31 August 2016


Sorrow and Grace in Palestine

Ben Ehrenreich, an American journalist with an eye for the ironic an ear for the perfect succinct phrase, has created pictures of both village and town life of Palestine under the occupation, behind the Apartheid Wall, and inner walls. “The Way to the Spring” begins in 2011, when the author first visited Nabi Saleh to report on the village protests for the New York Times Magazine, and ends in the fall of 2014, following Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip that summer. Ehrenreich lived in the West Bank intermittently between 2011 and 2014, absorbing the world of Palestine, so different from Los Angeles, his home base. He starts small: a village, a surrounded house, a Friday protest.

Since the occupation is about containing people, taking their land, draining their wells, destroying their cultural sites, The Israeli government speaks through different kinds of walls, permanent checkpoints, and flying checks. Ehrenreich shows his reader the physical walls, but further, the subtleties of verbal walls and the walls of armed IDF soldiers and Border police who keep Palestinians out of reach of hospitals, businesses, cultural centers, and even the holy places in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

First, and most obvious, the Separation Wall, called by Palestinian activists the Apartheid Wall. The average height of the Berlin Wall was 11.8 feet, whereas the current height of Israel’s Wall is more than twice as high: 25 feet. One of the joys of this book is that the author does not spend his time reviewing readily available material. Copious endnotes will lead the interested reader to the thickness of scholarship they crave. Clearly anyone attracted to a 400-page book about the occupation in Palestine has heard plenty about the Apartheid Wall and has read in our mainstream media about the struggles, mostly from a Zionist “it’s our right” insistence for years. So the author moves in for tight shots, intimate conversations, small villages that are getting smaller as the illegal settlements swell in size. He is so successful that since finishing this memorable account, I have been wishing I could be in contact with the families from Nabi Saleh and Umm al-Kheir. Are they safe? Who is in Jail and who got out? Is everyone too exhausted to protest every Friday at the Spring?
In his Introduction to The Way to the Spring: Life And Death of Palestine, Ben Ehrenreich makes his intention quite clear. ”I do not aspire in these pages to objectivity. I don’t believe it to be a virtue, or even a possibility.” He considers his work “a collection of stories about resistance, and about people who resist.” I would caution that his use of the word story does not mean the conventional beginning, middle and end.

These are stories stuffed with middles, down to the most microscopic detail. By the final chapter we cringe at the tragedy of Palestine: there is no resolution, not one offered even by this astute observer. The burdens of life continue as they did in the beginning of the book, only the hardships proceed at a faster pace. More Palestinians are arrested, more are shot, more are killed.

Ehrenreich takes the reader to view smaller “personal” walls that enclose one or two houses. These “surrounded houses” are being more frequent in the towns of the West Bank. The first one I saw was in Bethlehem in 2006. The owner had painted his dwelling bright red. I can still visualize that small red house standing out from the dun-colored stones and cement wall that surrounded his life. Ehrenreich finds a similar house and recounts his visits with Hani Amer and his family rather than dwelling upon the usual journalistic

reportage about resistance. Amer’s story is recounted so vividly that those readers who have never been to the West Bank will understand the hour-by-hour hardship of daily life after their visit with Amer. The farmer has lost two-thirds of the land surrounding his house as well as five acres on the other side of the barbed wire fence. He can see his land, but he cannot farm it. To protect the incoming horde of illegal settlers, the Israelis built a wall around Amer’s house, well within the Green Line, the internationally recognized border between Israel and the Occupied Territories (oPt). Rarely discussed openly is the underlying intention of the Occupying power that the maze of walls and checkpoints are the prelude to Israel’s pursuit of all the land from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. The only negotiation Amer was able to make with his captors was that that he could have a key to the locked gate, which he triumphantly painted bright yellow. By the time Ehrenreich arrives at the surrounded house, Amer has planted vegetables, all kinds of fruit trees, even herbs such as the essential Palestinian za’atar. This tough middle-aged Palestinian farmer tells the American journalist, “Instead of seeing the wall, I try to see the garden.”

Ehrenreich weaves the story of the Tamimi family into many of the accounts in the book. He has the novelist’s ear for dialogue so that the reader hears the hopeful voice of the peace activist Bassem Tamimi that the protests have meaning, “Our spring is the face of the occupation,” he tells his friend Ben as they walk through the village of Nabi Saleh. Every Friday the villagers, joined by international and Jewish solidarity activists, march toward the spring in an act of protest. “And every Friday Israeli soldiers beat them back with tear gas, stun grenades, and rubber-coated bullets,” Ben observes. Afterward, groups of male teenagers standing some distance away from the adults, hurl stones at the soldiers, who are beyond the reach of their weapons.

 It seems unnecessary to point out that stones hurled by children are no match for tear-gas canisters and bullets. After months of watching stone throwers rarely hitting their mark, Ehrenreich wonders if they have ever been successful. He contacted the IDF about the results of Palestinian stone-throwing activities, and the IDF confirmed that they have no records of any Israeli solder ever being killed from a stone-throwing incident.

As the months go by, Ehrenreich sketches the weariness that has encompassed Bassem. His children and their friends flock to protests knowing that their homes are no safer than a confrontation line, particularly after Israeli shellfire kill one child in his bedroom months. The protests become darker. Protesters endure prison and torture. They come home. They are beaten. Some survive. Bassem has been in prison for almost a year, for being a leader of the protests. The Israeli military courts seem not to know that according to international law peaceful protests of an occupied people are legal.

As fewer Palestinians attend the Friday protests, our American journalist acquires the gritty feeling most of us experience when spending more than a month or two in the West Bank. He has watched Palestinian friends carted off to jail. He has inhaled tear gas at the Friday protests. He is tired of the checkpoints and the IDF soldiers half his age. Trying to strike up a conversation with an IDF soldier in Hebron turns into “grunts and commands,” neither of which being out the best in me,” he writes. Another year passes. Ehrenreich is having coffee with a young Israeli soldier in Jerusalem, an area not so tension-filled as the West Bank. The young soldier does not question what his superiors have taught him. “If you see a Palestinian with a knife, you shoot him,” he says as though quoting from the manual. “And if you see a settler with a knife?” Ehrenreich asks. “You do not touch a settler,” the young soldier replies slowly.

The book ends as it began. The Israelis continue to swallow more Palestinian land. More people are in prison. The world seems indifferent. Hope comes from those who counter the propaganda that the Zionists diligently manufacture on Twitter, Facebook, and online journals. The deepest consolation is to be found in the books like “The Way to the Spring.” Without melodrama and pathos, Ehrenreich has provided a literary map to the struggle for Palestine. It is almost impossible to wonder on a Friday is the marchers will get to the spring this week.

In closing, I must recognize reactions to this book by some reviewers and within social media. In a number of reviews Ehrenreich has been accused of not analyzing Palestinian terrorism, a word that seems overstated in relation to the daily horrors that Palestinians face. A few suicide bombers, whose activities always make the US mainstream news, are not part of his project. He could not interview them.   Reviewers and angry readers have tried to reshape the discourse, reminding us that Jews are the victimized, the ones we must embrace. Assuming the author is Jewish, one gentleman writes on Facebook, “You are a disgrace to the Jewish people. We have enough haters from outside, we do not need one from within.“ Ehrenreich is not Jewish, and he is not writing the book the Facebook guy wants to read, the one that justifies Israeli military actions since the Nakba in 1948. This is not the book that connects the German Holocaust with the fate of Arabs in their homeland. Trying to explain his viewpoint to an interviewer, Ehrenreich says with not so subtle irony, “across the street from the Israeli settlement Beit Hadassah – I saw the words Gas the Arabs spray-painted in English on a wall. I do not think I need to explain why that was so upsetting.”

Fiery reactions to this book have puzzled me. Some reviewers and the angry pro-Zionist social media refuse to acknowledge what Ehrenreich has made explicit: this book is written from the perspective of Palestinians in the towns of Ramallah and Hebron, the village of Nabi Saleh, and the Bedouin village Umm al-Kheir in the south Hebron hills. The author has written the book he wanted to write, not the one that would be easier to read.

In the weeks since publication, Ehrenreich has spoken of the verbal stones that have been thrown at him, mostly through social media. “I was called a Jew-hater more times than I can count, as well as a terrorist and a murderer. It was suggested to me that I should, and may, suffer a terrorist attack. I was told that ‘sick, twisted people’ like me ‘should not be allowed to write’ and informed that I will someday answer for the acts of  terror I allegedly support. I was wished a painful death and promised that I will ‘get what is coming to me.’” Most of us who are openly pro-Palestinian and fight for the end of the occupation have been threatened, but rarely so vividly. As an academic, I have been accused of frightening Jewish students in my classes and been given the cold shoulder by colleagues. But I have never been wished a painful death –as far as I know.

Reflecting on his extended time in the West Bank, Ehrenreich knows that it wasn’t all sadness. People laughed a lot. Or perhaps sadness has many faces and laughter is one of them. Palestinians have been carrying the burden of the Zionist illegal occupation for more than half a century. Grief is not special. Year after year Palestinians experience waves of greater and lesser sorrows, but sorrow is always with them. Ben Ehrenreich carries the sorrow too. But he also is amazed “by the grace with which people deal with and struggle against these hardships in their daily lives.”
Alice Bach is a writer and retired professor of religious studies.


 The following letter appeared in The Age newspaper on 31 AUGUST 2016, two days after a front page article in The Age (29 AUGUST 2016) under the heading  
$5m whistleblower bounty.

This is the letter I would have liked to have sent to The Age, but because it has not published any of my letters for so long, I would have done it on my blog anyway.

The letter-writer gives the names of 4 whistleblowers and what the US government has done to them, but there are so many others to add to the list, a few being Edward Snowden and Julian Assange as examples.

The US government under Barack Obama has done more to harm US citizens than any other president since the earliest days of the formation of the United States after its genocide on native Americans after European invasion.

And other so-called western democracies have all been just as vicious and cruel to whistleblowers.

Under no circumstances are whistleblowers protected by their governments and we shouldn't anticipate any favourable changes any day soon. (Mannie De Saxe)


One-way protection

The BHP Billiton case does indeed expose "the weakness of Australia's whistleblower regime" (The Age, 29/8). However, the US is hardly a beacon for appropriate protection of whistleblowers. In the US, one may only blow the whistle one way – to help government bodies. After the spectacular global financial crisis, the US were oh so magnanimous to whistleblowers, treating them to legislation bestowing up to 30 per cent of fines resulting from their disclosure.

But blow that whistle the other way, and look out.
Four names will illustrate my point:

1. William Binney disclosed that NSA collected mass data on its own citizens. The result was a raid on his home, loss of employment and a financial deficit to the tune of $300,000.

2. Thomas Drake disclosed NSA warrantless mass surveillance of US citizens. He was indicted and sentenced to one year probation and community service.

3. John Kyriakou disclosed CIA waterboarding detainees. He was indicted and sentenced to 30 months' jail.

 4. Chelsea Manning disclosed the infamous "collateral murder" footage of an Apache helicopter slaughter of at least eight people in Baghdad, including two journalists and a young father. He was indicted and sentenced to 35 years' jail.

Aliki Pavlou, Albert Park


Palestinian security forces arresting, abusing critics: HRW

  • AFP
From Daily Maverick
Palestinian security forces have been arresting and abusing journalists and activists critical of their leaders, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday in a report weeks before local elections.
The US-based group said abuses had occurred in both the West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority is in power, and the Gaza Strip, run by Islamist movement Hamas.

"Both Palestinian governments, operating independently, have apparently arrived at similar methods of harassment, intimidation and physical abuse of anyone who dares criticise them," Sari Bashi, the organisation's Israel and Palestine director, said in a statement.

"The Palestinian people fought hard to gain the protections that accompany membership in the international community, and their leaders should take their treaty obligations seriously."

A spokesman for Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank, Adnan al-Damiri, said: "We are committed to the international treaties that we signed and respect for human rights."

He said officers were trained to avoid rights abuses.

In Gaza, interior ministry spokesman Iyad al-Bozum denied torture or political arrests. He said the Human Rights Watch report "includes many fallacies."

Human Rights Watch highlighted five cases in its report, including two in the West Bank and three in Gaza.

It said security forces arrested or questioned journalists, a political activist and two rap musicians due to "peaceful criticism of the authorities."

According to the group, two of those arrested in Gaza and two in the West Bank said they were "physically abused or tortured".

"In the abuse cases, activists and journalists said that security officers beat or kicked them, deprived them of sleep and proper food, hosed them with cold and then hot water, and made them maintain uncomfortable positions for long hours," it said.

"In Gaza, two detainees said security officials made them sign commitments not to criticise the authorities without proper evidence. In the West Bank, both men arrested faced criminal charges, including defamation and insulting a public official."

The rights group warned that "at a time when many Palestinians are critical of their leaders, the crackdowns have a chilling effect on public debate in the traditional news media, and on social media."

Palestinian municipal elections are to be held on October 8. Hamas boycotted the last Palestinian municipal elections in 2012, but is due to participate this year.

There have been no Palestinian parliamentary elections since 2006, when Hamas won by a landslide.

In one of its examples, the Human Rights Watch report quoted a 21-year-old student in the West Bank who was a member of a rap group and who was arrested three times in 2014 and 2015.

It said the student, Mutaz Abu Lihi, was beaten and left with broken teeth at one point, while he was also harassed and pressured to work as an informant.

The report also noted that Palestinian journalists "face abuse and harassment from Israeli soldiers, who have beaten them at demonstrations, closed media offices, and arrested journalists for posing unspecified security risks."


© 1994-2016 Agence France-Presse

29 August 2016


As I am busy researching information for an obituary I am putting together about Cecil Williams, I came across this item from Peter Tatchell in which he makes reference to the connection between Cecil Williams and Nelson Mandela. The article contains an enormous amount of interesting information about the ANC, homophobia, and the people who worked to challenge and change the ANC's responses to the gay and lesbian communities. (Mannie De Saxe)

Peter Tatchell Foundation

South Africa: How the ANC was won for LGBT rights

And how it came to protect LGBT South Africans against discrimination

By Peter Tatchell
London – 20 April 2016

This essay is dedicated to the many heroic South African LGBT and anti-apartheid activists that I worked with during the period of white minority rule - heroes who helped secure the commitment of the African National Congress of South Africa to LGBT human rights, including the enactment of the world’s first constitution to protect LGBT people against discrimination.

As a gay teenager growing up in Melbourne, Australia, my three great passions were men, surfing and politics. All three came together in the summer of 1971, when at the age of 19, I went on my first anti-apartheid protest. It was against the all-white South African Surf Life-Saving tour. At one of my favourite beaches, Lorne, on a blistering hot morning, 40 of us lay down on the sand in a bid to stop the South African team taking their boat out of the boathouse. We succeeded, for a while, making our symbolic point - before being battered and bloodied, and then carted off by the police. So began my two decades of activism against the apartheid regime: pickets, boycotts, marches and sit-ins.

Over those long years, I kept hearing disconcerting stories about homophobic attitudes within the African National Congress - the main liberation movement and the likely governing party of a post-apartheid South Africa. At the left-wing World Youth Festival in East Berlin in 1973, which I attended as a Gay Liberation Front delegate, there were reports of the victimisation of lesbian and gay ANC members, and warnings that queers would have a tough time when the ANC came to power.

Homophobia existed at high levels in the ANC, even though there was a long history of gay people being involved in the struggle against apartheid. The gay theatre director, Cecil Williams, was one such person. He played a key role in aiding Nelson Mandela when he was on the run from the police in the early 1960s. To enable Mandela to carry on his underground activism and avoid detection, Williams had Mandela disguise himself as his chauffeur.

Despite the contributions of courageous lesbian and gay people such as Cecil Williams, the ANC still had a de facto anti-gay policy or, at best, a stance of not supporting LGBT equality.

In those days, only a handful of anti-apartheid activists dared challenge the homophobia - and sexism - of the ANC leadership. There was a near-universal expectation that opposition to apartheid involved uncritical support for the liberation struggle. It was deemed betrayal to question the ANC. Criticism was unwelcome - even when it was constructive and came from friends and allies. We were told by the official Anti-Apartheid Movement that any doubts or concerns had to wait until the white supremacist system was overthrown.

Most anti-apartheid activists duly obliged. I was one of them. My fear was that speaking out would give comfort and succour to the white minority regime, and undermine support for the just cause of the ANC. Although I made my concerns known behind the scenes, publicly I remained silent.

In 1987, after nearly 20 years involvement in the anti-apartheid struggle, I felt unable to stay silent any longer. No movement for human liberation has a right to demand unconditional loyalty. Such a demand leads, inexorably, to collusion with injustice. It was, after all, the insistence on uncritical support that resulted in so many people on the left ignoring or excusing the terrible crimes of the Stalin and Mao eras.

True loyalty sometimes involves challenging friends concerning their own shortcomings and mistakes.
My worry was that unless leading members of the ANC were confronted over their homophobia, a post-apartheid ANC-ruled South Africa might pursue the same kind of anti-gay policies that were common in other revolutionary states, such as Cuba, the Soviet Union and China.

This was not an unreasonable fear. When battling to overthrow dictatorship and fascism, most ANC-style liberation movements talked about creating a society with social justice and human rights for all. But after liberation they usually enforced a heterosexist regime that left queers just as victimised - if not more so - than before. Would it be a liberation worthy of the name if a free South Africa perpetuated the homophobia of the apartheid state?

After trying to influence ANC attitudes privately without success, as had many other people before me, I concluded that the only way to change things was by publicly exposing the ANC's rejection of LGBT human rights. My calculation was that the subsequent uproar would embarrass the ANC leadership and this might precipitate its switch to a more gay-sympathetic policy.

Accordingly, in August 1987, on hearing that ANC executive member Ruth Mompati was visiting London to promote South Africa Women's Day, I devised a plan and requested an interview.

A courageous fighter against the apartheid regime, Mompati was one of the leaders of the biggest women's demonstration in South African history. In 1956, 20,000 women marched on the Union Buildings - the seat of government in Pretoria - to protest at the extension of the notorious pass laws to women.

Most of my interview with Mompati was about the struggle for women's emancipation, and was duly published in Labour Weekly. But towards the end, I raised the issue of women's sexual emancipation - in particular the human rights of lesbians and their role in the struggle against apartheid. This provoked an astonishing outburst that reconfirmed all the previous horror stories that I had heard about ANC homophobia.

"I hope that in a liberated South Africa people will live a normal life", Mompati told me. "I emphasise the word normal ... Tell me, are lesbians and gays normal? No, it is not normal".

"I cannot even begin to understand why people want lesbian and gay rights. The gays have no problems. They have nice houses and plenty to eat. I don't see them suffering. No one is persecuting them ... We haven't heard about this problem in South Africa until recently. It seems to be fashionable in the West".
When asked her reaction to the formation of LGBT anti-apartheid organisations inside South Africa, Mompati insisted: "They are not doing the liberation struggle a favour by organising separately and campaigning for their rights. The (gay) issue is being brought up to take attention away from the main struggle against apartheid. These other problems can wait until later. They are red herrings".

Mompati justified the ANC's lack of policy on LGBT human rights with the riposte: "We don't have a policy on flower sellers either". While acknowledging that women have special problems and specific interests that need to be addressed by the ANC, she was adamant that "lesbians and gays do not".

Concerned to be fair, in case Mompati's views were unrepresentative of the ANC's position, I contacted its London office and spoke to the liberation movement's then chief representative in Britain, Solly Smith. He expressed similarly offensive opinions: "We don't have a policy. Lesbian and gay rights do not arise in the ANC. We cannot be diverted from our struggle by these issues. We believe in the majority being equal. These people (lesbians and gays) are in the minority. The majority must rule".

When asked if the ANC was opposed to discrimination against homosexuals and if an ANC-led government would repeal the anti-gay laws of the apartheid state, Smith replied: "I have no comment on that".
This was, to my knowledge, the first time anyone had recorded verbatim accounts of the homophobic attitudes of ANC leaders. I knew these quotes would cause the ANC grief and discomfort. But a bit of pain and short term damage was necessary, I reasoned, in order to overturn homophobia within the liberation movement.

Accordingly, my interviews with Ruth Mompati and Solly Smith were published in the London gay weekly newspaper, Capital Gay, on 18 September 1987, under the headline "ANC dashes hopes for gay rights in SA". As I expected, and hoped, Smith's and Mompati's homophobia provoked an outcry in LGBT and liberal circles – even among many anti-apartheid activists.

To globalise the pressure on the ANC, I then circulated my article for republication in the gay and anti-apartheid press world-wide, including South Africa. My aim was to get the ANC inundated with protests that would (hopefully) pressure it to confront the issue of homophobia and eventually to abandon its refusal to support LGBT equality.

My Capital Gay article did, thankfully, result in the ANC and the anti-apartheid movement internationally being deluged with letters of condemnation. People were appalled that a "liberation movement" like the ANC could be so ignorant, bigoted and intolerant. The ANC leadership was hugely embarrassed.

But embarrassing the ANC was not my goal; it was merely a means to an end. My objective was to win the ANC to the cause of LGBT human rights. I therefore devised a plan to offer the leadership a face-saving solution and a constructive way forward. This involved writing a private appeal to the ANC leadership in exile in Lusaka.

My letter, dated 12 October 1987, was addressed to Thabo Mbeki, then the ANC Director of Information. I chose him on the advice of exiled ANC contacts, David and Norma Kitson. They suggested he was the most liberal-minded of the ANC leaders and senior enough to be able to push for a radical rethink of official policy. My letter was challenging, but friendly and constructive. I argued that support for LGBT liberation was consistent with the principles of the ANC's Freedom Charter:

"Dear Thabo Mbeki,
... Given that the Freedom Charter embodies the principle of civil and human rights for all South Africans, surely those rights should also apply to lesbians and gays? And surely the ANC should be committed to removing all forms of discrimination and oppression in a liberated South Africa? ... To me, the fight against apartheid and the fight for lesbian and gay rights are part of the same fight for human rights.
Yours in comradeship and solidarity, Peter Tatchell".

When writing to Mbeki I also included a sheaf of my published articles about leading lesbian and gay anti-apartheid activists inside South Africa, including Simon Nkoli and Ivan Toms. Simon, a student activist, was a defendant in one of the great cause celebres of the 1980s, the Delmas Treason Trial. Ivan was a doctor who had won acclaim for his work in the Crossroads squatter camp in Cape Town and was active in the campaign against conscription (he was later jailed for refusing to serve in the army of apartheid).

This information about LGBT involvement in the struggle against apartheid was news to many members of the exiled ANC Executive, and apparently had considerable influence in swinging the vote in favour of a pro-LGBT stance.

My letter to Mbeki - following in wake of adverse publicity from my Capital Gay article and subsequent protests - had the desired effect. Within a few weeks, the ANC leadership in exile began a major reevaluation of its stance on LGBT issues. As a result of these internal debates, the ANC officially, for the first time, committed itself to support LGBT equality and human rights.

This new pro-gay rights ANC policy was publicly announced in a telegram to me from Thabo Mbeki, dated 24 November 1987. He wrote:

"Dear Peter,
... The ANC is indeed very firmly committed to removing all forms of discrimination and oppression in a liberated South Africa. You are correct to point this out. That commitment must surely extend to the protection of gay rights ... I would like to believe that that my colleagues, Solly Smith and Ruth Mompati, did not want to suggest in any way that a free South Africa would want to see gays discriminated against or subjected to any form of repression. As a movement, we are of the view that the sexual preferences of an individual are a private matter. We would not wish to compromise anybody's right to privacy ... and would therefore not wish to legislate or decree how people should conduct their private lives ... We would like to apologise for any misunderstanding that might have arisen over these issues ...
Yours in the common struggle, Thabo Mbeki". 

Mbeki's statement was not as strong and comprehensive as many of us would have liked, nor had it been agreed by a formal policy-making conference of the ANC. But it was, nevertheless, a watershed moment. The ANC leadership was publicly aligning itself with the struggle for LGBT emancipation. A first!

At Mbeki's own request, I communicated his letter to gay and anti-apartheid movements world-wide. I also sent a copy to members of South African lesbian and gay groups, such as the long-time lesbian anti-apartheid activists, Sheila Lapinsky and Julia Nicol of the Organisation of Lesbian & Gay Activists (OLGA), based in Cape Town. In addition, I forwarded copies to members of the United Democratic Front - the main anti-apartheid coalition inside South Africa.

Long before me, other people had pressured the ANC to change its homophobic stance, but none of them succeeded. It was, it seems, only the huge torrent of negative publicity generated by my Capital Gay article, and my challenging letter to Thabo Mbeki, that prompted the ANC's rethink. My intervention was, perhaps, merely the culmination of earlier efforts by others - the final straw that broke the camel's back. Maybe I was merely the catalyst for changes that had been in the making for a very long time. What is certain is that without the ANC and international anti-apartheid movements being flooded with howls of protest, my letter to Mbeki may have had no impact at all. Due credit must be given to the many people from all over the world who helped pressure the ANC.

Securing the ANC's official opposition to homophobic discrimination gave the struggle for LGBT emancipation inside South Africa new legitimacy and kudos. It was instrumental in helping persuade some individuals and organisations fighting the white minority regime - both within South Africa and in other countries - to embrace LGBT equality - or at least to not oppose it. By giving the cause of LGBT rights political credibility, the ANC's stance helped pave the way for the subsequent inclusion of a ban on sexual orientation discrimination in the post-apartheid constitution.

Outlawing sexuality discrimination in the post-apartheid constitution

Not long after the ANC came out for LGBT rights, exiled ANC leaders based in London began work on drafting a constitution for a free and democratic South Africa. In 1989, I contacted a member of this constitutional working party, Albie Sachs, at the University of London, urging him to include in the ANC's draft constitution a ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation.

He was initially rather sceptical. So I provided a draft wording, backed up with examples of anti-discrimination statutes from various European countries, such as Denmark, France and the Netherlands. These countries had laws incorporating either comprehensive protection against discrimination or an explicit ban on discrimination on the grounds of sexuality. These concrete legal precedents apparently helped reassure Sachs, and later also helped convince others in the ANC leadership, that a ban on anti-gay discrimination was feasible and practical.

A little later, I sent my own suggested draft wording - together with samples of anti-discrimination laws from other countries - to LGBT groups inside South Africa (especially OLGA and GLOW - the Gay & Lesbian Organisation of the Witwatersrand). I also arranged for them to write direct to Albie Sachs in London and to lobby the anti-apartheid United Democratic Front inside South Africa.

In December 1989, on my initiative, a meeting was held in London between Sachs and OLGA representatives, Derrick Fine and Niezhaam Sampson. They discussed OLGA's constitutional proposals face-to-face. This personal meeting helped to cement Sachs's backing for a constitutional clause prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. His support later helped win over other key people in the ANC leadership.

After the collapse of the apartheid regime and the unbanning of the ANC in February 1990, OLGA held meetings inside South Africa with senior ANC members, Frene Ginwala, Albie Sachs and Kader Asmal, all of whom expressed a positive attitude towards OLGA's constitutional proposals.

Sach's, in particular, continued to have contact with OLGA and other LGBT organisations to further develop the idea of LGBT rights as part of a broad human rights package within South Africa's new constitution. He did, however, warn OLGA that there was "no guarantee" that a majority in the ANC would endorse constitutional protection for LGBTs; an indication that sections of the liberation movement remained unsupportive or ambivalent on the issue of sexual orientation equality.

Undeterred, in September 1990, OLGA made an extensive submission to the ANC's Constitutional Committee, which was in charge of formulating the movement's draft Bill of Rights. This submission was supported by 11 other South African LGBT organisations, including GLOW. It proposed a Bill of Rights that would "protect the fundamental rights of all citizens" and guarantee "equal rights for all individuals, irrespective of race, colour, gender, creed or sexual orientation".

Simultaneously, OLGA, GLOW and other gay organisations used the ANC's previous endorsement of LGBT equality to lobby the United Democratic Front and other anti-apartheid groups within South Africa. This lobbying helped persuade prominent campaigners in some of these groups to back the inclusion of a constitutional ban on anti-gay discrimination.

These efforts had a successful outcome when, in November 1990, the publication of the ANC's draft post-apartheid constitution included an explicit prohibition on homophobic discrimination.

OLGA also developed and canvassed support for a specific and comprehensive Charter of Lesbian and Gay Rights. In 1993, this proposal won the endorsement of a national conference of LGBT organisations, which had been convened to forge a united campaign for constitutional protection.

The push for LGBT human rights was subsequently carried forward in the post-1994 period by a new umbrella organisation - the National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality (NCGLE).

It is thanks to the efforts of these many far-sighted, determined and courageous LGBT people inside South Africa that constitutional rights for LGBTs were finally won; making the South African constitution the first in the world to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation. Bravo!


Chapter 2 - Bill of Rights 


(1) Everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law.

(2) Equality includes the full and equal enjoyment of all rights freedoms. To promote the achievement of equality, legislative and other measures designed to protect or advance persons, or categories of persons, disadvantaged by unfair discrimination may be taken.

(3) The state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth.

(4) No person my unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds in terms of subsection (3). National legislation must be enacted to prevent or prohibit unfair discrimination.

(5) Discrimination on one or more of the grounds listed in subsection (3) is unfair unless it is established that the discrimination is fair.


A version of this essay was published in South Africa under the title: The moment the ANC embraced gay rights, in the book, Sex and Politics in South Africa, Neville Hoad, Karen Martin and Graeme Reid (Editors), Double Storey Books, Cape Town, 2005


22 August 2016


Roaming Charges: Prime Time Green

Give CNN just a little credit. On Wednesday night, the cable network hosted a Town Hall featuring Green Party candidates Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka. In those 90 Prime Time minutes, Stein and Baraka presented a clearer picture of the realities and consequences of US foreign policy and militarism than we heard from Bernie Sanders in a year’s worth of speeches.

Americans who tuned in heard some things that are rarely mentioned in the mainstream media: a sober critique of the US’s malign relationship to the government of Israel, forthright calls for the elimination of nuclear weapons, the end of killer drone strikes, the closure of all 800-plus overseas military bases and an end to interventionist wars. The entire Town Hall session was the political equivalent of George Carlin’s the seven things you can’t say on TV.

The Green Team deftly navigated the treacherous shoals of Cuomo’s questions. For most of the night, Cuomo played the role of a Clinton troll, trying to trip up Stein and Baraka with quotes ripped out of context and stale slanders planted by Democratic Party operatives. Despite all evidence to the contrary, it seems that Ralph Nader will forever be blamed for costing Al Gore the 2000 election. So he zeroed in on Stein, asking her how she could sleep at night if, like Nader, she ended up tipping the election to Trump. Stein didn’t blink, saying: “I would have trouble sleeping at night if Trump was elected. I would also have trouble sleeping if Hillary Clinton was elected.”

Stein also easily swatted down the smear now being furiously spread by the Clintonoids that she is opposed to childhood vaccinations and that she is “anti-science.” It’s a ludicrous charge against a physician and one that has no basis in fact, as Stein forcefully demonstrated. Still, I hope this assault doesn’t discourage Stein and Baraka from at some point offering a critical analysis of the economic and political uses of science in the service of war and profit.

One of the chief purveyors of this bilge of misinformation is a previously obscure fellow named Robert Naiman, who runs a nearly invisible group called Just Foreign Policy. Naiman was caught red-handed (so to speak) when his junk mail made its way to the inbox of John Stauber, author of Toxic Sludge is Good for You and a leading expert on the politics of propaganda and disinformation. Stauber knows a smear when he sees one.

Here’s the text of the email Naiman circulated among his coterie of conflicted progressives at GameChangersSalon:

From: Robert Naiman
If you have a lot of Facebook friends, you may have recently noticed a high level of activity on your Facebook feed by Jill Stein acolytes.
If so, you may find the following links useful to throw them off their game. No warranty, express or implied. You don’t have to prove that Jill Stein is an anti-science conspiracy theorist. You just have to say, “There are unanswered questions about whether Jill Stein is an anti-science conspiracy theorist.”
There’s Nothing Green About Jill Stein’s Vaccine Stance
Jill Stein on vaccines: People have ‘real questions’
Jill Stein Promotes Homeopathy, Panders On Vaccines http://www.patheos.com/blogs/progressivesecularhumanist/2016/07/jill-stein-promotes-homeopathy-panders-on-vaccines/
Jill Stein Worries Wi-Fi Is Dangerous For Kids
Robert Naiman
Policy Director
Just Foreign Policy
You’d think Jill Stein was a card-carrying member of the Flat Earth Society. In fact, Stein graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University, graduated from Harvard Medical School, practiced internal medicine at Beth Israel Hospital for 25 years and taught medicine at Harvard Medical School. In other words, Stein is an unlikely suspect for ratting out a modern-day Galileo. The same cannot be said for the current Democratic administration whose vicious crackdown on whistleblowers, many of them scientists, has been part of a concerted and unrelenting campaign to snuff out internal dissent.

It so happens that Naiman, an alleged peace activist, is also the board president for the liberal website Truthout. Veteran readers of CounterPunch will recall Truthout from John Pilger’s acrid account of his head-on collision with their editors, who peevishly tried to cleanse his essay, “A World War Has Begun: Break the Silence,” of passages which might prove uncomfortable for the Democratic Party establishment.
In a nasty email exchange with longtime Green organizer Kevin Zeese, who is now co-director of Popular Resistance, a group which grew out of the Occupy movement, Naiman sunk even further into the slime and threatened to expose Jill Stein as “a Trotskyite cancer.”

On Wed, Aug 17, 2016 at 2:56 PM, Robert Naiman  wrote:
Oh, is today my day to be harassed by Green Party thugs?
I’ll make you a deal: call off your dogs and I won’t further expose Jill Stein as a Trokskyite cancer.
Robert Naiman
Policy Director
Just Foreign Policy
Slandering Stein and the Greens for being “Trotskyites” (or “Trokskyites,” in Naiman’s quaint verbiage) is as intellectually vapid as it is vile. Everyone knows that most of Leon’s former disciples in the US have long since morphed into neocons and thus can be spotted in Georgetown cafes polishing their resumés for slots on Hillary’s foreign policy team.

“Robert Naiman epitomizes the attitude of the paid, professional Democrat progressives attacking the Green Party and Jill Stein,” John Stauber told me. “These shills see no hypocrisy in embracing a candidate supported by Wall Street, the Koch brothers and the neoconservatives who with Hillary lied America into attacking Iraq.  So there it is, Hillary is his champion while a woman running on the most progressive platform in America is just a damned Communist.  Rather than back down when he himself was exposed, he doubled down with a smear befitting the worst of American politics. Naiman is not an aberration however; indeed, he embodies the funded progressive elite who since 2000 have become a front group for the Democrats liberal oligarchs such as George Soros and his Democracy Alliance.”

The hypocrisy of the Clintonoids is almost as audacious as their dissemination of lies about Jill Stein. Of course, their champion, the “pro-science” Hillary Clinton, ignores scientific facts and assessments whenever such considerations prove to be an even minor inconvenience to the headlong pursuit of her corporate agenda (cf, fracking).

“People may wonder why suddenly everyone was saying Jill Stein is anti-vax — now we know it was a coordinated campaign,” Zeese told me. “Obviously, it also happens in the media because all of a sudden multiple news outlets were reporting the same thing. Had Stein said something that all these media outlets saw and ‘reported’ on — no, she had not said anything anti-vax, but they were coordinated. It was a planned slander attack.”

Despite Clinton’s apparent lead in the polls, there’s a palpable sense of desperation in the air, as if her support is so soft that Hillary could sink another 10 points in the wake of one more email dump from Wikileaks or Guccifer 2.0. This explains why her surrogates are reaching so deeply into their bag of dirty tricks. The red-baiting of Stein and Baraka is a perfect expression of the Clinton machine’s political and moral bankruptcy.

21 August 2016


This item is from Mondoweiss on 20 AUGUST 2016:

Jill Stein defends BDS in CNN town hall

Wilson Dizard (on 19 August 2016)

Green Party Presidential Candidate Jill Stein on Wednesday night (17 AUGUST 2016) provided an alternative vision for US policy with Israel that questioned whether Washington was doing "Israel any favors" by dumping money into warfare and occupation.

Stein was answering a question at a CNN Green Party town hall from an audience member who wondered why Stein chose to "single out" Israel for a boycott even though Israel is  "a democratic ally to us".

"Why don't you do the same for other middle eastern states which are committing horrific crimes and abuses of people?" voter Maria Christina Garcia asked.

Stein's answer showed that terms like "democratically" don't amount to a hill of beans when that country is pursuing policies that violate human rights, and that the US under a Stein presidency will not ignore the rights violations of Saudi Arabia or Israel. The logic stems from an understanding that the US, in its pursuit of war in the middle east, has also violated human rights of others.

"We are turning over a new chapter in this, because we have been as guilty as any of our allies," she said.

"If we turned the White House into a Green House, our foreign policy will be based on international law and human rights, so when we say to Israel we will not continue to give you $8 million dollars a day when the Israeli army is occupying territory in Palestine," Stein said to applause.

"We're not going to do it for the Saudis either. Nor for that matter does Egypt get a free pass as well," she said.

"Have you advocated to boycott Saudi Arabia?" Garcia asked?

"Yes," Stein said, to further applause.

All of it was getting a bit too real for CNN  moderator Chris Cuomo. His brother, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a chief Clinton ally, has been a vocal opponent of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that Stein has (mondoweiss.net/2016/06/candidate-president-endorses/) shown sympathy towards. The effort aims to isolate Israel, as many worldwide did to South Africa during Apartheid, to try to force it to recognise the civil and human rights of Palestinians living under occupation and also Palestinian citizens of Israel.

"Another follow on this is that Israel is not Saudi Arabia or Egypt," Cuomo reminded the audience. "It certainly occupies a special alliance with the United States and supporters would argue faces an existential threat that others do not. Do you see Israel being a special ally and in a unique defensive position in that part of the world?"

Stein replied by saying she heself was Jewish and has family who live in Israel "part time."

"Well I happen to be of Jewish origins so yes I have a special connection to Israel.......I don't think we are doing Israel a favor by condoning a policy that makes Israel very insecure, that makes Israel then target of hostility from its neighbors."

Stein gave fellow Jewish American Sheldon Adelson, owner of the most read Israeli newspaper, as an example of someone meddling in Israeli affairs to the detriment of all involved.

"He's not even living there. I don't think that's good for someone to be influencing Israel's policy when they don't have to live with the consequences," Stein said of Adelson.

Cuomo fired back with a "yes or no" question about whether Israel has a special relationship to the US.

"I understand you have family relations there.........Do you believe they're a special ally, yes or no?"

It was a meaningless and childlike question from Cuomo, and it received an appropriately meaningless and pedantic answer.

"I believe all our allies are special allies. Israel and all of them. We are all members of the human family. I think we have responsibilities to everyone to create a world that works for all of us. And by sponsoring a very hostile military policy that violates international law, that doesn't do us any favors," she said.

"There are people in Israel who are really working for human rights, who are actually building community with the Palestinians. There are human rights groups that are building trust, building community and building confidence. These are the groups we need to be lifting up to create a middle east that's going to work."

Cuomo and Stein were asking questions that came from different universes, practically. Stein's assumptions were that human rights should guide American foreign policy, while Cuomo fixated on whether Stein appreciated the existential dread that Israelis have of Palestinians and their Arab neighbors. Cuomo asked her twice about how special is to the US, when she had already answered: Israel was not more or less special than any of our allies. It's also remarkable how easily Cuomo glossed over Stein's family ties to the country, and he own Jewishness, in questioning her policy position.

For average Stein voters, however, it appears the candidate's overall suspicion of militarism is the biggest draw.

Sherrie Gonzalez, a Brooklyn Bernie Sanders canvasser I met during the primaries, was an audience member at the town hall debate. She's planning on voting for Stein.

"It sounds like she just wants to stop funding death and respect human rights for everyone involved," Gonzalez told Mondoweiss.

Although she said she isn't an expert on Israel/Palestine affairs, Gonzalez said Stein's focus on cutting back military spending is what draws her to the candidate. That money, she feels, could better be spent at home and not financing Israel's occupation of Palestinian land, or Saudi Arabia's campaign against Yemen.

"For me, one of the most jarring points she made was about the number of military bases we have in comparison to the rest of the world. Like, take a guess as to how many bases the world has? It's 30 [total]. 30 for everyone else. Russia has the most at 8. We have 800. It costs us over $100 billion a year to fund these. We could cut them in half and have $50 billion available for things here like rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure or I don't know, a public [health care] option?"

"I agree so much with her that these interventions and coups cause more trouble than they solve and they account for something like 50% of the tax money I pay a year," Gonzalez said.

But how to unravel this irrational and byzantine system of alliances based on their level of specialness, as Cuomo calls it, remains a mystery. It's like Stein is walking into a big meeting of a neighbourhood mafia, and telling everybody they will no longer be dealing in protection rackets, nor will they be selling guns, drugs or people. Everyone is going to have to go legit!

There isn't space in this post for a full discussion of how this would happen, if it ever does. Gonzalez admits she doesn't have the answers, either.

"How do we dismantle our Mafia empire?" I asked Gonzalez.

"I guess the biggest issue with our current situation is that we've developed an economy around it," she said.

"Why is that a problem?"

"Because it's an economy of death and oppression."

Fair enough.

"I'm aware that just completely pulling out of situations can cause chaos but the outcome doesn't change whether we do it now or 20 years from now," she said. "I think if I had answers, I would be running for office. I vote for as minimal suffering as possible if I can help it."

About Wilson Dizard

Wilson Dizard is a freelance reporter and photojournalist covering politics, civil rights, drug policy and everything else. He lives in Brooklyn with his bicycle, camera and drum set.

14 August 2016


More Murder, Arrests and Torture: Israeli Response to Uprising in Palestine

Photo: Evan Lang - Shutterstock.com

Waleed was freezing. He was wearing only a thin t-shirt, and it was a cold March night earlier this year in his village of Awerta, which lies just outside Nablus in the northern half of the West Bank.

The soldiers had come for him at two o’clock in the morning. Abdullah, his younger brother, had been awake, and when he felt the soldiers’ heavy steps and heard their loud voices speaking Hebrew outside their home, he rushed upstairs to warn the rest of the family.

The element of surprise is an important tool in the home invasions the Israeli army conducts in the Occupied Territories. That is why the soldiers come at night. Most likely the residents will be sleeping, and they will not have time to hide whatever is they want to keep from the soldiers.

In this case the element of surprise had been lost, but it did not matter. This family had nothing to hide.
“You have one minute to open the door! Otherwise we will destroy your house!” shouted one of the soldiers, when he realized that someone in the house was awake.

For two hours the soldiers searched every inch of Waleed’s house, turning it upside down, creating a mess the family would spend the entire next day cleaning up. It was not clear what they were looking for, but in the end they did not find it.

“He has nothing to hide,” says Abdullah. “Ever since he was released from prison, all he does is work and study.”

But the Israelis did not agree with Abdullah’s assessment. They began screaming at Waleed, and his mother and sisters started to cry.

“A man, tall and huge, shouted at us. He said he would destroy every inch of this house.”

In the end, it did not matter what Waleed said or did, and eventually they took him away, in the middle of the night.
It is not clear whether the current uprising in the West Bank, which began with a rash of stabbings, shootings and vehicular attacks in October of 2015 constitutes a “Third Intifada”, but the Israelis are not taking any chances. They have responded with a crackdown reminiscent of their actions following the abduction of three teenaged settlers in June of 2014. On that occasion, blaming Hamas for the kidnappings, the Israeli army initiated an orgy of collective punishment on the population of the West Bank, which resulted in several Palestinian deaths, hundreds of arrests and the theft and/or destruction of millions of dollars of cash, property and valuables.

The Israeli response to this uprising has been even more extreme, and several new tools have emerged. A particularly egregious aspect of the army’s policy, which did not make an appearance in 2014, is its propensity to shoot to kill, even when such a measure is, by any objective standard, unnecessary. A well-known example is the case of a stabbing attack in the Tel Rumeida neighborhood of Hebron, in which a soldier shot and killed a Palestinian attacker who was lying motionless on the ground and clearly not posing a threat. The murder was captured on video, which is the only reason it received the publicity it did. Critics argue that this is not an isolated case, and that the army’s methods have resulted in a large number of deaths and injuries to innocent by-standers. According to the Palestinian News and Info Agency (WAFA), 220 Palestinians have been killed in this cycle of violence. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, meanwhile, reports that 40 Israelis have lost their lives.

The rise in killings is not the only result of the Israelis’ increasing violence. There has also been a surge in the number of arrests and detentions. Abdullah claims the army’s threshold for selecting a Palestinian for arrest is now much lower than it was in the past.

“They feel they are losing control,” he says. “They will arrest anybody they think might be a threat, even if they haven’t done anything wrong.”
I first met Waleed in the summer of 2014 at a celebration at his house. The party was in honor of his release from prison, and it seemed like all of Awerta was there to welcome him home. There was dancing and music, and there were speeches. It was during Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s most recent assault on Gaza that resulted in the deaths of 2131 Palestinians, including at least 1473 civilians, and many of the speeches were in solidarity with the people of Gaza. But that night was mostly about celebrating. And there was Waleed, wearing the traditional Palestinian keffiyeh around his shoulders, seemingly greeting each resident of Awerta individually, kissing them on the cheek four times and hugging them.

Four years earlier, at the age of eighteen, Waleed had received a prison sentence of three-and-a-half years for his membership in the illegal Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Waleed had never been involved in the planning or engagement of violence, but that did not matter to the Israelis. He was a member of the PFLP, and that was enough.

And then, in the summer of 2014, having served 41 of his 42 months (perhaps receiving a month off for not actually having committed a crime), he was released. And all of Awerta was here to celebrate with him.
As I watched Waleed, Abdullah and their father, a fit-looking man in his fifties with close-cropped grey hair, sitting on the shoulders of their friends and dancing in front of an enormous Palestinian flag, I wondered about the atmosphere in the village. The mood was one of relief that Waleed had made it back in one piece, but there was also a sense of victory and defiance. It seemed that Waleed had vanquished the occupiers simply by returning to his village alive. They had tried to destroy him, but they had failed because he was too strong, and here he was, a hero, even stronger than before he had been taken away.
Even before the uprising that began last October, some of the statistics regarding the incarceration of Palestinians were staggering. According to the International Action Center, 40% of all Palestinian males have spent some time in prison. The conviction rate of Palestinian defendants in the West Bank is an unbelievable 99.74%.

But the situation has been worsening since the uprising began, as can be seen by examining any of a number of measures.

For example, Addameer, a Palestinian NGO, reports that 7000 political prisoners are currently being held by the Israelis, a number that is higher than it has been at any point during the last five years.

Another troubling trend is the increase in the application of administrative detention. Administrative detention is a procedure that allows the Israeli army to detain a prisoner indefinitely without charging him. While it is technically allowed by international law under narrowly defined circumstances, such as in a state of emergency, critics claim that the army’s rampant and sweeping application of the procedure does not fit the prescribed use and is therefore illegal, since it violates Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Probably Israel’s most well-known recent application of administrative detention involves Bilal Kayed, who received a fourteen-and-a-half year sentence in 2001 for his affiliation with the PFLP. His term ended in June of this year, but instead of releasing him, the authorities placed him in administrative detention, claiming only vaguely that he still constituted a threat. Kayed has since begun a hunger strike in an effort to secure his release, an action that as many as 300 of his fellow prisoners have joined in solidarity with him.

The use of administrative detention has risen sharply since the uprising began, as reported by the Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network. In the first half of 2016, a total of 1028 administrative detention orders, including 421 new ones, have been issued. If you include the period since October of 2015, the number of orders rises to a total of 1471. Since there are currently 750 Palestinian administrative detainees in custody, itself the largest such number since 2008, this shows the enormous escalation in the application of this method.

It is not merely that the number of arrests and incarcerations have increased, but also that the treatment of both suspected attackers and detainees has worsened. The Detainees and Ex-Detainees Committee found after an investigation that Israeli armed forces have committed numerous human rights violations during the last year, such as not allowing the wounded to receive medical care, torturing and abusing detainees and using police dogs to threaten and harass them. (The use of dogs is a practice the army had reportedly stopped employing against Palestinians after B’Tselem, an Israeli NGO, had exposed it in 2012.)
The arrest and incarceration of Palestinian children is also increasing at an alarming rate. Human Rights Watch indicated that the number of Palestinian children arrested by the Israelis has more than doubled since the start of the uprising. According to the Former Detainees Coalition, a total of 2,320 minors have been arrested in that time period. In April a spokesman for the Israeli Prison Service told the New York Times that the number of prisoners under the age of eighteen had more than doubled since October, rising from 170 to 430. In a particularly horrifying development, the number of very young children in custody has shot up, as evidenced by a report from The Electronic Intifada, which stated that at the end of December of 2015, there were 116 children between the ages of 12 and 15 in Israeli custody. This number represents an eleven-fold increase over 2014. The focus on children reaches all the way up to the highest levels of government. In November of 2015, the Knesset passed a law allowing longer sentences for children throwing stones and the disruption of social welfare payments to the families of those serving their sentences.

Israel has an abysmal record when it comes to the treatment of Palestinian child prisoners, which makes this trend of increasing numbers of Palestinian children in Israeli custody so alarming. A recent report issued by a coalition of several Palestinian prisoner organizations states that there has been an escalation in the abuse of child prisoners and detainees, such as “the use of torture, ill-treatment, and violation of the rights of the child, from the first moment of arrest, most frequently in the late hours of the night or early morning in violent military raids, or during their detention by `special units’…. Children are shackled hand and foot and blindfolded and taken for interrogation without parents or lawyers, often threatened interrogation, and forced to sign statements in Hebrew without understanding them. This comes in addition to the use of various methods of torture, including beating and kicking, and verbal and psychological abuse against children. They are then subjected to the military and civil courts of the occupation, and face unfair sentencing and financial penalties.”[1] A Human Rights Watch investigation concludes that “Palestinian children are treated in ways that would terrify and traumatize an adult.” Interrogations of children are often conducted with almost no regard for international norms. A study by Defence for Children International-Palestine obtained sworn testimonies of 429 children arrested between 2012 and 2015 and concluded that in 97% of the cases, the children were not informed that they had a right to have a lawyer present during their interrogation, and that 88% were not given a reason for their arrest. A similar study conducted by UNICEF stated that in over 80% of the cases, the children were subjected to physical violence. The NGO Military Court Watch reported in 2015 that only 3% of children had their parents present during their interrogation. According to the United Nations, the government has begun using administrative detention for children, a practice it had abandoned in East Jerusalem in 2000 and elsewhere in the West Bank in 2011.
The First Intifada of 1987-1993 led to the initiation of the failed Oslo peace process, while the consequences of the much more violent Second Intifada of 2000-2005 are more complicated. Also called the Al-Aqsa Intifada, it led to the fragmentation of the Palestinians and to the rightward shift of Israeli society, making the prospect for peace even more remote than it had been before the uprising. The current uprising is still ongoing, and it is much too soon to judge the effects it will have, but the Israelis have made their response to it clear. They will fight it by employing all the methods of repression they have been perfecting to enforce the Occupation since it began. Recently they have shown that they are willing to employ these methods at ever-increasing intensity.
Waleed has now been in the notorious Meggido prison for over five months, awaiting the determination of his fate. Abdullah tells me that he is not optimistic and that their lawyer has already told him to expect another prison sentence.

When I ask Abdullah what Waleed is being charged with, he answers with a short, mirthless laugh.
“There is no crime. The army says people were flying the PFLP flag at his celebration two years ago. That is enough. The lawyer says he has never seen anything like it.”

If it were not so tragic, the situation would be absurd. The Israeli army, the fourth most powerful army in the world, inventing a story to put an innocent man in prison. And this was this best scenario they could come up with?

Two weeks ago, Abdullah tells me, the interrogator in the case informed Waleed what he could expect in his immediate future.

“We will put you in prison regardless of the result of the investigation. Whatever you say, we will put you in prison. We want to keep you here, and we will find any reason.”

[1] http://samidoun.net/2016/07/june-2016-report-on-palestinian-prisoners-3412-arrested-in-the-first-half-of-2016/
Richard Hardigan is a university professor in the United States.

09 August 2016


South Africa has just had one of the most extraordinary elections in the short history of democracy from 1994.

When Nelson Mandela was elected to be president after the first democratic elections in April 1994, the African National Congress (ANC) had an enormous majority, winning with about 66 percent of the popular vote. Mandela was president for 5 years and did not seek another term of 5 years - very wisely - after 27 years in prison and already being over 70 years old.

However, one of Mandela's big mistakes - an error of judgement if ever there was one - was to anoint his successor in the form of the son of one of the main freedom fighters of the ANC, Govan Mbeki, and so his son Thabo Mbeki became the second president, leading South Africa down the path of AIDS denialism and thus being responsible for one of the world's worst HIV/AIDS affected states, from which, in 2016, it is slowly recovering.

After some years misleading South Africa, Mbeki was forced out of office and a temporary president appointed until a successor could be found to replace him. That successor was/is Jacob Zuma and the path to corruption has been steady and ongoing for at least the last 10 years. If it wasn't for the fact that South Africa has always been rich in diamonds, gold, steel, uranium, platinum and many other minerals which are in constant demand, South Africa would be in an even more parlous state than it is at the moment.

2016 saw national elections for local government areas across the country and the outcome has been a humiliating blow to the ANC, however the analysts try to disguise the results.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) and the EFF - the Economic Freedom Fighters - have reduced the overall vote throughout the country to its worst result so far - about 53 percent. The DA, which already held Cape Town, has now won control of Nelson Mandela Bay, which consists of an amalgamation of Port Elizabeth, Uitenhage and a few other areas. The DA may also have won Johannesburg and Tshwana, which is an amalgamation of Pretoria and surrounding districts. The DA may have to form a coalition with one or more of the minor parties, but the ANC headquarters are in Johannesburg and it is a devastating blow to their control and prestige.

There is - and has been for some time - a cry for Zuma to go - he owes millions of Rand by court order on illegal alterations to his palace in the country - Nkandla - but so far he is not budging.

One name put forward to replace him is that of Cyril Ramaphosa, previously head of COSATU, the main trade union controlling body in South Africa, But Ramaphosa has become a millionaire business man and mining magnate since leaving COSATU and he was, with Zuma, responsible for the massacre at Marikana, not that long ago.

There are other candidates for the position of president and Zuma and Ramaphosa are not two of them.

Just as in Australia after the recent federal elections on 2 July 2016, South Africa, since the 3 August 2016 Local Government Elections, is in for some interesting times.

Cyril Ramaphosa COSATU

03 August 2016



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Jill Stein Picks Long-Time CounterPuncher Ajamu Baraka as Her VP Running Mate

Green Party presumptive Presidential nominee Jill Stein has offered her vice-presidential bid to international human rights scholar and activist Ajamu Baraka.

“I am honored and excited to announce that my running mate in the 2016 presidential election will be Ajamu Baraka, activist, writer, intellectual and organizer with a powerful voice, vision, and lifelong commitment to building true political revolution,” Stein announced.

“Ajamu Baraka is a powerful, eloquent spokesperson for the transformative, radical agenda whose time has come – an agenda of economic, social, racial, gender, climate, indigenous and immigrant justice. Ajamu’s life’s work has embodied the immortal words of Dr. Martin Luther King: Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” Stein continued. “In this hour of unprecedented crisis, we are honored to lift up a unified movement for justice in the only national political party that is not held hostage by corporate money, lobbyists and super-PACs. We look forward to bringing this agenda for justice to the American people in the exciting race ahead.”

Ajamu Baraka is an internationally recognized human rights activist, organizer and geo-political analyst. Founding Executive Director of the US Human Rights Network (until 2011) and Coordinator of the U.S. based “Black Left Unity Network’s” Committee on International Affairs, Baraka has served on the boards of various national and international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International (USA) and the National Center for Human Rights Education. He has served on the boards of the Center for Constitutional Rights; Africa Action; Latin American Caribbean Community Center; Diaspora Afrique; and the Mississippi Workers’ Center for Human Rights.

Baraka is a member of the Green Shadow Cabinet and an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) in Washington, D.C. An editor and contributing columnist for Black Agenda Report, Baraka has appeared on and been covered in a wide-range of print, broadcast, and digital media outlets such as CNN, BBC, the Tavis Smiley Show, ABC’s World News Tonight, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and Telemundo.

There had been earlier speculation that Stein would offer the spot to ex-Sanders surrogate and former Ohio State Senator Nina Turner, who had been unfairly spurned at last week’s Democratic National Convention for her principled criticism of the DNC and Hillary Clinton. Stein confirmed that talks had taken place between her and Turner, but that the conditions were not right for a combined run.

“In the process of vetting and selecting a VP, I was honored to talk with several inspired activists,” Stein said. “Among them, I especially appreciate Senator Turner’s willingness to have discussed the VP position. The fit just wasn’t right, as Senator Turner is still committed to try to save the soul of the Democratic Party. While we may not agree on whether that is possible, I respect her passion to fight for the people and wish her the best in her effort.”

Stein said she also discussed the position with author Chris Hedges, single payer activist and US Senate candidate Dr. Margaret Flowers (Green – Maryland), economic justice advocate and TPP opponent Kevin Zeese of PopularResistance.org, and Green Party activist and former Black Panther Party leader, Aaron Dixon.

Stein added that: “Our campaign is fully committed to the fight for a political revolution in a party with a demonstrated, unwavering commitment to that political revolution. We welcome the 60% of  Americans who want a principled alternative to the Democrats and Republicans. We are also happy to continue serving as a “plan B” safety net for discouraged reformers as they tire of the disempowering, uphill battle inside the Democratic Party that was so painfully on display at the Democratic National Convention.”

02 August 2016


Evita presents chapter 41:

Evita presents chapter 42:

Evita presents chapter 43:

Evita presents chapter 44:

Evita presents chapter 45:

Evita presents chapter 46:

Evita presents chapter 47:

Evita presents chapter 48

 Evita presents chapter 49:

Evita presents chapter 50:

Evita presents Chapter 51:

Evita presents Chapter 52

01 August 2016


De ja vu comes to mind with the oppressive regime running not only South Africa in government but in its organisations such as the SABC - the South African Broadcasting Corporation.

It reminds one again and again of how the apartheid government treated the SABC and the public by controlling rigidly what we could listen to, and after 1975 when we were allowed - finally to watch television - what we could watch. 

The control of the system was in line with what was at that stage a police state.

What is different in 2016? What are Zuma and the SABC doing to journalism in South Africa? Why don't we just say that the police state is back only controlled by the ANC and not the National Party?

Read the following article and weep:

Register of Journalists

Article in the Australian Financial Review

22 July 1988

All journalists in South Africa are to be forced to register with the Government under recently promulgated special regulations.

Those who fail to register could be jailed for up to 10 years.

Journalists claim the Government intends to withdraw registration, and hence the right to work, from over-critical journalists.

A spokesman for the Liberal Progressive Federal Party, Mr Peter Soal, said the regulations were “horrendous……….a pernicious form of intimidation” stemming from the Government’s “insatiable desire to control the flow of news.”

A parliamentarian who resigned from the ruling National Party last year, Mr Wynand Malan, called them “a step backwards for basic human rights”.

The editor of South Africa’s largest daily newspaper, The Star, Mr Harvey Tyson, said the regulations violated “the very basis of freedom of information and independent journalism.”

The Government already has a powerful arsenal of press curbs. Reporting of the military, prisons, oil procurement and political violence is restricted.

Under the current state of emergency, “subversive” reporting is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and the Government can close newspapers for three months at a time. It temporarily closed two newspapers this year.



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90 years old, political gay activist, hosting two web sites, one personal: http://www.red-jos.net one shared with my partner, 94-year-old Ken Lovett: http://www.josken.net and also this blog. The blog now has an alphabetical index: http://www.red-jos.net/alpha3.htm