Oakland to Palestine Solidarity Mural

The Oakland Palestine Solidarity Mural adopts the image of the tree as a central motif and global visual signifier of life and resilience to link seemingly disparate issues and distant locations. Spanning 157 feet and reaching 22 feet high, the mural is comprised of nine separate panels, where each artist or team has painted his or her own interpretation of a tree to address social and political issues. These issues include the shared histories of colonization, environmental exploitation, internal exile of indigenous peoples, resilience and resistance to these injustices. The result is a stunning public tribute to the human spirit and its unassailable right to thrive in spite of political oppression and injustice–wherever it is taking place in the world.

The twelve participating artists come from a wide array of backgrounds, ethnicities and cultures. They include from left to right, Nidal El Khairy (Palestinian); IROT (Native American); VYAL (Chicano-Native American); Emory Douglas (African American); Chris Gazaleh (Palestinian American); Erin Yoshi (Japanese American); Deadeyes (African American); SPIE (Asian American); Susan Greene (Jewish American); Dina Matar, who is participating virtually (Gaza); with support from Fred Alvarado (Latino American) and text by Miguel Bounce Perez (Chicano-Pacific Islander American).
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For Palestinians, there is no Obama-Netanyahu rift

 by Ali Abunimah, in Huffington Post,  02/28/2015

Palestinians do not see any substantive Obama-Netanyahu rift on life and death matters for them. But there urgently needs to be one. (Chuck Kennedy / White House Photo)

Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned speech to the United States Congress next week has led to much talk of a rift between the Israeli prime minister and the US president, and even between their two countries.

Tuesday, national security adviser Susan E. Rice said the growing partisanship regarding Israel is “destructive of the fabric of the relationship.”

Citing protocol of not meeting foreign leaders too close to an election, President Barack Obama will shun his Israeli counterpart in Washington, and Vice President Joe Biden will stay away from the joint session of Congress when Netanyahu appears.

The dispute has taken on rancorous partisan tones with more than two dozen Democratic lawmakers vowing to boycott the speech. They charge that Netanyahu’s goal is to undermine the president’s diplomacy with Iran, and that Republican House Speaker John Boehner invited the Israeli leader to defy and humiliate the White House.

Yet all those objecting to the speech, whether in the United States, or Netanyahu’s rivals at home, where he faces an election next month, protest that their concern is to guarantee US-Israeli relations on whose strength the very future of Israel is said to hang.

But what all this sound and fury misses is that for the Palestinians, there is no meaningful Obama-Netanyahu rift. Indeed US-Israeli relations have never been stronger, nor more damaging to the prospects for peace and justice and for the very survival of the Palestinian people.

Just look at the recent record. Last December, the Palestinian Authority put forward a tepid resolution in the UN Security Council that did little more than repeat long-standing US policy on the outlines of a two-state solution. Obama’s UN ambassador Samantha Power marshaled all her resources to defeat it.

She claimed that the resolution was “deeply imbalanced” and took “no account of Israel’s legitimate security concerns.”

The next day, after disappointed Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas signed the treaty acceding to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Obama’s State Department declared itself “deeply troubled,” accusing Palestinians of an “escalatory step” that “badly damages the atmosphere with the very people with whom they ultimately need to make peace.”

Power said the Palestinian move “really poses a profound threat to Israel.”

These words are perverse. Israel’s 51-day long attack on Gaza that left more than 2,200 people dead didn’t “damage the atmosphere” as far as the Obama administration was concerned, but any Palestinian effort to use international bodies in pursuit of justice and accountability is tantamount to an act of war.

I challenge Power to go and repeat her words to any of the 100,000 Palestinians in Gaza still living in the damp and freezing rubble of their homes, to the surviving parents of more than 500 children killed in the Israeli attack, or to the thousands who will live with lifelong injuries.

Neither the ambassador nor her president has commented on the findings of Amnesty International, which said that Israel “brazenly flouted the laws of war by carrying out a series of attacks on civilian homes, displaying callous indifference to the carnage caused.”

Few Palestinians will forget that when Israeli fire was raining down on them, the Obama administration authorized the transfer of grenades and mortar rounds to resupply the Israeli army.

Last summer’s war was something even Hamas leaders tried to avoid. After it began, armed Palestinian groups declared that their goal was a ceasefire accompanied by a lifting of the eight-year siege that has devastated Gaza’s economy and isolated its 1.8 million people from the rest of humanity.

Since the war, promises that the siege would be lifted have been broken. Billions pledged in reconstruction aid have failed to materialize. As a result, cash-strapped UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees, has suspended repairs on Gaza homes.

Israel’s view tends to be unquestioningly echoed by US officials and media: that Palestinians are at fault for the repeated surges of violence.

Yet even senior Israeli leaders and officers have often acknowledged that Palestinian armed groups, especially Hamas, have meticulously stuck to ceasefire agreements, as they are doing currently.

Despite this, the US put no pressure on Israel to end the years-long blockade.

As a result, the lesson Palestinians have repeatedly learned is that whether they fight or stay quiet, Israel will be allowed to do as it pleases. It can besiege and slaughter them in Gaza, seize and colonize their land in the West Bank, deprive them of their most fundamental rights, and Obama will have Israel’s back.

Just because Obama, Netanyahu and their partisan followers may be peeved at each other does not change the basic dynamic of full US support for Israel’s occupation of millions of Palestinians, the continuation of which guarantees ongoing suffering with regional repercussions.

Sure enough, despite the supposed rift, the US is proceeding with the sale of more of the most advanced F-35 fighter jets to Israel.

That’s why Palestinians do not see any substantive Obama-Netanyahu rift on life and death matters for them. But there urgently needs to be one.

It is long past time for the American people and their representatives to challenge Israel on its seemingly permanent subjugation of the Palestinians.

This post was first published by The Huffington Post.

Israel’s Occupation Now Extended to Washington, DC

Tuesday, March 3rd, 5pm:  

Protest War Criminal Netanyahu

Israeli Consulate, 456 Montgomery St., San Francisco

No to War Criminal Netanyahu!
No New War on Iran!
End the Colonial Occupation of Palestine!
End U.S. Aid to Israel!

Israeli prime minister and notorious war criminal Binyamin Netanyahu will be addressing a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, March 3. Netanyahu has presided over many massacres of Palestinians, the latest in Gaza last summer that killed more than 2,100 women, men and children, wounded more than 10,000, and left hundreds of thousands homeless.   The massive theft of and settlement on Palestinian land in the West Bank continues every day.   Much of this death, destruction and dispossession is paid for by our tax dollars, billions of which flow to Israel every year. 

“It’s ugly, it’s vicious, it’s brutal”: Cornel West on Israel in Palestine — and why Gaza is “the hood on steroids”

Cornel West speaks with a Stanford professor about the divestment effort and Palestinian activism
David Palumbo-Liu, writing in salon.com, Wednesday, Feb 25, 2015

Cornel West (Credit: Albert H. Teich via Shutterstock)

One of the fundamental questions with regard to the critique of — and activism against — the Israeli occupation: How does this connect up with other social movements, and other struggles? Is the case of Israel and Palestine so specific, so complex, as to resist analogy? And if so, what does that mean for those who would be inclined to sympathize with the plight of the Palestinians, but unable to see their way clear to act in solidarity with them, as they might for others? Continue reading

Why solitary confinement is a form of modern-day torture

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9xeIRpLUdc

by Molly Crabapple

Commentary from fusion.net:

As of 2013, there were 80,000 men and women in solitary confinement in the United States, some of them as young as 14 years old. In this illustrated op-ed video, artist Molly Crabapple explains the psychological and physical trauma suffered by those forced to spend 22-24 hours a day alone — sometimes for arbitrary reasons, like reading the wrong book, or having the wrong tattoo — in a grey, concrete box. (According to the U.N. 15 days in solitary is torture.) “There is no limit to how long someone can be held in solitary confinement,” says Crabappple. “And very little evidence is needed to justify holding a person in solitary indefinitely.”

On Obama’s Insistence that “We Are Not at War with Islam”

by Gary Leupp, Counterpunch, February 25, 2015

One would like to say that the cruelty of ISIL (ISIS) shocks the entire world. In fact, however, it doesn’t shock everyone. Sad though it may seem to you or me, some people actually observe events in the emergent “Islamic State” with approval and admiration. Thousands of young men and even young women from many countries—even some from Europe and North America—are flocking to ISIL’s black banner. There are various estimates of ISIL strength available, ranging from 30,000 to 100,000. European intelligence agencies estimate that 3,000 young people have joined from the continent.

One should not assume these are all uncivilized thugs, just because they inflict horrible suffering on fellow human beings. They are far from alone in doing that, or in viewing their actions as the administration of some god’s punishment.

We should not presuppose, as Barack Obama suggested in his February 17 speech, that its members join ISIL simply due to such factors as unemployment, alienation and the nebulous phenomenon of “radicalization” to which some minds are strangely vulnerable.

To me they appear as people with a set of serious religious beliefs, including the belief in the existence of a Supreme Being; belief in a holy book of divine authorship; and belief in a set of laws authored by this one-and-only God that—for society to function properly, and the problems posed by modernity fixed—must be rigorously implemented.

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Film on Edward Snowden wins Academy Award

Featured photo - The Intercept’s Laura Poitras Wins Academy Award for ‘Citizenfour’

Laura Poitras, a founding editor of The Intercept, won an Academy Award tonight for her documentary “Citizenfour,” an inside look at Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency whistleblower; with Glenn Greenwald, journalist who reported many of the Snowden exposés.

[The annual Academy Awards (“Oscars”) are selected by secret/anonymous votes of the members of the Academy of Motion Pictures (previous winners of Oscars).  So, on occasion, the awards are given to a film which rebukes unpopular government policies.  And that is definitely the case with the award of “Best Documentary” to Citizenfour, which described the path of the world’s most famous whistleblower, Edward Snowdon who, at great personal cost and risk, exposed the NSA and the most intrusive government betrayal of privacy rights in history.  Though vilified and threatened by the government and politicians, Snowdon has won popular praise and accolades to such an extent that even the filmmakers of Hollywood chose to reward Laura Poitras, director, and the film Citizenfour, with the highest honor.  We urge everyone to seek out and spread the word about this film.  —  Frontlines ed.]

“The disclosures that Edward Snowden revealed don’t only expose a threat to our privacy but to our democracy itself,” Poitras said in her acceptance speech. “Thank you to Edward Snowden for his courage and for the many other whistleblowers.” Snowden, in a statement released after the award was announced, said, “My hope is that this award will encourage more people to see the film and be inspired by its message that ordinary citizens, working together, can change the world.”

The film, which has been hailed as a real-life thriller, chronicles Snowden’s effort to securely contact Poitras and Glenn Greenwald in 2013 and meet them in Hong Kong, where Poitras filmed Snowden discussing the thousands of classified NSA documents he was leaking to them, and his motives for doing so. The film takes its title from the pseudonym Snowden used when he contacted Poitras in encrypted emails that were revealed in her documentary.