Sunday, October 15, 2017

Ignore Your Empire's Wars At Your Peril

"Troops killed in ambush on joint US-Niger patrol" Al-Jazeera 
My friend Janet re-tweeted photos of the four U.S. military men killed in Niger last week, which led me to search for more news about this disturbing event.

Now that Google has re-configured its search algorithms to even more strongly preference corporate "news" sources, I have to dig deeper for nuggets of information about the misadventures of the empire I'm funding (e.g. my yearly bonus for achieving National Board Professional Teacher certification is $3,000, but I'll receive only about $2,000 after taxes of which more than half will go to the Pentagon).

I could stop using Google and instead use DuckDuckGo or another search engine that does not track my activity. But, it returns similar corporate media sources and will never tailor itself to my preferences as it doesn't remember what I've clicked on in the past.

Such is the labor required to find news in the declining days of the so-called Information Age.

I thought I had found something useful on, the website of the Centre for Research on Globalization. But it turned out to be a reprint of an article from focusing on the demagogue with bad hair and his non-reaction to the deaths in Niger.

Every time I look for news online these days it seems to want to fall into one of two categories: bland regurgitation of press releases from the government, or an obsessive focus on the role of the demagogue with bad hair.

Progressive journalists in the U.S. seem to have become mentally ill under the steady influence of their obsession with the man and his misdeeds. I find myself drifting further from finding such news purveyors relevant or even useful with each passing day.

Eventually I navigated to the World Socialist Website article "Killings of four elite soldiers in Niger highlight vast scale of American military operations in Africa" by Eddie Haywood.

Besides offering current context, it provided useful background on how regime change in Libya effected by a U.S. Democratic Party administration sparked military conflict in the bordering nation of Mali which has in turn led to militarized violence in Niger, which shares a border with both.

Along the way of my search I stumbled on news that the former Deputy PM of Qatar is warning that mercenaries employed by Erik Prince (i.e.Blackwater, now known as Academi) are poised to invade Qatar from the United Arab Emirates. Middle East Monitor reported that these military preparations pre-date the recent sanctions and threats against the home base of media company Al Jazeera.

Also, I encountered a report on U.S. troops rotating home from northern Australia where Obama sent them to engage in war rehearsals with their counterparts in Oz. 


According to a report in Reuters:
During the six-month deployment, the U.S. troops participated in 12 joint exercises with the Australian Defence Force, giving them an opportunity to interact with a range of countries including China, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
The exercises are part of the "pivot to Asia" which U.S. troops in Niger could also be seen as participating in; both are about countering China's considerable influence in Africa and, of course, southeast Asia and the South Pacific.

All of this led me to reflect on the best essay I read this week, an examination by military historian Andrew Bacevich of "How We Learned Not To Care About America's Wars."

Bacevich presents what he sees as the salient factors in descending order of importance:

1) U.S. casualty rates are low
2) the actual costs of U.S. wars are never calculated
3) lip service about supporting the troops has supplanted actual engagement
4) the dangers of terrorism are "hyped and hyped and hyped some more"
5) talking head nonsense crowds out substantive discussion and debate
6) people in the U.S. educated classes keep themselves very, very busy
7) belief that the next Commander-in-Chief will save the day
8) the diverse "progressive" military is seen as immune to criticism

His final paragraph renders this scathing indictment (from a West Point graduate who lost a son to the war on Iraq):
A collective indifference to war has become an emblem of contemporary America.  
But don't expect your neighbors down the street or the editors of the New York Times to lose any sleep over that fact.  Even to notice it would require them -- and us -- to care.
Those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it, or so the old saying goes. I find our deliberately induced ignorance of current events is integral to our historic amnesia.

Here's an historical nugget of archival footage of a pro-America pro-Nazi rally held in 1939 in Madison Square Garden, NYC that you may wish you could unsee.

A Night at the Garden from Field of Vision on Vimeo.

Cue the chorus of "my grandfather fought fascists in WWII" clogging up the comment sections of articles on the rise of white supremacists again going proud and public in 2017. Never mind that it was mostly the Soviets who defeated Nazi Germany. Who remembers that?

Thursday, October 12, 2017

When A Picture And Caption Are Worth One Thousand Words

I am a word person but the explosion of visuals that digital media makes possible and social media makes visible has been one of the joys of my middle and now elder life.

The image above is one I created after sister peace activist Palma Ryan pointed out the opportunity for messaging created by Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit images growing old enough to enter the public domain.

Maine Veterans for Peace leader Richard Clement is creating buttons based on the design, and I expect to be receiving some in the mail soon. (Let me know if you'd like one by leaving a comment on this blog post.)

Art work by Russell Wray
As the annual Maine Peace Walk gets underway this week, I'm inspired by artist Russell Wray's eloquent banners and sculpture to express where we are and where he'd like us to be.

Banner posted by Mary Ann Grady Flores of protest at Hancock Air Base where she was arrested and sentenced to 6 months in jail for photographing protesters. Her appeal is being heard in Albany, NY this week.

How best to move people to realize we're bankrupting ourselves and killing forms of life all over the planet so a few very wealthy people can become even more wealthy?

Banner by Artists Rapid Response Team (ARRT!) of the Union of Maine Visual Artists

Anthony Freda is one of my favorite artists for the movement. His work ranges over many topics, but nobody does antiwar imaging better.

Here's one he created at my request that I use for the Natural Guard campaign:

Image: Anthony Freda
And a more recent image he created in response to the death wish expressed by the nominal leader of the USA:

As the leaves die brilliantly around me these days, I fear we may be in danger of witnessing the end of our ability to imagine and create images. I hope not.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Black Lives Matter And Trans Rights Are Human Rights Word Out To Augusta

Yesterday about two dozen people canvassed neighborhoods in Maine's capital city where KKK flyers were thrown onto lawns or stapled to telephone poles last January. Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) organized several rounds of deep listening in towns around Maine where KKK recruitment flyers were found, including Augusta. (Trigger warning: clicking on this link will take you to an article that includes a photo of the flyer.)

Some who received the KKK flyers felt they had been targeted because they are immigrants and or people of color. 

I teamed up with Jan to knock on doors using a prepared script to ask residents how they felt about the flyers, and if they would be willing to display a lawn sign (pictured above) or attend a community discussion to support the families who felt targeted.

A potentially scary activity but as good a way as I could imagine to spend my extra day off on Indigenous Peoples Day, formerly Genocidal Maniac Day.

The canvassing was well-organized and we had time to rehearse and put safety measures in place. Jan and I traveled with Lydia and Bridget who knocked on the doors across the street from us.

me, Jan, Bridget & Lydia

We were assigned a middle class neighborhood up the hill from where the flyers had been found. Everyone we talked to was white and said they had not seen or even heard about the flyers. Reactions to the news ranged from astonishment and "That's disgusting!" to disinterest. Two of the older people whose homes we visited just wanted to talk to someone and we listened to accounts of their daily struggles without making much headway with our script. That was ok with us.

We started with a resident I'll call Teflon man who was adamant that KKK flyers in his town were none of his concern. His accent suggested he was from NY originally, and he took us patiently through the common talking points of white privilege without ever uttering the phrase. For example, he argued that if police are killing Black people, might it be because the Black people are criminals, and cops get killed every day in the line of duty? He claimed he was not racist, but he had no interest in learning more about how to stand with targeted people in his community. He told us he didn't consider the KKK much of a force and that even if it were, it certainly wasn't his problem.

He also said Antifa was just as bad as facists because, well, they were fascists too. He was unable to explain why he believed this to be so, or to make a distinction between free speech and hate speech. I asked if he would be willing to share where he got information about current events and he responded, "From a wide variety of sources: newspapers, tv and radio." Jan and I thanked him for his time and moved on.

Two of our contacts were new in town and had moved there for work after the flyering incident last January. Both of the newcomers said they were concerned about the news and they signed up to receive more information. One was working at a restaurant and didn't appear to speak much English or to understand what we were saying; she took a flyer and said she would share it with the owner later.

One man who was too busy to talk took our information and said he hadn't heard about the KKK flyers but added, "I'm not surprised." I was disappointed that he didn't have time to explain more about that.

Another man took our information and said that, as a Jehovah's Witness, he often canvassed too. He also said that, although he was against racism personally, he and his faith group did not take a stand on political issues because it might alienate people.

Our final contact was a woman who expressed disgust and was very concerned. She was eager to display the lawn sign we offered (pictured above) and said when she saw it that she had a trans family member and really appreciated that part of the message.

When the larger group reconvened to debrief we heard that one pair had encountered a man with a swastika tattoo they noticed only after giving him info on the community meeting and SURJ. His response to their saying they were concerned about the KKK flyers was a vaguely threatening, "You should be." This led some in our group to note the need to organize security for the community meeting.

Most interesting in the debrief was news that some elderly contacts had an historical awareness of the KKK in the area during the early 20th century.

One woman told the canvassers she knew where their old headquarters was nearby. The KKK's history in Maine is well-documented and at one time they had membership in the tens of thousands. They targeted immigrants, Catholics, Jews and people of color.

Image: Maine Memory Network with caption, This is an Associated Press photo with accompanying text that reads in part, "Deputy Carl Churchill displays a Ku Klux Klan cape and hood he cut down from its perch 20 feet up a power pole." 

Another woman told the SURJ volunteers that her grandfather had been a KKK leader, organizing secretive harrassment by night and then serving as a respectable government official by day. She said that it was difficult to talk about racism with her family and they had strained relations as a result.

SURJ is a group for white people who want to do the work with other white people to address systemic racism and white supremacy. There are currently three chapters in Maine and I suspect Augusta will soon be getting its own chapter. Yesterday's canvas was one in a series of visits to towns targeted by the KKK including Boothbay, Freeport, and Appleton.

I wish I had more capacity to organize a chapter for Skowhegan, which has the last racist high school mascot in Maine and which also saw KKK flyers appear last year. Ditto my own school district where the Civil Rights Team organized a response when flyers turned up in classrooms there and administrators buried the news.

For now, I'll continue to work on anti-racist education and help out when I can. Sharing this video, for example. Depending on how you feel about organized religion, you may be surprised by the ending. For myself, it was good to see what I consider real Christian ethics in action. You know, like Love one another.

For subscribers who read this blog post via email, you can see the video here:

Saturday, October 7, 2017

USA Wedded To War Is Message Of Activists Arrested Protesting Violence Near Las Vegas

Drones fly, children die and Stop killing for empire seen at Creech Air Base near Las Vegas where flying killer robots known as drones are used to terrorize civilians thousands of miles away. This is a screenshot from a video of peace activist Toby Blome being arrested for blocking access to the base.
It is sadly ironic that bullets raining down on hundreds of concertgoers in Las Vegas happened just miles away from the U.S. military base flying drones to rain down bombs on wedding guests.

This has been going on for years, and so have blockades and other forms of protest at the gates of Creech Air Base. People in the U.S. were terrorized by the events at Mandalay Bay last week, but they mostly turn a blind eye to the terror their government unleashes in their name and at their expense. That terror, for most in the U.S., is invisible.

But it's not invisible to everyone here in the heart of the violent empire. Here's an eyewitness report of the protest at Creech and a link to a Facebook video of the arrests recorded by peace activist Ann Wright:

Two arrested Friday at Creech Drone Base north of Las Vegas in mock wedding and blockade

CREECH AIR BASE, INDIAN SPRINGS, NEVADA -  On the sixteenth anniversary of the war on Afghanistan, two citizens were arrested for challenging the use by the United States of assassin drones, which were first used in Afghanistan in 2001.

The two arrestees were part of a larger group of activists  blocking the main gate to Creech Drone Base. Arrested were long time peace and justice activists Toby Blome of California and JoAnn Lingle of Indiana.  Other activists hailed from California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii, and Pakistan. All participated in the enactment of a mock wedding attacked by a killer drone.  U.S. assassin drones have routinely attacked wedding parties in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen. 

Prior to her arrest Toby Blome said, “The killing has to stop.  We are bombing and assassinating people in the poorest countries in the world.”

JoAnn Lingle said, “Being arrested is non-violent resistance to U.S. endless wars.”

As the sound of drones operated by military student pilots at Creech Drone Base was seen and heard overhead, the bride and groom exchanged vows to work for peace and justice.  A sign reading “U.S.A. Wedded to War” was held over the wedding party. 

This is a part of the ten-year campaign at Creech Drone Base, 40 miles north of Las Vegas, to stop the extrajudicial killing of civilians.

Over 100 arrests of peace activists have been made at Creech over these years.

The events at Creech Drone Base are a part of the global mobilization to raise international concern about endless war in violation of the U.S. constitution and international law.  We invite the public the join with activists in local Global Days of Action found at and at Creech AFB home of the Predator and Reaper killer drones.

Actions at Creech will continue through Wednesday, October 11 with morning and afternoon vigils.

For more information contact: Eleanor Levine at 510-290-7071

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

On Indigenous Peoples Day (Formerly Genocidal Maniac Day) Let's Remember: Colonialism Is Ultimately Unsustainable

In advance of Indigenous Peoples Day (formerly known as Genocidal Maniac Day, observed in New England this year on Monday, October 9) I am reposting a cartoon from my inbox.

Hat tip to Judy Robbins for sharing this succinct and truthful cartoon about the stages of colonialism. It was created bZig Zag /  Nov 3, 2014 (and also shared via and Transcend Media Service).

I'll be celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day this year by canvassing against the KKK in locations where their flyers have been distributed recently in central Maine. This is one way I can use my white privilege, and I'm a little scared but also looking forward to it.

Going door to door in the whitest state in the nation -- one roiling with indignation over football players protesting racial injustice at the hands of police -- is likely to be an unforgettable experience.

I'll be writing here about what I learn from this experience.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

If The Shooter Is White It's Not Terrorism, And If The Victims Are Native Children...

One of the few things we can be thankful for about the Mandalay Bay massacre is that few if any children were slaughtered (unliked the Wounded Knee massacre). As the Las Vegas attack took place on outdoor concertgoers at 11pm, the innocent victims were mostly -- if not all -- adults.

But how innocent are any of us adults in this nation of violence we have built?

We built it on the bloodied soil we took violently from Native people living there when white people arrived.

We built it on the bloodied soil of enslaved Africans forced to labor or die.

We built it on the bloodied soil of every country we've bombed, invaded or occupied since and right up to the present day.

We keep building it on the stolen childhood of boys and girls glued to screens where they pretend to murder people to "win" their games.

My unpopular view: if you're not actively part of the solution, you're part of the problem of violence breeding violence.

Those who can't bring themselves to oppose the U.S. wars on brown people around the planet (because "terrorism" right?) could work for gun control here on the homefront.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Only Warships Can Find Their Way Across #BigWater #OceanWater

Photo: PPH
The U.S. Navy Secretary was palling it up at General Dynamics' Bath Iron Works shipyard yesterday, accompanied by Maine's neoliberal Representative Chellie Pingree, Maine's "Independent" Senator Angus King, and our two Republican Congress critters Senator Susan Collins and Rep. Bruce "Where's Bruce?" Poliquin.

Protesters outside the gates offered their solution to the problems caused by endless preparations for endless wars: conversion to building things that people actually need.

General Dynamics builds weapons of mass destruction that sail across the big water ocean to menace the shores of China, Iran, Russia and other far away lands.

It also makes big campaign contributions to elected officials. Navy Secretary Spencer was reassuring about future warship buildig contracts flowing to General Dynamics dba BIW.

There is always money for war and weapons but not, apparently, to save U.S. territory Puerto Rico from slow death following two massive hurricanes in a row. 

The demagogue with bad hair offered a feeble excuse for not delivering aid to the nearby U.S.-controlled territory where he once made millions on a golf course deal that went bad:  "This is an island surrounded by water. Big water. Ocean water."

Here's a list of only U.S. aircraft carrier (i.e., not other warships) deployments in the big ocean water around the planet:

The U.S. Navy has in fact had a hard time steering its many warships lately, with four major collisions since the demagogue took the helm of the ship of state. Senior commanders have been relieved of duty following negligence that resulted in the death of several sailors in the big water near Singapore. And, over 1,000 gallons of oil were spilled into Tokyo Bay in one of the crashes.

To recap Puerto Rico's geographical location and likelihood of being reached quickly by U.S. ships with competent commanders, it's right here:

Native son Miguel A. Cruz-Díaz writing in Counterpunch about the demagogue's inaction said his
message to Puerto Rico was clear: pay up and drop dead. The island is expected to pay its imaginary debt for the dubious “privilege” of being an imperial colony in the way it’s always done so: in blood. Wall Street’s interests have priority over securing the very survival of nearly four million people. God forbid that millionaire Wall Street bondholders suffer the horror of payment forfeiture over a minor inconvenience like Hurricane María, only the worst storm in eighty years!
Cruz-Díaz predicted that the disgust of diaspora Puerto Ricans like himself may lead to something positive: a rejection of the U.S. empire, which feeds only those who are already fat.

BIW shipyard workers told interviewers that they voted for the demagogue with bad hair because he was pro-military and would keep the contracts flowing. Next year's proposed Pentagon budget has reached a whopping $700 billion, so their short term thinking appears to be correct.

Long term thinking is not a strong suit of those raised on infotainment, video shooting games and celebrity gossip.

Empires have always depended on the passivity and compliance of their masses of well-fed citizens. Imperial hubris leads those at the top of the heap to believe their precarious ascendance is ordained and eternal. 

Specifically, hubris leads today's imperial masters to believe they can go on belching carbon and fueling climate catastrophes that mostly poor people of color will suffer from. The wealthy believe the most likely outcome for them will be additional opportunities to profit from the suffering.

History tends to suggest that pride goeth before a fall.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Symbolic Acts Defy Racist Police, POTUS #TakeAKnee #TaketheKnee

As a small child I sat on my dad's knee and watched pro football. We were in Bangor, Maine so my dad, a former college football star, was rooting for the N.Y. Giants as the nearest pro team.

Football players and other professional athletes have since become major celebrities with powerful voices. Black Lives Matter has particular relevance because, for many black men and women, professional sports have been a pathway out of poverty when other paths were denied to keep white privilege intact.

This week a judge acquitted (white) former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley of murder; he charged out of his vehicle illegally armed with an AK-47 assualt rifle, shouting "I'll kill this motherfucker" following a high speed chase. Anthony Smith was shot to death while seated in his car like many other victims of police violence. Black Lives Matter protesters are in the streets and being faced with the usual militarized police response.

Confronting police in St. Louis following Stockley verdict. Photo:
A video making the rounds shows St. Louis police in riot gear trampling and then arresting an older (white) woman who is part of the protests, simply for standing in their way as they advance on the crowd.

Colin Kaepernick is the S.F. 49ers quarterback who caused a sensation last year by taking a knee during the national anthem before a game against San Diego.

He was using his choice not to stand for an anthem to the racist police state that kills black and brown people with impunity. His action has since been inspiring to other athletes in other sports, and to entertainers like music legend Stevie Wonder who took to his knee at the Global Citizen Festival in NYC last night.

Image: Newsday  "Global festival rocks Central Park to end poverty"

Enter the demagogue with bad hair.

In a speech to Republicans in Alabama this week, he veered off script to say: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’”

One can't help but suspect that the temptation to use the catchphrase from his popular reality show overcame whatever weak filters exist between his brain and his mouth (or tweeting thumbs).

Referring to protesting players as "that son of a bitch" has had the effect of throwing several gallons of gasoline on the blaze. Hashtags relating to Kaepernick et al.'s symbolic gesture have been trending on Twitter ever since. (I have not been able to discover the difference between the original #TakeAKnee and the more recent #TaketheKnee, with many on twitter using both.)

Today's NFL games will be boycotted by many, according to self-reports on social media. Others will flock to their televisions to see just how many players take a knee.

Fans of baseball and basketball will be watching for players to take a knee as well. An Oakland A's catcher took the lead:

Meanwhile, a related controversy is brewing over the demagogue's disinvitation of the championship basketball team Golden State Warriors (also based in the San Francisco Bay area) to visit the White House. From Bryan Armen Graham reporting in The Guardian:

On Friday, point guard Steph Curry, the NBA champions’ star player, told reporters he planned to vote no when the players came together to decide whether to visit Trump. The Warriors could “inspire some change” and “send a statement” by snubbing the president, Curry said. 
On Saturday morning, Trump tweeted: “Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team, Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!”

It was a long distance from conservative and very white Maine where my dad first explained white privilege to me ("Being white doesn't make you better than anyone else. But, because of racism, it does make you luckier.") to the diverse and relatively progressive SF Bay area where we moved when I was in middle school.

If my dad were alive today, he might be rooting for the New England Patriots. Then again, maybe not. The Pats are a notoriously racist team and one of many whose wealthy owners contributed to the demagogue with bad hair's campaign. (Big surprise: that group also includes the team with the racist name and mascot, the Washington "Redskins.") Dad moved back to Maine in retirement but he might have stayed a fan of his adopted SF 49ers, and taken a knee with Kaepernick.

Did I mention that Kaepernick is unemployed at the moment despite being one of the highest performing quarterbacks in NFL history? He's a free agent that no team, even ones that deperately need a strong quarterback, will pick up. I guess that's what my dad meant about white people being, not better, just more "lucky."

Friday, September 22, 2017

Everybody Is Equal And Whites Are Supreme Philosophy May Have Originated In #Nambia

Extreme weather, extreme suffering and extreme ignorance are the order of the day. Two deadly hurricanes in a row have Puerto Rico waist deep in water and without power (electrical or economic). Two big earthquakes in a row have Mexicans digging schoolkids out of rubble with bucket brigades. 

But, hey, the mythical country of Zambia is doing great according to the demagogue with bad hair.

It can be hard to write satire when the Commander in Chief of the world's imperial armies makes up country names. Not in drunken tweets. At the United fucking Nations.

It was with these thoughts on my brain that I encountered debate over an upcoming alleged "Rally to Denounce Political Violence" being organized by white supremacist types in Maine's capitol city on September 30. The facebook event page speaker list includes John Rasmussen - Selectman, Organizer of The 1st Boston Free Speech Rally.

One of the comments on the event page (possibly since removed):  "I don't agree with white supremacy but everybody is equal and hopefully they can show that not all white supremacist groups are violent."

A creepy "manarchist" type I know from the Occupy Augusta days created the event -- which will likely draw a large counterprotest. Anti-racist organizers had already been calling on people to go door to door on October 9 to discuss KKK recruitment flyers distributed to homes in Augusta earlier this year.
Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Meanwhile, militarized police are beating the protesters in St. Louis in the streets over yet another acquittal of a white police officer paid by the public to serve and protect while killing black men, women and children with impunity. Oh yeah, while chanting "Whose streets? Our streets!" That is the police chanting, not the protesters.

According to Jamiles Larty's report in The Guardian: "Mike Faulk, a reporter for the St Louis Post-Dispatch, told colleagues he was 'pepper-sprayed in the face while an officer’s foot held my head to ground.'"

The false narrative of "two sides to everything" is playing out in the corporate press coverage of white supremacist rallies all over the nation. The false narrative of the (white supremacist) Vietnam War is playing out on corporate PBS and being discussed all over the nation. It drew this response from Veterans for Peace co-founder and poet Doug Rawlings:

So what did I expect anyways from an exercise in documentation that calls itself “a story”? A series of stories, actually, that loop back on to themselves, making the viewer question which one is true and which one isn’t. Or are they both true at the same time? This kind of a narrative is a slippery slope that is greased by moral ambiguity, leaving the audience crumpled down at the bottom of the hill in a bit of a daze. Maybe that’s it. Maybe we should just give up and accept the filmmakers’ imagistic metaphor of a red plague creeping down Indochina that we brave band of lads were sent to dam up. But I can’t. And I won’t.

The false narrative of  "hey, it's just a job" on building weapons of mass destruction at General Dynamics' Bath Iron Works shipyard has been playing out in my inbox as I exchange views with a documentary photographer in the area. During our debate the Senate passed the largest Pentagon budget ever, a whopping $700 billion. And upheld the now 16 year old blank check for war, the Authorization for the Use of Military Force. Because both of the corporate parties love to see their "defense" contractor campaign contributors raking in the cash.

Weep for us; we will all be under water soon at the rate we are going.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Palestinian Children Will Share Their Visions Of Peace With Congress On Sep. 19

To save homes, Palestinian children share visions of peace with Congress 
September 19th International Peace Day Senate Briefing
10:30am in the Capitol Bld. SVC 212-10, and House Reception

Sept. 15, 2017,  Washington, DC — Palestinian children from West Bank villages and from Gaza will share their vision of peace with Congress, to commemorate International Peace Day. Joining the children will be human rights defenders including Rabbi Arik Ascherman from the Israeli human rights group, Torat Tzedek. On behalf of their villages of Susiya, Al Aqaba, and Gaza City, the children are asking Americans to urge their Senators and Representatives, as friends of Israel, to press the Government of Israel to stop the demolitions of Palestinian communities, recognize Palestinian planning rights, assure due process, and turn on the lights in Gaza.
  •       Please join them on Tuesday, September 19th at 10:30-11:30am for a pubic briefing in the Capitol Building SVC 212-10 (Senate side).
  •       Following the briefing, all are invited to the Rayburn House Office Building, Rayburn Foyer from 1:00-5:00pm for the U.S. premiere of the art exhibition, We All Live in Gaza: Art Under Siege. The reception will begin at 1:30pm with a presentation by curator Maurice Jacobsen and a few words from the children. Light refreshments will be served.
June 2, 2004, Palestinians look on as Israeli authorities demolish a house in the West Bank village of Anata near Jerusalem. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty, File)
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman recently stated that he intends to 'wipe Susya and Khan Al Akhmar off the map.’ So I come to Washington to plead for the lives of these Palestinian villages," said Rabbi Arik Ascherman, founder of Torat Tzedek, an Israeli human rights organization. “This year, International Peace Day coincides with Rosh HaShana. Jewish tradition teaches that God decides the fate of every human soul for the coming year on this day and ‘Who shall live and who shall die’ also applies to villages. I urge the U.S. administration to safeguard the furture of Palestinian communities such as Susiya.”
These Palestinian children are among thousands of children in the U.S. and around the world who are making Pinwheels for Peace, writing what peace means to them and drawing what peace looks like, then forming a pinwheel that turns in the wind.  This is the third year Rebuilding Alliance, an American non-profit dedicated to rebuilding war-torn communities and bringing the world together to keep them safe, is holding the #ICareAboutPeace Congressional Briefing.
I want Congress to keep my village safe and standing,” said Aysar, age 15, from Susiya, “Because a brave Senator took action, Susiya’s demolition orders were put on hold.”
As soon as October 1st,  Israel’s Minister of Defense, Avigdor Lieberman, will state the Government of Israel’s position to Israel’s High Court as the justices consider the Palestinian Village of Susiya’s petition to overturn the denial of their master plan. Despite the villagers’ undisputed title to their land, the Israeli High Court will then decide Susiya’s fate, either recognizing their right to plan and build on the land they own or ordering demolition of their homes.  Senator Feinstein’s letters to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu have been instrumental in keeping Susiya standing so far.
About the Delegation:
Aysar (15) has lived his whole life in Susiya. Since he was little, he always accompanied his uncle Nasser Nawaja, who works with the Israeli Human Rights group, B’Tselem, to help film the incidents with the Israeli army and the settlers in the South Hebron Hills. Despite Aysar's young age, he has a deep insight into the local situation, and he is also a huge help for both his parents. He gets up at five o'clock in the morning to feed all the animals, herd the sheep, and help his father with his daily chores, since he is undergoing cancer treatment. Due to Susiya being surrounded by both settlements and a military camp, when the children walk to school they are under constant risk of harassment by the Israeli army and settlers. Aysar always stands up for the other children and does his best to protect and comfort them on the daily 1.5 mile walk to school.
Palestinian school children at a checkpoint with Israeli soldiers
Tia (12) is a 12-year-old student from Gaza City. She is currently in the seventh grade at the American International School in Gaza, where she is getting straight A’s. Tia likes horseback riding, basketball, and swimming. All families in Gaza are experiencing massive rolling blackouts for up to 22 hours per day in an extreme energy crisis that has grown progressively worse over the past 10 years.
Shadi (10) is in the fourth grade and plays violin as part of the Collective Song Music Program in Al Aqaba under the direction of teachers from the Edward Said National Music Conservatory. Shadi and his family live in one of the first “Rebuilding to Remain” homes, designed with the returning villagers and crowd-funded by Rebuilding Alliance under building permits issued by the Al Aqaba Village Council.  Al Aqaba is the first Palestinian village in Area C to issue its own building permits. Though the Israeli Army issued demolition orders in 2004 against Al Aqaba’s kindergarten, the medical clinic, and most homes in Al Aqaba and a stop-work order on their water system, the Israeli High Court ruled that ‘for the time being, the center of the village will remain standing’ and because of that the new homes are standing, free of demolition orders.
August 11, 2017 post on Arik Ascherman's Facebook page: "The Yoav Unit informed the Abu Sneineh family in Tel Sheva that on Sunday or Monday they are going to demolish their tent housing 13 souls for the 9th time since 2014. If you can stand with them, call me after Shabbat..."
Rabbi Arik Ascherman is the founder of Torat Tzedek, a new Isaraeli human rights organization founded to (1) strive for a society that honors God's Image in every human being, and for the human rights that this necessitates; and (2) educate our society that honoring God's image in every human being, protecting human rights and taking concrete action to further these goals is a human and religious obligation in general, and in particular a Jewish religious obligation. Rabbi Ascherman is internationally recognized as leading advocate for human rights and social justice. He served as co-director of Rabbis For Human Rights, executive director from 1998-2010, and co-founder of Haqel and has received numerous awards and recognition for his human rights work.
Donna Baranski-Walker is Founder & Executive Director of Rebuilding Alliance , and an MIT engineer with an M.S. from the U. of Hawaii. Rebuilding Alliance and Donna have been awarded Special Congressional Recognition by Rep. Barbara Lee and Rep. Anna Eshoo. In April 2016, Donna was awarded Rotary District 5150’s Service Award, and will soon be receiving the Rachel Corrie Conscience And Courage Award, from American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee of Orange County. In 2010, on the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Polish Solidarity movement, Donna was awarded the Medal of Gratitude. She began her work in the Middle East in 1990 with a New York Times oped, “Small Lights in the Darkness ,” which was translated into Arabic and presented to the Iraqi Women’s Federation just before the First Gulf War began.
For more information:
Contact: Tamsin Avra
Phone: (650) 651-7165