Posted by Fran Korotzer - February 28, 2010 | News


(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

“We will send well known novelists and writers overseas, theater companies, exhibits…. This way you show Israel’s prettier face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war.”

– Arye Mekel, Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2006

NEW YORK — If there is a campaign to “rebrand” Israel in an effort to conceal the ugliness of their occupation, discrimination, apartheid, and genocide against Gaza, it isn’t working. Human rights activists are seeing to that. At the 3 places the Israel Ballet performed during the past few days: Wooster, Massachusetts, Burlington, Vermont, and Brooklyn, New York, they encountered passionate demonstrators at all locations. In Burlington the performance was interrupted by activists who went into the auditorium and unfurled a large banner that read, “No Tutu is Big Enough to Cover Apartheid”.

An hour before the Sunday, February 25th performance at Brooklyn College about 50 activists, organized by Adalah-NY, gathered at the entrance to the theater and at the entrance to the parking lot. They carried signs that read, ‘Don’t Dance Around Occupation. End It’, ‘Don’t Dance Around Apartheid. End It’, ‘Israel Ballet – Partner With a Racist State’, ‘3 Pointes: End the Occupation, Equal Rights for Palestinian Citizens of Israel, Right of Return for Refugees’. They chanted, “Dance for expression, Not for repression Boycott Israel Ballet now”, “First position, now plie. Take your checkpoints and tanks away” and “All the grace of ballerinas, won’t save Israel from war crimes subpoenas”, and more. There was very lively music played by the Rude Mechanical Orchestra, and 3 ballerinas, an anti-apartheid ballet troupe, danced. Wearing blue and white tutus and masks, they started with a waltz and then stopped, took off their masks revealing military camouflage makeup on their faces, and then they started marching. There was no time for subtle.


The Rude Mechanical Orchestra
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

Mock programs were distributed to people about to enter the performing arts center. On the outside they looked like a typical ballet program with a photo of dancers on the cover. Inside there was a list of Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people. The person distributing the fake programs was elegantly dressed so that he would look like he belonged at the theater’s entrance.

As people arrived a look of total astonishment spread over their faces. They stood and watched for awhile. Some became upset, a few were angry and tried to engage in conversation with the demonstrators, and some gave the demonstrators a thumbs-up. Most of those going in were older people and a good number of them spoke Russian. Since Brooklyn has a large Russian population some of the activists had the foresight to bring signs written in the Russian language. Two women who agreed with the demonstrators and said they were glad that they were there demonstrating asked if it was OK for them to go in.


(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

Rather than distancing itself from the state’s use of the arts to mask it’s hideous behavior, the Israel Ballet receives $ 1 million a year from the state of Israel and proudly proclaims on it’s website that it is “earning recognition and bringing honor to the state of Israel.” Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs calls the troupe “a valued cultural representative.”

In 2004 Palestinian civil society formed the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel “to comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeli academic and cultural institutions until Israel withdraws from all lands occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem; removes all it’s colonies in those lands; agrees to United Nations resolutions relevant to the restitution of Palestinian refugee rights; and dismantles it’s system of apartheid.”

Human rights activists from all over the world are committed to that program. Protesting at events like the performance of the Israel Ballet gives them an opportunity to educate the public and to dialogue with the public. As people learn about Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people, support for the carte blanche the United States extends to Israel erodes.

There was a very hopeful chant at the demonstration, “We’ll enjoy the Israel Ballet on Palestinian Independence Day.”

View Photos From The Event…

Posted by Fran Korotzer - | News


(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

“This is not George Bush’s Guantanamo, it is Obama’s Guantanamo. This is not George Bush’s detention scheme, it is Obama’s detention scheme. George Bush is not spying on Americans, President Obama is spying on Americans. George Bush is not keeping men at Guantanamo refusing to release them. Obama is doing that.”

– Vince Warren, Executive Director, Center for Constitutional Rights

“I don’t do my work by thinking about whether it will help or hurt Obama in the next election. I don’t tailor principles to politics.”

– Michael Ratner, President, Center for Constitutional Rights, writing in Just Left Blog

NEW YORK — On February 17th at Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village the Center for Constitutional Rights hosted a meeting to discuss and evaluate the restoration of human rights during Obama’s first year. How far had the Obama Administration come in reversing the Bush legacy of torture, extraordinary renditions, private contractors that abuse human rights, preventive detentions, and the targeted assassinations of individuals, including US citizens, who are perceived to be a threat? Annette Dickerson, CCR Director of Education and Outreach, acted as moderator. She said that the country was awash in feelings of hope for change a year ago while the more politically savvy were cautiously optimistic. The hope was that the imperial presidency – the idea that the president can do whatever he wants – would be over. But this president has retained all those powers. What we would be getting in this forum would be an analysis of how this all relates to the work the CCR is doing and what they are challenging. The 3 speakers were Michael Ratner, President of the CCR, Maria La Hood, a senior staff attorney at the CCR who handled the case of Maher Arar, and Vince Warren, Executive Director of the CCR.


Michael Ratner
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

Michael Ratner spoke first. He said that from the opening of Guantanamo they started taking on the fundamental issues of human freedom. They took the first habeas corpus case 8 years ago but there are still 200 people at Guantanamo even though the courts established in 2004 that the people there have habeas corpus rights. It looks like Guantanamo and indefinite detentions are becoming an integral part of the legal system. During the Bush years the center organized a movement of 600 attorneys to work on Guantanamo cases and establish that people could not be tortured, held incommunicado and put away forever. But even when the court calls for their release the Bush, and then the Obama Administration, refuses to release them. He said they had a rough time under Bush but could not say that it was easier under Obama, “not by a long shot.”

“Some of the human rights denials may become a permanent part of the landscape.” We are “a huge national security state where national security trumps rights.” Obama inherited it and Obama is continuing Bush’s policies. He has the same war team in office – headed by Gates. There was hope that torturers would be prosecuted but that isn’t going to happen. He has the same economic team. He has the same national security people, some of whom are tied to torture. There is no hope for a shift, for change, from this administration. Any changes that occur will come from citizen activism and the work done at the CCR. The situation, if anything, is getting worse. For example, Sen., Graham is pushing for legislation for preventive detention – people held without trial – and he wants it done before Guantanamo is closed. In fact, with or without a law we already have preventive detentions. Just look at Guantanamo and Bagram. “We have crossed the Rubicon of human rights and human dignity.”

Adding to this rough year the left has split on the issue of Obama. Some don’t want to “attack” him. But this is not an attack on Obama, “we have to stand for human dignity and freedom.” “Military commissions under Obama are still military commissions.” “Preventive detention is still preventive detention under Obama.”

On the issue of accountability, what is to be done with the torturers? Obama took a peculiar position, “we have to look forward, not backward.” This is a rhetorical device. Cases are always about events of the past. Looking forward means acting in a way that will prevent it from happening again. Ratner said, “Obama, in my view, was quite disingenuous about that.” And getting worse, the investigation of Yoo and Bybee was supposed to be hard hitting but it has been so watered-down that the only thing they have been found guilty of is “bad judgment.”

There has been much debate about what torture consists of. Ratner asked, how can you even touch people you have in custody, “much less waterboard them 183 times, throw them against the wall, attack them with dogs? I just don’t get it.” Cheney was on TV saying that he likes and supports waterboarding and enhanced interrogations. That encouragement of torture will have an affect in every station house in this country. The struggle against torture is bearing more fruit in Europe, especially Spain. There are Spanish nationals who were tortured at Guantanamo. Judge Garzon, known for his work on the Pinochet case, may be on the verge of ordering 20 arrest warrants for torture conspirators in the US. If they go to Europe they will be subject to arrest. And Italy has issued 24 arrest warrants for CIA agents involved in renditions from Italy. Ratner concluded, it has been a difficult 8 years and we have a long struggle ahead.

The next speaker, Maria La Hood, began by discussing the Maher Arar case. In 2002 Arar, a Syrian born Canadian citizen, was coming through JFK Airport on his way back to Canada when he was pulled out of a line by US officials, held for 2 weeks by the US without notifying his family, sent to Jordan where he was tortured, and then sent to Syria where he was kept in an underground grave-like cell and tortured for 10 months. Eventually he was visited by someone from the Canadian Consulate but his captors told him that if he reported that he was being tortured he would be tortured even more. Eventually he broke down and told the Canadians what was being done to him.

The CCR brought his case to the US federal court – they sued the officials responsible and lost the case and then lost the appeal. When “national security” is raised there is no remedy for torture. The court said that rendition doesn’t imply that the prisoner will be tortured. The obvious question raised here is, then why is it being carried out? Further, challenging extraordinary renditions interferes with the separation of powers, the judiciary would be obstructing executive rights, and it interferes with foreign policy, which is strictly the responsibility of the executive branch. Another reason it would not examine the Arar case is because “classified information” was involved. “Classified information”, “state secrets”, “national security” – all end further inquiry. The court said that it was safer not to look at the case than to risk security. This issue will come before the Supreme Court on March 5th and it will be a test of the Obama Administration. Will “state secrets” continue to be used to keep cases from being evaluated by the courts? So far the Holder Department of Justice is making the same assertions as the Bush DOJ made. No judicial review for cases involving state secrets. When the executive makes an assertion to the judiciary it is accepted without review. The judiciary no longer provides a check on executive power. State secrets can be used to hide information that isn’t even classified. The Attorney General doesn’t have to review the secrets. He can rely on the declaration of another department.

When he took office Obama was critical of hiring private contractors but he has increased their use in Afghanistan. Members of congress are trying to limit their use as interrogators but Obama opposes that. Targeted assassinations have also increased under Obama.

Vince Warren, the final speaker, began by flatly stating that there has been no positive changes under Obama with the exception of issues that would not cost him politically, like more women and more transgender appointments. Not to negate their importance, but “this is what passes for progressive change under Obama.” “Health care – stuff they can’t get through now is stuff we don’t even want.” We thought his goals were more similar to ours than any other president, but he didn’t get us there. He has done a bad job.

The CCR is a legal organization so in some ways our hands are tied. We’re working within the system to challenge the system. When we lose in court it is not because our legal work is not sound and it is not because we have forgotten about the people we represent and it is not because the law cannot be a meaningful tool for social change. It is because the judges don’t care that this president has more power than any other president in history. Separation of powers is an important tool to knock down presidential abuse of power. When we go to court and say that the president is overstepping his authority they indicate that the courts are out of the business of stopping the president from doing anything. In case after case, the courts have shown us that the separation of powers doesn’t mean interfering with the president. In an era of “national security” the court won’t step on the president’s toes. In fact, the judiciary believes that it would be violating the separation of powers if they interfered.

Aside from that, he continued, we have the worst Supreme Court in history. There was no fight in congress against Bush’s appointment of extremely conservative judges.

On the issue of resettlement, a considerable number of people at Guantanamo have been cleared for release by the courts but they are still there because there is no place to send them. Some of the Uighurs, a Muslim ethnic group from China, recognized as being completely innocent of any wrong-doing, are still at Guantanamo because no serious efforts are being made to relocate them. The Obama Administration is arguing in court against allowing them to resettle in the US. Warren asked, what is the point of doing habeas corpus litigation if it doesn’t mean that people should then be released? Obama is arguing in court that a positive ruling in habeas corpus litigation does not mean that the prisoner has the right to be released if there are no charges against him.

Guantanamo prisoners have been released to Yemen and there are 90 more people at Guantanamo who were about to be released to Yemen. However, because of the Christmas underwear bomber it was announced that no more prisoners can be released to Yemen. So they remain there.

Warren concluded, “We who believe in freedom cannot be satisfied.” “We can’t get so caught up in our hope for freedom that we forget there’s a fight.” Our role is to push as far as we can in court, in the streets and in congress. It won’t be glamorous or fun. “We see the scenario for exactly what it is.” “This type of change doesn’t happen through asking people nicely in congress. It doesn’t happen through asking people nicely in the courts. This type of change comes from a very, very hard fight.” The CCR will take up this fight.

It was a powerful, informative and distressing presentation. What it all came down to is that we are not being governed by a rule of law. As one speaker said, they can and are doing whatever they want to. It is as if our constitution was written on Etch-A-Sketch. While it is encouraging to know that the CCR will fight for a restoration of the rule of law they cannot win this fight alone and winning will be particularly difficult as long as this country is involved in a continual succession of wars without end. The issues are inextricably linked.

View Photos From The Event…

Posted by TAG - February 23, 2010 | News


Holding Republicans accountable — and passing health care reform:
The cure for Bipartisan Disorder?
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

NEW YORK — February 20, 2010. On a clear, bright, February day, 700 souls in search of a sane health care system marched over the Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan and staged a rally at One Liberty Plaza — outside the offices of insurance giant WellPoint, Inc.

“We will not sacrifice profitability for membership.”

Angela Braly
CEO and President of WellPoint, Inc.

BIPARTISAN DISORDER

The march and rally were sponsored by Health Care for America Now (HCAN). Participants were vocal about wanting a public option — even as Obama announced plans to push a watered down health care package at a “bipartisan” meeting with congressional leaders on Thursday. For many health care reform activists, “bipartisan” is a euphemism for inertia, timidity and gridlock. The rally, part of a national mobilization, was one of 40 events held in 32 states. In a press release, HCAN coordinator Mark Hannay said that the goal of the event was to prod “political leaders to deliver on the promise of change.”

Physicians at the event offered a prescription
for Obama’s Bipartisan Disorder:
Health Care Reform
With A Strong Public Option.


Dr. Manisha Sharma of the National Physicians Alliance at Brooklyn’s Cadman Plaza
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Participants in Saturday’s event gathered in Brooklyn’s Cadman Plaza around noon. A soggy field failed to dampen spirits and the 700-strong crowd formed up into contingents, stepping off at 12:30 pm.

The National Physicians Alliance, marching behind their banner, led the long column across the Brooklyn Bridge. NPA was followed by the Interns and Residents Committee of SEIU, and RNs from the New York State Nurses’ Association.

The health care providers were followed by a variety of labor union, community-based and political organizations.

“DO THE MATH”


Veterans For Peace — and health care
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Linking the issue of health care and warfare was a contingent of Veterans For Peace and other anti-war activists, some of whom carried signs that demanded Obama and the Congress, “Reform Health-Care, End War.” One protester urged Obama to do some bookkeeping: “Cost of Wars: $962 Billion, Cost Of Health Care: $849 Billion, Do The Math: Stop The Wars.”

HCAN’s Mark Hannay also connected the dots.

“If health care moves forward, so does a good jobs bill, good labor law reform, good climate change legislation, strong financial services reform, and real immigration reform,” Hannay said.

Standing in the way of forward movement: the insurance companies.

PRIVATE INSURANCE: PROFITS BEFORE PEOPLE

“Part of the reason we’re a lightning rod is that we have to be the disciplinarians around health-care costs.”

Angela Braly, WellPoint CEO and “disciplinarian”
who was paid $8.7 million in 2008.


“Down With Insurance Thugs”
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Crossing the storied Brooklyn Bridge, a number of marchers carried signs calling insurance company profits “Bad For My Health” — and one protester held a sign that said, “Down With Insurance Thugs.” Winding past City Hall, the throng filtered into protest pens set up outside One Liberty Plaza — the building that houses the New York offices of insurance behemoth WellPoint Inc.

WellPoint CEO and President Angela Bray’s infamous statement that WellPoint “will not sacrifice profitability for membership” outraged many of the marchers — and the recent attempt by WellPoint subsidiary Anthem Blue to raise premiums by 39 percent did little to repair the firm’s public image. Holding the rally outside WellPoint — the largest member of the mammoth Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association — underscored the anger many health care reform advocates feel towards health insurance companies.

As tourists and taxis whizzed by, a MoveOn speaker quoted Braly’s profitability pronouncement and chanted “Shame” at the building. The crowd thundered its disapproval, joining the chant as curious passersby and stoic police looked on.


Click To See The NLN Video
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Speaking at the rally, Staten Island MoveOn activist Kathy Kelly described her medical bill-related financial crisis — she is losing her house and being sued by credit card companies — and described her frustration with her congressman.

“This isn’t a horror story of the future, this is what’s happening right now, because the job is not finished. We need health care passed. Too many in Congress, including my Staten Island congressman McMahon, think they can solve these problems by closing their eyes and hoping it all goes away,” said Kelly.

The mention of McMahon’s name brought loud boos from the crowd. Many Staten Island and Brooklyn based progressives see McMahon as a “DINO” — a “Democrat In Name Only” — who voted against health care reform.

Kelly urged rally goers to get involved in the effort to combat Republican obstructionism, Democratic inertia, and the influence of insurance company lobbyists by contacting their elected officials. And by taking to the streets to demand change.

“Join us on March ninth, on the buses to D.C. to shut down the insurance company conference,” she said.

To sign up to receive information on the D.C. march click HERE.

A WAY FORWARD?

The attempt to appease Republicans has hamstrung Obama and the Democrats in Congress, and delayed delivery of health care to millions, frustrating many who supported Obama’s call for civility in government — and promises of change.

“The Democrats make the Republicans possible.”
Peter Camejo in 2004.

In a mass e-mail that went out Monday morning, CREDO characterized Obama’s bipartisan overtures as “pandering” to Republicans. On their website CREDO rejected Obama’s latest health care plan — which is devoid of a public option — stating that what is needed is a good bill, not a bipartisan bill. Protesters at Saturday’s event were equally blunt about expressing their frustration with congressional inertia, Republican obstructionism and Obama’s “bipartisan” approach. Several carried signs that said, “Americans Die While Republicans Lie.”

As his mandate evaporates and his majority shrinks, Obama shows no sense of urgency to implement change and seems timid about tackling Republican obstructionism. Critics at Saturday’s rally characterized Obama, and Democrats in general, as sticking their heads in the sand — doing nothing while people suffer death by denial and insurance companies rake in record profits.

HCAN and others are calling for more protests in an attempt to move beyond “bipartisan” rhetoric, to move towards real reform.

A chant heard often on Saturday sums up the HCAN argument: “We are the public, give us the option!”


“Congress: Get It Done”
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

View Photos/Videos From The Event…


(Photo: Brady Ng / Palestine Monitor)

BILIN, West Bank — The international struggle against oppression reached a remarkable high point on February 19th across Occupied Palestine, with large-scale demonstrations involving thousands of activists against the Israeli Occupation, including a number from the Israeli group Anarchists Against the Wall. Five years of sustained direct action protest at Bilin village were a focus of the gathering.

Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initiative, spoke to the demonstrators, praising the work of activists for peace and social justice: “Non-violent protests in Bil’in, Ni’lin, Nebi Salah, Al-Masara, Sheikh Jarrah represent the Palestinian commitment to principles of non-violence. Palestinians living in areas threatened by the Israeli separation Wall should be empowered to resist the theft of their land.”

The Israeli military assaulted the numerous demonstrators at the Separation Fence — Palestinians, Israelis, internationals — with sound bombs, rubber bullets, tear gas and extremely foul-smelling chemically treated water fired from a water cannon. Dozens of demonstrators were treated for severe teargas inhalation. Two Palestinian protestors were injured, one shot in the leg with a tear gas canister [rifle-propelled], the other shot in the stomach with a rubber bullet.

Videos and reports on these actions can be viewed here, in coverage by the Palestine Monitor. A news story (with photos) on the Bilin protest is available HERE.

Posted by Fran Korotzer - | News


A Granny looks to retire G.I. Joe
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

NEW YORK — According to their website the Granny Peace Brigade believes that:
“Toys should be fun for all children and foster the development of life skills, including problem solving. There are toys that can satisfy our children and grandchildren’s desire for excitement and adventure other than war toys that provoke fighting and winning by means of violence. We are in favor of fantasy and delight and against the militarization of our young people.”

Over the February President’s Day weekend there was a Toy Industry Association Fair at the Javits Convention Center in NYC. The Granny Peace Brigade along with their supporters and some members of the Raging Grannies used the occasion to urge toy manufacturers to stop making war toys. Their main focus was Hasbro who makes G.I. Joe. Joe has been on active duty for 46 years and looks much more like a killing machine than he used to. The male figure wearing camouflage printed fatigues is gone.


(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

The Granny Peace Brigade wrote to Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner requesting a meeting with him to discuss their concerns but he never responded.

In a letter to Hasbro, which also served as a leaflet, they said, “All children are special, and it’s our job to keep them that way. That is why we are asking you to join with us in the ‘War Is Not A Game’ initiative –and begin by sending G.I. Joe off to a well deserved retirement.”

Their protests, which included leafleting, singing, and carrying banners took place at both the Toy Industry Association banquet at Pier 60, Chelsea Piers and at the Javits Center. The police were called to both locations because they were on “private property” – apparently some streets become private property after dark. Who knew??? At the Javits Center the police asked them to demonstrate across 11th Avenue but a Community Liaison Officer allowed them to remain in front of the center.

While handing out leaflets, most being well received, they sang:

                             Retire G.I. Joe
                   (tune of Row, Row, Row Your Boat)
Hasbro cancel G.I. Joe
And switch to other toys,
Dolls that teach to kill and maim
Are bad for girls and boys.
 
Iraq Vets Against the War
And Vets for Peace and more,
Went off to fight and saw the light,
Came home to shout No War!
 
Oh G.I. Joe, where's your peace cry?
The situation's drastic.
Of course you are not all that bright,
Your head is full of plastic.
 
But Hasbro's got a president,
Who's also CEO.
Hey Brian Goldner have a heart,
Retire G.I. Joe.


(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

Meanwhile, in the Javits lobby, apart from the toy fair, there was an exhibit organized by City Arts, of drawings and paintings made by children from 6 continents. They all showed the youngsters’ deep yearning for peace.

View Photos/Videos From The Event…

Posted by Fran Korotzer - February 18, 2010 | News


An activist protests outside Leviev’s storefront
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

“How fancy, how pretty. Leviev out of New York City.”

“You’re glitz, you’re glam. You’re stealing Palestinian land!”

“You sparkle, you shine. Your settlements are still a crime!”

“All your diamonds cannot hide, your support for apartheid!”

NEW YORK — On February 13, the big shopping day before Valentine’s Day, 50 human rights activists organized by Adalah-NY: The Coalition for Justice in the Middle East, arrived at the Leviev store on Madison Avenue in Manhattan. They were carrying leaflets, a sound system, big thermuses of hot chocolate and apple cider (the weather was cloudy and very cold) and signs, especially red and pink valentines, asking shoppers not to buy anything from the Leviev jewelry store. They explained that Leviev was financing the building of Jews-only settlements / colonies on Palestinian land on the West Bank.


Debating Diamonds — And Apartheid
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

The demonstrators created a real event. There was constant chanting, there was a dance performance by the Single BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) Lev’ies who danced to the music of a Beyonce song, “Single Ladies”, but with new lyrics, including this chorus:

It’s apartheid so you shouldn’t put a ring on it.
It’s apartheid so you shouldn’t put a ring on it.
Occupation is a crime so put an end to it.
It’s apartheid so you shouldn’t put a ring on it.

There was also plenty of group singing. Song sheets were distributed so everyone had new words to old tunes. The Beatles “Can’t Buy Me Love” became:

Don’t buy me Lev, Lev
Don’t buy me Lev
Don’t buy a diamond ring from Lev,
and now I’ll tell you why.
Settlements on stolen land,
He’s a really nasty guy.
Lev’s a crook so save your money,
Baby don’t buy me Lev.

Or, “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” became
“Lev’s Diamonds are a Crime’s Best Friend”:

Your grab at our land is destroying a people.
Lev’s diamonds are a crime’s best friend.
You give theft a hand
with your money – how evil.
Knocking buildings flat
Bilin, Jayous, that’s where it’s at.
Lev grows bold
With billions sold.
And Palestine starves while you spend.
No matter what they say,
Apartheid’s the endgame.
Lev’s diamonds are a crime’s best friend.

Between the chanting, songs, and dancing there were dramatic skits, parodies of diamond ads seen on TV, showing Leviev to be a villain.

All of this caught the attention of people passing by on the crowded street. There was one very hostile reaction and a few icy looks, but most of the people expressed interest and demonstrators had an opportunity to talk to people about what Leviev is doing, and show that he is part of the ethnic cleansing, genocidal policies being carried out by the Israeli state against the Palestinian people.

Adalah-NY is part of the Boycott, Divestment, and sanctions campaign against Israeli Apartheid. According to their website their goal is to pressure Leviev:

…to stop building illegal settlements in Occupied Palestine…. More immediately, the campaign will educate New Yorkers about Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people, help build a larger BDS campaign in New York City, and develop links with and support activists working against similar abusive practices in New York City.

Many around the world recognize the extent of Israel’s breach of international law. The real challenge now is to do something about it. The time has come to apply effective international pressure against Israel similar in scope and comprehensiveness to that successfully used to end apartheid in South Africa. Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions are non-violent economic, political, and cultural measures adopted by individuals, groups, or governments intended to protest and place pressure on governments to end objectionable policies. All Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territory violate international law according to a broad international consensus which includes the UN, the International Court of Justice, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states that ‘The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer part of it’s own civilian population into the territory it occupies.’

During the hours that the activists were in front of the Leviev store three people entered the store with two leaving after only a minute.

Before leaving one of the participants bid the store a poetic hip-hop ‘so long’ and promised that everyone would be back. And there was a final chant, “Lev Leviev you will see, Palestine will be free.”

View Photos From The Event…


Reverend Susan Karlson speaking at an anti-war event in 2009
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

NEW YORK — Valentine’s Day is this Sunday and two of the New York Left’s best loved clerics are looking to make the day an opportunity for the lovers of love to do something other than exchange Hallmark Greetings.

A special service at the Unitarian Church of Staten Island will focus on the experience of church member, Marjorie Ramos, and her partner Margaret Cantrell, whose wedding will take place in Greenwich, Connecticut in March. The service, titled “Re-imagining Valentine’s Day: Love is in the Air”, will be held on Valentine’s Day, Sunday, February 14 at 10:45 a.m.

Speaking from her own experience and that of her partner, Margaret, Ms. Ramos will discuss the issues of equality in marriage rights and the freedom denied committed same-sex couples to enjoy the same civil privileges granted to heterosexual couples.

“Why must there be a lose-lose proposition in the matter of love?” asks Ms. Ramos. She states, “I dare anyone to articulately challenge how my love for Margaret and my desire to marry her is somehow threatening to straight couples. My love for her is of equal value and meaning to the love heterosexual couples share.”

Rev. Susan Karlson and the Welcoming Congregation Committee will share their perspectives on Marriage Equality and how we can re-imagine a Valentine’s Day that works for all people.


Reverend Billy Talen outside the Varick Street jail in 2009
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Later in the day a special “UnMarriage until Gay Marriage” service will be conducted by Reverend Billy and the Church of Life After Shopping. According to the good Reverend, “Making marriage a gated community, is tantamount to violence. Marriage as a private club for heterosexuals – this is a kind of extortion. We should have long ago recognized the pain and suffering that comes from this social concoction. Reserving state-sanctioned love for certain approved citizens? This is the essential structure for racism, earth-death and war.”

To show your support for the “UnWed,” Reverend Billy and the Church urge parishioners to “Take the Valentine’s Pledge! Suspend your vows in a solidarity ritual officiated by Rev. Billy. With tragic and hopeful love songs! Participants will be issued an official unmarried certificate suitable for framing.”

The ceremony will be held at Central Park’s Bethesda Angel fountain at 1 p.m. Wear your bride and groom best.

***

“He was the lover of love in a world that believes in prostitution.” — Marchel DuChamp describing Surrealist poet Andre Breton.

Posted by Diane Krauthamer - February 11, 2010 | News


“Where’s the Love in Wage Theft?”
(Photo: Retail Action Project)

NEW YORK — There are thousands of fashion victims in Manhattan, but these are not the victims of style that one typically imagines. They are the victims of the fashion industry: they are the low-wage workers who stock, sell, ring-up and protect fashionable clothing items which line the streets of Manhattan’s retail districts. Now, the workers are fighting back against stolen wages, unpaid overtime and hazardous conditions.

In a battle that has lasted for more than three years, the current and former employees of Shoe Mania and Mystique Boutique are not just fighting for legal restitution, but for workers’ rights and economic justice for retail workers throughout New York City

On Feb. 3, 2010, community groups, labor leaders and elected officials representing over a dozen groups joined these retail workers in the “March of Hearts” in SoHo against stolen wages and unpaid overtime. The two-hour march down Broadway was organized by the Retail Action Project (RAP), a community-labor partnership of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU/UFCW) and Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES). RAP is calling on Shoe Mania and Mystique to pay its workers millions of dollars in back wages.


The “March Of Hearts”
(Photo: Retail Action Project)

“Here on Broadway, the wealth of the world lines the windows, while the people who make that wealth are starved and stolen from,” said Damaris Reyes, Executive Director of GOLES.

“We want retailers to know that those who violate wage and hour laws are not welcome in our community,” she added.

Many retailers routinely break the law by denying their employees minimum wage and overtime pay. At Shoe Mania, employees are suing the company for more than $3 million in unpaid wages, while former workers from Mystique Boutique and its sister stores Amsterdam, Madness and Exstaza, are demanding the company pay them approximately $2 million in back wages.

At Mystique, a SoHo-based clothing retail chain with seven Manhattan locations currently employing approximately 90 sales, stock, cashier, and security workers, current and former employees claim they have been subject to many labor violations.

“I would sometimes work for more than 60 hours per week — and [with] no overtime [pay],” said former Mystique Boutique employee Carolina Ferreyra.

“I started getting an attitude about it, [and] that’s when I got fired,” she added.

Security and stock workers report putting in 66-hour work weeks, while working for as little as $5.15 per hour, $2.10 below the legal minimum wage. In other cases, particularly amongst sales staff, workers say that they received the regular hourly pay for hours worked in excess of 40 hours, instead of the legally-required overtime pay of time-and-a-half. Workers also report that the owners of Mystique terminated more than 30 workers who were suspected of having been involved in the organizing effort with RAP.


(Photo: Retail Action Project)

At Shoe Mania, a New York City-based shoe retail chain with four Manhattan locations currently employing approximately 100 non-clerical sales, stock, cashier and security workers, many workers have been subject to illegally low pay and unpaid overtime as well. Nearly 150 current and former Shoe Mania employees have filed a collective action lawsuit against the company seeking approximately $3 million in damages.

“For over three years, I worked at Shoe Mania [for] 11 hours a day, six days a week. That’s over 65 hours every week! But I was never paid overtime. Whenever I got my paycheck, it would only show that I worked 40 hours per week,” said Ahmed Dalhatu, former stock worker at the recently-closed 11 West 34th Street Shoe Mania store. Shoe Mania workers also report being forced to work long hours in dirty and dimly-lit basements without sufficient break time. Additionally, workers say they do not receive pay raises.

“The only time my pay went up was when the minimum wage increased. For the nearly three years I worked at Shoe Mania, I never once got a single raise,” said John Montaño, former sales worker at the 853 Broadway Shoe Mania store.

Shoe Mania and Mystique employees are not alone in experiencing the brunt of these violations. According to the National Employment Law Project (NELP)’s recent report, “Working Without Laws: A Survey of Employment and Labor Law Violations in New York City,” 21 percent of low-wage workers in New York City are paid less than the minimum wage. More than one-third of workers report that they are forced to work overtime, and in 77 percent of these cases they are not paid the legally required overtime rate by their employer. Additionally, 29 percent of the workers surveyed are subject to “off-the-clock violations,” whereby companies will ask workers to show up early or stay late, without being paid for that part of their working time. In real numbers, NELP estimates that in any given week, more than 300,000 low-wage workers in New York City are victim of at least one pay-based violation and, as a result, workers lose more than $18.4 million per week in earned wages.

Wage and hour violations rest at the heart of the problem that retail workers must face on a daily basis, and in New York City, more low-wage workers are employed in retail than in any other single sector of the economy. Within the retail sector, 44 percent of workers earn less than $10 an hour.

With growing support from labor unions, community groups, elected officials and hundreds of retail workers throughout New York City, RAP members and supporters are demanding that employers be held accountable when they violate wage and hour labor laws, and are fighting for a living wage for New York City’s retail workers.

A living wage in New York state is defined as $10 per hour with benefits, or $11.50 per hour without benefits. This is the approximate amount that New Yorkers who work an ordinary 40-hour work week need to earn in order to pay for basic necessities such as shelter, food and health care.

“If Shoe Mania were required to pay us a living wage, we would have enough to provide for ourselves and our families,” said former Shoe Mania worker John Montaño.

Damaris Reyes says that the struggle for workers’ rights and economic justice has a rich history that comes out of the strength that lies in solidarity.

“We will fight [and] stand by the workers until we win,” said Reyes. “Solidarity is in our blood and on these blocks,” she added.

Posted by Sally Jones - February 9, 2010 | News


Jonathan Tasini in St. George, Staten Island
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — A perfect confluence of feisty candidate, tasty New Orleans hors d’oeuvres, and aroused voters came together at a party at the St. George Parish Grill in St. George, Staten Island, on Tuesday, January 19.

The candidate is Jonathan Tasini who is running for U.S. Senator from New York in the Democratic Primary on September 14, 2010. The food was provided by chef Dennis Crotty who opened his homey, eclectic restaurant just last fall on Stuyvesant Place down from Staten Island’s Borough Hall. The voters came from all over Staten Island, many of them interested in finding a progressive alternative to the more conservative candidates in the Senate race, Kirsten Gillibrand and Harold Ford.

About 35 activists and neighbors packed into the store-front eatery and raised the temperature to a comfortable level on a cold January evening, responding to the possibility and hope that there just might be a clear alternative for New York State voters. They left with the challenge of getting the word out about a candidate who does not have the millions of dollars being raised by his competitors.


Tasini responds to a question
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

In his remarks, Jonathan Tasini came out blasting against the “Robbery that has bankrupted the American people.” This theft did not happen in the last three years with the burst of the housing bubble. It has been going on for 30 years or more, as the American worker has worked harder, become more and more productive, but found his/her wages “flat-lined.” Tasini put the blame squarely on the corporate elite who stole the profits to create new unsustainable money-making schemes that have destroyed the economy.

Even as Tasini spoke, he received a message from Massachusetts that Republican Scott Brown had defeated Democrat Martha Coakley in the special election to replace U.S. Senate legend, the late Ted Kennedy. The guests at the party did not show much surprise, nor did Tasini. “The message of Massachusetts,” he said, “is that the people believe the system is broken, that it is dysfunctional, that too many people believe that their elected leaders are not doing the business of the people, that politicians think that they own the seats they occupy and can ignore the voters. And they are right.”


Staten Islanders listened attentively to Tasini
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

The answer, according to the candidate, is that Democrats have to return to their roots — representing the working people, not the corporate elites, or Massachusetts will only be the beginning of a string of defeats.

The Staten Islanders gathered around and asked many questions about how to push President Obama on health care (“elect me”), about the escalation of troops in Afghanistan (“there is no military solution”), and about how whether or not he himself was really a viable candidate (“the polls show that Gillibrand will lose”). Newly elected City Councilwoman Debi Rose told the guests that they already knew the way to win. “You spread the word mouth to mouth, the old fashioned way, talking up your candidate to friends, family, colleagues. Never letting up.”


City Council member Debi Rose urged her supporters to rally around Tasini
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Bursting with enthusiasm, the aroused voters and the feisty candidate left the St. George Parish Grill with the smell of crab soup, pulled pork tidbits and Cajun popovers wafting out behind them.

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Posted by Fran Korotzer - February 7, 2010 | News


“CBS: Corporate Bull Sh*t?”
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

“We celebrate the ability of all women to make decisions about health care, their families, and their future – whatever that decision might be. But Focus on the Family is using the over $2.5 million ad to shame those women who might decide to terminate a pregnancy. And the possibility that executives at a major network participated in shaping this ad is simply appalling.”

— Terry O’Neill, NOW President, February 3, 2010

NEW YORK — On February 4 the World Can’t Wait organized a lunch hour demonstration in front of the CBS headquarters at W. 52nd Street and 6th Avenue in NYC to protest the CBS decision to show an anti-abortion ad during the Super Bowl. In doing so CBS is changing their long standing policy that states their intention not to air an ad that “touches on and/or takes a position on one side of a current controversial issue of public importance” during the Super Bowl. About 25+ people came – they represented World Can’t Wait, the National Organization for Women (NOW), CodePink, and the Women’s Media Center.

Several people spoke. Shelby Knox from the Women’s Media Center spoke of the needs of young women. She said they needed proper sex education and they needed to be able to choose an abortion if they believe that is what would be best for them. Knox is originally from Lubbock, Texas, a self-described “Southern Baptist girl” who attended a school that taught abstinence as the only form of sex education. Like many of the young women there she too made an abstinence until marriage pledge. When she was 15 she learned that Lubbock had some of the highest teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease rates in the state. She became a very active advocate for comprehensive sex education. Debra Sweet, Director of World Can’t Wait, said that the participants standing on that street with her in front of CBS represented more than one half of humanity, and care about the interests of women. The ad being shown is dangerous. It promotes the killing of women because it implies that women should have no choice, even when their life is threatened.


“Christian Broadcast System”?
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

Sunsara Taylor of World Can’t Wait and Revolution said that according to Focus on the Family women can only redeem themselves by having babies and obeying their husbands. They are not pro-family, they are anti-women. Women are only valuable as breeders or incubators. If we have to risk our lives to do it, then so be it. The fact that CBS can air a, “Christian fascist ad tells us something about what has become mainstream in this country”. Obama calls himself the president of common ground. This morning he attended a prayer breakfast with Tim Tebow, but “there is no common ground on abortion. There’s one side who wants women to have babies against our will, who is willing to kill doctors, who is willing to blow-up clinics, who is willing to open fake clinics that traumatize women, who is willing to strip sex education from the schools. And there’s another side who actually view women as human beings, as fully capable of participating in every realm of human society, and are not reducers to breeders or incubators. There is no common ground.”

A teacher passed by with a large group of teenagers out on a class trip. They looked curiously at the group on the sidewalk as several participants explained to the class why they were there and what the issues were. The class listened attentively and asked questions, which were answered.


Sunsara Taylor
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

More than 210,000 protest messages were collected by Credo Action and the Women’s Media Center. They were neatly boxed and an attempt was made to deliver them, but before the group could reach the door a man came running out of the building saying, “Private property, private property. Get back on the sidewalk. Private property. You have no business here.” The group said that they did have business there – the rights of women. They said that they wanted to deliver the petitions. They had called in advance to try to make an appointment to deliver them, and if they couldn’t bring them in, could somebody come down to accept them? The response was a resounding NO, and if anyone wanted to deliver anything they could bring it to the delivery entrance. Everyone should leave or risk arrest. The participants were leaving the “private property” as the police arrived less than a minute later. The police took no action.


Protesters at CBS
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

CBS treated the demonstrators disdainfully. One of the participants made the point that CBS accepted, and is airing an advertisement from a Christian fascist organization but they are refusing to accept petitions from people who represent and care about women. Another said that we are in a dangerous situation in this country when a major mainstream institution is in league with a blatantly fascist organization that is sexist, homophobic, and calls gay people an abomination. Not so long ago a group like Focus on the Family was considered on the lunatic fringe. Today they’re mainstream and Obama and Hillary Clinton go to their prayer breakfast.

In his column (2/2/10), Edge of Sports, Dave Zirin wrote:
“We should reject the utter hypocrisy on display by CBS in airing this ad. The network has long stated that it has Super Bowl rules against ‘advocacy ads’. In 2004 the network rejected a Super Bowl ad from the United Church of Christ in which a church is shown opening its doors to a gay couple. The network has also refused ads from PETA, MoveOn.org, and many others. This year, it even rejected a humorous commercial from a gay dating site called mancrunch.com. And yet, the network takes money from Focus on the Family – which, according to People for the American Way, is ‘anti-choice, anti-gay and against sex education curricula that are not strictly abstinence-only.’

Focus on the Family’s guru is the infamous and recently retired James Dobson. Dobson is a frightening fellow, choosing the second night of Passover last year to say ‘The biggest Holocaust in world history came out of the Supreme Court’ with Roe vs. Wade. Dobson’s other pet project, the Family Research Council, has connections to white supremacist organizations like the Council of Conservative Citizens. In 1996, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins paid former Klu Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke $82,000 for his mailing list.
The idea that this organization is acceptable to CBS – while MoveOn or PETA or the United Church of Christ are too radical – actually adds up to a right-wing assault on free speech.”

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