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.

bloodbath in gaza

6 june 2006
palestine

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:
http://radio.indymedia.org/news/2006/05/9843.php"

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:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/conservation/story/0,,1784834,00.html

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:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/afghanistan/story/0,,1785599,00.html
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)

sigh.....

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):
http://savetheinternet.com

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":
http://www.imemc.org/content/view/19247/1/

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."

and:
"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:
http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/business/financial_markets/14508484.htm

http://www.palestinechronicle.com/story.php?sid=05080611939

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=viewArticle&code=CLA20060210&articleId=1937

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
http://www.imemc.org/content/view/17007/1/

A Wall which Kills Life and Land:
http://www.imemc.org/content/view/12860/79/

The Wall: The Unmentionable Reality:
http://www.imemc.org/content/view/16982/79/

"The Nightmare Comes True" by Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery:
http://www.imemc.org/content/view/12056/117/

New settlements expansion in East J'lem funded by US Israelis:
http://www.imemc.org/content/view/16208/1/

This is a listing of articles about the Wall and non-violent protests against it:
http://www.imemc.org/content/blogcategory/169/

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:
http://electroniciraq.net/news/2299.shtml

thoughts on the election of hamas

9 feb 2006
beit sahour
palestine

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.

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:
http://www.peoplesfreespace.org/hurricanerelief/?p=24
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.

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:
http://radio.indymedia.org/news/2005/10/7230.php

first-hand account of dale:
http://neworleans.indymedia.org/news/2005/10/6048.php

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):
http://neworleans.indymedia.org/news/2005/10/6157.php

"Katrina: Direct Action vs. Government Guns" by scott weinstein (a nurse at the common ground clinic):
http://www.commongroundrelief.org/2005/10/katrina_direct_action_vs_gover.html

are new orleanians the new palestinians?

10/22/2005
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:
http://www.starhawk.org/activism/activism-writings/NewOrleans_update1.html

and another one entitled, "Who will take out the garbage?"
http://www.starhawk.org/activism/activism-writings/NewOrleans_update2.html

here is the weblog of a guy who is volunteering here (check the entry 'hostile takeover'):
http://www.bringdownbush.org/blog/

check the audio interviews and reports i have made at:
http://neworleans.indymedia.org/

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:
http://neworleans.indymedia.org/news/2005/10/6058.php

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:
http://dc.indymedia.org/newswire/display/130638/index.php

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).