by: Josh Healey on August 22nd, 2013 | Comments Off
American Heroes: The #Dream9 activists (left) and the Dream Defenders (right)
A Dream Detained
(after Langston Hughes)
For the Dream Defenders, occupying the Florida state capitol for Trayvon Martin and racial justice
And the #Dream9 immigrant activists, who were detained at the border and won their freedom
what happens to a dream detained?
does it wilt like a rose
in the Arizona sun?
does it sink into the ocean
as water fills its lungs?
or does it fight to come home,
cross borders and spread hope
until it has won?
The Israeli government is offering full and partial scholarships to university students who dedicate their time to posting Israeli propaganda on social media networks and online forums.
The program, funded by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s office, will hire students to become social media warriors asked to target criticism of the occupation and its settlement enterprise, both of which have drawn international rebuke and boycotts.
A statement from Netanyahu’s office described the program as:
“A groundbreaking project aimed at strengthening Israeli national diplomacy and adapting it to changes in information consumption.”
Of course, one reason Israel’s national diplomacy needs to be “strengthened” by university students is because its leaders continue to embarrass and reject Israel’s strongest diplomatic allies.
Initially it appeared that Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace initiative was harmless. Although few Israelis, Palestinians or Americans expected it to accomplish anything, it was hard to make the case that it would do any damage.
No more. And not just because the Israeli government keeps announcing the building of new settlements. Or that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu continues the litany of propaganda attacks on Palestinians, including the charge that the 23-year old “Arab Idol” winner, Gaza singer Mohammed Assaf, is a threat to Israel because he nostalgically sings about towns inside the 1967 lines.
All that is to be expected, unless one actually believes that Netanyahu has undergone the conversion that Yitzhak Rabin did once he decided to negotiate with the Palestinians. But who believes that?
No, the evidence that the Kerry initiative is not harmless but damaging comes not from anything Netanyahu did or says but from Kerry himself.
Last week, my phone vibrated loudly, dancing upon the dining room table and startling me while writing. On the line was a producer for CBS Sunday Morning, who had called upon learning about my forthcoming book, What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?
He was taken with my story of reconciliation – with my journey to meet the Palestinian man who perpetrated the 2002 Hebrew University bombing, which injured my wife and killed the two American friends with whom she was sitting. The producer, after flattering me with platitudes, began exploring a number of options for turning my story into, among other things, a CBS Sunday Morning profile.
Having great admiration for Sunday Morning’s narrative craft and admiration for how it often shies away from the type of sensationalism so many other news outlets crave, I was excited by the possibility.
When the producer, who we’ll call Jeff, asked about access to my wife and family, I was very clear: this is my story. You can have access to me, but not to my wife, nor my children.
His response: “No problem. I’d love to do this.” And moments after hanging up the phone, an email from Jeff popped up in my inbox:
“Thanks again for your time on the phone. What a riveting story you have to tell. And you deliver it so eloquently too! I truly hope that we have the opportunity to work together.” – Jeff
At a time when too many people are out of work and too many others are holding down two or three jobs just to survive, it might seem a bit frivolous to lament the lost art of leisure. But leisure – restorative time – is a basic human need. And fewer people are getting the benefit of it, apparently even when they’re on paid vacations.
A new Harris survey finds that more than half of all U.S. employees planned to work during their summer vacations this year – up six percent from the previous year. (Email is a prime suspect in this crime against leisure.) Soon enough, all of us will be taking presidential-style vacations like the one starting tomorrow. That’s when the Obamas arrive on Martha’s Vineyard, no doubt just in time for the president’s first briefing on national security.
In my mind, no one has gone to the philosophical and theological heart of this matter more tellingly than the German American thinker Josef Pieper in his 1952 classic, Leisure: the Basis of Culture.
In 2005, Congress debated whether or not to re-authorize the Patriot Act – the dreadful, post-9/11 piece of legislation the NSA and FBI now use as legal justification for its mass surveillance of American citizens.
During this re-authorization debate, Senator Obama was very concerned about the potential dangers of the Patriot Act, about trading ‘national security’ for Americans’ constitutional rights and civil liberties. So much so that he was one of only nine senators who signed a letter expressing grave concerns about how the Patriot Act might be abused by those in power, as Timothy Lee (quoted in title) reminded us today in The Washington Post.
Specifically, Obama’s concern centered around Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which uses overly-broad language in permitting the U.S. government to obtain records “relevant” to terror investigations.
Here is a portion of what Obama, along with eight of his colleagues, wrote in a letter to their fellow Senators:
The conference report would allow the government to obtain library, medical and gun records and other sensitive personal information under Section 215 of the Patriot Act on a mere showing that those records are relevant to an authorized intelligence investigation. As business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have argued, this would allow government fishing expeditions targeting innocent Americans. We believe the government should be required to convince a judge that the records they are seeking have some connection to a suspected terrorist or spy.
We are convinced, however, that the three-part standard provides the necessary flexibility in such circumstances. Indeed ,the government need only show that the records they seek are relevant to the activities of a suspected terrorist or spy, a very low burden to meet, but one that will protect innocent Americans from unnecessary surveillance and ensure that government scrutiny is based on individualized suspicion, a fundamental principle of our legal system.
Sometimes I hear from readers who complain that I lay too much blame on AIPAC for our one-sided and failed Middle East policies.
What can I say? I worked at AIPAC for almost six years (1973-1975, 1982-1986) so I know how it operates. Additionally, because I left AIPAC on good terms, I maintained friendships with its staff (no more!) and they filled me in on how the lobby was increasing its power over Congress. Of course, I saw that myself during 15 years as a House and Senate staffer. AIPAC runs the Middle East policy show on Capitol Hill.
Rarely am I surprised by anything AIPAC (or Congress, tucked securely in its pocket) does. But sometimes, AIPAC’s actions are so egregious, and those of Congress so supine, in promoting policies that are clearly against U.S. interests that I have to admit some surprise.
My tears waited.
In March 2012 when the story of Trayvon Martin’s murder became national news, I waited to comment. Like those who took to the streets in hoodies, I could not understand how George Zimmerman could shoot and kill an unarmed teenager who was simply walking home from the store, be taken into custody by the police, and then go home to sleep in his own bed the same night without being charged with a crime. Zimmerman told the police that he acted in self defense, and that was enough. Trayvon Martin’s family had to hire a lawyer and the lawyers had to contact national civil rights leaders before a prosecutor brought charges. I did not comment.
Trayvon Martin’s parents said they had faith in the criminal justice system. They wanted a trial. When I learned of the verdict on Sunday morning, July 14, my delayed praying tears ended their wait. I wept. I grieved for Trayvon Martin and for all the teenagers whose lives are lost to gun violence, and I grieved for our criminal justice system and for our nation.
Before the trial
Nothing happens outside of a context, and the context for this tragedy is race in America. Race is not nature. It is a construction. It is a way to order the world in ways that allow a particular system of power relations to stay in place. It came into being and remains so to allow people to continue to make money from inequality. Human beings have always defined ourselves in relationship to group identities. Race understood as a biological classification based on physical characteristics was a way to understand the differences between Europeans and the various other peoples they met in the Americas, Africa, and Asia. When slavery became racialized – the black African could not run away and easily hide among the indigenous people or among the white population – a human hierarchy took hold where the enslaved were thought to be not only different but inferior, even vicious by definition.
OK, this last email pushed me to my limit. The subject line heading read: “Barack needs you, right now.” You’ve got to me kidding me. Barack needs ME? For what? Well Michelle (the email was sent from Michelle Obama), before I am willing to help Barack, I’d like to see Barack help the people of this country – the people who voted for him, who went doorbelling for him, who stood up for him because they believed in his message of “Yes We Can.” President Obama, your policies, practices and actions since taking office in 2009 are completely opposite of what you said you would do and I will not support you, so stop asking. In case you are wondering why, here is a list of a few of the things you have done that I do not condone and hence why I won’t give you any money or support.
Credit: Flickrcc/Storm Crypt
- Instead of helping the working class and poor people, you have aligned yourself with Wall Street and the corporate giants of the world.
- Instead of ensuring protection of our food supply, you have appointed Monsanto executives to your government.
- Instead of thanking whistle-blowers for uncovering the corruption and violence in our government and private agencies (as you said you would), you are hunting them down and prosecuting them.
- Instead of ensuring the protection of constitutional rights, you have signed into law the NDAA – allowing for unlimited detention without charges or a trial.
- Instead of upholding the law and following a path of peace and nonviolence, you have dropped drones and killed innocent children, women, men and community leaders.
- Instead of protecting the environment, you appoint people in your government who are hell bent on destroying our environment.
- Instead of confronting issues of race and racism, you talk platitudes while considering appointing the NY police commissioner, Kelly, the one in charge of the controversial stop and frisk policy in NYC that has led to the harassment of black and brown men at alarming rates, as the head of Homeland Security. All the while claiming that Trayvon Martin could have been you or your son.
According to a new poll published by Pew Research, U.S. citizens are more concerned about the potential violations of their civil liberties from anti-terrorism measures (such as NSA surveillance) than the threats such measures supposedly aim to stop.
As seen in the graph below, a significantly larger percentage of Americans (47 percent) feel as though government anti-terror policies have “gone too far in restricting civil liberties” in contrast to those (37 percent) who feel such policies have not gone far enough.