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The Winter of the Gaza-Sderot Discontent

Dec9

by: Julia Chaitin on December 9th, 2014 | 5 Comments »

War in Gaza

Gazans pick up the pieces after buildings are demolished in Gaza City. Credit: Creative Commons/Al Jazeera English

The temperatures rose sharply in the Gaza-Sderot region during July and August. But it wasn’t the heat that made our lives unbearable; it was the third war that tore through our area in less than six years. It was the lethal ping pong of over 5000 Israeli bombings in Gaza and over 4000 rocket attacks on Israeli communities that killed nearly 2200 Gazans, and wounded over 10,000 and that took the lives of 70 Israelis and wounded 875. In addition to the deaths and injuries, ‘Protective Edge’ – or what I termed Unprotected Abyss – forced half a million Palestinians in Gaza from their homes during the war (many still have no homes to return to), and led to the two-month escape of nearly 8000 Israelis – mostly young families – all desperate to find shelter from the bombs, rockets, mortar shells and bullets.

In the south, we knew that after Prime Minister Netanyahu declared the Hamas responsible for the kidnap and murder in mid-June of the three boys – Naftali, Gilad and Eyal – Israelis lucky enough to have ‘safe rooms’ or friends and relatives in the north, would soon be running in their direction. Even though the intelligence branch of the army knew that the terrorists came from Hebron, the air force was sent to punish Gaza. This is the script we know by heart: we go in and bomb, they respond with rockets.

It was not satisfying to be in the know then, nor is it comforting to be in the know now.

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I CAN’T BREATHE!

Dec9

by: William E. Douglas, Jr. on December 9th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Kansas City Protest Rally Eric Garner

A protester holds up a sign at the Kansas City Protest Rally. Credit: William Douglas, Jr.

When I went to the protest rally in downtown Kansas City after Eric Garner was strangled to death in New York City on camera, the gathered crowd was still and silent, until suddenly the constriction I had felt watching the video of an innocent man being strangled by a system commissioned to protect and serve him roiled through my soul. I began to wail at the walls of the skyscrapers surrounding me, “I CAN’T BREATHE! I CAN’T BREATHE!” The crowd was at first stunned, and then electrified, all beginning to wail from their souls, “I CAN’T BREATHE!”

After returning home, I watched on television as people of all races had gathered in cities all across America, watching them howl, “I CAN’T BREATHE!”

I felt this was larger than that poor man, a father and grandfather, being suffocated by the institutions meant to protect and serve him. I felt this howling wail issuing across the country was an expression of something deeper we have felt, but remained unconscious of. We had felt the tight constraints of a mental and spiritual straight jacket we had all been wearing for a long time.

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Islam and Extremism: Two Different Pictures

Dec8

by: Huma Munir on December 8th, 2014 | 8 Comments »

Thomas Friedman wrote a recent article for the New York Times in which he extensively quoted a Muslim turned Christian Arab activist, Brother Rachid.

According to Rachid, President Barack Obama should stop being “politically correct” and label Islam as an extremist religion that promotes the views of ISIS, Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda and Al-Shabab. After all, he says, they are all “made in Islam.”

To add a sense of credibility to his claims, Rachid says he was born in a Muslim household and knows first-hand that the teachings of the Holy Quran and Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) support extremism.

As a Muslim, I fail to understand how Rachid’s view of Islam became so skewed because the Islam I know teaches the opposite of what he describes. I belong to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community that preaches love for all, hatred for none. The Holy Quran I follow equates the killing of one person to the killing of the entire mankind (5:32). It forbids compulsion in religion and admonishes human beings from creating disorder on Earth (2:256; 7:57).

The same Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) Rachid labels as a supporter of violence said that mankind should suffer no loss at the hands or tongue of a Muslim.

The teachings of the Prophet of Islam and the Islamic scripture seem to be in direct contradiction to mass executions and beheadings ISIS and other extremist groups are responsible for.

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Ayotzinapa, Mexico’s Ferguson

Dec5

by: Alfredo Camacho on December 5th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Ayotzinapa

Credit: South Kern Sol/ New America Media

Crossposted from New America Media

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — As thousands take to the streets in cities nationwide to express outrage over the police shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, another protest movement is sweeping through Mexican American and immigrant communities.

Both are aimed at what participants say is state-sanctioned violence against unarmed civilians.

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Obama Extends War in Afghanistan

Dec5

by: Kathy Kelly on December 5th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

President Obama Afghanistan

Credit: Creative Commons/The White House

News agencies reported in November that weeks ago President Obama signed an order, kept secret until now, to authorize continuation of the Afghan war for at least another year. The order authorizes U.S. airstrikes “to support Afghan military operations in the country” and U.S. ground troops to continue normal operations, which is to say, to “occasionally accompany Afghan troops” on operations against the Taliban.

The administration, in its leak to the New York Times, affirmed that there had been “heated debate” between Pentagon advisers and others in Obama’s cabinet chiefly concerned not to lose soldiers in combat. Oil strategy isn’t mentioned as having been debated and neither is further encirclement of China, but the most notable absence in the reporting was any mention of cabinet members’ concern for Afghan civilians affected by air strikes and ground troop operations, in a country already afflicted by nightmares of poverty and social breakdown.

Here are just three events, excerpted from an August 2014 Amnesty International report, which President Obama and his advisers should have considered (and allowed into a public debate) before once more expanding the U.S. combat role in Afghanistan:

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Not Again, on ‘A More Expansive Mission’ in Afghanistan!

Dec5

by: Dr. Hakim on December 5th, 2014 | No Comments »

Afghanistan War

Credit: Creative Commons/Wikipedia

President Obama has authorized “a more expansive mission for the military in Afghanistan in 2015 than originally planned.”

Imagine that, like the late U.S. war veteran Jacob George, you’re sent on this ‘more expansive mission’. Your military helicopter is landing on farmland amidst mud-house villages, like a futuristic war machine inserted into an agricultural community in the Middle Ages.

There are no women to be seen.

They are in their kitchens or rooms, pleading for you, as well as the Taliban, not to come.

“The things that I participated in over there surely brought the farmers terror when we landed in their fields, crashing their crop. I remember running off a helicopter and looking into a man’s eyes, and terror was what was looking back at me. It was as if a ‘devil’ had just stumbled into his life. Actually, most of us are poor farmers killing poor farmers while people in our nations starve,” George had shared.

Like most people, my Afghan and American friends also wish for the Afghan conflict to be resolved, but not in this way:

Not through a “more expansive mission” to kill.

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Who Are Progressive Muslims, and What do They Believe?

Dec5

by: Ro Waseem on December 5th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

After I published “15 Progressive Islamic Pages You Should Really Check Out” a couple of weeks ago, I came to observe that there is a somewhat skewed understanding of what “Progressive Islam” really is. People who had come across this particular flavor of Islam for the first time deemed it to be a movement to “Westernize” or “Modernize” Classical Islam, and that Classical Islam and Progressive Islam are completely at odds with each other. This hasty conclusion, if I may call it that, lead to some negative feedback – so I thought it pertinent to address this topic to break some stereotypes & generalizations.

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A Lament for Eric Garner

Dec4

by: Aryeh Cohen on December 4th, 2014 | 5 Comments »

Eric Garner Protest

Credit: Creative Commons/ Thomas Altfather Good

Eric Garner is the unarmed 43-year-old black man, who was killed by the NYPD in Staten Island in July. The whole incident was recorded. He was placed in a choke hold and can be heard saying 11 times: “I can’t breathe,” before he died. The officer who killed him was not indicted. The coroner had ruled it a murder.

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Jewish Students Circulate Letter of Support as Labor Union Prepares for Vote on BDS

Dec2

by: Katy Fox-Hodess on December 2nd, 2014 | 34 Comments »

labor for palestineThis Thursday, members of UAW 2865, the union that represents 13,000 graduate student instructors, readers and tutors at the nine undergraduate teaching campuses of the statewide University of California system, will vote on whether to endorse joining the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement as a labor union. This is the first election of its kind on BDS by a labor union in the United States.

Plans for the election were made this summer, when the statewide Joint Council of UAW 2865 became the first such union body in the United States to endorse the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Rather than simply take a position as the elected union leadership, however, the Joint Council decided to put the issue to a vote of the full membership. The original resolution passed by the Joint Council can be found here. At their October meeting, the Joint Council passed further resolutions clarifying their positions on BDS, including a statement on why they view BDS as a labor movement issue, an FAQ on BDS, and a fact sheet on the academic boycott.

In response to the original July resolution calling for a full membership vote on BDS, nearly fifty current and former Jewish members and officers of the union signed on to an open letter in support of the resolution, expressing our solidarity with Palestinian people and people everywhere struggling against Israeli injustice. The letter reflects our belief that we have a responsibility as Jews and as trade unionists to support the struggles of oppressed people around the world.

Open Letter from Jewish Officers and Members in Support of Divestment

As Jewish officers and members, both current and former, of UAW 2865, the UC Student-Workers Union, we are writing to express our support for the recent divestment resolution passed by our local union’s Joint Council.

solidarity

An injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere and none of us is free until all of us are free. As Jews, we understand from our own experiences with discrimination and our own history of resistance to oppression that standing on the right side of history necessitates standing in solidarity with Palestinians. For that reason, we are proud to be counted among the growing number of Jews and trade unionists around the the world who refuse to turn a blind eye to this issue.

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Justice, Justice, Shall You Pursue: Grad Students Organize for BDS Policy at the University of California

Dec1

by: Lisa Feldstein on December 1st, 2014 | 22 Comments »

On December 4, graduate students at the University of California will have the opportunity to pursue justice by exercising their vote on two related issues. The first is whether our union, Local UAW 2865, should join the global movement for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) to be enacted against Israel until that nation-state has complied with international law and respects the rights of all Palestinian people. The second measure asks each of us to personally commit to participation in the academic boycott against Israeli educational institutions.

divestment timeline at UC

Credit: sjpwest.org.

As a grad student, a labor activist, and as a Jew, I will be voting yes on both questions.

If the first question passes, we will call upon the University of California and the UAW International to divest from and decline to conduct business with Israeli state institutions as well as the international corporations that are complicit in the human rights violations committed by Israel against the Palestinian people. Our Local will also call upon our federal government to end military aid to Israel.

As we are reminded at every turn, 2014 is the quinquagenary of the Free Speech movement. Our institution is grounded in the belief that educational excellence can model respectful, civil communication and promote mutual respect. (Regents Policy 4400) If UC is to accomplish these objectives, it cannot simultaneously invest in entities that are structured to do exactly the opposite.

What does BDS mean?

Boycott

This proposes both a traditional consumer boycott of goods and products, and an academic boycott. What is the latter? We are asked to pledge that we will personally refuse to take part in research, conferences, events, exchange programs, or other activities that are sponsored by Israeli universities complicit in the occupation of Palestine and the settler-colonial policies of the state of Israel. The boycott is directed against institutions, not individual scholars. In fact, we are actively encouraged to collaborate with individual Israelis, Palestinians, and others in the region who oppose the occupation of Palestine and related policies of the state of Israel.

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