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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in world traveller's LiveJournal:

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Wednesday, June 13th, 2007
12:42 am
in portland, oregon -- immigration raids, equality and humanity
it is at times like these when i just feel so angry.....
seething seems like the right word for how i feel.

when immigrations officials in all their white trucks can just sweep into town and sweep up......

sweep up families, mothers and fathers and sons, breaking them apart again, turning their lives upside down...

and for what?

so that bush can say he's being 'tough on illegal immigrants', by putting them in prison and deporting them back to what used to be home.....

but what used to be home is now subdivided and sold, and the land they once farmed is now turned into factories, or owned by the ones that own everything now, and put fences up to keep out the people who lived there before.

and in risking everything by crossing that deadly border, in order to send money back home, they have risked this possibility too......

that immigrations and customs enforcement would carry out the largest raid in recent oregon history, as they did today, and pull people out of their place of employment, in this case the del monte fruit company, pack them into buses and send them back down south.......

and the white people sit back and say, yes, well, but they _are_ undocumented, after all......

and that smugness is what makes me so angry -- how dare they sit back in their privilege and judge these southern brothers and sisters? how dare they? i seethe in my anger -- these european-americans whose grandparents or great grandparents arrived in this country just as 'undocumented' as these mexicans, salvadoreans and guatemalans of today. yet they would deign to judge their brethren, consider them 'illegal' just for being here -- how dare they?

what gives anyone the right to think that they are better than anyone else, for any reason, at any time? it's so wrong! yet, this is what makes this country tick -- this smug privilege, where people who were born into privilege refuse to see it as anything but an invisible birthright that just somehow 'is', and then judge the desperate actions of those who weren't born into such lucky circumstances. argh! I could just burst with this seething ...... seeing bush or anyone of his cadre just makes me boil -- that overprivileged caste from which they all come, blinding them to the reality of the millions -nay, billions - that they are stepping on to keep that privilege afloat.

i picture an image from the film qoyanisqaatsi, in which a group of copper miners in south america are carrying bag after bag of muddy, dripping copper up single-file muddy paths from the mines, carrying the bags on their heads, sweat mixing with mud and rain and copper until it is just a wash of brown.... and in the midst of it -- if you aren't watching closely, it is easy to miss, because the workers don't miss a beat -- there is a human body being carried up, above the heads of two workers, looking almost like just another bag of copper...a fellow worker, no doubt, who died or collapsed in the mines.....

how dare we give so little value to that man's life, or to the lives of any of those hardworking men, carrying loads like that day after day for years, so that we can have our copper faucets, copper pipes, copper pennies -- and that's just one tiny component of all the raw materials that make up this industrial society......

i know, if you read my journal, you've heard this before, but unless this society can realize the full connection to the sources of all of the things that we use in our lives, we are bound to be engaging in exploitation -- from the mining of the raw materials, to the manufacturing of the goods, to the shipping, buying, selling -- there is exploitation at every step of the process.

and all of those people being stepped on at every stage, they are all people, who deserve the same rights as every single one of us.

and it's not just the 200 women and men that got yanked out of portland, in front of all our eyes, on this day.......
the kids are still being killed there in palestine.....in iraq....afghanistan, in the congo, in sierra leone, in kashmir.....
and those kids are every one of them just as adorable and deserving of life as my own two sweet nieces.....
so how can so many americans just look down and see them as different and somehow less equal

it makes me so mad.

and then, when i called the reporter from the local newspaper who, just a few weeks ago, did an expose of this delmonte plant that was raided today .... this reporter who applied for a job there and worked side by side with these workers (not telling the bosses, of course, that she was a reporter)......who wrote up her scathing indictment of the factory's conditions along with stories of the people who worked there next to her but were afraid to speak out because they were without work documents.....

well, despite her bleary ramblings about her 'fellow workers' in the article she wrote, seemed entirely unconcerned when i reached her at her high-and-mighty reporter's desk after the raid. defensive and curt, there was no emotional connection to the workers she had written so highly about....no worry in her voice about how dear maria's five kids would be able to cope without their mom tonight, and every single night to come, or how jose's sick brother-in-law would pay his bills now that poor jose had been scooped up into immigration jail.....
no, this reporter who wrote with such feeling three weeks ago was now off on another tip, obviously considering herself and her work much more important than those workers she so gladly exploited for a scoop just a few weeks ago.

....and people wonder why i can't stand the corporate media.....

that kind of arrogant blundering -- without even an awareness or the tiniest bit of concern that the people she had worked next to were now shivering in cold concrete cells with no hope to be reunited with their families ever again in their lifetimes....

that's what really, really makes me seethe
at times like these.
Saturday, June 10th, 2006
7:14 pm
bloodbath in gaza
6 june 2006

the scenes we are watching on palestine tv right now are horrific......a pile of bodies on the sandy beach in gaza, emergency crews stumbling, tripping over the sand, running out of stretchers, running toward ambulances holding the bodies of children, a small girl screaming "daddy, daddy daddy" and falling over the body of her dead father, weeping uncontrollably as the palestinian emergency crews rush past her to bring the injured to the hospital.

it is as horrific as any palestinian suicide bomb in israel -- 11 killed, 40 injured -- babies missing limbs, body parts falling off of stretchers....but will this bombing, a missile shot from an israeli naval vessel at a crowded beach full of vacationing palestinians, be put on the front page of the washington post? or reported on CNN? will this child who lost her father be interviewed by sympathetic news teams who will broadcast her story to the world? or will this broadcast on palestine tv be the only news coverage that this event will get?

today's attack reminds me of a similar one in 2002 - when a crowded apartment building in gaza was hit by an israeli missile, and two dozen family members, asleep in their beds, were blown to pieces....and is it a strange coincidence that the most brutal attacks happen just when delicate coalitions and agreements for peaceful solutions are being made? in the 2002 attack, the missile strike came just hours after all the palestinian factions had made an agreement (after months of fragile talks) to stop suicide attacks against israel. the israeli attack later that night, followed the next morning by an announcement from the US that they were increasing aid money to israel, so infuriated the palestinian factions that they called off the agreement.

and now, this blatant massacre of civilians in gaza - coming just as palestinians were on the brink of a major breakthrough regarding a document of national unity that would implicitly recognize israel -- now that chance has been shot down again by israeli violence. hamas had been going the diplomatic route, adhering since last february to a ceasefire (despite the israeli side violating the ceasefire hundreds of times since the agreement), engaging in democratic elections and peaceful methods of diplomacy. but now, faced with just the latest in a series of atrocities, the armed wing of hamas says they will no longer adhere to the cease-fire, and will resume attacks against israel.

americans are not getting the real picture of what is happening here. in the US, this conflict is portrayed as an embattled jewish nation, traumatized by the holocaust and struggling to survive, up against a sea of arabs who hate them only because they are jewish, and irrational attackers who blow themselves up in the name of allah.

but what do americans know of the palestinian people? do they know how the palestinians were pushed from their homes in 1948 to become landless refugees in crowded camps and in diaspora around the world, just so the state of israel could be created on their land? do they know that jewish refugees and survivors of the holocaust were turned away from the US and britain after world war II, because of anti-semitism in those states, and many ended up coming to the new 'jewish state' unwillingly, or unwittingly, lured by promises from leaders in the political movement known as zionism? or how the palestinians were massacred, their land stolen, their homes taken over by zionists? do americans know the history of the state of israel, pre-emptively attacking its neighbors time and again, and pushing the palestinians into smaller and smaller areas of land -- much like the 'reservation' system created for native americans in the USA? how the israeli government developed a nuclear program in secret, exposed only by the actions of one brave israeli scientist (mordechai vanunu) in the name of peace -- who was subsequently imprisoned for 27 years and still remains under house arrest - israel now has over 30 nuclear weapons, and no one in the international community has said a word. what about how the israeli military has occupied the palestinian people's land, all of it, for the last 40 years, dividing the people into checkpoint-divided enclaves, shooting at children and dropping missiles into crowded neighborhoods on a daily basis, all the while seizing more and more land for their state?

and today....a child has lost her entire family. in a single moment, her whole life has been turned into a nightmare. others have lost children, brothers, wives, mothers....throughout palestine, people are watching and crying. three days mourning has been declared throughout palestine, including a general strike. while the world's media may be trying to stoke fires of division among these beleagured people, i wish you could see the steadfastness of shop-owners, schools and businesses that will remain closed for three days - not because someone is forcing them not to open, but in mourning for the palestinians who were just killed.

and meanwhile, the israeli military trivializes the attack -- likening it to a 'work accident' and downplaying the credibility of witness accounts. these soldiers who shot the missile will never face justice. israeli soldiers never do. they can kill at will. even when the families of those killed go to great expense to bring the case to trial, in a justice system where they are 'non-persons', there is never any justice served. even in the most publicized case - the case of iman al-hams, a 13-year old girl shot down in cold blood in gaza last year, with transcripts of the sniper who killed her and the sergeant saying 'it's a small girl...shoot her....anything that moves in this area, even if its a three year old, should be shot' - even in that case, where the evidence was overwhelming that a child was being shot in cold blood, the sergeant was promoted, not punished. when israelis build settlements on palestinian land, believe me the palestinians who live there try every means to stop them -- they take it to court...but no palestinian challenge to an israeli settlement has ever won in the israeli high court....or they hold protests, marching and holding signs and banners, which the people in bil'in village and other villages have done every week for the last 16 months, despite being attacked at every protest by israeli soldiers who are brutal in putting down the peaceful demonstrations.

most palestinians are incredibly patient. as my pal seth porcello, a canadian volunteering here in palestine, wrote last week:
"According to many of the people I have talked to here, Bil'in has
become a kind of symbol for non-violent resistance in Palestine.
Their persistence and endurance in continually confronting the wall
that separates them from their land remains unshaken even while under
the most intense repression. However, while Bil'in remains a symbol
of the non-violent resistance in Palestine, it is continually in
danger of becoming a symbol for something else: the failure and
hopelessness of non-violent resistance under the longest and possibly
most brutal occupation in the world. Wagi (wa-gee), a longtime
Bil'in resident who I met at the Outpost spoke to me about this
problem. Wagi has a disabled son, who was shot with a "dum dum" bullet
by an Israeli soldier while at a protest against the wall. The
bullet shattered his spine. Another of his sons was shot in the
shoulder while sitting down during a raid of Wagi's house, and a
third is in prison for three months after attending a non-violent
protest against the wall in Bil'in. While he continues to be
committed to non-violent resistance, he spoke to me about his worry
that the youth, including his sons, would abandon non-violent
resistance as the consequences are often just as dire as those of
picking up a gun. This seems to also be true for internationals,
considering last weeks demonstration nearly claimed the life of Phil
Reese from Australia. As Wagi put it - if people are not allowed to
demonstrate peacefully, then what other option do they have but to
become violent (paraphrasing)? It is a difficult question to answer,
and one that remains a matter of personal choice two generations, and
two intifadas, into this occupation. Wagi was arrested one week
after our conversation at the friday demonstration against the wall
and is now in prison. The shelter we took at the outpost to have our
conversation is now burned to the ground. And the next demonstration
is on friday. For more information on the history of the Outpost,
you can find an audio report here:

when palestinians know that no one is hearing their mourning cries, no one is feeling their pain, no one is standing up to the power of israel to kill them at will and take their land piece by piece and imprison them into ghettoes -- how can anyone wonder why some young person would get desperate and go try to kill some israelis? of course it's not justified, there is never a justification for killing civilians, but, living without hope, occupied for generations, your children, brothers, sisters killed without any recourse, without any justice, with only silence from the world at large -- can't you understand why someone would?

and the israelis know it, too -- that's why they often arrest the family members of those who are shot in cold blood by their army, or at the very least put them on 'security lists'. my fiance saed, shot during a peaceful demonstration in 1991 and paralyzed, is one such example -- his family has been penalized for his having been shot by the israeli army. what have they done wrong? absolutely nothing. but israeli authorities feel that those whose family members were shot in cold blood may be likely to commit 'thought crimes' against the israeli government - thinking bad thoughts about the israeli soldiers that shot their loved one, for instance. and these 'thought crimes' (see george orwell's book _1984_) would be a threat to the israeli goal of complete control and submission of the palestinian population. saed's mother, a devout christian, for instance, was denied permission to go to jerusalem to pray in the church of the holy sepulchre during christmas and easter (an age old tradition among palestinian christians, dating back to the first days after christ's death) -- why? 'security reasons'. no other explanation, no way to know. but it probably has to do with the fact that her son was shot, in cold blood, and paralyzed, 15 years ago, by their soldiers -- they worry that she might take revenge. this sweet old lady, who would never harm a fly, let alone another human being, is being penalized because her son was a victim of the israeli occupation!!! isn't there something wrong with this equation?

the booming blast of artillery shells every 15 seconds, relentless, non-stop shelling for months would drive most normal people insane. imagine - no place to escape the loud booms - any one of them could hit your home, kill your family, at any moment. palestinians live in constant terror. as former US attorney-general ramsey clark said, "the palestinian people are, along with the iraqi people, the most terrorized people on earth". and when they fight back against the occupying power -- a legitimate right under international conventions -- THEY are called the terrorists.

what is a terrorist anyway? it used to be that anyone who targeted civilian populations was a terrorist. but it seems that someone who targets palestinian civilians (ie. the israeli military) is not ..... someone who targets iraqi civilians (the us and british occupying armies) are not (and if you doubt that they are targeting civilians, check this british piece about a massacre carried out in cold blood by US marines -- for which the marines have been let off, with the US government saying they did nothing wrong:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,,1784705,00.html ).
or how about afghani civilians? do those who kill afghanis (the US military) count as terrorists? no, it seems the definition of terrorism has changed. it is only those who kill OUR civilians, who threaten OUR 'strategic national interest' (ie. our hold on natural resources that may be in someone else's country, but are needed for americans to maintain the 'american way of life') who are 'terrorists' in the US government's view.

take for example the trans-caucasus oil pipeline - just finished -- to get oil from azerbaijan out through turkey and onward to the USA (much safer - in the US government's eyes - than the original plan, which was to route this oil out through afghanistan). this article expains how the US-trained special forces protecting this pipeline as it runs through former-soviet georgia are most concerned about 'terrorism' -- by which they do NOT mean attacks on civilians. by 'terrorism', they are specifically referring to any attempt to destroy or hinder the constant flow of oil through this pipeline into americans' gas tanks:

oh, while i'm on the topic of afghanistan, i just wanted to point out that the war in afghanistan is far from over. death tolls are as high as they've ever been, US and british troops are perceived not as liberators but as occupiers, who have been there for nearly five years -- resentment of the foreign occupation is high, and reached a breaking point a week ago when riots broke out in kabul after a US military vehicle did a hit-and-run on a civilian in the city:
and kabul is supposed to be the 'green zone'! the only place in afghanistan where US and british troops have any semblance of control - the rest of afghanistan has returned to the local mafias and the taliban has steadily come back to power in most areas.

and if you have any doubt that the reason for attacking afghanistan was oil, check out this statement from US representative ron paul from texas in 2002:
"The real reason for our presence in the Persian Gulf, as well as our eagerness to assist in building a new Afghan government under U.N. authority, should be apparent to us all. Stuart Eizenstat, Under Secretary of Economics, Business and Agricultural Affairs for the previous administration, succinctly stated U.S. policy for Afghanistan testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Trade Committee October 13, 1997. He said, 'One of five main foreign policy interests in the Caspian region is to continue support for U.S. companies and the least progress has been made in Afghanistan , where gas and oil pipeline proposals designed to carry Central Asian energy to world markets have been delayed indefinitely pending establishment of a broad-based, multiethnic government.' This was a rather blunt acknowledgment of our intentions. It is apparent that our policy has not changed with this administration. Our new Special Envoy to Afghanistan , Zalmay Khalilzad, was at one time a lobbyist for the Taliban and worked for Unocal , the American oil company seeking rights to build oil and gas pipelines through northern Afghanistan . During his stint as a lobbyist, he urged approval of the Taliban and defended them in the U.S. press. He now, of course, sings a different tune with respect to the Taliban, but I am sure his views on the pipeline by U.S. companies has not changed."
(source: congressional record 2002 - http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/F?r107:2:./temp/~r107Zo8Kbi:e7034:)

and of course there is the well-known statement from Unocal oil company before congress in 1998:
"From the outset, we have made it clear that construction of the pipeline we have proposed across Afghanistan could not begin until a recognized government is in place that has the confidence of governments, lenders, and our company." - Mr. John J. Maresca, vice-president of international relations, Unocal Corporation Feb 12, 1998
full statement here: http://www.progressiveaustin.org/afoilpip.htm (also available in the 1998 congressional record, print version only)


do americans think that afghani mothers suffer less than they do when they lose their sons or daughters? or iraqi mothers? or palestinian mothers? all people suffer, all people feel the loss of a loved one with pain, anger, sorrow and rage -- this is universal.

so why be surprised that after the daily indignities, the imprisonment, the constant shelling, the taking over of their land and the killing of their children with no justice in sight, that some palestinians resort to desperate acts of violence? but to classify the israel-palestinea tit-for-tat kind of conflict (ie. you kill my children, so i'll kill yours), although that element does exist. this conflict is the strategic, planned takeover of one people's land by another people using violence, occupation, imprisonment and constant humiliation as tools -- tools used by the israeli authorities, military and civilians to completely disenfranchise the palestinians of their land.

if israel is truly a 'democracy', as they claim, then why not take down the wall, give palestinians citizenship in a state (israeli OR palestinian), and let them have the equal rights that all people are entitled to under international conventions???

but that will never happen. because by giving palestinians equal rights, by defining the borders of their nation, by removing their military from the palestinian areas, they will not be able to fulfill their stated objective (stated clearly by israeli prime minister ehud olmert in his address to the US congress several weeks ago, to thunderous applause from the american legislators) to TAKE OVER ALL of this land.

oh and btw - the gutless corporate lackeys in the us house of representatives succumbed to corporate pressure and overwhelmingly passed a bill yesterday to essentially sell off the internet to the highest bidder (321 for, 101 against), as well as wrecking public access tv. take a moment to save the internet by letting your senator know to vote against it (H.R. 5252 - the COPE Act):

the internet is still a new technology - it has allowed more media democracy than television and radio put together.....just think, you wouldn't even be able to get these updates from palestine, if it weren't for the internet! let's not let them take this away, as was done with radio and television (both of which were quite democratic at their start, but were allowed to become controlled by commercial, corporate interests with the help of the US government).

and here's an op-ed my fiance saed wrote about the Israeli attack on the Gaza beach, called "The Gaza sea cries pure and dear blood":
Monday, May 8th, 2006
1:28 am
the war on iraq and petrodollars
Every day, I check the news headlines for the Middle East and the world from a variety of sources. every day, i see headlines like "20 Iraqis killed in car explosion", "33 Iraqis killed by bomb". every day. and now with a renewed invasion into Basra, there are likely to be hundreds, if not thousands of casualties, as there were when the US carpet-bombed the city of Fallujah. How many have died so far? how many more?

I know that there are wildly varying estimates of how many Iraqis have been killed.....but even going with the low end, assuming it is only the 20-30 a day that are reported in the news, that's at least 30,000 over three years of ongoing war.

but how many americans know (or care) about what is happening on the ground in iraq? how many people really know (or care) what their tax money is helping to fund in the middle east?

now that those who drummed the drums for war back in 2002-3 are getting their come-uppance, with former generals, former staffers, former CIA agents echoing the sentiments of cindy sheehan (the mother of soldier casey sheehan who was killed in Iraq, who blames george bush and his administration for her son's death), with the media unable to ignore the mounting casualty rate, and the fact that the war in iraq is not in any way over, as Bush so smugly declared from the deck of an airforce carrier two years ago. the war in iraq drags on, with US and british soldiers imposing massive force on the iraqi population, brutalizing villages and torturing prisoners at will (for while the pictures of abuse at abu ghraib prison may have been leaked out, there are thousands more such instances that never made the news).

so with "this generation's vietnam" currently turning thousands of american youth into war-weary, abandoned, broken, traumatized veterans (many of whom will likely join their vietnam-era colleagues living on the streets and plagued with addiction, alcoholism and mental issues throughout their lives as they try to forget and wipe out what they've done), i wonder just how many americans really know why the US invaded iraq.

do you know?

the 'war on terror' thing doesn't cut it for this one -- as saddam hussein hated osama bin laden and the al qaeda network almost as much as he hated the US.

the 'weapons of mass destruction' argument is being revealed now, by CIA directors, chiefs of staff and generals, to have been a complete fraud.

and the 'we wanted to get rid of the evil dictator saddam hussein' doesn't quite cut it either -- after all, he was supported through five different US administrations, and praised personally by donald rumsfeld in 1983, when rumsfeld was working for then-president ronald reagan, just after saddam hussein did his worst act of violence -- gassing thousands of Kurdish rebels and villagers in northern Iraq.

so the political explanations don't seem to work. how about an economic explanation?

I mentioned this before, but I want to reiterate it:
The US Dollar, as a currency, is artificially propped up in the world market. much of this artificial propping is because the US Dollar is the standard currency for the world oil market (a 2.3-trillion dollar a year industry). before the US invaded iraq, saddam hussein was threatening to transfer the oil assets of his country into Euros, and OPEC (the alliance of oil-producing countries in the middle east) was planning to follow suit (see http://www.participate.net/node/1011 for some of this history). such a transfer would be devastating to the dollar, and its value internationally would drop dramatically.

what would that mean for americans? short answer: a depression. and since bush has noted time and again that "the american way of life is not negotiable", he will try every trick in the book to make other nations suffer in order to continue the artificial boosting of the dollar to maintain the 'american way of life'......(no matter how much foreign blood has to spill to maintain it).

including invading iraq, getting rid of hussein, and putting in a puppet government that maintains dollarization of the oil economy. (unfortunately for bush and his crew, that has proved more difficult than they thought. despite having stationed US troops along pipelines and at refineries, the iraqi population has proven less-than-willing to have their nation's major asset (oil) in the hands of a foreign power.)

...and also including the next trick in the book: attacking iran. what does attacking iran have to do with continuing to prop up the dollar, you ask?
three words: the Iranian Oil Bourse.
A news report this past friday that somehow snuck past the US media, but was reported internationally:
"Iran has registered an oil bourse on the island of Kish in which oil would be sold in euros. The market will be the fifth largest oil market after New York, London, Singapore and Tokyo" (the top four do business in dollars) Iran is the fourth-largest oil producing country in the world, the second-largest in OPEC and controls about 5 percent of the global oil supply, so it has a measure of influence over international oil markets.

Said Bush early last year:
"A successful Iranian bourse will solidify the petroeuro as an alternative oil transaction currency, and thereby end the petrodollar's hegemonic status as the monopoly oil currency. Therefore, a graduated approach is needed to avoid precipitous U.S. economic dislocations."

"This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous... Having said that, all options are on the table."

see these articles for more information and background:


Tuesday, March 21st, 2006
5:16 am
thoughts on the state of israel, while sitting inside the prison called palestine
even though the state of israel was created in the 20th century, it seems the state operates using 19th-century logic. the logic that justified colonialism and imperialism, saying, "we took over this land with the force of arms, now we have the right to do what we want with it". in the 20th century, with the two world wars, it seemed that the human family came to some understanding that this isn't correct logic, that all people have the right to self-determination, that one state CAN'T just TAKE OVER another state with the force of arms and annex it as part of their state. germany can't just take over poland, france and half the countries in europe and expect that to be acceptable to the world community. the countries of europe can't just take over the countries in africa and expect that it will be ok. it's not ok -- hence the Geneva Convention, the International Convention on Human Rights, the International Court of Justice, and the various rights agreements made by the community of nations known as the United Nations.

but yet, the government of the state of israel and the supporters of that government continue to use the 19th-century logic. although the state itself was created out of a recommendation from the united nations in 1947, the state that resulted from the UN recommendation hardly resembled the one set out on paper by the UN. by the end of 1948, when the dust settled from the expulsion of the palestinian population from what had been their homes, but what was now 'the jewish state', the 'state of israel' had taken over more than the 55% that had been alotted to them in the united nations recommendation. but that wasn't enough. by 1967, the state of israel, which had slowly been creeping outward with the building of illegal settlements on palestinian land, launched a 'pre-emptive strike' on egypt, sparking a war with surrounding nations (most of them cracking at the seams with palestinian refugees who had previously lived in what had become the state of israel)....when the dust settled from that war, the state of israel had taken 73% of the land, and occupied the rest.

now, most countries would have had a peace agreement with the other side at that point, and determined the terms of the peace, including borders. but the 19th-century logic kicked in, and there was no peace agreement, no treaty, no handshake, but a military occupation of the 'conquered land' (ie. the other 27% of palestine) that continues until today.

why don't people see how completely fucked up this is?? in the words of my friend peter hazen, 'profanity doesn't even begin to cover it'. it is so totally, completely and obviously FUCKED that in order not to see it, people need to stick their heads in the sand, cover their eyes and ears and keep repeating to themselves lies, over and over again, and hope the lies will stick.

my palestinian friends are a lot like young people anywhere.....they do regular things, go to school, have jobs, get married, have kids......play cards on saturday nights, tell dirty jokes, drink beer (this is a christian area.....muslims don't drink -- except some young muslim guys who come to this area to sneak a few drinks now and then)...

but many have never been outside of a five-mile radius of their home. they cannot travel outside their local area, let alone out of the country, due to the israeli military occupation.

they live in a prison called palestine, under military occupation by a foreign power. the israeli military has been in charge here since 1967, and the martial law they impose is the only law that counts.

i sit drinking coffee with a palestinian friend, on a veranda outside his home, with sheep being herded past by an elderly shepherd, and olive and lemon trees growing in terraces beside us. pointing to a hill in the distance, I ask, "what's behind that hill?"

"I don't know", he answers, "I've never been there".

...if a person were to drive in that direction, they would come to an israeli checkpoint, beyond which palestinians from this town cannot pass. somewhere in that direction, they know, there is an ancient castle - the Herodian hill, home to Herod, the man who killed Jesus. their ancestors knew that hill, and knew the history, having lived it, and passed it on to their children.....but these, the modern Palestinians, do not even know what is beyond the next hill.

the young guys drive their cars around, around and around, within the five-mile radius, bored and angry......the restaurants and hangouts are pretty much all closed, due to the israeli chokehold that has put an end to most of the businesses in the area.

israel calls the shots here. reactions, like the kidnappings of foreigners when the US and UK colluded with israel in a shameful attack on a prison last week, are just that - reactions.

"The course of the fence - which until now has been a security fence - will be in line with the new course of the permanent border. There may be cases in which we move the fence eastward, there may be cases in which we move the fence westward, in line with what we agree upon. We will solidify Israel as a Jewish state, one in which there is a solid and stable Jewish majority, a majority which is not in danger. The idea is an 'ingathering' of settlers into large settlement blocs, and thickening these settlement blocs. I don't want to get into their precise definitions now, but everyone knows that Gush Etzion will remain within the state of Israel, and the Ariel bloc will remain within the state of Israel, and the Jerusalem Envelope [the city and its environs] will be part of the state, as well as Ma'ale Adumim."
-excerpt from a speech by ehud olmert, the acting israeli prime minister

Life in Occupied Palestine by Stephen Lendman

A Wall which Kills Life and Land:

The Wall: The Unmentionable Reality:

"The Nightmare Comes True" by Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery:

New settlements expansion in East J'lem funded by US Israelis:

This is a listing of articles about the Wall and non-violent protests against it:
Monday, March 13th, 2006
5:15 am
rest in peace tom fox
i had been writing a long piece about the israeli occupation in palestine, but then i got the news that my friend, associate and fellow justice-seeker tom fox had been killed in iraq. i will send the other piece when i finish it....but i wanted to send this out now. in memory of tom:

well, many of you probably know me. but maybe you never got the chance to know tom fox. i just learned of his death -- an announcement i have been dreading, but almost expecting, since the video released last week of the christian peacemaker hostages in iraq did not include him.

they say his body had signs of torture.....that he was shot in the head and chest.....the kidnappers, some ignorant group of iraqi hotheads that knew nothing about these men, but knew only that they had captured some westerners, held them since november 25th......they released a video in late january showing the four men scared and thin in a dark room.....then another video last week showing three of the four men, but not tom.

what would tom say?
he would blame the US occupation, he would blame the US government hotheads who have created a regime exactly mimicking the regime of saddam hussein that they claim to have hated so much.

a regime in which there is utter lawlessness, and fundamentalism is on the rise, where any westerner is seen as a target because so many innocent iraqis have been killed ....his kidnappers, tom would say, were blinded by the hate brought on by the US occupation of their land. they couldn't see clearly through this hate, and they kidnapped and killed someone who could have helped them.

this is what happens, tom would tell us, when people do what they hate.

"Do not do what you hate.
Do not do what you hate.
Do not do what you hate."

Tom said this at the end of his first journal entry from Iraq.

I can imagine, as he was tortured and killed, that Tom was praying for his kidnappers, praying that they would come to an end of their hate.

He said it himself, in his journal, when he said, "Here in Iraq I struggle with that second form of aggression ... how do you stand firm against a car-bomber or a kidnapper?

"It seems easier somehow to confront anger within my heart than it is to confront fear. But if Jesus and Gandhi are right then I am not to give in to either. I am to stand firm against the kidnapper as I am to stand firm against the soldier. Does that mean I walk into a raging battle to confront the soldiers? Does that mean I walk the streets of Baghdad with a sign saying 'American for the Taking' No to both counts. But if Jesus and Gandhi are right, then I am asked to risk my life and, if I lose it, to be as forgiving as they were when murdered by the forces of Satan. I struggle to stand firm but I'm willing to keep working at it."

I am not a Christian. But to me, Tom Fox epitomizes all that is good about christians -- if jesus were alive today, i think he would be in iraq with tom fox. standing up to the forces of hate, the cycle of hate, standing with the power of non-violence and love, loving your enemy. that's what jesus said and did, right? he never hated those who hated and tormented him, even as they killed him. he loved them and forgave them. 'love your enemy' -- that's what jesus said and did.

and that is what tom fox did.

when i met tom last year, we were both in palestine. two dc-area residents meeting for the first time across the world, in a war zone. i was covering a protest in a village called jayyous, where the israeli annexation wall has separated farmers from their olive and orange groves, vegetable fields and greenhouses. we met up with a group of several hundred israelis, who themselves were risking arrest for even entering a palestinian area. for the apartheid of the state of israel is so complete that not only can palestinians not leave their prisons of the west bank and the gaza strip, but israelis cannot enter the palestinian areas either.

i remember when the tension was high, when an israeli soldier pushed tom back so he almost fell over a stone wall, and i grabbed him by the arm before he fell.....tom didn't back away from the soldiers with their machine guns pointed at him and the rest of the protesters, an unarmed group of people who were speaking out for justice in the face of extreme injustice. there, under the olive trees, next to the electrified fences of separation, fear and hatred, i saw tom fox start praying for the soldiers. his eyes were as full of love as theirs were full of fear and hate.

....it's always hard to lose a friend.....you feel anger, frustration, pain, and you want to lash out at those who did this. but i know tom would ask us all to please PLEASE love our enemy. and do not do what we hate.

he would ask us to learn from his example, to follow his lead in loving and forgiving his enemies. and he would ask us to try our best, in every way we can (non-violently and with love, he would add), to get our government to leave iraq and all the other countries we are occupying militarily.

he would ask us to free ourselves of hate.

do we have the courage to do that?
do you have the courage?

read more about tom:
Thursday, February 9th, 2006
4:08 pm
thoughts on the election of hamas
9 feb 2006
beit sahour

surprise surprise........the militant hamas party won a majority in the palestinian legislative elections two weeks ago wednesday, and everyone except the palestinians themselves are surprised about it. well, my question for israel and the US is: what did you expect? The Palestinians basically put themselves on the sacrificial altar last year, electing the man that the US and Israel wanted, in a desperate attempt to end the 5-year ongoing open conflict and bring peace. And what did Israel do? Continued the occupation, expanded construction of the apartheid Wall that literally divides the Palestinian areas into separated islands under complete Israeli control. Missile strikes by Israeli forces continued killing civilians throughout the year, and the so-called 'disengagement' from the Gaza Strip was a laughable performance in which settlers engaged in illegal settlements were rewarded monetarily, and the Gaza Strip was turned into literally the largest open-air prison on earth. Settlements in the West Bank, meanwhile, continued to expand – the overall population of settlers increased by 12,000 last year, making a grand total of 250,000 settlers in the West Bank (as opposed to the 9,000 who were 'disengaged' from the Gaza Strip).

Over the last two weeks since Hamas' electoral victory in Palestinian legislative elections, American pundits have taken the opportunity to blast the Palestinian people's choice, without attempting to understand the real reasons behind that choice. Some right-wing writers have gone so far as to say that the election of Hamas reveals the Palestinian people's true nature as genocidal, anti-Jewish fanatics -- a sentiment that is not based in any type of reality.

They are the words of someone who has obviously never set foot in the Palestinian occupied territories, nor seen the conditions in which the Palestinians are living. Having been disenfranchised from their land in what is now Israel in 1947, with ongoing disenfranchisement due to Israeli settlement and expansion, the 3.5 million Palestinian refugees now constitute the largest refugee population on earth, according to United Nations figures.

Charles Krauthammer, an editorialist with the Washington Post newspaper, said in a Feb. 3rd article that the truth in this situation is that, "After 60 years, the Palestinian people continue to reject the right of a Jewish state to exist side by side with them". But this assertion is entirely untrue. In fact, every poll of the Palestinian populace, by Israeli, Palestinian and international pollsters, shows that the vast majority would accept the 1967 borders - the so-called "Green Line", 23% of their original land, as an acceptable border with Israel. But since that border was established in 1967, 400,000 Israelis have been transferred across that border into illegal settlements on Palestinian land. Most of this expansion took place in the years between 1993 and 2000, when a 'peace agreement' was supposedly in place. Now Israel is constructing a massive wall, bigger even than the Berlin Wall -- supposedly for security, but in fact to secure a de facto border that encompasses more than half of what's left of the Palestinian territory - leaving Palestinians with only 13% of their original land, divided into islands with borders completely controlled by Israel. What people on earth would not be upset about being dispossessed of so much of their land?

Krauthammer attributes the source of the conflict to the Palestinians "choice" of "rejectionism". In fact, the Palestinians have had no choice whatsoever in this conflict. Palestinians did not choose to be dispossessed of their land in 1948, did not choose to be occupied militarily, did not choose to live in what has literally become the world's largest prison, criscrossed with checkpoints, unable to travel from town to town, and forbidden to leave.

Some of the American pundits have gone so far as to compare Hamas with the Nazis, a comparison that enflames emotions, but is entirely inaccurate. A more realistic comparison would be with the Irish Republican Army in the early 1990s, who were rightly called 'terrorists' at the time for their tactic of targeting British civilians, but who, through negotiations during the 90s, were able to eventually form part of a coalition government beginning in 2000 in Northern Ireland.

If there is to be peace in the Middle East, there needs to be recognition by both sides of the other's wrongs. Articles like Krauthammer's serve only to enrage both sides of the conflict. His article, like many op-eds in the U.S. over the past week have failed to mention that since a 'truce' was made between Hamas and Israel last February, Hamas has killed one Israeli (according to the Israeli government's own numbers), while the Israeli military has killed 180 Palestinians, two-thirds of them civilians (according to an Israeli human rights group's estimate -- the Israeli government does not keep count of Palestinian deaths under occupation). Not recognizing the role of Israel in the conflict is to leave out the most important component of an explanations as to _why_ Palestinians may have voted for Hamas.

For it is not, as the U.S. editorialists suggest, because Palestinians are some kind of Jew-hating Nazi-like monsters. It is more likely because they are living under the world's longest and most brutal military occupation. Why is it that American commentators are less compromising than even the Israelis themselves? Israelis generally recognize the Hamas victory as a response to corruption and compromise by the party previously in power. Hopefully negotiations for peace in the Middle East will involve some of the more level-headed Israelis themselves, instead of hot-headed hate-mongers like Jeff Jacoby, a Boston Globe commentator who called Hamas 'Jew-hating Nazis'. Peace _is_ possible in the Middle East, despite what these pundits may think. I mean, if the Brits can recognize Martin McGuinness, the 'bomb-throwing' former head of the armed division of the Irish Republican Army, as education secretary in a joint Northern Irish government....anything in the world is possible.
Sunday, January 8th, 2006
2:49 am
on the building up and tearing down of walls...
jan. 7 2005
washington dc

it's hard coming back to 'the other world' from new orleans. i'm continually amazed at the level of ignorance so many people -- even progressive, thoughtful people -- have about the situation in new orleans. how many levees broke, the fact that there is a BARGE sitting on top of a neighborhood in the lower ninth ward, the fact that people's homes in one area (the poor area) are being bulldozed, while in another area (the rich area that was flooded), the homes destroyed are being rebuilt with huge insurance payments received by the owners....

and i find myself having to answer the question, "SHOULD new orleans be rebuilt? is it worth it?" -- a question that wasn't even a question down in new orleans. there, it is simply a matter of how.....how much money, how much time, how much effort will it take to rebuild.......whereas here, in washington and elsewhere, the question, months later, is still IF new orleans is worth rebuilding. my dad gave me a book, called "why new orleans matters", which is the answer of one new orleanian to that question (his answer, by the way, is an emphatic YES, new orleans should be rebuilt). i find it incredibly insulting that the displaced new orleanians who find themselves in temporary housing situations around the country after being abandoned and left for dead by their local, state and federal government, are having to answer for that very government's neglect. to me, the very question itself points to a 'blame the victim' mentality that is all too prevalent in our society today. here is a city of people, mainly african-american, who have always been ignored (at best) and brutalized (at worst) by a government that has made it very clear for the last century and a half that it DOES NOT CARE ABOUT THEM. so now, to add insult to injury, they are being confronted with the question, "Why should we rebuild YOUR town?"

in new orleans, that is not even a question. instead, volunteering there is a frenzy of activity -- cleaning, gutting houses, churches, community centers, defending the poor from eviction and the uninsured from property seizure....building up a community base by providing the necessities and the tools needed to piece back together fragments of shattered lives and homes..... the question seems almost irrelevant (and certainly irreverant)....and reverberates with a patronizing tone that insults the very people i have been working with hand in hand every day for the past several months.

what we do need to do, however, is to demand that the levees be rebuilt stronger and the wetlands be restored so that the city can continue to survive.
(see this speech by the dutch ambassador when he visited new orleans several weeks ago, on how and why new orleans can rebuild:
http://disc.server.com/discussion.cgi?disc=231355;article=1189;title=REBUILDING%20LOUISIANA%20COALITION%20Discussion%20ListSERVE )

the last journal i sent out was quite a while ago. a lot has happened since then -- it's been a very difficult time. first, we lost the battle to stop the evictions at louisburg square apartments, a case which was a showcase of blatant corruption, dirty dealings and unabashed greed on the part of the landlord.....the landlord a realty company owned by leonard samia of boston, a man well known to tenant-rights advocates there, a man voted 'slumlord of the year' by the angry tenants association in boston just last year. despite all our best efforts inside and outside the courts, the old boys network of jefferson parish sheriffs, judges, landlords and contractors managed to push the tenants out. well......hopefully we can win in a lawsuit against the landlord and the sheriff's department in which we expose their dirty dealings in a federal court, but still.....it is very disheartening to lose in court after we fought so hard to help these tenants keep their (undamaged) homes.

things were looking up in the ninth ward, where we started a media center and a radio station (we are broadcasting on the internet now, since the local FCC decided they didn't like the fact that we were broadcasting emergency and relief information on the FM band without a license -- even though in a time of crisis, unlicensed broadcasting for communication and relief purposes IS allowed). we also have a distribution center, mobile clinics, a community center, a gardening/bioremediation project and a fledgling childcare cooperative starting. a number of other projects are getting started in other areas of the city - st. bernard's parish, where a rainbow family kitchen has been feeding people with hot meals and a new distribution and relief center has started, in plaquemines parish and houma, where relief centers are beginning and thriving.....it was almost feeling hopeful in the midst of the mud-stained wrecked and damaged neighborhoods......

but all of our efforts will be in vain if the levees are not rebuilt, and rebuilt properly, with the (freely offered) oversight of skilled dutch engineers (the dutch, by the way, have been at the business of dyke-building and flood control since 1300, so they have a little bit of experience). so when senator stevens deliberately sabotaged the passage of the levee-rebuilding act in congress by adding on a last-minute pork-barrel amendment -- the controversial drilling for oil in the arctic national wildlife refuge -- saying cynically, "new orleans can get their money to rebuild the levees when we can drill in the arctic refuge".......it just makes all of our efforts seem so fruitless and wholly inadequate to stand up to the vast, corrupt and greedy power-empire made up of people bent on filling their pockets by any means that they can.

and on december 10th, one of our volunteers, meg perry, died in a bus accident -- a beautiful, caring, brilliant, courageous volunteer and activist that devoted herself to this relief effort with her whole heart. i hope that anyone reading this, whether you knew meg or not, will look at this memorial page:
to get to know her a little better, and to realize what a devastating loss her death is to the relief effort, to our community, to her home community in portland maine, and to the planet that she worked so hard, in so many ways, to save. she devoted herself to alternative energy, and drove a group of volunteers down from maine in a vegetable oil powered school bus.....she was working in new orleans on the bioremediation project, to bring compost, organic compounds and necessary minerals back into the soil of new orleans to help it grow again. her energy and sense of hope was inspirational to everyone who knew her, and even though i only got to know her for a short few months, she was an inspiration to me too, and gave me a burst of energy to continue this work each time i got to talk with her. death comes so unexpectedly sometimes.....it's just hard to lose a jewel like meg when she is so young, only 25. it hurts to see someone so magic and inspiring slip away like that...

....for some reason i keep thinking of rachel corrie, who died in palestine in 2002 standing in front of a doctor's home to protect it from the israeli bulldozer that ran over her and killed her. i know the circumstances are very different -- rachel was engaged in civil disobedience, while meg was involved in relief work (albeit on her way to a protest to demand the right of return and justice for new orleanians when she was killed) -- rachel's death was much more controversial, the derogatory accusations and insults toward rachel came from all over (even the left) when she was killed; whereas the media haven't been disrespecting meg in that way -- except for fox news, which called her a 'drifter' in their coverage, without even finding out who she was or what work she was doing (we're demanding a retraction from fox for that insulting drivel they dare to call 'news'). but in so many ways, these two young women who were killed 'in the line of duty' so to speak -- serving the least well off of society -- remind me of each other. there is a video of rachel when she was in the fifth grade, speaking in front of her school about the problem of world hunger and saying "40,000 children a day die of hunger -- we can change this. those children in those other countries, they are just like us....they ARE us." and in a way she proved this when she went to palestine and stood with the palestinian people in the civil and non-violent struggle for freedom from brutal occupation and the seizure of their land. she became one of 'the others' in the eyes of the american media, who either ignored or insulted her in death. but in rachel's eyes i saw, as i saw in the eyes of meg perry in the few chances i had to look into them , that there are no 'others', we are all one human family, and we better find a way to work this out. all these struggles, all this injustice, all this fear people have of each other......we need to overcome this ongoing system of fear that is dividing us and destroying us.....we need to realize that we are all in this thing together. we need to see each other, especially 'the other', as human. what makes tom hurndall (a young british volunteer who was killed in palestine walking children to school in 2002) more important than the children whose lives he was protecting? why does the death of rachel corrie create so much more media than the death of little chukri dawoud (a ten year old boy killed on his front steps in palestine around the time rachel was killed)? what makes any of us more important than anyone else?? i'm tired of all the division and destruction....

why ask dividing questions like 'is new orleans worth it?'? the entire country of the netherlands is built on a flood plain, most of it below sea level, but no one is questioning the fact that the netherlands exists! it has been devastated several times by massive storms that broke its levees, but the people rebuilt, and rebuilt stronger, safer and better. obviously the engineering and technology are available to rebuild new orleans...besides the fact that it is home to hundreds of thousands of people, most of them black, most of whom have never lived anywhere else -- it is these people's home. and slowly but surely, they are coming back home. even the massive destruction caused by the levee breaks and subsequent flooding of the city can't keep these resilient new orleanians away. but the local police, the federal government and the insurance companies are doing their best to keep the poor people from feeling welcome when they come back home. with police brutality and harassment, evictions and denials of aid money from insurance companies and FEMA for many poor people in new orleans, coming home to a destroyed home and attempting to rebuild is an impossible dream for many of the poorest new orleanians. hopefully, with some of our work, we are helping a little to make that impossible dream possible.

working in the poorest areas of new orleans, we are also subject to some of that police harassment. so many of our volunteers have been stopped, questioned, frisked, insulted, detained, handcuffed and arrested, for no other reason than for being in the poor neighborhood, or for observing police behavior as they harass someone else. just the day after meg died, we were having a memorial service in the community garden where she had been implementing the bioremediation project in the flooded seventh ward of new orleans. the memorial service was pretty much over, a few people were still there, sharing songs and stories and getting ready to leave....it was about 6:00 in the evening. suddenly a police car rolled up and a very aggressive police officer ran up to one of the mourners, who was talking on his phone near the street, grabbed him and threw him down on the hood of the car and handcuffed him. when two of us very somberly approached and asked why our friend was being detained, we were forced to put our hands on the hood and be patted down by this officer, who then shoved and kicked my friend (who happened to have been in the accident with meg the day before and had a head injury with 13 staples from the accident). the rest of the people remaining at the memorial service were then brought over and patted down with their hands on the car, and three other cars with 7 more officers arrived, with their guns drawn and laser sights pointed at people's heads (including one pointed at the head of a thirteen year old kid)....eventually we were all released with no apology, and the only explanation given for grabbing my friend originally was that he was 'walking around in an unlit area' -- a charge that is totally ridiculous because, one, the area was lit, and two, there was no curfew in effect at all.....why did they grab him? why did they detain the rest of us? there was no crime committed, nor even any semblance of an attempt on the part of the police to say that there was a crime committed. the only reason he, and the rest of us, were detained was because the police felt like detaining us. it came as a harsh reminder that, even in our time of loss, we would not be left in peace by the new orleans police. and i wonder just how many people face this situation -- discovering the bodies of loved ones in the wreckage of their homes, only to then be harassed by police for being in that area of the city. it seems that every person who has come back to the city has had at least one interaction with the police -- none of them positive. just last week the police shot a mentally ill man in broad daylight and killed him. the police tried to say that the man had a weapon and was threatening them.....but a videotape of the incident shows that the man's 'weapon' was a tiny 3 inch pocketknife, and he was 15 feet from the nearest officer, and backing away, when he was shot.

do we not have the capacity as a human community to come up with some way to assist a mentally ill individual who may be acting irrationally? is our only solution to shoot them? to kill them? oh my family, my people.....
we can do better than this.

so now i go to palestine, to work to bring down the literal and figurative walls that are growing with each day higher and higher in that place. and i hope when i return to new orleans, the walls to stop the water from invading the city will be built up strong enough to protect it through a thousand more hurricane seasons. tearing down walls in one place.....building them up in another......i just hope it is enough -- of course it is not enough, i am just one person, but my latest hero, the martyr meg perry, said in september before she came down to new orleans, "get enough people together and you can move mountains". well, come on people.....we got some mountains to move.
Wednesday, November 2nd, 2005
11:05 pm
the informal sector, the rhizome and relief
i left new orleans for a couple of days, to speak at the conference of the International Association of Women in Radio and Television about indymedia, new technology and journalism in a disaster area.....

as the plane lifted off, i looked down at new orleans....the flooded area so clearly distinct from the non-flood area: the browned branches of trees, the mud-caked walls of houses........lake ponchartrain, much bigger than the city itself, with one small line - the causeway -- crossing the lake.....and the thought of trying to escape a crowded city on that little line with 100+ mph winds whipping around became a very frightening prospect indeed.

but my thoughts soon drifted as the plane flew higher, and i began to think in more general terms about the bigger picture of what is happening down in new orleans and the gulf coast. as i watched the patchwork of farmland and city streets, it appeared that the gridwork was pushing up against the more organic forms of trees, snaking rivers and mountains......in some instances, it seemed that the vein-like spread of forests and swamps was pushing back against the grid.....and i thought about the image that some in the activist community have chosen to represent 'the movement' of people working for social justice: the rhizome.

the rhizome is a natural organism that spreads, root-like, underground -- it is self-replicating, and decentralized in its growth. tentacle-like fingers reach out from one organism to the next, reaching, curving, touching, a web-like network crossing the landscape.

watching the vein/root-like spread of nature battling the grid structure of the cities, i started to think of our way of organizing relief aid -- the rhizome-like, organic, flexible, spontaneous spread of the common ground model of relief coming head-to-head with the rigid, structured, top-down and immobile model offered by FEMA and the government. their model, based on a comamand-control structure, stood by while hundreds of people drowned in their homes after the post-katrina flood in new orleans. their model did not allow for the flexibility and creativity necessary to save the people, to evacuate and to bring them to dry ground. in fact, their structure and focus became an obstacle to helping the people in their time of desperate need. police in gretna, just across the river from new orleans, prevented new orleans residents from crossing the bridge into gretna -- the soaked, weary residents waded onto the bridge from the toxic flood water below to try to cross into gretna (where evacuation buses were lined up and waiting at the mall parking lot), but were shot at by gretna police firing live ammunition over their heads, and forced to turn back into the flood water.

why is the story being told and repeated throughout the country about the new orleans flood still the story of looting and shooting? haven't you learned by now that this story was a red herring? A media smokescreen? a story by which the news media diverted attention away from the desperate cries for help from the thousands of people abandoned in the flooded city toward a false image of a black criminal class that was to blame for all the problems? i can't believe that even now, two months later, people are still asking me about the looting -- hasn't the truth about that been exposed by now??

but then, i remember how the top-down structure of government-led relief, in combination with a state-run corporate media, shaped the picture of post-katrina new orleans, and i realize it is no wonder that people are still so misled in the news they receive about new orleans and the gulf coast.

so let me tell you a story - a story which is one small part of the emerging story of post-hurricane new orleans. this is a story i have pieced together out of dozens of personal interviews....a story verified by hundreds of independent accounts compiled by human rights watch and other groups working in the area. but it is a story that, despite all evidence to the contrary, continues to be denied by the authorities. it is the story of the prisoners in old parish prison, who were, by all accounts, left behind on the day after the hurricane hit and the flooding began.

the day before the hurricane, many of the prisoners who were on the first floor were moved up to the second floor before the guards evacuated, but no other measure was taken by the guards to ensure the survival of the prisoners. there were prisoners left on the first floor who died in their cells. no one knows how many -- the prisoners don't know, they were stuck in their own cells and couldn't tell how many were stuck below, and the authorities aren't talking - they deny that anyone died at all.

when the guards evacuated, they left some food for the prisoners, but not much. then the water started pouring in. the first floor filled with water, and the prisoners on the second floor, as they heard the drowning cries of those below, began to panic. the water was rising, dirty, oily, smelling of sewage and toxins -- they took whatever they could find and tried to bash through the windows. the water rose to chest level and stopped rising.....the men (there were women prisoners, as well, but they were not on the second floor) reached for anything they could find to hit the windows....some men, who had been put in the gymnasium by guards, managed to use a basketball hoop. others, locked in a large cell, used a door fastener they had managed to break loose......it took many hours, but at last, some of the prisoners managed to break through the windows and escape into the flooded hallways. they joined together and tried to get out of the building......bodies floated by, both inside and outside the building. and at last, a day later, a boat arrived with a couple of guards who had the decency (well, as an afterthought, anyway) to come back for the prisoners.

the men and women were brought by boat to a highway overpass (an island in the flooded city), where they were made to wait in their sewage-soaked clothing with no food and water for another full day, until they were taken off by bus to various federal facilities. with their records lost, and no one paying any attention to who was who - who was in prison for a felony, and who was just there on an overnight charge for trespassing or drunkenness - it has taken two months, and only just now are these prisoners beginning to be released.

listen to the first-hand account of stanley, a 65 year old man who was arrested the day before the hurricane on a bogus trespassing charge, and ended up almost dying, and remaining in prison for weeks:

first-hand account of dale:

now let me tell you another story. it is the story of charlestine jones, a mother of two daughters currently being evicted from her home with nowhere to go. it is the same story of bertha dugas, and of sonia khan, a guatemalan grandmother with her whole family of eleven crowded into her one-bedroom apartment (because her daughter's home was damaged).....also being evicted with no place to go. it is a story of blatant corruption, of greedy landlords and real estate agents trying to make money off their insurance claims by claiming hurricane damage when in fact there was none..............this is a story of intrigue and secret deals, of re-development schemes and crooked politicians....and the story goes to the mayor's office, the governor's office, the federal government......it is the story of a system corrupted from the bottom to the top.

when i first wrote to you all about new orleans, i sent along a letter that i had written to my congressman about the failure of the government to respond to the crisis, in which i advocated that control of the local situation be placed into the hands of new orleans mayor ray nagin. i still think that is the case -- that in the emergency crisis, local control needed to be given in order to safely and quickly evacuate the population. and i think that ray nagin has enough knowledge of local geography and resources that he would have been more than able to oversee the evacuation, had he been given the authority to do so.

but after the initial crisis has passed, and it is time to start the cleanup and rebuilding process, ray nagin has shown himself to be the stooge he was (s)elected to be. not long after the hurricane, he made the statement that the rebuilding of new orleans should be modelled on the way the st. thomas housing projects (in new orleans) were redeveloped several years ago. this is a sick and twisted statement - considering the way the st. thomas housing projects were redeveloped at the absolute expense of the poor folks who lived there.....the people were lied to at every stage of the process: first, they were promised that the redevelopment would be wholly to their benefit.....the first row of homes were then torn down and condos built in their place......although the people of st. thomas housing projects did not see any benefit from that (those whose homes were torn down were displaced, and high-paying tenants put into the new condos), they were told that the next row of condos would be for them. then, the next row, then the next. but at every stage of the 'redevelopment', citizens from st. thomas were displaced and replaced by high-paying renters, until, after a two-year process, the low-income tenants had ALL been replaced, the housing project had become high-priced condos and a walmart, and pres kasnakoff the developer had fattened his pocket with quite a hefty profit.

now pres kasnakoff and his pals are part of mayor nagin's "rebuilding new orleans" redevelopment commission, and are looking to make some hefty profits from this latest venture as well. it doesn't seem to matter to these greed-driven developers that many of those displaced from the st. thomas housing projects ended up in sub-standard housing in the lower ninth ward, the area that took on the most water during the flood -- who knows how many elderly, sick and handicapped people drowned because they couldn't escape from the lower 9th ward.......it doesn't seem to bother pres kasnakoff and his real estate buddies that they are displacing the poorest of the poor, who have suffered more than any humans should ever have to suffer in their lives........it doesn't seem to affect the consciences of these businessmen at all that their 'redevelopment plan' means the literal throwing-out of thousands of these poorest people with no place to go and no resources, rendering them invisible so that the richest few can build casinos and money-making tourist traps on top of what used to be their homes. you may think i am being over-dramatic here -- i wish that i were being over-dramatic.....but after looking into the eyes of the folks who are being thrown out onto the street with no place to go, and having inside peeks at the twisted dealings of the old-boy network of developers, businessmen and politicians, i am afraid that this is in no way an over-dramaticization of these very real, and extremely disturbing, events.

i know this journal is getting long.....i am always way too long-winded....but there is something else that i feel i really need to share.....i mentioned earlier about the rhizome structure, and how much more effective it is than the hierarchy in getting things done......and i just feel i need to illustrate this by pointing out that, despite the fact that both FEMA and the red cross have tens of billions of dollars in aid money to spend, they have gotten very little real help to people in need. in new orleans, for example, there is NO FEMA relief center open to the public on the east side of the mississippi (where the vast majority of new orleans' citizens live). the only FEMA center open to the public is at Landry High School in Algiers. the place is staffed by FEMA workers and blackwater security forces - the blackwater soldiers outnumber the FEMA workers about 5 to 1. (Blackwater Security, you may remember, gained infamy early in the war against Iraq when its members were implicated in torture in Abu-Ghraib and other prisons........the mercenary soldiers grew to be so hated by the Iraqi people that four of them were killed by mobs and their bodies dragged through the streets of Fallujah -- an event which led to the US invasion/decimation of the city of Fallujah in revenge)

so anyway, Landry high school is crawling with mercenary soldiers, and people going there seeking aid are routinely turned away. if you are lucky enough to be able to convince the guard at the front that you are indeed worthy of receiving aid, you are ushered into the gymnasium where some tables are set up, and, after a considerable wait, you are brought to a FEMA worker who connects to the internet and tries to go through the FEMA application process on the FEMA website. now, if any of you have tried going through the FEMA application process on their website, you know that it crashes 3-4 times during each attempted application, and you have to start the whole application over again. so, after several hours of frustration, if you are able to finish the application process without the whole system crashing, at the end of the process you are issued a FEMA id number. having this number means that, at the end of two weeks, you may or may not be issued an emergency check for $2,000 for hurricane-related expenses. this may sound like a pretty good deal, but for those who have lost everything, it is just a tiny dent in the expenses they have incurred.

so that is what FEMA can give you. as for someone who is walking into the FEMA center with nothing, nowhere to go, home destroyed, family missing.......sorry, but you are out of luck. FEMA can issue you an ID number, but as far as emergency shelter and supplies, they do not provide anything.......well, ok, they have one flier on their flier table that says: EMERGENCY SHELTER, with a phone number. if you phone that number, you will find a church in baton rouge, two hours drive away, that is full. the red cross center is the same way......they do have a few box lunches and some bottled water you can get there, but have said that the only aid they can give people is an application for cash assistance (which may or may not be approved). they are routinely turning people away, sending them to our tiny organization, common ground, for help. let me repeat this, because i just find it so astounding: FEMA AND THE RED CROSS ARE SENDING PEOPLE TO _US_ (common ground) FOR HELP. these organizations, with their tens of billions of dollars of funding, can't seem to get it together enough to open even ONE emergency shelter in new orleans. or to provide food, or transportation, or cleaning supplies, or even phone calls, for the people who have suffered so much.

we had a call the other day from the main red cross center in new orleans, saying there were two guys there who had no place to go, but that they could not help them there at the red cross.....they sent them to common ground, where we gave them some warm tea and a place to sit down and relax a bit, and heard their story -- they were workers, one from houston and one from atlanta, who had been hired by contractors to come work in new orleans.....but when they arrived, they found the conditions horrendous: tiny shared tents on a naval base which they were not allowed to leave, cold showers and filthy port-a-johns, 12-hour days 7 days a week for low wages.....they felt they had to leave, but had no way to get back home. we ended up taking them in and sharon, one of the people who started common ground, ended up giving them money out of her own pocket to help them get home. the day after, we ended up putting up a young man who the red cross sent to us as well -- a resident of the ninth ward who survived five days on his roof with no food or water, ended up in florida, and then evacuated from there during hurricane wilma......he came to common ground and slept with the other volunteers on the floor of an old firehouse, and now has joined our relief effort to clean up and bring back the ninth ward.

there are so many aspects to this story - so many facets of human suffering -- so many poor folks ignored and terrorized by the authorities (the military every day points guns in the faces of anyone remaining in the city - relief workers and citizenry alike), abandoned and betrayed by the official relief agencies, lied to and kicked out by the landlords and developers -- how much more can any person sit back and take??

but not everyone is taking it lying down -- that's what makes me hopeful, and grateful, and glad to be doing this work -- last week charlestine jones led a campaign to pressure the landlord in her public-funded housing complex to stop the forced eviction of herself and other residents, and with the help of local supporters and a national campaign, was able to get the owner to negotiate, and agree to the tenants' demands. this is what gives me hope ....and now other tenants are coming forward, starting to fight back against these illegal and unjust evictions. and it gives me strength, to know that with the power of people working together, we can get this entrenched power structure and old-boys network to budge. now, we just need to push more. and harder. and from every possible angle. and eventually, we, who work for justice and truth, and not for money and personal interest, will win in this struggle. we must. it's not just new orleans. the earth itself is depending on us for this fight.

and if all this reading isn't enough for you, here are two good articles written by friends of mine:

"Why are they making new orleans a ghost town?" by bill quigley (a local human rights lawyer who has been giving volunteer legal aid):

"Katrina: Direct Action vs. Government Guns" by scott weinstein (a nurse at the common ground clinic):
Saturday, October 22nd, 2005
4:53 am
are new orleanians the new palestinians?
new orleans, louisiana

here in the dim light of the garage we've turned into a makeshift studio and computer lab, i sit trying to collect my thoughts to launch a campaign to challenge the behavior of the new orleans police department.......but my thoughts and plans keep getting invaded by images -- images of the dried-out brown flood areas i've been driving through to bring food and water to some holdouts in east new orleans.....the brown, dried grass and mud mile after mile - abandoned homes with water lines 8 feet high, the toys-r-us with the sign broken off, the car dealerships with row after row of cars brown from floodwater......and the images of the people i've been talking to -- the old man who was arrested for trespassing just before the storm, and then found himself, along with hundreds of other prisoners, abandoned in old parish prison as the floodwaters rose around them, and those on the first floor died in their cells......he cried as he told me his story, his tears have struck me, as so many others, deep in my heart.

and the courage of charlestine jones, who came to us last week seeking our help to fight her landlord, who was illegally evicting her....and we helped her........we got together and planned and organized, we met the challenge and got together rallies and petitions, press conferences and faxes to the management -- activists in boston brought the tenants' demands to the office there, and in dc the same....in new orleans the manager had the list of demands delivered to his house.....and we won......today the owner agreed to four of the five demands, and the tenants are satisfied with that.....

but the struggle is just beginning.....

i had hoped to be in palestine by now.......but instead i am here in new orleans....i have no benefactors, no paycheck from FEMA or the government, but i am working, along with so many others in this project, out of my love for this city and her people....and for all people........i am working probably harder than i have worked in my life -- manual labor, mental labor, emotional labor....this is tiring work.....and i keep wondering, "where are all the volunteers?" we need so many more than we have.......we need the residents of this city to return and start working in the jobs that are being snatched up by outside contractors......we need people who can take care of their own needs and roll up their sleeves and work on cleanup....we need organizers and lawyers, environmentalists and engineers ..........

and the more i think about the need, and how vast it is, i find myself thinking about the residents of new orleans -- scattered and broken, in shelters and apartments across the country....and how many talented, skilled people have been pushed into diaspora, with no hope of returning. their jobs are being sold off to the lowest bidder, and the culture of new orleans has been split into ten thousand pieces in ten thousand shelters -- how will we piece this puzzle back together to bring new orleans back?? in a way, this is an american version of al-naqba (the catastrophe), that 1948 event when the state of israel was created and the palestinians were pushed out of their homes and scattered to the wind.

so, in a way i am already in palestine -- the 'occupied west bank', the white settlements on what used to be brown peoples' lands, the corporate looters coming in to get rich off the disaster while the indigenous new orleanians are thrown to the wind to make their own ways in new lands.

are new orleanians going to be the new palestinians? refugees in their own country, forced out of their destroyed and battered homes to make way for the developers and their plans and money-making schemes? or will we fight back.....and remake new orleans in the image of a sustainable economy and community....with public control of resources and a safe, sustainable environmental cleanup and rebuilding of the levies?

the plot thickens....stay tuned to this series for the next climax in this movie.....(or come down here yourself and help us clean this place up! -- see http://www.commongroundrelief.org for more info)

starhawk has written a good piece about the situation right now in new orleans, and the common ground collective that i am working with:

and another one entitled, "Who will take out the garbage?"

here is the weblog of a guy who is volunteering here (check the entry 'hostile takeover'):

check the audio interviews and reports i have made at:

and if you have time today (october 22nd - day of action against police brutality), consider sending an email or making a call to challenge police brutality and prison conditions in new orleans:
Tuesday, October 11th, 2005
11:45 pm
report from new orleans
7 october 2005
new orleans, louisiana

people keep asking me when i will be sending an update, when i will write my next journal.....i can't promise to write too much right now, but i want to at least ease everyone's fears a bit and share some info.

well.....in all the different projects and places i have worked, i don't think i have ever slept so little or worked so hard for so many hours each day. it is constant -- since the moment i got here -- just this gaping hole of need that we are all scrambling, just scrambling to fill. the emotional intensity of this disaster, combined with the gross neglect of the government, have combined themselves into a twisted look of blank anxious fear, shock and weary resignation -- this is the look shared by those who have lost everything in the storm, those who lost a child or a home or a friend.....and perhaps it is this look that weighs the experience more than any amount of heavy lifting or climbing or driving or organizing that i do each day. it is this look, the hurricane katrina look, that pierces me a dozen or more times each day as i work side by side with those who have lost everything in the storm to help rebuild their lives and the lives of their friends and neighbors.....

people who come down here to volunteer seem to sink into this 'black hole' once they arrive here -- calls are rare and the phone lines are difficult; updates sporadic and disjointed......those who are outside of this 'black hole' find themselves trying to sort through bits and pieces of informtion to get a full picture of what is going on......the mainstream media seems to have moved on to the next 'big story', and declared the disaster over.

meanwhile, the folks who evacuated and were shipped off all over the country are starting to trickle back to new orleans, seeing their homes (or what's left of them) for the first time.....showing up at our center with 'the look' on their face......and we load them up with supplies, talk and listen and give them some time to process......but the need is so great, it always feels like what we are doing is so small, so so small.....

what this whole thing has made more and more clear to me is the absolute inability of centralized authority structures to respond to crisis, and the absolute ability of humans to reach each other with compassion and solidarity, DESPITE the obstacles put in place by bureaucratic structures and organizations purporting to help. there have been some incredible coalitions -- surprising mutinies.....we've had national guard soldiers sneak supplies out of their warehouses so we could distribute them directly to people, we've had amtrak police sneak ice for our clinic from their stash, red cross volunteers who defected and joined our ranks.....so many many examples of people trying to get supplies to the people who need them -- even if they have to defy orders from above in order to do it. why do the organizations that are set up to distribute aid to people make it so difficult for the people to get it?? could it be a problem with the style of organization itself?

one of the people who founded the common ground clinic, who is also a good friend of mine, has said that she founded the clinic under the premise that the way we, as a movement, have been able to organize medical care during large convergences and protests could be applied to this emergency situation. the main focus of this style of organizing is that it is consensus-based, non-hierarchical, and that it places the patient in the position of being an empowered individual (even a hero of sorts, in this type of situation), and not a powerless victim to be tended to by an 'expert' doctor. this way of organizing the clinic has been wildly successful -- the common ground clinic has served hundreds of people a day for the last six weeks, while FEMA and red cross have just barely, over the last two weeks, begun to even offer anything in this area, let alone come close to serving the number of people, with the quality of care, as common ground clinic.

well, i suppose i will have more time to theorize about the efficacy of anarchist/decentralized models of organization during a time of crisis when and if i actually step back from this whole thing and examine it that way. as for now, i am simply doing it, living these decentralized, non-hierarchical ways of organizing relief in a crisis situation.

here's an article on what i did last night:

and today i talked to three different people who had lost their mothers -- one man's mother was buried under the rubble of their home, and he has been living down the street under a tarp, wearing the same clothes since the hurricane.....he started to cry when he started talking about his mother buried under the mud.....
the audio is at http://neworleans.indymedia.org

then i went to the FEMA base camp for the city of new orleans......it made me feel sick to my stomach....we drove in the main entrance, telling the military guards that we were looking for a FEMA representative (we were, and still are, trying to get them to bring some port-a-johns near the 'welcome home' kitchen in washington square park). we got some vague directions from the soldiers and were waved inside to park. we then walked around this absolutely surreal scene of hundreds of enormous air-conditioned tents, each one with the potential of housing 250 people -- whole city blocks of trailers with hot showers......huge banks of laundry machines, portajohns lined up 50 at a time....a big recreation tent, air-conditioned, with a big-screen tv.....all of it for contractors and FEMA workers, NONE of it for the people of new orleans.

we never did manage to find an actual FEMA representative to ask our question to, but we did talk to a couple guys who were staying there, who told us that the tents were pretty empty, not many people staying there.....and that "we don't combine with the evacuees -- we have our camp here, as workers, and they have their camps".....and when i tried to explain my experience with people who had lost their homes -- how we had to literally drive two sisters to LAKE CHARLES three hours away, because there were no shelters any closer, everything was either shut down or full. they could house thousands of people there at this FEMA base camp, thousands of new orleans citizens could live there while they rebuilt and cleaned their homes in the city. but instead, due to the arrogance of a government bureaucracy that insists they are separate from the 'evacuees', and cannot possibly see themselves mixing with them and working side by side on the cleanup, these people are left homeless.......like the poor man i talked to earlier in the day, living under a tarp with his mother buried under the mud of their house......why can't he live in their tents???? oh it makes me so sad and mad to see so much desperate need, and then just blocks away to see this huge abundance of resources not being used.

I have seen no FEMA center that is actually providing any aid for people -- I have been to this main FEMA base camp and three others in new orleans, and each of them have signs saying "No public services available at this site/Authorized personnel only".

it's so different from how we are working at the common ground collective, or at Mama Dee's in the city, or the other community places that people are starting up -- where neighbors are helping neighbors, people just helping each other.......if an elder needs their roof tarped, or a tree removed from their house, we send a team over to work on it -- but then maybe that elder helps us out, by driving one of our volunteers somewhere in their vehicle or picking up supplies for us. we help each other -- it's so different when we are all human together, instead of a militarized, razor-wired, fenced-in compound like the FEMA camp that keeps out the people in need and keeps the contractors and workers inside.

the communities we are helping do still need many things -- including volunteers for the cleanup effort, clearing out black mold and debris from flooded areas (some of which has been left untouched for the last six weeks. check http://www.commongroundrelief.org for a list of needs. we also need volunteers to help us with legal research -- if you are interested in donating a hew hours of internet time, send me an email. One other thing people can do from afar is to go to http://www.extendthedeadline.org and sending a message to FEMA to extend their deadline for hurricane survivors to apply for emergency aid (it has been near impossible for people to get through on the one phone line FEMA provided to apply for the aid, and FEMA has cut off the deadline to apply).
Monday, September 19th, 2005
12:54 pm
report from the occupied west bank of new orleans
18 sept 2005
occupied west bank

my friends, i am writing to you under military curfew, with helicopters flying overhead and armed personnel carriers patrolling the streets, from the occupied west bank. but this time it is not the occupied west bank of palestine that i write from, but the west bank of the mississippi river. a few hours ago, i watched about 30 helicopters take off from an aircraft carrier in the middle of the oil-slicked mississippi and roar through the sky low overhead. soon after, i was stopped by police who were sternly enforcing a curfew that hadn't even officially begun for the night. the police and military tear through the streets all night, taking shots at any dark-colored figure who they see out on the street.

i have only been here since yesterday, but already i have heard story after heartbreaking story of the incompetence and negligence of the US government at the local, state and federal level in response to this crisis. from the man who had to rush out of a relief center where volunteers were using the internet to help him locate his family because it was 7:30, and he had to rush across town to his half-ruined home before eight, or he would be shot for breaking curfew, to the family whose landlord took their last $400 rent money for this month even though their home had been completely destroyed, to the many stories of people wading through neck-deep water, floating their grandmothers in refrigerators to try to escape the flooded-out city of new orleans, only to be turned back at the bridge by police with shotguns.....the stories are horrendous, sad and infuriating, especially infuriating - because this disaster was preventable.

even now, a full 3 weeks after the hurricane hit, the red cross has yet to arrive in this and many other neighborhoods around new orleans. many suspect that the red cross will never arrive here with medicine and supplies, because they hope to force people to leave this area. it is absolutely unconscionable, and a violation of every human rights treaty to which the US is a signatory, for the government to use food and medicine as a weapon to try to force people out of their homes. yet that is exactly what they are doing.

everyone is aware that the water is completely contaminated, and many streets are covered in contaminated mud. but no government agency has provided drinking water -- it is as if these people are expected to simply lay down and die. but now, thanks to the efforts of many independent volunteers who came here despite the government's warnings and naysaying, many lives have been saved that would otherwise have been lost. many more lives are precariously close to being lost, but new volunteers, water, supplies and medicine keep arriving every day, staving off death another day for those folks the government 'left behind'.

contrary to the popular image promoted by the media, those who were 'left behind', unable to evacuate before the hurricane, were not looters, thugs and criminals. they are, for the most part, the elderly -- the most vulnerable members of our society, and poor families with young children who could not afford to evacuate. after being ignored by the government for the first few days of the disaster (a period in which they thought surely they were being left to die in the muck and mud), they were subjected to a massive military occupation, an operation described by the brigadier-general in charge as "turning this place into a 'little somalia'". those who didn't die in their attics waiting for help to arrive have been tormented by a massive military presence that, for the most part, would rather shoot than help them. sure, there are some notable exceptions -- national guard units who have distributed food and water on their own - but these are rogue units, not following the 'shoot-to-kill' orders from their superiors.

perhaps i sound a little bitter...... but arriving here, meeting all these elderly, sick and poor people who all tell me the same story, and realizing that story is completely different from the one being shown on television and in the news around the country -- it makes a person feel sick, literally sick, and disgusted at the lies that are being spread to try to justify the shameful inaction of the government in this crisis.

there are so many people and places that have been left out of all the news reports, left out of the red cross relief efforts......i have just seen video from the coast of Bay St. Charles, Mississippi, a town that was completely wiped out - of those who stayed in their homes, there are no survivors. The Houma Nation of Indians on the Louisiana coast has also had most of its members' homes completely destroyed. These are pictures taken just a few days ago -- the whole place is still underwater:

the official death count is unbelievably low - but most bodies have not even been recovered yet. it may take a long time before we figure out the real numbers of how many people have died in this disaster. and very little is being revealed about all the contaminants that are in the water, including massive oil spills that have been estimated to total half the size of the infamous Exxon-Valdez oil spill:

I have just watched camera footage a friend just took a few days ago of a medical research plant in mississippi that was under 30 feet of floodwater. with no testing of the level of contamination, mexican immigrant workers were cleaning the place, wearing no protective gear at all.

so when news came through this area that bush has suspended the minimum wage, it was just another blow for the weary, tired and (many now) homeless residents who have come to expect government neglect and animosity as common practice -- so none were surprised at this move, which would benefit (as usual) the most wealthy, while further impoverishing these, the most impoverished citizens of the united states.

i have been busy since i got here, using my tech skills to help with internet connectivity, phone (over internet) and other communication. any volunteers (especially doctors, nurses and trained medics) who are willing to work hard and spend more than just a few days here would be able to help a good deal in this relief effort. in fact, a number of people who originally volunteered with the red cross and have become frustrated with the inaction of that organization have been contacting the grassroots clinics and organizations that are actually feeding and providing medicine to the thousands of people 'left behind' by the disaster.

there is also an effort to rescue abandoned pets underway:

i am currently working with the common ground collective:

if you can listen to audio, here is an interview i did in algiers with a doctor in the free clinic


ps - here is part of a message from my friend ryan about why NOT to donate to the red cross:
I urge you to NOT send any money to the red cross, and instead to consider sending it to other groups. The Red Cross has a history of mis-using funds and not helping to people who need it most. There has been so much racism going on in New Orleans right now and the Red Cross is fitting right in with it.

There is a terrific list of local, people of color, low-income, and
grassroots groups the are doing direct relief effort, no strings attached.
Please consider them and see this list:

The Red Cross has been trying to evict groups like Vets for Peace from
feeding groups of evacuees in Covington, LA. They also have been known for keeping most donations they get for themselves and paying their CEOs
6-digit salary. For more info and resources, please see:



9:21 am
article by my friend: "back in new orleans"
i know i usually just send my own writing, but in this case, i thought it was really important to share this article by my friend jordan from new orleans. i am also including a letter i wrote to my senators and congressman last wednesday about the hurricane response (at the end, below jordan's article)

i'm currently in a bus full of aid headed to louisiana, with six other buses in a pastors for peace emergency solidarity aid caravan to louisiana and mississippi. see: http://neworleans.indymedia.org/news/2005/09/4547.php for more info.
if you want to donate, you can send to me directly - i can guarantee this money will go straight to where it's needed - paypal donations can be sent to creativeexchange@yahoo.com (or on my website http://www.jenkasjourneys.org ),
or send your check or money order (payable to IFCO) to:
Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO)
402 W 145th Street
New York, NY 10031.

also, there is a list of local, grassroots efforts in the new orleans area at: http://www.sparkplugfoundation.org/katrinarelief.html

now, read on for the latest from new orleans......


Back Inside New Orleans

by Jordan Flaherty

September 12, 2005

What actually happened in New Orleans these past two weeks? We need to sort through the rumors and distortions. Perhaps we need our version of South Africa’s Truth And Reconciliation Commission. Some way to sort through the many narratives and find a truth, and to find justice.

I spent yesterday inside the city of New Orleans, speaking to a few of the last holdouts in the 9th ward/bywater neighborhood. Their stories paint a very different picture from what we’ve heard in the media. Instead of stories of gangs of criminals and police and soldiers keeping order, there were stories of collective action, everyone looking out for each other, communal responses.

The first few nights there was a large, free community barbecue at a neighborhood bar called The Country Club. People brought food and cooked and cooked and drank and went swimming (yes, there's a pool in the bar).

Emily Harris and Richie Kay, from Desire Street, traveled out on their boat and brought supplies and gave rescue rides. They have been doing this almost every day since the hurricane struck. They estimate that they have rescued at least a hundred people. Emily doesn’t want to leave. She is a carpenter and builder, and says, “I want to stay and rebuild. I love New Orleans.”

Emily describes a community working together in the first days after the hurricane. She also describes a scene of abandonment and disappointment. “A lot of people came to the high ground at St. Claude Avenue. They really thought someone would come and rescue them, and they waited all day for something - a boat, a helicopter, anything. There were helicopters in the sky, but none coming down.”

So people started walking as a mass uptown to Canal Street. Along the way, youths would break into grocery stores, take the food and distribute it evenly among houses in the community.

“Then they reached Canal Street, and saw that there was still no one that wanted to rescue them. That's when people broke into the stores on Canal Street.”

I asked Okra, in his house off of Piety Street, what the biggest problem has been. He said, “It’s been the police - they’ve lost the last restraints on their behavior they had, and gotten a license to go wild. They can do anything they want. I saw one cop beat a guy so hard that he almost took his ear off. And this was someone just trying to walk home.”

Walking through the streets, I witnessed hundreds of soldiers patrolling the streets. Everyone I spoke to said that soldiers were coming to their house at least once a day, trying to convince them to leave, bringing stories of disease and quarantine and violence. I didn’t see or speak to any soldiers involved in any clean up or rebuilding.

There are surely reasons to leave - I would not be living in the city at this point. I’m too attached to electricity and phone lines. But I can attest that those holdouts I spoke to are doing fine. They have enough food and water and have been very careful to avoid exposing themselves to the many health risks in the city.

I saw more city buses rolling through poor areas of town than I ever saw pre-hurricane. Unfortunately, these buses were filled with patrols of soldiers. What if the massive effort placed into patrolling this city and chasing everyone out were placed into beginning the rebuilding process?

Some neighborhoods are underwater still, and the water has turned into a sticky sludge of sewage and death that turns the stomach and breaks my heart. However, some neighborhoods are barely damaged at all, and if a large-scale effort were put into bringing back electricity and clearing the streets of debris, people could begin to move back in now.

Certainly some people do not want to move back, but many of us do. We want to rebuild our city that we love. The People’s Hurricane Fund - a grassroots, community based group made up of New Orleans community organizers and allies from around the US - has already made one of their first demands a “right of return” for the displaced of New Orleans.

In the last week, I’ve traveled between Houston, Baton Rouge, Covington, Jackson and New Orleans and spoken to many of my former friends and neighbors. We feel shell shocked. It used to be we would see each other in a coffee shop or a bar or on the street and talk and find out what we’re doing. Those of us who were working for social justice felt a community. We could share stories, combine efforts, and we never felt alone. Now we’re alone and dispersed and we miss our homes and our communities and we still don’t know where so many of our loved ones even are.

It may be months before we start to get a clear picture of what happened in New Orleans. As people are dispersed around the US reconstructing that story becomes even harder than reconstructing the city. Certain sites, like the Convention Center and Superdome, have become legendary, but despite the thousands of people who were there, it still is hard to find out exactly what did happen.

According to a report that’s been circulated, Denise Young, one of those trapped in the convention center told family members, “yes, there were young men with guns there, but they organized the crowd. They went to Canal Street and ‘looted,’ and brought back food and water for the old people and the babies, because nobody had eaten in days. When the police rolled down windows and yelled out ‘the buses are coming,’ the young men with guns organized the crowd in order: old people in front, women and children next, men in the back,just so that when the buses came, there would be priorities of who got out first.” But the buses never came. “Lots of people being dropped off, nobody being picked up. Cops passing by, speeding off. We thought we were being left to die.”

Larry Bradshaw and Lorrie Beth Slonsky, paramedics from Service Employees International Union Local 790 reported on their experience downtown, after leaving a hotel they were staying at for a convention. “We walked to the police command center at Harrah's on Canal Street and were told ...that we were on our own, and no they did not have water to give us. We now numbered several hundred. We held a mass meeting to decide a course of action. We agreed to camp outside the police command post. We would be plainly visible to the media and would constitute a highly visible embarrassment to the City officials. The police told us that we could not stay. Regardless, we began to settle in and set up camp. In short order, the police commander came across the street to address our group. He told us he had a solution: we should walk to the Pontchartrain Expressway and cross the greater New Orleans Bridge where the police had buses lined up to take us out of the City...

“We organized ourselves and the 200 of us set off for the bridge with great excitement and hope. ...As we approached the bridge, armed Gretna sheriffs formed a line across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads. This sent the crowd fleeing in various directions...

“Our small group retreated back down Highway 90 to seek shelter from the rain under an overpass. We debated our options and in the end decided to build an encampment in the middle of the Ponchartrain Expressway on the center divide, between the O'Keefe and Tchoupitoulas exits. We reasoned we would be visible to everyone, we would have some security being on an elevated freeway and we could wait and watch for the arrival of the yet to be seen buses.

“All day long, we saw other families, individuals and groups make the same trip up the incline in an attempt to cross the bridge, only to be turned away. Some chased away with gunfire, others simply told no, others to be verbally berated and humiliated. Thousands of New Orleanians were prevented and prohibited from self-evacuating the City on foot. Meanwhile, the only two City shelters sank further into squalor and disrepair. The only way across the bridge was by vehicle. We saw workers stealing trucks, buses, moving vans, semi-trucks and any car that could be hot wired. All were packed with people trying to escape the misery New Orleans had become.”

Media reports of armed gangs focused on black youth, but New Orleans community activist, Black Panther, and former Green Party candidate for City Council Malik Rahim reported from the West Bank of New Orleans, “There are gangs of white vigilantes near here riding around in pickup trucks, all of them armed.” I also heard similar reports from two of my neighbors - a white gay couple - who i visited on Esplanade Avenue.

The reconstruction of New Orleans starts now. We need to reconstruct the truth, we need to reconstruct families, who are still separated, we need to reconstruct the lives and community of the people of New Orleans, and, finally, we need to reconstruct the city.

Since I moved to New Orleans, I’ve been inspired and educated by the grassroots community organizing that is an integral part of the life of the city. It is this community infrastructure that is needed to step forward and fight for restructuring with justice.

In 1970, when hundreds of New Orleans police came to kick the Black Panthers out of the Desire Housing Projects, the entire community stood between the police and the Panthers, and the police were forced to retreat.

The grassroots infrastructure of New Orleans is the infrastructure of secondlines and Black Mardi Gras: true community support. The Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs organize New Orleans’ legendary secondline parades - roving street parties that happen almost every weekend. These societies were formed to provide insurance to the Black community because Black people could not buy insurance legally, and to this day the “social aid” is as important as the pleasure.

The only way that New Orleans will be reconstructed as even a shadow of its former self is if the people of New Orleans have direct control over that reconstruction. But, our community dislocation is only increasing. Every day, we are spread out further. People leave Houston for Oregon and Chicago. We are losing contact with each other, losing our community that has nurtured us.

Already, the usual forces of corporate restructuring are lining up. Halliburton's Kellogg Brown & Root subsidiary has begun work on a $500 million US Navy contract for emergency repairs at Gulf Coast naval and marine facilities damaged by Hurricane Katrina. Blackwell Security - the folks that brought you Abu Ghraib - are patrolling the streets of our city.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the rich white elite is already planning their vision of New Orleans’ reconstruction, from the super-rich gated compounds of Audubon Place Uptown, where they have set up a heliport and brought in a heavily-armed Israeli security company. “The new city must be something very different,” one of these city leaders was quoted as saying, “with better services and fewer poor people. Those who want to see this city rebuilt want to see it done in a completely different way: demographically, geographically and politically.”

While the world’s attention is focused on New Orleans, in a time when its clear to most of the world that the federal government’s greed and heartlessness has caused this tragedy, we have an opportunity to make a case for a people’s restructuring, rather than a Halliburton restructuring.

The people of New Orleans have the will. Today, I met up with Andrea Garland, a community activist with Get Your Act On who is planning a bold direct action; she and several of her friends are moving back in to their homes. They have generators and supplies, and they invite anyone who is willing to fight for New Orleans to move back in with them. Malik Rahim, in New Orleans’ West Bank, is refusing to leave and is inviting others to join him. Community organizer Shana Sassoon, exiled in Houston, is planning a community mapping project to map out where our diaspora is being sent, to aid in our coming back together. Abram Himmelstein and Rachel Breulin of The Neighborhood Story Project are beginning the long task of documenting oral histories of our exile.

Please join us in this fight. This is not just about New Orleans. This is about community and collaboration versus corporate profiteering. The struggle for New Orleans lives on.

Jordan Flaherty is a union organizer and an editor of Left Turn Magazine (http://www.leftturn.org). He is not planning on moving out of New Orleans.
Some Organizations Mentioned in This Article:


Other Organizations That Need your Support:


jenka's letter to congress (Sep. 5)
also can be found at this link: http://dc.indymedia.org/newswire/display/129555/index.php

Dear Senator Sarbanes,

I write you again after only a few days because not only did I not receive a satisfactory response to my letter of Sep. 2, I was mocked and rebuked by your staff when I called your office to follow up on my faxed letter challenging your lack of initiative on the Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. I was told, in an extremely patronizing tone, "I'm sure the Senator is doing everything he can to help the victims." Well Senator, I certainly do not appreciate being patronized to by your staff, when in fact my reason for calling was that you are not, in fact, doing "everything you can" in this effort. I have outlined below some of the actions that I, and many other Maryland constituents, would like to see acted upon immediately.

On FEMA and the Federal response:
The President of Jefferson Parish Aaron Broussard told Meet the Press today (Sep. 5) that FEMA cut his parish's emergency communications lines and he had to have his sheriff restore the severed lines and post armed deputies to ensure that FEMA did not try to cut the communications lines again. Broussard's statement: "Yesterday--yesterday--FEMA comes in and cuts all of our emergency communication lines. They cut them without notice. Our sheriff, Harry Lee, goes back in, he reconnects the line. He posts armed guards on our line and says, 'No one is getting near these lines.'" He also said, "that Wal-Mart had sent three trucks full of bottled water to the area, and that the national guard told them it was not needed and sent them back", and, "that a ship was in the harbor with medical supplies, personel and food, that the national guard told them it wasn't needed and refused to allow them to help out."

FEMA has bungled every stage of this emergency, including directly sabotaging emergency aid efforts. Control should be given to New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagins, the man who knows the city better than anyone. He should be directing the relief efforts, and all other agencies should report to him.

Michael D. Brown, Under Secretary for Emergency Preparedness and Response, Department of Homeland Security, and William Lokey, the Federal Coordinating Officer for Federal recovery operations in the affected area, should be fired for incompetence. FEMA has made an absolute mockery out of this rescue and relief operation. Michael Brown is unfit for the job to which he was assigned by George W. Bush. Before joining the Bush administration in 2001, Michael Brown spent 11 years as the commissioner of judges and stewards for the International Arabian Horse Association, a breeders' and horse-show organization based in Colorado, a job from which he was "asked to resign" amidst allegations of supervisory failures (source: Sep. 4 Boston Herald) -- hardly a man qualified to oversee the largest disaster in US history (or any disaster at all).

State Governor Kathleen Blanco should also be held criminally responsible for ordering a mandatory evacuation, but not providing the means for people to evacuate. If Cuba can evacuate 1.5 million people from Havana, as they did just last month when Hurricane Dennis hit the island in a direct hit, then surely Louisiana can evacuate 250,000. There's simply no excuse for the outright incompetence of these public officials. They should be fired, or resign, immediately.

George W. Bush's actions in response to this catastrophe have been absolutely appalling. Where was he on Sunday Aug. 28, when the hurricane was clearly becoming "The Big One" that would hit New Orleans? At his ranch in Crawford, Texas, on vacation (ignoring, as he has for months, the peace delegation of mothers whose children were killed in the Iraq war, camped outside his doorstep). Where was he on Monday Aug. 29, when the hurricane hit, the levees broke and the city faced exactly the 'doomsday scenario' that had been predicted time and time again? Travelling to California and Arizona, acting as a salesman for the pharmaceutical companies, advocating new, high-priced drugs for Medicare recipients. What about Tuesday Aug. 30, as the waters rose and the city drowned? Still no word from Mr. Bush, who was busy playing guitar for a photo-op in San Diego and then rushing back to continue his vacation in Crawford. Only Wednesday Aug. 31, after flying over the region in his private jet and landing in Washington, did he make a statement at all, a statement described in a New York Times editorial as his "worst speech ever", in which he called on his dad to lead the relief effort. What kind of a 'leader' gets on television three days after the event and says he is depending on his father and former President Clinton to head up relief efforts?? Where is the leader who will say, "I will not rest until I know that every survivor of the hurricane is safe"? Where is a leader who will immediately admit the mistake of not giving the requested funds to levee restoration, and devote the needed federal money to rescue the survivors and mop up the mistake? That leader is simply not there. Instead, we have George W. Bush, who gave an interview to ABC on Thursday saying "no one expected the levees to be breached", when in fact such a scenario was listed by FEMA as one of the three most likely disasters in the US. George W. Bush needs to be held responsible for his trivializing of this massive disaster, and his failure to act, and to act appropriately.

On Foreign aid:
Condoleeza Rice said in her press conference on Sept. 2 that "I said to [the French Foreign Minister, Mr. Douste-Blazy] what I've been saying to everyone, which is that we are working very closely with the Department of Homeland Security to match up what is available with what is needed, and that I would get back to him." According to FEMA, NO foreign aid donations have yet been accepted. Many of these donations are sitting just offshore, including 1100 Cuban doctors who are extremely well-trained in hurricane response. The Cuban doctors worked wonders in Honduras when that country was hit by Hurricane Mitch in 1998 (and 11,000 were killed). Working under severe conditions, with little to no equipment, these Cuban doctors saved literally thousands of lives. Now, in the current crisis, it is not a time for the higher-ups in the Department of Homeland Security to sift through the list of foreign aid deciding which would be politically expedient for the current administration to accept, and which to reject. Now is the time to overcome political differences and accept this foreign aid which is being so graciously offered.

According to an article entitled "US declines Swedish aid - for now" yesterday (Sep. 4) in the Swedish paper The Local, "Sweden had offered to send medical and technical aid to the hurricane-ravaged southern United States, and had been planning to send a military cargo plane filled with water sanitation equipment as well as five water sanitation experts on Sunday morning. Early Sunday however, Swedish authorities received word that the US logistically could not immediately accept the aid. 'The planned... flight to the US with aid equipment from the Rescue Services Agency will not take place on Sunday,' the agency said in a statement."

ALL of the offers of foreign aid should be IMMEDIATELY accepted, including the aid from Sweden, Cuba and Venezuela.

On Domestic aid:
In a news release entitled "Cash Sought To Help Hurricane Victims, Volunteers Should Not Self-Dispatch", Release Date: August 29, 2005, FEMA listed several domestic organizations for donations.

The Red Cross is the first organization listed. Their record for aid distribution is dismal. The Red Cross, under the Liberty Fund, collected $564 million in donations after 9/11. Months after the event, the Red Cross had distributed only $154 million. The Red Cross' explanation for keeping the majority of the money was that it would be used to help 'fight the war on terror'. Then Red Cross President Dr. Bernadine Healy arrogantly responded when questioned about the withholding of funds by stating, "The Liberty Fund is a war fund. It has evolved into a war fund." Despite the family members of victims of 9/11 complaining bitterly to a House Energy and Commerce Committee's oversight panel, the issue seemed to be brushed under the carpet. Congress needs to demand complete transparency of all donations to the Red Cross, and a full accounting that ensures that every cent is going to people in need -- not into the Red Cross bank account to stay.

Why is Pat Robertson's organization, 'Operation Blessing', listed as #3 on FEMA's list? Surely this man, and his organization, have been discredited, considering that Robertson recently called for the United States to violate international law and assassinate President Hugo Chavez, the democratically elected head of state in Venezuela, saying "We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability "(source: BBC News Report " Profile: Pat Robertson" Thursday, 25 August 2005, 08:38 GMT 09:38 UK). Robertson once signed a letter calling feminism a "socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft and become lesbians" (same source). This man is a disgrace to this country, and a search of his organization's records show that money donated to 'Operation Blessing' may well be going to support Robertson's for-profit company, African Development Co., which is doing exploratory mining for diamonds in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo (source: IRS records). Pat Robertson, and his organization 'Operation Blessing', need to be subjected to a criminal investigation, NOT listed as a legitimate aid organization by FEMA.

Other voluntary aid organizations, hundreds of which are already stepping up to fill the gaping holes left by the Department of Homeland Security/FEMA, should be allowed to bring aid and supplies to those who need it in New Orleans and surrounding areas. Jason Robideaux, an attorney from Lafayette, reported on Sept. 2 that 500 captained boats from Lafayette, LA were denied entry to New Orleans to rescue survivors. It is now three days later, and many of those survivors still remain on their roofs or in their attics in New Orleans, with no water. How many have drowned in these three days because those boats were denied entry? This is unconscionable! I demand that all rescue missions be allowed entry into New Orleans, and that the blocking of the Lafayette rescue boats on Sept. 2 be thoroughly investigated, and prosecuted.

The mobilization of the military is unnecessary, and will hinder, rather than help, relief efforts. In a Sept. 2 article in The Army Times newspaper entitled "Troops begin combat operations in New Orleans", Brig. Gen. Gary Jones, commander of the Louisiana National Guard’s Joint Task Force, was quoted as saying, "This place is going to look like Little Somalia...We’re going to go out and take this city back. This will be a combat operation to get this city under control." A combat operation resembling the disaster in Somalia is absolutely not what is needed in New Orleans right now. While people are thirsting to death and drowning in flood waters, it is cruel and inhuman to declare a combat operation on these people. Most of those left in New Orleans are sick and elderly (despite the common media image that the city is full of stereotypical black male criminals, this is simply not the case). The military "combat operation" must be called off immediately, and replaced with a search and rescue effort to find survivors and give them medical attention, water and food.

The Federal Government should activate the Civilian Reserve Air Fleet, a major air support plan under a pre-existing contract with airlines that lets the government quickly put private cargo and passenger planes into service -- this is something that should have been done on the first day of the disaster. That it was not done before now further proves the incompetence and negligence of the governmental response to this disaster.

On abandoning New Orleans
Rep. Dennis Hastert's comment that "It looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed," in an interview last Wednesday (Aug. 31) with the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Illinois, is an insult and an affront to the citizens of New Orleans, especially made, as it was, in the midst of the unfolding tragedy. Although he tempered his comment a few days later after criticism, I ask that you rebuke Rep. Hastert for his blunt disregard for the survivors who needed rescuing at the time, that you strongly uphold New Orleans' citizens' right to return and rebuild their city and challenge any politician who proposes the abandonment of this incredibly rich and diverse city.

I can provide source materials for any of the references listed in this letter. Thank you for your prompt attention to these matters.
Saturday, September 3rd, 2005
2:17 am
Thoughts on the Hurricane
When I used to live in New Orleans (1999), there were always rumors that when 'the big one' hit, New Orleans would be underwater, and many would die as a result. In 2001, this was confirmed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which rated a hurricane in New Orleans to be one of the three most likely, most catastrophic disasters in this country. There was plenty of warning that this was coming....like this article from the Houston Chronicle from 2001, which says, in part:
" In the face of an approaching [Category 3 or above hurricane] storm, scientists say, the city's less-than-adequate evacuation routes would strand 250,000 people or more, and probably kill one of 10 left behind as the city drowned under 20 feet of water. Thousands of refugees could land in Houston. Economically, the toll would be shattering."

The warnings were there, the scenario was drawn out time and time again. But where was the money? The Bush administration had cut $20-$40 million needed to strengthen levees -- a 2004 project that was 80% complete. Al Naomi, the head of the Louisiana Army Corps of Engineers, said in early 2004, "The longer we wait without funding, the more we sink," he said. "I've got at least six levee construction contracts that need to be done to raise the levee protection back to where it should be (because of settling). Right now I owe my contractors about $5 million. And we're going to have to pay them interest." He estimated it would take $20 million to complete the levee restoration, which he requested from the Federal Government, but the $20 million was denied, and the 2005 Bush Administration budget appropriated only $3.9 million to the project.

Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, said on June 8, 2004, "It appears that the money has been moved in the president’s budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that’s the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can’t be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us."
(see this article for more detail: http://www.pnionline.com/dnblog/attytood/archives/002331.html )

Meanwhile, FEMA also suffered from cutbacks under the Bush administration, a push to privatize the agency, and an absorption into the all-encompassing "Department of Homeland Security". The restructuring of the agency into a competitive structure based on the private, corporate model, resulted in poorer areas, like Louisiana, being left out of flood-control grant money altogether!
"In a sense, Louisiana is the floodplain of the nation," noted a 2002 FEMA report. As a result, flooding is a constant threat, and the state has an estimated 18,000 buildings that have been repeatedly been damaged by flood waters -- the highest number of any state. And yet, in summer 2004 FEMA denied Louisiana communities' pre-disaster mitigation funding requests. In Jefferson Parish, part of the New Orleans metropolitan area, flood zone manager Tom Rodrigue was baffled by the development. 'You would think we would get maximum consideration' for the funds, he says. 'This is what the grant program called for. We were more than qualified for it.'"
(see this article for more detail: http://www.bestofneworleans.com/dispatch/2004-09-28/cover_story.html )

I'm not pointing these things out to place blame, but to try to explain why the flooding happened, and why the emergency response by the government has been so inadequate and inept. The levees broke because federal money was withheld that was to be used for necessary upkeep. FEMA has shown itself incapable of a thorough or speedy evacuation. Residents had to escape the city on their own, or not at all. Left behind: the sickest, oldest, poorest, youngest. Thousands are believed to have drowned, some trapped in attics as flood waters rose for 2 days.

What really hurts are the cries for help -- the chanting outside New Orleans' Superdome: "Help! Help! Please help us!", the mayor, angry and frustrated at the failure of federal support, saying that his own efforts to save his city are being held up by bureaucratic holdups at the federal level.
(listen to this segment from an emotional interview with the New Orleans Mayor on Thursday, Sep. 1: http://houston.indymedia.org/news/2005/09/42795.php )

My friend Jordan writes:
"In the refugee camp I just left, on the I-10 freeway near Causeway, thousands of people (at least 90% black and poor) stood and squatted in mud and trash behind metal barricades, under an unforgiving sun, with heavily armed soldiers standing guard over them. When a bus would come through, it would stop at a random spot, state police would open a gap in one of the barricades, and people would rush for the bus, with no information given about where the bus was going. Once inside (we were told) evacuees would be told where the bus was taking them - Baton Rouge, Houston, Arkansas, Dallas, or other locations. I was told that if you boarded a bus bound for Arkansas (for example), even people with family and a place to stay in Baton Rouge would not be allowed to get out of the bus as it passed through Baton Rouge."

I read the accounts of the squalor of the refugee camps, the people who haven't had water for days, and I feel sick, and angry that this all could have been avoided. I think of the New Orleans I know and love - a city bursting with energy, with flowers and moss hanging from ancient trees along brick and cobblestone streets with antique streetcars rumbling along. I was last there this past March, and the magic of the city struck me as it often had before -- I found myself stopping to talk to artists on the street, with cars covered in beads and trinkets, watching fairy-winged angels float by on their bicycles -- the city of New Orleans is mesmerizing with its beauty and culture. Is that all gone for good? Perhaps.

In March, during my visit to New Orleans, I had dinner with Debbie and Bill Quigley, a nurse and law professor, respectively, who live in the Garden District near Tulane University in New Orleans. The dinner discussion inevitably moved toward the topic of hurricanes in New Orleans, and what would happen when "The Big One" hit. Debbie recounted stories of past hurricanes, where the nurses, doctors and their families had to 'move in' to the hospitals while the water rushed by outside. So I wasn't completely surprised when I heard Bill Quigley's voice on the radio yesterday (Thurs. Sep. 1), reporting the conditions at Memorial Hospital, where he and Debbie had not only 'moved in', but were quite literally trapped inside the hospital with no water and no electricity, and 1200 patients in need of urgent care. I haven't heard word of them since, and the hospital switchboard has no info on them.....I just hope they are able to get out, but knowing them, they will probably make sure every single patient is safe before they even attempt to remove themselves.

I think of the out-of-the-way coffeeshops where brilliant musicians would try out their voices and rhythm for the first time in front of a crowd, the street dancing and second-line jazz parades every Sunday afternoon......the New Orleans I knew........and the sweltering heat.......the heat where thirsty thousands are now marching to a very different beat. The beat of a military deployment that has been sent in to New Orleans by Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco with orders to "shoot to kill". Orders reiterated by a well-rested, long-vacationing George W. Bush.

I'll admit I've never been a fan of George W. Bush, but his actions this week in response to this catastrophe have been absolutely appalling. Where was he on Sunday, when the hurricane was clearly becoming "The Big One" that would hit New Orleans? At his ranch in Crawford, Texas, on vacation (ignoring, as he has for months, the peace delegation of mothers whose children were killed in the Iraq war, camped outside his doorstep). Where was he on Monday, when the hurricane hit, the levees broke and the city faced exactly the 'doomsday scenario' that had been predicted time and time again? Travelling to California and Arizona, acting as a salesman for the pharmaceutical companies, advocating new, high-priced drugs for Medicare recipients. What about Tuesday, as the waters rose and the city drowned? Still no word from Mr. Bush, who was busy playing guitar for a photo-op in San Diego and then rushing back to continue his vacation in Crawford. Only Wednesday, after flying over the region in his private jet and landing in Washington, did he make a statement at all, a statement described in a New York Times editorial as his "worst speech ever", in which he called on his dad to lead the relief effort. What kind of a 'leader' gets on television THREE DAYS AFTER the event and says he is depending on his father and former President Clinton to head up relief efforts??

Where is the LEADER who will say, "I WILL NOT REST until I know that every survivor of the hurricane is safe"? Where is a leader who will immediately admit the mistake of not giving the requested funds to levee restoration, and devote the needed federal money to rescue the survivors and mop up the mistake? That leader is simply not there. Instead, we have George W. Bush, who gave an interview to ABC on Thursday saying "no one expected the levees to be breached", when in fact such a scenario was listed by FEMA as one of the three most likely disasters in the US (as I mentioned earlier). Everyone expected the levees would be breached when a hurricane of this magnitude hit New Orleans: the Army Corps of Engineers, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project (authorized by Congress in 1996 after floods killed six, but cut almost completely in 2003 by Bush administration budget cuts) -- everyone predicted this scenario, expected it -- especially after the budget cuts of 2005, and the UNPRECEDENTED budget cuts for FY2006. Everyone, it seems, except George W. Bush.

And even now, although he's finally deigned to make a visit to some affected areas (but not the hardest hit spot - New Orleans itself), Bush has made no statement committing the federal government to a significant or sustained effort to aid the areas that have been devastated by the hurricane.

I am angry, yes. But the feeling is superceded by another, an overwhelming feeling of compassion for the survivors, and a desire to do whatever I can to help them live and survive this thing. The humanitarian aid organization I work with, Pastors for Peace, is organizing an ad-hoc humanitarian aid caravan to Louisiana and Mississippi, picking up aid in different spots around the country and bringing it south to the survivors. I will be helping with this effort as much as I can before I go to Palestine.
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When I used to live in New Orleans (1999), there were always rumors that when 'the big one' hit, New Orleans would be underwater, and many would die as a result. In 2001, this was confirmed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which rated a hurricane in New Orleans to be one of the three most likely, most catastrophic disasters in this country. There was plenty of warning that this was coming....like this article from the Houston Chronicle from 2001, which says, in part:
" In the face of an approaching [Category 3 or above hurricane] storm, scientists say, the city's less-than-adequate evacuation routes would strand 250,000 people or more, and probably kill one of 10 left behind as the city drowned under 20 feet of water. Thousands of refugees could land in Houston. Economically, the toll would be shattering."

The warnings were there, the scenario was drawn out time and time again. But where was the money? The Bush administration had cut $20-$40 million needed to strengthen levees -- a 2004 project that was 80% complete. Al Naomi, the head of the Louisiana Army Corps of Engineers, said in early 2004, "The longer we wait without funding, the more we sink," he said. "I've got at least six levee construction contracts that need to be done to raise the levee protection back to where it should be (because of settling). Right now I owe my contractors about $5 million. And we're going to have to pay them interest." He estimated it would take $20 million to complete the levee restoration, which he requested from the Federal Government, but the $20 million was denied, and the 2005 Bush Administration budget appropriated only $3.9 million to the project.

Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, said on June 8, 2004, "It appears that the money has been moved in the president’s budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that’s the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can’t be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us."
(see this article for more detail: http://www.pnionline.com/dnblog/attytood/archives/002331.html )

Meanwhile, FEMA also suffered from cutbacks under the Bush administration, a push to privatize the agency, and an absorption into the all-encompassing "Department of Homeland Security". The restructuring of the agency into a competitive structure based on the private, corporate model, resulted in poorer areas, like Louisiana, being left out of flood-control grant money altogether!
"In a sense, Louisiana is the floodplain of the nation," noted a 2002 FEMA report. As a result, flooding is a constant threat, and the state has an estimated 18,000 buildings that have been repeatedly been damaged by flood waters -- the highest number of any state. And yet, in summer 2004 FEMA denied Louisiana communities' pre-disaster mitigation funding requests. In Jefferson Parish, part of the New Orleans metropolitan area, flood zone manager Tom Rodrigue was baffled by the development. 'You would think we would get maximum consideration' for the funds, he says. 'This is what the grant program called for. We were more than qualified for it.'"
(see this article for more detail: http://www.bestofneworleans.com/dispatch/2004-09-28/cover_story.html )

I'm not pointing these things out to place blame, but to try to explain why the flooding happened, and why the emergency response by the government has been so inadequate and inept. The levees broke because federal money was withheld that was to be used for necessary upkeep. FEMA has shown itself incapable of a thorough or speedy evacuation. Residents had to escape the city on their own, or not at all. Left behind: the sickest, oldest, poorest, youngest. Thousands are believed to have drowned, some trapped in attics as flood waters rose for 2 days.

What really hurts are the cries for help -- the chanting outside New Orleans' Superdome: "Help! Help! Please help us!", the mayor, angry and frustrated at the failure of federal support, saying that his own efforts to save his city are being held up by bureaucratic holdups at the federal level.
(listen to this segment from an emotional interview with the New Orleans Mayor on Thursday, Sep. 1: http://houston.indymedia.org/news/2005/09/42795.php )

My friend Jordan writes:
"In the refugee camp I just left, on the I-10 freeway near Causeway, thousands of people (at least 90% black and poor) stood and squatted in mud and trash behind metal barricades, under an unforgiving sun, with heavily armed soldiers standing guard over them. When a bus would come through, it would stop at a random spot, state police would open a gap in one of the barricades, and people would rush for the bus, with no information given about where the bus was going. Once inside (we were told) evacuees would be told where the bus was taking them - Baton Rouge, Houston, Arkansas, Dallas, or other locations. I was told that if you boarded a bus bound for Arkansas (for example), even people with family and a place to stay in Baton Rouge would not be allowed to get out of the bus as it passed through Baton Rouge."

I read the accounts of the squalor of the refugee camps, the people who haven't had water for days, and I feel sick, and angry that this all could have been avoided. I think of the New Orleans I know and love - a city bursting with energy, with flowers and moss hanging from ancient trees along brick and cobblestone streets with antique streetcars rumbling along. I was last there this past March, and the magic of the city struck me as it often had before -- I found myself stopping to talk to artists on the street, with cars covered in beads and trinkets, watching fairy-winged angels float by on their bicycles -- the city of New Orleans is mesmerizing with its beauty and culture. Is that all gone for good? Perhaps.

In March, during my visit to New Orleans, I had dinner with Debbie and Bill Quigley, a nurse and law professor, respectively, who live in the Garden District near Tulane University in New Orleans. The dinner discussion inevitably moved toward the topic of hurricanes in New Orleans, and what would happen when "The Big One" hit. Debbie recounted stories of past hurricanes, where the nurses, doctors and their families had to 'move in' to the hospitals while the water rushed by outside. So I wasn't completely surprised when I heard Bill Quigley's voice on the radio yesterday (Thurs. Sep. 1), reporting the conditions at Memorial Hospital, where he and Debbie had not only 'moved in', but were quite literally trapped inside the hospital with no water and no electricity, and 1200 patients in need of urgent care. I haven't heard word of them since, and the hospital switchboard has no info on them.....I just hope they are able to get out, but knowing them, they will probably make sure every single patient is safe before they even attempt to remove themselves.

I think of the out-of-the-way coffeeshops where brilliant musicians would try out their voices and rhythm for the first time in front of a crowd, the street dancing and second-line jazz parades every Sunday afternoon......the New Orleans I knew........and the sweltering heat.......the heat where thirsty thousands are now marching to a very different beat. The beat of a military deployment that has been sent in to New Orleans by Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco with orders to "shoot to kill". Orders reiterated by a well-rested, long-vacationing George W. Bush.

I'll admit I've never been a fan of George W. Bush, but his actions this week in response to this catastrophe have been absolutely appalling. Where was he on Sunday, when the hurricane was clearly becoming "The Big One" that would hit New Orleans? At his ranch in Crawford, Texas, on vacation (ignoring, as he has for months, the peace delegation of mothers whose children were killed in the Iraq war, camped outside his doorstep). Where was he on Monday, when the hurricane hit, the levees broke and the city faced exactly the 'doomsday scenario' that had been predicted time and time again? Travelling to California and Arizona, acting as a salesman for the pharmaceutical companies, advocating new, high-priced drugs for Medicare recipients. What about Tuesday, as the waters rose and the city drowned? Still no word from Mr. Bush, who was busy playing guitar for a photo-op in San Diego and then rushing back to continue his vacation in Crawford. Only Wednesday, after flying over the region in his private jet and landing in Washington, did he make a statement at all, a statement described in a New York Times editorial as his "worst speech ever", in which he called on his dad to lead the relief effort. What kind of a 'leader' gets on television THREE DAYS AFTER the event and says he is depending on his father and former President Clinton to head up relief efforts??

Where is the LEADER who will say, "I WILL NOT REST until I know that every survivor of the hurricane is safe"? Where is a leader who will immediately admit the mistake of not giving the requested funds to levee restoration, and devote the needed federal money to rescue the survivors and mop up the mistake? That leader is simply not there. Instead, we have George W. Bush, who gave an interview to ABC on Thursday saying "no one expected the levees to be breached", when in fact such a scenario was listed by FEMA as one of the three most likely disasters in the US (as I mentioned earlier). Everyone expected the levees would be breached when a hurricane of this magnitude hit New Orleans: the Army Corps of Engineers, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project (authorized by Congress in 1996 after floods killed six, but cut almost completely in 2003 by Bush administration budget cuts) -- everyone predicted this scenario, expected it -- especially after the budget cuts of 2005, and the UNPRECEDENTED budget cuts for FY2006. Everyone, it seems, except George W. Bush.

And even now, although he's finally deigned to make a visit to some affected areas (but not the hardest hit spot - New Orleans itself), Bush has made no statement committing the federal government to a significant or sustained effort to aid the areas that have been devastated by the hurricane.

I am angry, yes. But the feeling is superceded by another, an overwhelming feeling of compassion for the survivors, and a desire to do whatever I can to help them live and survive this thing. The humanitarian aid organization I work with, Pastors for Peace, is organizing an ad-hoc humanitarian aid caravan to Louisiana and Mississippi, picking up aid in different spots around the country and bringing it south to the survivors. I will be helping with this effort as much as I can before I go to Palestine.
<see http://www.pastorsforpeace.org for more info and to make a donation>

Well, this is getting long (as usual).....but I feel a need to add something about the media portrayal of survivors -- another absolutely appalling facet of this week's events....I think my friend Jordan, a survivor of the hurricane himself, says it best in his article:
"While the rich escaped New Orleans, those with nowhere to go and no way to get there were left behind. Adding salt to the wound, the local and national media have spent the last week demonizing those left behind. As someone that loves New Orleans and the people in it, this is the part of this tragedy that hurts me the most, and it hurts me deeply. No sane person should classify someone who takes food from indefinitely closed stores in a desperate, starving city as a "looter," but thats just what the media did over and over again. Sheriffs and politicians talked of having troops protect stores instead of perform rescue operations. Images of New Orleans' hurricane-ravaged population were transformed [by the media] into black, out-of-control, criminals. As if taking a stereo from a store that will clearly be insured against loss is a greater crime than the governmental neglect and incompetence that did billions of dollars of damage and destroyed a city. This media focus is a tactic, just as the eighties focus on 'welfare queens' and 'super-predators' obscured the simultaneous and much larger crimes of the Savings and Loan scams and mass layoffs, the hyper-exploited people of New Orleans are being used as a scapegoat to cover up much larger crimes."
(the rest of Jordan's article is here: http://dc.indymedia.org/feature/display/129298/index.php )

check for updates and ongoing coverage at:

much love, as always,
Thursday, August 18th, 2005
12:22 am
Israel’s So-Called “Disengagement” from Gaza Is a Ruse
The American, Israeli and even Palestinian media have been raving this week about Israel’s “move toward peace” with their plan of “disengagement” from the Gaza Strip. Look a bit more closely, however, and you will see that disengagement is in fact a distraction, a magician’s trick, to keep the world looking at one hand while the magician makes the rabbit disappear from the other. In this case the magician’s rabbit is the West Bank and Jerusalem, the OTHER part of the Palestinian Occupied Territories, the part where “disengagement” is NOT taking place. In fact, the exact opposite is happening – while 6,000 Israeli settlers living in the Palestinian Gaza Strip are being forcibly removed in a big publicity show this week (and being highly compensated and put up in expensive Israeli hotels I might add – great treatment for people whose actions in invading and settling Palestinian land were, are and have always been highly illegal). While this great show by the Israelis is being performed this week, behind the curtain of the illusion of “disengagement” lies a very different reality.

Settlements being moved, not removed

Under the so-called “disengagement plan” there are approximately 6,000 Israeli settlers being removed from the Palestinian Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, a much greater number of settlers -- over 200,000— Israeli citizens who are living illegally in the Palestinian West Bank, are not “disengaging” in the least. So while a small number of settlers are being removed from one section of Palestinian land, the vast majority of the colonizing settlers remain untouched, deeply entrenched and rapidly expanding their land base. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated in 2002 that “the present National Unity Government, under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, has officially declared that it will not build any new settlements”, but on 21 March 2005, Israel approved plans to build 3,500 new housing units between the Jewish settlement of Ma'ale Adumim and Jerusalem (E-1 Plan). The new units, currently under construction, will consolidate Israel's control over East Jerusalem and divide the West Bank in half. Since January of 2005, the Israeli government has issued nearly 200 tenders for new settlements in the Palestinian West Bank. According to a 2004 report by the Israeli group Peace Now, approximately 51 new outposts were established between March 2001 and November 2004. Altogether, approximately 100 new settlements have been established since 1996 in the Palestinian West Bank. These actions call into question the sincerity of Ariel Sharon’s administration in this effort and, indeed, of the whole ‘disengagement’ project.

But there are other reasons to doubt the sincerity of Israel’s latest so-called “peace initiative”. In Jerusalem, where 200,000 Palestinians live, the Israeli annexation wall is still being constructed even as the so-called “disengagement” plan is being carried out. The Wall, a cement barrier two meters taller than the former Berlin Wall, and lined with guard towers manned by Israeli soldiers, is supposedly being built to protect Israeli security, but is not being built along established borders. On 20 February 2005, the Israeli government approved a "new" Wall route. However, 80 percent of the new route still remains inside the Occupied Palestinian Territory, annexing roughly 10 percent of the West Bank and leaving 240,000 Palestinians trapped within the imprisoned confines of the Wall. Moreover, the new route leaves intact most Wall sections deep inside the northern and central West Bank, while making only minor changes in the northwest Jerusalem area. The revised plan will have the Wall built to encircle the Ariel settlement and several other settlements known as the "Ariel Finger." The Ariel settlement of some 20,000 settlers is 17 km (10.5 mi) inside the West Bank.

Any objective analysis of the recent past indicates that, for Ariel Sharon, withdrawing from Gaza is merely a tactical sacrifice that Israel must make in order to gain its strategic goal of maintaining absolute control over the West Bank. Sharon’s adviser Dov Weisglass stated last year, “The disengagement is actually formaldehyde. It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that’s necessary so that there will not be a political process with the Palestinians,” which enables Israel “to park conveniently in an interim situation that distances us as far as possible from political pressure.”

So while the world focuses on the magician’s left hand, where a few thousand settlers are moved from the Gaza Strip, the magician’s right hand is seizing control of the West Bank and Jerusalem, building Walls around towns and villages, expanding settlements and maintaining hundreds of military checkpoints in every part of the West Bank. Poof! Blink your eyes, and there will be nothing left of the land of Palestine.

A Prison Called “The Gaza Strip”

Even in the area where the so-called “disengagement” is taking place, the magician (in this case the state of Israel) has managed to trick the world audience, and even the Palestinian leadership, that they are somehow doing something beneficial for the Palestinian people. And surely there is some merit to this claim, for it will be of some benefit to be rid of the few thousand settlers whose presence in the Gaza Strip has justified the restriction of movement and constant military attacks on the 1.2 million Palestinians living on 80% of a land mass just twice the size of Washington, DC.

But the relocation of these settlers will not significantly change the lives of the Palestinians living in Gaza. Most Palestinians living in Gaza are refugees from what is now Israel – many of them second and third generation refugees. Palestinians constitute the largest refugee population in the world -- fully one third of the world’s refugees are Palestinian. The Gaza Strip is the most crowded place on earth, and under Israeli occupation, unemployment has reached levels near 90% in many areas. Malnutrition has risen tremendously, with nearly 40% of children now suffering from it, and other diseases are rampant in the crowded refugee camps.

What relief will the so-called “disengagement” bring to the lives of Palestinians living within occupied territories? Very very little, I’m afraid. The Israeli military will maintain control over the shoreline, regulating all shipping, and a wall (barrier) will encircle the Gaza Strip. On Gaza’s border with Egypt, the Israeli military has already been constructing a trench several hundred meters wide, and demolishing hundreds of homes in the southern part of the Rafah refugee camp in order to build it. The trench, the wall, and the ongoing military presence will make Gaza even more of a prison than it already is right now. For now, all the inmates will be Palestinian: and there can be no mistaking them for the occasional Israeli settler. The borders, the air space, the sea will all be tightly controlled by the Israeli military (well, no chance of Palestinians using the airspace anyway, since the Israeli military destroyed their airport several years ago). No jobs will be available to the Palestinians, many of whom used to go to work in Israel (as a cheap labor pool for Israelis, but they have now been replaced by Thai and other east Asian immigrant imports), and very little agricultural space is available in a land base so small and so crowded.

The Gaza Strip, completely separated from the other section of Palestinian land known as the West Bank, will become (and in many ways already is) the world’s largest prison. The Israeli military has guardposts throughout the territory, and will not remove these when “disengagement” is through. From these guardposts and military bases, hundreds of children have been killed in their neighborhoods, playgrounds and even inside their homes by soldiers firing randomly or taking pot-shots for fun at groups of playing children. Such behavior will not end simply because a few thousand settlers leave the area. As Palestinian journalist Laila al-Haddad stated in a recent Washington Post article: “The Gaza disengagement will simply restructure Israel's occupation. Instead of controlling our lives from within, Israel will control Gaza from without.” The guards will still be watching over the prison, surrounding the prisoners and preventing escape – from birth til death, three generations of Palestinians in the camps of Gaza have known no other fate than this wretched misery. The prison walls are just now becoming concrete.

The real reason for “disengagement”

Israeli intellectuals Yehudith Harel and Yaakov Manor have developed an articulate and well-thought out statement for the reasons behind Israeli disengagement in the Gaza Strip. It is extremely unlikely that the withdrawal from Gaza will lead to a future withdrawal from the West Bank and Jerusalem. In fact, the exact opposite is a much more likely scenario. The main reasons Harel and Manor determined for “disengagement” were as follows:

1)To improve Israeli positions and shorten the border [...] i.e. a tactical military redeployment;

2) To weaken international pressure, and to obtain international green light for the perpetuation of the Israeli control of the settlements blocs, and the lands which are on western side of the wall;

3) To strengthen among the Israeli public the idea that there is no partner for negotiation.

4) To make a joke of the Palestinian Authority institutions;

5) To create a trauma among the Israeli public, by pretending that the redeployment from Gaza is the maximum of compromise possible with the Palestinians, and that any additional compromise will provoke a terrible civil war;

6) [...] To continue the construction of the wall and settlements in the West Bank

These are the clearly stated objectives of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the Israeli National Unity Government. Let us not be fooled by the magician’s ruse. Let us remember who we are dealing with here: Ariel Sharon, a former general who oversaw the massacre of hundreds of civilians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps during the war against Lebanon in the 1980s. A man who just this past December stated in a speech that Israeli settlers must, “take the hills, and then the rest”. This is not a man, nor is his a government, that desires peace with the Palestinians. No, not in the least. “Disengagement” is a magician’s trick. Let us not allow ourselves to be distracted by this facile and time-worn ruse. Let us look through the illusions and trickery to find the real way to a lasting peace – not in Sharon’s smiles and handshakes, but in real dialogue and the implementation of international human rights standards in Gaza and the rest of the Palestinian land.
Friday, July 29th, 2005
6:39 pm
philadelphia and west virginia
I arrived in Philly a few days before the 'Biodemocracy' protest against the
Biotech Industry's annual convention, got to attend much of the 'Biodemocracy'
teach-in ( http://www.biodev.org/ )and work on puppets and signs for the big
event......well unfortunately the 'big event' wasn't quite as big as i'd
hoped...only a few hundred folks gathered for the first event of a series of
protests: breakfast in front of Glaxo-Smith-Klein Pharmaceutical
Corporation...joined by a few dozen bicycle cops, plainclothes cops, and
suspicious-looking camera holders with super telephoto lenses. but,
surprisingly enough for philly cops, they didn't harass us too
badly.......maybe they've cooled off since chief timoney left for miami (and
note how they started treating protests in miami since he got there -- re. FTAA
nov. 2003)......or maybe they were just busy gathing intel for homeland

anyway the teach-in was great. well, actually it was really disturbing to hear
about the extent to which the biotech industry has managed to gain control of
the resources that we eat and drink and use for medicine....but great that
people were coming out to stand up to the biotech industry and say no -
farmers, elderly people, medicaid recipients, professors, scientists......not
enough, not enough to stop them....but a start.

i was inspired by percy schmeiser, a farmer from saskatchewan who stood up to
monsanto corporation when they sued him for 'patent infringement' when pollen
from their patented seed drifted through the wind onto his crop of canola and
infected it. he's been through 4 lawsuits, which have cost him nearly
$500,000, and lost......he's still fighting, though. he told horror stories of
the company hiring private detectives to trespass on his farmland and gather his
crops, to spray his crops with their patented herbicide to see if the crops
would die -- if they didn't die, that meant they were infected with their
patented 'roundup ready' seed that would resist their patented 'roundup'
herbicide (kind of like the old test in the 'salem witch trials' to see if a
woman was a witch - throw her in the water, if she didn't drown, she was a
witch, and if she did drown....well, she wasn't a witch, but was dead anyway).

the monsanto police would sit with their tinted-window Sport Utility Vehicle
just outside Percy's driveway for days on end, following him when he left his
home, following his wife, even his grand-daughter on her way to school. It was
pure intimidation -- wouldn't be surprising if we were talking about the Mafia,
but this is a multinational corporation. Well, I guess the two are not really
so different, in the end. Monsanto is the company, remember, that produced
'Agent Orange' that destroyed so much of Vietnam during the Vietnam War and
left so many veterans terminally ill. And Percy's not the only farmer they've
sued. They've taken more than 60 farmers to court in the US, and another 40 in
Canada, and hundreds more lawsuits are pending. The company sends 'extortion
letters' to farmers claiming that the farmer is using Monsanto's patented seed,
and that they will sue the farmer unless the farmer pays the corporation a
certain amount (usually in the hundreds of thousands of dollars) within a
couple of weeks to 'settle out of court'. Many of these farmers end up losing
their farms in the lawsuits -- it's really out of control. The court system is
set up to protect the corporations, and now that corporations are in the
business of patenting life forms -- well, it's not just farmers, but ALL of us,
that are in trouble because of this.

Companies like Monsanto are genetically modifying seeds, and those genetically
modified seeds infect other seeds -- the few studies that have been done have
shown that 37 of the 38 strains of canola seed in the country has been infected
with genetically-modified strains, 80% of the corn and close to 90% of the
cotton in the country has been infected. The companies claim that the genetic
modification is safe -- their proof? "You're already eating it!" Well, I, for
one, don't want to be a guinea pig for their genetic testing, especially when
the long-term effects are not known. And when these genetically-modified
strains get into the food system, as they have in North America, THERE IS NO
TURNING BACK! If they prove to be harmful, there is no way we can retract them
from the food supply and go back to the non-genetically-modified strains. This
is really frightening stuff!! And yet, many people in this country, many smart
and thoughtful people, are believing the companies' propaganda that they are
doing this to 'combat hunger'. In fact, genetic modification does the exact
opposite. It was promised to increase yields - it does not. It was promised
to decrease the use of pesticides - it does not. It was promised to cost less
- it does not. And the crops have lower nutritional value than their
non-genetically-modified counterparts. WHATEVER HAPPENED TO CONTROLLED
SCIENTIFIC STUDY?? I'm sorry to shout, but I'm angry about this!! This is the
future of our food supply, and these companies are mutating it on a national and
international scale!! They are lying to the public, and we are accepting it at
face value. WE HAVE TO STOP THEM!

Well, our protest in Philadelphia did very little to actually stop the Biotech
Industry from meeting -- it was a fairly small, but beautifully creative
protest. As I have noticed at every protest I attend, what is most impressive
is not necessarily the 'protestation', but the creation of a joyous and
beautiful counter-culture that demonstrates an alternative to the profit-driven
world of fast-dealing that goes on inside the Biotech conference. In our
temporary autonomous zone, puppets personifying the demons of biotech were met
by a beautiful puppet of sunlight and freedom, and dozens of painted images of
organic vegetables, rising up in joyful defiance to their monstrous, tortured
vision of a world of high-priced drugs, genetically-modified crops and
bio-weaponry. There were people of all ages, from infants to retirees, singing
and chanting and dancing in the hot sunlight.....and there were medics supplying
water, organic food free for all provided by the volunteer cooks of 'food not
bombs', even a temporary clinic set up in the basement of a church. THIS is
why i go to protests, not so much to vent my anger but to be part of this
vision for another possible way to organize our society.....through voluntary
mutual aid.

a society of abundance -- fresh, organic produce to eat, free healthcare for
everyone whenever they need it (preventative measures as well).....such a thing
IS possible. but as long as we are confined by a profit-driven business model,
it's hard to see clearly that there's any alternative to that model.


i got another chance to see this 'alternative model' in action when i went to
the rainbow gathering ( http://www.welcomehome.org )in west virginia. it's a
gathering of nomadic folks from all over, and back-to-the-land hippies from the
sixties who have kept this annual gathering happening for over thirty
years.....ten thousand or more gather each year on the fourth of july weekend
and live in the woods for a week, camping and sharing music and stories,
drumming and ending the whole thing with a sun ceremony on the fourth of july.
here's an article about it:

many on the right and left alike look down on this gathering as 'too much
fluff', but i found it to be full of hard workers who laid miles of plastic
pipe from a well to 20 main kitchens over a five mile stretch of land....the
kitchens provided free food, and there were dozens of smaller kitchens as
well....toilets were dug (three feet deep at a minimum - covered over when they
reached two feet), paths established, stages built for performances......the
woods were transformed into a magical fairyland of music, drumming, dancing and
sharing for those few days.....i found it to be a refreshing breath of nice
energy....all around me were people who were smiling and practically glowing
with life...lots of children and families.....and lots of GREAT food. no
rulers, no leaders, no governing authority. each kitchen organized on their
own, each person brought their own talent or skill to the community - be it
teaching yoga classes, cooking delicious tofu, laying water pipes, playing
banjo or digging toilets, everyone had something to contribute. and no one had
to make rules or assign schedules to make people work. they worked because they
wanted to help. and guess what?? _everything_ _got_ _done_!

on the last day of the rainbow gathering, there was a sun ceremony to celebrate
the community and life on earth.....at dawn the drumming, which had been going
for 24 hours, stopped abruptly, and i became acutely aware of the birds singing
and crickets chirping.....the silence spread throughout the camp, and people
maintained silence as they awoke and prepared a morning meal. everyone joined
a silent walk through all the woodland paths to the main meadow, where a circle
was formed with everyone joining hands......the circle kept growing wider and
wider, until it touched the very edges of the field - 10,000 people holding
hands. and then the children's parade came up the hill, with beautiful
costumes and rainbow colored banners, and they came into the middle of the
circle.....the people began to 'ohm', quietly, then more loudly, until a
crescendo was reached, and cheering and shouting ensued. the drums picked up
in the middle of the field where the children were gathered, and everyone
rushed forward in noise and dancing to celebrate.

now, i'm not saying the gathering is perfect -- i definitely have my critique
(white cultural privilege, disconnection to local struggles and direct action,
for example)....but i found it to be a beautiful breath of fresh air that
demonstrates how people CAN live together without money, governments or laws.
Thursday, April 7th, 2005
12:08 pm
houston, texas
7 april 2005
houston, texas

i got an email after my last journal entry asking me why i am so negative about everything -- accusing me of 'looking at the world through blood-covered glasses'.... well, i wanted to respond a bit, first of all by saying that yes, when you have seen the blood, touched it, smelled it, and know that your government, and, in extension, YOU, as a citizen, are responsible....well, it is hard to walk away from that. and in fact i would consider it a crime to walk away from it. so i spread the word about these atrocities committed in our name BECAUSE i think we have the power to change it. and not only the power, but the responsibility to change it.

that said, i need to point out that there is so much hope and beauty and creativity surrounding me, as i have been travelling around and meeting all of the most sincere and incredible people who are fighting against this monstrosity of violence and war. in new orleans, we met charlie reith, who is a teacher and a founder of a permaculture center at tulane university in new orleans. permaculture is a farming method that is completely organic, using no pesticides or chemicals, but that is based on studying nature's cycles and ecosystems, and re-creating them in a concentrated form on the farm. so the farm becomes a complete ecosystem in itself -- a diversity of crops are grown together, and the waste material is put back into the cycle of production. the institute for social ecology in vermont has done a lot of studying of this method ( http://www.social-ecology.org ), and come up with pretty amazing ways to de-pollute a toxic place using natural methods. and charlie has a small business, selling organic potting soil and natural (garlic and lemon based) insect repellent for gardens....it's called laughing crow....http://www.grow-with-the-crow.com

from new orleans, we went to lafitte, louisiana, where we met an incredible group of actors who are living and performing on a boat. they built the boat themselves, a replica of an historical tall-ship, and they travel and perform their theatrical production on the boat itself. the audience sits on the shore, and the actors, acrobats and singers use their tremendous talents to bring a message -- in this case, the story of a group of refugees rounded up as 'terrorists' by a mega-corporation contracted by the government to 'get rid of the problem'. the theatre troupe tries to make the stories of the various refugees really come alive for the audience, to be able to connect and relate to the various characters (each from a different place in the world)......the story is a parable, but also a warning, because in fact the US government IS rounding up refugees.......in louisiana alone there are thousands in prison, not knowing their status, or whether they will be sent to be tortured or killed in their country of origin.

and now we are here in houston, where we were able to visit a wonderful community center called MECA, in the hispanic community......the folks there are absolutely wonderful, filling the children's lives with music lessons, tutoring, after-school classes and programs, and counseling. they are hoping to put in a legal clinic for immigrants, and possibly even a free medical clinic as well. the center has a beautiful community garden, where kids from schools in the area come after school to learn about the growing process and plant fresh vegetables. there is a student prison art project, where teachers work with kids age 12 - 16 who have been told that they are incorrigible, and there is no place for them but prison. a lot of times the only thing they did wrong was get in a fight with another kid, and sometimes not even that, but they are put in locked prisons just like adult prisons......anyway, these local artists are volunteering to come in and work with the kids to make murals......they are absolutely stunning, and show so much of the pain and fear the kids have to deal with growing up in poverty.

the problem is the system of capitalism that uses lies, threats and violence to maintain a situation where a very few have power and wealth, while everyone else works to increase the wealth of those few. but there IS a solution - many solutions, in fact, and THAT is what gives me hope. everywhere i go i meet people who know that this hierarchical system of oppression is not the only way to do things -- everywhere i go i meet people who are struggling to bring beauty and hope, fresh food and inspiration for a better world back into the dismal monoculture that has stultified our senses and made us forget how to feel.

travelling around to colleges with this 'wheels of justice' tour, i find myself getting into discussions with students and others who are talking completely from their heads, with rhetoric and arguments and numbers........until before they know it they are making absurd arguments like saying that killing 500,000 children is ok if it serves our nation's strategic objective. well i'm sorry, but there is NEVER a justification for killing a child. ONE child -- let alone 500,000, like the 500,000 that died in iraq under sanctions between 1991 and 2002. and i find it really disturbing that people in this country are telling the iraqi people that WE know what's best for them, when americans know nothing about iraq. in every classroom we've been in with this tour, when we ask the students to name an iraqi other than saddam hussein, they fail to name anyone. every once in a while, someone will mention ahmed chalabi, the petty criminal wanted for bank fraud that became the US government's pet. but as far as the history and culture of iraq, historical figures, writers, artists -- americans know NOTHING about this country. and yet we have the arrogance to think we can go in there and tell them how to live. as far as i'm concerned, THAT type of attitude, justifying endless war, is looking at the world through blood-covered glasses. the problem is not seeing the blood. because it is there. when i look at the houston skyline, and see Halliburton corporate headquarters -- one of the main profiteers off this war, when I see Bechtel -- a company that has been trying to force the poor people in bolivia to pay for their right to drink water, when i see citibank and exxon-mobil and boeing and lockheed martin -- companies that profit handsomely off every war -- yes, i begin to see those mirrored skyscrapers with their multi-million dollar offices for what they are -- i see them dripping with blood. but i would rather be able to SEE that, and point it out for others to see, than to blind myself and think that everything is ok when it's not.

and there are people trying to change things, trying to make a difference, to commit their lives to LIFE instead of death......everywhere i go i meet such people. and i'm grateful. and i know that in this fight for the human rights of ALL people, we will win in the end, because we must. there is no other choice. if we don't commit ourselves to life, human rights and the environment, we are doomed to go down in a ball of flames. and i sure don't want to see this planet destroyed in that way. so i'll keep fighting -- for ALL of us, for those who are living in the misery of the effects of war and occupation, and yes, for those who are still living in denial, and refuse to see the blood.

so my time on the wheels of justice tour is over. but the bus rolls on......you can keep following the journey at http://www.justicewheels.org
Wednesday, March 16th, 2005
10:22 am
raymond, mississippi
16 march 2005
raymond, mississippi

what an incredible last few days I've had. i just joined up with the wheels of justice tour (http://www.justicewheels.org) to tour around the south in a beautiful, brightly painted schoolbus talking at colleges, high schools, churches and communities about peace. the theme of the tour is 'eyewitness from iraq and palestine', and the speakers are people who have recently returned from iraq and palestine. the bus has been touring on and off for the last five years, and has circled the country several times. speakers join the tour for as long as they can, then they are replaced by new speakers who have just returned from the middle east and can give a more updated account.

in this tour, i am speaking about my recent experiences in palestine, and tom cornell is speaking about iraq. he is an amazing man who is 71 years old and has been involved in social justice work since he was 19. he has worked for many years in the catholic worker movement with the late dorothy day, and knew my mentor father mcsorley. these are folks who took great risks and put themselves in the forefront of the struggle for social justice when they were quite young, and never relented or 'sold out' all through their lives. for that, they are an inspiration. dorothy day, the founder of the catholic worker movement, which set out to create 'houses of hospitality' for the poor all around the country, giving food and shelter to the poorest of the poor and standing up to injustice even when the catholic church turned its back on her.......father mcsorley, who fought segregation in maryland by integrating his parish in the 50s -- before the civil rights movement had even gotten started in any big way......he too was criticized and challenged by the church for this move.

i met tom cornell at the airport, and as we drove to meet up with the tour bus in jackson (mississippi), he described his days of living with dorothy day at the first catholic worker house.....little things, that made her more real and perhaps a little less saintly in my mind -- about how badly she ate, and how she became somewhat tyrannical in her old age. but still, he seemed filled with admiration at the woman's courage and commitment -- and he stuck with her, and her movement, until she died......and he is one of those who kept the movement going. he now lives in a 'house of hospitality' out in the country, with twelve men (mainly mentally disabled), his wife and adult son, and they maintain a farm and a community -- connected to the catholic worker houses in the city (they live near new york).

we joined up with the tour as the speakers who we would be replacing were giving their presentation at a church in jackson. when the presentation was over, and the questions began, i got a taste of what i would be in for when one of the first questions came from a man in the back saying, "You are talking about Palestine, but in reality there is no such place." (The denial of the very existence of Palestine, and Palestinian people, is one of the ways that the Israeli government has tried to cover up its ethnic cleansing of those people). The speaker handled the question in stride, and responded gracefully and eloquently. I listened, trying to figure out how I would respond when my turn came.

I soon got that chance, in the talk I gave the very next night at Millsaps College in Jackson. The auditorium was full of people, and after I had shown my slides, maps and pictures of Palestine, and Tom had spoken about his experiences in Iraq, the first question from the audience came from a woman who was practically climbing over the chair in front of her in her excitement to be heard. When I called on her, she read off a fairly standard list of Zionist claims (ie. The Arabs don't want Israel to exist at all, because they didn't accept Israel's creation in 1947; the Palestinians were offered a 'state' in 2000, but they rejected it, etc. etc.). I let her finish, then said quite simply that there is a lot of misinformation out there about this issue, and it is easy to be misled, pointing her toward some of our literature, including one put out by the Jews for Justice in the Middle East that challenges common myths about the conflict. I addressed a couple of her points -- flipping back in my slide show to the slide showing the map that was known as the 'generous offer' given to the Palestinians in 2000. Simply by looking at the map it's quite easy to see that what was offered was not a state, but four separate Palestinian colonies completely separate from each other, and completely surrounded by Israel...AND under Israeli military control.

Perhaps the woman and the man next to her, who also raised similar misconceptions, had come to our talk simply to challenge us. They were quite civil, however, and I'm glad they were there. I'm always game for a good debate.

Which brings me to Hinds College, in Raymond, Mississippi, where we spoke today and yesterday -- a small college, in a small town, in, as our host put it, 'the buckle of the bible belt'. The family who hosted us were wonderful and welcoming, but we were warned that there had been some reservations among certain members of the college administration about our coming, and we should avoid being controversial or political, and focus on talking about peace. well, i found this restriction rather disturbing -- i've never been directly censored like this, and i found myself wondering why. why would they be so afraid to hear what we had to say? why would they not want to hear our perspective? isn't debate, dialogue and learning what colleges and universities are for???? so i raised this point in my talks with the students -- told them i had been told not to talk about politics (i did anyway), and that it really disturbed me that a college would try to censor dissent and discussion in this underhanded way. I asked them what they thought, whether this was ok with them. only one student came up afterwards and seemed really genuinely concerned. most of the students seemed shellshocked -- a couple military guys challenged our criticism of war, and we got a good discussion going that centered around the military, morality, prison and crime. but in the other classes, the discussion never really got started......i felt disappointed that i wasn't really reaching these students. but so many came up afterwards to look me in the eye and shake my hand and thank me, i thought, well, maybe i DID reach a few. but it's hard to pierce through that armor. i just wish that these students would question -- i don't mind if they disagree with me, but as it was, i didn't even know what they thought.

anyway, while we were in jackson we managed to meet rev. ed king, who was part of the civil rights movement and one of the organizers of the very first freedom summer. he drove us around jackson and gave us a 'civil rights tour'. he showed us where a unitarian minister who was known for visiting civil rights workers in prison was shot as he went into his home. he brought us to the jackson museum, where i learned that mississippi went from being the fifth wealthiest state in the union before the civil war to the poorest state after the civil war, and has never really recovered. the scorched earth policy of (union general) sherman involved destroying the entire infrastructure of jackson, tearing up railroad tracks and then heating the rails up and bending them in half so they could not be used again. and the union siege on vicksburg, which lasted six months, consisted of the same policy used by the US-supported troops in el salvador, and the US troops now fighting in iraq: attack the civilian population, to de-moralize and discourage them so much that they will be afraid to support the resistance.

haven't we learned anything since then??? warfare has only gotten MORE brutal, MORE deadly, MORE unfair and one-sided. and still old men continue to send young men to the battlefield to kill each other in great numbers. why? it just seems so pointless and stupid. there is no excuse for war.

the US could have gone to war over the issue of segregation. tensions were THAT high....i realize as i talk with men like tom cornell and reverend ed king -- this country really could have come apart on that issue. it could have been extremely bloody and brutal. it could have been another civil war.

but it wasn't a civil war. it was, instead, the effective use of non-violent resistance. ed king showed us the jackson county fairgrounds. it was there that the mayor of jackson had promised to imprison 10,000 black people in the cattle pens in 1963. and it was there, in the summer of 63, the day after medgar evers was killed, that ed king found himself participating in a protest march that landed him in that cattle pen. he said it looked pretty much the same now as it did then: a big metal structure, with wooden cattle stalls covered in sawdust and dung. when he was arrested in june of 1963, he was brought in and made to stand with his hands on the wall and his body stretched out in a painful type of torture that is now being used in abu ghraib and elsewhere. as he stood in this painful position, a man was brought in who was badly beaten -- his head was covered in blood, and the blood coming out of his head was black and thick. this man was made to stand in the torture-position next to ed king, and as ed watched in horror, horseflies began to land on the man's blood. so ed reached down to get a handkerchief to douse the blood, but as soon as he did so he felt the police billyclubs in his stomach, and the voice of a cop in his ear saying, "touch him and you'll end up worse than he is. understand?" ed said he felt himself breaking at that moment. he felt his courage slip away as he replied, "Yes sir" and went back to standing in the torture pose. He said he felt so ashamed for being broken when so many others were taking courageous stands and being beaten down because of it. after getting out of the 'jail' (read 'cattle pen') that time he said he felt like he had failed the people for being broken like that.

so two years later, when he was asked to be part of a protest that would surely result in arrest and being sent to the cattle pens at the fairgrounds, he hesitated, knowing how his courage had failed him there, how he had been broken. but he agreed to be a part of the protest.....he ended up in the cattle pens, where he was made to run the gauntlet -- back and forth through the middle of the facility with rows of cops on both sides who would jab and beat the men with their clubs as they ran past. he said he much preferred that to the torture-pose that he had been forced to stand in before. the men he was imprisoned with were mainly white students who had come from the north to be part of the struggle. the police were having fun by humiliating the men, making them sweep the floor over and over again and saying, "How do you like doing nigger work?". One young man finally broke, and stood there frozen, holding the broom and started screaming and crying hysterically. the police ran toward him,and everyone else froze. but ed king said he didn't even hesitate. at that moment, he knew what to do. he ran toward the man, calling out, "Wait! this man is sick! he needs help! don't hurt him! his friends will come and take care of him." he said this in a loud, decisive voice -- the man's friends came and calmed him down, guided him back to the rest of the prisoners, and the police actually backed down! they decided the floor had already been swept enough times (ie. their little game was over). in a way, ed said, he felt like he redeemed himself through this action, that after failing the bleeding young man two years before, he had succeeded in defusing this potentially bloody confrontation in the same cattle pen.

ed told us other stories of the tortures that took place in the cattle pen. the police were unprepared for the number of people they arrested, but that is no excuse whatsoever for the way the people were treated. the police brought a truck with bologna sandwiches, and they tore them up and threw bits of bread out the back of the truck, spitting on many of the pieces before throwing them into the crowd of prisoners. they also brought barrels of water, and made prisoners crawl to the water, then dunked their head under the water for a long time to make them feel that they were drowning. they didn't kill anyone this way, but they tortured the men and women for hours and days on end.

the men were held in the cattle pen, but the women were held in the 4H 'Home Arts' building, where baked goods and quilts were usually displayed during the county fairs. but there were no baked goods there when these young black and white women were brought in to this makeshift 'jail'. they were tortured, psychologically and physically......ed king made the comment that 'any violence inflicted upon a person who is imprisoned is torture. it's one thing to inflict violence during an arrest, but after the person is in custody and it's clear they are not armed, there is no excuse for violence against them - it is torture.'

these young women were pushed into the home arts building and the police blocked the entrance, shouting 'shoot any black b---- that tries to run, we're gassing 'em!' And sure enough, from the high windows of the home arts building, gas started pouring in....the young women (some of them teenagers) laid down on the floor, scared to death that they were actually being gassed to death. as the cloud of gas came pressing down upon them, closer and closer, they heard the police laughing outside......it turned out that the gas was DDT (an insect repellant thought at that time to be safe -- later determined to be cancerous, but at that time it was thought to be simply a cruel joke). this was a way of psychologically torturing these women to demoralize them.

in fact it had the opposite effect....the women found strength in endurance, and ed king said that in his moment of truth, when he faced the policemen who were humiliating the young man with the broom, he heard these women singing from the home arts building, and that their song is what gave him the strength to stand up to the police at that moment. and the song that the women were singing was not one of the traditional protest songs, 'we shall overcome' or 'ain't gonna let nobody turn me around', it was the christian hymn with the words:
"There is a fountain filled with blood...
flowing from Emmanuel's veins....."

wow. i mean.......can you imagine the courage??

ed king compared the freedom summer campaign in mississippi in 1963 to the 'freedom summer' campaign i participated in with the international solidarity movement in palestine in 2002. the idea behind the campaigns, reverend king pointed out, was the same: bring in outsiders to 'protect' and inspire the locals to stand up to the injustice they are facing in their daily lives, and use non-violent direct action to do it. and there were martyrs in the freedom summer of 63, just as there have been martyrs in the international solidarity movement -- rachel corrie, 23 years old, from olympia washington, who was killed exactly two years ago today when she was run over by an israeli bulldozer destroying a palestinian doctor's home, and tom hurndall, a 21 year old british activist shot a month after rachel by israeli soldiers while protecting palestinian children who were walking to school. the tide is turning, slowly, on the palestinian issue. and one day these two martyrs, along with the many palestinian martyrs killed for standing up in non-violent resistance to the occupation, will be considered heroes like the martyrs killed for standing up for civil rights in the 1960s in the southern USA.

ps....PLEASE if you have a minute, get involved in the campaign to save some of the very last groves of ancient ANCIENT old growth forest in the US...these trees are being cut down RIGHT NOW -- over 50 people have been arrested in the last couple weeks in valiant efforts to protect this amazing, ancient forest. Check http://www.o2collective.org/ for updates and ways to help.
Tuesday, March 8th, 2005
12:19 pm
washington dc.......SUCKS!
March 8, 2005
Washington DC

Wow.......it sure is depressing to come back to the U.S. at a time like this -- left and right, friends are discouraged, struggling.........

the last of the old-growth forests are being cut down in oregon....
see http://o2collective.org/archives/000030.html to help

the Bush administration is celebrating international women's day by urging the United Nations to roll back women's right to choose...

instead of living up to its obligations under the Nuclear non-proliferation Treaty, the U.S. government is building MORE nuclear weapons (as if the world needs more weapons)...

and even talking about using nuclear weapons in Iraq (!)...

and planning to dump the country's spent nuclear fuel rods on native american land....

and opening more native american sacred sites to gold mining...

not to mention the massive cuts in education, health care, job training, worker safety, environment, veteran's benefits in the proposed FY2006 budget...

without the support in place for young people coming out of poverty, many will have no other choice but to join the military -- this is what is known as the 'economic draft', or the 'backdoor draft'......

meanwhile the de facto world government of the World Trade Organization and 'Free Trade' agreements plows ahead, despite the massive resistance of poor and indigenous people worldwide...

corporations are getting patents on seeds, and even on diseases themselves, preventing native communities from growing their traditional food supplies and preventing researchers from finding out ways to prevent disease without paying them money....

things are getting bad......just look at the headlines on
and see if you can avoid feeling depressed...

everywhere i turn the news is discouraging -- friends losing jobs and homes, academics like Ward Churchill coming under attack for their views (see http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=7210 )......

the arrogance of those in the bush administration is absolutely astounding.....he surrounds himself with people who have been condemned worldwide for their _very_ well-documented roles in criminal acts, including making John Negroponte -- the butcher of Honduras -- the chief of a new, controversial 'Intelligence Czar' post. Americans may not know who Negroponte is, but believe me, the people of Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador, who suffered hundreds of thousands of deaths in massacres that Negroponte supported and covered up while he was U.S. ambassador to Honduras in the eighties -- _those_ people know who he is. He was chastised during the Iran-Contra scandal (as were many who are now serving in the Bush administration) for engaging in illegal activities in the Nicaragua war. As someone who has _been_ to Nicaragua, and _seen_ the effects of that horrible war, I simply cannot believe that the men responsible are still roaming the streets free, let alone serving high posts in the presidential administration. Is it too much to ask that the American people at least _remember_ the Iran-Contra scandal?? I would argue that most people in the U.S. probably don't even remember what the scandal was about. So these men can continue pursuing the same type of policy -- if they were hundred of thousands of _U.S._ deaths, instead of Central Americans, would we remember it then??? Well, considering how well we remember and commemorate the 3,000 deaths of September 2001, I would guess that if U.S. citizens were the _victims_ and not the _perpetrators_ of these hundreds of thousands of deaths, we would be remembering them very well indeed.

I mean....it would be one thing if these people were begging forgiveness for their roles in the massacres, and changing their ways....but instead, people like Negroponte, as ambassador to Iraq over the last year, proposed the "Salvador option" in Iraq: targeting civilian populations to scare them into ceasing their support for the popular resistance (see http://nuclearfree.lynx.co.nz/salvador.htm ). He was condemned for it before, even by his own government, but continues to press for the same type of criminal policy of killing children. As Professor Ward Churchill said in the controversial talk for which he is still being put under fire (see above link): "Americans, you will not be safe until you stop killing other people's children. It's as simple as that."

it's a depressing time to be in this country.

Anyway, I wanted to share an editorial I wrote after an Italian journalist was shot at yesterday by US forces in Iraq....

Targeting of journalists?
March 7, 2005

After Monday’s shooting incident in Iraq, in which U.S. soldiers in Iraq shot at the car of Italian journalist - Giuliana Sgrena - killing the Italian intelligence agent who had helped free her from captivity, and wounding three others, questions have been raised by Italian officials and others as to whether the U.S. military engages in a policy of directly targeting members of the media. Although it is unclear whether Monday’s incident was a deliberate attack (due to conflicting accounts from eyewitness reports and the official U.S. military statement), there has been mounting evidence that the U.S. military has engaged in a policy of deliberate targeting of journalists.

In December, a Lebanese television station was listed by the U.S. State Department. With the U.S. administration throwing around the word 'terrorist' so loosely, using it to refer to virtually anyone who disagrees with their line, it is not surprising that the term was used recently to refer to a media organization as 'terrorist media' (al-Manar television in Lebanon). But what is surprising, and in many ways, more disturbing, is the way most of the media outlets have simply let this precedent-setting accusation go unnoticed, sliding it under the proverbial carpet without a thought as to the implication.

The targeting of media outlets which present a dissenting voice to the 'Washington Consensus' is not a new thing. During the conflict in Kosovo in 1993, US forces targeted Serb television, because it was seen as an agent for the opposing side. And in November 2001, BBC World Service correspondent William Reeve was injured in Kabul, Afghanistan, by an American missile that had scored a 'direct hit' on the Al-Jazeera network's office next door. Nik Gowing, a colleague of Reeves, stated at the time that "Journalists now appear to be legitimate targets. It seems to me that a very clear message needs to go out that this must not be allowed to continue", adding that al-Jazeera's only 'crime' was presenting news that Western audiences found uncomfortable.

The targeting of journalists became even more apparent when the US army invaded Iraq in 2003, in a conflict that continues until today. During this conflict, US officials have urged journalists to 'embed' themselves with military battalions -- a position that would previously have seemed absurd to any journalist concerned with the task of presenting a fair and accurate picture of what was going on (the historical job description of a journalist). In this case, however, the proposition was accepted at face value and with little outcry from most of the US media conglomerates.

International journalists were far less willing to allow their journalistic integrity to be compromised by agreeing to this obscenely partisan proposal, and were warned by the U.S. administration that they would be 'fair game' if they did not accept it. Sure enough, on April 8, 2003, the U.S. army bombed the offices of two television networks and the hotel where most international journalists were staying in Baghdad -- three separate attacks on journalists in the same day, which the U.S. administration even now insists were 'accidental' and 'unrelated'. Three journalists were killed in the attacks: a Ukrainian cameraman for Reuters, a Spanish cameraman and a reporter from Qatar. It is 'un-embedded' journalists who appear to have been targeted by U.S. military attacks.

The U.S. has the most powerful military in the world, but the U.S. is also a signatory to the Geneva Conventions, Article 79 which states that: “Journalists engaged in dangerous professional missions in areas of armed conflict shall be considered as civilians within the meaning of Article 50, Paragraph 1. They shall be protected as such under the conventions of this Protocol, provided that they take no action adversely affecting their status as civilians. It seems from the reading of this Article, that the only journalists who appear to have taken actions that would 'affect their status as civilians' are those who have 'embedded' themselves within the military of one side of a conflict.

Surely, if a free and democratic media is to exist in this world, and to proliferate, a multiplicity of viewpoints should be encouraged, not discouraged, and most certainly, should not be blown into oblivion with high-tech modern smart bombs.
Saturday, February 26th, 2005
4:00 am
back in dc
25 february 2005
washington dc

yep....here i am, back in the belly of the beast. watching the television here and reading the newspapers, i am finding out that all this time, while i was seeing palestinian friends brutalized, wounded and killed by the reckless and random shooting and shelling of the israeli army, all this time palestine was in a period of 'relative calm'! what a surprise! if only i had known it while i was there, so i could have told 25 year old Niveen Akram Kahleel as she was forced to give birth at a checkpoint last week because israeli soldiers wouldn't let her through, or 15 year old Hani Khaleel Mohammad, before he was shot in the head two weeks ago.....if i had told them of the 'relative calm' being reported by the american media all this time, of the glorious headlines praising israel's release of a few hundred prisoners, would that have changed the fact that Hani is dead?? Along with seven others, since this 'peace summit' took place on feb. 8th....

and now, tonight, a palestinian bomber took his own life and the lives of three others in tel aviv. none of the palestinian resistance groups are claiming responsibility......lately, they've been laying down their arms. i haven't heard yet who the bomber is, but i can guess that he was young ......probably lost a few friends to israeli army violence -- hey, maybe he knew Maher Abu Sneina, whose family i visited a month ago in Qalqilia after he was killed with over thirty bullets emptied into his 20-year old body.....well, i did hear that the bomber came from the nearby town of Tulkarem......so who knows, maybe he did know Maher. maybe they were friends, went to school together, played together, grew together......maybe he had seen his best friend shot dead, or three of his best friends, as was the case with sadiq abdul rahim, the 17 year old suicide bomber who, after all three of his best friends were killed, walked to a nearby settlement and blew himself up, killing 3 israelis, two years ago...

the cycle of violence perpetuates itself.......we all know that violence begets violence, especially when one is young and prone to act irrationally out of fear and anger.

there is no excuse for killing civilians.

but there is also no excuse for the whitewashing the american media has done of the ongoing killing of palestinian civilians by israeli soldiers. we deserve to know the facts about what is happening there. if three dead israeli civilians warrant a front-page headline on the new york times, then what about the six dead palestinian civilians killed in cold blood since this supposed 'cease-fire' began? don't their lives warrant front-page headlines as well?

apparently not......for they get barely a mention in the american press.

the american media should be held criminally responsible for their absolute failure to live up to their mandate as the conscience of the nation. when reporters are embedded with the military, and retired generals are the main 'analysts' given air-time on the evening news, when the nightly headlines read word-for-word like the Pentagon's daily press release, well, the line between a military propaganda wing of the government and a free, independent media becomes extremely blurred indeed.

i arrived back into the states and stepped right into the middle of an independent media conference -- the air was full of excitement, but one felt the tension as well........people sounded weary, this fight has gone on so long and the major media outlets continue to be consolidated into fewer and fewer massive corporations. cbs is owned by westinghouse, nbc by general electric -- both of them major weapons manufacturers...and then people wonder why the news media is pounding the drums for more war? they have a vested interest! sigh........i'm beginning to remember how cynical one can get living in this country.

...and how afraid!! this is another thing the media has become quite adept at doing -- making people in this country feel that they are threatened, and need to be very afraid.....i was listening to c-span, and i heard an 'expert' talking about how interpol -- that's the international intelligence agency -- had said that there's a threat of chemical weapons being used against us!! and we're not ready for an attack like that!! as he continued speaking in a heightened alert voice, i found my imagination starting to follow him -- what if we WERE attacked by chemical weapons? i'm in washington dc now!! who knows what disease might start plaguing the city -- would my family make it out alive? would we die torturous deaths like being burned alive by napalm?? i became......very.....afraid.....

then i turned off the radio and realized that was the point! that the broadcast was TRYING to make me afraid...and the only chemical weapons i would experience would be the cs-gas and tear gas fired at us at incredibly high doses during our street protests against their closed, armored, fortified meetings on 'free' trade.

we have to get to the root of the problem. otherwise we are dealing only with the symptoms, and the symptoms will keep recurring, until and unless we can get at the cause. and the causes are many -- greed, power, fear of losing power......

i've gotten so many wonderful responses to my journals from palestine....one woman donated on my website the price of a ticket to the play 'the diary of anne frank', for, as she put it, "all the little anne franks hiding now in palestine". and one response was from jack herbert out in oregon, who says, in connection with the 'root of the problem':
"the separation between rich and poor is itself violence. It doesn't just lead to violence in reaction to it. It is the initial violence, and its enforcement is escalating violence. The violence in reaction is reaction to the initial and escalating violence of the rich. The separation is enforced; enforcement is violence -- whether laws, economic and business systems, attacks and intimidations of those who dare to speak against their poverty, police, guards, firings, harassments and rapes, malnutrition and starvation, disease and lack of medical care and promotion of health, wearing down of spirit,... Poverty kills. Look at death rates of any age group for different classes, different groups of people. Look at the suffering. Poverty is violence. It's not the poor who initiate violence in reaction to their enforced poverty; their poverty is the violence of the rich against them; their violence is their struggle against the violence against them, usually when nonviolence has failed. 'Just trying to earn a living for my family', never minding the consequences to others of how we do it, is violence. It kills. It creates and maintains endless misery and hopelessness until death comes."

Funny, my late friend Father McSorley came up with the same conclusion in his book _peace_eyes_, that i was reading at the beginning of my journey, way back in november in hamburg germany.

Jack works with a group that is an inspiring answer to the question, "but what can we DO about it?" he says:
"The Metropolitan Alliance for the Common Good in Portland, Oregon, a coalition of over 30 churches and some labor and community organizations, learned methods of Saul Alinski, the organizer who built union strength in Chicago, from the Industrial Areas Foundation. When we want to learn about a subject area and develop motivation and plans, we break into pairs or very small groups and tell each other our own histories in the subject area. We discover a lot of similar experiences and also surprises about how larger forces in society affect us. Then we regather into our larger meeting and develop what we will do. The community we discover and create becomes an active force in our local community and could join similar groups elsewhere for change outside our locality. A lot of the force behind local problems comes from national and international forces, so we will need to look farther. Many people become empowered as never before to look dysfunction in the face and work effectively to change it, instead of going along with it, as our society teaches."

So I'll leave you with that thought....
I'm sure that you'll be hearing from me again soon, on my next adventure...
until then, check my website http://www.jenkasjourneys.org

I'm attaching an editorial piece I wrote tonight after the bombing in Tel Aviv...

love to all,

Who really 'shattered' this truce?
February 25, 2005

After Friday's attack in Tel Aviv which killed 3 and injured 38 Israelis (according to Israeli police), the American media has been quick to repeat the Israeli claim that Palestinians have 'shattered the truce' established February 8 when Palestinian and Israeli leaders met in Sharm al-Sheikh, Egypt. But from February 8th until February 25th, when the Tel Aviv attack took place, 8 Palestinian civilians (5 adults and 3 children) have been killed and 36 injured (according to the Red Crescent Medical Society - RCS). Just to point out the obvious, this is higher than the number of Israelis killed on Friday -- but where was the media when the Palestinians were killed? Why is it suddenly a 'shattering of the truce' when a bomb explodes in Tel Aviv, but the deaths and injuries of these Palestinians don't count at all in the question of how, and by whom, the truce was really broken?

The daily atrocities against the Palestinian people didn't cease or desist on February 8th -- the very next morning, February 9th, saw a large-scale military invasion of the West Bank city of Nablus. There was no 'relative calm' for the people of Rafah refugee camp as they faced the almost daily demolition of homes and the shooting of high-velocity bullets and tank shells at their homes and neighborhoods. The Israeli military constructed additional checkpoints and brought in more troops during the 'cease-fire' period, without dismantling any of the over 400 checkpoints already in place. And just try talking about the Israeli 'cease-fire' to the family of Hani Khaleel Mohammad, 15, who was shot in the head and killed on February 15th, or that of Sabri Fayez Al-Rajoub, 16, killed while walking to a mosque the day before.

On Friday, the day the bombing took place, Mazin Ahmad Bin Hasan, 16, was killed in Rafah, and two other teens were injured. Also on Friday, Kerin Kayemit, the Permanent Israeli Fund, announced that they will be constructing tens of thousands of new homes this year in settlements built on Palestinian land in the West Bank. Maali Adumim settlement east of Jerusalem will erect 21,000 new units, and over 5600 units will be constructed in ten other West Bank settlements, in a plan reportedly approved by Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz. The settlement expansion, as well as the construction of the Israeli annexation wall have continued throughout this supposed 'cease-fire', even despite an additional ruling against the wall this week at the International Court of Justice in the Hague. In fact, on February 8th, the day the 'cease-fire' was being negotiated in Egypt, the Israeli High Court issued a ruling allowing for the construction of the wall around Ariel settlement, 16 miles into the West Bank.

Nearly all Palestinians agree in the counter-productiveness of suicide bombings, which target mainly civilians, and most Israelis oppose the targeting of civilian populations in the Palestinian occupied territories. Yet the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian land and the sporadic suicide bombings against Israelis both end up killing civilians. Since the beginning of the current open conflict in September 2000, 3,587 Palestinians (RCS figures) and 1,042 Israelis (Israeli military figures) have been killed. It is estimated that 2/3 of the casualties on both sides are civilians.

While the American public, until Friday's attack, has been reading rose-colored headlines about 'prisoner releases' (in a month when more Palestinians were arrested than released) and 'cease fires' in Israel and Palestine, the Palestinian civilian population was living a very different reality -- a reality in which, from February 8th until today, the Israeli army has not _for_one_minute_ ceased its fire against them.
Monday, February 14th, 2005
10:46 pm
leaving palestine......
14 feb 2005

am i really leaving already??

it is hard to believe. but i know i will be back -- now palestine has a place in my heart...i can't NOT go back.

last week the palestinian president met the israeli prime minister, and presidents all over the world (and particularly in the US) were nodding their heads, patting each other on the back, and saying 'ah, yes...NOW there will be peace in the region.'

well, sorry to break the illusion folks, but it's simply not true. the handshakes taking place in sharm al-sheikh resort in egypt last week were completely disconnected with the daily reality of the israeli occupation. israel gave a couple of token gestures like giving a few wealthy, well-connected palestinians permits to enter israel, and freeing a few hundred palestinian prisoners (about as many as they arrest each month), but the whole thing was set up as a public-relations ploy to hide the ugly reality of israeli policy.

on the day of the sharm al-sheikh summit, the israeli high court decided to ALLOW the building of the israeli annexation wall around Ariel settlement in the Palestinian West Bank. Ariel is the biggest settlement in the West bank,with over 40,000 people....but here's the kicker: Ariel is located TWENTY kilometers inside the west bank.......that's twenty kilometers of palestinian villages, orchards and farmlands that will be annexed by israel. and already, as soon as the court order was declared, the israeli army has been busy uprooting olive groves and demolishing homes of palestinians in the area. a common story, a well-known sequence of events: first, the soldiers declare an area a 'closed-military zone'.....palestinians are unable to enter, even when their fields of food, groves of olives, or animals lie within the zone. israeli settlers set down in the area, first with trailers, then with more permanent homes. olive groves or anything else that belonged to palestinians in the area is destroyed, and the area becomes a 'de facto' part of israel. this is BLATANT land confiscation, BLATANT colonialism, BLATANT disenfranchisement of the palestinian people. but as long as the US is backing Israel, israel can do whatever it wants.

i have a friend who was shot by israeli special forces during the first intifada.....the first intifada, remember, from 1987 to 1991, was a non-violent intifada -- there were no suicide bombings, it was literally kids throwing stones against tanks. and there was a huge palestinian non-violent resistance movement -- tax resistance, in which palestinians refused to pay property taxes to israel, even when the israeli authorities confiscated their homes, they stood fast. there were general strikes, in which palestinian shops across the west bank and gaza would close on a particular day -- the steadfastness of the people was so strong that literally NO shops would open when a general strike was called. infuriated, israeli soldiers would wrench open the doors of the shops and try to force them to open. but the palestinians were strong, and remained strong.

until 1993, that is, when mahmoud abbas (now the president) acted as chief negotiator on the palestinian people's behalf, and sold their land and autonomy out from under them in what became known as the 'oslo accords'. a 'peace agreement', much like the one currently in the making, in which israel gets what it wants, and the palestinians lose. it will not mean peace, it will only mean the prolongation of suffering for the palestinian people, and a growing tension and resentment that will eventually explode into another intifada -- and the next intifada will be that much more violent than the last.

but back to my friend who was shot -- he was one of those stone-throwing kids in the first intifada.....the day he was shot he wasn't even throwing stones at all though.......still, it is strange how the soldiers, armed with tanks and M16s, somehow consider kids with stones a formidable enemy, and shoot them whenever they can. it really is horrible to think that someone could lose their humanity to such a severe extent that they could say, as one israeli soldier said to me in Qalqilia when i questioned his pointing his gun at children, "These children will grow up to be terrorists, so we might as well shoot them now." was it some kind of cynical joke? i don't think so, because i literally saw him, moments later, aiming and shooting at children -- luckily he missed.

but my friend who was shot by the special forces was not so lucky.....he was unarmed, of course, a seventeen year old kid whose only crime was to run when he was chased. he was pursued, and, when one of the special forces agents shouted at him from a wall above, and he began to turn, the agent emptied the bullets from his gun into my friend's chest and back. there were at least six bullets....most in his lung, which the israeli doctors decided to cut out and throw away instead of extracting the bullets (would they have done the same for an israeli....i somehow doubt it).....and one fateful bullet lodged in his spine and paralyzed him for life.....oh, and after he was lying on the ground, the israeli agent kicked him, breaking four ribs, saying "after all that, and you're still alive??"

imagine the twisted psychology of a man who could shoot a kid six times and then kick him in the ribs.......a kid whose only crime is living on the land that your government is claiming by divine right........and running when you chase him.......an understandable reaction to your indiscriminate gunfire...

even though this happened in 1991, i know that the same thing is happening today. i met a kid in the hospital in qalqilia last week, his leg shattered and his hip full of bullets, shot by israeli special forces when he was driving in a car with a friend who had somehow made it onto one of israel's infamous 'wanted' lists. as i said before, it is quite easy to get on one of those lists, you needn't have done anything wrong, but once you're on the list, you're pretty much screwed.

this kid who was on the wanted list (unbeknownst to him) was driving with two friends in his car when suddenly they were surrounded by israeli special forces who began to fire -- no warning, no attempt to apprehend or arrest or warn the boys -- they simply opened fire. thirty bullets entered the body of maher (the one they 'wanted'), twenty bullets are in one friend's body, and six bullets in the other. so the one i met at the hospital is the one who got off 'easy'. the other friend, with twenty bullets in his body, is still in critical condition in a hospital in israel....see, after the army shoots someone up pretty bad, they often take him to one of their own hospitals (they did the same with my friend back in 91). the israeli authorities make no attempt to contact the family and, with no permits to enter israel, they usually can't even enter to see how their child is doing. two weeks this young man has been in the hospital, and the family knows nothing of his condition -- imagine the heartwrenching agony they must be going through!! the one i met, ziad, with six bullets in him, made a special point to tell me not to upset the mother of his friend, because she was pretty upset already.

so this is the 'peace' of israel.......so the intifada will end, handshakes will be made all around, and the occupation will continue. the seizure of land will continue. the annexation of east jerusalem and much of the west bank into israel will continue. and construction of the israeli annexation wall will continue also. UNLESS WE DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!!

What is this 'relative calm'?
Op-ed - written by me and published January 29

When Israeli government officials report that there is 'relative calm' in the region, the American media line up to repeat the claim. But the reality, in almost every case where the term has been used, is that there is 'relative calm' only for the _Israelis_. Attacks by the Israeli army against Palestinian civilians have not ceased, or even decreased, in the periods of so-called 'relative calm'.

Take the week of January 22-29th, for example. Since Friday, the 22nd of January, there have been almost no shots fired or homemade shells launched by Palestinian resistance groups toward the illegal Israeli settlements and Israeli military bases built on their land. But eight Palestinians have been killed this week, only one of whom was identified by Israel to be a resistance fighter.

On Tuesday, an explosive left by the Israeli army went off near two children playing in Ramallah. Marwan Ghaleb Abu Alawi, 13, died of his wounds on Friday the 28th, while Saleh Daoud Abu Alawi, 11, who was also injured in the blast, remains in critical condition.

Rahma Ibrahim Abu Shamas, a three year old toddler, was inside her home with her family in Dair al-Balah in central Gaza on Wednesday January 26th, when a bullet struck her in the head, killing her instantly.

Ibrahim al-Shawas, 36, died on Saturday the 29th after being shot in the head near Khan Yunis a day earlier. Witnesses said he was approaching a border fence near the town when a shot rang out from the Israeli side. al-Shawas was on his way to his farm when he was shot and killed. He was a handicapped man, the second handicapped Palestinian to be killed Friday, and the third this week.

And this was an average week! Children and disabled people killed and maimed, dozens of military invasions and random shooting at civilian areas by the Israeli army -- _this_ is their 'relative calm'?

Just two weeks ago, seven teenagers were torn apart by tank shells in northern Gaza while picking strawberries in their family's field, four brothers, two cousins and their friend. Instead of being outraged at the fact that seven children were needlessly and mindlessly blown apart, Israeli officials seemed more concerned that Palestinian President (then candidate for the Presidency) responded by saying "We are praying for the souls of the martyrs killed by the Zionist enemy." Their concern seems a bit misplaced in light of the fact that Israeli officials also refer to Israel as a "Zionist state." And using the term "enemy" to describe an occupying military force is not unrealistic. So why the outrage about his words, but _not_ about the killing of these seven children?

The heartless response of Israeli officials reflects a policy in which Palestinians are considered less than human. Soldiers with assault rifles and artillery shells play cat-and-mouse with children throwing stones -- and when the children are killed, they are called 'armed combatants' and their deaths are somehow justified!

Since the start of the Palestinian intifada (literally 'shaking-off' -- a term used to refer to the 'shaking-off' of the Israeli occupation of Palestine) in September 2000, 4721 have been killed, including 3666 Palestinians and 981 Israelis. So why, in the US, do we hear mainly about the Israelis who have been killed? The daily killing of Palestinians is considered 'relative calm', while the rather infrequent attacks on Israelis are considered front-page news. Even National Public Radio, which claims to have 'balanced coverage' of the conflict, reports Israeli and Palestinian death at a 1:1 ratio, when in fact the reality is that there have been nearly four times as many Palestinians as Israelis killed in this war. Presenting a 1:1 ratio as 'balanced' gives a distorted picture of what is actually happening on the ground.

And what is actually happening is an ongoing military occupation of a civilian population in which families are walled-in, brutalized, intimidated and humiliated on a daily basis -- unable to travel, unable to go to work, unable to farm their fields......for the last four years nearly 80% of the population of the Gaza Strip (the most crowded place on earth) has been out of work. 400 military checkpoints control every part of the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip. Families are isolated, children are unable to go to school, homes are continually being demolished and the Israeli annexation wall is creating a new de facto border for Israel that annexes half of what's left of the Palestinian area. Children are being killed in their homes and schools, and terrorized by tanks, guns and Apache helicopters wherever they go. UN Resolution after UN Resolution has been passed condemening the Israel government's actions, but the U.S. always vetoes the Resolutions.

The U.S. media is complicit in the oppression of the Palestinians when media corporations refuse to report the reality of Palestinians' lives. By using terms like 'relative calm' when there are no attacks on Israelis, the media is completely trivializing the reality of ongoing Palestinian deaths. This is not a new trend, either -- in 2001, a cease-fire declared by Yasir Arafat led to a period of very few Israeli deaths, but sustained Palestinian deaths-- and the American media repeatedly referred to it as a time of "relative calm"; in 2003, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) published a study entitled, "Journalists Find 'Calm' When Only Palestinians Die", giving examples of the bias shown in headlines like an Associated Press article stating that "from June 29 to August 19, 2003, 'more than 20 people have been killed on the Israeli and Palestinian sides.', leaving out the fact that of those 'more than 20', at least 21 were Palestinian." And now, with Palestinians dying at the rate of at least one a day, the New York Times and other major U.S. media outlets insist on using the term 'relative calm' to describe a situation that, for Palestinians at least, is anything _but_ 'relatively calm'.
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