International Initiative to Stop the war in Syria: Yes to Democracy, No to Foreign Intervention! Call for Endorsements

The following official statement, with signatories will be made public mid-November.

We, the undersigned, who are part of an international civil society increasingly worried about the awful bloodshed of the Syrian people, are supporting a political initiative based on the results of a fact-finding mission which some of our colleagues undertook to Beirut and Damascus in September 2012. This initiative consists in calling for a delegation of high-ranking personalities with international public lives to go to Syria in order to discuss the current situation with the main political actors and to pave the way for a negotiated political solution of the armed conflict in Syria which seriously threatens world peace and the existence of Syria as an independent and sovereign nation.*

In this perspective we fully support the following declaration:

All eyes are presently on the unfolding war in Syria that is drowning its people in blood. We are highly concerned not only because the conflict has been acquiring a dangerous geo-political dimension. The legitimate movement of the Syrian people – along with their Arab brothers – for democratic rights is also in danger of being converted into a sectarian civil war with massive regional and international involvement.

We are conscious that no side can win such a war of attrition in the near future whilst the Syrian and Arab people’s resistance against Western and Israeli predominance as well as the regional dictatorships is being threatened and could eventually even be destroyed.

In order to save these achievements and to continue the struggle for democracy, social justice and self-determination of the people, a political solution of the conflict by means of a negotiated settlement is indispensable. Only in this way can religious sectarianism be curbed, foreign intervention averted and the democratic mass movement prevail.

We therefore take action in support of a political solution to end the bloodshed with the following criteria:

1)    We fully support the beginning of a political process which should start by negotiations and a cease fire. This should go hand in hand with a process of de-escalation and de-militarisation that allows the Syrian people to receive the help they urgently need and express their will peacefully and eventually at the ballot boxes.

2)    Since any solution must be based on the sovereign will of the Syrian people we reject categorically any kind ofmilitary intervention.

3)    To respect the sovereign right to self-determination means respecting the democratic and social rights of the vast majority of the people. Therefore no major political force should be excluded a priori. A sustainable, peaceful settlement must be based on a constitutional process which allows free elections organised by atransitional government as a result of negotiations.

4)    Since religious sectarianism is one of the reasons for the continuation of this war producing an endless spiral of massacres and retaliations, we support all initiatives and tendencies in the existing political and military forces which are promoting inter-confessional tolerance.

By signing this declaration we give our full support to the international delegation heading for Syria at the end of November, 2012 and hoping that this initiative will make a significant contribution to peace in the area.

The War in Syria or

The Threads of a Blood Stained Carpet

Report of a fact-finding mission in support of a political solution of the conflict

We, the undersigned, who have been actively engaged for a considerable part of our lives in political projects on behalf of the oppressed peoples of Latin America, Asia, the Middle East and Palestine, undertook a two week journey to Beirut and Damascus between August 29 and September 12, 2012. From the very start we considered our work to be an initial fact-finding mission preparatory to a larger and more important endeavour, a peace-finding mission in Syria of high ranking personalities from the international civil society community to take place in one or two months.

During this fact-finding mission we had the opportunity to talk to representatives of nearly all the political forces involved in the Syrian conflict.  All of these openly reject any foreign military intervention and are principally disposed to put an end to the violence and repression, which has, in most parts of the country, led to an undeclared civil war.

Therefore the analysis we are presenting in this prelimininary report will attempt to be as objective as possible.  It will reflect less, our own diverse viewpoints on the situation and more the opinions of the great variety of people we interviewed. For security reasons we will not mention the names of our sources, but only indicate the political milieu to which they belong.  If there are contradictions between the different statements, we will present them as such, leaving the task of evaluation to the reader rather than ourselves.

Since we cannot pretend to be either complete or exhaustive, we consider this report only as a preliminary effort, which hopefully will by followed by others who take the same risks to come to the region in order to observe the dramatic scenarios of one of the most complex conflicts of our times.

The report contains the following parts:

I.               History and Structure of the Regime 2

II.             From Conflict to War 3

III.           Diversity of Opposition Groups 5

IV.           On Foreign Intervention and Sectarianism 8

V.             Proposals for Peace through Political Dialogue 9

I.               History and Structure of the Regime

Some of our sources were veterans from the opposition, who have spent more than ten years in prison during the regime of Hafez Assad, father of Bashar al Assad. According to to Dr. Fayez Fawas  a very respected leader of the opposition (one of the founding fathers of the Syrian Communist Party), from the very beginning of the Syrian regime in 1970, it has been based on the army and the security forces on the one hand and on the other, the Baath party, with more that one million affiliates:  “The army – whether we like it or not –  is the State,” one of the opposition leaders said.  “If it is destroyed, Syria will no longer exist as a sovereign state.” During the cold war, Hafez created a so-called National Front to exercise his absolute control over political life, outlawing trade unions, as well as leftist parties and the Muslim Brotherhood. “All orders came from above”, he said, and the people generally tolerated this order, since he distributed large amounts of land and exercised a policy of full employment. On the other hand, the many rival security forces (according to sources, there are actually 16 in the country) exercised their power to the degree that they even had to give permission for marriages, according to one interviewee.

The problems started when, as in 1976,  larger movements emerged against the invasion of Lebanon; with a movement of lawyers in 1979 who defended the Muslim Brotherhood and called for the democratization of society; and finally in 1982 when the entire city of Hama was completely destroyed in a massacre of thousands of  people.  In contrast to his father, Bashar al Assad could never manage the pyramidal structure that he was chosen to lead in 2000, as a replacement for his brother who died suddenly in a car accident. “He is not a real politician, but conducts the State, together with his wife, like a public relations officer,” said one of the interviewees who knew him personally. During his tenure however he opened the door to neoliberal privatization and encouraged, or tolerated the informal speculative activities of an emerging neo-oligarchy close to him, which, according to Salim Kheirbek, another opposition leader who has spent more than 10 years in prison,, increased enormously the gap between the rich and the poor, especially in the countryside, which amounts to more than 30 percent of the total population. As a consequence of this, more than one million people emigrated, principally to Lebanon, Jordan, the Gulf States and Greece.

II.             From Conflict to War

According to this information, we can understand how the country came into a crisis, which manifested itself first in a broad, unexpressed social discontent among the lower classes, especially among the Sunni population that amounts to about 55 percent of the total population. Unlike the other religions like the Alawites, Shiites and different Christian denominations (mainly Russian and Syrian orthodox as well as Roman Catholic) the Syrian Sunnis had found a political reference point in the Muslim Brotherhood,  who,  according to a Palestinian leader, have always been more dogmatic than their Egyptian, Tunisian or Turkish counterparts.

With all these factions, it is important to remember that nearly all Syrians are used to living in a nationalist tradition without particular preference for any religion. Therefore, when the protests suddenly erupted in Daraa on March 18th, 2011 the local conflict, according to an eyewitness, was more influenced by the general discontent with the local authorities, the mayor of the town and the security forces, than by any ideological vision. The spark was supplied by the so-called “Arab Spring”.  What then followed in Homs, Hama, Idlib and other places was a truly popular movement first demanding democratic reforms and later, as these demands  failed to yield any results, the fall of the Assad regime by non-armed protesters.

“It is true that the security forces intervened,” Dr. Bouthaina Shabaan, the very renown special advisor to the president told us in Damascus, “but we have said from the very beginning that there were arms involved. They are killing our best people and now they are attacking airports like the Israelis do.”

This discussion, “who threw the first stone” and “who shot the first bullet”, as awkward as it may seem in a conflict, which, according to UN figures has cost more than 20,000 lives, has become the corner stone of a whole political architecture on both sides of the conflict. The government uses it to justify its enormous increase in the repression of the popular movement: the other side uses it to call for outside intervention as in Libya.

“I have never seen a foreigner in my East Damascus neighbourhood, but I have seen many death squads running around after the explosion of bombs”, says one of the participants of a popular movement in the outskirts of Damascus, which is only one of the many battlegrounds of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Other witnesses say that the persecution of victims and the practice of mass executions seem to be a common occurrence in this unequal confrontation between the paramilitary groups of the opposition and the Shabiha (militias) who work in close coordination with the security forces and the army. It is very difficult to evaluate the relationship between the militarized forces. The insurgents we have interviewed say there are approximately 40,000 armed people on their side while the Syrian army is generally calculated to number 160,000 and is one the best equipped in the whole region. There have been individual defectors from the army, but it has never happened that an entire company has switched sides, according to AVAAZ, a source that is generally well informed. The army has not used its entire capacity, most likely out of fear of losing control, as otherwise it is not clear or understandable, “It is always the 4th and the 10th Battalion, the so-called Special Forces, and the 52nd Brigade which are operating. They must be tired by now.” these sources said.

The army as such was not much implicated in interreligious conflicts, which have increased during the conflict. This at least is what the director of a non- governmental newspaper said when we asked him in Damascus: “… because within the army there are also members of different religious denominations.” Others declared that the security forces as well as militias have participated in these sectarian confrontations. However, the soldiers are not protecting the civilian population; quite the contrary. They generally use their firepower from distant ranges, from the air, or on the ground to destroy the entire areas where the battles take place. In this way, for example, more than half of Homs has been completely devastated.

One of our interviewees said that “inside Syria the only power is the gun,” and the coordinator of a squadron in Damascus claims that there cannot be any “liberated zones in Syria as long as they can be reached by rockets and aircraft.”  From this there can be only one conclusion: a high intensity war, which many describe as a “civil war”, is taking place in Syria, which neither side is capable of winning militarily. The rest is kept by the silence of the graveyards and the enormous quantity of people who are on the move.

The figures of 1.2 million internal refugees and 250,000 in the neighbouring countries seem to be conservative. The director of CARITAS-Lebanon, for example, challenges the official version that there are only 60,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon: “There must be at least 150,000,” he says.

Interviewing these refugees reveals that the basic sentiment of the great majority of the Syrian population can be characterized by only one word: FEAR. Fear of the bombings, fear of getting into the cross-fire, fear of having their throat cut by inhuman extremists on either side, and fear of not being able to make it to the border. It cannot be said that the majority of the people stands on one side of the conflict or the other, because there are many, especially within the middle classes, who definitely oppose the regime of Basher al Assad, but who are even more afraid of the “time after”. There are also many who (often without wanting it) got involved with the armed resistance and who are as much afraid of their own military incompetence as they are bombs from the airplanes.

All these elements have to be taken into consideration when asking the question: who is winning the war? The answer is: NOBODY!

III.           Diversity in  the Opposition

It is very difficult to characterize the nature of the Syrian opposition. There is the strong social ingredient, especially in the lower strata of the population, in the suburban areas, and in the countryside. But this is not everything. There continues to be a politicized and educated minority who are struggling for democracy in a politically articulated way.

Among them are many intellectuals, such as the ones we had a chance to talk to in Damascus, who spent years in the prisons of Hafez al Assad for their participation in the movements and leftist parties they helped to create. Others are living now abroad, many of them in Paris. Like Haytham Manna, the vice-president of the opposition coalition called the “National Coordination Body for Democratic Change” and Michel Kilo, a university professor at the Sorbonne who can count on many supporters and a certain organizational infrastructure inside the country.

For all of these leftist and left-liberal democrats the uprisings in March 2011 were considered to be an opportunity to realize the democratic change they have been struggling for throughout all their lives. Two of them, Dr. Fayez Fawas and Salim Kheirbek wrote a letter to the President to this effect one week after the first unrest in Daraa, but they did not receive any timely response. Only months later an army general showed up to ask them further explanations.

They were not the only ones on a high level to press for democracy, reflecting the will of the Syrian people in the streets. Some highly-placed representatives of the Lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian Hamas told us that Bashar al Assad has been visited personally and urged to produce democratic reforms as quickly as possible. According to these sources, even the Vice-President of Syria and some of his ministers were in favour of a political solution of the conflict, a perspective with which the president formally agreed.

However it took the President nearly one year and cost the Syrian population more than 10,000 lives before he issued the so-called “Democratic Reforms” in February, 2012. According to two Syrian parliamentarians we interviewed, these constitutional reforms consisted of mainly three points:

1)    End the provisions in the old constitution that the only party in Syria should be the Baath Party. This reform established that, in the upcoming elections for parliament, the Baath party could “only” unite 67 percent of the votes, while 25 percent of the parliamentarians were to be so-called “independent” candidates.

2)    Renew and extend civil liberties, e.g. the right to demonstrate and create independent media. This reform was in sharp contrast to the extreme violence and systematic killings the protesters suffered every day.

3)    Respect for cultural differences. This disposition was intended to maintain the ban on the Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafits and other Islamic organizations that are considered be attempting to establish religious rule by introducing the Sharia.

It was clear to all of our interviewees outside of the Syrian government that these “reforms” were not only extremely weak in their institutional form (they were written without consultation with the government itself) and their content (e.g. ruling out the Muslim Brotherhood as a political option for democratic participation), but they also came out at a peak moment in the military confrontations.

On the other hand, this fact indicates that there must have been some tensions within the government or between an “inner circle” which pressed for a military solution by exterminating the opposition on the ground at any cost (political and humanitarian) and an “outer circle” of the regime that recommended a negotiated solution from the beginning of the conflict.

On the side of the opposition, the division is even greater between those who believe in a political solution and those who call for an armed revolution with a strong support or even an open intervention from other countries like Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, France and the United States. In this case the first had to succumb to the second due to the extreme polarization of the conflict and also because the “militarists” are being instigated by the Salafits and leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood who compose the Syrian National Council (SNC) and spend most of their time in Turkey or in the Gulf States. However, according to the interviews with people on the ground, the real impact of the latter should not be overestimated, despite the considerable amount of weapons they managed to produce among their rank and files. “The Salafits in Homs started out with 11 affiliates, and now there are perhaps 500,” said one activist who has lost seven members of his family.

In fact we got the impression that among the different political and military groups inside Syria there is very little coordination. This is due to a great extent to a persistent security crackdown and the army’s capacity to control many of the cities, even when it cannot control the countryside.  It is also due to the fact that the Free Syrian Army has not been able to create a General Command for reasons we are unable to determine. “The Free Syrian Army is not an organization, but a brand that every fighter takes on,” said one of our interviewees, He told us that when he came to a village in the area around Idlib, he found two units of the FSA who were fighting each other: “One was from a tribe and the other belonged to a group of drug smugglers.”

Even if there are great efforts being made to create coordination, at least on the regional level, the popular movement is still far from having any coherent structure. This presents a problem for the army and security forces to wipe out the rebels, since there is no visible or invisible head for them to chop off.  On the other hand, it also makes it difficult for the movement and the fighters to articulate themselves politically. The absence of a Front and/or a general military command,  such as has existed and presently exists in many other armed conflicts in the world, has to be analysed in order to proceed to a more comprehensive understanding of the Syrian opposition. At the same time, this absence results is a serious handicap to the prospects for a sustainable political solution in Syria: there is no legitimate political and/or social authority to address to achieve a higher level of coordination.

IV.           On Foreign Intervention and Sectarianism

All of our sources indicated that the conflict, which already has all the characteristics of an open civil war, has gotten out of hand, because there are too many outside forces involved. “It is world war on Syrian grounds,” says one representative of the civil opposition.  In fact, if the conflict had the logic of national interests, it would have been solved in  one way or  another a long time ago, for economic reasons alone. “In 18 months Syria, which was one of the very few countries without foreign debt, has lost 150 billion dollars,” the sources point out, “It will take more than 30 years to recover from this war.”

Since the outbreak of the conflict, nearly all the major powers of the world have discovered their own geopolitical interests in Syria, which they consider to be a cornerstone in the political architecture of the Middle East. Since the time of the cold war, Hafez Assad’s Syria has become one of the closest allies of the former Soviet Union, and even now, Russia maintains there its most important military base in the region.

On the other side, according to the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Lebanon, the United States has developed an alliance with what President Obama calls “moderate Islam” in Qatar, Turkey and Saudi Arabia (in spite of the Wahabi-fundamentalism there), which is supporting militarily the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria. A Palestinian leader in Damascus even said: “Obama has become the main political guide for the Muslim Brotherhood”, and adds: “If this revolution is going to end corruption, I want to be part of it, but if King Abdallah claims to lead it, we cannot believe in it.”

“Qatar and Turkey are pretending to undermine the regime of Bashar al Assad, but in reality they want to destroy Syria,” says a high ranking leader of the Arab National Congress.  Asked why this is the case, an outstanding member of the Lebanese Hezbollah analyzes the situation in the following way:

”After the withdrawal of the US-troops from Iraq, a strategic corridor opened up from Teheran to Bagdad to Beirut and to Damascus. A new strategic alliance is being formed from which only Cairo is excluded. What is at stake in Syria is not democracy, but the strategic equilibrium of the whole Middle East. We cannot allow the main front against Zionism and imperialism to be diverted.”

This is also the reason why the conflict took on a religious dimension, especially for the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafits participating in the war. Nearly all of our interviewees agreed that, although the conflict is not a religious one as such, the controversies between Sunnis and Shiites, including the Alawites, and between Muslims and Christians are being used by the rebels as a tool for their political ambitions, filling an ideological void that exists in the entire resistance movement. At the same time, the same sectarian approach is being reported from the governmental side based on the Alawi sect who provides the pro-regime militias called Shabiha.

V.             Proposals for Peace through Political Dialogue

All of these factors taken together make it tremendously difficult, not only to analyse the situation, but also to think of a way out of this avalanche of bombs and bloodshed, which continues to plague the great majority of Syrian people every day and every night. Throughout our fact-finding mission, it has become clear that in spite of the complexity of the conflict, the diversity of the different approaches, and the extreme polarisation, there is one thing agreed upon by the overwhelming majority of the population as well as the most highly placed and articulate political leaders, whether from the government or the opposition, from the refugees inside and outside the country: WE MUST STOP THE VIOLENCE!

But how can we do that? This is also the great question we asked ourselves during our entire trip. What can we recommend, being just ordinary members of civil society from different countries in Europe, who are every day becoming more anxious about how to inform the world about what is happening in Syria? We are not official mediators; therefore we cannot pretend to influence the big players to change their basic attitude towards this conflict of geopolitical interests of such enormous dimensions.

What we can do is to convince the people wherever they are that there is urgent need for a dialogue in order to transform the military conflict into a political one. In most of our interviews, we detected the will to enter into such a dialogue – even if they say that the other side does not want it.

In order not to avoid any pretexts we have come to the conclusion that this dialogue must take place without any preconditions.  Neither the immediate fall of the regime’s leadership – specifically Assad’s resignation- nor the immediate disarmament of the opposition forces, let alone the withdrawal of the army can be the condition for such a dialogue.

Every real and socially/politically rooted force that is really willing to engage in this dialogue should participate in it. What is necessary is the emergence of a new kind of political force that demonstrates to the world that peace is not only necessary, but also possible – an active force that can increase every day in the poor neighbourhoods and residential areas, in the governmental sectors and within the opposition forces, at the military roadblocks and at the roadblocks of the resistance forces.

Such a dialogue should consist of many dialogues on the local and regional level.  The priority should be given to the immediate needs of the population: healthcare, food, shelter and security. The latter should be provided by unarmed Human Rights committees, who should be in permanent negotiations with the armed forces on both sides of the conflict.

At the same time that this occurs, a national dialogue should be initiated in Syria or in some other country. This national dialogue should establish the conditions for a permanent ceasefire as well as the rules for the political game of a democratic transition. Both sides, the government as well as the opposition forces, should assign representatives to the national dialogue, as an autonomous entity with a mandate to organize a process leading towards free elections of a constituent assembly.

All of these efforts do not preclude the mediation efforts that are presently being made by the governments who are presently exercising their influence on Syria.  On the contrary, one does not go without the other. Only one thing should be clear from the very beginning:

THERE MUST BE A SYRIAN SOLUTION OR THERE WILL NOT BE ANY SOLUTION OF THE CONFLICT AT ALL!

Vienna, September 25, 2012

 

-Dr. Leo Gabriel (Austria)                    -Evangelos Pissias(Greece)

Social anthropologist.                                Professor of international economics.

Member of the IC of the World                Coordinator of the “Ship to Gaza” movement.

Social Council.

Wilhelm Langthaler (Austria                                                      –Fernando Romero-Forsthuber (Spain)

Peace Activist from the Anti-imperialist                                              Media expert and peace activist

Coalition (AIK)

Email: right2return@gmail.com if your group would like to endorse this initiative.

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What does it mean to be in solidarity with Palestine?

Another Take on the Free Gaza Fiasco – updated. Also, ‘Fall out from the Fiasco’ below. 

In light of current and past events leading up to the Gaza Freedom Fiasco, ‘we’ – whose ultimate goal is genuinely to achieve justice for Palestine – it is due time to ask ourselves some important questions. The question that all who are part of this ‘we’, should ask of all of our actions, words and activities is: are we strategically advancing our one common goal? If the answer is no, ‘we’ should drop everything and immediately attempt to rectify, or correct this contradiction.

It  should be evident by now, that there is not one clear, monolithic movement with agreed upon values. It may follow then, to call into question – so how are we tied together, what exactly is it in all honesty we can expect others to be accountable to the rest? It’s not saying we should not be, and it’s not just a hypothetical question – what does it actually mean to be a solidarity activist? And most importantly, in the future, how can we avoid getting side-tracked by these public dramas, and still hold and be held accountable?

Also, what are the current mechanisms for resolving conflicts, that are sure to come up due to issues of representation, accountability – in a highly decentralized, independent, grassroots movement? Of course the need for any serious movement to condemn all forms of racism, sexism and every one of the countless phobias – are a huge challenge, that we must be better be prepared to deal with. Yet, since it’s impossible to control the words, actions and activities of anyone but ourselves, and needless to say capitalistic/totalitarian like solutions of dealing with those striving for justice – are highly problematic. So how can we best achieve this goal?

The main problem with the public trials, where evidence is presented and accusations are slung, is first that it inherently pits other activists against each other by forcing them to choose sides, many times between those they’ve worked for years. Perhaps more importantly, public pronouncements about each others character, are slanderous and will in no way sustain a growing global movement. That is, in short – it directly only feeds into typical divide and conquer, and the hands of the real enemy – zionism. For more on that, as well as the original Free Gaza Fisaco, see my post on the fallout from the fiasco. Perhaps there is no way to find redress in the current situation, maybe there is. However for the future, in order to change from the current old world order – to a new justice based model, it is imperative we start with ourselves – and be the change – beginning with all those, who are committed to achieving these ends.

___

To achieve justice, we must restore justice!

In the spirit of ending the cycle of divisiveness, future infighting and splits – let us make this movement not about people, but about principles. Principles can best be adhered to with agreed upon consensus – and ways of dealing with conflict, that do not repeat the injuries that have been done. This is called restorative justice*. If we in good faith, approach each experience as an opportunity to learn new ways of dealing with problems – we automatically revolutionize conflict and in doing so, put what we all want – Palestine first.

For example, in a Palestinian conflict resolution context, we might turn to an indigenous method for resolving conflict called: Sulha. In this case, parties are brought together with a mediator respected by each side. They go through one of two types of procedures that involve those immediately effected by the conflict. Learning about this history may help us collectively create better ways to address conflict in the future.

Humanitarian aid ship Estelle was sieged by Israeli forces! Israel violates int’l law by arresting people in int’l waters & stealing humanitarian aid

Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb and I are working on a proposal to create a ‘Beit Convivencia’ – which is a communal living space with the purpose of bringing together a diverse network of justice based activists. This intentional community will be dedicated to human rights organizing in a multifaith, multicultural and intergenerational context and will be used to create art, share ideas and work together to build a common vision for the future based on principles of restorative justice.

Rabbi Lynn is currently in Toronto, participating in Annual General Meeting of Independent Jewish Voices. They are addressing the issues associated with solidarity with Palestinian resistance, where she will be presenting the work from her recent ‘Mural Arts in Palestine Delegation’, and on The Torah of Nonviolence as a source for solidarity. In her words “This will include those aspects of our tradition we need to put away and those we need to lift up for the sake of human rights. Spending so much time in the context of movement building gives me hope in the face of so much ongoing devastation.” In addition to her work with JVP, we will also discuss ways to move forward with these questions and more. Stay tuned for more updates!

In solidarity and respect for all those who tirelessly work for justice, and our beloved Palestine.

Thawra hata nasr & awda. Revolution until victory & return.

Noura & Rabbi Lynn

Restorative justice (also sometimes called reparative justice[1]) is an approach to justice that focuses on the needs of the victims and the offenders, as well as the involved community, instead of satisfying abstract legal principles or punishing the offender. Victims take an active role in the process, while offenders are encouraged to take responsibility for their actions, “to repair the harm they’ve done—by apologizing, returning stolen money, or community service”.[2] Restorative justice involves both victim and offender and focuses on their personal needs. In addition, it provides help for the offender in order to avoid future offences. It is based on a theory of justice that considers crime and wrongdoing to be an offence against an individual or community, rather than the state.[3] Restorative justice that fosters dialogue between victim and offender shows the highest rates of victim satisfaction and offender accountability.[4]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Restorative_justice

 

 

Fall out from the Flotilla Fiasco

In Activism & Culture on October 19, 2012 at 6:20 am

When individuals that are a part of any group take it upon themselves to make decisions, it is important to understand these actions will have far and wide reaching consequences for others, the fall out for which no one can predict. Clearly the damage has been done in this case. But for future incidents, that call for accountability, a more sane healthy process is not only necessary for good values, but also for our collective success. It seems fairly obvious that these attacks from the right wing, are only legitimatized through our own public (and private) denunciations of each other.

Here are just a few examples of the backlash that comes, when we throw each other to the wolves..

A few tweets I initially stumbled upon are case and point, why this whole thing is a complete disaster on every level:

#Israel‘s enemies laying into one another again. #antisemitism#freegaza

In article in this right wing blog, titled ‘Greta Berlin Fallout: A Must Read Post, by Bekah Wolf at Mondoweiss’, Harry concludes:

This movement is presently splitting: into the antisemites and those who oppose these specific instances of antisemitism. There’s also a large middle ground and hinterland. But the split itself is instructive. And they haven’t even begun to think about the incongruity of supporting, often overtly, the genocidal Hamas movement. http://bit.ly/QyjDIf

In the Jeruslaem Post: Will #FreeGaza implode due to #antiSemitism scandal? http://www.jpost.com/DiplomacyAndPolitics/Article.aspx?ID=287371&R=R1 …

The growing assessments about the future of FGM suggest that the organization has experienced irreparable harm and is now viewed as a kind of left wing neo-Nazi group. The open questions are, will FGM’s supporters pull the plug on its fundraising streams and will additional FGM advisory board members–like the US linguist Noam Chomsky and Archbishop Theodosius (Atallah) Hanna from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem–resign from the FGM?

The focus of the right wing attack is not their usual smear of antisemetism, which no one besides their like, pays much mind too anyway since it’s so played out–as their main focus is in gloating about the internal divisions while stoking the flames of division..
I certainly do not feel comfortable being a part of a movement that publicly shames and brandishes people as outcasts, especially one’s that were long time committed allies (I’m speaking about a pattern). The way these cases are handled is downright immature and embarrassing. To slander someone’s name reflects extremely poorly, not only on the ones who issue it, but then on all of our collective image..AND most importantly it directly adversely impacts our work! The biggest victim in this latest fiasco was Anne Wright–of which the decision that was made by flotilla activists was ONLY legitimized by the initial/internal attack!

The following is a past example of the original Free Gaza Fiasco, and its split as it relates directly and indirectly, to the issue at hand. To those with intimate knowledge of the scandalous split between FGM and FPM, the irony should not be lost! My first recollection of this experience of activist fall out, was the slanderous desecration of the name of long-time, tireless, committed activist Paul Larudee. To those intimately knowledgeable of the whole affair, may remember the attacks that were made on him. I interviewed those from all sides’ for well over a month to try to get tot he bottom of the split, and see if there was any chance at reconciliation. It soon became clear that there was not -however it also became apparent that that the accusations that were made – happened to be, by the exact same parties in question now (need I say, what comes around goes around?). Although Paul’s was a much more of an internal PR campaign, at the time it was equally as damaging to his reputation..(of course he still thrives in his tireless work for Palestine) but as we have seen the fall-out also leads to others being indirectly hurt, as seen by Ann Wright. However, I would add that the damage that was sustained by the split of this once most powerful, unstoppable movement with limitless potential, was far more damaging, in its internal implications and unseen consequences.

By coincidence the split just so happen to take place following the savage attack on Gaza, and the vicious raid on the Mavi Marmara – at the exact moment when global sympathy was at its peak – which if proceeded with strategically, might have translated into what could have been key political momentum, and resulted in limitless support for this nonviolent movement.

These historical examples beg for us to learn from the lessons at hand. How ‘we’ chose to do so, will define who ‘we’ are as a movement – and very, very likely, our real chances of achieving our goals, or not.

BDS takes off in Egypt this week!

In sign of increased activity and interest in BDS in Egypt, students and activists have been meeting regularly to strategize and decide how to best work with the global movement, in the Egyptian context. 

Most recently on October 7, the activist collective, Mosireen announced a “Statement to Creative Time Summit: No Time for Creativity with Apartheid Israel. It has recently come to our attention that the Creative Time Summit has listed the Israeli Center for Digital Art (ICDA) as an “in-depth partner” for this year’s summit. After discovering this, we cannot in good faith participate in the 2012 Creative Time Summit in adherence to the call for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) launched by Palestinian civil society in 2004, and our own conscience as a political collective based on principles of social justice, equality, anti-racism and anti-Zionism.” To read statement in full, see: http://mosireen.org/?p=1156

Additionally, the two following actions were also held in Alexandria.  

BDS Action #1 – article translated, original text by RNN

Protest in front of Marks and Spencer for its complicity in Israeli apartheid! 

Friday, October 5 – # Monitor | # Alexandria | Dozens in front of Alexandria City Centre to call for a boycott of retail chain “Marks & Spencer” by Mohamed Essam. Dozens of young Egyptians showed up to boycott the retail chain “Marks & Spencer”, the owner in his diary that he devoted his life to support the Jews and the State of Israel.

This came in front of the building trade City Centre Alexandria and appealed “Marks & Spencer” series boutique even close, confirming the support of the owner of the chain, which is one of the largest chains shops in the world to support the Government of the State of Israel, worth about $ 233 million annually, Participants stressed during and Agafthm on their quest to close the series, which has moved in the Arab countries to use their money in the killing of the Palestinian people.

BDS Action #2 – Against normalization

On Friday, October 5th, amazing Egyptian activists rejected this event, after uncovering the true nature of this normalization effort – disguised as a music festival!

The festival which expected over 5,000 attendees, was held at the prestigious Citidel and put on by the Anna Lindh Foundation, who display on their website a very clear normalization agenda: 

The Foundation provides logistical and operational support to the National Network in Israel through the Network Strategic Development Scheme (NSDS)The largest Network of civil society organisations involved in the promotion of intercultural dialogue across Europe and the Mediterranean. From its very beginning, the ALF was conceived as a Network of National Networks, established in each of the 43 countries of the of the Union for the Mediterranean and bringing together around 4000 civil society organisations who share the values of the Foundation. The members of the ALF Network of Networks are of very diverse nature, including NGOs, public institutions, foundations, local and regional authorities, individuals and private organisations. 

Solidarity to all the activists who reject this attempt at normalizing relations with zionists, and in solidarity with their Palestinian brothers and sisters! ♥

translated article:

And confirmed coordinators festival parallel to its founder, “Anna Lindh” organization of the festival was established with the participation of governments of many countries including Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Palestine and the countries of European and other, and that most of what organized by the Foundation of the figures is the post Israeli intuitions beside Egyptians under the framework of cultural diversity as it calls for ending differences between peoples motivated peace and against racism, which means, accept cultural normalization with the Zionist enemy and to forget that the biggest racist entity in the region.

They also emphasized that its founder, “Anna Linda” runs effectiveness Israel Institute called “Van Leer” Jerusalem, was founded in 1959 in order to establish the state of Israel as a state for the Jewish people and trying to spread the idea of ​​cultural dialogue between Zionists and Palestinians, to dissolve differences and weaken the resistance.

And noted that the program of the festival parallel includes Songs revolutionary Sheikh “Imam and Marcel Khalife and Julia Boutros, and paragraphs of artists Egyptians like” Ahmed Ismail “Awad” and the poet “Ghanem Egyptian” and “Mahmoud Fawy” singer and the band “Balcony Band” and the poet ” Khaled Jaber “and” Saad Mohammed rapper “and paragraphs team text problem and team theatrical moment.

The that Farah sea Festival, is the festival celebrates multiculturalism and promote a culture of dialogue among peoples in Alexandria for the fourth time, is organized in the period from 3-5 October 2012.

The festival will be held, organized by the Foundation “Anna Lindh” with the support of the embassies and cultural centers and local organizations working in Egypt.

original article: http://onaeg.com/?p=332884

Murder on the Nile: G4S Fans the Flames, Burning in el-Boulaq

The tale of betrayal, forced displacement, collective punishment, night raids, arbitrary arrest, indefinite detention and murder – sounds like an average day in occupied Palestine. Yet the living conditions for these residents are even worse than within Palestinian refugees camps – as residents live in broken down, decrepit shacks for which the government provides neither electricity, sewage nor running water. This story of state sanctioned violence, is that of Egypt’s El-Boulaq (or Ramle-Boulaq as it’s also called) residents. However, it is imposed not by occupation forces, but by the tacit relationship between investors and developers – armed with private security and backed by the state.

Violence imposed on urban areas and poor residents worldwide, by expanding business interests – with explicit support by the state, is nothing new. In developed countries, gentrification* pushes out the urban poor, through economic means. The corporate media employs many euphemisms to paint gentrification as a ‘boost for everyone’, to make way for ‘natural growth’ in ‘informal areas’. Other independent media such as Rabble.com reveals gentrification for what it is: “a form of structural violence.” and a “strategy within globalization itself” in essence “to attract capital and tourists.”2

It is estimated that “one billion people – or one-sixth of the world’s population, live in shanty towns”3. Their collective struggles, raise many other important intersections of global concern. All over the world, these poor and unrepresented citizen’s who sit on land desired by rich businessmen, states and other powerful interests, are likewise vulnerable to state sanctioned violence and abuses.

The Worldwide Web of Power

The plight of Boulaq residents illustrates the global web of power and relationship between states, investors and private security firms which without public scrutiny or accountability – literally get away with murder to achieve their aims.

Photo by Virginie Nguyen, Egypt Independent

Located just above the slums, sits the prestigious Nile City Towers. Its owners, the Sawiris and Shokshobi families—have a long-standing interest in the land beneath the shacks, which sit on valuable real estate just off the Nile Corniche. With the full support and backing of the state – they have made it clear that they want the residents, many who have been there for generations gone.

Beginning 25 January 2011, residents worked together to defend the towers, when official police and other security guards fled. Naguib Sawiris expressed his gratitude, and agreed to employ local residents. The faltering economy left the many already poor and jobless residents to work as private security guards at the towers.

Throughout the course of the following year, “around 67 shack residents came to work informally for the towers, making a wage of LE800 per month according to documents seen by Egypt Independent, less than half that paid to G4S staff that formally secured the towers. The residents had no work contracts, insurance, identity cards or uniforms, and are paid on the first of the month from a derelict office on the outskirts of the shack area, close to the tower and operated by tower management.”4

Tensions escalated soon after, when tower security forces began firing residents, and private security guards from G4S began showing up to get rid of them. Within less than a year, all that were employed, were soon fired. Part of the residents’ security work is to prevent families moving back to reclaim land from which they have previously been evicted. “They set us against each other,” Sayyed repeats, shaking his head.”5

Violence Erupts as Residents Fightback

Although G4S is one of three companies handling private security in Nile Towers – in an area characterized by impunity and met with regular violence, intimidation and neglect – their complicity in abuse is documented in at least one of the most senseless and tragic events.

When residents took a legal stand or otherwise attempted to assert their rights to the land, cases of violence immediately ensued. Last year after elderly resident, Ahmed Saleh, initiated a court case asserting ownership of the land on which his house stands, a number of attacks followed– on himself, members of his family and on their homes.

In June 2012, the Cairo Governorate issued an order authorizing police to evict the residents. Just a week later, the death of five-year-old Amar Mohammed Salah resulted due to a fire which tore through his decrepit shack on 27 June, that could have been prevented. Instead, Tarek al Halawani* who was then the head of Nile City towers security, gave a direct order to Khalid Anis in charge of G4S (employed by al-Halawani) – not to turn on the water, which he passed to the staff on the ground. When residents tried to connect a fire-hose to the water, staff refused to turn on the taps.

Weeks later, Amr Fathi, who was employed as a temporary security guard was shot dead after demanding pay for himself and other workers – which had been denied them for months. Rights lawyers are currently suing the tourism police officer, but the Interior ministry said it was self-defense.

The recent several months have also seen the use of shotguns, bird shots and petrol bombs – in regular attacks on residents of the area. Several reports state, counter-terrorism police breaking down doors while residents were asleep, and randomly arresting any young men they could find. Prompted by anger and the ongoing imprisonment, several protests broke out-followed by an unprecedented security clampdown, which is currently in place.

Several figures with intimate knowledge of the affair have suggested that this is part of a bargain with Naguib Sawiris, one of the owners of Nile City Towers, who has been trying to acquire the valuable plot of land for years. EIPR lawyer Ahmed Hossam, who is appealing the governor’s decree says, “You are always the weaker party on this side. We face the government who seems to have joined forces with investors who wield billions, and on top of that, the Interior Ministry is besieging the residents,” he says. “But there are more players involved here, like the residents who fight back, civil society, the courts, the media, and so on.”5

Following the deadly raid and after working with various Egyptian rights groups, residents formed a popular committee and on September 2nd, held a press conference where they announced their following demands.

RESIDENTS DEMANDS

We will stand at nothing short of one of the two demands, either to:

  1. Develop Ramlet Boulaq and provide us with humane living conditions by providing us with water and a proper sewage system, or;
  2. Come to the negotiating table over a reasonable price to sell the land to the constructors and,
  3. The end of an on-going police crackdown on the inhabitants and the release of dozens of prisoners. Hold police, businessmen and all those responsible for violence and abuse accountable.

This week, residents held their first march to the prosecutor general’s office at the high court building. The march was organized as part of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party’s “Alive in Name Only” campaign – in coordination with the Ramlet Boulaq Popular Committee.” Another march and future community events and actions, are being planned to take place soon.

Join Global Resistance to Stop G4S

G4S came under scrutiny in November 2010, when Who Profits, part of the Israeli Coalition of Women for Peace and Danish financial watchdog DanWatch “revealed that the company supplied equipment and services to Israel for use at checkpoints, police stations and settlements in the occupied West Bank and at Israeli prisons.”6

G4S is a British-Danish company headquartered in the UK. With more than 650,000 staff worldwide it is the largest private security company in the world, and the second largest employer after WalMart. G4S does the dirty work for governments – who partner up with its countries richest investors to determine its targets. Their operatives provide hired muscle to asylum detention centers in the UK, private prisons in America and government facilities in occupied West Bank settlements. “In 2008, G4S bought ArmorGroup, and in doing so joined the shadowy world of privatized war in Iraq and Afghanistan“.  G4S Africa is the largest employer in Africa, and its website boasts of having “over 100,000 employees in 29 countries across the continent from Morocco to South Africa” – where union/labor rights campaigns have sprouted due to abuses, which have been well documented.

While G4S is a government favorite, its complicity in abuse are nothing new, and their track record is far from spotless. “G4S has been repeatedly accused of providing poor services in its prisons and immigration detention centres. For example, the lack of investment in staff and efficient procedures has often led to detainees’ missing important medical and court appointments. In June 2011, it was revealed that a record 773 complaints were lodged in 2010 against G4S by detainees, including 48 claims of assault.”5

The trend of outsourcing already contentious issues such as forced eviction, to those who profit from markets traumatized by poverty and war – while directly benefiting the private military industry and prison system is a dangerously growing trend. Traditionally, the state handles the monopoly on using violence to deal with the underbelly of capitalism, globalization and big business interests. Due to the public sector’s budget cutbacks and austerity measures however, governments are increasingly outsourcing the monopoly to anyone willing to do their dirty work. Despite urgent calls to ensure decisive controls over this deadly industry, PSCs are left to police themselves through trade associations and voluntary codes of conduct.

Unless there’s an organized global campaign to stop them, private security company’s unlimited growth potential remains inevitable. The UK government has gone so far as to confirm “that Israel’s policy of detaining Palestinians is contrary to Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and that they have raised this with the Israeli government and will continue to do so.”6 Such vague diplomatic pressure is not enough–much more can be done to hold G4S accountable, and prevent the British firm from being directly involved in these of rights abuses.

The Egyptian revolution and all those struggling for freedom worldwide, have tremendous potential and an opening on the socio-political level, but remain limited without organized global campaigns that connect our common struggle. Community participation at the local level, when connected to a global movement, can be a powerful model and symbol, in the rise of our collective power. Global campaigns against such multinational corporations, business interests and war profiteers such as G4S and to support the residents of El-Boulaq, can be the first step to the manifestation of this.

Contact: the Sawiris, and Shobokshi:

You can send a message through this online form: http://nilecitytowers.com/contact.html or call Manal Abdel Hamid, spokesperson for Naguib Sawires: 012-2215-6333.

1) support residents demands as stated above and

2) demand an answer as to why Tarek al Halawani ordered security not to turn on the water, to save little 5 year-old Amar’s life.

——

See the many global campaigns and reasons to stop G4S May 21, 2012 http://corporatewatch.org/?lid=4343

1. Moving on up: Gentrification in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside – Rabble.Ca – By Marsha Walia and Dave Diewert – February 24, 2012 http://rabble.ca/news/2012/02/moving-gentrification-vancouvers-downtown-eastside

*According to the article: “Gentrification is the social, economic, and cultural transformation of a predominantly low-income neighbourhood through the deliberate influx of upscale residential and commercial development.”

2. Shanti-town’ as defined by Wikipedia – “is a slum settlement (sometimes illegal or unauthorized) of impoverished people who live in improvised dwellings made from scrap materials: often plywood, corrugated metal and sheets of plastic. Shanty towns, which are usually built on the periphery of cities, often do not have proper sanitation, electricity or telephone services.Shanty towns are mostly found in developing nations, or partially developed nations with an unequal distribution of wealth. In extreme cases, shanty towns have populations approaching that of a city.

3. Land rights, labor and violence in a Cairo slum: Egypt Independent – Abulkasim al-Jaberi, Tom Dale, 17 July 2012 – http://www.egyptindependent.com/news/land-rights-labor-and-violence-cairo-slum

4. Wave of arrests, threat of eviction plague Ramlet Bulaq: Egypt Independent – Abulkasim al-Jaberi, 8 August 2012 http://www.egyptindependent.com/news/wave-arrests-threat-eviction-plague-ramlet-bulaq

5. How G4S helps Israel break the Geneva convention: New Statesman – Lisa Nandy calls for the government to take action over G4S’ participation in illegal imprisonment. By Lisa Nandy, 30 September 2012 http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/politics/2012/09/how-g4s-helps-israel-break-geneva-convention

6 G4S ends some aspects of its complicity with Israeli Apartheid: BDS Movement – by Adri Nieuwhof and Basma Salem, March 27, 2011 http://www.bdsmovement.net/2011/g4s-ends-some-5472

7. G4S – A company profile, By Corporate Watch – Updated September 2012: http://www.corporatewatch.org/?lid=341

Take Action Against Zionist Hate Bombs, Set to Drop in NYC This Week

Ad Calling Jihad ‘Savage’ Is Set to Appear in Subways in NY and DC …

New York times reported last week that “New Yorkers will soon encounter another potentially inflammatory rendering of Islam: an advertisement in the transit system” that reads:

For those that know the extreme hate, power and unlimited access to funds the right wing has access to in the US, it came as little surprise that the same folks that brought us the trashy little trailer last week, are seeking to pour more fuel onto the open wound of Muslims worldwide.

As more evidence was revealed about the right wing extremist zionist group that released the no-quality, juvenile trailer mocking the Prophet Muhammad, it became clear that the same network, or as Max Blumenthal calls them the “axis of Islamophobia, that takes inspiration from the writings of Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller, and Daniel Pipes.” was responsible.

Free speech or Hate speech

The NY Times article further cited the first amendment, as justification in running the ads:

After rejecting the ads initially, then losing a federal court ruling on First Amendment grounds, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said on Tuesday that the ads were expected to appear next week at 10 subway stations. “Our hands are tied,” Aaron Donovan, a spokesman for the New York Transit Authority, said they will honor “the First Amendment rights of the group that sought to place the ad, the American Freedom Defense Initiative. The authority had cited the ad’s “demeaning” language in barring its placement.”

Meanwhile, the blatant display of hate, comes ironically at the height of the fight against US citizens-being stripped away of their civil rights, by President Obama and the US government who defend – “its ability to indefinitely detain any person without charge or trial.” As reported last week, in an article titled Obama Fights to Continue Indefinite Detentions, NDAA a lawsuit against the law that was signed by Obama,“was filed by a large group of journalists and activists, spearheaded by journalist Chris Hedges, who argued that the law was unconstitutional and a threat to free speech. What’s most important for American’s to take note of with this overwhelming display of hypocrisy by policy makers, is what they really mean by ‘freedom of speech’ – and that is, reserved for zionists only.

The New York Times article, also reported that the ads are due to appear in Washington DC – in the near future:

The American Freedom Defense Initiative has also purchased ad space in Washington, but the transit authority there said Tuesday that it had “deferred” the ad’s placement “out of a concern for public safety, given current world events.”

Muneer Awad, the executive director of the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said:

The ads were an attempt to “define Muslims” through hate speech. The group had not called for the ads’ removal, though it has asked the transportation authority to redirect funds it receives for the ads to the city’s Human Rights Commission. “It’s perfectly legal to be a bigot and to be a racist,” he said. “We want to make sure there’s a counter-voice.”

The transportation authority has said it did not try to block these ads “because they did not meet the agency’s threshold for “demeaning” language”, please let them know if you disagree with their definition of demeaning, and its reflection on the transit system itself. We must fight back against this blatant hate mongering paid in full by the right wing fringe, lunatics – sanctioned by the state. New York City is one of the most diverse cities in the US, if not world. If this precedent is set in one of the most metropolitan, open societies such as New York, the only question is, who’s next?

Take Action: Call New York Transit Authority to redirect ad funds to Human Rights Commission

From within New York dial 511 to reach the New York State transit authority then simply say, MTA or Subways and Buses. Deaf/hard of hearing customers: use your preferred relay service provider or the free 711 service relay to reach 511. To send an email/message, click here.

Out of region and international callers – call the corporate office at: 212-878-7000 or 877-690-5116; M-F 9AM-5 PM.

In Washington DC the number to reach the Transit Authority and leave your suggestions and comments is: 202-637-1328; M-F: 8:00 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Some quotes ‘available for publication’, that can also be used as talking points, thanks to IMEU:

ZEAD RAMADAN, President of the board of directors for the Council on American Islamic Relations of New York (CAIR-NY):

‘”Savage” is a racist term. It’s a pity New Yorkers have to look at this offensive ad. We call on the MTA to create a policy rejecting racist and hateful ads, and hope they’ll use the profits made from this one to fund ads promoting respect for all.’

REZA ASLAN, New York-based member of the Council on Foreign Relations, founder of AslanMedia.com, and author of the international best-seller No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam:

‘Pamela Geller’s organization, “Stop Islamization of America,” has been designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group. Imagine if the KKK were to place ads on New York subways promoting their hateful ideology. The topic of the ads would be irrelevant. The mere identity of the organization paying for them would be enough for Americans to decry them.’

LINDA SARSOUR, Director of the Arab American Association of New York and the National Advocacy Director for the National Network for Arab-American Communities (NNAAC):

‘It’s ironic that the charge that Muslims are uncivilized is coming from a woman who is hiding behind freedom of speech to promote hate in an uncivilized manner.’

REBECCA VILKOMERSON, New York-based Executive Director of Jewish Voice for Peace:

‘As Jews, we remember our own history of facing discrimination and oppression based on religious status and thus feel doubly obligated to speak out against the vile bigotry and hate displayed in these ads. Pam Geller’s cynical targeting of an entire religious community to drum up support for Israel is particularly noxious, but does helpfully reveal the links between Islamophobia and unconditional support for Israel.’

REMI KANAZI, Brooklyn-based Palestinian-American poet and author of Poetic Injustice: Writings on Resistance and Palestine, and editor of Poets for Palestine:

‘Sadly, the offensive anti-Palestinian bus ads and the “savage” discourse is the same type of racist language that was used to defend slavery in our country and apartheid in South Africa. While the modern world wakes up to Israel’s increasingly violent and illegal occupation, hate groups, like the one producing these bus ads, are at the forefront of defending a system that dehumanizes millions of Palestinians who simply want to live a dignified life, as anyone else would.’

YOUSEF MUNAYYER, Executive Director of the Jerusalem Fund and the Palestine Center in Washington DC:

‘At a moment when understanding is needed to calm tensions, Pam Geller chooses yet again to throw fuel on the fire. Geller, like other extremists peddling a divisive Manichean worldview, wants to convince Americans that we are locked in an all-out, winner-take-all war with 1.5 billion co-inhabitants of this planet. Geller’s views, and the views of others who share them, should be relegated to the trash bin of society.’

Ad Calling Jihad ‘Savage’ Is Set to Appear in Subway by Matt Flegenheimer: September 18, 2012 http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/19/nyregion/ad-demeaning-muslims-to-appear-in-new-york-subway.html?_r=2&pagewanted=print

Support the National Students for Justice in Palestine (NSJP) conference

A letter from UCLA Student for Justice in Palestine member: 

Dear friends,

I am writing you today to ask for your support for the upcoming National Students for Justice in Palestine (NSJP) conference. SJP is an organization dedicated to preserving the rights, dignity and culture of Palestinians through solidarity work.

As an alum of SJP, I feel proud that the organization I joined six years ago, when there were only a handful of chapters, has grown to over 100 chapters with over 1,300 members nationally. At the inaugural Students for Justice in Palestine conference in November 2011, we used the raised funds to bring 350 students from across the United States to attend and lay the foundation for the first SJP network. This monumental conference aided in the development of new chapters, forming regional links, joining the ongoing boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns (BDS), establishing solidarity with other social justice causes and passing BDS resolutions at 4 universities. (You can more read about these victories in detail here, and watch a video of conference highlights here.)

We need your support to help us sustain our momentum and strengthen our organization.

Please consider donating today; even just a small amount will put us closer to our goal of bringing 400 students to the University of Ann Arbor, Michigan for the second annual Students for Justice in Palestine conference. You can easily donate on our Paypal website: http://sjpnational.org/donate/ or mail a check to:

WESPAC Foundation

52 North Broadway

White Plains, NY 10603.

Your donation will go a long way in keeping the fire alive in student activism, and a voice for Palestinian rights on college campuses.

In love and solidarity.