Saturday, June 30, 2012
When his fourth son, Gibreel, is born, Emad, a Palestinian villager, gets his first camera. In his village, Bil'in, a separation barrier is being built and the villagers start to resist this decision. For more than five years, Emad films the struggle, which is lead by two of his best friends, alongside filming how Gibreel grows. Very soon it affects his family and his own life. Daily arrests and night raids scare his family; his friends, brothers and him as well are either shot or arrested. One Camera after another is shot at or smashed, each camera tells a part of his story.
Friday, June 29, 2012
"The remarkable thing about the heated debates about the law over the last three years is just how modest these reforms really are, especially when one considers how screwed up our healthcare system was to begin with."
Exclusive Interview: Joseph Stiglitz Sees Terrifying Future for America If We Don't Reverse Inequality
Thursday, June 28, 2012
Monday, June 25, 2012
There are celebrations in some quarters in the Arab world. Some are celebrating the defeat of Ahmad Shafik (the candidate of Israel, US, EU, Saudi Arabia, and the old regime order of Egypt.)
Some are celebrating the assumption of Islamism to power in Egypt. Others are celebrating the victory of the Qatari candidate. And yet others are celebrating the victory of the Muslim Brotherhood in the most important Arab country.
Islamists from Iran to Algeria are pleased that Islamism seems to be ascendants. But there is no need to celebrate, although Islamists are justified in opening champagne bottles. It is a big occasion for all Islamists.
But the election should be seen for what it is: politics in Egypt has not been freed up since the downfall of Mubarak. The entire political game is run by an unelected body of generals – all of whom have been handpicked by Mubarak himself.
The US Supreme Court ruling on the draconian & racist Arizona immigration law (SB1070), is rightfully called a legal victory by the governor of the state, Jan Brewer. The Court upheld only one provision & threw out three others but given the centrality of what is retained, the three provisions thrown out amount to chicken feed. The court threw out (1) a requirement for immigrants to register with the federal government, (2) the right to arrest suspected undocumented immigrants without a warrant, (30) making it a crime for undocumented immigrants to work or seek work in Arizona. What the Court upheld is the directive to state & federal police to check immigration status when they stop people for any offense, including when they suspect someone of being undocumented. This is not merely a consolation prize to Arizona immigration opponents; it is racial profiling which has always been the very heart of SB1070. That means if you look Mexican or Latino, you can be stopped & interrogated about your immigration status. And just to be clear, Arizona was once a part of Mexico wrested in a war of conquest by the US in 1848--so Mexicans go back generations in Arizona, long before any gringos showed up.
Under the Fourth Amendment of the US Bill of Rights, probable cause (which is defined as a reasonable belief that a person has committed a crime) is the standard by which officers of the law can detain someone. But under the guise of the war on drugs, police run rough shod over that democratic right in the Black community, stopping drivers, conducting illegal search & seizures, harassing youth, conducting stop & frisks simply because someone is Black. That is exactly what is retained in the legal travesty of SB1070: the right to stop someone simply because they look Mexican or Latino. Brewer claims Arizona cops will be trained not to engage in racial profiling. But the Court fully anticipates further challenges to the law if it is abused with racial profiling or if prolonged detentions are required for those unable to produce immigration papers because they know damn well such abuses are inevitable. There was no movement to defend Black youth against these assaults when they began a few decades ago & thousands of young people continue to be unjustly incarcerated. Today, there is an active immigration rights movement opposing laws like SB1070 which is why there have been challenges to these racist laws. The US government has now generalized them in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), where any US citizen can be disappeared without due process (Guantanamo writ large!) & as we saw with the Occupy movement last year, is challenging other provisions of the Bill of Rights like free speech & the right to assembly. Defending democracy in this country means participating in the movement opposing all laws like SB1070, opposing stop & frisk practices (as activists are doing in NYC), demanding the end of racial profiling, & immigration rights for fellow workers. (Photographer not identified)
Saturday, June 23, 2012
It’s not an easy thing figuring out what’s going on in this world when the news is so canned & comes from only a few sources. The report by an AP stringer who gets his/her analysis from officials will be repeated word for word in media outlets around the world. Officials always give the same explanation for the hundreds of slum fires in major cities: a cooking accident, residents pirating power lines, flimsy, flammable building materials, or sometimes even “cause unknown”. On the surface that makes sense. But reporters are supposed to have inquiring minds & when you put the fires within the context of urban gentrification & forcible evictions of thousands of slum residents, then the story doesn’t add up at all. In fact, it smells even worse than the smoke billowing off the charred remains of thousands of homes. So when a fire in New Delhi, India burned down an illegal shanty town yesterday, some reports said, “cause unknown”, other reports said it broke out in an adjoining scrap yard, but most reports said it was caused by piles of plastic & rubber that residents had gathered to sell for recycling. They all report it took 25 fire trucks & 70 fire fighters two hours to douse the fire. Only one Indian media source (andhranews.net) actually nosed around the site & interviewed residents & they have a very different account of events. Residents claim the fire trucks arrived late & failed to douse the flames due to shortage of water. Residents also report they were previously ordered to evacuate the slum. There may have been more cops to disperse the residents than fire fighters. This account accords more with photojournalist albums showing more residents fighting the flames than fire fighters but these are also the same charges made by residents in hundreds of other slum fires around the world. Arson for purposes of gentrification is the most likely explanation for most of these fires which have created massive homelessness. Once again, housing is a human right & must become a central political demand in every country. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/AP)
Thursday, June 21, 2012
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Starting Sunday night, the apartheid state of Israel started deporting African immigrants (or “illegal work infiltrators”, as creepy Netanyahu calls them) back to their home countries. This 9-year-old girl named Bhakita Koang Gai, cries as she boards the bus taking her to the Tel Aviv airport for deportation to South Sudan. After Israeli politicians whipped up racist rampages against African immigrants, hundreds of immigrants have been arrested, & thousands are slated for deportation. Most of the migrants are asylum seekers from civil conflict, famine, & war & under international law, Israel is obliged to provide sanctuary. One wonders why they bother to make international laws when psycho-states like Israel flaunt them so egregiously without condemnation. South Sudan has been declared a disaster zone by its own government. It has thousands of internally displaced persons, widespread famine, & some of the worst health indicators in the world (including infant mortality & the highest maternal mortality in the world), with one doctor for every 500,000 people. Despite its own shameful human rights record, the US has never been shy about protesting the violations of others. But in this instance it is notably mute because as Israel’s inarticulate Interior Minister said: "We are sending the infiltrators, migrants, back to their homes like all countries in the West, in Europe, in the USA act when dealing with migrants." (Photo by Baz Ratner/Reuters)
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Monday, June 18, 2012
Those striking coal miners in northern Spain certainly mean business! Coal mining unions are waging not just a general strike but what looks like war against IMF-European Union austerity. Here a miner is building a road barricade next to the Santiago mine near Oviedo, Spain but this is going on at over 40 mines. The intransigence of these miners is an inspiration to us all & says to the oligarchs, "don't mess with people who actually know how to do something!" May they bring the Spanish government to its knees. (Photo by Emilio Morenatti/AP)
Aung San Suu Kyi is the Burmese opposition politician put under house arrest from 1989 to 2010 by the military junta in her country. For this, she became a democracy icon as “the Mandela of Asia” & is presently being feted throughout Europe after belatedly accepting the Nobel Peace Prize she won in 1991. Her list of international awards as a champion of democracy & human rights is nearly a mile long so there is certainly no one in the world at the present moment in a better position to speak out against racist violence, suppression of democratic rights, persecution. That’s why many are puzzled that she is not speaking out against the violence & human rights crisis in Burma causing over 30,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee for their lives. Many are appalled that her responses to repeated reporter queries are shabby little platitudes urging people in Burma to get along with each other & calls for rule of law. The Rohingyas are publicly pleading for her support & the UN, Human Rights Watch, & Amnesty International have already spoken out so Suu Kyi wouldn’t stand alone. Some have excused her platitudes as diplomacy & political caution. Well if such an international icon can’t speak out, who the hell can!? What’s the point of those honorifics if you have to clam up to get them?
Media reports the conflict as a religious one between Muslims & Buddhists but Suu Kyi surely knows that the 800,000 Rohingyas have been subject for decades to violent state-sponsored persecution & discrimination conducted by the military, including denial of citizenship (though they have lived in the region for decades), religious persecution, forced labor, land confiscations, arbitrary taxation & various forms of extortion, forced eviction & house destruction, restrictions on travel for health & work, restrictions on marriage, education, & trade. The violence is so extreme & sustained going back decades that hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas flee for asylum to Malaysia, & to squalid refugee camps in Thailand & Bangladesh. Bangladesh has long been trying to deport the thousands living in refugee camps, has subjected them to harrowing human rights violations, & is refusing to accept the new refugees. Boats of desperate Rohingya refugees are now being turned back by Bangladeshi border guards. There were several incidences of Rohingya refugees to Thailand being towed by the military in dilapidated boats & abandoned on the open sea. In this photo, a Bangladeshi border guard is denying entry to asylum seekers in violation of elementary human decency & international law. (Photo by Saurabh Das/AP)
Sunday, June 17, 2012
Obama just announced what his administration calls “Deferred Action” for undocumented youth, which means many young people brought here as children by undocumented immigrant parents will no longer be subject to deportation. This is certainly one of the most shameless--out of a plethora of such acts--against undocumented immigrants by the Obama regime. One’s immediate reaction is that this is just a pre-election stunt to curry favor with a disenchanted Latino electorate since his administration has deported more immigrants, audited more businesses, & conducted more workplace raids on suspicion of hiring the undocumented than the Bush regime. Obama’s deportation policies have shown arrant contempt for child welfare by deporting parents & forcing thousands of children into a bankrupt, over-taxed foster system. The thousands of unaccompanied minors caught trying to cross the US-Mexico border are offered detainment in place of social services. Nearly 800,000 immigrant child farm workers were just denied protective legislation because it conflicted with the profit needs of agribusiness. So why is Obama showing such concern for undocumented youth? Is it just an election stunt!? And the answer is “no”; it is even more cynical & malignant than that.
First of all, as Obama has insisted, this is not an amnesty. It is provisional. It has several restrictions, including age, residency, & time restrictions. It is likely to be legally challenged & almost certain to be reversed. One must register, & reregister every two years to even become eligible for a work permit. In other words, there is no reciprocity here. You hand the government your identity & location without receiving any promises or legal commitments in return. So when they do reverse it, they know just who & where you are.
The cynical & treacherous aspect of this maneuver is that the Dreamer generation is the most active, energetic, growing segment of the immigration rights movement. More than being an electoral stunt, this is an attempt to cut the Dreamer movement off at the knees, to confuse & neutralize young activists. The Democratic Party throws millions of dollars in foundation money at immigration rights organizations to mute their protests & mortgage immigration rights to that party. Some will ignore the shameful record of the Obama administration & tout this “Deferred Action” as a victory. But emphasis should be placed on the word “Deferred”. They won’t grab you & deport you now; that will be deferred until after the elections. Undocumented youth are well-advised to think twice before handing their identity & location to immigration control authorities. The movement is being thrown this sop to demobilize it. The demands must remain “Amnesty for all without restrictions of any kind”, “Stop the deportations”, “Immigration is a human right”, “No human being is illegal”. (Photographer not identified; from protest in St. Paul, Minnesota)
Saturday, June 16, 2012
Friday, June 15, 2012
The Egyptian revolution is today entering an ominous & threatening period. When a massive, popular uprising threw Hosni Mubarak out on his ass last year, the military junta promised democratic elections & an end of military rule. But you never trust a snake not to bite. The Egyptian uprising plays such a central role in inspiring other Arab uprisings & protests in Africa, Europe, Latin America, & the US against austerity & tyranny that in the minds of the oligarchs it must be reversed. The most malignant minds around the world are working overtime to find a way to destroy the resistance & spirit of the Egyptian people. Yesterday, Egypt’s highest court--certainly at the behest of the junta--ruled that Mubarak’s last prime minister can remain in the presidential race despite massive protests against his candidacy & they ruled that the newly elected parliament must be dissolved. This leaves the Egyptian people right back where they were before they ousted Mubarak--with military dictatorship fully in control. They have already paid too high a price with activists beaten, tortured, incarcerated, murdered. They need our full active solidarity. Here a young boy (with the date of the revolution painted on his face) joins thousands of others protesting in front of the court against the rulings. The Egyptian military has yet to learn what Israel knows so well from Palestinian youth standing with rocks against tanks & bulldozers: when the young are aligned against you, there will be no peace for a very long time. All solidarity with the Egyptian people in their struggle against the military junta! (Photo by Amr Nabil/AP)
The Gulabi gang (named after the fluorescent pink saris they wear) was founded by Sampat Pal Devi in 2006 in Banda in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India. They began as a sisterhood that became more a squad of vigilantes in response to widespread domestic, sexual, & governmental violence against women & they use bamboo sticks to threaten or punish abusive husbands & officials. They now claim 20,000 members across North India. In the style of Robin Hood, they protest child marriages, dowry, female illiteracy, & official corruption. Abusive husbands are negotiated with first, threatened, & then pummeled with the bamboo sticks if they persist in violence. In one notorious instance they ambushed the local utility office which was withholding electricity unless they received bribes or sexual favors, roughed up the staff, locked them out, & took off with the key until power was restored. An hour later, the power which had been withheld for over two weeks was back on. Their most daring exploit was hijacking trucks of food meant for the poor being taken to market for sale by corrupt officials.
The founder, Sampat Pal Devi is the daughter of a shepherd put to work on family land while her brothers went to school & married off at the age of 12 to a 20-year old-ice cream vendor she had never met. She had the first of her five children at 15 & was not allowed by her mother-in-law to stop having children until she produced a boy. She now has a long list of criminal charges against her, including unlawful assembly, rioting, attacking a government employee, & obstructing an officer in the discharge of duty. She is nevertheless a folk hero in the tradition of Phoolan Devi, a woman from the same region, known as the Bandit Queen of India who was gang-raped by upper caste men & led a gang of robbers in retribution on upper caste villagers.
Vigilantism is certainly preferable to the despondency of women taking out the violence on themselves through self-immolation or hanging. But political activism is an alternative to vigilantism. Much political heft can be thrown around with 20,000 women carrying bamboo sticks & trained to wield them. The Gulabi gang is only the most prominent female gang & is often favorably reported in the media. India is sustaining a rise of female vigilante groups--termed a “mini-revolution” by some journalists--who are taking things into their own hands. Though it’s hard to see the downside to this female militancy, more violent vigilantism has been reported elsewhere in India among dispossessed women. In 2004, hundreds of women brutally killed a serial rapist after the courts failed to convict him over a period of 10 years. The women collectively claimed guilt for the murder, making it difficult for the police to charge anyone for the crime.
The gut reaction to this phenomenon of women defending themselves is to cheer them on exuberantly, but there is a long, regrettable history to vigilantism that begins as self defense & doesn’t inform itself with a vision of transformation. It gets stuck in retribution & ends up in criminality. The Gulabi gang has the potential to move beyond retribution to political transformation & when they do, media coverage will be far less favorable. The linked article is an interesting portrait of some of the women in the gang. In this photo "Commander" Sampat Pal of the Gulabi gang teaches women how to wield the bamboo baton. (Photo by Sanjit Das)
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Zakir Hussain, an internationally known tabla (hand drum) player, who is considered one of the world's most influential Indian musicians, has canceled planned appearances in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv scheduled for July.
The reason given was fear for the personal security of Hussain and his musicians, due to tension in the region.
"He encountered strong objections to his visit to Israel, which manifested themselves in personal requests and an Internet petition that garnered signatures from more than 85 Indian artists," his managers said.
By Ilan Pappe
Ilan Pappe (Photo: Paula Geraghty)
Even before one begins to define more specifically what such outside pressure entails, it is essential not to confuse the means (pressure) with the objective (finding a formula for joint living). In other words, it is important to emphasize that pressure is meant to trigger meaningful negotiations, not take their place. So while I still believe that change from within is key to bringing about a lasting solution to the question of the refugees, the predicament of the Palestinian minority in Israel, and the future of Jerusalem, other steps must first be taken for this to be achieved.
What kind a pressure is necessary? South Africa has provided the most illuminating and inspiring historical example for those leading this debate, while, on the ground, activists and NGOs under occupation have sought nonviolent means both to resist the occupation and to expand the forms of resistance beyond suicide bombing and the %ring of Qassam missiles from Gaza. These two impulses produced the BDS campaign against Israel. It is not a coordinated campaign operated by some secret cabal. It began as a call from within the civil society under occupation, endorsed by other Palestinian groups, and translated into individual and collective actions worldwide.
Monday, June 11, 2012
Kibera is a neighborhood in the city of Nairobi, Kenya. It is the second largest slum in Africa & the third largest slum in the world. Residents are extremely impoverished, the area heavily polluted by garbage & contaminated by human & animal feces due to the open sewage system. Lack of sanitation combined with inadequate nutrition jeopardizes health, spreads diseases, & means 1 out of 5 children do not live to their 5th birthday. A government plan to move & rehouse the residents has been embroiled in controversy, frequently delayed, & at its present rate is estimated to take 1,178 years to complete. These children are on break at a school of 500 children where classrooms are falling apart & lacking basic needs such as electricity. But you wouldn’t know all that from the glorious smiles on these children’s faces--providing more compelling reasons to change the world. (Photo by Ruben Salgado Escudero)
“Nature red in tooth & claw”: it’s not a pretty thing but you can’t fight it. Every day as I walk I pit myself against it’s unseemly predations, rescuing caterpillars from birds, wee birds from grackles, cats from dogs. I even had to pull dogs off a bird fallen from a nest. It’s one of nature’s least attractive features & this fierce little Indian myna doesn’t give a hoot as she feeds her babies an unfortunate grasshopper. (Photo by Parivartan Sharma/Reuters)
The photographer, Muhammed Muheisen, has captured many moments of the 5 million Afghan refugees from the US-NATO war living in squalor in Pakistan. Most are of children. Some are poignant; some just show the beauty of children even in the harsh & unrelenting conditions of war, migration, & poverty. You will surely agree, this is the latter kind. (Photo by Muhammed Muheisen/AP)
The cultural boycott of Israel is beginning to bite, a prominent figure in Israel’s classical music world has admitted.
Gil Shohat, an Israeli composer and conductor, who is also the Classical Music Advisor to the Israel Festival and Artistic Advisor to Israel’s Red Sea International Classical Music Festival, told Israeli reporter Sharon Dubkin:
In the world of classical music things are neither in-your-face nor crass, by the very nature of classical art, which is more noble, quite, and introverted, but there are are choirs and opera companies which are not interested in coming to Israel. Even if they don’t say it’s because of the political issue, they prefer not to get involved in such a sticky situation. As a composer active on the world scene, I can testify that more than once projects have been cancelled or postponed based on their ‘Israeliness.’ And again - these things are not said crassly, no one will say: we are conducting a boycott. The word boycott doesn’t exist, but the political situation of Israel also impacts this field. This is primarily true about larger projects, and less so regarding the activity of individual musicians.
Friday, June 8, 2012
On June 7, 1967, Israeli forces move through the Sinai as they press the attack on Egyptian troops. (Associated Press / June 8, 2012)
"The 1967 Israeli war was one of choice and conquest and not one of defense against an existential threat. The myth of the existential threat notwithstanding, Israel Defense Forces generals saw an opportunity to assert Israeli might against an ill-prepared Egyptian army, and as the generals anticipated, the destruction of the Egyptian forces was swift and relatively easy. This allowed them to then "finish the job" and take the West Bank and the Golan Heights, two regions that Israel had coveted for many years.
Even Menachem Begin, who was a member of the 1967 Cabinet and later prime minister, asserted: "Egyptian army concentrations in the Sinai approaches did not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him."
The IDF knowingly decided to perpetuate the notion of an existential threat. This scare tactic was helpful in applying public pressure against a hesitant government reluctant to give the green light for a preemptive strike against Egypt."