An exuberant supporter and Staten Island’s newest City Council member
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — November 28, 2009. On Saturday night, newly elected New York City Council member Debi Rose (District 49) hosted a party to celebrate her victory and thank her supporters.

Supporters rank Debi Rose number one
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

On November 4, Ms. Rose made history by becoming Staten Island’s African-American elected official. Her supporters never wavered — after losing a very close special election last February, Rose and her campaign staff rallied and beat incumbent Ken Mitchell in a September primary.

But Rose’s people-powered campaign would have to beat Mitchell twice.

Rather than supporting his party’s nominee, Mitchell decided to run against Rose — on the Conservative Party line. With the support of labor, peace and civil rights activists and the Democratic Party of Richmond County, Rose hammered Mitchell in the November general election — winning by 30 percentage points. Republican Tim Kuhn finished a distant third.

Debi Rose (right) with one of her younger supporters
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Debi Rose, Staten Island’s first African-American elected official, is much more than that to her supporters: she is living proof that progressives can win. Rose has protested with antiwar activists, served the North Shore as a longtime member of Community Board One and marched in the streets with the NAACP, as a defender of civil rights. And in January she will serve in the New York City Council.

Councilwoman Debi Rose with the NAACP’s Ed Josey
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

An organizer and activist with 30 years experience, Debi Rose is an ordinary person who has done extraordinary things for her community. Nowhere was this more evident than at Saturday’s party where her supporters, volunteers and campaign staff were every bit as excited as their newest representative.

Two of Rose’s veteran campaigners pause to savor the moment
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

During her last campaign, Rose sent out literature that said she was “not one of the boys” — not a part of the political machine. The affection shown on Saturday underscored this point and made another as well: Rose was victorious precisely because the working people regard her as “one of us” — about as grass roots as they come.

View Photos/Videos From The Event…

Click HERE to see a slideshow from the party
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Ten Post Offices in Manhattan and the Bronx Saved — Union Vows to Fight to Save Remaining Stations

NY Metro APWU President Clarice Torrence at a rally to save NYC post offices
(Photo: Sean Sweeney)

NEW YORK — The United States Postal Service has announced that it has removed ten post office stations in Manhattan and the Bronx from its list of stations and branches “under review for consolidation.”

This announcement follows months of pressure from the community, the New York Metro Postal Union — part of the American Postal Workers Union — and elected officials to keep stations open. The post offices that have been saved from closing include six in Manhattan: Cherokee, College, Pitt, Port Authority, Port Authority Convenience Center and West Village; and four in the Bronx: Botanical, Clason Point, Hillside and Melcourt.

“This is a great victory for ten neighborhoods in New York City. They will keep their neighborhood post offices,” said Clarice Torrence, President of the NY Metro AWPU.

“It shows what can be accomplished when communities, unions and elected officials work together to defend a common good. I’m particularly happy for the senior citizens, the disabled people, the small business owners and the low-income people who are most dependent upon the existence of a neighborhood post office. While this is a great victory, we cannot forget the people in the remaining four communities whose neighborhood post office remain on the list,” Torrence said.

Three stations in the Bronx — Crotona Park, Oak Point and Van Nest — and one in Manhattan — Tudor City Place — are still on the list post offices that may be closed.

Clarice Torrence testifying at a Postal Regulatory Commission hearing on the proposed closures (Fordham University, Bronx)
(Photo: Andrew Hinderacker)

Torrence said, “You cannot tell me that the people in these four communities need their neighborhood post offices any less than the other ten communities whose post offices will not be closed.”

Each of the post offices in Manhattan and the Bronx has been a moneymaker for the Postal Service in addition to being a vital part of its community.

Plans are underway to fight to defend the remaining four stations on the list from being shut down.

Two facilities in Queens — LaGuardia Airport and the Parcel Post Annex in Long Island City — are also being considered for closure.

A health care activist from Private Health Insurance Must Go
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

– Margaret Mead

NEW YORK — On November 17, from 5 to 6:30 p.m., rush hour, 24 health care activists, including 8 in wheelchairs, circled the Information Booth at N.Y.’s Grand Central Station demanding Medicare for all. They were organized by the Private Health Insurance Must Go! Coalition (PHIMG) and included workers, the middle class, the disabled, immigrants, students, and healthcare professionals. Their voices came through clear and strong despite the high volume announcements of the station’s loudspeaker system.

Activists from Private Health Insurance Must Go
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

When they first arrived at the station the police told them that they could not demonstrate there. However, after a somewhat lengthy discussion with Dr. Antonia Cedrone, organizer and healthcare professional, the police recognized the First Amendment rights of the participants and did not interfere.

Dr. Antonia Cedrone, health care activist
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

The responses of the travelers was very positive. Many took the time to speak to the demonstrators, expressing agreement and encouragement. One person said that if we can afford wars costing billions, then we can afford to give the American people good healthcare. Another, listening, said, “You’ll get no argument from me.” Several commuters joined the demonstration for a moment or two.

“Single Payer Now!”
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

Dr. Cedrone explained that, “PHIMG is a N.Y.C. based non-partisan grassroots organization focused on public education, legislative advocacy, and direct action in the fight to achieve Medicare for all residents in the U.S. The Grand Central Station action is part of an on-going campaign of street actions designed to achieve high visibility and mass political support for ending the market-based healthcare system in the U.S. and replacing it with an expanded and improved Medicare for all as described in Congressman John Conyer’s (D. Michigan) Bill HR 676.”

8 activists in wheel chairs took their message to Grand Central Station
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

PHIMG is not the only group dissatisfied with the bill currently being considered. Many women’s groups and reproductive rights groups, such as NOW and NARAL, are in opposition to the bill because an amendment was placed in the bill which will make it impossible for low and moderate income women to get an abortion. Abortion restrictions do not stop abortions, they stop legal abortions. Illegal abortions cost women their lives and turn their children into orphans.

“Medicare For All Is The Only Option”
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

And, representing another group, Nadina La Spina of Disabled in Action said, “This healthcare non-reform will continue to deny people with disabilities comprehensive healthcare. We will still be forced to stay poor to be eligible for Medicaid that provides the care that should be our right.”

Click HERE To View A Video From The Protest
(Video: Thomas Good / NLN on YouTube)

According to Ajamu Sankofa of PHIMG, “over 135,000 more people will die because they have no health insurance before this disastrous Bill H.R. 3962 or one like it even takes effect. Pass H.R. 676, Medicare for All now!”

View Photos/Videos From The Event…

Posted by Fran Korotzer - | News

Protesters outside the 92nd Street Y
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

NEW YORK — On Saturday, November 21, Alan Dershowitz was appearing at the 92nd Street Y in N.Y.C. to debate a person representing the new lobby, J Street, on the subject of what the future policies of Israel should be. Dershowitz supports Israel’s most aggressive policies. Aware of that, 20 members of the N.Y. group, Jews Say No, gathered outside the Y with signs and leaflets that said “No, not in our name!” and indicated opposition to the ongoing siege of Gaza, the separation wall, the settlements, and the occupation.

People carried placards that read:

(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

Am I really a self hating Jew if I criticize the Israeli government’s unethical and inhumane policies?

(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

Is Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people consistent with the long Jewish tradition of social justice?

What Jewish law permits the killing of 1400 Gazan citizens?

Does Israel’s security really depend on illegal occupation and siege?


(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

Doesn’t the Holocaust teach us that it must never happen to anyone again?

They also handed out copies of Justice Goldstone’s letter to the U.S. Congress regarding his report about Israel’s war crimes.

Alan Dershowitz (leather coat, cap) outside the 92nd Street Y
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

When Dershowitz arrived he told those gathered that they should come inside and hear what he had to say. People said that they had already read and heard what he had to say, that’s why they were there.

When those attending the event arrived some read the signs with a look of astonishment, obviously not realizing that there was an alternate view within the Jewish community, and a few, very few, expressed agreement. Overwhelmingly, from where this reporter was standing, the response was hostile. A few used profanity but most made comments like, “Shame on you”, “Sure, you want them to kill 6 million more of us”, or simply, “Stupid.”

Dorothy Zellner of Jews Say No
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

Several people passing by asked to meet with members of the group to discuss the issues and learn more about Jews Say No.

JSN will continue to gather in public areas with their signs and leaflets to express an ethical voice from within the Jewish community.

Posted by Fran Korotzer - November 23, 2009 | News

“Lynne Stewart: America’s Newest Political Prisoner”
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

NEW YORK — On November 19 about 200 people of every possible race and ethnicity, representing a wide spectrum of political ideology, came to the Federal Courthouse on Worth St. in lower Manhattan to support Lynne Stewart as she handed herself over to marshals to begin a 28 month sentence in a federal prison. The crowd chanted “Free Lynne.” Some were crying. Some expressed the concern that she was being made an example of to send a message to attorneys that may defend the detainees coming to N.Y. from Guantanamo.

Lynne Stewart outside Federal Plaza
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ordered the judge that originally sentenced her, Judge John G. Koeltl. to hold a hearing on December 2nd to determine whether or not to increase the 28 month sentence he ordered in 2006.

“Do Not Criminalize The Lawyer”
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

Stewart arrived accompanied by her husband and Brooklyn Councilman Charles Barron. She told the crowd that she loved them all and that she was not a criminal. She said that she knew she would be O.K. because she was part of a big movement.

Supporters standing with Stewart outside the courthouse
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

Posted by Fran Korotzer - | News

“Don’t rent to racists, it’s an error. Just say no to settler terror.” — Chant

(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

NEW YORK — Over 50 human rights activists gathered in N.Y.C. outside the Park Avenue offices of Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig to demand that he intervene to stop the Mets from renting their facility at Citi Field to the Hebron Fund. That group planned to do a fundraiser at the Caesars Club, right above the Jackie Robinson Rotunda. The protestors pointed out that renting the space to a racist group would taint the Mets commitment to diversity and offend the memory of Jackie Robinson. The demonstration was organized by Adalah-NY, CodePink, Jews Against the Occupation NYC, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, Jews Say No, and Jewish Voice for Peace. The protest came after 2600 emails were sent to the Mets and countless phone calls were made. Jay Horowitz, V.P. for Media Relations for the team, told one caller that the Mets were being “bombarded” with phone calls.

On November 3rd a fully documented letter was sent to Fred Wilpon, Chairman of the Board of the New York Mets, explaining why the Mets shouldn’t rent their space to the Hebron Fund. It was signed by 11 groups from both Israel and the U.S. that work for human rights, peace, and justice in the Middle East. The letter explained exactly what the Hebron Fund is. It said that by renting to the Hebron Fund the Mets were helping Hebron’s Jewish settlers, described worldwide as violent racists, ethnically cleanse Palestinians from their homes in Hebron, a West Bank city on Palestinian territory. Their goal is to drive Palestinians out of the historic old district of the city. A few years ago, Baruch Goldstein, a settler from the nearby Kiryat Arba settlement, killed 29 unarmed Palestinians praying in a Hebron mosque, and wounded 125. Goldstein’s tomb is a pilgrimage site for settlers.

(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

The Hebron Fund is challenging Obama’s position against settlement expansion by saying, on their website, “Join us in support of Hebron and in protest of today’s building freeze….” Also on their website, they say that, “The Hebron Fund has raised more than $10 million for Hebron’s settlers from 2000 to 2008.”

The Hebron settlement is illegal. It violates international law according to the UN, the International Court of Justice, and Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states that “The occupying Power shall not deport of transfer parts of it’s own civilian population in the territory it occupies.”

(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

According to the Israeli human rights group, B’Tselem, and the Association for Human Rights in Israel (ACRI) Hebron “settler attacks include physical assault, including beatings, at times with clubs, stone throwing, hurling of refuse, sand, water, chlorine, empty bottles and other objects, occasionally using sharp objects, destruction of shops and doors, shattering of windows, thefts, cutting of fruit trees, destruction of merchants stands, and verbal insults.” A November 2008 report by the organization, Defense for Children International – Palestine Section, states that in Hebron, “Settler children routinely verbally harass, chase, hit and throw stones at the Palestinian school children. Their parents and other adults engage in similar behavior.” There are very many records of physical attacks by Hebron’s Jewish settlers against indigenous Palestinians. A U.S. non-profit, Christian Peacemakers Team (CPT), said that “Graffiti such as ‘Die Arab Sand-Niggers!’ is often sprayed on Palestinian houses by Israeli settlers.”

On it’s website, if you click on the symbol that says, ‘Give to the Hebron Fund’, you will be taken to the donation page which states, “Keep Hebron Jewish for the Jewish people!”

The Mets claim that it is a business decision.

Demonstrators holding up signs, chanting, and singing original songs in the street, attracted the attention of people passing by. Leaflets were distributed explaining why they were there. Some people were interested enough to come over and ask questions.

Sydney Levy of Jewish Voice for Peace, reports that the settlers of Hebron, aware of the protest being made by email, phone and letters, described those protesting as “infectious bacteria”, “germs… eating away at the Mets front office.” They were, interestingly, paraphrasing Nazi terminology. In 1938, Der Stuenmer, “Jews are pests and disseminators of disease. In whatever country they spread themselves they produce the same effects as are produced in the human body by germs.” Or, in a Nazi children’s book in the German Propaganda Archive, “Bacteria…appear not only in the form of the tiniest of living creatures but also in human form. They are the Jews!”

Posted by Fran Korotzer - | News

(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

NEW YORK — On the evening of November 16th World Can’t Wait and Military Families Speak Out put the ‘Eyes Wide Open’ exhibit on display at Times Square in N.Y.C. There were candles, flowers, and pairs of military boots representing the almost 1,000 killed in the Afghan War. There was a small group of civilian shoes, including baby shoes, which represented the thousands of innocent people being killed in Afghanistan as they go about their affairs everyday. The sad sight of the shoes surrounded by the bright lights of festive Times Square made for a very incongruous sight.

(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

As people, both from N.Y. and tourists, stopped to look at the exhibit Debra Sweet from World Can’t Wait read the names of Americans that have been killed in Afghanistan and Elaine Brower from Military Families Speak Out spoke about the terrible effects of the war. Others handed out leaflets. People viewing the exhibit were deeply affected. Many took photos, and others took the time to explain the exhibit to their children.

(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

That same day an article by Christopher Drew in the New York Times reported that there were major budget considerations involved in Obama deciding whether or not to send additional troops to Afghanistan. It is estimated that the cost per soldier in Afghanistan is $1 million per soldier per year. Sending 40,000 additional troops will add $40 billion to $54 billion a year to the budget. It would wipe out the $26 billion expected to be saved by bringing troops home from Iraq next year. Part of the high cost of fighting in Afghanistan is the cost of fuel. It costs $400 a gallon to get fuel to the troops because of the mountainous terrain.

(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

Sending additional troops to Afghanistan could empty the Treasury and, “devour virtually any other priorities that the President or anyone in Congress had” said Rep. David R. Obey (D. WI).

And speaking to soldiers in Alaska recently, Obama said he would not risk any more lives “unless it is essential to America’s vital interests.”

Perhaps the American people would like to hear an open discussion of exactly what those vital interests are.

Lamis Deek
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

NEW YORK — On November 12, at the Center for Constitutional Rights in N.Y.C., people gathered to hear a talk by Ala ‘Jaradat, former Palestinian political prisoner and activist, on tour for the Palestinian organization, Addameer. The subject was something most Americans know nothing about, prisons in Israel and the “administrative detentions” of thousands of West Bank Palestinians. Attorney, Lamis Deek, introduced the subject and the participants. She began by quoting David Ben Gurion’s statement about the Palestinians, “The old will die and the young will forget”, and said that for the Palestinian people the slogan, “Existence is Resistance”, is very true. On order to understand the story of Palestinian political prisoners we have to start with a look at Zionism. From the beginning, the idea was for a land with only Jews. Zionist militias ethnically cleansed the area, expelling and murdering as they expanded and annexed as much land as they could. The areas cleared of Palestinians were occupied by soldiers, settlers were brought in, and the soldiers stayed. The imprisonment of their land eventually led to the imprisonment of the people. The very identity and existence of the Palestinian people was criminalized. When Obama took office people thought that, because of his relationships with Palestinians in Chicago, things would be better. Instead things got worse.

Ala ‘Jaradat
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

Ala ‘ Jaradat explained that since 1967 the West Bank has been under military occupation. Administrative detainees are arrested by the Israeli occupying forces on the basis of Military Order 1591, which empowers military commanders to detain an individual for up to 6 months if they have “reasonable grounds to presume that the security of the area or public security require the detention”. The military usually comes to arrest the person in the middle of the night. The prisoner need not be charged and may never know why he is there or for how long he will be held. On or just before the expiration date, the detention order is frequently renewed. Arrest and detention are a way to legalize an illegal occupation. Laws are created to criminalize all aspects of life. They affect what you read, associations, business, and how you live. There are 1,660 military orders.

An IDF military commander governs the area. He assigns tribunals, translators, judges, and police. They all report to him and follow his orders. 800,000 Palestinians have been arrested and detained. 30% to 40% of the population have been in prison. Between 3 and 4 out of 5 Palestinian men have been in prison. There is hardly a household that has not had a member in prison. Any member of the Israeli military (IDF) can make an arrest and hold the person for 8 days. Then the detainee will come before a military tribunal where he can be held for another 80 days for interrogation. During this period there is an effort to convince the prisoners to become informants (collaborators). The prisoner may not see a lawyer for 90 days and his family will not be notified as to him being held or where he is being held. It is at this time, also, that torture is most likely to take place. A report by the Israeli human rights center, B’ Tselem, stated that 85% of the prisoners Israel interrogated each year were subjected to some form of torture, and that torture was practiced as routine policy. Women and children are not exempt. From January 2008 to June 2009 there were an average of 9 children in detention every month. On May 15, 2009, the UN Committee Against Torture expressed “concern regarding numerous, ongoing, and consistent allegations of the use of torture and ill treatment taking place before, during, and after interrogations” by Israel. If a detainee makes a statement under torture it is immediately acted upon. No further evidence is required – there will be a prosecution by a military tribunal.

With 1,660 military directives it is easy to find people guilty of something. All political parties, labor unions, and the PLO are illegal (even though Israel negotiates with the PLO). Political symbols are illegal. The Palestinian flag is illegal. A child drawing a picture of the mere outline of the Palestinian flag is committing an illegal act and can be punished. Being in a union can earn a person 20 years in prison.

Administrative detention allows the military to arrest people for being a “threat to security”, but sometimes the judges say that they are going to keep the person in prison even though they know that they are not a “threat”. In effect, this amounts to holding people hostage because they are guilty of being Palestinian.

Administrative detentions can be renewed indefinitely. The imprisonment and torture can go on for many years. Sometimes, on the scheduled day of release, with the family waiting to take the person home, the order is extended. Other times the detainee will reach home only to find the military police there waiting to bring him back to prison because the order has been renewed. The files on all detainees are kept secret. Neither the detainee, nor his lawyer, have any access to the information. They will never know why he is being held or for how long. Family visits are limited and require a permit. Male relatives between the ages of 16 and 46 cannot apply for a permit to visit a prisoner and visiting female relatives may have to undergo a body search.

Ayesha Mahmooda
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

There were several other speakers at the meeting who represented civil rights organizations here in N.Y. Ayesha Mahmooda works for DRUM (Desis Rising Up and Moving), an organization with 600 members of mostly South Asian backgrounds in Queens, N.Y. The FBI has been coming into their community and asking people questions about their neighbors. The main targets are in the Muslim community where people have been asked to be informants about what is happening in their mosques. DRUM has been speaking to people in the community, going door-to-door, and telling people what their rights are and how to file complaints about the activities of the FBI. They had a press conference in front of the Flushing Library where they reported what was going on and told how racial profiling violated people’s lives. DRUM has been getting help from the students at the City University of New York Law School in Queens.

Lumumba Bandele
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

Lumumba Bandele, from the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, and a teacher at Medgar Evers College (CUNY) in Brooklyn, spoke about providing support for incarcerated political activists in the U.S. He said that the description of life on the West Bank reminds him of stories he heard about life in Apartheid South Africa and that the Palestinian freedom movement should be supported. The international struggle against illegal detention, where indigenous peoples are criminalized, must be supported. There are many political prisoners in U.S. prisons today. In COINTELPRO the FBI documented their plots against community workers. Activists want to free their freedom fighters. We must control the language in the dialogue and educate the community. Hip-Hop is now being used to connect people around the world and teach people about freedom fighters, from all over, that are in prison. We should be speaking to new people, not the same ones again and again, who already agree with us. When speaking to our community, strategize. He quoted Fidel Castro saying that, “solidarity is a verb”, you have to be doing something or there is no solidarity.

The 4 speakers and the contributions from the audience made for a very informative, interesting, and, in some ways, a very sad evening. It was made clear that there is substantial understanding of what the Palestinian people are being subjected to in communities where racism is a daily fact of life. There are people in these communities that will continue to work to build solidarity with the Palestinians. Last summer there were participants from the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement in the Viva Palestina convoy breaking the Israeli siege to bring medical supplies to the people of Gaza. Also clear, was that since 9/11 the U.S. began rounding-up people from all over the globe (the people at Guantanamo come from 17 countries), and putting them in prison without charging them with a crime, giving them no access to lawyers, holding them indefinitely, and torturing them. That is exactly what Israel had been doing for decades before the U.S. started following the same pattern in pursuing the “war on terror”. It seems to be a universal characteristic of the oppression that goes with empire building and stealing what belongs to other people. Finally, the administrative detentions, and the sadistic way they are carried out, show that the Israelis are intent on either killing every last Palestinian, as in Gaza where genocide is being actively carried out, or driving them out of their homes and off their land, as on the West Bank. The system of administrative detentions, along with the destruction of their crops, the checkpoints, the house demolitions, the wall separating them from their families, water, schools, medical care, etc, and the zealous settlers (colonists) or the IDF beating and shooting at their children as they play, creates a hell on earth for the Palestinian people. It also makes it very clear that they have absolutely no control over their lives. The daily Israeli message to them is that resistance is futile. Yet they continue to resist. Their very survival is resistance. It is incumbent on people of conscience everywhere to do what they can to help. One way is for us to educate ourselves as to what is happening there, help educate others, and support the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions Campaign. Zionist groups are expressing upset about the campaign, not just for financial reasons, but because it is getting people to think and talk about Israeli apartheid and the abuse of the Palestinian people. Israel’s stature and credibility in the world diminishes as the truth becomes known. We have to act quickly before it is too late, especially for the people of Gaza.

(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

Posted by TAG - November 18, 2009 | News

A member of 1199SEIU in West Capital Park
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

ALBANY, N.Y. — “Whatever you do to health care, we will do to you,” said the labor leader. And behind him — a group of self-described corporate “suits” nodded.

It’s rare to hear a CEO say “Hello Brothers and Sisters!” to a mass labor union rally — and to be greeted with sustained applause and loud cheering. But it happened more than once, in Albany, on Thursday — as labor and management stood together on a podium in a park outside the State Capital.

A “union maid” reflects on proposed cuts to health care
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Just outside the Empire State Plaza, the seat of state power, Albany’s West Capital Park was filled with thousands of 1199 workers, clad in trademark purple and waving bright yellow “thunder sticks”. Facing them on the podium was “GQ,” the house band, 1199 Political Director Kevin Finnegan, Secretary-Treasurer Maria Castaneda and Ken Raske, President of the Greater New York Hospital Association.

GNYHA represents nearly 300 not-for-profit and public hospitals and continuing care facilities in the metropolitan New York area and throughout the State.

GNYHA’s Ken Raske summons his “suits”
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

“I got a bunch of suits with me…c’mon suits!” Raske said, urging three other “suits” to join him on the podium.

One by one the “suits” — administrators from various hospitals — spoke to the 4000-plus crowd about the need to stand together. The common message: divert wasteful spending, pork project funding, into health care.

1199SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Maria Castaneda
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Raske’s “suits” — and union leaders Finnegan and Castaneda — all stressed that the cure for what ails health care is voting those who would decimate it with budget cuts out of office.

President George Gresham addresses the membership of 1199SEIU
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

His flight delayed, 1199SEIU President George Gresham arrived late — but his speech animated the crowd of union faithful. As the November sun set on the park, union members cheered Gresham who led them in chants of “Enough is enough.”

Addressing Governor Paterson and any legislators who might vote with him, Gresham said, “Whatever you do to health care, we will do to you.”

The notion that the union would use its clout to vote out any legislators voting against health care was raised by speaker after speaker. With the state capital in earshot it’s a safe bet Paterson and others heard the message — but were they listening?

(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

View Photos/Videos From The Event…

Naomi Allen
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

NEW YORK — On November 10, the Brooklyn Law School Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, Brooklyn for Peace, and Students for Public Interest sponsored a program at the Brooklyn Law School entitled, U.S. Military Aid to Israel…is it legal? Moral? Political? In 2007 the U.S. agreed to increase military aid to Israel to $30 billion over the next 10 years. Is this a worthwhile use of taxpayer dollars? The speaker was Josh Ruebner, the National Advocacy Director of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, a national coalition of more than 300 organizations working to change U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine to support human rights, international law, and equality. He is a former Analyst in Middle East Affairs at Congressional Research Service, a federal government agency providing Members of Congress with policy research and analysis. He holds a graduate degree in International Affairs from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

During the 2008-2009 massacre in Gaza the U.S. was supplying weapons to Israel. Amnesty International refers to these arms transfers as “fueling the conflict”. In the period 1949 to 2007, $101 billion of U.S. aid went to Israel. In 1999 the U.S. and Israel created a Memorandum of Understanding phasing out economic aid over the next 10 years and increasing military aid. The military aid grew to $2.5 billion a year. For the period 2009 to 2018 it was being increased by 25%. In 2010 Israel will get $2.775 billion from American taxpayers.

In the Bush years military “sales” to Israel amounted to over $31 billion – $25,203,000,000 in foreign military sales, over $6 billion in direct sales by the State Department, and 36,048,510 in excess defense sales – most of the excess sales money going to the Israeli air force and navy.

Archana Dittakavi
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

This has had a huge impact on Palestinian civilians. In very recent years 2,086 civilians have been killed, including 723 children. Most have been killed by gunfire (low technology) and helicopters with missiles. Last winter, in Gaza, “Operation Cast Lead” alone killed 1,387 civilians, injured 5,500 civilians, and destroyed 4,000 homes. Israel still has not allowed any reconstruction there so residents are facing another winter in tents or in the bombed out shells of their former homes. U.S. weapons were used: F16, Apache, and Cobra helicopters gunships, almost 200 million gallons of JP-8 aviation fuel, naval combat ships worth $1.9 billion, missiles worth $1.3 billion, small bombs worth $77 million, and ground invasion vehicles worth $450 million. Some weapons contained depleted uranium which causes cancer and birth defects. White phosphorus, illegal if it targets humans because it produces horrific burns that cannot be arrested, was also transferred to Israel from the U.S. The containers of white phosphorus that burned children and adults in Gaza had markings, “Made in Pine Bluff, Arkansas”. After Obama took office, 300 containers of White Phosphorus were delivered to Israel in March, 2009.

For 2010 the requested $2,775 billion in military aid to Israel is being increased. The Goldstone Report was condemned by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, calling it “unbalanced, one sided, and basically unacceptable.” Goldstone accused Israel of using disproportionate force, of committing human rights violations, war crimes, and collective punishment in Gaza. The report states that Israel’s weapons are very sophisticated, so there could not have been so many civilian deaths if civilians were not deliberately targeted. The House of Representatives passed HR867 condemning the Goldstone Report. Goldstone offered to speak to the House and answer any of their questions but they would not allow him to do so.

(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

There are laws that govern arms transfers. The Arms Export Control Act states that transfers are limited to “internal security” and “legitimate self-defense”. Israel uses the weapons outside the borders of the state – they are used in the Palestinian territories, the West Bank and Gaza. Human rights violations, war crimes, and violating international law cannot be considered self-defense. The Foreign Assistance Act states that there should be no military assistance to any country violating human rights. The “Leahy Law” (not an actual law) states that there should be no military aid given to any country where there is documented human rights abuses by a military unit of that country. There is such documentation in Israel. None of these laws are enforced regarding Israel.

Mr. Ruebner had several policy recommendations. The supporting of the Israeli “self defense” rationale has made the U.S. complicit in Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people. Israel violates all the laws concerning the export of weapons. Ruebner asked, what is accomplished besides death and destruction? It certainly hasn’t brought peace. The blockade of Gaza is collective punishment against a population that is going without food, fuel, medicine, housing, and building supplies. In the conflict between the Obama Administration and Netanyahu regarding further colonization of the West Bank, Israel is winning. ISRAEL SHOULD BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR IT’S VIOLATIONS OF THE ARMS EXPORT CONTROL ACT AND SENDING ANY FURTHER ARMS SHOULD BE MADE CONTINGENT UPON THEM FOLLOWING THE LAWS. The Obama Administration, Congress, and the State Department are not doing any investigations into Israel’s violations. Congress must condition future military aid to protect innocent Palestinians from being killed by American weapons. And the weapons should not be used in the occupied territories. Both the U.S. and Israel should acknowledge that international law does not recognize the right of preemptive war. It cannot be used as an argument for self defense.

Josh Ruebner
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

Josh Ruebner gave a well thought out and comprehensive analysis of what U.S. military aid to Israel entails and what is being done with that aid. It appears that the American people are getting only death and misery for their money, along with the ire of most of the people in the world. $31 billion would also buy us schools, hospitals, and homes for the homeless. Yet despite the ugly consequences, administration after administration, fully aware of the illegality and immorality of Israel’s actions, continues the policy. WHY? Mr. Ruebner did not address that question. But until we understand all the ‘whys’ we will not be effective in changing this policy that we are being forced to be complicit in.