Mondoweiss Online Newsletter


Victoria (Australia) threatens further crackdown on boycott activists

Aug 09, 2011


Things are heating up in Australia. The turmoil over boycott arrests previously covered here has escalated. A group called Defend the boycott Israel 19 has issued a press release today announcing Pro-Palestine activists arrested in dawn raids calling this “the most severe crack-down on civil liberties in decades”. Protesters were arrested on the pretense of “breaching bail conditions”, and it is said that they will be held until September 5th.

This is just days after the Victoria government issued an unprecedented request by calling in the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission to investigate citizens who have joined the BDS campaign.

ANTI-Israel activists face investigation for alleged secondary boycotts (ed note: section 45D of the Competition and Consumer Act) under landmark attempts by the Baillieu government to curb the global campaign to target companies and businesses linked to the Jewish nation. Victorian Consumer Affairs Minister Michael O’Brien said the protesters had deliberately pinpointed businesses with Israeli ownership and who they believed traded with the Israeli government.

Clearly the government is pulling out all the stops to end this boycott. Boycott Israel 19 Campaign organiser Omar Hassan:

“This crack-down on the right to protest should be of concern to all Victorians. The lengths to which the Baillieu government is going to eradicate criticism of Israeli Apartheid and criminalise dissent are unprecedented. We need to be clearly saying; demonstrating is not a crime. Taking action in support of Palestine is not a crime.”

“Actions taken against South African businesses by anti-Apartheid protests were important in generating opposition to that racist regime. To outlaw similar actions today can only be motivated by a desire to protect the reputation of Israel, and represent an unacceptable attack on our right to express dissent and show solidarity with oppressed people around the world.”

I predict restricting Australians’ civil liberties so as to protect Israel will backfire against the Australian Government, while escalating attention and support for the BDS campaign leading into Palestinians seeking membership in the United Nations General Assembly next month.

Australian blogger and journalist Antony Loewenstein:

If any establishment figure wants to charge people for speaking up for Palestine and highlighting in a peaceful way that corporations with ties to the Zionist state should be boycotted for profiting on the back of repression, I’m happy to pronounce; I back BDS completely as a moral responsibility to defend the rights of Palestinians.

This is a global movement and growing and has everything to do with damning Western governments too afraid to speak truth to Zionist power

Go Australia!

Answer: Because they’re in Israel

Aug 09, 2011

Philip Weiss

Dana Milbank reports an urgent question at the White House briefing yesterday:

“The president said our problems are imminently solvable, and he talked about a renewed sense of urgency,” CBS’s Norah O’Donnell pointed out. “Why not call Congress back to work?”

Carney chuckled at this suggestion.

“I mean, the Dow dropped below 11,000 — where’s the sense of urgency?” O’Donnell persisted.

The press secretary uttered something about the founders and the separation of powers.

NBC’s Chuck Todd was not swayed. “Why not bring Congress back now?” he repeated, pointing out that “the American public seems to be in a little bit of a panic” while Washington says, “We’re going to stand back and wait until school starts.”

UK theater artists issue petition denouncing ‘brutal attack on cultural icon’ — Jenin Freedom Theatre

Aug 09, 2011

Philip Weiss

Artists are speaking out against Israel’s recent arrests of three members of the Jenin Freedom Theater, including the chairman of its board. I gather a Welsh theater community started the petition, which isavailable here. And I hear that some New York theater groups are also getting ready to issue a statement deploring the arrests. This fearful case ought to be a cause celebre for theater people and artists everywhere. The petition’s statement:

We, members of the UK theatre community, deplore the recent attack on The Freedom Theatre in Jenin by members of the Israeli Defence Forces. The Freedom Theatre works with young people in Jenin Refugee Camp and Jenin City, empowering them to use the arts to promote positive change in their community. It provides a creative outlet for young people in the North West Bank area, many of whom suffer from severe emotional problems as a result of the Occupation of the Palestinian Territories.

The theatre was raided at 3am on July 27 with rocks thrown at the door and numerous windows shattered. The location manager Adnan Naghnaghiye together with Bilal Saadi a member of the board were arrested and taken to prison in Israel. The General Manager of the theatre, Jacob Gough from the UK, and the theatre’s co-founder, Jonaton Stanczak from Sweden, were made to squat next to a family with their four small children, surrounded by some of the 50 heavily armed soldiers, who threatened them with abuse when they tried to reason with them.
We are shocked that a cultural icon such as the Freedom Theatre, the only professional venue for theatre and multi media in the North West Bank could be attacked in such a brutal manner. We call on the Israeli government to launch an independent public enquiry into the events.
We call on our fellow artists in Israel and beyond to support the Freedom Theatre as an inspiring source of cultural understanding and artistic hope.
We, the undersigned, call upon the Government of Israel to launch an independent public enquiry into the events of 27th July 2011 in which the Freedom Theatre of Jenin was attacked by Israel Defence Forces and 2 members of the theatre staff arrested and taken to prison in Israel.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and please forward to fellow theatre artists.

Please pencil in September 15 (for Palestinian self-determination)

Aug 09, 2011

Philip Weiss

Yesterday I mentioned a global action on September 15in connection with the push for Palestinian statehood. Well here’s another big event, a march to the U.N. that day, organized by Adalah, WESPAC, ICAHD, Al-Awda, Jews Say No, IJAN, and a bunch of other folks. From the statement:

Palestinians everywhere are mobilizing to remind the world of their right to self-determination. In New York we are marching to the UN because the world’s attention is focused on the vote on Palestine scheduled to take place there.

For over six decades, the UN has approved numerous resolutions promising Palestinians their basic rights, none of which have been implemented. We come to the UN to demand: Sovereignty, Equality, and the Right of Return for Palestinians NOW!

Rally and March to the UN, Thursday, September 15th!
End All US Aid to Israel!
End the Occupation!
Support Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions!

4:30 pm: Gather at Times Square
5:30 pm: March to Grand Central and then over to the UN

Does your Congressperson represent you – or Israel?

Aug 09, 2011

Medea Benjamin

In this time of economic austerity, when jobs are being slashed and Americans are fearful about their future, the Congressional recess is the time for our elected representatives to be home in their districts, reaching out to their constituents and servicing the people they are paid to represent. Instead, this August one out of every five representatives will be taking a junket to Israel, compliments of an affiliate of the Israel lobby AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) but still clocked in on the taxpayer’s dime.

Americans who have lost their jobs and seen their life savings evaporate because Congress can’t seem to get it together deserve an explanation of how this crisis will be solved. Following the recent debt debacle, the public is hungry for information about the mysterious 12-person “super committee” that will slash over one trillion dollars from the federal budget. But instead of opening their doors to their constituents, 81 members of Congress will be getting briefings from Israeli government officials, touring historic religious sites, and perhaps “seeking a salty dip in the Dead Sea.” Representative Steny Hoyer, who is leading the Democratic delegation, said he is pleased members of Congress have this opportunity “to gain a deeper understanding of the issues involved in increasing stability in the region.” One has to wonder whether our elected officials are more concerned about the stability of Israel or the well-being of American families.

Not surprisingly, trip expenses are being paid by an affiliate of the all-powerful AIPAC lobby, the American Israel Educational Foundation. AIPAC lobbies hard to ensure that Israel is kept on the U.S. dole, with $3 billion of US taxpayers’ dollars a year going to the Israeli military. Without AIPAC and the financial contributions to Congressional campaigns made by its affiliate organizations, our representatives would be freer to speak out against funneling precious taxdollars to this already wealthy nation. This junket goes to show that those who claim AIPAC has a stranglehold over our Congress are not far off the mark.

Going on an AIPAC-sponsored trip to Israel is the moral equivalent of using an Anglo-Boer travel company to visit apartheid-era South Africa. Although they claim to be visiting leaders “across the political spectrum”, including Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, you can bet your bottom dollar that AIPAC will not be giving these 81 Congresspeople a fair and balanced view of Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. They won’t observe one of the weekly demonstrations in Bi’lin or Nabi Saleh, where Israeli soldiers routinely tear gas and arrest non-violent protesters. They won’t spend time with grieving Palestinians whose homes have been demolished to make way for more Jewish-only housing. They won’t spend a few hours at a checkpoint to witness how Palestinians are detained, abused and humiliated, or how this “thriving democracy” forbids Palestinians from driving on Jewish-only roads. They won’t go to Gaza, where 1.5 million people are suffering under an unbearable siege, unable to travel freely, conduct business transactions across borders or even rebuild their homes destroyed by the Israeli invasion. And they won’t likely be visiting the burgeoning tent cities in Tel Aviv where hundreds of thousands of Israelis are currently camped out protesting the lack of affordable housing, gas and food.

With the disapproval rate for Congress at a record 82%, now is not the time for our representatives to pander to AIPAC. Now is not the time for “free” junkets to Israel—with an implicit promise of $3 billion of our taxdollars in return. Now is the time to stop the freefall of the American economy. If our representatives want to earn more respect from the American public, they better prove that their allegiance is not to a foreign government or a group that lobbies on behalf of a foreign government, but to their constituents back home.

Medea Benjamin is cofounder of Global Exchange and CODEPINK. She encourages you to contact your congressperson and ask where they will be this August recess. Call  202-224-3121.

Afghanistan helicopter crash fuels antiwar feeling in American military community

Aug 09, 2011

Philip Weiss

After that Chinook helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan, killing 38 people (yes, 30 of them Americans, but Brian Williams would you please say 38, not 30, those Afghans, including an interpreter, were killed because of us) Daniel Zwerdling of NPR went to the naval museum in Hampton Roads, Virginia, and spoke to Navy enthusiasts (at minute 3:30 or so):

Here’s the astonishing thing. Out of the 10 people I’ve talked to in the last hour, every single one of them said those men in Afghanistan are heroes, and– it is time to bring all the troops home. One person after another, the elderly, young people, men, women, they all said– this is not a war the United States is winning, we have not accomplished our goals, and it’s time to get out. And I just talked to one woman whose husband is in the service, and she said, we are just simply losing too many wonderful young men and women who are wasting their lives over there.

‘Huffpo’ finds guide to Arab public opinion… Vogue magazine

Aug 09, 2011

Philip Weiss

Writes a friend: I just had my sehri, and I’m ready to puke. At Huffpo, Elizabeth Kennedy has a piece on the Syrian uprising.

Until the uprising began, Assad had cultivated an image as a modern leader in a region dominated by aging dictators. He was seen around Damascus with his glamorous wife, Asma, who grew up in London and was the subject of a glowing profile in Vogue just before the protests erupted. The couple’s three small children added to their luster as youthful and energetic.

HUH? Who? What? Where? Modern leader among aging dictators? Who is this lady speaking to? She can’t be serious, she can’t possibly think that Arabs were happy about Assad, that he was some sort of beacon of light in a sea of darkness. Maybe for the West he was. Maybe for Vogue. Certainly, not for Syrians, not for Arabs. In fact, not even for non-Arab Muslims, as his father’s nasty legacy was remembered with curses and a reminder that an apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Which Assad is proving to be true.

Israel has good immigrants and bad immigrants (guess the difference)

Aug 09, 2011

Philip Weiss

Truthdig reports on the “other Israelis,” people from other countries brought in as workers, and Israel doesn’t want their children. By Mary Slosson, Albert Sabaté, and Andrew Khouri. Excerpt:

Sheila [Indian migrant worker] found herself at the crux of sensitive issues for the state of Israel, where existential concerns about the Jewishness of the state clash against the invisible hand of globalization, which can provide caregivers from southeast Asia for far cheaper than even Palestinian labor. The result of Israel’s complicated relationship with migrant workers has created a strikingly exploitative system, according to NGOs.

Israel began importing workers beginning in the 1990s to fill jobs in agriculture, nursing and construction after the government choked off the flow of cheap Palestinian labor due to uprisings in the Occupied Territories.

Workers from that new wave of immigration consistently report paying thousands of U.S. dollars for the privilege of working inside the Jewish state, a practice that is illegal under Israeli law…

“Especially as a society that knows exactly how it is to be a foreigner, it’s really shameful,” said Zadok Zemach, 43. “This country, after all we have been through, after all those years. I believe that these [migrant workers] are important to Israel.”

Zemach inadvertently struck at the fundamental difference between the waves of Jewish immigrants to Israel and the others, the ones who clean floors, take care of the elderly and build new homes.

“They’re not Jewish. That’s it,” said [Idit] Lebovitch. “If they live here, they might even marry a Jew, and their children will not be Jewish which is like the worst thing that can happen in Israel.”

Late one Monday night in March, the lights in Kav LaOved were on late into the evening as migrant caregivers came to seek assistance for work visa, wage and workplace abuse issues.

Squeezing in interviews between counseling appointments with caregivers, the staff was working frantically to weave a makeshift safety net for these embattled workers.

“We are in a war,” said [Dana] Shaked as a group of Chinese construction workers shuffled into her small office. “There is such a huge gap between the religious people and the secular people in Israel. The religious people are becoming more and more strong and opinionated.”

The implications of the US economic bust go much further than political dysfunction

Aug 09, 2011

Ahmed Moor

Lately, some of my friends have been posting triumphant messages across social media. The focus of their attentions is the ongoing global financial collapse – and their messages are steeped in a misguided Schadenfreude.

You can celebrate America’s credit-rating downgrade – but know that no matter who you are, no matter where you live – the adverse consequences belong to you too. And like so much else in our present-day economic racket, if you are poor, the consequences of this collapse belong to you more than anyone else.

I think that all reasonable economists (empiricists, not ideologues) agree that Larry Summers and Stanley Fischer’s neoliberal brand of “development” has failed. Today, The Lexus and the Olive Tree stands more for Thomas Friedman’s fatuous grandiosity than it does for the greedy, slavering model of global economic development he sought to describe and promote. Globalization exists – but more as a nexus for communicating the credit-default virus than anything else. We’re beginning to learn, to our profound alarm, that quarantine is technically beyond our grasp.

The United States is at the center of self-propelled zeppelin puttering over a black, jagged, and barren abyss. The United States is at the center of the global economy and credit – the ability to borrow and lend money – is what fuels it.

Like gasoline or coal, credit costs money. Countries, companies, state and local governments, school districts, universities, and football teams all borrow money. And so do most of you.

The cost of the money you borrow is the interest rate assigned to the loan. The interest rate you pay is proportional to the repayment risk you pose to the lender: Are you solvent? Do you have a job? Can you pay me back when you say you will? Will you refuse to pay me?

America is solvent. America has a job. America can pay for the money it borrows. But – this is where politics counts – America may refuse to pay. That’s what the Standard and Poor’s credit-rating downgrade means; American politicians are so dysfunctional that they may choose to allow the country to default on its debt obligations. As the Guardian recently pointed out, this is the singular achievement of the Tea Party – and basically, a broken political system.

In effect, the downgrade is a signal to China and America’s other creditors (likely, your pension fund among them) that they should demand more for the money they lend to the US. “It is your fiduciary responsibility to account for the risk that American politicians may refuse to pay you back; hike the interest rate you demand.”

So what?

America funds its wars by borrowing money. Isn’t it better if the country pays more to war against other people? Might that not make the Americans think twice about borrowing a trillion greasy dollars for a global fireworks campaign? Or about securing the cost of Israel’s access to the global financial markets (debt guarantees)?

Well. Yes. But the problem here is that so much else is linked to America’s borrowing costs. The US has been the world’s most stable and productive (economically) political/institutional unit for so long that many other entities (countries, companies, banks) have adopted the interest rates carried by American bonds (America’s borrowing costs) as a benchmark for what the objectivecost of money actually is. The fact today is – for better or worse – that there is no lending mechanism or convention that isn’t pegged to US Treasury yields through a first, second, or third-order relationship.

But why does this matter to you? You don’t borrow money ever. You own your home and car and you don’t live beyond your means.

Rising credit costs impact you in the same way (more or less) that rising oil prices do. The price of everything will go up because the true dollar-cost of producing everything will go up (remember, manufacturers have to pay more to borrow money). That’s saying nothing about the impact of the credit downgrade on currency fluctuations (aside from increased volatility, I have no idea what will happen to the currency exchange markets in the short, medium or long term. This situation is unprecedented).

I avoided big criticisms here to avoid ideological debates about the merits of capitalism versus other economic models (although credit is a feature of all of them – including Islamic). I get shy about using labels when it comes to economics; I think empirical description and piecemeal prescription towards an end (social justice) is far better than trying to conform the world to the variousisms that are bandied about.

What is clear, however, is that the current global economic system is failing. I don’t think it’s about operational mechanisms; I believe that the system has been gamed (yes, by fat cats). But, that’s another essay.

My point is just that unless you’re in the habit of spiting in your face, the ongoing collapse of the global economy is nothing to celebrate. One economic lesson worth learning is that we inhabit a mostly incomprehensible and hopelessly complex global system of inter-reliance and co-dependency. We don’t have to like what America does to know that when it falters, normal people everywhere (particularly in the Global South) will struggle harder to survive. That’s something that no liberal should be cheering about.

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