Posted by TAG - June 20, 2010 | News


“Shame On You McMahon!:
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — June 16, 2010. On Wednesday, activists from Peace Action, MDS, Staten Island’s Muslim community and the Fellowship of Reconciliation were joined by congressional candidate Hank Bardel (Green Party) in a rally outside pro-war Democrat Mike McMahon’s office. McMahon recently referred to opponents of Israel’s blockade of the Gaza ghetto as “supporters of Hamas.” The two dozen protesters called McMahon’s rhetoric reminiscent of McCarthyism and demanded a retraction — calling on the congressman to demonstrate his ability to be reasonable and urging McMahon to put U.S. interests before Israeli interests.


Protesters outside McMahon’s office
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Two dozen protesters turned out Wednesday night for the second rally in two weeks at Congressman Mike McMahon’s New Dorp office. The issue: McMahon’s pro-war voting record and his recent comments calling peace activists “supporters of Hamas.”

Several community leaders spoke at the rally.


Hank Bardel, Green Party candidate for Congress
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Hank Bardel, the Green Party candidate for McMahon’s job, told the crowd that he was the peace candidate — contrasting his position of ending the war now with McMahon’s refusal to use the War Powers Act to force Obama to bring the troops home from Afghanistan.

“We see how he voted,” Bardel said. “We have to elect representatives to Congress who will work for peace.”

“I pledge to the people of the thirteenth Congressional District that if I’m elected I will work to establish a lasting peace and a prosperous economy,” he added.

“The peace movement is for peaceful solutions, not military solutions, to problems. That’s why we don’t support Hamas,” Bardel said.


Peace Action’s Sally Jones
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Sally Jones of Peace Action Staten Island read a new PASI resolution condemning the Israeli raid on the vessel carrying aid to Gaza, calling for an international inquiry into the raid and calling for an immediate end to the blockade of Gaza. The resolution also asked for a just settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Jones asked McMahon to support the resolution.

Muslim activist Hesham El-Meligy spoke about the recent rally held outside McMahon’s office and called McMahon’s subsequent statement — calling the Gazan aid activists “supporters of Hamas” — shameful.

“Who are we kidding here? The people were delivering food, water and toys to the besieged people of Gaza,” said El-Meligy.


Peace Action supports ending the siege of the Gaza ghetto
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Noting that constituents always have differences with elected officials, El-Meligy said that McMahon’s comments were over the top.

“This is shocking from our representative. I’m calling on Congressman McMahon to retract his statement. And we demand to meet with him to give him a chance to explain what he said, what he meant, and we need him to speak on the side of justice, on the side of the besieged people of Gaza.”

Richard Greve said that Israeli blockade is collective punishment, illegal under international law.


Richard Greve (center) called on McMahon to put America first
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

“The reason that we’re here is to tell McMahon, instead of putting Israeli’s interests first, and instead of supporting AIPAC and being an Israeli-Firster, that he put justice ahead of Israel’s violation of international law.”

Greve argued that blind support of Israeli foreign policy is not in the U.S. national interest. He urged McMahon to put his country first, rather than putting Israel first.

“Trying to compound the suffering of innocent people is just not the answer,” said Lloyd Berg, a member of Peace Action, referring to the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

Berg spoke about McMahon’s calling peace activists “supporters of Hamas.”

“This thing about, that it means aiding Hamas to criticize [ the government ] — I mean that’s a remnant of the McCarthy age,” Berg said.

Berg described the McCarthy period as one in which people said, ” ‘Oh you’re agreeing with the Communists,’ if you say anything that comes with justice.”

Berg expects more from McMahon.

“Let us hope that he will be more reasonable. And see that it is not the answer to occupy, to starve, to harass, to imprison a whole people,” Berg said.

View Photos/Videos From The Event…

Posted by TAG - | News


(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

NEW YORK — The Council of Senior Centers and Services registered 240 participants at a rally at City Hall. The rally was called to urge the mayor not to use the economic fiasco that is New York City as a pretext for cutting services for seniors. Was Bloomberg listening? It’s difficult to say but the seniors were loud and proud — and they are watching the mayor’s every move.


(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

They came in small vans and via public transportation. Many couldn’t come as they were very elderly or house bound. Those who did make the journey were very vocal. Some City Council members spoke on behalf of the seniors – but it was the seniors themselves who spoke with the greatest gusto.


(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

The rally ended with protesters pointing their fingers at City Hall and chanting “We are watching you.”

NLN photographer Bud Korotzer was there and captured the event. Bud contributed reporting to this article.

View Photos From The Event…

Posted by TAG - June 18, 2010 | Editorial

Mike McMahon — Self-Hating Democrat?


In 2008 Mike had a simple platform: “Come On Democrats!”
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

In 2008, when he was running for Congress, Mike McMahon had a simple platform: “Come On Democrats! We can win this!” Elected during the Obama landslide, Mike had courted the progressive vote during his campaign. He later described himself as a “centrist” — while courting the Conservative Party. In 2010, facing re-election, Mike began describing himself as “an independent.”


Mike is worried about the well being of his constituents and won’t waste their tax money on health care.
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Mike McMahon voted against health care reform and steadfastly opposed a public option. He refused to even discuss a single payer system. Critics charged that he was serving the interests of the insurance companies. Mike says, “No way – come on Democrats!”


Mike is worried about stability
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Mike McMahon voted to continue the bloody stalemate in Afghanistan. The presence of U.S. troops helps the Taliban recruit but Mike feels removing the troops would make the region “unstable.” Although he never served in the military, Mike likes to honor veterans every chance he gets. Mike loves veterans which is why he wants to keep them in a war zone indefinitely.


Mike is concerned for women’s rights
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Mike is concerned about women’s rights in Afghanistan which is why he supports the ongoing war. The fact that women are raped and killed in war zones is upsetting but continuing the war means that those women who survive will have some rights. If they aren’t bombed by accident. Mike hasn’t stated his position on the bombing of civilians but it seems safe to assume that he would regard bombing wedding parties as unfortunate.


Mike supports Israel, right or wrong
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Mike is a patriot who loves his country, freedom and the democratic tradition of Free Speech — which is why he recently called peace activists who oppose Israel’s blockade of Gaza “supporters of Hamas.” Although Mike is known for his eloquence and “bipartisan” approach — Mike is proud to be a “centrist” — he is also passionate about his love of country. Which is why he supports Israel, right or wrong.


Mike McMahon — Self-Hating Democrat?
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Mike represents a conservative district. But he is resolute, courageous and flexible. He appealed to progressives during his 2008 campaign. Once elected, he became a “bipartisan” centrist who wooed the Conservative Party. Critics might call this opportunism and label Mike a “boll weevil,” a “blue-dog,” or perhaps even a “self-hating Democrat.”

But never fear, Mike is no self-hating Democrat and he hasn’t abandoned his base. He’s an independent! Sure, he hasn’t had much to say to progressives of late but he won’t forget us. It’s election time.

“Come On, Democrats! We can win this!”

Posted by TAG - | News


Art by The Ferry III
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — It almost didn’t happen. But thanks to the intervention of Community Board One, Art By The Ferry’s exhibition of local art works did open to the public.


Artists v. developers?
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

The third annual Art By The Ferry event spanned two weekends — June 5,6 and June 12,13 — and ran along Bay Street from the Staten Island Yankees stadium to the Everything Goes Cafe opposite Tompkinsville Park. The event featured spoken word and performance art, visual arts, music and crafts. And all of it was free. But the exhibition of juried art set up in the Lighthouse Plaza art gallery almost didn’t happen.


The exhibit was located next to the ferry terminal
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

On Friday, June 4, the Fire Department of New York inspected the art gallery, next to the St. George ferry terminal, and said all was well. But on opening day, Saturday, June 5, city inspectors showed up and shut down the exhibit, citing a regulation that required the exhibitors to have four fire marshals in place. Exhibitors questioned the need for four fire fighters in a one floor, one room building, fully staffed by volunteers — with easy access. The ensuing discussion briefly grew heated.


Photographer John Skelson documented the conflict
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Local photographer and print maker John Skelson videotaped the exchange between inspectors and exhibitors — these videos are available on YouTube. Skelson later told NLN that some in the artist community theorize that local developers don’t want the space utilized by the public — it is prime real estate. Unfortunately the buildings in Lighthouse Plaza are in a state of disrepair and one structure has a tree growing out of the second floor. Like West Brighton’s Smith Infirmary and the historic New York Farm Colony on Brielle Avenue, the structures are crumbling, dying a slow death from neglect. Using the buildings for museum space seems in keeping with their historic status — but not everyone is invested in this approach and the slow decay continues. The battle over the art gallery may indeed be one front in the struggle between developers and community members, including the artist community.


Historic buildings in disrepair — a symptom of overdevelopment?
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

In the end, the artists delined to roll over. After some phone calls to Community Board One, the exhibit re-opened, the following week. NLN photographer Thomas Good was there to capture some of the sprawling event.


The City shut down the art installation…
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

..but the exhibit re-opened


(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

View Photos/Videos From The Event…

Posted by Jay Jurie - June 17, 2010 | News

ORLANDO, Fla. — In combination with fellow House of Representatives members including Ron Paul, Walter Jones, Dennis Kucinich, Lynne Woolsey, Barbara Lee, and John Conyers, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) on May 21st introduced a bill entitled “The War Is Making You Poor Act.” If passed, this legislation would stop funding for the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan and use those revenues to eliminate federal taxes on the the first $35,000 of income, or $70,000 for couples.

According to information provided by the office of Rep. Grayson, more than $159,000,000,000 will be allocated in the federal budget to pay for continued occupation and military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. If this line item was eliminated, it would not only provide the proposed tax break, it would reduce the federal deficit by more than $15 billion.

Instead of continuing to pay for these wars, Rep. Grayson advocates these funds be used for public education, infrastructure, and personal mortgage relief. If these sound like good ideas to you, his office proposes that you contact your elected officials and urge them to support “The War Is Making You Poor Act.”

A petition has also been generated to support this measure, which has collected over 45,000 signatures at this point.

To sign the petition,go to http:www.TheWarIsMakingYouPoor.com

Posted by TAG - June 7, 2010 | News


Grand Marshals Dr. Katie Cumisky and Ms. Robin Garver
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — June 5, 2010. The yellow banner that stretched across the roadway said it all: “Standing On The Side Of Love” — underscoring the point were this year’s LGBT Pride Parade Grand Marshals: Katie Cumiskey and Robin Garver. Katie and Robin were married in Canada in 2006.


Pride!
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

The sixth annual Staten Island LGBT Pride parade was held on Saturday, June 5. Forming up outside the St. George library, the marchers included a number of civic groups devoted to teaching tolerance and LBGT pride: The Staten Island Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Center; Community Health Action of Staten Island; Staten Island Stonewall; Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), the Metropolitan Community Church of New York, the Unitarian Church of Staten Island, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, the High School Gay and Straight Alliance, Curtis High School Warriors, a contingent from the College of Staten Island, Miss Richmond County, the Staten Island Democratic Association, the Young Democrats of Richmond County, and Peace Action of Staten Island.


City Council member Debi Rose and Assembly member Matt Titone
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Also marching this year were New York City Council member Debi Rose (D, District 49) and New York State Assembly member Matt Titone (D, District 61) — Staten Island’s first African-American elected official and the Island’s first openly gay elected official.


“Tina Turner” gave the crowd a thumbs up
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Driving along the parade route was a young woman wearing a Coast Guard t-shirt. Smiling at onlookers, the Coastie said, “Don’t ask, don’t tell!”


“Don’t ask, don’t tell!”
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Providing a back beat to keep the march moving was the Lesbian and Gay Big Apple Corps.


The Lesbian and Gay Big Apple Corps kept things moving
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

The banner of the day had no organizational identification but bore a message that resonated with everyone present: “Standing On The Side Of Love.”


“Standing On The Side Of Love”
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

After the parade, revelers attended a festival at Tompkinsville Park.

View Photos/Videos From The Event…

Posted by Fran Korotzer - | News


Click to see the May 27th Protest

(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

“It all happened before. A ship sailing to Palestine. Its organizers care not so much about the ship’s arrival. They want to bring world attention to the injustices in Palestine. Live broadcasts from aboard the ship excite and inspire supporters on the shores. The power controlling Palestine in a non-democratic manner, responds in form. It sends soldiers to storm the ship at sea some 20 miles out of Gaza. Passengers fight back using non-lethal means. Troops open fire killing 3, then force the ship to another port, arrest the passengers and deport them. The battle is won, but the campaign is lost. World opinion, and other world powers, turn against the controlling power. Within a few months it decides to cede control of Palestine. The ships name was ‘Europe Exodus 1947′, or in short ‘Exodus’. Now, 63 years later, the tables have fully turned, and Israel’s leaders seem to act every bit as brutally and stupidly as their British predecessors.”

— Assaf Oron, The Only Democracy? 5-29-10

NEW YORK — On May 30, as the Freedom Flotilla carrying 10 tons of humanitarian aid to Gaza along with 700 people from 50 countries, sailed towards Gaza Jeff Halper, the Israeli human rights activist, wrote an open letter to his fellow citizens. He asked them to reflect upon how “we and our country arrived at this sorry state – how the ‘light unto nations’ has become one of the most repressive states on earth.” He continues, the flotilla is sailing with several messages. First, lift the illegal siege on Gaza. Civilians should not be attacked militarily or politically, nor can they be collectively punished for the policies of their leaders. Attempting to crush people and force them “to accept being permanently controlled and dominated, which is the thrust of Israeli policy, is both unconscionable and counter-productive.”


Click to see the May 27th Protest

(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

The second message for Israel and the world is to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The policy should remind Jews of when they suffered through regimes that imposed controlled malnutrition on them. Gaza’s population of 1.5 million souls is living under a “minimal dietary regime.” Dov Weisglass, Sharon’s Chief of Staff said, “We need to make the Palestinians lose weight, but not starve to death.” Instant coffee, fresh meat, rice, beans, spices, honey, chocolate, jam, bananas, coriander, pasts, and many other items are forbidden to Palestinians – Israel considers them luxury items.

Gaza is a man-made disaster zone. Israel destroyed the sewage system so that people have drowned in floods of sewage that has covered whole communities. Raw sewage is draining into the Mediterranean polluting the water where Palestinians fish (they are not allowed out beyond that area). Israel destroyed the only power station there causing long blackouts and having severe effects on hospitals. The people have nowhere to live since 2,400 homes were destroyed in the 2008-09 invasion and Israel isn’t allowing the material necessary to rebuild them into Gaza. The flotilla is carrying tents, steel, concrete, and other building materials to help rebuild.

Halper goes on to tell the Israeli people that they live in a “managed information environment.” The government explanation for everything it does is “security” and that shuts down all debate. Four million Palestinians have lived under an occupation that has deprived them of their most fundamental rights, reduced them to abject poverty, robbed them of their land and their homes (since 1967 Israel has demolished 24,000 Palestinian homes on the West Bank) and, in Gaza, has created the world’s largest outdoor prison.

The Israeli people are living in a “prosperous bubble” and choose not to see Palestinian suffering. “We are doomed to perpetual war and we must become permanent oppressors” if we don’t resist the “self-serving and disempowering statements of the Israeli government. He ends by asking a most important question, “Why, with our history, is it so difficult for us to understand resistance to oppression?”


Click to see the May 27th Protest

(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

On May 27th, 4 days before Israel’s attack on the flotilla about 400 New Yorkers called together by Jews Say No, Jewish Voices for Peace, Brooklyn for Peace and several other groups met near the Israeli Consulate on 2nd Avenue and began a very slow procession under leaden skies across 42nd Street. Carrying signs that mostly called upon Israel to end the blockade they chanted “Gaza needs aid – Stop the blockade” and “What do you want? Justice. Where do you want it? In Palestine.” People in the busy streets watched, took photos, and asked questions. The walk ended at Times Square.

Very early in the morning on May 31st Israel did as it said it would – they stopped the flotilla “at any price.” The price was committing an act of piracy in international waters, killing 9 Turkish humanitarian aid workers, and firing 4 bullets at point blank range into the head of 19 year old Furkan Dogan, an American citizen. Many others were seriously wounded. It was an international crime. In 1988, 3 years after the attack on the Italian cruise ship, the Achille Lauro when an American passenger, Leon Klinghoffer, was killed Article 3 of the Rome Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation was enacted. It states that “it is an international crime for any person to seize or exercise control over a ship by force, and also a crime to injure or kill any person in the process. The treaty necessarily adopts a strict approach. One cannot attack a ship and then claim self-defense if the people on board resist the unlawful use of violence.” (Yvonne Ridley, From Klinghoffer to the Gaza Flotilla, Counterpunch, 6-2-10)

Israel took pains to see to it that only their version of the event reached the press. They didn’t allow the press anywhere near the people who were on the ships, they confiscated security cameras from the Mavi Marmara and all cameras, photographs, and video recordings, and held the journalists who were on the ships for many days. According to Glenn Greenwald (Salon.com, 6-4-10) the IDF “quickly released an extremely edited video” of their commandos landing on the ship. Juan Cole wrote (quoted by Greenwald in Salon.com, 6-4-10), “Many passengers have now confirmed that they were fired upon even before the commandos had boots on the deck …which provoked an angry reaction and an attack on the commandos.”

In an article by Jonathan Cook (Global Research, 6-2-10) he quotes Haneen Zoubi, an Arab member of the Knesset who was on one of the ships as saying, “Israel had days to plan this operation. They wanted many deaths to terrorise [sic] us and to send a message that no future aid convoys should try to break the siege of Gaza.”


Click to see the June 4th Protest

(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

The New York Turkish community as well as those in the entire spectrum of the peace and justice community reacted to the attack on the flotilla immediately. The day of the killings several thousand people, some grieving and some furious, converged on Times Square. They carried signs and their flags. They chanted. After about 90 minutes they walked east on 42nd Street to the Israeli Consulate. The streets were full of people in town for the Memorial Day weekend and with sailors from all over the world who were here for Fleet Week. They watched and listened. The next day, June 1st, about 600 people returned to the Israeli Consulate to protest again. And on the following Friday, June 4th, Al-Awda organized yet another rally at Times Square. Then, the group of about 1,000 walked to the Turkish Consulate to deliver flowers and a note thanking Turkey for all that they had done as well as expressing condolences for the terrible loss they had suffered. The group then moved on to the Israeli Consulate to protest again.


Click to see the June 4th Protest

(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

On June 5th the final boat in the flotilla, coming from Ireland and christened (with Palestinian olive oil) the Rachel Corrie, after the young American woman murdered by a bulldozer as she was standing in front of a Palestinian home trying to stop it from being demolished, was stopped by the Israeli navy while in international waters. The boarded the boat and towed it to an Israeli port. Israel tried to negotiate a deal – if the Rachel Corrie would come into an Israeli port Israel would deliver the goods to Gaza. The people onboard rejected the deal. Their purpose was to break the illegal blockade because that was the only way to get all the aid to Gaza that Gaza needed and break Israel’s chokehold. They had no interest in being involved in a deal with the criminals creating the crisis.


Click to see the June 4th Protest

(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

With the attention of the world on what happened on board the Turkish ship it is very easy to lose one’s focus. The issue is Gaza. While Israel insists there is no humanitarian crisis there and the world turns a blind eye to the situation, every international aid organization from the United Nations to Amnesty International says there is mass unemployment, food insecurity (starvation), and homelessness. On 5-28-10 the Gaza Freedom Movement made the following statement:

“Given the continuing and sustained failure of the international community to enforce its own laws and protect the people of Gaza, we strongly believe that we all, as citizens of the world, have a moral obligation to directly intervene in acts of non-violent civil resistance to uphold international principles. Israeli threats and intimidation will not deter us. We will sail to Gaza again and again and again, until this siege is forever ended and the Palestinian people have free access to the world.”

View Photos From The May 27th Protest…
View Photos From The June 4th Protest…


(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

NEW YORK — The usual after work large crowd at Union Sq. in NYC got to see some dynamic street theater on June 3rd, the 43rd anniversary of the illegal Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian West Bank and East Jerusalem. The event was organized by Women in Black – Union Square (they hold a vigil on the little island just south of Union Sq. every Thursday from 5:30 to 6:30) and Adalah-NY. A painted cardboard replica of the Israeli Apartheid Wall stood in the center of the square, complete with graffiti, photos of the real wall, and a checkpoint with an Israeli flag. There were several people acting the role of Israeli soldiers who were armed with a cardboard assault rifle (that the NYPD objected to) at the checkpoint. People wearing signs on their backs labeling them as “Farmer”, “Needs Medical Help”, “Student”, or “Respected Elder” stood on the line and were spoken to abusively by the ‘soldiers’. It showed the waits and the frustrations Palestinians must endure while they try to move about. The “Student”, without provocation, was knocked to the ground, handcuffed, and arrested by the Israeli soldiers.


(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

While the scene was repeatedly played out the Women in Black stood holding their signs decrying the occupation while others distributed informative leaflets. Between acts Dave, an intrepid political troubadour, led the group in singing anti-apartheid and anti-occupation songs. A very substantial mass of people gathered to watch, to discuss, to agree, or to argue. For a brief hour or two Union Square lived up to it’s reputation during the 1930’s and 40’s as an area where the issues of the day were hammered out with sharp political debate


(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

View Photos From The Event…


(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)


Protesters outside Mike McMahon’s Staten Island office
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — June 3, 2010. Congressman Mike McMahon (D, NY-13), normally known for his careful comments, issued a statement Wednesday night in which he compared peace activists to “supporters of Hamas.”

A group of 25 peace activists and members of Staten Island’s Muslim community held a rally outside Congressman Mike McMahon’s office Wednesday night. Gathering at 7 p.m., the activists demanded that McMahon issue a statement condemning Israel’s recent attack on the “Gaza Freedom Flotilla” — an attack by Israeli commandos on unarmed peace activists taking humanitarian aid to the Gaza ghetto whose civilian population is suffering under an Israeli military blockade. Nine civilians died in the Israeli assault.

Sally Jones of Peace Action New York State spoke at the rally. Discussing U.S. foreign policy as regards the Israeli commando raid on an unarmed vessel in international waters, she said that, “We should not cover up war crimes. We need to be consistent. We should not be hypocritical.”


Peace Action’s Sally Jones
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

“When something is wrong, it is wrong. And the killing of those aid workers who were delivering aid to people who need it — that was wrong,” she said.

Hesham El-Meligy, a well-known activist in Staten Island’s Muslim community, called on McMahon to act.

“We are calling on our congressman to speak up against this international terrorism. Israel committed a crime in this case,” he said.


CLICK to hear Hesham El-Meligy

(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

“We are not protesting the congressman yet because there’s no statement that’s come from him. But it’s been customary that the United States Congress is some kind of an Israel lobby in itself. Almost 80 percent of congresspeople, regardless of what the matter is, support Israel — right or wrong. So we are calling on our congressman to issue a statement condemning this international terrorism and piracy. And we ask that the United States Congress not keep supporting it with money and weapons that keep children hungry and under siege,” El-Meligy said.

The rally ended at 8 p.m. Some time after that McMahon’s office issued a statement that was sent out via the congressman’s e-mail notification list. It has yet to appear on the congressional website. NLN acquired a copy of the statement from Lauren Amendolara, McMahon’s communication director, after seeing it mentioned, but not sourced, on the NY13Watch blog.

MCMAHON STATEMENT ON “VIGIL FOR GAZA CONVOY”

Staten Island, NY – Tonight, Rep. Michael E. McMahon, a Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Europe and Middle East and South Asia Subcommittees, issued the following statement in response to the Vigil for Gaza Convoy, which took place outside his Staten Island district office.

“Just as America protects its borders, Israel – and any other country – has the right to maintain and defend its own borders. Despite what Hamas supporters may be claiming now, Monday’s incident wasn’t about bringing in supplies. [ emphasis added ] It was about provoking Israel, a country whose people have been subject to countless terrorist attacks from Hamas supporters in the Gaza Strip.

“Since Israel instituted its Gaza blockade, these attacks have dramatically decreased, and it is not hard to see how the Israeli government would perceive the flotilla’s actions as a direct confrontation. I fully support a transparent investigation by the Israeli government as to why these deaths occurred.

“Primarily, though, we need to remain focused on what really threatens the shared interests of all democratic countries – a nuclear armed Iran. This is why I believe it is in our country’s best interest to lower tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean and encourage diplomacy between Turkey and Israel.”

NY13Watch was critical of McMahon’s comments, saying that “Team McMahon sends along the boss’s statement on the Gaza flotilla and a related vigil which apparently took place outside of his Staten Island office. It wisely avoids anything that his Turkish friends might like very much. We can’t decide what we like best: the part where he implicitly lumps anyone who thinks the flotilla was about delivering aid to Gaza into the “Hamas supporters” category, or the weasely, “hey-look-nuclear-Iran!” closing paragraph. So, we pick on it, but we’d probably come up with something similar if put in his spot.”


A young protester: “Food and toys are not weapons.”
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Middle East expert Joel Kovel, author of Overcoming Zionism, told NLN that, “Rep. McMahon’s statement comes straight from the Israeli consulate and contradicts the judgment of the whole civilized world as to this terrible instance of murder on the high seas. Why is it that every other country on earth sees this differently from Israel and the United States? Is this anti-Semitism on a world scale? Or has humanity decided that attacking an unarmed flotilla bringing humanitarian aid to more than a million oppressed and hungry people, more than a half of them children, is unacceptable. Likewise, killing an unarmed US citizen with four shots to the head and one to the chest. Furkan Dogan was 19 years old and a high school student. He was studying in Turkey but a native of New York State. He could have been Rep McMahon’s constituent. Is this the way we take care of our people? What has become of the sovereignty of the United States that its elected officials would obey the orders of a foreign power, not to mention, one this dangerous?”

Devra Morice, an organizer of the rally with Movement for a Democratic Society, told NLN that additional protests are planned now that the congressman has issued a statement defending the Israeli attack.

View Photos/Videos From The Event…

Posted by Fran Korotzer - | News


Joel Kovel
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

NEW YORK — On the evening of June 1 the Revolution Bookstore in NYC organized an emergency forum that would help people understand what was behind the brutal attack only hours before on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla that was carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza. The speakers would not only denounce the crime but make clear why it happened, as well as the responsibility of the peace and justice community to oppose it.

The bookstore was filled to capacity and there were people listening in the street through loudspeakers. Andy Zee opened the meeting speaking of the brutal murder of people on the high seas who were bringing humanitarian aid, basic essentials, to people living in the largest prison in the world. When people on the West Bank protested the attack on the flotilla the Israeli military fired a teargas canister into the face of a young American solidarity worker, an art student at Cooper Union, causing many broken facial bones and the loss of an eye. This aggression will not stop the Free Gaza Movement. In fact, another flotilla is being organized now in Italy. Several ships are already in the water.

The first speaker was Adam Shapiro, human rights activist and co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement. He began by asking for a moment of silence for the victims of the flotilla attack and for the 6 people that were killed in Gaza that day. He explained that his wife was on one of the boats in the flotilla and she called him as the ships were being attacked. She could see the commandos landing on the Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara, she heard weapons being fired, saw flashes of bright light, and shortly after that the IDF landed on her boat. All we know so far is that all the ships were taken. We don’t know who was killed or wounded. No facts are coming from Israel. Governments all over the world are reacting strongly, diplomatic maneuvers are going on, and there has been fast and harsh condemnation from all over. We have read that Netanyahu has cancelled his planned trip to Washington to speak to Obama. Reliable sources told Shapiro that Obama asked Netanyahu not to come. We, as activists, have to keep focus on the blockade and we believe that “the blockade is teetering.” A flotilla is being organized in Italy but it isn’t ready to go yet. We are looking for a delegation of interfaith leaders. All of the media outlets have asked to be on board the boats. “Israel has dealt itself a defeat,” he said, it has exposed itself to the world. People power will overcome the blockade. If Israel stops ships again they lose. Israel is in a lose-lose position.

Israel is showing itself more and more willing to use brute force. The attack in international waters was premeditated. Israel announced that they would stop the ships using any means necessary. Orders for the commandos to shoot had to have been given in advance. During the massacre in Gaza Israel asked rabbis to talk to their troops and tell them to try to kill Palestinian babies – it would be considered a “mitzvah.” Israel is now using force against not only it’s Arab citizens but against it’s Jewish citizens as well who are part of the human rights movement.

Israel claims that there is no crisis in Gaza, yet Obama said, in his Cairo speech, that there is a crisis there. The subject is not up for debate.

“We will sail again to Gaza.” The ships are a tactic to achieve Palestinian rights and end the blockade. But other tactics will be tried to achieve our goals. More boats will go and Israel may use force again. They will help bring about their own defeat. The flotilla paid a very high price but, in a way, this is a victory. We will use this opportunity to change the world. Always remember the Palestinian people – they are the ones we are working for.

Author and former NY Times journalist, Chris Hedges spoke next. He said that since the first intifada Israel has refused to use non-lethal methods of crowd control against unarmed people, including children. Then they flagrantly manipulate the truth to mask their use of lethal force. What happened on the Turkish boat was premeditated lethal force that was initiated to send a message to future people who might challenge them. Israel has changed. There is now a complete disregard for the diplomacy that the US needs to provide cover for their compliance. They are no longer pretending to work for a 2 state solution. There is no show of rapprochement with the Palestinians. Apartheid is blatant. The 8 ghettos on the West Bank replicate the vast ghetto of Gaza. 40% of the land on the West Bank has already been confiscated, including most of the aquifers. There is no concern for international law. Obama is unable to stop the colonization. The blockade of Gaza has been tightened. Privileged Jews orchestrate misery and poverty in the Palestinian territories. The Palestinian middle class is gone. Most live in poverty. There are constant raids using helicopters. Gazans are allowed only a bare subsistence lifestyle to make them feel defeated and end any resistance. But quite the opposite has happened.

Negotiations between Hamas and Israel had been denounced by Al Qaeda. And Al Qaeda will replace Hamas if Hamas leaves or is defeated. Over the past 20 years the racism that was once spread by the marginalized Meir Kahane has become rampant and extreme. Avigdor Lieberman, a major player in the government, expresses the need to eradicate the Arab population in Israel. The democratic facade is gone. Hedges ended by predicting that the establishment of a Palestinian state will most likely come from a force outside the Israeli government, such as the U.N.

Alan Goodman, a writer for Revolution newspaper, spoke next. He explained that he had spent the previous day in front of the Holocaust Museum in NYC carrying a sign that had a quote from Bob Avakian, “After the holocaust the worst thing to happen to Jews is the state of Israel.” Jewish people who were entering or leaving the museum spoke to him. Some thought Israel had flaws. Others asked, didn’t the people on the boats know that Israel would be angry about the flotilla?

He continued, in 1975 Apartheid South Africa was an international pariah. Conditions in the Bantustans were terrible. No world power, including the US, wanted to ally themselves with South Africa. Israel armed the South African regime offering weapons and toxic chemicals in the service of US strategic interests. Change the site to Central America in the 80’s. In Guatemala left guerillas and indigenous peoples were struggling against a US covertly supported reactionary regime. The guerillas and indigenous people were brutally tortured and murdered in great numbers. The most horrific things were done to them. Israel provided planes, boats, and weapons to the regime there. Acting like a US proxy they allowed the US government to look like their hands were clean. Goodman asked, is this what the “shared values” are and the “special relationship” is based on? Israel does the US’s dirtiest work. Jewish people don’t understand that. Knowing the truth can play a legitimate role in undermining Israel’s influence.

Joel Kovel, author of “Overcoming Zionism: Creating a single Democratic State in Israel/Palestine”, began by saying that he disagreed with what Hedges said. “Israel hasn’t changed”, it emerged as a “deformed Jewish state.” Can there be a non-deformed Jewish state? No. A state formed around a religion is toxic and out of control. The Jewish people were never a unified nation, the only thing uniting them is religion and a shared sense of land over millennia. The Jewish religion has a central idea – dispossession and repossession. Driving the Palestinians out of Palestine is an integral part of the religion. Israel is a product of Jewish suffering in the holocaust and the religious idea that the Palestinian land belongs to the Jews. Zionism is the state instrument of force. It was essential to the formation of a Zionist state. Israel was not founded by high-minded people creating a new state. The creation of Israel always, from the beginning, implied ethnic cleansing. Kovel called Israel the “Macbeth of nations” – it craves more and more power and has to keep committing crimes to get and maintain the power. It achieves impunity by sucking up to power and by doing their dirty work. By doing that they can get away with anything, for example the 6-8-67 attack on the USS Liberty. But impunity cannot last – people rise up and say, “no more”. The racist unity is splitting in the Israeli population. The 2 state solution is impossible now and that is good because the 2 state solution would preserve a Jewish state. The proper path would be to build a genuine, universal, democratic society.

The final speaker was Abdeen Jabara, past president of the American-Arab Anti-discrimination Committee and human rights activist. He began by asking if the current US economic crisis was due to political contributions to congress? And is the BP crisis due to the oil companies contributing to congress? What about AIPAC, is US support for Israel based on cash flowing into congress from Zionist support groups? Most people answered yes to all 3 questions. US support for Israel, he said, creates a symbiotic relationship. But young Jews are alienated by what Israelis are doing and by AIPAC funding politicians so that they will vote the way Israel wants them to. The US is in a position of dominance in the world and it supports Israel. Israel is under US protection and is fed billions of dollars when the money is needed here in the US.

Israel’s strategy has been to show such force that no one will challenge the state. But Americans have to challenge Israel and US support for Israel. Since being embarrassed on his trip to Israel, and his subsequent criticism of Israel, Vice President Biden has met with Elie Weisel and with 37 Jewish members of congress to smooth ruffled feathers. This is the situation we are currently dealing with.

When the speakers finished their talks Andy Zee spoke to those assembled about the revolutionary mission of the bookstore and their mission in our society. Then he opened to floor to questions and comments. One person noted that while Blacks in the US financially support the Democrats the US supported South Africa because of contention between the US and the USSR. Another noted that Israel was the US representative in the Middle East but Israel is a major nuclear power. If it looked like there would be no more Jewish state, would they use those weapons to destroy the Middle East? Another person said that Seymour Hersh discussed Israel’s nuclear weapons in “The Sampson Option.” One commented on the strained relations between Turkey, an important member of NATO, and Israel. The Turkish people have been increasingly upset by Zionist policies and now 9 Turkish citizens in the Freedom Flotilla have been murdered. Where to from here? Turkey has a very strong and reactionary military – should we be watching for a possible coup? A questioner asked, since Israel serves US imperial needs, why do American Zionists keep giving congress money? Wouldn’t the US protect Israel without the financial contributions? Kovel disagreed. He said there was no unified approach. The neocons are all Zionists but other imperialists are beginning to see that Israel is no longer serving their needs. There is a split in the ruling class. Because Israel has been the US attack dog doesn’t mean that they will always remain so.

The Revolution Bookstore did a very important service in arranging this forum only hours after the Israeli assault on the humanitarian aid flotilla. All speakers made an important contribution – the evening was full of nuggets of real insight that increased the understanding of the listeners, gave ideas on where to go from here (another flotilla is forming!), and, not unimportantly, lifted some spirits. The Revolution Bookstore has come through, as they have on other issues, and filled a void.

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