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Month October 2010

The Peace Process

I know we’re not supposed to talk about this, it’s too controversial in this country to talk about Israel or Zionism, and it’s easier to pretend that it doesn’t perpetuate the longest standing current day human rights crisis in the world.  It would, I’m sure, make many of us more comfortable if human rights activists could just stop reminding us that Israel is a modern day Apartheid state with Jim Crow laws, and we wouldn’t have to face the fact that AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Israel lobby) is pushing for a constant pro-Israel agenda in our country on the backs of millions of brown Palestinian children.  (See The Israel Lobby, by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt.)  But being a brown Muslim vegan woman, it just wouldn’t feel like my every day life if I didn’t take on the most uncomfortable and heinous injustices in the world.  I’ve lived in Palestine so I have a special duty to never forget.

 

I don’t even get hopeful, excited or even mildly interested now whenever a new “peace” process starts, because I know the game and the story.  We need only look back to see our history repeating itself to understand that these peace talks are never meant to create peace.  They are meant to keep the cycle of violence going until it can reach its ethnically cleansed conclusion.

 

So a bit of history: Zionism is the idea that Jewish people are the racially superior chosen people who deserve the exclusive right to all of historic Palestine.  Now I must be clear that not all Jewish people think this, and many including Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, the Neturei Karta and countless others are outspoken critics of this racism and won’t allow it to happen in their name.  Modern day Zionism’s father Theodor Hertzl had the vision back in the late 1800’s that Jewish people needed a homeland that was ethnically and racially Jewish.  The World Zionist Organization (WZO) founded in the late 1800’s set their eyes on historic Palestine (at that time occupied by the British) as one day being exclusively a Jewish homeland free of its Palestinian inhabitants.  This vision included “from the river to the sea”, meaning from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, which includes all of historic Palestine (the West Bank and the Gaza Strip).  This vision was made reality in 1948 when the British mandate ended, the UN along with the British betrayed the Palestinians out of a promise to their homeland and partitioned Palestine into two states (one exclusively Jewish, one Palestinian), and Zionist forces captured even more than the already unilaterally unjust UN partition plan and murdered and pillaged over 400 Palestinian villages, driving out those who were able to survive the onslaught into neighboring nations Lebanon and Jordan or to the east and west of historic Palestine (the West Bank and the Gaza Strip) where many still reside in refugee camps to this day.  The current day occupation was finalized in 1967 when Israel fully seized control over the remaining Palestinian lands the West Bank and Gaza.  (For an excellent account of the history Noam Chomsky’s The Fateful Triangle, chapter 4).

The Zionist vision of claiming all of historic Palestine (which includes current day West Bank and Gaza which have been touted as the future Palestinian state) still remains in effect.  Israel has never had and will never have any intention of relinquishing any of this land to Palestinians for the creation of a future state since claiming all of the land has always been the mission, hence the ongoing 60 plus year occupation.  This is also why Israel has never officially declared its national borders since their land grab is unfinished.  In order to enforce this slow land grab, Israel has in violation of the 4th Geneva Conventions heavily carved up the West Bank with illegal settlements with the intention of annexing the land.  The Israeli settlements slowly claim this settled land, deliberately located on top of the largest water aquifers in the West Bank (Ariel settlement for example), in order to take the land and the majority of the water for Israel.  It is also no coincidence that the Apartheid Wall (which has been ruled unlawful by the International Court of Justice for where it confiscates Palestinian land off of the 1949 armistice line or “green” line) snaking through the West Bank deliberately encircles the settlements on the Israeli side of the Wall, again particularly Ariel, in order to steal the water and land from the Palestinians.  The fact that a temporary freeze on these illegal settlements is somehow a bargaining chip or bonus point for Israel just demonstrates how far we have fallen in understanding what is really happening on the ground in Palestine.

 

The farce of Israel’s “peace” offers is evidenced through the numerous peace talks and Israel’s offers for a “two state solution” consisting of chopped up pieces of land.  The Israeli offers of a state would be as is, the West Bank carved up by settlements where Palestinian villages would not be connected, making up a “swiss-cheese” like state, and the Gaza Strip would be as is, this open air prison physically amputated from the West Bank.  Oh and you can forget about Jerusalem.  Any two state solution offers from the Palestinians proposing a state in the West Bank and Gaza based on pre-1967 borders without the illegal settlements cutting up the land (and supported by numerous UN resolutions) in whole are roundly rejected by Israel.  And Palestinians are always left to blame for rejecting the Israeli proposal of a “peace” offer, that also includes banning the future state of Palestine from ever having an army, being able to trade openly with their neighbors, and with Israel reserving the right to control their airspace and national borders.  In other words, still an occupation.  Not to mention these redundant peace processes constantly revolve around a dead solution.  The two state solution is not even an offer of a real contiguous, autonomous nation, and is reminiscent of the South African model of an occupying power negotiating an ethnically pure state on the lands already stolen from an indigenous population while offering the original inhabitants a separate but not so equal state on the worst parts of the land left.  These negotiations do not dare mention the one democratic, secular state solution where one’s rights are not based on one’s race or religion but rather on the fact that they are humans with inalienable rights to democracy and self determination.  One person, one vote.  If we have learned anything from U.S. and South African Apartheid history, it is that separate is never equal.  (For a detailed explanation of the one state solution, see Ali Abunimah’s book One Country, A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli- Palestinian Impasse.)

Yet Israel knows that by offering these crumbs to the Palestinian leadership, it will be rejected as any people would reject this offer, Israel will be allowed to claim that they offered “peace” while not offering to dismantle illegal settlements, stop the deliberate shooting of children, strangulation of water and access to farm land (read: access to food and the only source of employment left for Palestinians), the air strikes, the siege on Gaza, and provide medical care as is the legal requirement of an occupying body, and Israel will somehow still come out the victor.  All the peace negotiations have ever been about is placating the international community and the Palestinians while Israel continues its land grab, genocide and ethnic cleansing until one day Israel will fulfill the WZO vision of claiming all of historic Palestine free of Palestinians.  It’s simply stalling, a delay tactic, a diversion from what is really happening.  Israel and Israeli companies are also making vast sums of money with this perpetual occupation and genocide and the requisite weapons and security technology.  (See Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine, chapter 20).  So it’s a win win for them.  And the cycle continues.

 

The important conclusion to take away from all of this is to understand that all the misery Israel inflicts on Palestinians is deliberate, not just out of racism but out of the intent to make life so miserable for Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank and occupied Gaza Strip that the Palestinians will be driven out of the their homes and the land will be free for Israel’s taking.

I do live in hope that one day these so called peace negotiations will actually talk about peace, about Israel ending its brutal 6 decade long occupation of Palestine, 6 decade long Apartheid regime, and allow the refugees living in camps for up to 62 years to come home, as mandated by the UN and international law.  (See for example UN resolution 194).  If for no one else, I hold this hope alive for so many of the Palestinian children I met while living in the West Bank who dreamt of being able to at least travel to the neighboring village to see their families, to visit Jerusalem and pray at Al-Aqsa, to be free of Walls and checkpoints, to not lose another friend to Israeli sniper fire.  And to simply have an innocent childhood.  That is, for those who are left alive to have that hope.


- Bina Ahmad is an attorney, human rights and animal rights social justice activist.  She is the daughter of Pakistani immigrants and an Ahmadi Muslim, a heavily persecuted sect in Islam.  She has worked on social justice issues her entire life, and worked with organizations such as Human Rights Watch, the New York branch of the ACLU, Al-Haq (the oldest Palestinian Human Rights NGO based in Ramallah, West Bank), and PETA.  She strives to make the connection between human and animal oppression, and hopes you will join her in the struggle
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Mainstreaming Palestine With Invincible

Save the Date! – OCTOBER 26, 2010

PROJECT PALESTINE PRESENTS – Mainstreaming Palestine

An evening of music, words and a motion picture.
Featuring INVINCIBLE

“One of the most talented emcees I’ve ever heard, black or white, male or female”—Talib Kweli

THE NEW SCHOOL 66 W. 12th Street, Room A-404

Pamela Olson Oklahoma-born Author, Hear excerpts from her book-in-progress, Fast Times in Palestine.

Fida Qishta Palestinian Filmmaker,
View a piece of her nearly-complete film, Where Should the Birds Fly?

Invincible Detroit-based Hip Hop Artist,
Watch her perform People Not Places and other songs.

Project Palestine is a newly recognized student organization at The New School aimed at illustrating the Palestinian plight through films, music, literature, poetry, art and discussions.

RSVP: projectpalestinenyc@gmail.com

Please help Project Palestine meet their Kickstarter fundraising goals!

A personal message from Andy Stepanian

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1226638047/project-palestine-a-paradigm-shifting-event

 

Dearest Friends,

My close friend, Noor Elashi is a brilliant, creative, peacemaker.  Noor needs you to help her reach her Kickstarter fundraising goals.  I will be donating $40, because thats all I can afford, but please consider donating as much as you can  (see link above.)  Please also attend Noor’s first event at the New School, Next Tuesday at 8:30pm.

Noor’s father, Ghassan Elashi is currently incarcerated in the Communications Management Unit (CMU) Marion, Illinois serving a sentence of 65 years for his alleged support of the people of Gaza.  Ghassan is accused of allegedly providing physical humanitarian aide in the form of millions of dollars of baby food, infant formula, medicine, and sundry items.   Even though almost every non-Muslim, non-activist American with a conscious who hears about Ghassan’s charges becomes enraged at the injustice, Noor however has not allowed that injustice to make her cynical or jaded.  Instead Noor has used her own creative writing and organizing skills as a college activist to start an ongoing dialog about Palestine, the middle east, and the repression of Muslim communities.

“Mainstreaming Palestine”  is a lecture/film/music series aimed at braiding arts, liberation, and culture, and will launch on October 26th with a screening of Fida Qishta’s Where Should The Birds Fly, a reading from Pamela Olson’s Fast Times In Palestine, and a performance from Detroit’s ground-breaking, underground hip-hop artist Invincible.

http://projectpalestine.wordpress.com/2010/10/15/oct-26-mainstreaming-palestine/

With a nation currently engaged in what seems like an endlessly open-ended  war on “terror” we often cloak what “we” deem as our opposition as enemies when we don’t even understand them.  ”Mainstreaming Palestine” is about building bridges.   Invincible is a female Jewish artist who raps about the parallels between the ghettoization of Palestine and the ghettoization of post-industrial Detroit, poverty, gentrification, desperation and crime, Noor is a Palestinian whose family was deeply effected by the occupation, apartheid and related imposed sanctions.  Their collective message is one about peace, understanding, and traversing differences to build a better tomorrow.

Please join me as this event series launches and please donate to Project Palestine via kickstarter.com

Love & Liberation,

Andy

Cipher’s ‘Joyous Collapse’ is Making the Political, Personal

This week Sparrow’s Andy Stepanian highlighted the political punk band Cipher in an article he wrote for The Huffington Post. The article garnered a bit of attention for Cipher, which was the point …Cipher has always put sincerity, ethics, and substance before the fluff of the music industry, if only every band had the hearts that these guys have.  You can read the full article by clicking here.

 

Seminal New York hardcore punk band Cipher have always braided politics with their art, delivering a powerful message along side an equally brutal sound. Cipher has never shied away from the political aspects of their music, and in their most recent album, The Joyous Collapse, Cipher shifts their focus away from challenging the more obvious external institutions of oppression to some of the less obvious aspects of personal revolution. Each song on The Joyous Collapse is aimed at breaking down ones self and seeing where we as individuals directly and indirectly support oppression. Directly attacking ones own daily interactions with militarism, sexism, homophobia, and consumer culture, The Joyous Collapse forces us to ask ourselves, “where & how do I support suffering?”

 

The Sparrow Project thanks Cipher frontman, Maurice “Moe” Mitchell for inviting us into his life and sharing Cipher’s story with us. Please share this video with your friends & please show support for Cipher’s amazing efforts by downloading a song or the album off itunes today.

 

Cipher’s The Joyous Collapse is available at Itunes, and Amazon. Please support Cipher by buying the album today!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can connect with Cipher on…
Facebook – facebook.com/​cipheronline
Twitter – twitter.com/​cipher_online
Merch via Big Cartel – cipher.bigcartel.com

 

Race and Religion as Red Herrings

“Post-racial America.” Remember that term? Just two short years ago, when many progressives believed (or convinced themselves—I humbly admit that I was among this group, and broke my rule of never voting for a Republocrat) that Barack Obama was not, in fact, a marionette of Goldman; Blackwater; Boeing; General Electric, et al, this was a slogan of the proverbial dawn after the stygian horror of the Cheney presidency. Well, the hangover has hit hard, on many fronts and, true to form, post-racial America has proven itself to be as virulently racist as always; an ignominious tradition remains unbroken.

 

Throughout our history, different groups have been identified by the ruling class as “other,” as hostile to the virginal and perfect American way. First were the indigenous, who were dealt with in the most pragmatic way possible: they were deceived and exterminated. When Adolf Hitler, that paradigm of all things nefarious, once claimed that he admired the Americans because they/we saw a racial problem and solved it, it is time to take a sobering inventory of the nation’s record on race.

 

Today, the targets du jour are what I call the unfortunate M&Ms: Muslims and Mexicans. Of course, African-Americans, women, socialists and LGBTs, to name but a few, are always conveniently present as the majority’s punching bags, but the headliners in today’s newspaper of hate are the aforementioned. To anyone who doubts this, I simply point to the two main race/religion-based controversies garnering most of the nation’s attention: that vile piece of legislation, SB1070 and the 9/11 mosque controversy.

 

That some of these people are simply malevolent souls, drinking from the trough of hate, is undeniable. Most, however—and this I must believe, or else my fight is futile—are terrified people being misled by the power structure which has manipulated their very real fears to serve a status quo. This is an American tradition as ingrained as baseball and the Fourth of July. During the early independence period, many of the veterans of the revolution; people who believed in the lofty ideals of liberty and equality espoused by the gentry who simply wished to keep their ill-gained wealth, rather than share it with King George III, expressed their dissatisfaction with the fact that the new boss was, in fact, the same as the old boss. These defrauded souls (rightly) identified the problem as one of class. Naturally, they felt solidarity with enslaved Africans and the beleaguered indigenous. Here, arguably, is where the concept of racial identity was introduced into the American consciousness. The elite made a concerted effort—and succeeded—to deceive the white underclass that, through Draconian Calvinism, they too would raise their standing; that their identifying on class lines was erroneous and that their race made them superior. This was a flawlessly executed example of the British practice of divide-and-conquer. After two centuries, it appears that the student has outdone the teacher.

Sadly, nothing has changed. I engage, exhort and excoriate some white members of my class, yet still they adhere stubbornly to the canard that “anyone, regardless of status, can be president in the US,” and all the implications of that sad platitude; that naïve Algerism. I receive looks of disdain when I mention class-consciousness. These fellow victims of an iniquitous system subscribe to the lie that race and religion are the salient issues. Instead of looking upward at their enemy, they look laterally, at the very people of all races and faiths who are trudging with them through the morass created by those above. They are mesmerized by the diversions of race, ethnicity and religion.

 

Unless we are Choctaw; Arawak; Cherokee; Mohican, et al, we are all (with the exception of my African-descendent brothers and sisters whose ancestors were brought here, against their will) immigrants. Nobody has any right to own land, anyway; this is as preposterous as the idea of owning the air or the rain. Still, as this unhappy and exploitive system remains in place, it would be good to remind my white siblings that they are all children of immigrants.

 

As for the supposedly sacrosanct status of Ground Zero and its immediate environs, where is the outrage over New York Dolls, the strip club, just two blocks away? The McDonald’s within the same proximity? As a greater mind than mine has elucidated, this latter filthy entity has purveyed more suffering and death than any of the malignant souls behind 9/11 ever could hope to achieve. By the spurious logic of Donald Trump and his attendant cast of clowns, there should never be a church constructed in Oklahoma City because Timothy McVeigh identified himself as a Christian. Do we see the illogic? The hypocrisy?

 

The elites have once again succeeded, but there is time. Race and religion are red herrings. The real issue—the truism that makes the capitalists shudder in their overpriced shoes—is class. When we, the 95% majority are galvanized and unified, justice isn’t far away.

“I Love The Mosque” T-Shirts Benefiting Victims Of Hate Crimes { recently in the press }            Praise From New York Times Art Director Steven Heller & Print Magazine !,   Essay Challenging Xenophobia by Sparrow’s Andy Stepanian for The Huffington Post

 


- Arthur Smilios is an unapologetic anti-capitalist, musician rabble rouser.   Arthur was the co-founder of the seminal New York punk band the Gorilla Biscuits. Since his days of performing “Cats & Dogs” (a song that encouraged thousands to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle)  Arthur has strived to braid his art with his passion for social justice.  The Sparrow Project has invited Arthur to continue to sound off on the issues he holds most dear through their blog on http://sparrowmedia.net .  Arthur’s articles are written exclusively in his own voice, and may not reflect the views of The Sparrow Project.

Bansky Shanks FOX with Storyboard for Simpson’s Intro

Usually we reserve space on this blog only for projects we are actively involved in or for activist efforts that we support but today may be one of the few exceptions.

The semi-elusive UK street artist Banksy was commissioned to storyboard the intro to the primetime animated television show The Simpsons which airs weekly on the Fox network. It is amazing that this passed, and perhaps even insulting to know that a company as crude and oppressive as NewsCorp feels ok about parodying themselves in this manner. Whether you hate Banksy or love him, there is no question that he shanked 20th Century Fox & NewsCorp in the jugular with this one. Watch, laugh, and then do your part to disassemble the corporate media…

35 Seconds – Short Stories From Haiti

Please visit this link for the full story & please share this with others!

Yesterday, Sparrow cofounder & contributor, Andy Stepanian wrote an article for The Huffington Post about a new documentary short by Dustin Miller, Nate Williams & Eric Hires about what life is like in post-earthquake Haiti. There are serious concerns that with a lack of popular media attention that the relief efforts to Haiti will subside during a time when they are needed most.

It has been 9 months since the earthquake and only 2% of the destruction in Port au Prince has been removed, and although promised by the United States None of the $1.1 Billion dollars in relief aide has made it to Haiti; instead it is being held up in congress…

35 Seconds tells deeply personal stories, and is shot in brilliant saturated colors, with an even more breathtaking storyboard. Please take a second to visit Andy’s article over at The Huffington Post, please leave a comment, please the link & video with your friends on facebook, twitter, tumblr, etc.   Most of all, get active to help in Haiti! (below the image is a list of groups that are currently active in the relief efforts, please check them out!)

 

An excerpt from Andy’s article on The Huffington Post for the full article please click the image above…

35 Seconds” is both a story and an invitation to become part of the renewal. As I write this Dustin, Eric and Nathan are planning their anxious return to Haiti; this time they will focus on supporting Haitian mango farmers and the surrounding communities they sustain. Most of us reading this whether it’s on our laptops, iPhones, in our offices, or via social media websites have some degree of privilege, we can easily re-direct that privilege to the people who still are in need in Haiti. Below is a list of organizations and people just like Dustin, Eric, and Nathan who have taken their privilege and used it to better the lives of those affected by the earthquake, I invite you to do the same.

 

35 Seconds” will be screening at the Contemporary Art Center of Virginia, in Virginia Beach through November 7th, 2010. To book a screening of “35 Seconds” please contact Flesh Profits Nothing.

These groups make up a fraction of the amazing efforts on the ground in Haiti, please share these links with others, and please get involved!

The Lambi Fund of Haiti supports sustainable agriculture in post earthquake Port au Prince.

Care Humanity Love and Devotement is dedicated to providing grassroots healthcare in Haiti.

Partners in Health is working to build a teaching hospital in central Haiti.

Haitian Women For Haitian Refugees advocates for the empowerment of displaced Haitians.

One Hundred For Haiti supports the work of Dr. Jacques Denis’ free medical clinic.