Fair Policy, Fair Discussion

July 6, 2010

Noam Chomsky to appear on Radio Show

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ayesha Yousuf @ 10:16 am

On Thursday, July 8, Noam Chomsky is set to appear on our radio show, “CNI: Jerusalem Calling” from 12-1 ET.

Noam Chomsky is a world renowned American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist and political activist. He is currently a professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Chomsky is a prominent cultural figure, known for his outspoken political views and commentary, especially when it comes to mass media and U.S. foreign policy. In regards to the Middle East, Chomsky has been critical of U.S. policies towards Israel as well Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. He has written books on these issues, including “Fateful Triangle,” “Middle East Illusions,” and “Peace in the Middle East? Reflections on Justice and Nationhood.”

To listen to the show, go to the show’s homepage (www.wsradio.com/cni) and click on the “Listen Live” button for Studio A, at the top left. You can call in with your questions and comments during the second half of the show by calling 877-474-3302, toll-free. International users can ask questions via Skype, by calling Skypename: WSRADIOSTUDIO.

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June 29, 2010

Council for the National Interest Names Alison Weir President

Filed under: Uncategorized — frederickbutler @ 10:26 am

After a months-long search, the Council for the National Interest (CNI), a two-decades old Washington DC institute that advocates for “Middle East policies that serve the American national interest” has named former journalist and Executive Director of If Americans Knew Alison Weir as its new President.

Weir will replace retiring President Eugene Bird, a former Foreign Service officer who has led CNI for 17 years.

CNI, founded in 1989, was one of the first organizations created to oppose the power of the Israel Lobby; among its goals  “to restore a political environment in America in which voters and their elected officials are free from the undue influence and pressure of a foreign country, namely Israel.”

Its founders and leaders read like a “who’s who” of veteran advocates of independent U.S. policies free from Israeli dominance:

  • Former Congressmen Paul Findley, an 11-term Congressman from Illinois who authored the groundbreaking book on the Israel lobby, “They Dare to Speak Out,” published 20 years before the recent volume on the same subject by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt.
  • Paul N. “Pete” McCloskey, a former Marine officer, Presidential contender, and one of the first Congressmen to oppose the Vietnam War. (Both Findley and McCloskey were pushed out of Congress by organized campaigns when they began to suggest different U.S. policies regarding Israel.}
  • Former foreign service officers, Ambassador Andrew Killgore, current publisher of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Richard Curtiss, editor of the Washington Report and former U.S. Information Agency chief, and outgoing CNI President Bird, a 20-year foreign service veteran.
  • Harriet Fulbright, President of the J. William and Harriet Fulbright Center, former Executive Director of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, and current Chairman of CNI’s board of directors. She is the widow of Senator William Fulbright, whose Congressional hearings revealed an illicit cycle in which Israel partisans would lobby Congress for money to Israel, which would then be illegally funnel some of the money back to U.S. organizations to lobby for still more money.
  • Robert Keeley, three times Ambassador to Greece, and Ambassador to Zimbabwe and Mauritius.  He was also Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs and is the Chairman of the CNI Foundation, the educational arm of CNI.

New President Alison Weir is a former California journalist who founded If Americans Knew, a think tank that focuses on providing facts on Israel-Palestine to the public and specializes in media analysis on the topic.

The organization’s statistical studies reveal that American national media report on Israeli deaths at rates from seven to 14 times greater than they report on Palestinian deaths, even though far more Palestinians have been killed and were killed first. Regional media were found to contain even greater Israeli-centric distortion.

Weir also exposed the fact that many of the journalists reporting on Israel-Palestine for US news media have close family ties to the Israeli military, among them the bureau chief of the New York Times, whose son is an Israeli soldier.

Weir writes and speaks on Israel-Palestine frequently, and has given hundreds of speeches throughout the U.S. and internationally, including at Harvard Law School, Stanford, UC Berkeley, the Naval Postgraduate Institute, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and several briefings on Capitol Hill. She recently spoke at the Asia Media Summit in Beijing.

Weir will split her time between CNI and If Americans Knew, where she is Executive Director, commuting between California and Washington.

She is expected to maintain CNI’s close ties to the diplomatic community – several board members are former ambassadors, or former congressmen such as Wayne Gilchrist (R-MD) and Vice Chairman of CNI Foundation Senator James Abourezk – while increasing its national profile through an expanded web presence and grassroots campaign for  “Middle East policies that serve American interests and represent American values of fairness, justice, and morality.”

Weir states: “This issue transcends politics. Our government’s decades-long unconditional, un-debated, and uniquely massive support for Israel fuels violence, causes massive damage and instability in the region, profoundly undermines U.S. interests nationally and at home, endangers our citizens, and entangles our nation in unnecessary, futile, and tragic wars. It is time for change.”

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June 24, 2010

Budrus

Yesterday, I attended an event at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace that showcased the documentary “Budrus.

Budrus is a small, relatively unknown Palestinian village located near Ramallah with a population of about 1,500.  The documentary tells the story of the community’s struggle with the state of Israel in 2003 against plans to build part of the separation barrier through the village.  The proposed plan would have surrounded the village and confiscated 40% of the land.

The documentary follows a local leader, Ayed Morrar, who united the community to try and block the plans through nonviolent means.  He brought together an unlikely group, comprising of members of Hamas and Fatah as well as Palestinians, Israelis, men, and women.

Perhaps most crucial was the role of women.  Morrar was unable to mobilize the community until his 15-year-old daughter Iltezam brought women to the movement.  The women would stand in front of bulldozers or lie in front of olive trees, and IDF soldiers did not know  how to deal with them.  The documentary actually shows some soldiers beating women.  As a result, a woman IDF soldier was called in to handle them.

Israelis played a crucial role in the nonviolent movement as well.  Iltezam states how she did not think she would ever have an Israeli friend before; she never knew any, only IDF soldiers.  Morrar, who was at the event yesterday, commented on how through this event, he was able to see the good side of Israelis. He was able to see and meet Israeli that want peace and who want to raise their children in peace based on justice, not peace based on what Morrar calls the relationship between the slave and master.  Israelis are very important in the nonviolent movement, as they give credence to the Palestinian struggle by questioning the actions of their own state.

Also unlikely was the cooperation of Fatah and Hamas members.  Morrar recounted how politics were temporarily put aside, as both parties, even if they differed ideologically, desired the same results.  Politics is indeed an important issue in the struggle for nonviolent protest.  The pockets of resistance in villages such as Budrus do not have any national leadership yet, and the role of the PA in the nonviolent movement is still questionable.

Though the movie documents the struggle of just one village, its message offers hope for what is possible: eventual freedom.  The producers of the film, Just Vision, are trying to spread this message.  Just Vision is currently on a six month promotion tour through the U.S.  For Screenings of “Budrus” in your area, click here.

Spoiler Alert:

In the end, the villagers of Budrus, after 10 months of nonviolent protest, forced the IDF to move the separation barrier out of the village.  They saved 95% of the land, and the barrier was built almost entirely on the Green Line.  Some parts even went into the No Man’s Land area.  However Israel will not acknowledge the efforts of the Budrus villagers.  The official response from the government is that the barrier was not moved because of the villagers’ efforts, but for other reasons.

June 21, 2010

Democracy and Equality in Israel

The Israeli Declaration of Independence states that Israel: “will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture.”

This was Israel back in its idealistic days, when it advertised itself as a land of egalitarianism and democracy.  Israel now, as Minister of Minority Affairs Avishay Braverman puts it, has the most “unequal society among western nations.”

Israeli Arabs are marginalized and discriminated against in Israeli society, though they make up about 20% of the population.  Just to highlight a few aspects of discrimination, the State Department’s 2009 Human Rights Report on Israel and the Occupied Territories states that: “Institutional, legal, and societal discrimination against Arab citizens, Palestinian Arabs, non-Orthodox Jews, and other religious groups continued, as did societal discrimination against persons with disabilities. Women suffered societal discrimination and domestic violence. The government maintained unequal educational systems for Arab and Jewish students.” (more…)

Far from Ideal: Gaza Blockade Eased

Following international pressure and diplomatic discussions with Egyptian, US and Quartet representatives, Israel’s security cabinet announced Sunday that it would change its blockade policy for the Gaza Strip.  At present only 114 items are allowed into the Strip, but according to the announced easing of the Gaza blockade a new “black list” of unpermitted goods will replace the current highly restrictive policy. The PM Binyamin Netanyahu confirmed that all goods, other than “weapons and materials Hamas uses”, will  be allowed into the Palestinian territory while adding that a finalized list of items not allowed will be released as soon as possible.

While the exact definition of a “material Hamas uses” is not clear, the announcement certainly paves the way for humanitarian aid and some construction materials to soon enter the Gaza Strip.  Heavy limitations, however, remain on the construction materials allowed, as they must be for Palestinian Authority-approved projects and kept under international supervision.  Netanyahu described these new allowances as “eliminating Hamas’ main propoganda claim and allow[ing] [Israel]…to face [their] real concerns in the realm of security.” (more…)

June 18, 2010

Lebanon Debates Palestinian Refugee Rights

Filed under: Arab attitudes,Human rights,Lebanon,Palestinian refugees — quinnconnors @ 1:39 pm

In recent weeks, the media has focused on the plight of blockaded Gazans. Amidst the international outcry resulting from the Gaza flotilla raid, a potential change in the fate of another group of Palestinians has gone largely unnoticed. Tuesday, after 62 years of waiting, legislation proposing basic rights for the 400,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon made the committee stage in Parliament.

The proposed legislation, which was passed onto the Administration and Justice parliamentary committee, would grant Palestinian refugees the right to work and to own property in Lebanon. Currently, Palestinian refugees are barred from more than 50 professions, including medicine, law and teaching, and are prohibited from property ownership due to a law limiting land possession to “people with identification documents issued by a recognized country”. Such labor and property laws severely limit the economic and social opportunities of the Palestinian refugees who, for the majority, still reside in UNRWA camps after fleeing their homes in the 1948 and subsequent conflicts. (more…)

June 17, 2010

Double Standards

Helen Thomas’ misinterpreted remarks about Jews in Palestine led to the end of her accomplished career.  Meanwhile, Senator Schumer of New York is allowed to say he supports the continued “economic strangulation” of Gaza, without anyone even blinking twice.

Schumer is a powerful politician; he is the vice-chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, and the third highest ranking Democrat in the Senate.  His position in the government makes the fact that he can make such comments without press coverage or any sort of accountability is especially perturbing.

Schumer, speaking at the Orthodox Union, went on to blame the identity of Palestinians for their situation:  “Palestinian people still don’t believe in the Jewish state, in a two-state solution… They don’t believe in the Torah, in David.” Both of these statements are blatantly false, as most Palestinians support a two-state solution, and Muslims consider the Torah a holy book and David a prophet.  He also blames Gazans for the actions of Hamas, and states that they can only have economic advancement  “when there’s some moderation and cooperation.” (more…)

June 16, 2010

Islamic Feminism

Yesterday, I attended a conference at the Woodrow Wilson Center entitled: “Islamic Feminism and Beyond: The New Frontier.”  The term Islamic feminism is a relatively new; it started to emerge about twenty years ago.  Nevertheless, the issues and actors involved in the movement have expanded greatly and become more complex.  The main goals of Islamic feminism are women’s rights, social justice and gender equality for Muslims in the public and private spheres.  It aims to modify the patriarchal based society through means such as civic participation, employment, and literacy.

Support for Islamic feminism is drawn from many parties that include secular groups, religious groups, Muslims, and non-Muslims.  Due to such a diverse background, there are differing approaches on how to achieve the goals of Islamic feminism.  The panel of speakers was diverse as well, comprising of six women specializing in different areas.  They were each able to highlight the dynamics of feminism in their respective countries of research, allowing for interesting discussion. (more…)

Muslim Student Union banned at California University after students heckle Israeli Ambassador

Filed under: Activism,American attitudes,Discourse in America — sabihankhan @ 11:30 am

In February of this year, eleven University of California-Irvine students (all members of the Muslim Student Union) were arrested for creating a disturbance at an event in which Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren was speaking. In response to this incident, the University has decided to ban the Muslim Student Union for one full year, beginning Sept. 1. UCI MSU has since appealed the decision and is awaiting the results of that appeal.

This action is not only destructive to the UCI Muslim community, but the the college activist community as a whole. The “Irvine 11,” as they’ve been referred to, were  exercising their freedom of speech at a public event on a public school campus. Yes, what they did may not have been pleasant or polite, but it was their right. And when they were deemed to be too “disorderly,” they were removed from the building–and the Ambassador was able to finish his speech–as was his right.

Detractors point to the fact that this disturbance was planned as evidence for the MSU ban. “Detractors” and “Reserves” were identified within the group who were willing to be escorted out or arrested, if it came to that. This is not some sort of diabolical MSU plot but instead pretty standard fare for a well-planned protest on a university campus. At UCLA earlier this year, for example, students protesting tuition hikes followed an almost identical procedure in dealing with campus police and administration during a well-planned and meticulously executed sit-in on campus.  Planning their protest is not grounds for suspension. It’s just good planning and it shows that the MSU students did NOT want things to get out of control or turn violent in any way.

Sadly this kind of gross overreaction is typical in the US. Similar to the Helen Thomas incident, conservative and mainstream Americans seem to have a zero-tolerance policy where pro-Palestinian sentiments are concerned.

http://articles.latimes.com/2010/feb/22/opinion/la-oew-levine23-2010feb23

http://www.ocregister.com/news/university-253265-union-student.html

June 14, 2010

Investigation into Gaza Raid

Israel has rejected UN demands for an external probe of the Gaza raid, and instead has announced that it is to administer an internal investigation.  Israel, trying to somewhat appease the international community, has added “two foreign observers” to the commission.  The observers include Irish Nobel Prize laureate David Trimble, and Canada’s former Judge Advocate General of the Canadian Forces Ken Watkin.  David Trimble, one of the “foreign observers,” recently joined a Friends of Israel group.  If Israel is to include outsiders in the internal probe, it should at least let them be chosen by an external party.  The “observers” should also have an active participating role; simply observing the commission and not offering their input seems futile.  The structure of the commission is inhibiting in other ways as well.  The commission must use summaries of the events, as soldiers cannot be directly questioned.  It can ask for more information if not satisfied, though there is no guarantee they will receive more information (BBC).

The purposes of the commission are to: examine the “security circumstances” of the naval blockade on Gaza and whether this conforms to international law, decide if the actions of May 31st, conform to the principles of international law, and consider the actions of those who organized and took part in the flotilla “and their identities” (BBC).  The last requirement, not surprisingly, shifts the focus away from Israel and tries to make them the victims.  This culture of victimization and no sense of accountability will no doubt result in another travesty of justice. (more…)

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