Murdoch Books and The Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at The University of Sydney are delighted to invite you to the launch of Donna Mulhearn’s first book, Ordinary Courage
To be launched by journalist and author Antony Loewenstein
Date: Tuesday 2nd February Time: 6.00-8.00pm Venue: Footbridge Theatre, The University of Sydney Parramatta Road, Camperdown Please RSVP by 29th January to firstname.lastname@example.org
‘In this powerful memoir, Donna Mulhearn’s courage and principles stand in damning contrast to the lies told in our name. I salute her.’
I’ve been publishing the compelling stories by Australian Donna Mulhearn during her recent trip to Gaza.
Here’s her latest and last reflections:
The children concentrated hard as they drew the blood spurting out of bodies, the helicopters firing bullets onto people below, the aeroplanes dropping bombs. They also drew weary palm trees, grey clouds and houses broken in two.
But it was one child’s depiction of the sun that really broke my heart. In this drawing, the scenes of war were graphically depicted in a typical child-like way, and in the top left-hand corner, watching on, was the sun. It was coloured bright yellow, with rays extending towards the earth. It had large blue eyes, with big eyelashes, and little red lips. It looked similar to the way many children around the world would draw the sun.
Except this sun, the sun in Gaza, had tears falling down its cheeks.
The sun was crying. In the mind of this little boy from Gaza, his view of our world is of chaos around him and a sun that is crying.
We were in a dim, concrete back room of a building in one of Gaza’s poorest neighbourhoods. The children, aged from 4 years to about 10 sat cross-legged in a circle and quietly drew their pictures as we looked on. They were not fidgeting, or playing up, or distracted by our presence. They were strangely silent as they carefully drew.
These children have been diagnosed as suffering acute post-traumatic stress disorder. We were at a play therapy group established by the Palestinian Trauma Centre. The Centre hopes to respond to the devastating impact that last year’s attack had on the children of Gaza; the children endured its missiles, bullets, bombs and screams, day in day out.
The teacher invited the children to stand up and, one by one, explain their pictures. Our host whispered the translation to us as they held their pictures and spoke matter-of-factly. After a minute of this, I turned my head to face the wall, so the children didn’t see me crying.
There were stories of being trapped under rubble in the dark and screaming and screaming some more and fighting their way out, only to find the bodies of their family lying dead in the ruins. There were stories of children holding the bodies of a parent, or grandparent after a missile attack, cradling them as life left their bodies. There were stories of sisters and brothers and cousins they used to have. And there were pictures of the houses they once lived in, now just rocks and rubble.
You can see some of the pictures here.
These are the stories of the little children of Gaza. Stories of things they should never see, or imagine, let alone experience for themselves.
But they did. And now the children of Gaza live the nightmare of trauma within a nightmare of occupation and siege. And it’s making them sick: sleepless, withdrawn, listless, angry. Physically ill.
The Palestinian Trauma Centre has conducted studies which conclude that most Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have been subjected to the symptoms of trauma and that 41% of children and their families are suffering serious mental illness and psychological disorders. Since the attack on Gaza last year, in which more than 1400 people were killed, including about 300 children, these figures would now be much worse.
There was another drawing that took my breath away. Created by a 10-year-old girl, it was simply a large eye on page. A carefully drawn eye: with black outline, eyebrows, and eyeballs coloured in light blue with a white pupil. And again there were tears falling from the eye. This time they were tears of blood, coloured dark red.
A child psychologist from the UK who was with us, observed how the drawing has none of the hallmarks of typical children’s pictures. He said the girl must have been in a state of psychosis when she drew it. Perhaps, like so many in Gaza, she had lost the will to live?
An eye with tears of blood and a sun that cries – these images are coming from deep within the little girls and boys of Gaza.
The little children of Gaza will grow up, one day.
Between now and then, I wonder, what has to be done to take the tears away?
Are Israel’s Haredi religious authorities losing control of their followers?
In December, leading Israeli rabbis launched a new push to curtail Internet use among ultra-Orthodox Jews, emphasizing that their longstanding ban on Web surfing applied to sites geared toward the Haredi community as well. They threatened stricter penalties than ever before for those who disobeyed. But rather than showing their power, the battle against Haredi Internet use has exposed the rabbis’ weakness, as large parts of the community resolutely remain online.
The Israeli rabbis first came out against Internet use in January 2000, when more than 30 Haredi leaders forbade Internet connections at home. Back then, the main concern was the easy availability of online pornography. The ban was not particularly controversial, as Israeli Haredim had long accepted a similar ban on owning television sets.
Many Haredim, however, circumvented the ban by using 3G phones, which allowed Internet access — until the rabbis forced them to buy “kosher-certified” sets in which the Internet feature was disabled. Others frequented Internet cafés. Still others brought computers into the home for work purposes, a practice that the Rabbinical Commission for Media Affairs — established by leading Haredi rabbis to set policy — was forced to permit in 2007, conceding that the Internet was essential for many businesses.
Senior rabbis continued to emphasize the ban on casual Internet use. But it was too late. Although no accurate figures for Haredi Internet use exist, the Israeli phone company Bezeq claims that a quarter of the Haredi households that it serves have a Bezeq Internet connection. Many others, presumably, use different service providers.
Meanwhile, blogs written by Haredim who have theological doubts or misgivings about their closed society have flourished. And Israeli Haredim developed an online network of news sites, whose existence is by now taken for granted. Along with hard news, the sites feature gossip from the rabbis’ courts, discussion of intra-communal scandals and forums in which any aspect of Haredi life can be criticized.
Web contrarian Evgeny Morozov (I use that term with affection) argues that web tools such as Twitter and blogging are not really assisting dissidents in Iran but are in fact making it far easier for the regime to crack down.
Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) Carleton in Ottawa, Canada, have released a stunning video explaining why their university should divest from companies intimately involved in the Israeli occupation.
It’s just the latest example of civil society taking up the issue of Palestine when governments and the elites continue backing gross human rights abuses in Palestine. Such attitudes won’t shift with better PR from Israel and its supporters. End the occupation and get back to us:
For the past several months, Students Against Israeli Apartheid – Carleton (SAIA), a student group at Carleton University in Ottawa that is committed to supporting the Palestinian struggle for freedom, has been conducting research on Carleton’s investments in Israeli apartheid. The Carleton Pension Fund currently lacks any ethical guidelines, with its only mandate being the maximization of profit. SAIA has discovered that the Pension Fund, which provides retirement income for Carleton staff and faculty, currently has some $2,762,535 invested in five companies that are complicit in the oppression of the Palestinian people. In light of these findings, SAIA has launched a campaign calling on Carleton to immediately divest from the offending corporations: Motorola, BAE Systems, Northrop Grumman, L-3 Communications, and Tesco supermarkets, as well as to adopt a socially responsible investment policy for all of its investments.
Motorola is involved in designing and implementing perimeter surveillance systems around illegal Israeli settlements and military camps in the West Bank. Motorola and its subsidiaries also have hundreds of millions of dollars worth of contracts to supply the Israeli military with telecommunications technology, checkpoint security and control systems. By providing support for the Israeli military, Motorola plays a role in ensuring that settlement expansion will continue, and that the occupation will deepen, in a clear violation of international law.
BAE Systems is the world’s third-largest arms producer. Both BAE and its Israeli subsidiary, Rokar, contribute to weaponry used by Israel to attack Palestinian civilians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. BAE produces cluster bombs and the F-16 combat aircraft, which were used during the 2008-2009 assault on the Gaza Strip, which killed over 1,400 Palestinians, most of whom were non-combatant civilians.
Northrop Grumman, one of the world’s largest weapons manufacturers, provided the Israeli military with many of the parts for the Apache AH64D Longbow Helicopter, which was described by Amnesty International as a piece of “key equipment used by the [Israeli military] in the [December 2008 – January 2009] Gaza bombing campaign.” Furthermore, Northrop Grumman is the sole provider of radars for the F-16 combat aircraft. It also assists in producing the Longbow Hellfire 2 missiles, which, as has been documented by many human rights organizations, were widely used against Palestinian civilians in Gaza.
L-3 Communications is one of the many large multinational firms aiding in the construction and maintenance of the system of military checkpoints that severely restrict Palestinian freedom of movement in the West Bank and around Gaza. The matrix of checkpoints has been condemned by human rights organizations as a brutally repressive system that violates the basic human rights of the Palestinian people. In addition to being a means of political repression and land annexation, the checkpoints constitute a tool of collective punishment, which is a crime under international law.
Tesco Supermarkets is a large United Kingdom-based international grocery and general merchandising retail chain. It has been the target of social justice activists in the U.K. for selling produce originating from illegal Israeli settlements, for mislabeling products coming from the settlements as “West Bank”, as well as for using an exporter, Carmel-Agrexco, which has been criticized for using slavery-type working conditions in its factories in the occupied West Bank. Tesco’s financial support for the illegal Israeli settlements lends them legitimacy and enables their economic growth and physical expansion, while simultaneously inhibiting the development of the Palestinian economy.
Carleton is no stranger to BDS activism, and it has a strong precedent to build upon. In 1987, Carleton divested from all companies complicit in the apartheid regime in South Africa. Carleton’s president at the time wrote a memorandum, saying, “Carleton University abhors apartheid and will do all it can to show its position on apartheid within its business practices.” Given Carleton’s past commitment to divesting from apartheid regimes, SAIA is calling on the university to once again place itself on the right side of history by ending its investments in the ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people.
The South African victory serves as an inspiring model for SAIA’s divestment campaign, which is the first Palestine-centred divestment initiative in Canada. Hopes are high that, through a well-planned local campaign, as well as the natural growth of BDS, momentum will pick up at universities across the country and similar initiatives will emerge to form a national movement to cut campus ties with Israeli apartheid.
Specifically, SAIA recommends that:
1. The Carleton University Board of Governors, via the Pension Fund Committee, immediately divest of its stock in BAE Systems, L-3 Communications, Motorola, Northrop Grumman, and Tesco
2. Carleton University refrain from investing in other companies involved in violations of international law (for recommended guidelines see Conclusions/Recommendations section of the divestment report)
3. Carleton University work with the entire university community to develop, adopt, and implement a broader policy of Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) for its Pension Fund and other investments, through a transparent and effective process.
Muzzlewatch provides the background:
Last year we wrote about Canada (not Minnesota’s) Carleton University when their Apartheid Week poster was banned by the school administration. They didn’t realize at the time that the poster featured weaponry made by multinational companies that are part of the college’s investment portfolio. Well now they know. Here is their new campaign video which re-tells the story of the censorship of the poster and the reasons behind their new divestment campaign.
I mentioned here recently the protest at Georgetown University against visiting speaker General David Petraeus. Soon after I received the following email from a participant of the action:
I am writing to thank you for mentioning last week’s protest of General Petraeus on Georgetown’s campus in your blog. As one of the students involved, it has been alarming to see the backlash against our actions both on campus and online. Forming the opinions of our detractors are the likes of this extremist blogger as well as the editorial board of the main student paper and the student government [“the Georgetown University Senate: 1) Condemns the disrespectful and improper actions of the Georgetown University students who disrupted the lecture of General David H. Petraeus on January 21, 2010. 2) Expresses our belief that this behavior abridged the speaker’s right to free speech and the audience’s right to see and hear the speaker, in conflict with university policy and our proud tradition of freedom of expression. 3) Expresses our gratitude and respect for General Petraeus, the men and women in uniform, and all those who keep us safe and protect our freedoms.].
If you are familiar at all with Georgetown, where such war criminals as Georget Tenet and Doug Feith have very recently held positions on the faculty, this will not surprise you. So in our ongoing effort to bring some sanity to a student body and faculty who have shown a frighteningly uncritical acceptance of American militarism, the base of our support must necessarily be located outside of the campus community.
Petraeus is definitely being groomed for politics with this grand lecture tour – a sitting general, incessantly professing his love of
his troops, taking practically a year off to polish his public image: a microcosm of modern virtual war. And his oft-cited qualifications are superficially very impressive – he wrote a dissertation at Princeton about the lessons of Vietnam: that’s presidential shit! Nonetheless he has been instrumental in crafting and executing the so-called surge strategy, which is little more than a blueprint for and a making-necessary-of an indefinitely prolonged occupation.
So from one person who finds such a scenario unacceptable to another, I express my gratitude. If you wish I can keep you posted on the ongoing struggle here at Georgetown – the more outlets there are for voices of dissent, the better. You never know what sorts of tactics will be employed to silence opposition.
Salon’s Glenn Greenwald rightly concludes that the responsibility-free media class that advocates “for more wars that never touch their lives” should be treated with the contempt they deserve (while, in contrast, somebody like Howard Zinn, who opposed wars, is side-lined or even ignored by the mainstream):
I’m periodically criticized for an “angry” tone in my writing, which I always find mystifying. I genuinely don’t understand why anger should be avoided or even how it could be. What other reaction is possible when one looks around and sees the government leaders who committed these grave crimes completely unburdened by any accountability and treated as respectable dignitaries, or watches the Tom Friedmans, Jeffrey Goldbergs, Fred Hiatts and other unrepentent leading media propagandists who helped enable it still feted as Serious and honest experts, or beholds the current Cabinet and Senate filled with people who supported it, or observes the Michael O’Hanlons and Les Gelbs and other Foreign Policy Community luminaries who lent trans-partisan credence to it all continue to traipse around still pompously advocating for more wars that never touch their lives?
A few months ago, I did an MSNBC segment with Dan Senor, who is currently a Fox News contributor, author of a new book hailing the greatness of Israeli innovations, a recent addition to the Council on Foreign Relations, and husband of CNN anchor Campbell Brown. But back in 2003 and 2004, he was Chief Spokesman for the “Coalition Provisional Authority” in Iraq — the U.S. occupying force in that country. Sitting in the green room with him before the segment, I was really disgusted by the paradox that one is supposed to treat him as just some random political adversary deserving of standard civility, respect and respectability — in other words, a Decent Person is supposed to forget that he was an official who enabled and lied about some of the most monstrous acts of the last many years and is wholly unrepentent. And, of course, he was going on MSNBC that day to opine about our current foreign policy options: direct involvement in this horrific crime is no disqualifying factor; it’s not even a black mark against someone’s credibility and reputation.
The revealing statement by the Israeli government to the UN:
You are worrying about the humanitarian rights of 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza. You should be worrying about one Israeli who is being held there.
The evidence given by Tony Blair to the Chilcot inquiry in London over his decision to invade Iraq showed a man utterly incapable or unwilling to understand the gravity of the decision. The hundreds of thousands killed, the lies told in the service of war and the criminality of the entire enterprise. Many in the world will always regard Blair as a war criminal, myself included.
Blair’s testimony even included a not-so-subtle call for military action against Iran.
In the Guardian, Iraqi Haifa Zangana writes:
It was excruciating watching Tony Blair’s testimony at the Iraq inquiry. Blair was the same smooth talker as he was throughout his career, repeating his “absolutely clear” visions, how options are quite simple, and “when you’re right, it is the right thing to do”. He kept to his usual script, including reading from his speeches and preaching at length on why he feels stronger now about WMD and managed to manoeuvre the committee on to “the danger of Iran”, though never mentioning Israel’s arsenal. He was so self-righteous, I got the impression that he was about to stand up holding the bible ranting “God will judge me on the Iraq war”!
But how often do war criminals admit their crimes? He was in a warm, well-lit hall, conversing with gentle folk in an academic conversation that could have lasted forever. Undergraduates would have asked more probing questions.
Sabiha Khudur Talib, a 62-year-old grandmother from Basra, was led away from her house in 2006 by British soldiers, according to her son. Her tortured body was found dumped on a roadside in a British body bag. The Royal Military Police, we are told, is investigating. Should not Blair be investigated too? Contrast Blair’s questioning with the questioning of Iraqis initiated by Blair and Bush.
Abu Ghraib was just the start for the terror campaign unleashed by the “liberators”. The legacy is still there, by mercenaries and US-UK trained Iraqi guards: midnight raids, people led into darkness in their underwear with hands shackled and sacks on their heads, to be tortured about allegations that can be later dubbed “mistakes”. Last month alone nearly two thousands Iraqis were arrested, accused of terrorism.
Blair’s polished performance only confirms to Iraqis, Arabs and Muslims what they experience on the ground: racist, colonial foreign policy.
This inquiry can only be meaningful if it leads to the re-establishment of justice and international law. Without that we can only imagine what the growing orphans will do to Iraq and the world in a few years. A humanitarian worker, quoted in the latest Red Cross report, said: “Once I was called to an explosion site. There I saw a four-year-old boy sitting beside his mother’s body, decapitated by the explosion. He was talking to her, asking her what had happened.” He will be asking the living too. Current UN estimates are of 5 million Iraqi orphans, holding the UK and the US responsible. It is up to the British people who had twice democratically elected Blair and co to make amends to the victims, to hold their government responsible for the damage to Iraq and to the world.
When progressive historian Howard Zinn died on January 27, NPR’s All Things Considered (1/28/10) marked his passing with something you don’t often see in an obituary: a rebuttal.
After quoting Noam Chomsky and Julian Bond, NPR’s Allison Keyes turned to far-right activist David Horowitz to symbolically spit on Zinn’s grave. “There is absolutely nothing in Howard Zinn’s intellectual output that is worthy of any kind of respect,” Horowitz declared. “Zinn represents a fringe mentality which has unfortunately seduced millions of people at this point in time. So he did certainly alter the consciousness of millions of younger people for the worse.”
Horowitz’s substance-free attack contributed nothing to an understanding of Zinn’s life or work, other than conveying that he’s disliked by cranky right-wingers. (Horowitz has been best known in recent years for his race-baiting and Muslim-bashing–Extra!, 5-6/02; FAIR report, 10/1/08.) He seems to have been included merely to demonstrate that NPR will not allow praise for a leftist to go unaccompanied by conservative contempt.
That’s “balance” for you.