HUDSON VALLEY ACTIVIST NEWSLETTER/CALENDAR
This newsletter/calendar, published in New Paltz, N.Y., appears once a month, supplemented by the Activist Calendar of progressive events, which is sent to Valley readers only. Editor: Jack A. Smith (who writes the articles that appear without a byline or credit to other publications). He is the former editor of the (U.S.) Guardian Newsweekly. Copy Editor: Donna Goodman. Calendar Editor: Rocco Rizzo. If you know someone who may benefit from this newsletter, ask them to subscribe at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you no longer wish to receive the newsletter, unsubscribe at the same address. Please send event listings to the above email address. The current and back issues of the newsletter/calendar are available at http://activistnewsletter.blogspot.com.
We are again referring you to our website in order to access Activist Newsletter articles instead of sending our entire long report to you via email. This issue of the newsletter is nearly 15,000 words and it is sent to about 3,500 people. The combination of large list and long report creates email problems, including garbled type in transmission. So after you check out our index, log on to http://activistnewsletter.blogspot.com/
1. PRESIDENT OBAMA, AND DR. KING — As we celebrate the ascension of an African American to the White House, and note the comparisons between the new president and the late civil rights leader, it's important to remember they were two different people treading dissimilar paths. http://activistnewsletter.blogspot.com/
2. ON TO WASHINGTON FOR PEACE, MARCH 21 — The first major antiwar protest in Washington since September 2007 will take place on the 6th anniversary of the Iraq war March 21. (We are organizing buses from the Mid-Hudson region to the nation's capital.) http://activistnewsletter.blogspot.com/
3. TERRORISM IS AS TERRORISM DOES — Two new terrorist organizations have pushed al-Qaeda aside, seizing the leadership of the worldwide terrorist movement. They represent a danger a thousand times greater than anything Osama bin-Laden could put together. This article reveals who they are! http://activistnewsletter.blogspot.com/
4. U.S. PEACE MOVEMENT PROTESTS GAZA WAR — At least several hundred demonstrations against the Israeli attack on Gaza have taken place in the United States during the 23-day war that ended in a shaky truce Jan. 18. http://activistnewsletter.blogspot.com/
5. LET GAZA LIVE — The brief text of former Rep. Cynthia McKinney speech at the Jan. 10 rally in Washington against Israel's war in Gaza. http://activistnewsletter.blogspot.com/
6. CHILD POVERTY IN AMERICA — Every sixth child in the U.S. lives in poverty. In the last year there was a 60% increase in children forced into "food insecurity." About 9 million kids do not have health insurance. The U.S. ranks 29th among world nations in infant mortality. And more. http://activistnewsletter.blogspot.com/
7. THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND — The words to Woody Guthrie's song of this title are well known to tens of millions of Americans, but the great majority never knew of the last three stanzas (including a critique of private property) until Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen delivered them at the Inaugural Celebration Concert in Washington Jan. 20. http://activistnewsletter.blogspot.com/
8. QUOTES IN THE NEWS — Interesting excerpts from current articles and talks. http://activistnewsletter.blogspot.com/
9. REFUTING ISRAEL'S JUSTIFICATIONS — An Israeli progressive organization lists eight of the Tel Aviv government's excuses for the Gaze war, and refutes them one by one. http://activistnewsletter.blogspot.com/
10. CHECK IT OUT — Links to several articles and videos about the Israeli bombing and invasion. http://activistnewsletter.blogspot.com/
11. THE NEWS IN BRIEF — Abstinence pledges are broken. Obama and the environment. Global warming harms crop yields. http://activistnewsletter.blogspot.com/
12. A POEM FOR GAZA — By Remi Kanazi. http://activistnewsletter.blogspot.com/
13. DIET FOR AN ENDANGERED PLANET — The human diet in the developed countries will have to change because it is a major contributor to the environmental crisis. Anybody for vegetables, fruit and nuts? http://activistnewsletter.blogspot.com/
1. PRESIDENT OBAMA, AND DR. KING
We have two reasons for joining all our readers in celebrating the presence of Barack Obama in the White House.
First, the inauguration of an African American as president of the United States is a big advance in the struggle against in racism in the United States, where white supremacy has been a motif of national life since our country was a handful of small colonies on the fringe of a vast wilderness.
Second, there is no question about the fact that President Obama and the Obama Administration will be head and shoulders above President George W. Bush and his administration. Who among us didn't feel an enormous sense of relief that the Bush gang of unindicted war criminals was finally gone?
We don't expect much from the center/center right administration now in power but compared to eight years of what was arguably the worst and most reactionary government in American history, Inauguration Day was a virtual Liberation Day, for the day.
It's good to remember though that despite occasional statements from the media that the inauguration of an African American as president of the United States "is the fulfillment of Dr. Martin Luther King's Dream," the struggle for black equality still has a long way to go.
For example, black unemployment is twice that of whites. Black family income is half that of white families.
And despite the understandable hopes of a majority of the American people for a much better day to come after a long period of neoconservative mismanagement — and forecasts by some on the left that Obama will bring about a new progressive era in the U.S. — we remain dubious about how much real change will come about.
Starting with our next issue of the newsletter, we will report as objectively as possible and as critically as necessary about the performance of the Obama Administration.
Given the proximity of the national holiday celebrating Dr. King's birth, one day before the inauguration, discussion of the progress made by African Americans since the 1960s was ever-present throughout the ceremonies. Television reporters and various commentators during this extraordinary media event at times seemed to conflate Obama and King into one symbol — but these are two quite different people treading dissimilar paths.
Obama is an extremely talented and ambitious professional politician with a trained legal mind, a self-disciplined and confident leader, and clearly a man of his times. He is 47, eight years older than King when the civil rights leader was assassinated at the age of 39 in 1968. Dr. King achieved more at his young age than just about any American politician living today. We wonder what he would have accomplished by 47 or by 80, the age he would be now.
King was a preacher in the Black Church, a convinced Gandhian nonviolent activist and the leader of one of the largest and most successful people's movements in American history. In the process he fearlessly challenged racist authority in whatever guise — from small town sheriffs to the president of the United States. Were he alive and at the top of his game, he'd undoubtedly be challenging President Obama on some issues.
King was a rebel with a cause that went beyond racial equality — a fact that is rarely mentioned by the politicians who praise him today. He fought for the poor and the oppressed. He supported uprisings by the downtrodden of the third world, in opposition to U.S. government policy at the time. He opposed militarism and imperialism, and said: "I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution [i.e., not opposing it] we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values."
He delivered one of the most trenchant critiques of America's unjust war in Vietnam a year before he was murdered when he identified "my own government" as "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today." He would have defined the Iraq war as illegal, unjust and immoral, not simply a mistake, and he sure wouldn't remain silent about sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan.
As mentioned a number of times during the inaugural coverage, Obama owes his presidency to the struggle that King lived and died for. One way of truly honoring Dr. King for his services would be to pick up where the great civil rights leader was forced to leave off — especially in the matter of ending militarism and imperialism and America's penchant for deploying great violence in pursuit of its global ambitions. We shall soon see how deeply King's views have penetrated the Obama White House.
2. ON TO WASHINGTON FOR PEACE, MARCH 21
The Hudson Valley Activist Newsletter has chartered several buses to bring Mid-Hudson residents to Washington Saturday, March 21, to protest the war on the 6th anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and at a time when the U.S. is in the process of vastly expanding the clash in Afghanistan. There will be a march to the Pentagon for a mass rally, demanding "Bring the Troops Home NOW!"
Additional buses may be difficult to obtain so we are urging people to reserve early. The buses will leave from Kingston, New Paltz and probably Poughkeepsie as well (depending on how many riders wish to travel from Poughkeepsie). The round trip price is $55, and there will be subsidies for students and low income people if we receive sufficient donations from our readers to do so. That depends on you.
To reserve a seat, send an email message to Jack Smith at email@example.com with your name, town, phone number and email address. If you are ordering for other people as well, we need the same information for them. Make out your check for $55 for each person to the Hudson Valley Activist Newsletter and mail it to P.O. Box 662, New Paltz, NY 12561. Your reservation(s) will be secured when we receive your check. If you wish to make a donation, mark "donation" on your check and we will add it to our subsidy fund. For questions or to reserve by phone, call (845) 255-5779.
Buses will also be leaving from Albany in the upper Hudson Valley, chartered by Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace. For information, contact Joe Lombardo at (518) 439-1968.
The March 21 Coalition, the ad hoc group organizing the event, is composed of a great many peace coalitions, networks, and groups, the ANSWER coalition among them. This will be the first mass antiwar protest in Washington since September 2007.
Friends, George W. Bush is gone at last, replaced by a much better chief executive. However, the wars are continuing, and in Afghanistan the quagmire is getting larger. It is essential for the American peace movement to make itself seen and heard in Washington at this anniversary protest. Please join us to let the country and the world know that our desire for peace is as strong during an Obama Administration as it was during the Bush Administration.
Some 30,000 additional U.S. troops will soon join 70,000 American and allied soldiers already in Afghanistan. This may be followed by several more troop buildups. In addition, a large force of American troops will remain in Iraq until mid-2011, and there is a serious possibility that a residual force of tens of thousands will stay in that country indefinitely. These wars are the longest the U.S. has fought since the American Revolution and the most expensive in comparative dollars of any of its wars except World War II. Join us March 21!
3. TERRORISM IS AS TERRORISM DOES
As 2009 gets underway, it is obvious that the so-called "War on Terrorism" has not only failed miserably but has turned into its opposite.
Osama bin-Laden has not been captured, and he recently delivered another public message — but he and al-Qaeda, the organization he leads that was responsible for the 9/11 attacks, have become only minor, entirely secondary players in the global terrorism offensive.
Two other organizations have seized the leadership of the worldwide terrorist movement, and they now represent a danger a thousand times greater than al-Qaeda and all the other real and imagined terrorist groups put together.
Over the years the new outlaw chiefs wormed their way into terrorist leadership by deceiving world nations into believing that they actually opposed terrorism — all the while committing horrendous violence against civilian populations from Iraq and Afghanistan to Gaza and the West Bank.
What makes these two terrorist groups all the worse is that instead of slingshots, box cutters, and rifles, suicide belts and imprecise short-range rockets, they command huge, heavily equipped armies, unparalleled air supremacy, and the most cutting edge weapons of mass death and destruction including nuclear warheads and delivery systems.
Above all, they hold state power and, absurdly enough, this allows them to get away with mass terror against civilian populations and the torture of suspects under interrogation.
We speak, of course, of the United States and its junior partner in the Middle East, Israel.
The senior partner has been responsible for the deaths of over a million Iraqi citizens as a consequence of its unjust, illegal and immoral invasion and occupation for nearly six years. Another million Iraqi civilians died from the killer sanctions and frequent bombing raids conducted by this same state terrorist from 1991 to 2003, ending with the invasion. The U.S. has killed many thousands in Afghanistan as well during more than seven years of war and is preparing to vastly increase the number of its troops in that country, insuring that the slaughter of civilians will expand exponentially.
The junior partner — supported and enabled by its patron — launched hi-tech wars in the summer of 2006 against its neighbor Lebanon (killing over 1,000 Lebanese civilians and destroying the homes of thousands more families), and the Palestinian Territory of Gaza, suffering few casualties of its own. Between the end of the first Gaza war in 2006 and the start of the second a few weeks ago, well over a thousand Gazans were slain in various Israeli attacks, compared to less than 20 who fell in Israel.
The 23-day Gaza war that began Dec. 27 continued state terrorism's penchant for disproportionate casualties. The terrorists destroyed or badly damaged the homes of 25,000 families (leaving 50,000 people homeless); they destroyed or damaged eight clearly identified hospitals, 26 health clinics; they targeted ambulances, schools, some 20 mosques, 50 UN facilities including food storage warehouses, 1,500 workplaces and factories, and 16 main government buildings including parliament— a war crime of extraordinary magnitude that was totally and publicly supported by the bigger state terrorist. Much of the destruction was caused by over 2,300 air strikes and from tanks. Gaza has neither airplanes, tanks or anti-aircraft weapons.
The state terrorists killed over 1,400 people on the Palestinian side, mostly civilians including about 415 children, compared to 13 deaths on the aggressor side — soldiers (some by "friendly fire") and three civilians. Instead of an eye for an eye, they gouged more than 100 eyes for each eye — state terrorism's reinterpretation of the biblical law of retribution. If God's on your side, or better yet the United States, you can rewrite any rule.
About 5,500 Gazans were wounded, some suffering terrible agonies after being burned with white phosphorus. It's illegal to direct this toxic substance at civilians, but then again the entire operation was illegal in international law, unjust in terms of the ethical definition of war, and immoral for those with consistent religious or secular principles. Israel will never suffer substantial sanctions or censure from the UN Security Council or the European Union because the powerful United States always comes to the aid of its junior partner.
For the last few decades the Tel Aviv government has initiated wars so disproportionate in violence and cruelty that David and Goliath by comparison were virtual equals in strength. Israel has been following a conscious policy of targeting Palestinian civilian populations and the civil infrastructure in order to inflict so much damage that all resistance to its illegal occupation and domination of the Palestinian Territories is broken for good. Virtually every significant target hit by Israeli bombs and tanks was pre-selected in the months leading up to the latest war.
We oppose the intentional targeting of civilians by any side, but it is self-serving and transparently dishonest and cynical to equate the small-scale violence of the oppressed with the massive violence of the oppressor.
The leadership in both Washington and Tel Aviv is changing. Will this result in more or less state violence?
In the United States, new President Barack Obama is superior to President George W. Bush, the departed war monger. The new government cannot help but put a better face on things after eight years of leadership by an individual recently described as a "blood-soaked moron" by Israeli peace movement figure Uri Avnery.
But will an Obama Administration pressure Israel to totally withdraw its troops, administrators and all its settlements from the Palestinian Territories it has illegally occupied since 1967, paving the way for the start of serious negotiations to bring about two equal states? (A single, bi-national state of Jews and Arabs living in harmony, an ideal solution still advocated by some, remains a far distant possibility.) Will the new administration insist, or mildly suggest, that the Israel it supports economically, militarily and politically dismantle the virtual prison it has constructed around the people of Gaza?
Referring to the recent war, which Israel suspended as planned just before the inauguration of Barack Obama, the new president on Jan. 22 condemned the Hamas government for the rocket fire into Israel and supported Israel's bombardment and invasion of Gaza. He did not see fit to mention the obvious war crime of intentionally targeting a mass civilian population. Obama did indicate that his administration supported a two-state solution to the ongoing crisis, as have several U.S. presidents before him, and he declared that "our hearts go out to" the suffering civilian population of Gaza. Politically, Obama lined up with Israel in brushing aside the democratically elected Hamas government and urged Palestinians and Arab nations to get behind the weak and dependent government of President Mahmoud Abbas.
The new U.S. administration may be less callous toward the Palestinians than the Bush Administration, but to the extent there will be any change at all in U.S. policy, we believe it will be cosmetic unless Washington is willing to sharply confront the Tel Aviv authorities. Look at it this way:
President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, State Dept. Middle East expert Dennis Ross, National Security Council Middle East expert Daniel Shapiro, and all the congressional and Democratic Party leaders are solidly pro-Israel and pro-Zionist, and have repeatedly demonstrated that they are not friends of the Palestinian people. Just days ago, both the Senate and House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to support Israel's terrorist onslaught against Gaza. Only four House Democrats and one libertarian Republican voted "no," and 22 Democrats (including Rep. Maurice Hinchey from the Hudson Valley) voted "present." This hardly augurs well for the Palestinian people.
The new Israeli government to be elected Feb. 10 will either be led by the far right Likud Party, backed by similar far right parties, or a combination of the right wing Kadima party (Ariel Sharon's split off from Likud that is occasionally and erroneously termed "centrist") and the center-right Labor Party (the third strongest), as now. Public opinion polls indicate a close race with a tilt toward Likud. No matter who wins, both parties are committed to the status quo, or worse.
The present Kadima/Labor coalition government is led by the disgraced President Ehud Olmert (a former Likud member not running for reelection, and an unindicted war criminal, just like Bush) who initiated the new offensive against Gaza in hopes of winning his party's reelection after what many believe was a disastrous blunder in conducting the unjust Lebanon war two summers ago.
If Likud wins, its chairman, extreme rightist former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, will take power. He will not lead Israel to finally withdraw from the Occupied Territories, thus obliterating the chance of peace on his watch. On Jan. 13, Netanyahu insisted that Israel must remove democratically-elected Hamas from power in Gaza. Olmert wanted to do this too, but failed, which means another war may be on Israel's agenda.
Both Likud and the Kadima/Labor coalition are seeking support from key minor parties such as Shas, and Yisrael Beiteinu. Some sources still believe the Kadima/Labor alignment will trump Likud and its allies in the end, possibly bringing former Likud member Tzipi Livni to power. She is Kadima/Labor's hard-line foreign minister (and justice minister simultaneously). Waiting in the coalition's wings for her to fail is the current defense minister, Labor party chairman Ehud Barak, evidently the main civilian directing the recent Gaza war.
The key player in this entire situation is not to be found in Tel Aviv or Gaza/West Bank, but in the United States, the world's self-appointed unipolar hegemon and only military superpower. Washington has been Tel Aviv's enabler for four decades, increasing to the point where some speculate, incorrectly, that the tail is wagging the dog.
Israel may have the most powerful army in the Middle East, and an exceptionally strong propaganda apparatus in the U.S. (including most of the American corporate media), but it remains quite dependent upon Washington's support. If the U.S. were to threaten to terminate its huge annual subsidies and supply of war weapons, and end its blocking of UN Security Council censure and sanctions and other measures that would take Tel Aviv to task, Israel probably would come around quickly enough. Such a development would benefit not only the Palestinians but without a doubt the people of Israel as well.
This is what makes it so important for American progressives to focus intense pressure on the Obama Administration to adopt a balanced position in regard to Israel and the Palestinians. Peace will come to the region when Washington withdraws its support for Israel's intransigence and obliges the Tel Aviv government to pull back to its pre-June 1967 borders and engage in genuine negotiations with the Palestinians. And both Washington and Tel Aviv must discontinue their policy of splitting the Palestinian people, and start talking to Hamas now.
This will take some time, and Washington will resist. But it remains the only solution to 60 years of almost continual crises that have caused historic displacement and hardship for the Palestinian people, insecurity for the Israeli people, second class citizenship for Israeli Arabs, and severe disequilibrium throughout Middle East. Success will mean a great reduction in regional tensions and the removal of Israel from the ranks of state terrorists.
Of course, this will leave one state terrorist standing, the grimmest of reapers in terms of lives lost and hopes crushed:
The one that slaughtered several million Vietnamese and Cambodians in a gratuitous, illegal war; the one that 10 years ago illegally and unjustly bombed Serbian Yugoslavia every day for nearly three months; the one that has caused terrible injury to the people of Iraq; the one that has bombed, invaded, or violently subverted scores of countries over recent decades; the one that succeeded in overthrowing the democratically-elected secular government in Iran, that led to a brutal monarchy eventually dispatched by the present theocracy; the one that overthrew the democratically-elected government in Chile, leading to many years of fascist dictatorship; the one that helped to overthrow the leftist government in Afghanistan that ultimately led to the Taliban, al-Qaeda and 9/11; the one that tried but failed to overthrow the democratically-elected government in Venezuela a few years ago; and the one that has been trying to destroy socialist Cuba for 50 years.
We are writing this article in the hours after watching President Obama's inauguration on TV. His speech was moving, as always. The immense crowd was euphoric. The hope for change was palpable. His talk was about how America became great, and how his administration will make it greater still, and how he will see to it U.S. leadership is going to prevail in the world. He talked about making our country stronger and winning the war against terrorism.
There wasn't a word about the terrible violence and terrorism Washington has let loose upon a continuous succession of countries and peoples until this very day; nor was there a word about ending it. There were no hints of substantive changes to come in foreign and military affairs.
We agree that more time must pass before final conclusions are possible about the Obama Administration's international policies. The possibility of a positive change to one degree or another cannot be ruled out entirely. But on the basis of the situation today, it seems to us that militarism in quest of hegemony, the use of mammoth force against small countries, and building an ever more deadly military machine will remain a principal aspect of American policy during the Obama Administration as it has for every previous administration since the end of World War II.
We hope to be proven wrong, but in the meantime it's best to remember that state terrorism is as state terrorism does, not as it says it does.
4. U.S. PEACE MOVEMENT PROTESTS GAZA WAR
At least several hundred demonstrations against the Israeli attack on Gaza have taken place in the United States during the 23-day war that ended in a shaky truce Jan. 18. In the Hudson Valley alone there were perhaps a dozen actions. Throughout the rest of the world the number was certainly was over 1,000. If anything, these are underestimates.
Some of the biggest peace protests in the U.S. took place on or around Saturday, Jan. 10, organized by the ANSWER Coalition, (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism), Muslim American Society Freedom, Free Palestine Alliance, National Council of Arab Americans, and Al-Awda - Palestine Right to Return Coalition. As we will note later, ANSWER essentially broke the U.S. peace movement's silence about the Israeli-Palestinian issue nearly seven years ago.
On Jan. 10 in WASHINGTON, the coalition reported: "More than 20,000 took to the streets in the freezing rain to demand, 'Let Gaza live!' The streets were so backed up that thousands of people in buses and cars were still arriving after the march had left. The protest began with a rally at Lafayette Park in front of the White House…. The spirited march then led to the Washington Post, where demonstrators denounced the paper for its biased pro-Israeli coverage of the massacre and its complete blackout of protest activities in the United States."
In LOS ANGELES Jan. 10 about 10,000 people participated in a march and rally at the Westwood Federal Building in an action supported by hundreds of co-sponsors and endorsers. ANSWER reported: "Hundreds of Palestinian flags and signs reading, 'Stop bombing Gaza!' and 'The real terrorists: U.S./Israel war machine!' lined all sides of the street and the lawn in front of the federal headquarters.… The Arab-American community came out in full force. The many families and young people at the protest showed intense outrage at Israel’s bombing of hospitals, schools, homes and mosques. 'Gaza, Gaza don’t you cry—Palestine will never die!' was the most popular chant of the day…. After a militant march through Westwood near UCLA, the protesters gathered for a rally, which was kicked off by a symbolic die-in."
Another nearly 10,000 protesters in SAN FRANCISCO Jan. 10 "rallied together at the Civic Center to demand an immediate end to the Israeli massacre of the people of Gaza," the coalition reported. "After nearly an hour of rallying and chanting, demonstrators took to the streets in a militant march. Israeli flags went up in flames as chants of 'Free Palestine!' echoed down major streets. The march returned to the Civic Center for an equally energetic closing rally."
The main action in CHICAGO took place Jan. 9, said ANSWER, when "over 10,000 people took to the streets to march against the U.S.-Israeli war on Gaza…. The Coalition for Justice in Palestine, American Muslims for Palestine and ANSWER Chicago sponsored the action. Protesters gathered outside Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago, then marched to the Israeli consulate to demand an end to the slaughter and the illegal occupation of Palestinian lands. Hundreds of Palestinian flags waved in the air as marchers carried signs and banners."
ORLANDO, FL, "was the site of a statewide march for Palestine Jan. 10 under the slogan 'Let Gaza Live,'" the report continued. "A crowd of 2,000 demonstrators took part in the protest — the largest antiwar demonstration in Florida in more than a decade and certainly the largest ever protest in Florida calling for a free Palestine. Police sought to intimidate protesters by searching bags, forcing protestors to remove sticks from placards and denying the use of amplified sound until organizers challenged their scare tactics."
Many other U.S. protests took place the same day. Much closer to home, 60 demonstrators took part in a Jan. 10 protest in the Hudson Valley village of New Paltz despite sub-freezing temperatures, sponsored by Middle East Crisis Response and endorsed by this newsletter. This was followed a week later in Kingston when 30 protestors showed up in single-digit temperatures. A third rally is scheduled in New Paltz Saturday, Jan. 24, outside New Paltz Shopping Plaza on Main St. from 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
Outside the United States Jan. 10, ANSWER said, "Marches took place in London, Edinburgh, Cairo, Athens, Kuala Lumpur, Beirut, Seoul, Mexico City, Jakarta, Montreal, Paris, Barcelona, Marseilles, Lyon, Oslo, Berlin, Bern, Karachi, Nablus, New Delhi, Amman, Sarajevo, Ramallah, Stockholm, and Tokyo. The protests continue to grow — the following day, another 250,000 took to the streets in Spain and more than 100,000 in Algeria."
The corporate mass media in the U.S. have virtually ignored the many protests against the Tel Aviv government's invasion of Gaza throughout the war, while slanting their news and editorial coverage in Israel's favor. This is the media's usual practice.
In general the U.S. peace movement ignored the plight of the Palestinian people between the time of the June 1967 war — the beginning of the illegal Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories — until the spring of 2002. At that time, ANSWER and an ad hoc group (that later became UFPJ) both planned nearby but separate protests mainly against the Afghanistan war in the nation's capital on April 20, followed by a joint march to the Capitol.
A few weeks before the planned action, however, Israel launched devastating attacks against basically defenseless Palestinian refugee camps that were sharply criticized by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Two weeks before the 20th, as the attacks continued, ANSWER decided to re-focus its protest on opposition to the anti-Palestinian war and spread the word throughout the country, with special emphasis on reaching the Islamic community, which heretofore was not part of the peace movement.
As we wrote immediately after the action: "For the first time, enormous numbers of Palestinian-Americans of the diaspora, Arab-Americans and the Muslim community — an estimated 30,000 people — joined with perhaps as many other demonstrators at the ANSWER rally. When the two demonstrations joined for the post-rally march, up to 100,000 people were taking part in what turned out to become a protest against the Israeli attacks."
Not all participants, particularly from the other demonstration, were pleased, but this action ultimately broke the back of resistance to antiwar involvement in the Israel-Palestine issue. In the years since that event, more and more antiwar organizations — including by now all the major peace coalitions — have criticized Israel's violence against the Palestinians.
5. LET GAZA LIVE
[Editor's note: Former Rep. Cynthia McKinney was one of the speakers at the Jan. 10 "Let Gaza Live" rally in Washington. In sending the text of her brief talk, McKinney (the Green Party candidate for president last November) noted that "attendance was excellent despite the weather. The crowd was one of the most diverse that I have ever seen. I think our message is reaching deep into our country's heartland. Here are my remarks."]
We don't see the images. They are neatly censored from our view in this country. But everywhere else around the world the carnage that is Gaza is being seen and the people are revolted by what they see.
They see dead babies, decapitated bodies, defenseless relief workers killed. Maimed men, makeshift morgues, mortified mothers.
They see exploding white phosphorus shells, cluster bombs, depleted uranium munitions.
They see what is reportedly the world's fourth most powerful military using all of its power against a defenseless people.
In fact, they are witnesses to 15 days of war crimes, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, and genocide.
They see Hugo Chavez expel Venezuela's Israeli Ambassador and they see lawmakers in Ecuador condemn Israel's actions, calling for an investigation into Israel's crimes against humanity.
And despite the obvious facts of an Israeli-sponsored terror campaign against Palestinians in Gaza, a piece of territory roughly twice the size of the District of Columbia, they see the U.S. Congress support a resolution totally supporting Israel, even though Israel is in violation of U.S. and international law.
They see Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, swaggering in insult to black America by initially refusing to seat Roland Burris from Illinois in the Senate, yet that same Reid cowers before the pro-Israel lobby, and they wonder why.
And sadly, they see the U.S. President-elect, who roared onto the scene like a lion, remain as quiet as a lamb in the face of the utter inhumanity of Israel's actions, and they wonder why.
And then, they see us. Gathered here in front of the White House, reaffirming our own humanity, and that of millions of people around the world, including in Israel, who disagree with this death and destruction. The tears of the Palestinians roll down our cheeks, even as we bury our own victims of police murder.
A new day is coming in U.S. politics. We will use the power of our vote to change U.S. policy. We will no longer check our values at the door and support politicians and political parties that fail to deliver.
Not one more bomb to Israel.
In defense of humanity, we will not give up and we will win.
6. CHILD POVERTY IN AMERICA
"It is a national disgrace that the richest nation on earth lets every sixth child live in poverty." With these words Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) president Marian Wright Edelman released a new report Dec. 22 titled "The State of America’s Children 2008."
"The number of poor children has increased nearly 500,000 to 13.3 million," said the CDF report, "with 5.8 million of them living in extreme poverty, and nearly 9 million children lack health coverage — with both numbers likely to increase during the recession…. Every 33 seconds a baby is born into poverty. One in 6 children in America is poor. Black and Latino children are about 3 times as likely to be poor as white children."
Children in the United States "lag behind almost all industrialized nations on key child indicators," the 74-page report continued. "The United States has the unwanted distinction of being worst among industrialized nations in relative child poverty, in the gap between rich and poor, in teen birth rates, and in child gun violence, and first in the number of incarcerated persons."
Commenting on child poverty in the U.S., Edelman declared:
"Investing in our children — the seed corn of our nation's future — is key to our nation's economic recovery and competitiveness in the global economy. And we do not have a minute to waste as a child drops out of school every 11 seconds of the school day; is abused or neglected every 35 seconds; is born without health coverage every 39 seconds; and is killed by guns every three hours. No external enemy poses such a grave threat to our children’s and nation's security as these facts….
"A cradle to prison pipeline crisis is fueling a massive and costly prison system that is becoming the new American apartheid. It is draining tens of billions of dollars from crucial health and education investments all children need to get into a pipeline to college and productive work. Poverty and continuing racial disparities in all child serving systems are sentencing countless children to dead-end lives. That a black boy born in 2001 has a 1 in 3 chance of going to prison in his lifetime and a Latino boy has a 1 in 6 chance is a personal tragedy and national catastrophe. We can and must change these horrifying outcomes. If we can bail out Wall Street bankers who have brought our economy to its knees, we can rescue our children from hopelessness, despair, sickness, illiteracy and preventable poverty."
Editorializing on the plight of poor youngsters, the New York Times reported Dec. 26: "The nation’s poorest citizens are already suffering some of the harshest effects of the economic decline, most notoriously with a 60% increase in children forced into 'food insecurity.' That’s bureaucratese for families driven to skipping meals. There were more than 690,000 youngsters who didn’t have enough to eat last year…. This year, the hunger struggle has worsened."
And it is certainly spreading in the beginning of this second year of the Great Recession. Contributing to the increasing plight of America's poor children and their families, according to the Times, is what the Democratic Clinton Administration considered one of its greatest achievements. "It’s no surprise," the newspaper noted, "that a politically acclaimed reform of the 1990s — 'the end to welfare as we know it' in favor of 'workfare' — is fast fraying at the edges. States are reporting a surge in applicants for the limited short-term cash aid allowed under the workfare rules. And the program’s emphasis on shunting the poor toward low-paying, start-up jobs is becoming increasingly pointless as the job market ossifies."
Following are some highlights from the CDF report and other sources. (Keep in mind that the poverty level for a family of four in the U.S. is an annual income of $21,200, though it will actually take twice that income for the family to live in relative comfort; for a family of two it is $14,000 a year. A family in extreme or severe poverty has an income of half the poverty level — i.e., $10,600 a year for a family of four. Low income families, as opposed to the officially poor, have incomes less than double the poverty level.)
• The majority of the 13.3 million poor children (out of a child population of about 75 million) live in families at or below the poverty line, but nearly 1 in 13 children in the United States — 5.8 million — live in extreme poverty. Young children are more likely than school-age children to live in extreme poverty: 1 in 11 young children, compared to 1 in 14 older children.
• All told, reports the National Center for Children in Poverty, "18% of children in the U.S. live in families that are considered officially poor (below the poverty level)…. Across the states, official child poverty rates range from 6% in New Hampshire to 31% in Mississippi." In New York State, 20% of children live in poor families." Nearly 40% percent of the nation’s children — about 29 million in 2006 — live in families with low incomes, that is, incomes below twice the official poverty level. This figure is obviously higher in today's recession.
• Currently, 8.9 million children are without health insurance. One in 5 Latino children and 1 in 8 black children are uninsured, compared to 1 in 13 white children. Among uninsured children: 9 out of 10 have at least one employed parent; 6 out of 10 live in two-parent families. And 9 out of 10 are United States citizens.
• In almost every state, black and Latino babies are less likely than white babies to be born to mothers who received early prenatal care. About 1 in 12 babies born in the United States is low birthweight, with black babies about twice as likely as white or Latino babies to be born at low birthweight. Infant mortality rates are more than twice as high for black infants as for white infants.
• In a report last October from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it was disclosed the U.S. ranks 29th among world nations in infant mortality, with 6.71 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. Most of the industrialized world has lower rates. Canada, for instance has a rate of 4.8%, and in Sweden it's 3.2%. In the developing world, composed of the overwhelming majority of nations, the rate is substantially higher, with 15 countries experiencing rates of over 100 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. Cuba appears to enjoy the lowest mortality rate among these poorer countries (and lower than the U.S. as well) at 5.1 per 1,000, according to the UN Population Division.
• More than 900,000 children were abused or neglected in the U.S. in 2006. Although black children comprise 15% of all children, they are 32% of the approximately 500,000 children in foster care. More than 2.5 million grandparents are raising their grandchildren.
• In 33 states and the District of Columbia, the annual cost of center-based child care for a preschooler is more than the annual tuition at a 4-year public college. In New York State, average annual in-state tuition in a 4-year public college is $5,022. The annual cost for a preschool age child receiving center-based childcare is $9,391. Low-cost or free preschool child-care facilities are incomparably more available in virtually all other advanced capitalist societies.
• Only about one-half to two-thirds of children eligible for Head Start are enrolled, and only about 3% of eligible infants and young children are enrolled in Early Head Start. In many cases, as with Food Stamps, the parents are not aware of their children's eligibility, not least because of inadequate publicity about the rights of poor people and all the available programs.
• About two-thirds of all public school 4th graders cannot read at grade level; 6 out of 10 cannot do math at grade level. More than 80% of black and Latino 4th graders in public school cannot read at grade level, compared with 58% of their white peers. A total of 85% of black 4th graders in public school cannot do math at grade level, compared to 78% of Latino children and about half of white children. Some 7 out of 10 public school 8th graders cannot read or do math at grade level. More than 4 out of 5 black 8th graders cannot read or do math at grade level, compared to 3 out of 5 of their white peers.
• More than half the children participating in the School Lunch Program ― more than 17 million children ― receive free or reduced-price meals. The 8 million children in the School Breakfast Program who received free or reduced-price meals — 4 out of 5 participants — are the neediest children. Yet the Summer Food Service Program, an entitlement targeted at these children, served fewer than 2 million children, showing that needy children are not receiving this important assistance during the summer months.
• White, black and Latino teens are about equally likely to use drugs, but black juveniles are twice as likely as their white peers to be arrested for drug offenses and more than five times as likely to be incarcerated for drug offenses as white teens.
• Some 3,006 children and teens were killed by firearms in 2005, the equivalent of 120 public school classrooms of 25 students each. Another 16,000 children and teens suffered non-fatal firearm injuries.
After former Sen. John Edwards dropped out of the Democratic primary, all talk of fighting poverty, much less child poverty, became muted. While the final two contenders included the matter of poverty on their websites, the chances of a serious anti-poverty program getting underway during the new administration are considered limited to nonexistent.
— The Children's Defense Fund is a "a non-profit child advocacy organization that has worked relentlessly for 35 years to ensure a level playing field for all children." The full "State of America’s Children 2008" report is available at
7. THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND
For a number of American progressives, Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land" would be an appropriate National Anthem for the United States. At least two of its stanzas and the repeated chorus are probably better known to most Americans than two stanzas (or even one complete stanza without skipping words) of the Francis Scott Key's four-stanza "Star Spangled Banner," the present anthem.
Until a large group of singers, led by Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, delivered a rousing version of "This Land is Your Land" before a crowd of perhaps 400,000 people at the Obama Inaugural Celebration Concert in Washington Jan. 20, the last three stanzas they sang were virtually unknown.
These three stanzas were in Woody's 1944 version of the song, and are almost always omitted. Partly it's because the song is best performed with a sing-along audience, and few know them by heart, but also, we think, because they are more to the political left, especially the part about private property. So with thanks to Seeger and Springsteen (a link to a video of their singing at the concert is below), here is the full version of "This Land Is Your Land," including the usually neglected stanzas.
As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway:
I saw below me that golden valley:
This land was made for you and me.
(chorus) This land is your land This land is my land
From California to the New York island;
From the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.
I've roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts;
And all around me a voice was sounding:
This land was made for you and me.
When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting:
This land was made for you and me.
In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?
There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me;
Sign was painted, it said private property;
But on the back side it didn't say nothing;
That side was made for you and me.
Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.
— The Seeger-Springsteen version — sing along, and watch Pete at the end!
8. QUOTES IN THE NEWS
• THE NOUVEAU POOR: In an article appearing on her website Jan. 13, titled "The Nouveau Poor Have Reached Numbers Too Large to Ignore," progressive author Barbara Ehrenreich wrote about the plight of rich people who have lost money in the financial market:
The media have been pelting us with heart-wrenching stories about the neo-suffering of the Nouveau Poor, or at least the Formerly Super-rich among them: Foreclosures in Greenwich CT! A collapsing market for cosmetic surgery! Sales of Gulfstream jets declining! Niemen Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue on the ropes! We read of desperate measures, like having to cut back the personal trainer to two hours a week. Parties have been canceled; dinner guests have been offered, gasp, baked potatoes and chili. The New York Times relates the story of a New Jersey teenager whose parents were forced to cut her $100 a week allowance and private Pilates classes. In one of the most pathetic tales of all, New Yorker Alexandra Penney relates how she lost her life savings to Bernie Madoff and is now faced with having to lay off her three-day- a-week maid, Yolanda. “I wear a classic clean white shirt every day of the week. I have about 40 white shirts. They make me feel fresh and ready to face whatever battles I may be fighting .…” she wrote, but without Yolanda, “How am I going to iron those shirts so I can still feel like a poor civilized person?”
— Full article: http://www.alternet.org/story/119360/
• A SCENE FROM DANTE'S INFERNO: Norwegian Dr. Mads Gilbert, interviewed by Democracy Now upon returning home after weeks of volunteering in a Gaza hospital:
The condition in Shifa Hospital and in the other hospitals in Gaza is horrifying. I’ve been to Gaza for the last 10 years, in and out, teaching and training people in the medical field. I’ve never seen anything like this. I mean, all windows in the Shifa Hospital are out, due to the bombing of the mosque across the street. They have very unstable electricity. They lack supplies, disposables, surgical equipment, trolleys, beds even. They have a fantastic staff, who are working heroically to save their patients, but we have been doing surgery with, almost regularly, two patients in each OR, on the wall, on the floor, in the corridors. The lifts are barely working. The ICU had to triple its capacity with makeshift ICUs. It is really, truly a scene from Dante’s Inferno.
— Full article:
• BUSH'S WORST DEED: Writing in TIME Jan. 8, Joe Klein identified "The Bush Administration's Most Despicable Act" in an article of the same name:
"This is not the America I know," President George W. Bush said after the first, horrifying pictures of U.S. troops torturing prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq surfaced in April 2004. The President was not telling the truth. "This" was the America he had authorized on Feb. 7, 2002, when he signed a memorandum stating that the Third Geneva Convention — the one regarding the treatment of enemy prisoners taken in wartime — did not apply to members of al-Qaeda or the Taliban. That signature led directly to the abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay. It was his single most callous and despicable act. It stands at the heart of the national embarrassment that was his presidency.
— Full article: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1870319,00.html
• IS BUSH ABOVE THE LAW? New York Times columnist Paul Krugman thinks it is essential for there to be an official investigation of the Bush Administration's crimes:
Last Sunday President-elect Barack Obama was asked whether he would seek an investigation of possible crimes by the Bush administration. “I don’t believe that anybody is above the law,” he responded, but “we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards." I’m sorry, but if we don’t have an inquest into what happened during the Bush years — and nearly everyone has taken Mr. Obama’s remarks to mean that we won’t — this means that those who hold power are indeed above the law because they don’t face any consequences if they abuse their power. Let’s be clear what we’re talking about here. It’s not just torture and illegal wiretapping, whose perpetrators claim, however implausibly, that they were patriots acting to defend the nation’s security. The fact is that the Bush administration’s abuses extended from environmental policy to voting rights. And most of the abuses involved using the power of government to reward political friends and punish political enemies.
—Full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/16/opinion/16krugman.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper
• A WICKED MAN… IS MY ADVERSARY: In covering the Jan. 11 pro-Israel rally in New York City, journalist Max Blumenthal was so disturbed by the hateful comments he heard from some of the rally-goers he interviewed that he wrote:
The rally made me think of a passage in “The Holocaust Is Over, We Must Rise From Its Ashes,” a powerful new book by former Israeli Knesset speaker and Jewish National Fund chairman Avraham Burg: “If you are a bad person, a whining enemy or a strong-arm occupier, you are not my brother, even if you are circumcised, observe the Sabbath, and do mitzvahs. If your scarf covers every hair on your head for modesty, you give alms and do charity, but what is under your scarf is dedicated to the sanctity of Jewish land, taking precedence over the sanctity of human life, whosever life that is, then you are not my sister. You might be my enemy. A good Arab or a righteous gentile will be a brother or sister to me. A wicked man, even of Jewish descent, is my adversary, and I would stand on the other side of the barricade and fight him to the end.”
— Full article: http://www.alternet.org/story/119372/
9. REFUTING ISRAEL'S JUSTIFICATIONS
[Editor's Note: Since 1967, the Israeli government has demolished many thousands of homes in the occupied Palestinian Territories as punishment to the owners and occupants for a variety of alleged infractions against the colonial occupation. In response, a nonviolent direct action group was formed with the title of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. Members seek to halt demolitions, often by attempting to block the bulldozers with their own bodies. They also engage in educational work and support for besieged Palestinian communities. Of course, the ICAHD is critical of the Israeli attack upon the people of Gaza. Following is a Jan. 10 brief version of a longer statement responding to the Tel Aviv government's public relations justifications for its brutal bombings and invasion of Gaza.]
By the ICAHD
Israel’s core messages, listed below, argue for the justice of its cause in Gaza, cast Israel as the victim and ensure that its war is seen not in terms of occupation but of the broader Western struggle against terror. The critical reframing we offer, that of Israelis committed to human rights, international law and a just peace as the only way out of this interminable and bloody conflict, argues that security cannot be achieved unilaterally while one side oppresses the other and that Israel’s attack on Gaza is merely another attempt to render its Occupation permanent by destroying any source of effective resistance. It argues that Israel could have avoided all attacks upon it over the last 20 years, and the rise of Hamas, if it had genuinely negotiated a two-state solution with the Palestinian leadership. Israel, the strong party and the Occupying Power, is not the victim. Indeed, its attack on Gaza is a form of State Terrorism.
• Israeli PR: Like all countries, Israel has a right and duty to defend its citizens. Israel, acting as any life-loving nation would, has a right to be a normal country living in peace and security.
The Reality: To pursue offensive policies of prolonged occupation as well as sanctions, boycotts and closures that impoverish a civilian population, and to then refuse to engage with that population’s elected leaders, is not defending one's citizens. To expect your citizens to live in security while a million and a half subjugated people just a few kilometers away live in misery is both unrealistic and presumptive. Israel will only be able to defend its citizens – which is indeed its duty – if it addresses the causes of their insecurity, a 41-year occupation.
• Israeli PR: Israel had no choice but to attack in response to the barrage of 8,500 Hamas rockets fired from Gaza into Israel over the past eight years that have killed 20 Israeli civilians.
The Reality: In the past three years alone Israel – together with the U.S., Europe and Japan – imposed an inhumane siege of Gaza while conducting a campaign of targeted assassinations and attacks throughout the cease-fire that left 1,700 Palestinians dead. Hamas’ barrage did not exist in a vacuum. This war is no “response:” it is merely a more deadly round of the tit-for-tat arising out of a political vacuum. The rocket firings could have been avoided had there been a genuine political horizon. To present the “barrage” as an independent event disassociated from wider Israeli policies that led to them is disingenuous.
• Israeli PR: There is no occupation – in general, but specifically in Gaza. Israel ended its occupation of Gaza in 2005 with the “disengagement.” Gaza could have flourished as the basis of a Palestinian state, but its inhabitants chose conflict.
The Reality: Economic development, not to mention a political process which might have prevented the violence on both sides, was actively prevented by both Israel and its international supporters, which share responsibility for the present tragedy in Gaza. At no time since the “disengagement” did Israel ever relinquish or even loosen its control. The closure remained in force, including by sea; Gazans were never allowed to reopen their sea or air ports; nor were any conditions conducive to economic development allowed. Israel’s claim that there has never been an occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza is rejected by every member of the international community. Neither does it accept Israel’s claim that occupation ended in 2005, since the definition of occupation in international law has to do with exercising effective control of a foreign territory, which Israel obviously does over Gaza.
• Israeli PR: Only Hamas violated the cease-fire, and thus it carries full responsibility.
The Reality: Israel and Hamas agreed to a truce (through Egypt) by which Israel would allow the opening of the Gazan border crossings (at least partially) in return for an end to rocket fire on Israel. Hamas largely, though not entirely, kept its part of the bargain; Israel almost never did. Killings of Palestinians from the air continued, and on the American election day in early November it attacked the tunnels (which functioned as alternative means of supplying Gaza in the absence of open borders, which would have allowed control over the movement of arms), killing a number of Hamas people. In response Hamas launched rockets and… the truce began breaking down.
• Israeli PR: Israel is only attacking the “infrastructure of terror” in Gaza and only targets Hamas fighters.
The Reality: Being the elected government, all the infrastructure, from traffic cops to schools to military installations, “belong” to Hamas. It is clear that Israeli attacks go beyond “the infrastructure of terror.” Who’s a “Hamas fighter?” The graduating class of traffic cops that was slaughtered in the first aerial attack on Gaza? Professors and students who attend the “Hamas” Islamic University? Family members of Hamas military figures? People who voted for Hamas? All, but for those actively participating in hostilities, would be defined as civilians under international law.
• Israeli PR: Civilians may die, but it’s because Hamas hides its fighters and weapons factories among ordinary people.
The Reality: Israel’s military headquarters are located in the center of Tel Aviv, the military headquarters over the West Bank are in the densely populated civilian settlement Neveh Ya’akov in East Jerusalem, the Pentagon is located close to downtown Washington D.C. and the British Ministry of Defense is located in central London. Hamas, of course, as both a government and a military organization, carries responsibility for protecting the civilian population and keeping the fighting away from them but the question that should be asked, and never is, is why Western nations who do the same are not faced with such criticism?
• Israeli PR: Hamas is a terrorist organization that refuses to recognize Israel or enter into a political process.
The Reality: Which Israel should Hamas recognize? 1947 UN partition borders? 1967 borders? With annexed East Jerusalem? With the settlement blocs? So long as Israel refuses to define its borders then there is only an abstract concept available for recognition. Hamas has openly declared that it will de facto recognize Israel on the 1967 borders. Israel has made no such offers to any Palestinian faction, government or representatives.
• Israeli PR: Hamas is a global problem, part of Islamist fundamentalism together with Iran and Hezbollah and therefore Israel is only doing its part in the West’s agreed-upon War on Terror.
The Reality: Hamas started as a social welfare organization that was allowed by Israel to develop as a political force in Occupied Palestine to weaken the standing of the secular PLO. There was no Hezbollah prior to the 1982 Israeli invasion. The theocrats in Iran were an organized but quite small political force until the U.S. overthrew Iran’s democracy [in 1954, installing a brutal monarchy that tover the years crushed that country's political left]. The local population will always resist when foreign countries try to oppose their will and the resistance will not always be pretty. Painting Hamas as part of a global conspiracy when it’s a product of the Occupation itself is disingenuous and a gross distortion of history.
— The ICAHD website is at http://www.icahd.org/eng/
10. CHECK IT OUT (the all-Gaza issue):
ISRAELIS ASK, "WAS IT ALL WORTH IT?": According to this report in the Times of London, "Two days after their last soldiers returned from Gaza, Israelis are asking increasingly whether the offensive had achieved anything other than spawning a new generation of potential suicide bombers." Read it at http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article5567396.ece.
THE BOSS HAS GONE MAD: One of our favorite Israeli nonconformists, antiwar leader Uri Avnery, points out that "It is impossible to understand the viciousness of this war without taking into account the historical background: the feeling of victimhood after all that has been done to the Jews throughout the ages, and the conviction that after the Holocaust, we have the right to do anything, absolutely anything, to defend ourselves, without any inhibitions due to law or morality." Check it out at http://zope.gush-shalom.org/home/en/channels/avnery/1232152100/.
ANOTHER WAR, ANOTHER DEFEAT: That's the title of an article in the Jan. 26 issue of The American Conservative written by John J. Mearsheimer, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago and coauthor of "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy." He argues that "no matter what happens on the battlefield, Israel cannot win its war in Gaza. In fact, it is pursuing a strategy — with lots of help from its so-called friends in the Diaspora — that is placing its long-term future at risk." The article is at http://www.amconmag.com/article/2009/jan/26/00006/.
OBAMA AND HAMAS: The New York Times has performed poorly in terms of Israel's Gaza war. It has been totally pro-Israel editorially, and its news coverage has been tilted toward Tel Aviv's version of events. Virtually the only article that showed some insight into developments wasn't printed until Jan. 22 when correspondent Steven Erlanger, writing from Jerusalem, touched on a few of the political complexities involved in the situation. He focused on the policy choice facing the Obama Administration — to either "support a Palestinian unity government, as Egypt and the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, want, or continue to isolate Hamas and concentrate on building up the West Bank as a political alternative to radical Islam." We sure would have written it differently, but it shows what a sector of the U.S. foreign policy establishment is thinking about. It's at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/22/world/middleeast/22gaza.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper.
ATROCITIES IN GAZA: Norman Finkelstein, long a critic of Israel and the author of "The Holocaust Industry," was interviewed by a correspondent for Russia Today and the video is on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bAhoLRfBNOQ.
BEYOND THE MYTHS ABOUT HAMAS: This is a history and analysis of Hamas from a progressive point of view by Deepa Kumar, an assistant Professor of Media Studies at Rutgers University. It's at http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/kumar210109.html.
11. NEWS IN BRIEF
By Nathan Rosenblum
ABSTINENCE PLEDGES ARE BROKEN: Young people who pledge abstinence until marriage are no more likely to avoid sexual relations prior to marriage than those who do not take such a pledge. This is the verdict of a report released last month by researcher Janet E. Rosenbaum at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Many thousands of teenagers, encouraged by some religious groups, have taken "the pledge" in recent years, and pledge programs are supported by the U.S. government to the tune of $176 million a year. But on the basis of her research, Rosenbaum reported a few weeks ago that "Taking a pledge doesn't seem to make any difference at all in any sexual behavior." One result of taking the pledge, she noted, was that only 24% of teens who did regularly used condoms while 34% of teens who did not take the pledge did so. The researcher indicated that this difference appears to stem from the misleading information provided about condoms to those participating in abstinence programs.
OBAMA AND THE ENVIRONMENT: A group of 29 environmental, conservation, and scientific advocacy groups recently sent a 391-page "Green Action" report to President Obama and his advisers. The report "addressed the dual goals of environmental protection and economic recovery," and included a list of environmental recommendations, urging that they be taken within a few months. The list includes a “green jobs” program to help alleviate the effects of the recent economic collapse, concentration on poor and minority community access to new technology, and an emphasis on science in determining policies rather than the interests of industry. So far, Obama has filled several important environmental positions in his administration. These include Steven Chu as Energy Secretary and Carol Brower as head of efforts against global warming. Chu, like Obama, is a strong supporter of "cap and trade" systems, involving selling credits allowing for excess release of carbon dioxide, such as are in place in the European Union. Recent reports indicate that despite Europe’s system, carbon dioxide emissions there have actually increased.
GLOBAL WARMING HARMS CROP YIELDS: The increase in temperatures associated with global warming is having a detrimental effect on crops and food security in many countries in the tropics and subtropics. A research team, whose findings were published recently in the journal Science, analyzed 23 computer climate models and determined that there is an above 90% probability that seasonal temperatures in these regions will go above those recorded between the years 1900 and 2006 and that in temperate regions the highest seasonal temperatures over this period of time will become normal. Scientists studied heat waves in past year to determine what the effect might be on crop production. A heat wave affecting Western Europe in the summer of 2003, for example, was responsible for over a 30% decline in corn production in certain areas. The study also refuted the theory that global warming might assist in crop production. This warming could have particularly detrimental effects in Africa, which could lose entire growing seasons.
12. A POEM FOR GAZA
By Remi Kanazi
I never knew death until I saw the bombing of a refugee camp
Craters filled with disfigured ankles and splattered torsos
But no sign of a face, the only impression a fading scream
I never understood pain
Until a seven-year-old girl clutched my hand
Stared up at me with soft brown eyes, waiting for answers
But I didn't have any
I had muted breath and dry pens in my back pocket
That couldn't fill pages of understanding or resolution
In her other hand she held the key to her grandmother's house
But I couldn't unlock the cell that caged her older brothers
They said, we slingshot dreams so the other side will feel our father's presence
Built homes in areas where no one was building
And when he fell, he was silent
A .50 caliber bullet tore through his neck shredding his vocal cords
Too close to the wall
His hammer must have been a weapon
He must have been a weapon
Encroaching on settlement hills and demographics
So his daughter studies mathematics
Seven explosions times eight bodies
Equals four Congressional resolutions
Seven Apache helicopters times eight Palestinian villages
Equals silence and a second Nakba
Our birthrate minus their birthrate
Equals one sea and 400 villages re-erected
One state plus two peoples . . . and she can't stop crying
Never knew revolution or the proper equation
Tears at the paper with her fingertips
Searching for answers
But only has teachers
Looks up to the sky and sees stars of David demolishing squalor with hellfire missiles
She thinks back words and memories of his last hug before he turned and fell
Now she pumps dirty water from wells, while settlements divide and conquer
And her father's killer sits beachfront with European vernacular
She thinks back words, while they think backwards
Of obscene notions and indigenous confusion
This our land!, she said
She's seven years old
This our land!, she said
And she doesn't need a history book or a schoolroom teacher
She has these walls, this sky, her refugee camp
She doesn't know the proper equation
But she sees my dry pens
No longer waiting for my answers
Just holding her grandmother's key . . . searching for ink
— Remi Kanazi is a Palestinian American poet and activist. He is editor of Poets for Palestine, www.poeticinjustice.net/. From MRZine.
13. DIET FOR AN ENDANGERED PLANET
[Editor's Note: I wrote this article in April 2006 and it was published in that issue of the newsletter. Since about 30% of our readers are new since then, plus the fact that the danger of environmental collapse has zoomed to the forefront of much of our readers' consciousness in the last year, we are reprinting it below.]
One of the most important tasks confronting human society in this 21st century is to develop an antidote to the devastating ecological consequences of 150 years of virtually uncontrolled industrialization. There are many factors involved in such an immense project, because the negative aspects of positive technological developments largely have been ignored throughout much of modern history.
Taking serious measures to counteract global warming is one of the most imperative of responsibilities, due to the proximity of the impending danger. Another is developing clean energy sources sufficient to power modern societies. And there are a multiplicity of other complex scientific, social, political and economic alterations that must be set in motion to avoid an environmental catastrophe.
One of the critical components in the drive for ecological balance has received little attention so far, but it will become fairly obvious in coming decades. In essence, the human diet will have to change, probably at some time later this century, because it is a major contributor to the environmental crisis, which we shall show in this article.
The diet of most of the industrialized world is based on the consumption of meat, fish and fowl — and the great majority of people as yet have no idea of the disturbing impact this has on the environment. It’s causing the depletion of forests and water resources; pollution on a mass scale, including the fouling of the air we breathe and the water we drink; the waste of energy resources; the extinction of certain non-farm animal species, and many other consequences that endanger the Earth’s ecology. In addition, the excessive concentration on producing animal flesh for consumption in the richer countries contributes to world hunger in the poor countries.
The thought of reducing or giving up a meat-based diet to eat vegetables, grains, fruit and nuts is a touchy subject with most people in America, just as giving up smoking was to many millions a few decades ago. Today those who quit their nicotine addiction or never began are glad of it, and those who haven’t quit are a diminishing and often worried minority, besieged by restrictive laws and high prices. Eventually, when it becomes environmentally necessary to switch diets, we suspect it will take several generations to complete the transformation, but it can be done.
Science has greatly strengthened the rationale for vegetarianism in the last half century. Back in the 1950s, when this writer became a vegetarian, only about 1% of the American people refused to eat meat, fish and fowl. Usually, decisions to do so were based solely on ethical considerations — for example, a disinclination to cause the discomfort and slaughter of animals when it was not necessary to consume their flesh for human well-being or survival. Many also believed that other species simply had a right to survive and live as free as possible.
But in more recent decades science has provided two substantial further reasons for switching to a vegetarian diet. These reasons will become more compelling as time goes on, particularly as this knowledge proliferates and when governments are obliged to get behind the idea. They are: (1) the considerable proven health benefits of a vegetarian or vegan diet; (2) the proven dangers to the world environment emanating from the mass consumption of farmed animals.
Today, largely due to knowledge of the health benefits, it is estimated that 3% to 4% of American adults are vegetarians and the number is growing. Perhaps a quarter to a third of this number are vegans who do not consume animal products (mainly eggs, dairy, and honey) as well as animal flesh. Time magazine reports that 10 million Americans consider themselves vegetarians. The National Restaurant Association suggests as many as 20% of U.S. college students identify themselves as vegetarians. According to a nationwide survey conducted by the Vegetarian Journal in late 2005, “3% of 8-to-18 years olds say they never eat meat, poultry, or fish/seafood. A whopping 11% of 13-15-year-old females said they never eat meat.”
Increasing numbers of people have given up red meat or other categories of animal flesh, largely for health reasons, but are not yet vegetarians or vegans. Some selectively shun certain foods because they object to the way particular animals are forced to suffer — such as geese (force-fed), veal (cruelly confined calves), and lobsters (boiled alive), for example — though the generality of animal suffering has been rationalized and ignored.
The average American has grown up on a diet of animal flesh and enjoys it, without delving too deeply into how this particular food becomes available. There is a disconnect in the mind of many consumers — a large proportion of whom may consider themselves animal lovers — between the live animal they do not see and the plastic-wrapped package they obtain in the supermarket or the burger procured at the fast-food counter. Few dwell upon the short, stunted and painful lives of the creatures sacrificed to make it all possible.
But the fact is that over 10 billion mammals and birds are slaughtered every year in the United States alone, according All-Creatures.org and government reports. In 2003, the total was 41.2 million cattle and calves, 133 million pigs, 4.1 million sheep, 291 million turkeys, 255.5 million ducks, 9.14 billion “broilers” and 425 million laying hens. This doesn’t include the slaughter of fish and aquatic life, which may equal that of the chickens. Worldwide, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the total of mammals and birds killed for food in 2002 was 51.2 billion. Statistically, the U.S., with about 5% of the world population, is responsible for almost 20% of the annual world kill rate.
We mention these extraordinary figures not to shock the reader about the extent of the carnage but to set the stage for explaining the environmental impact. We won’t even go into the matter of the horrors perpetrated upon our fellow animals in factory farms and slaughter houses for the same reason.
In terms of the gathering environmental crisis, one of the main problems emanating from an animal-based diet is that it requires an enormous infrastructure. The animals themselves must be fed, watered and medicated before the humans can be fed. The millions of acres in the United States devoted to raising farm animals are only a small proportion of the much greater acreage required to grow the food to sustain these animals. An estimated 80% of U.S agricultural land — nearly half the total land mass in the 48 contiguous states — is devoted to growing crops to feed farm animals.
Over 260 million acres of forests in the U.S. have been leveled to create the land to feed the animals. It takes one to one-and-a-quarter acres of land to grow the required 2,500 to 3,500 pounds of grain and soybeans to produce 165 pounds of feedlot beef. Some 80% of the American corn crop is consumed by farm animals, not humans. Over 95% of the oats go to animals as well. Some 70% of all the grain and cereals are fed to the farm animals.
By comparison, the same acreage required to sustain 165 pounds of beef could produce 20,000 pounds of potatoes for human beings. Look at it this way: 20 vegans can be fed well on a healthy diet of vegetables, grains and fruits on the same amount of land required to feed one meat eater. In terms of alleviating severe world hunger, which afflicts 852 million human beings (many millions of whom starve to death annually), the amount of grain and soybeans eaten by livestock in the United States could feed 1.3 billion people. Says PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), “animals require many times more calories . . . than they can possibly return in the form of animal flesh for meat-eaters to consume. The world’s cattle alone consume a quantity of food equal to the caloric needs of 8.7 billion people.”
About 50% of the total water used in the United States every year for all purposes — from drinking to bathing to washing the car to industrial usages — is devoted to farmed animals, says the Audubon Society. In the 11 Western states it’s 70%, a factor behind the drying up of aquifers. More water is required for the production of beef than is used for America’s entire vegetable and fruit crop.
According to various vegetarian publications, some 2,500 gallons of water are required to produce one pound of meat. Those of our readers who dutifully conserve water will be astonished to learn that they could forego taking showers for an entire year and the saving would approximate the amount of water utilized to produce four quarter-pound hamburgers, according to the book “The Food Revolution” by John Robbins MD. The Center for Food Safety comments that “if water used by the meat industry was not subsidized by U.S. taxpayers, the cost of hamburger meat would be $35 a pound.” Quoting Newsweek, the same source points out that “the amount of water that goes into a 1,000 pound steer would float a Naval destroyer,” literally. Incidentally, the amount of water in one shower is about the same required for a pound of wheat.
The main reason for the depletion of the world’s forests, including the Amazon rain forest, is the need to produce food and acreage for farmed animals. The forests are the Earth’s main instrumentality for converting carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas responsible for global warming) into oxygen. They are also the habitat of animal and plant life that suffer, often to extinction, when a major forest is demolished. According to EatVeg.com, “The current rate of species extinction due to destruction of tropical rainforests and related habitats is 1,000 a year.”
PETA reports: “From tropical rain forests in Brazil to ancient pine forests in China, entire ecosystems are being destroyed to fuel our addiction to meat. According to scientists at the Smithsonian Institution, the equivalent of seven football fields of land is bulldozed every minute to create more room for farmed animals.” Vegetarian sources point out that the result of one individual deciding to give up meat, fish and fowl “saves an acre of trees per year.”
On April 6, Greenpeace in Europe formally charged McDonald’s fast-food restaurants with “destroying the Amazon rainforest.” It is estimated that one quarter-pound hamburger requires the clear-cutting of 55 square feet of rain forest. According to the Environmental News Service (ENS), “using satellite images, aerial surveillance, previously unreleased government documents, and on-the-ground monitoring, Greenpeace says it has traced soya [soybeans] grown on land that once was rainforest to an animal feed producer whose chickens are processed into Chicken McNuggests and other McDonald’s products.” This fact had been kept secret.
Gavin Edwards, who coordinates the Greenpeace save-the-forests campaign, declared: “Fast food giants like McDonalds are trashing the Amazon for cheap meat. Every time you buy a Chicken McNugget you could be taking a bite out of the Amazon.” Soybean production in the Amazon has more than doubled in recent years to satisfy foreign demand for captive animal feed. ENS quoted an expert at Brazil’s University of Minas Gerais as saying that “by 2050 current trends in agricultural expansion will eliminate a total of 40% of Amazon forests, including at least two-thirds of the forest cover of six major watersheds and 12 eco-regions.”
Maintaining farm animals to supply a flesh-eating industrialized society is extremely costly in terms of energy usage. The environmental magazine “E” reported in 2002 that “More than a third of all raw materials and fossil fuels consumed in the U.S. are used in animal production. Producing a single hamburger patty uses enough fuel to drive 20 miles and causes the loss of five times its weight in topsoil.“ Noting the fact that huge populations, largely in the third world, are too poor or without resources to indulge in a meat-based diet, EatVeg.com reports that “the world's petroleum reserves would last [only 13 more years] if all human beings ate a meat-centered diet.” That number would increase to 260 years “if all human beings ate a vegetarian diet.”
America’s consumption of billions of mammals and birds each year is also a source of great pollution in the country’s soil, rivers and atmosphere. “Animals raised for food produce 130 times as much excrement as the entire U.S. population, roughly 68,000 pounds per second, all without benefit of waste treatment systems,” PETA declares. “According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, animals on factory farms in America produce 20 tons of fecal matter each year for every U.S. household. A pig farm with 5,000 animals produces as much fecal waste as a city of 50,000 people.”
Says Professor Peter Cheeke of Oregon State University, this situation constitutes “a frontal assault on the environment, with massive groundwater and air pollution problems.” Raw manure is reported to possess 160 times more “pollution strength” than raw municipal sewage. All-Creatures.org estimates that about “a billion tons of waste is produced annually by U.S. livestock in confinement operations which is not recycled. Feedlot waste often ends up in our water.”
PETA continued: “The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that chicken, hog and cattle excrement have polluted 35,000 miles of rivers in 22 states and contaminated groundwater in 17 states. . . . Factory farms produce millions of pounds of dust each year containing feces, mold and bacteria that pollutes our air.”
There is simply no question that world hunger and low-caloric intake could be significantly reduced if nutritious food grown for animals was eaten by people.
According to Dr. Waldo Bello of the Philippines, the executive director of the Institute for Food and Development Policy, "There is enough food in the world for everyone. But tragically, much of the world's food and land resources are tied up in producing beef and other livestock — food for the well-off — while millions of children and adults suffer from malnutrition and starvation. In Central America, staple crop production has been replaced by cattle ranching, which now occupies two-thirds of the arable land."
PETA points out, “American companies are moving into Latin American countries and buying up land and grain so that they can raise animals to sell to meat-eaters in the States. These companies use the resources that should be used to feed the local people, so millions of people in Latin America and around the world are going hungry while animals raised for food gobble up their grain and destroy the environment. In Guatemala, for instance, 75% of children under the age of 5 are malnourished, and yet the nation continues to produce and export 40 million pounds of meat to the U.S. every year. Instead of feeding the world's hungry, we take their grain and land to feed our addiction to meat, eggs, and milk.”
In this connection, other sources report that the U.S. annually imports 200 million pounds of meat from Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras and Panama while the “amount of meat eaten by the average person” in these countries “is less than consumed by the average American house cat.”
In terms of global warming, the industrial world’s addiction to meat is a major producer of three greenhouse gases — methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide.
Methane is an important ingredient in natural gas, a principal energy source, but it is also more complicit in global warming than carbon dioxide, though it dissipates more quickly. According to the EPA, “Methane (CH4) is a greenhouse gas that remains in the atmosphere for approximately 9-15 years. Methane is over 20 times more effective in trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide (CO2) over a hundred year period.” The EPA regards “ruminant digestion and manure management associated with domestic livestock” as among the largest sources of methane emissions in the U.S. Ruminant animals (cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats, and camels) produce significant amounts of methane as part of their normal digestive processes.
Excess carbon dioxide is largely a derivative of the automobile culture and power plants but also emanates from animal manure, not to mention the prodigious emissions of CO2 by all the farming and transport vehicles required to sustain the growth, slaughter and delivery of some 10 billion animals to American dinner tables each year. In this regard, PETA points out that “the average American diet requires about 400 gallons of oil per year, almost twice the amount required for the average vegan diet.”
Nitrous oxide accounts for 5% of total U.S. greenhouse emissions and is largely a product of agricultural activities and animal waste.
Clearly, in our view, efforts to avoid an ecological disaster, including global warming, eventually must include the elimination of farmed animals as a source of human food. There is sufficient non-animal food to sustain the entire population of the world many times over, and it is more healthful as well.
Additional benefits include a halt to the decimation of the world’s forests, and the reversion of part of the enormous acreage devoted to growing animal food back into forest land. Advances also will occur in the reduction of air, ground and water pollution; in the expansion of water supplies for human purposes; in major savings of energy resources; in the reduction of animal extinctions, and in the restoration of environmental balance.
In addition there is another benefit, well understood by those who primarily transition to vegetarianism for ethical reasons. The amount of suffering we human animals inflict upon other animals is cruel and immoral. It is a crying shame.
We close with two quotations. First, these words from the great Yiddish writer Isaac Bashevis Singer: “I think everything connected with vegetarianism is of the highest importance, because there never will be any peace in this world so long as we eat animals. . . . I became a vegetarian because all my life I had felt guilty and ashamed that I had eaten the flesh of an animal. I think that animals are just as much God’s creatures as men are. And we have to respect them, and love them, not slaughter them.”
And from Pete Seeger: “Becoming a vegetarian is not merely a symbolic gesture. Nor is it an attempt to isolate oneself from the ugly realities of the world. . . . Becoming a vegetarian is a highly practical and effective step one can take toward ending both the killing of nonhuman animals and the infliction of suffering upon them.”
Editor’s note: If you have an interest in vegetarianism and animal rights there are many websites with information. The VivaVegie Society’s http://www.vivavegie.org/ includes a free download of an informative 16-page pamphlet, “101 Reasons Why I’m a Vegetarian.” People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, http://www.peta.org, offers a vegetarian starter kit and much useful material, including frequently asked questions on topics from vegetarian-vegan practices to animal rights, activist news, a cruelty free shopping guide, etc. They also sponsor a children’s website, http://www.petakids.com/, and http://www.goveg.com.
Green People, at http://www.greenpeople.org/index.htm, includes a listing of vegetarian organizations among its resources. Farm Sanctuary, http://www.farmsanctuary.org, focuses on farm animals and provides a website research report on “The Welfare of Cattle.” The North American Vegetarian Society is at http://www.navs-online.org/. In the Hudson Valley you can reach the Mid-Hudson Vegetarian Society at http://www.mhvs.org, and the Catskill Animal Sanctuary at http://www.casanctuary.org/index.php. The Vegetarian Resource Group has a full-service website, http://www.vrg.org/index.htm. Friends of Animals, which seeks to “free animals from cruelty and institutionalized exploitation around the world,” is at http://www.friendsofanimals.org/. Animal Concerns is another animal rights group with a good website at http://www.animalconcerns.org/index.html.
Use Google (check “vegetarian organizations”) to locate hundreds of interesting additional websites and links. Check “vegetarian recipes” for menus. Vegetarian Times magazine has lots of recipes, http://www.vegetariantimes.com/. Over the decades, but less so in recent years as non-meat dishes have become more popular, people used to ask quite seriously, “but what do you vegetarians eat?” Actually, vegetarian cuisine is quite delicious as well as healthful and varied, especially if fresh produce is consumed. It is also considerably less costly than animal flesh. And the environmental benefits are substantial.