Monday, March 18, 2013

No hope of escape?

To the Editor:

You are locked in a coffin. Constrained, constricted, and terrified by claustrophobic thoughts. Squeezed in so tightly that you can't turn around, fed at your captors whim and no hope of escape?

Many creatures live their entire lives in such nightmarish conditions. Dogs, cats, and monkeys in "scientific" experiments, rabbits and mice in cosmetics testing labs, chickens, pigs, and cows in factory farms, elephants and big cats in circuses, dolphins in Sea World warehouses. The list and the suffering are endless. All the animals experience pain, fear, profound isolation, and probably a numbing sense of hopelessness.

Of course, the world is also filled with endless human suffering and countless victims. In some ways the situation of Palestinians living in Israel's occupied territories is similar to that of the captive animals. Like the animals, the Palestinians are severely confined behind walls in Gaza, their movements in both Gaza and the West Bank are strictly controlled by the Israeli Defense Forces, and many Palestinians eat only when Israel permits food shipments to pass through the military blockade.

Sometimes it's just too painful to look at these horrors - it's easier to watch TV or listen to music or go shopping. But we are the ones who are free and we are the ones who can speak up. The victims have no voice and no choice. The suffering (both human and animal) will only end if enough of us raise our voices and make different choices. Choices like not eating meat or poultry; not going to circuses or racetracks; not buying products tested on animals; and not buying goods produced in Israel's occupied territories

Eli Kassirer

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Sequestration won't hurt anyone now in power

For those wondering what the "sequestration" will do to the economy and who it will hurt most, there is an easy answer. It won't hurt the very rich, the multinational corporations, Wall Street, or the big banks. It also won't touch the billions flowing to Israel, with more promised if our belligerent "ally" in the Middle East goes off and commits some new round of war crimes.  

In short, the sequestration won't hurt anyone now in power, because those people are running our government as well as both political parties. The drama in Washington is simply show, so that those not in power will accept their diminished dreams in this land of plenty. Stocks are going through the roof; that's how much the very rich and powerful care about what is going to happen to the rest of us.

What began with modest goals during the Reagan years has become a full fledged massacre. Unions are being destroyed, public education privatized, the post office closed, and services to children and the disabled cut way back. Obama and the CEOs of industry will be hitting the elite golf courses soon to toast the triumph of capital over the 99% who actually work for a living. 

But lurking beneath the surface is real anger, something we haven't see since the Great Depression. The elites can't rob us forever without creating resistance. You can see it in ordinary people standing up against the oil companies, the big banks, and our two dishonest political parties. 

Fred Nagel

The Gatekeepers: A Must See

The Gatekeepers: A Must See

If you care about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; the State of Israel’s relationship to the occupied territories; the role of the Shin Bet (the Israeli internal security agency, the anti-terrorist organization, “the defender that shall not be seen,” that was formed in 1948); democracy, equality, and justice; and Israel’s relationship with the world, I highly recommend that you go to Rhinebeck’s Upstate Theater to see Israeli journalist and director Dror Moreh’s, Oscar-nominated documentary, “The Gatekeepers.”

This film is noteworthy because it asks tough questions and provides a truth rarely expressed; it focuses on six former heads of the Shin Bet, on men who “called the shots,” as they share their first-hand accounts of Israeli state policies toward the Palestinians from the 1967 Six-Day War (when one million Palestinians came under Israeli control in the West Bank, Gaza, and the Old City of Jerusalem) until now. From my perspective, perhaps most important, is the honesty of these men as they share their humanity; their perceptions about terrorism and terrorists; their ambivalence about the roles they played in helping “secure” the state of Israel while simultaneously committing acts of terror; their opinions about the true cost of Israel’s on-going occupation; and the frightening role of the religious right in Israel.

“The Gatekeepers” asks about agencies such as the Shin Bet creating their own rules of law; using inhuman and illegal techniques of prisoner interrogation, torture, and targeted assassinations; and over-stepping lines of legality and morality.

My questions are: Does the government of the State of Israel truly want peace? Can a Jewish State be a democracy? Why are U.S. politicians attempting to silence or censor people by trying to shut down presentations? Why are leaders of synagogues reluctant to follow traditional Jewish commitment to elu v’elu, hearing different views and allowing space for wrestling with the very difficult questions about Israel/Palestine? And, why are those of us who question Israeli state policy labeled anti-Semitic?

This is a film that as many of us as possible should see and discuss.

Helaine Meisler

Friday, March 1, 2013

Don't Be Afraid of the Truth

I grew up proud of Israel. My whole family was. As I became more informed and more politically aware I realized that much of what we believed about Israel and the "Arab" threat was the stuff myths are made of. Gradually the unavoidable truth revealed itself to me but I think because I valued and searched for truth above ethnic or national loyalties. Otherwise I would have remained blind to reality as many still do.

A few days ago, Arafat Jaradat, a young Palestinian father of two, died after being in Israeli custody in prison for less than one week. He was in good cardiac health at the time of being taken into custody and an autopsy showed no signs of cardiac illness, yet the Shin Bet contended he died from cardiac arrest. An autopsy revealed that the father of two with another child on the way had many broken bones in his arms, spine and legs, his face was also lacerated and badly bruised. This leads one to suspect that he was tortured to death. This may or may not be the case but it is well known that "the most moral army in the world" regularly tortures Palestinians and that torture happens on a regular basis in Israeli prisons.

I asked my friend, Yonatan Shapiro, former IDF Blackhawk helicopter pilot, what was the main impediment to a just peace in Palestine? His answer was simple. "Money." He said there is too much money and profit involved in the Occupation to let it go.

Just today I read the following put out by an international Jewish peace and justice organization:

"Israelís unique skills in crowd control, forced displacement, surveillance, and military occupation have resulted in placing it at the forefront of a global industry of repression: it develops, manufactures, and markets technologies that are used by armies and police around the world for purposes of repression.

Israel's role in this industry began with the Israeli military, which first used its weapons of war against Palestinian people in historic Palestine, and against neighboring countries. In recent years, as interest in surveillance and policing technologies and techniques has grown among governments around the world, an Israeli ìhomeland securityî private service industry built on these field-tested instruments has emerged to exploit and export this interest.

In addition to the Israeli government, military, and corporations, a network of Zionist organizations provides political and economic support to the state of Israel. For example, in the United States, these organizations participate in surveillance and facilitate exchanges between the Israeli military and US police forces, federal agents, and armed forces."

Says a lot, doesn't it? By the way, please donít accept the above at face value. Do the research. Check with numerous international human rights organizations, read The Generalís Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine by Miko Peled. Donít be afraid of the truth.

Tarak Kauff
Woodstock, NY

The stench of church and state.

When Father Daniel Berrigan was speaking in Dutchess County more than a decade ago, a priest in the audience asked him why the Catholic Church was not opposing the illegal US blockade of Iraq.

"What you are smelling is the stench that comes from the marriage of church and state," Father Berrigan replied. He went on to declare that any religion serving the interests of the state destroys its spiritual authority in the process. 

I have long been disheartened by those who have used the Holocaust and the suffering of the Jewish people to defend Israel's barbaric treatment of the Palestinians. I think this tactic cheapens and dishonors the suffering of both peoples, while perpetuating a cycle of senseless violence.

A rabbi publicly declaring that criticism of Israel is an anti-Semitic assault on the Jewish religion, however, is an example what Father Berrigan was saying about his own church. Religion debases itself by linking its moral authority to any state, much less one that wages preemptive wars, uses high tech weaponry on civilians, and treats a minority population with racist oppression. Are all these crimes to be defended as God's work, too holy for mortals to question or criticize?

The stench of church and state.

Fred Nagel