Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Human Rights, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
Tags: alice walker, andres goodman, audacity of hope, Civil Rights, freedom flotilla, gandhi, gaza, gaza blockade, gaza flotilla, israeli blockade, israeli military, james chaney, michael schwerner, mississippi freedom, Palestine, Palestinians, palistinian children, roger hollander
Pulitzer prize-winning writer Alice Walker is on board an
international flotilla of boats sailing to Gaza to challenge the Israeli
June 26, 2011 |
Why am I going on the Freedom Flotilla II to Gaza? I ask myself this, even
though the answer is: what else would I do? I am in my 67th year, having lived
already a long and fruitful life, one with which I am content. It seems to me
that during this period of eldering it is good to reap the harvest of one’s
understanding of what is important, and to share this, especially with the
young. How are they to learn, otherwise?
Our boat, The Audacity of Hope, will be carrying letters to the people
of Gaza. Letters expressing solidarity and love. That is all its cargo will
consist of. If the Israeli military attacks us, it will be as if they attacked
the mailman. This should go down hilariously in the annals of history. But if
they insist on attacking us, wounding us, even murdering us, as they did some of
the activists in the last flotilla, Freedom Flotilla I, what is to be done?
is a scene in the movie Gandhi that is very moving to me: it is when the unarmed
Indian protesters line up to confront the armed forces of the British Empire.
The soldiers beat them unmercifully, but the Indians, their broken and dead
lifted tenderly out of the fray, keep coming.
this image of brave followers of Gandhi there is, for me, an awareness of paying
off a debt to the Jewish civil rights activists who faced death to come to the
side of black people in the American south in our time of need. I am especially
indebted to Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman who heard our calls for
help – our government then as now glacially slow in providing protection
to non-violent protesters – and came to stand with us.
got as far as the truncheons and bullets of a few “good ol’ boys’” of Neshoba
County, Mississippi and were beaten and shot to death along with James Chaney, a
young black man of formidable courage who died with them. So, even though our
boat will be called The Audacity of Hope, it will fly the Goodman, Chaney,
Schwerner flag in my own heart.
what of the children of Palestine, who were ignored in our president’s latest
speech on Israel and Palestine, and
whose impoverished, terrorised, segregated existence was mocked by the standing
ovations recently given in the US Congress to the prime minister of Israel?
see children, all children, as humanity’s most precious resource, because it
will be to them that the care of the planet will always be left. One child must
never be set above another, even in casual conversation, not to mention in
speeches that circle the globe.
adults, we must affirm, constantly, that the Arab child, the Muslim child, the
Palestinian child, the African child, the Jewish child, the Christian child, the
American child, the Chinese child, the Israeli child, the Native American child,
etc, is equal to all others on the planet. We must do everything in our power to
cease the behaviour that makes children everywhere feel afraid.
once asked my best friend and husband during the era of segregation, who was as
staunch a defender of black people’s human rights as anyone I’d ever met: how
did you find your way to us, to black people, who so needed you? What force
shaped your response to the great injustice facing people of colour of that
thought he might say it was the speeches, the marches, the example of Martin
Luther King Jr, or of others in the movement who exhibited impactful courage and
grace. But no. Thinking back, he recounted an episode from his childhood that
had led him, inevitably, to our struggle.
was a little boy on his way home from yeshiva, the Jewish school he attended
after regular school let out. His mother, a bookkeeper, was still at work; he
was alone. He was frequently harassed by older boys from regular school, and one
day two of these boys snatched his yarmulke (skull cap), and, taunting him, ran
off with it, eventually throwing it over a fence.
black boys appeared, saw his tears, assessed the situation, and took off after
the boys who had taken his yarmulke. Chasing the boys down and catching them,
they made them climb the fence, retrieve and dust off the yarmulke, and place it
respectfully back on his head.
is justice and respect that I want the world to dust off and put – without
delay, and with tenderness – back on the head of the Palestinian child. It
will be imperfect justice and respect because the injustice and disrespect have
been so severe. But I believe we are right to try.
is why I sail.
Chicken Chronicles: A Memoir by Alice Walker is
published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson. A longer version of this article appears
on Alice Walker’s blog: alicewalkersgarden.com/blog
Posted by rogerhollander in About Democracy, Democracy.
Tags: american democracy, California, constitution, democracy, democratic representation, democratic rule, democrats, filibuster, filibuster proof, gandhi, government, injustice, majority rule, minority rule, political science, republicans, revolution, revolutionary change, roger hollander, senate, senators, US constitution, US Senate, wyoming
Roger Hollander, www.rogerhollander.com, May Day, 2009.
When Gandhi was asked by a journalist what he thought of Western Civilization, he replied famously that he thought it would be a good idea. He could have said the same for American democracy.
Now that there is a Democrat in the White House and a Democratic majority in the Senate, there is much discussion about the necessity to obtain a “filibuster-proof” majority of 60 seats. Somehow the Republicans when in power got their program through with a simple majority. Both these data tell us more about the Democrats than the Republicans. Google the word “Republicrat” and see how many entries you get.
In an essay I wrote some time ago and posted on this Blog last August, (http://rogerhollander.wordpress.com/category/rogers-archived-writing/political-essays-roger/the-constitution-is-unconstitutional/) I analyzed the various injustices inherent in the original United States Constitution, some of which have been amended out of existence (slavery, women’s non-sufferance, etc.), and focused on what I characterize as one of the most undemocratic institutions in existence, the United States Senate. I showed how both in theory and in practice, representatives of much less than a majority of Americans control what does and does not get legislated in that astute body.
Since Obama does not yet have his 60 – only the goddess knows when Coleman will give up, and you can never count on sleazebag Lieberman – let’s take a look at the present contingent of Republican Senators, who have in effect a veto over the legislative process. Let’s see what percentage of the American population these 40 Republican Senators actually represent.
(I have taken the population data from the U. S. Census Bureau estimates for July 1, 2008 [http://www.census.gov/popest/states/NST-ann-est.html; “Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for the United States, Regions, States, and Puerto Rico: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2008 (NST-EST2008-01”]. At that the estimate for the entire country was 304,060,000 [all estimates are rounded off to the nearest thousand]).
In the following states both senate seats are held by Republicans:
South Carolina 4,480,000
The following states are represented by one Republican Senator:
New Hampshire 1,316,000
North Carolina 9,222,000
South Dakota 804,000
Let’s do the math. By adding the total population for the states in which both Senators are Republican (75,631,000) to half of the population of the states in which there is one Republican Senator (68,097,000/2 = 34,049,000) we get a sum total of 109,680,000.
This figure represents 36% of the overall American population. The representatives of those 36% in the United States Senate essentially hold the country hostage with respect to legislation (this is based upon the assumption is that all Senators will vote according to the dictates of the party leadership; although this is not always the case, it is not unreasonable to assume that those who cross over from each party cancel each other out).
36%. U.S. democracy in action.
In my original essay (“The Constitution is Unconstitutional”) I compared California with Wyoming with respect to democratic representation in the Senate. Using the updated 2008 population data, let’s take a new look. We have California with a population of 36,757,000 and Wyoming with a whopping 533,000. Yet each state has exactly two representatives in the Senate. One Senator for every 267,000 Wyomingites; one Senator for each 18,379,000 Californians. If you live in Wyoming you have 69 times more senatorial political power than someone living in California.
69 to one. U.S democracy in action.
So big deal, you say, that’s the way the cookie crumbles. Instead of whining about it, why don’t you suggest what can be done. In my original essay I argued that the Constitution seemed to establish the Senate in a way that it could never be amended. I am quite possibly wrong about that; perhaps a Constitutional Amendment could democratize the Senate or abolish it. But can you imagine that happening in a dozen lifetimes? No way, Ho Zay.
So what then? In my article I argued for revolution. If you’re interested, read the article. Here again is the link: http://rogerhollander.wordpress.com/category/rogers-archived-writing/political-essays-roger/the-constitution-is-unconstitutional/
Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Torture.
Tags: Abu Ghraib, bagram, cheney, Condoleezza Rice, congress, constitution, david addington, democracy, eric holder, feith, gandhi, geneva conventions, George Bush, Guantanamo, International law, jay bybee, john yoo, nuremburg, president obama, roger hollander, rule of law, rumsfeld, special prosecutor, steve weissman, torture, truth commission, War Crimes, waterboarding, western civilization, william hayes
Tuesday 28 April 2009
by: Steve Weissman, t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Asked what he thought of Western civilization, the nonviolent Mahatma Gandhi famously replied, “I think it would be a good idea.” Unless millions of Americans now demand better, we can say the same of “the rule of law.” What a good idea it would have been, but – like the tooth fairy – it will not exist, not when competing priorities get in the way. The balancing – and trimming – is well on its way.
Should a special prosecutor hold Bush, Cheney, Rice and Rumsfeld accountable for violating the law against torture when they specifically authorized waterboarding, sleep deprivation, stress positions and sexual humiliation of detainees? “No one is above the law,” President Obama repeatedly tells us. But, prosecuting Bush & Co. would tear the country apart, the Republican chorus chimes in. And it would create a precedent for prosecuting future presidents whose policies we might not like, just as in a banana republic.
Should Congress or a truth commission investigate torture and other war crimes so they will never happen again? Better not, the White House tells us. The country needs to look ahead and not to the past, and the administration needs to focus on fixing the economy and creating a universal health care system.
Should Congress impeach former Deputy Attorney General Jay Bybee, now a federal appeals court judge, for giving his superiors the legal arguments they wanted to justify the torture they had already decided upon? Absolutely not, his defenders insist. Lawyers must feel free to give officials their best legal advice, and officials must feel free to get the legal advice they need.
None of these alternative priorities are trivial. America should never criminalize differences over lawful policies. Obama and his administration should focus on ending the economic crisis and fulfilling his campaign promises. And senior officials should feel free to consult with government lawyers. But all these priorities must remain within legal limits, and none of them justify giving a pass to those who commit criminal acts, no matter how high their office. Either we uphold the rule of law or we make political priorities paramount. We cannot have it both ways, and we should stop pretending that we can.
The stakes here go far beyond whether or not we torture our enemies, our suspected enemies and then our own people, though these are obviously life-and-death concerns. What should scare us even more is whether or not we maintain even the façade of democracy.
In overriding the Geneva Conventions, other treaty obligations and American laws banning torture, the Bush administration explicitly claimed that the president could do whatever he thought necessary to full his constitutional obligation to defend the country. He was the decider in chief, and neither Congress nor the courts could overrule his decision. As Jay Bybee’s torture memo put it, “the President enjoys complete discretion in the exercise of his Commander-in-Chief authority and in conducting operations against hostile forces.”
Right-wing legal ideologues call this view of sweeping and unchecked presidential power “a strong unified presidency.” Those who believe in it would turn our chief executive into an elected monarch, and some proponents would even grant him or her the right to call off elections in time of crisis, real or contrived. Following this grandiose view, President Bush usurped powers that the Constitution does not permit, and his administration used those powers to commit other crimes, from torture to invading Iraq on a pack of lies. Do we prosecute Bush’s power grab as a criminal violation of the Constitution? Or, do we accept a crime bordering on treason as just another policy decision with which we may or may not disagree?
Either way, we set a precedent. Prosecute Bush, Cheney, Rice and Rumsfeld and we confirm that every future leader must operate within the rule of law. Give them a pass and their successors will feel free to rule as they will. The choice is clear, if only Americans have the courage to pursue it. My guess is that we do not, and that we will soon come to rue it.
A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly Ramparts, Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France.
Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, Uncategorized.
Tags: anti-war, bayard rustin, charles merrill, Civil Rights, civil rights movement, discrimination, equality, evangelical bigots, faith based, gandhi, gay rights, human rights, john bisceglia, lesbian rights, lgbt rights, non violence, non-violent resistance, quakers, roger hollander, souther baptist bigots, tax protests, tax revolt, war resister
“I agree all citizens should pay their taxes if they are treated as equals and receive all of the benefits and privileges allowed as U.S. heterosexual citizens. For those of us not allowed 100% of the rights and benefits due to E.N.D.A., D.O.M.A., D.A.D.T., objection to the war, etc., we should protest the unfair discrimination dictated by the majority. If we really believe in our cause we will risk going to prison, otherwise the cause is not worth fighting for. Why should we help pay for Faith Based programs of Southern Baptists and other evangelical groups that discriminate against us and refuse to hire us?
I am a great admirer of the unsung hero Civil Rights leader Bayard Rustin the main brain in back of the Civil Rights movement. He was a War Tax Resister and Quaker which means he protested war as he saw the injustice against humanity, The 60′s Civil Rights movement was stimulated by economic struggles and withholding taxes were not a strategy but a bus boycott was.
Rustin travelled to India and studied Gandhi’s non violent resistance and salt tax protests to free India. Would Bayard Rustin be a tax protestor today for LGBT equal rights? Absolutely. Not everyone can go this protest route and keep their jobs or non-profit tax exemptions, but those self-employed and retirees who can, should. Rustin’s biography is here. Talk about a hero, his story made into a film would make Milk look weak in comparison. Because he was gay and belonged to the communist party briefly, Black faith based Civil Rights groups keep his name hushed.”
His bio, my hero: Bayard Rustin
from a comment on The Bilerico Project by Charles Merrill
Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
Tags: bagladesh, british empire, Bush, gandhi, gaza, hamas, hindu, India, israel, jerulalem, kashmir, louis ruprecht, Middle East, multi-ethnic, multi-religious, muslim, Obama, pakistan, Palestine, rockets, roger hollander, two-state solution, war, west bank
The lackluster and mildly bizarre performance of President Bush in this, the last of his 47 presidential press conferences, puts the muted period to a failed presidency that began with constitutional fireworks and cultural exclamation-points. It was a strange show. His attempts to be gracious with the press fell flat, his professions of commitment to the ideals of liberty and free speech were scarcely plausible, his self-deprecating attempts at humor elicited not so much as a smile.
It was his simplistic assessment of the current situation in Gaza that was most striking, however, and worrisome. The situation is simple for Bush; it always has been. Israel’s battle is America’s battle, and vice versa. It is framed as a battle of Israeli democracy against the anti-democratic forces surrounding her, and it is thus another front in the War on Terror that has always had a theological echo in this president’s biblicist mind.
There can be no peace so long as Hamas is lobbing rockets into Israel, the President concluded. That is very true (though not absolutely so). The statement needs a supplement. There can be no peace so long as many things continue to be permitted—like the flow of illegal weapons into Gaza, like the building of illegal settlements in the West Bank, like a de facto Israeli blockade of the Gaza strip, etcetera. There are no heroes in this conflict, and that is what this president’s simplistic and one-sided reasoning always failed to comprehend. Why did he not do more? Because someone is always lobbing a rocket or detonating a bomb, and this invalidates any and every gesture toward peace, in his simple view.
Barack Obama famously noted that a president rarely has the luxury of dealing with one crisis at a time. The standard litany of current crises is well known: the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression; two wars with staggering expense accounts; ongoing security concerns, etcetera. And well before being sworn in, the troubles of the President-elect have multiplied: Bill Richardson’s withdrawal of his nomination to a Cabinet post; controversy over seating certain Senators; debates about the economic stimulus package he proposes; debates about the appropriateness of inviting Rick Warren to the presidential podium.
Now two new battles are brewing, and we did not directly anticipate either one. But we need to find a way to think them together. Pakistani troops are massing on the Indian border, and Israel has mounted a punishing ground assault on Gaza. In fact, the Israelis have just brought up their reserves, indicating that they intend to be at this for some time.
There is something almost surreal, and supremely depressing, in hearing poignant phrases uttered for the hundredth time. The faces of the politicians change; the well-meaning professions of care do not. So we are told that they will apply themselves with new urgency to the Mid-east peace process. And yet the US president, when asked today why his attempts to move that process along never made any headway, noted rather lamely that “they’ve been fighting there for a long time.” It was clear from his subsequent remarks that he was thinking at least as much about biblical history as about the post-1948 era.
And yet 1948 provides one interpretive key to the whole mess.
Israel, India and Pakistan are all three creatures of the post-colonial break-up of the British Empire at the end of World War 2. And India provides a cautionary tale for Israel today. The terrifying moral they provide is that “two-state solutions” do not work, if we imagine working as the creation of stable borders and relatively peaceable neighbors.
When it was clear in 1946-7 that the British would leave the Indian subcontinent, then the great post-colonial question emerged: how many countries should be created out of what were previously vast colonial holdings? Gandhi, it may be recalled, was state solution (and he was assassinated by a Hindu nationalist, not an Islamist). Gandhi envisioned a thriving multi-ethnic and multi-religious democracy, one that laid claim to its proud history of productive Hindu-Muslim coexistence. His Islamic counterpart, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, disagreed, insisting that the Muslim minority on the subcontinent needed a country of its own. Hence the emergence of the two-state India-Pakistan solution.
Yet Pakistan was an almost surreal construction from the beginning. It was a bizarre non-contiguous territory: East and West Pakistan, separated by over one thousand miles of India. Unsurprisingly, the two halves of Pakistan fell to bickering, then fell apart, their quarrels supported by an Indian regime that was interested in maintaining a weak neighbor to its north, and the predictable civil war that began in 1971 resulted in the creation of an independent Bagladesh. Since then, India and (West) Pakistan have fought two major wars of territorial dispute (primarily over the status of Kashmir), one minor war, and have skirmished almost constantly.
The moral of this strange tale is two-fold. First, the arbitrary construction of a country composed of two non-contiguous parts is doomed from the start. The second lesson is even more troubling: “Two-state solutions” do not work. Built into the model at its inception is the premise that these potentially hostile groups cannot co-exist peacefully. What is taken off the table at the start is the possibility of peaceful coexistence and the creation of a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, genuinely cosmopolitan society. If you assume at the start that you need two separate countries because the relative populations cannot coexist, then you should not be surprised if these two countries fight periodic wars from then on. Conflict, after all, was the very premise that named the problem for which two states allegedly provided a solution.
We have the makings of this same situation in Israel today. The nominal Palestinian “state” is an even more bizarre non-contiguous territory constituted by the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Since Hamas’s victory in the most recent elections (they won a plurality rather than a strict majority, but that is beside the current crisis), we have been moving toward an Israeli-sponsored civil war between the two parts of this quasi-Palestinian state (the two Palestinian parties involved, Fatah versus Hamas, have come to symbolize the conflict, and the stakes). Israel has invested heavily in assuring that this quasi-state cannot succeed. Traffic between the two halves of the quasi-country is well-nigh impossible, exacerbated now by the construction of the West Bank wall. New Israeli settlements in the not-so-sovereign West Bank are deliberate and constant provocations that further de-legitimate this quasi-state. The de facto blockade of Gaza makes the economic viability of the state suspect as well. And to be sure, the neighboring Arab countries have not done much to help either the situation or their Palestinian comrades. The parties on all sides of this conflict that do not want peace have found it very easy to play the current system to maintain a constant state of low-level violence that periodically breaks out into hotter moments, like the one we saw in south Lebanon, and the one we see now in Gaza.
Thus a proposed two-state solution results, in the best case, in the creation of three states, not two, as well as a state of constant conflict and continual alert. And the dirty little secret is that the truces, so often declared and so often violated, are never ironclad and never honored to the letter. The strange reality is that a truce almost always tolerates a certain low level of violence, violence that is voluntarily overlooked by both sides in the interest of accomplishing greater goals. Some peripheral attacks are overlooked. A stray rocket is not blamed on the government. Illegal new settlements are not blamed on the government, either, but assof foreign agitators (most of them from Brooklyn).
And on it goes, as casualties rise and anger festers. Why has there been no progress on the peace front? My increasingly desperate worry is that the initial conditions were set in such a way as virtually to guarantee continual conflict, a constant state of alert, mutual mistrust and antipathy, periodic escalations and explosions of almost theatrical violence.
There is nothing worse than commentary on the Middle East that goes this far, and then either throws up its hands in world-weary despair, or lays the blame squarely on one side, or else suggests a surprising new approach that everyone else has overlooked. I recognize that this commentary runs the very real risk of sounding the same. This is not what I wish to communicate, though my despair is real, and heartfelt.
I recognize that there is no turning back the clock, no possibility of revisiting the question of whether a two-state proposal really was a good solution. It is literally too late to go back to the beginning and to start over, in the Indian subcontinent or in the Middle East. But one change in strategy might accomplish symbolic things, most importantly a sense that the US intends to be not merely an honest broker but actually realistic about finding a way out of the current impasse.
Every peace proposal I have ever heard agrees that the question of the status of Jerusalem must be postponed. It will be the thorniest problem to solve, and every attempt to resolve other disputes will founder on the shoals of the Jerusalem Siren-song.
What if we have this precisely backwards? If no current peace proposal can imagine a peaceable solution in Jerusalem, then of what use are they? They all simply kick the can up the road, knowing full well than any potential breakthrough will be undone as soon as we turn to the long-postponed Big Question. Why, then, not try to do the hardest thing first? Indeed, were the various competing parties ever able to agree, however unhappily, to a political solution concerning the status of Jerusalem, it would almost invariably be a solution that did not permit Jerusalem to belong to any one group, and thus it would model the alternative possibility that two-state solutions normally erase: that of a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, cosmopolitan alternative.
I see no real possibility that such an adjudication is possible, certainly not now. But in the long run, this seems a more realistic goal, ironically enough, than the endless hand-wringing that comes from people of good will who wonder aimlessly “why they hate each other so.”
Louis A. Ruprecht Jr. is William M. Suttles Chair of Religious Studies at Georgia State University in Atlanta. The author of six books, his two most recent are: God Gardened East: A Gardener’s Meditation on the Dynamics of Genesis (Wipf and Stock, 2008) and This Tragic Gospel: How John Corrupted the Heart of Christianity (Jossey-Bass, 2008).