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Twelve Reasons Why I Will Not Be Voting for Netanyahu


by: Harvey Chisick on March 13th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

1. Pension funds used to be limited to a 0.4% annual service charge. Under Netanyahu that figure was changed to 1.8%.

2. Water corporations. Water bills used to be collected by the Israel water company or by municipalities. Netanyahu established water corporations whose only function is to collect bills for water. The legislation was written so that the corporations could cut off water for non-payment of bills. The old legislation did not allow cutting off water to families in poverty. Currently some 10,000 families a month get their water cut off.

3. Privatizations. Netanyahu is a big believer in deregulation and privatization. State-run homes for the aged have been privatized, and TV reports have shown how the will to increase profits debases service and the people who need them. Places that, for example, force geriatric patients to shower at 4 or 5 a.m. Similar deterioration can be found in institutions for kids with special needs.


Uncle Pentagon: Growing Up in the Shadow of the American War State


by: Frida Berrigan on March 11th, 2015 | No Comments »

A black and white photograph of a young boy holding a woman's hand as they walk in front of the Pentagon.

Growing up as the daughter of two prominent activists, Friday Berrigan spent much of her childhood at the Pentagon. Above, the author (at about two) and Rosemary Maguire at the River Entrance to the Pentagon in 1976. Credit: Frida Berrigan.

The Pentagon loomed so large in my childhood that it could have been another member of my family. Maybe a menacing uncle who doled out put-downs and whacks to teach us lessons or a rich, dismissive great-aunt intent on propriety and good manners.

Whatever the case, our holidays were built around visits to the Pentagon’s massive grounds. That’s where we went for Easter, Christmas, even summer vacation (to commemorate the anniversaries of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki). When we were little, my brother and sister and I would cry with terror and dread as we first glimpsed the building from the bridge across the Potomac River. To us, it pulsated with malice as if it came with an ominous, beat-driven soundtrack out of Star Wars.

I grew up in Baltimore at Jonah House, a radical Christian community of people committed to nonviolent resistance to war and nuclear culture. It was founded by my parents, Phil Berrigan and Liz McAlister. They gained international renown as pacifist peace activists not afraid to damage property or face long prison terms. The Baltimore Four, the Catonsville Nine, the Plowshares Eight, the Griffiss Seven: these were anti-Vietnam War or antinuclear actions they helped plan, took part in, and often enough went to jail for. These were also creative conspiracies meant to raise large questions about our personal responsibility for, and the role of conscience in, our world. In addition, they were explorations of how to be effective and nonviolent in opposition to the war state. These actions drew plenty of media attention and crowds of supporters, but in between we always went back to the Pentagon.


“Islam in America”: A Conversation with Jonathan Curiel


by: Joseph Richard Preville and Julie Poucher Harbin on March 11th, 2015 | No Comments »

The book cover of 'Islam in America' by Jonathan Curiel showing the statue of liberty and a minaret.

How do Muslims fit into the quilt of American history? Jonathan Curiel investigates this question in his new book, Islam in America (I.B. Tauris, April 28, 2015). “America’s first Muslims,” he writes, “were perceived as less than human – people put in chains, forced to do field work at gunpoint, required to take new names and a new religion. So much has changed in 400 years, even if the struggle for acceptance is an ongoing one.”

Jonathan Curiel is a former staff writer for The San Francisco Chronicle. His work has also appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, Salon, The Columbia Journalism Review, Los Angeles Times, and Tablet. He is the author of Al America: Travels Through America’s Arab and Islamic Roots (The New Press, 2008), which won an American Book Award in 2008.

Curiel’s new book is a readable and reliable history of the Muslim experience in America. It will help Americans to understand their Muslim neighbors and to celebrate the Abrahamic diversity of religious life in the United States.

Jonathan Curiel discusses his new book in this exclusive interview.


Together We are Strong (On the Labor Horizon at This Moment)


by: Aryeh Cohen on March 10th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

A Lyft car with the pink mustache driving in San Francisco.

Classifying workers as independent contractors leaves companies like Uber and Lyft prone to wage theft, regardless of how explicit it may appear. Is this really a "sharing economy?" Credit: CreativeCommons / SPUR.

At a dinner the other night I was talking to a good friend who works in the hi-tech industry. Knowing that I blog about economic justice issues he suggested I write about the “Uber and Lyft economy.” “The whole world is Uber and Lyft,” he said, arguing that the working conditions of Uber and Lyft drivers – wherein the company controls the working hours and working conditions of the drivers, and yet considers them to be independent contractors and therefore is not responsible for paying their social security tax, health insurance, etc. – are not exclusive to Uber and Lyft. Rather, he said, corporations in general were trying to move to a model wherein all workers were independent contractors and therefore the corporations have no obligations to them beyond basic salary.


Truthdig chooses Rabbi Lerner as “Truthdigger” of the Week


by: Natasha Hakimi on March 9th, 2015 | No Comments »

Truthdigger of the Week: Rabbi Michael Lerner

Posted on Mar 8, 2015 on Truthdig

By Natasha Hakimi

Every week the Truthdig editorial staff selects a Truthdigger of the Week, a group or person worthy of recognition for speaking truth to power, breaking the story or blowing the whistle. It is not a lifetime achievement award. Rather, we’re looking for newsmakers whose actions in a given week are worth celebrating.

Rabbi Michael Lerner is the founding editor of Tikkun and leader of the San Francisco synagogue Beyt Tikkun. (B Hartford J Strong /CC BY 2.0)

As Benjamin Netanyahu’s fear-mongering speech echoed through the chambers of Congress, an American Jewish voice could be heard directly opposing the Israeli prime minister’s bellicose machinations—that of Rabbi Michael Lerner.

Rabbi Lerner, a political activist and longtime advocate of spiritual progressivity, in the 1980s co-founded the journal Tikkun, a journal of politics, culture and society. The quarterly, whose title comes from the Hebrew tikkun olam, meaning “healing or restoring the world,” focuses on providing an alternative to Jewish conservatism. Such an alternative has perhaps never been as important as it is today, a time when, to use Lerner’s words,“the fantasies that the right-wing discourse advances” increasingly dominate the politics of both the United States and Israel.

Netanyahu’s address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday was arranged by House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, without the agreement or cooperation of the White House. The day before the speech, Rabbi Lerner and Tikkun ran a full-page ad in The New York Times and, then, on Tuesday, repeated the ad in The Hill newspaper. It was topped with a simple, bold headline: “No, Mr. Netanyahu—you do not speak for American Jews. And … The American People Do Not Want a War with Iran!”


Farmworker Women Speaking Up on Domestic Violence


by: Brenda Rincon on March 9th, 2015 | No Comments »

(Crossposted from New America Media)

Editor’s Note: This article was produced as part of the California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships, a program of USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Names have been changed in this story for the protection of the victim.

Latino farmworkers picking tomatoes in a field.

Female farmworkers are arguably the most reluctant victims to report domestic abuse, not least because they (and their abusers) are often undocumented immigrants.

Alicia Montes was only 16 when she fell in love with Juan Alvarez in the courtyard of the trailer park where she lived with her father and siblings.

“I was abandoned as a child by my mother, and I was looking for the love of a parent,” she says in Spanish. “I thought I loved him, but now I see I did not.”

At the time, Montes could not imagine that charming young man would come to shove, choke, and kick her as he did throughout their 15-year relationship.

Montes, now 33, is one of an unknown number of victims of domestic violence in the Eastern Coachella Valley – a largely impoverished agricultural community with approximately 56,000 residents, about 20 miles east of Palm Springs -and one of the few to report her abuser to authorities.


Are Pilots Deserting Washington’s Remote-Control War?


by: Pratap Chatterjee on March 9th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

A drone pilot sitting in front of a computer.

Hundreds of U.S. Air Force drone pilots have quit, and potential candidates are backing away from the training program altogether. Credit: Galleryhip.com.

The U.S. drone war across much of the Greater Middle East and parts of Africa is in crisis and not because civilians are dying or the target list for that war or the right to wage it just about anywhere on the planet are in question in Washington. Something far more basic is at stake: drone pilots are quitting in record numbers.

There are roughly 1,000 such drone pilots, known in the trade as “18Xs,” working for the U.S. Air Force today. Another 180 pilots graduate annually from a training program that takes about a year to complete at Holloman and Randolph Air Force bases in, respectively, New Mexico and Texas. As it happens, in those same 12 months, about 240 trained pilots quit and the Air Force is at a loss to explain the phenomenon. (The better-known U.S. Central Intelligence Agency drone assassination program is also flown by Air Force pilots loaned out for the covert missions.)


Print Issue Exclusive: What Would Happen If Debtors Went on Strike?


by: Tikkun on March 6th, 2015 | No Comments »

Content from our print issue is usually only available to subscribers, but this week we’re offering free access (for a limited time only!) to one article from our current issue on Jubilee and Debt Abolition. Click here to read the article, “Power Without the King: The Debt Strike as Credible Threat.”

If you are already a subscriber, please share this article with your friends! And if you have not yet subscribed, we invite you to check out this straight-shooting article to see what you are missing.In this piece, author Paul Hampton explores what it would take to achieve Jubilee (debt abolition) through organized pressure from debtors. Considering the historical context of the first mass debt cancellations, he argues that the only way to abolish debt is to do so ourselves from outside of the confines of the market system. Without threatening banks with mass nonpayment, he claims, debtors have no leverage when it comes to negotiating with profit-motivated lenders and legislators. Read his article now to learn how activists are already working to build a targeted debt refusal movement.

This article is also linked to from Tikkun‘s website, where you can leave your online comments. If you find this article worth discussing, please do share it via Facebook, Twitter, and other social media.

We won’t be able to continue lifting up important perspectives such as this without your support. If you appreciate the chance to read hard-hitting spiritual and political analyses such as this one, please do subscribe to the magazine or join our staunch activist and supporter network, the Network of Spiritual Progressives.


The Other Mitzvah (On Homelessness, Purim, and Jews)


by: Aryeh Cohen on March 6th, 2015 | No Comments »

Yesterday, Purim, at noon, three of us from the Shtibl minyan went to fulfill the orphaned child of the Purim obligations. Starting in the year Shtibl was established (15 years ago) we decided, as a community, that we would put as much effort into matanot la-evyonim/ gifting to the poor as we poured into mishloach manot/exchanging gifts, hearing the megillah, and having a raucous Purim meal. We started with PB&J sandwiches delivered out of a van driving east on Pico Blvd., and gradually built out (with inspiration from The Giving Spirit), making mini-survival packs (tuna packs, energy bars, first aid kits, antibiotic lotion, hand cream and so on) to go with the PB&J. This year in our small community (20-30 members) we put together 144 packs which were delivered on the Santa Monic boardwalk (“home of the homeless” to quote Harry Shearer) and on Skid Row. Three adults and eight kids went west to the boardwalk, while we drove east to skid row.

A woman delivering food bags to homeless people in Los Angeles.

Credit: matanot-laevyonim-mobile.

Los Angeles’ Skid Row (called “the Row” by activists and people who live there) is more or less a 54 square block area of downtown Los Angeles. It is not an official designation, although Waze, the GPS navigation app, told us exactly how to get there when we typed in “skid row.” There are somewhere between 2500 and 5000 homeless people living on the Row, according to counts by the Los Angeles Housing Services Authority and estimates of the Chamber of Commerce. Still, knowing those numbers (I wrote about LA’s homeless population in my book Justice in the City) does not prepare one for the human reality.


The King and the Ring: On Purim and Violence


by: Aryeh Cohen on March 4th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

The question, twenty years after Baruch Goldstein slaughtered 29 Palestinians at prayer, wounding tens more, is this: How can we celebrate Purim? Goldstein, heard the reading of the Megillah on Purim night, heard (for the fortieth time?) that the Jews took vengeance on their enemies, slaughtered thousands of men, women, and children. Twice. Goldstein, a medical doctor, then rose early in the morning, went to the Tomb of the Patriarchs and shot his M16 until he was overpowered and killed, having killed or wounded tens of praying innocents. How do we read this tale of revenge when we know that that revenge, the Purim revenge, the revenge of “the Jews got their enemies in their power” (Esther 9:1) has been wreaked?