Saturday, May 19, 2018

Gaza, Yet Again

It is with outrage and great sorrow that I write yet another letter to the editor about a massacre in Gaza. 2008, 2010, 2014, and, now 2018, are only the more recent reoccurrences of the Nakba (disaster or catastrophe in Arabic) that started the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinian inhabitants of Palestine. 
In the original Nakba of 70 years ago, more than 750,000 Palestinians became refugees when they were expelled from their homes and when more than 500 Palestinian towns and villages were destroyed. Gaza, home to more than two million Palestinians, and the most densely populated place on earth, has long been recognized as the world’s largest outdoor prison. Surrounded on three sides by Israel and the other side by Egypt, Gazan’s have been held captive since 2006, with no way to leave. And now, yet again, to be massacred, while the world watches without intervening, is beyond my imagination. In the last six weeks, of the tens of thousands of Palestinian protesters, more than 100 unarmed civilians were slaughtered, and more than 13,000 were wounded, while protesting for their basic human rights. Only one Israeli soldier was slightly wounded. 
Unarmed Palestinians were shot at with live ammunition like fish in a barrel. Once again, Israel uses disproportionate force. Once again, with self-righteousness, Israel claims self-defense. Once again, our government cheers and celebrates and blocks votes of condemnation in the UN Security Council. How can we sit idly by? Where is our sense of outrage? Where is our responsibility for what our tax dollars and policies make possible? When do we say this is not who we are? When do we say, not in our name...and mean it?
Nic Abramson

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

A Taste of Truth about Israel/Palestine

A Taste of Truth about Israel/Palestine
Gaza is experiencing yet another assault by the Israeli military against unarmed protesters. Israeli spin doctors are out in force, trying to characterize the latest massacre as a case of legitimate defense of Israel’s borders against violent terrorists, but more and more, people in this country have access to the truth.

Although I have been prevented from visiting Gaza by the illegal Israeli blockade, I have traveled five times to the Occupied West Bank and seen for myself the real source of violence, most recently last year, with a delegation of U.S. military veterans organized by Tarak Kauff of Veterans For Peace. We participated in nonviolent demonstrations with Palestinians, and were met with violence from the Israeli military and Jewish residents of illegal settlements in the West Bank. Israeli soldiers shot tear gas cannisters directly at us in Hebron, and we were attacked by armed settlers in the village of Nabi Saleh.

Woodstock residents can get a taste of our experiences on Saturday, April 14, when we will show the latest installment of Veterans For Palestine, a documentary series about our trip. Afterwards, Tarak and I will lead a discussion and show some dramatic still photography from the delegation. Please join us at 7 pm at Mountain View Studio, 20 Mountain View Ave. Woodstock, NY

Ellen Davidson, 28 Arnold Drive, Woodstock, NY 12498

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Open their hearts and minds

A recognition of commonality where there exists a clash of beliefs: this year's Passover Seder with my family.  We read the story of the liberation of the Jewish people from Pharaoh’s Egypt and we honor the freeing of all peoples from oppression.  The Zionists in our family see the present Palestinian Land Day commemoration as a violent demonstration led by Hamas to overtake Israel.  The Jewish Voice for Peace activists in our family see the Land Day commemoration as a peoples’ struggle to free themselves from oppression by Israel.  There are explosions of words.  We are truly eating the ‘bitter herbs.’  We participate together in the Seder, we read together the Haggadah as our parents and grandparents did before us,  We partake of the festive meal.  We go on like this, generation upon generation.  The evening ends in song. We are gathered together even though we are not in harmony.  

An upcoming film brings two distinct groups together: Afro-Americans and Palestinians.  ”Al Helm: Martin Luther King in Palestine" will be shown to the public this Friday April 6, 7 pm at Holy Cross Santa Cruz Episcopal Church, Kingston. The film documents these two groups working together on a Palestinian play about racism, Both know oppression and have a dream (Al Helm) of something better. Both know non-violent resistance.  By recognizing their common struggle, they are renewed. At the film's end, members of the New Progressive Baptist Church Choir will lend their voices to the evening. 

My Jewish family have always supported the Afro-American struggle for freedom. My father led our Jewish community to Washington D.C. when Martin Luther King Jr, gave his inspirational speech:“I Have a Dream.” I believe that those in my family rooted in Zionism will move from ‘the narrow place’ as they open their hearts and minds to the Palestinian non-violent struggle for justice.

Jane Toby
Catskill NY
(518) 291 6808

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Human Rights Resolution in Dutchess County

Dutchess legislators contemplate criminal justice, human rights

Vasquez: "There is a lot of public support ..."

POUGHKEEPSIE – After the Dutchess County Legislature zipped through an agenda of routine business during their brief monthly session Monday night, the real action began, on possible future topics related to human rights.

Democrat Legislator Joel Tyner, who usually addresses several topics during the ‘other business’ segment at the end of the agenda, said legislators can look forward to a “Criminal Justice Reform Act of 2018.” 

The intent is to follow the lead of recent directives from Governor Andrew Cuomo and he lead of other area counties, on not jailing and requiring bail for non-violent offenders, in most cases. 
Tyner is doing it as a local law because, he said, he can’t get anything through the committee process.

“Because you guys don’t allow Democratic resolutions to be on the agenda for committee meetings,” he said.

Tyner said this spills into the broader issue of human rights.

“We are going to make sure that our tax dollars are being spent on companies and non-profits that respect consumers, respect workers, respect the environment and respect human rights.”

During the final public comment period, Jasmin Vasquez of Poughkeepsie picked up that theme, citing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, drafted by Eleanor Roosevelt.
“There’s a lot of public support in Dutchess County by a lot of activists of all different grassroots organizations and across party lines to promote human rights,” Vasquez said.  “We feel that those liberties that we fought so hard for, generations fought so hard for are going to be threatened and are threatened right now.”
Vasquez said she is focusing on the Dutchess County Legislature and is looking for bipartisan support.


Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The War Grinds On

The War Grinds On

Each morning begins the same way:
nonsensical verbal rants from Ubu Roi-
retorts in red ink from the “opposition” –
Neanderthal defenses from his paralytic crew
of brainwashed zombies, leavened by cynical talespinners.

Another morning in the America of lies…
so like the Italy, Germany, Spain of lies
we grew up hearing about, witnessing,
dealing with PTSD from, the full catastrophe.

Even were some bloody angel in human form
to rid us of this troublesome clown,
too late!  He’s already cloned himself
into a million dwarves, a scintilla of light
like ECT dousing their darkened brains.

So let us recall the Polish wisdom 
of 100 years ago:
“The taking of the earth from those
with darker skins or slightly flatter noses
than we is an ugly business
if one looks too closely at it…[but]
it is redeemed by an idea only…”
And Conrad’s imperial irony has morphed

into our guileless and stolid gaze:
Stand well back of these chaotic scenes
and you will notice the grand design:
They’ve brought the war to us, left
us no place to flee or to retreat, given
the gift that keeps on giving:
the struggle, which continues, endlessly.


Port Angeles, Washington USA 21 February 2018
Barry Fruchter

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Dutchess County Legislature should follow example

Act locally to put an end to human rights abuses across the globe

I am a strong advocate of the phrase, “think global act local”. However, history is full of examples where countries take collective action. In the 1990s when global leaders focused on eliminating apartheid in South Africa, humanity won. Yet the world failed to act in Rwanda. Our leaders were aware of the extreme cruelty occurring during this time. They decided that apologizing is more convenient than clear, decisive action.

This brings me to the present-day case of Ms. Ahed Tamimi, otherwise affectionately known as “Shirley Temper” by her neighbors. She was born in what former British Prime Minister David Cameron called “the world’s biggest open-air prison,” and yet she has a disarming smile. With nothing more than her bare hands and a strong sense of duty to her community, she keeps an eye on the foreign military personnel who often terrorize her young friends. Now 16, she has practiced nonviolence since her first demonstration. I met Ahed’s father, Bassem, at an event years ago. Hearing him speak about the conditions in which they are forced to live was heart-wrenching. Snipers shoot youth in the legs during marches; their elite training ensures that they will render this child permanently disabled.

And still, Palestinians organize. Peacefully, after 70 years, they drag their wheelchair- ridden families right back to the same spot along the West Bank barrier, a physical wall that spans 440 miles. A modern Berlin wall separates them from the land on which they grew generations old olive trees. It divides families.


Back to Shirley Temper. I have been following this curly haired freedom fighter for years. The brutality of Operation Protective Edge in 2014 incited a deep urge for me to act. I took to social media and kept a close watch on the activities in the Occupied Territories long after the world put this siege to bed. That’s when I found Ahed. In her, I witnessed the growth of an unrelenting humanitarian. Her public addresses to the world through underground media connects our shared freedom. She echoes the sentiments of the ever-relevant Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when he declared “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny”.

My child hero is facing a decade in military captivity for hitting the soldier who shot her unarmed brother at point blank range… in the face.

It serves as a duty to those who fought for America’s freedoms that I take pen to paper. This narrative should be the shot heard ‘round the world. As a patriot, I see the spirit of the Founding Fathers in Palestine’s youth. As a Dutchess County resident, I recognize that we are facing increasing threats to our own liberties. As a human, I urge us to learn from history by making Ahed’s story end differently than that of our beloved Anne Frank. The truth is simple yet heartbreaking. We could have saved Anne. Her diary, although one of the greatest gifts to our collective consciousness, is a testament to our inaction.

There is no debate. Detaining minors in military detention facilities is wrong. Holding people captive in an outdoor prison is wrong. As much as Americans hate to face it during this time of sensationalism, some things are fundamentally unacceptable. Ms. Tamimi’s ability to fight for basic human rights in Palestine will determine the ability of your grandchildren to do the same here, in America. Our connected economies make human oppression a global issue.

Please join me in asking our Dutchess County Legislature to follow the example of the New Orleans City Council by passing a resolution pledging to avoid contracting with or investing in businesses that practice human rights abuses.  Ever since World War II we have said “Never Again”. Ask your legislature to mean it.

Dutchess County resident Jasmin Vazquez is a graduate of SUNY New Paltz, where she received a bachelor's of arts degree in political science with a concentration in international politics.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Miko Peled will be speaking

After watching Stephen Colbert's presentation on the State of the
Union Speech, (I couldn't bear to watch it directly from the 'horse's
mouth,' ) it becomes even more critical to do everything possible to
replace the power that puts forth 'ending the war on beautiful clean
coal' for America! That person's type of thinking goes across the
board. 

Friday night at 7 at the Inquiring Mind bookstore in
Saugerties, author-activist Miko Peled will be speaking in our
community.  Peled is touring the country from California to present
his new book, INJUSTICE.  How is our government overstepping (or
squashing)  justice?  What dangerous laws that harm innocent people
are enacted by our government?  As a final note, it is a challenge and
hard work to do something about it.  Much more fun to lay back and
laugh with Stephen Colbert.

Jane Toby
Catskill, NY
518-291-6808