May 27th, 2011 :: Year 8, Issue 19

May-27-2011 | Comments Off

Followups

US Prisons / US Education: it gets harder and harder to tell them apart, even within the system

* School superintendent to Governor: Please make my school a prison

This is why I’m proposing to make my school a prison. The State of Michigan spends annually somewhere between $30,000 and $40,000 per prisoner, yet we are struggling to provide schools with $7,000 per student. I guess we need to treat our students like they are prisoners, with equal funding. Please give my students three meals a day. Please give my children access to free health care. Please provide my school district Internet access and computers. Please put books in my library. Please give my students a weight room so we can be big and strong. We provide all of these things to prisoners because they have constitutional rights. What about the rights of youth, our future?

* US Court Approves Life Without Parole For 14-Year-Old

Wisconsin’s top court ruled Friday that sending a 14-year-old killer to jail without the chance of parole is not an “unduly harsh and excessive” punishment for a gruesome crime. Omer Ninham is one of more than 2,200 US teens sentenced to life in jail without parole after they were prosecuted as adults, according to the Equal Justice Initiative.

Some 73 of those cases involved children aged 13 or 14 at the time of the crime.

* End The World’s Most Senseless War Avaaz Petition

In days, we could finally see the beginning of the end of the ‘war on drugs’. This expensive war has completely failed to curb the plague of drug addiction, while costing countless lives, devastating communities, and funneling trillions of dollars into violent organized crime networks.

Experts all agree that the most sensible policy is to regulate, but politicians are afraid to touch the issue. In days, a global commission including former heads of state and foreign policy chiefs of the UN, EU, US, Brazil, Mexico and more will break the taboo and publicly call for new approaches including decriminalization and regulation of drugs.

This could be a once-in-a-generation tipping-point moment — if enough of us call for an end to this madness.



Israel and Palestine

May-27-2011 | Comments (2)

2. What’s Changing

Bird’s Eye: We have three parts for you this week: what’s changing in the Middle East stalemate, Obama’s speech (and reactions) and Netanyahu’s speech (and reactions). But the speeches came within the context of a rapidly changing situation, so we start by looking at Egypt’s opening the border with Gaza, at the rise of a non-violent Palestinian protest movement, and at the spread of the BDS movement world wide.

* Israel And Palestine: Here Comes Your Non-Violent Resistance The Economist

We’ve asked the Palestinians to lay down their arms. We’ve told them their lack of a state is their own fault; if only they would embrace non-violence, a reasonable and unprejudiced world would see the merit of their claims. Over the weekend, tens of thousands of them did just that, and it seems likely to continue. If crowds of tens of thousands of non-violent Palestinian protestors continue to march, and if Israel continues to shoot at them, what will we do? Will we make good on our rhetoric, and press Israel to give them their state? Or will it turn out that our paeans to non-violence were just cynical tactics in an amoral international power contest staged by militaristic Israeli and American right-wing groups whose elective affinities lead them to shape a common narrative of the alien Arab/Muslim threat? Will we even bother to acknowledge that the Palestinians are protesting non-violently? Or will we soldier on with the same empty decades-old rhetoric, now drained of any truth or meaning, because it protects established relationships of power? What will it take to make Americans recognise that the real Martin Luther King-style non-violent Palestinian protestors have arrived, and that Israeli soldiers are shooting them with real bullets?

* Egypt ‘to open Rafah border permanently’ Al Jazeera English

Egypt will permanently open its Rafah border crossing starting from Saturday, the country’s official news agency reported, easing a four-year blockade on the Gaza Strip. The news agency MENA said on Wednesday that Egypt’s new military rulers set the date for the opening of the crossing as part of efforts “to end the status of the Palestinian division and achieve national reconciliation”. It said the Rafah border crossing would be opened permanently starting on Saturday from 9am to 9pm every day except Fridays and holidays.

* BDS update: ‘I went because I needed to go’ Eric Walberg

So said a Holocaust survivor and anti-apartheid activist about his trip to Jackson, Mississippi in 1961. The same impulse inspires BDS activists from all walks of life today, says Eric Walberg.

International boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) activities got a boost at the founding conference of the Palestinian Trade Union Coalition for BDS in Ramallah on 30 April. It called on trade unions around the world to sever all links with the Israel labour federation Histadrut. Histadrut protects illegal Israeli workers in the settlements and doesn’t protect the legal Palestinian workers there, having withheld almost $2.5 billion of their wages over the years, deducted for “social and other trade union benefits” that they have never received.

There was good and bad news on the political front in the past month. Scottish voters rejected the pro-war, pro-Israel Labour Party and elected the Scottish Nationalist Party, whose leader leader Alex Salmond supports sanctions against Israel.



3. Obama’s Speech, and Reactions

May-27-2011 | Comments (1)

Bird’s Eye: So, within the context of the end of any effective blockade of Gaza, the rise of the BDS movement, and increasing support for non-violent Palestinian resistance, Obama and Netanyahu made speeches about how they see the future. We start by looking at Obama’s speech, and reactions to it.

* Obama to AIPAC: You have to choose Stephen M. Walt

I was wrong.  I thought it made little sense for President Obama to deliver a speech to the AIPAC policy conference, because he’d lose points globally if all he did was pander, and he’d face a firestorm at home if he told the truth and offered up a little tough love. Plus, I thought it was a little demeaning for a sitting president to appear in front of any foreign policy lobbying group.  But Obama was cleverer than that, which is one of the countless reasons why he is president and I am not. Instead of choosing between pandering and speaking truth to power, he did both.

…The important part of the speech was when he told AIPAC what everyone knows: Israel and its die-hard supporters here in the United States have a choice. Down one road is a viable two-state solution that will guarantee Israel’s democratic and Jewish character, satisfy Palestinian national aspirations, remove the stigma of looming apartheid, turn the 2007 Arab Peace Plan into a reality and ensure Israel’s acceptance in the region, facilitate efforts to contain Iran, and ultimately preserve the Zionist dream. Down another road lies the folly of a “greater Israel,” in which a minority Jewish population tries to permanently subjugate an eventual Arab majority, thereby guaranteeing endless conflict, accelerating the gradual delegitimization of Israel in the eyes of the rest of the world, handing Iran a potent wedge issue, and making the United States look deeply hypocritical whenever it talks about self-determination and human rights.

* Decoding ‘The Speech’ Bernard Avishai

Encrypted: First, the number of Palestinians living west of the Jordan River is growing rapidly…This will make it harder and harder — without a peace deal — to maintain Israel as both a Jewish state and a democratic state.

Unencrypted: “Oh, by the way, I know how to speak the language of the Israeli opposition, Kadima, Labor, etc., and play to it, whatever I really think of it. Two can play this game, Bibi. You have an election coming up, too. Do you want to run as the leader who screwed up relations with Washington, while Livni and others run as the saviors of our common language?”

Encrypted: Second, technology will make it harder for Israel to defend itself in the absence of a genuine peace.”

Unencrypted: “ Look, AIPAC, can you please tell your Bibi to stop pandering to his nutjobs and try forming a coalition that will, say, take us back to where Olmert and Abbas got stuck before the region explodes? Israel is fit to repel any invasion; no more wars like 1973. But can’t you see Israel is prepared for the last big war, not the next one? It is facing 40,000 missiles that cost a few thousand dollars each with anti-missiles that cost over a million each. Its air force and smart bombs can level the apartment buildings from which the missiles are launched, but then what happens when CNN and Al Jazeera start running 24/7 videos of children’s bodies pulled from the rubble? Which brings me to…”

* EU nations back Obama’s decision to favour 1967 borders Canadian press

European Union nations came out in strong support Friday of President Barack Obama’s call to use the 1967 borders as the basis for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Britain, Germany and France led the praise for Obama’s call to base a Palestinian state on 1967 borders, from before the Six Day War in which Israel occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called it “a good, viable path that both sides should consider. I also support what the president said regarding unilateral measures, no matter from which side,” she added. Obama repudiated the quest of the Palestinian leadership for unilateral statehood through the United Nations and questioned its alliance with a Hamas faction bent on Israel’s destruction.



4. Netanyahu’s Speech, and Reactions

May-27-2011 | Comments Off

Bird’s Eye: We start with Juan Cole, who looks at the issue of ’67 borders from a political viewpoint. Noted Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld (bio here) examines Netanyahu’s assertion that the ’67 borders are indefensible from a military perspective, and finds it lacking. And Gideon Levy writes in Haaretz about how Netanyahu’s speech looks in Israel, from the left.

* What lies Behind Netanyahu’s Bluster on ’1967 Borders’ Juan Cole Informed Comment

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s high dudgeon over the world community’s demand that Israel return more or less to ’1967 borders’ plays to two audiences, his domestic constituency among far rightwing ‘Greater Israel’ parties intent on usurping Palestinian land, and his American constituency among the third or so of US Jews who oppose trading land for peace. The ’1967′ borders are actually those that obtained before Israel launched its 1967 ‘Six-Day War’ on Syria, Jordan and Egypt. (There is no doubt that Israel launched this war, and that its aggressiveness with Syria in the previous six months contributed mightily to the tensions that led to it.)

The reason Israel has to go back to 1967 borders is that the annexation of territory from a neighbor through warfare is illegal according to the United Nations Charter, which is a treaty to which Israel and the United States are both signatories. ‘Greater Israel’ apologists attempt to get out of this difficulty by saying that countries used to conquer land away from their neighbors all the time. This is a bogus argument, since countries used to do a lot of things, including sponsor the slave trade; Britain even insisted on China allowing the sale of opium in the early 19th century. The world changed when World War II ended and the countries of the world established the United Nations to forestall any recrudescence of Axis techniques of conquest and rule. If Israel does not believe in the UN Charter, it should renounce its UN membership.

* Israel Doesn’t Need the West Bank To Be Secure Martin van Creveld Forward.com

When everything is said and done, how important is the West Bank to Israel’s defense?

To answer the question, our best starting point is the situation before the 1967 war. At that time, the Arab armed forces surrounding Israel outnumbered the Jewish state’s army by a ratio of 3-to-1. Not only was the high ground in Judea and Samaria in Jordanian hands, but Israel’s capital in West Jerusalem was bordered on three sides by hostile territory. Arab armies even stood within 14 miles of Tel Aviv. Still, nobody back then engaged in the sort of fretting we hear today about “defensible borders,” let alone Abba Eban’s famous formulation, “Auschwitz borders.” When the time came, it took the Israel Defense Forces just six days to crush all its enemies combined.

…Since the West Bank itself is surrounded by Israel on three sides, anybody who tries to enter it from the east is sticking his head into a noose. To make things worse for a prospective invader, the ascent from the Jordan Valley into the heights of Judea and Samaria is topographically one of the most difficult on earth. Just four roads lead from east to west, all of which are easily blocked by air strikes or by means of precision-guided missiles. To put the icing on the cake, Israeli forces stationed in Jerusalem could quickly cut off the only road connecting the southern portion of the West Bank with its northern section in the event of an armed conflict.

The defense of the West Bank by Arab forces would be a truly suicidal enterprise. The late King Hussein understood these facts well. Until 1967 he was careful to keep most of his forces east of the Jordan River. When he momentarily forgot these realities in 1967, it took Israel just three days of fighting to remind him of them. Therefore, just as Israel does not need the West Bank to defend itself against ballistic missiles, it does not need that territory to defend itself against conventional warfare.

* Netanyahu’s Speech To Congress Shows America Will Buy Anything Gideon Levy Haaretz

It was an address with no destination, filled with lies on top of lies and illusions heaped on illusions. Only rarely is a foreign head of state invited to speak before Congress. It’s unlikely that any other has attempted to sell them such a pile of propaganda and prevarication, such hypocrisy and sanctimony as Benjamin Netanyahu did yesterday.

… How can an Israeli prime minister dare to say his country “fully supports the desire of Arab peoples in our region to live freely” without spitting out the entire bitter truth – as long as they aren’t Palestinian. Suddenly Netanyahu marvels at the Arab Spring, but where was he when it began? He was on his standard scare campaign, warning of the dangers of an extremist Islamic regime and rushing to build a fence along our border with Egypt. And yesterday, suddenly, it’s “the promise of a new dawn.” Apparently there is no end to hypocrisy.

…And how dare he speak about freedom of worship in Jerusalem at a time when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been denied that freedom for years. Freedom of worship in Jerusalem is for Palestinians aged 35 and up, sometimes 45 and up; sometimes even 65 isn’t old enough. And for the 2 million people of the Gaza Strip, there is no such freedom at all.

How can Netanyahu praise the peace with Egypt, when it’s easy to guess he would have voted against it? The man who explicitly said he would do his level best to destroy the Oslo Accords suddenly says he’s in favor of peace with the Palestinians. Last night we saw that the Americans will buy anything, or at least their applauding legislators will.



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