on terror” extraterritorial and extralegal “black sites” that have been established across the world, as well as the harsh incarceration regimes found within U.S. borders, most notoriously the Communication Management Units (CMUs). Described as “little Gitmos” due to their similarities to Guantanamo Bay, these self-contained units within the federal prison system employ harsh segregation and control measures against largely Muslim detainees.

Such legal regimes, when coupled with broader targeted surveillance and policing, have an immediate and tangible impact on individuals, families, and already marginalized communities. They have also been “imperative,” as the sociologist Nisha Kapoor has argued, “for retaining racial hierarchies and facilitating racial interventions within the West itself.”

Rise of the National Security State

Now rounding out its 13th year, the U.S.-led “war on terror” has featured racist and repressive national security practices as well as extensive physical and structural violence both within the United States and abroad.

Through the power it exercises in international institutions like the United Nations, the United States has also sponsored the restructuring of “counter-terror” legal architecture in states across the globe. As the principal author of what Princeton University professor Kim Lane Scheppele has termed “global security law,” the U.S. government has contributed to the violence of both administrative control as well as harsh policing tactics employed by neoliberal and authoritarian states to manage populations and corral political dissent.

With the violent policing of American black communities traceable back to the “slave patrols” of the early 18th century, the origins of the U.S. national security state are particularly deep-rooted and brutal. Yet although the context is different, the United States’ history of settler-colonialism and techniques of racial and economic domination yield many similarities with Israel’s methods.

Importantly, both states operate according to a “national security state” logic, in which a host of violent as well as mundane administrative practices result in physical harm and limits to individual and group freedoms.

Linked to the notion of a “state of exception,” a context in which a state claims leeway to violate a host of legal and constitutional norms, the national security state requires a dehumanized “Other” to sustain its politics of fear. Those constructed as “Other” are deemed threatening not on the basis of their actions, but rather on the basis of their identity or perceived ideology. In other words, it is not what they do, but who they are (Blacks, Palestinians, Muslims, Arabs, Islamists, etc.) that matters in determining whether a criminal act has been committed. Inversing the logic of the law, the Other in a “state of exception” is guilty until proven innocent.

The national security state is characterized by a concentration of power in the hands of the executive, violations of due process and other constitutional guarantees, and liberal use of the state secrecy prerogative. It also entails increased restrictions on speech, association, and privacy; the targeting of whistle blowers, lawyers, and civil liberties advocates; the criminalization of entire communities; and an expanded role for the military and intelligence agencies in civil life, including through the militarization of the police and the use of violence against civilian populations.

These phenomena, which have been part and parcel of Israeli and U.S. forms of control, have come under the media spotlight in recent weeks. Protests in Ferguson over a white police officer’s fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, were met with tear gas, rubber bullets, and lines of riot police in military-style body armor. Although this particular killing attracted national attention, it was by no means novel. Pointing out the precariousness of black life in the United States, a recent report by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement noted that “police officers, security guards, or self-appointed vigilantes extra-judicially killed at least 313 African-Americans in 2012” alone.

As in Palestine, resistance in the streets of Ferguson has been met with violence, leading several shocked Ferguson protesters to compare the local police to Israeli occupation forces. Some analysts pointed out that Ferguson and St. Louis County police forces had even received training in Israel.

Drawing his own parallels, Stanford senior Kristian Davis Bailey described what he witnessed on a recent trip to Palestine as a “dystopic mashup of the pass laws Blacks faced in apartheid South Africa and the cruel humiliation of the Jim Crow South.”

These similarities are not coincidental. As Israel’s most prominent backer, the United States underwrites Israeli repression to the tune of over $3 billion dollars a year. Yet that influence is not unidirectional—the United States borrows Israeli legal justifications as well as militarized policing tactics and forms of torture employed in prisons. There is also the shared equipment and services supplied by private security companies to both states.

By providing sustenance for the politics of fear that underpins the “war on terror,” these practices further institutionalize racism, increase hostility towards Muslim and Arab communities in the United States, and justify intervention in Muslim and Arab countries.

As sociologist Lisa Hajjar argues, “One way a government can project the appearance of acting in accordance with the law is to produce interpretations that the law does not apply.” Both Israel and the United States have used such legal obfuscation and evasion, as well as the elaboration and adoption of new laws, to justify inhumane treatment and oppressive rule. It is often not violations of the law, but rather the law itself that functions as a tool of power.

Mass incarceration has a devastating impact on individuals and communities. As a form of state terror, it is designed to strike fear in whole communities and prevent the establishment of sustainable bonds, based on justice and respect, between state and society. By breaking up and isolating members of movements and pressuring individuals to collaborate, dissimulate, and betray their beliefs, it causes alienation among brothers, sisters, and comrades. And with the law often functioning in service of power rather than justice, prisons serve as the handmaiden of legal oppression.

Despite the overwhelming imbalance of power, resistance is growing—in Palestine, as well as in the United States. From prisoners’ hunger strikes to various forms of protests reclaiming public space, broad-based movements driven and led by those individuals whose rights and humanity have been denied for so long in the “halls of justice” are coalescing around effective strategies for change. Activists are increasingly focusing in on the symptoms of incarceration as a repressive governance tool, as well as on the national security state paradigm to which it is linked—which is itself connected to a much broader system of political, racial, and economic injustice.

In so doing, these movements bring us closer to the day when the law may finally become a tool of justice rather than oppression.

Corinna Mullin is an activist and academic currently based in Tunis. Mullin spent time working and studying in Palestine throughout the 2000s and taught summer courses at An-Najah University in Nablus in 2010-2011.

Azadeh N. Shahshahani is a human rights attorney based in Atlanta and President of the National Lawyers Guild. In May 2014, Shahshahani joined an NLG delegation to Palestine and Israel focusing on Palestinian political prisoners. Follow her on Twitter: @ashahshahani

Jews Demand Community Leaders Show Moral Leadership on Gaza. Reblogged from Common Dreams.

For Immediate Release
Friday, August 22, 2014 – 3:30pm
Jewish Voice for Peace
Contact:
Naomi Dann; naomi@jvp.org; 503-952-6205; @jvplive; Youtube; Flickr

Jews Demand Community Leaders Show Moral Leadership on Gaza
Jewish Voice for Peace delivers petitions to Jewish community leaders in major U.S. cities demanding they call for end to Israeli occupation of Palestine
OAKLAND – Over the last two weeks Jewish Voice for Peace chapters in Philadelphia, Durham, Washington DC, Denver, and New York delivered a petition to Jewish community leaders demanding they call for an immediate ceasefire and an end to the blockade of Gaza. The petition, signed by over 30,000 JVP supporters, criticizes the institutional Jewish community’s unconditional support for Israel’s assault on Gaza, which has killed over 2,000 Palestinians to date.

Jewish Voice for Peace Executive Director Rebecca Vilkomerson said: “Jewish communal leaders have lost touch with many American Jews, especially the younger generation. We are increasingly opposed to Israel’s occupation and the massive bombing of civilians trapped in Gaza, while they remain either silent or cheerlead illegal and immoral Israeli policies. That’s why we are going to Jewish leaders in every city to demand they show true ethical leadership and call for an end to the Israeli occupation.”

The Jewish Voice for Peace petition is addressed to Mr. Jerry Silverman, President and CEO of Jewish Federations of North America; Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center; and Rabbi Steve Gutow of the Jewish Council on Public Affairs. It states: “Your support for Israel as it destroys so many lives is all the more painful given your positions of leadership in the Jewish community. Your decision to stand with the oppressor rather than the oppressed is a betrayal of our history and values, when authentic moral leadership is more important than ever.”

JVP’s request to meet with Jewish Federations of North America was categorically rejected because of its support for the nonviolent Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions movement to pressure Israel to end its occupation of Palestine.

• Philadelphia Aug. 8: 6 JVP activists were arrested in a civil disobedience action on August 8 when they occupied the offices of the Jewish Federation of Philadelphia. Outside, a crowd of supporters read poems, sang songs of peace, and read the names of almost 2,000 people who have been killed in Gaza.

· Durham Aug. 13: JVP members disrupted a Federation event in support of Israel’s war on Gaza.

· Washington DC Aug. 14: activists delivered the petition to the headquarters of the Religious Action Center, the political arm of Reform Judaism, while others read testimonials from former IDF soldiers about serving as an occupying army.

· Denver Aug. 19: a newly mobilized group of JVP activists were met with hostility at the Colorado branch of the Jewish Federation when they attempted to deliver the petition and talk with Federation staff about ending the siege of Gaza.

· New York City Aug. 20: JVP Executive Director Rebecca Vilkomerson delivered the petition to at the UJA-Federation of New York. Activists from the JVP-NYC chapter then staged a public street theater performance at the Federation dressed in black, standing close together in a line to simulate the blockade, while those representing food, water, medical supplies, building supplies, electricity and other restricted items were rebuffed by the human blockade.

· Chicago Aug. 21: JVP activists disrupted a Jewish United Fund “Stand with Israel” event featuring former Ambassador Michael Oren, directing shame and rebuke at the celebration of Israel’s war on civilians in Gaza.

· Other JVP chapters across the US are arranging private meetings with their local Federations to encourage their institutional leaders to join the call to end the underlying conditions of siege that make life unbearable for Palestinians in Gaza.

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Jewish Voice for Peace members are inspired by Jewish tradition to work together for peace, social justice, equality, human rights, respect for international law, and a U.S. foreign policy based on these ideals.

JVP opposes anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim, and anti-Arab bigotry and oppression. JVP seeks an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem; security and self-determination for Israelis and Palestinians; a just solution for Palestinian refugees based on principles established in international law; an end to violence against civilians; and peace and justice for all peoples of the Middle East.