February 10, 2021
Jim Zogby Talks with Human Rights Advocate Issa Amro


Wednesday, February 10, 2021 from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m CT

In the months we have been gathering weekly for Coffee & a Column, I have welcomed our substantive conversations each week. I’ve also been thinking about how to expand our community and it is with that in mind that I am excited to share with you the special format for this Wednesday.

We will begin at 2:00 PM with discussion of the two violent acts in the past 20 years that have shaken American democracy: the terrorist attacks on 9/11/01 and the Capitol insurrection on 1/6/21. In “Our Democracy Was at Risk,” I speak about the weaknesses each event exposed in our democracy and the differing actions our leaders took after each, and why.

At 2:30, Issa Amro will join us to discuss the ongoing non-violent protests he is helping lead in opposition to the occupation and Israel’s politically motivated prosecution against him.

An Israeli military judge was set to rule against Issa and as Issa recently said, “we have no choice but to resort to civil disobedience until we win our right to freedom, justice, equality and a life of dignity.” Issa is a critical voice in Palestine and he will be with us to provide the latest on his case and the broader work being done in support of Palestinian human rights.

Please register here to receive the dial-in information for the Zoom call Wednesday, February 10, 2021 from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m ET sharp. After you register, you will automatically get the dial-in information for the call.

Regards,

Jim Zogby

About Suffering: A Massacre of the Innocents in Yemen

The United States is contributing to the violent attacks on Yemen, while cutting back its humanitarian relief efforts.


Bruegel the Elder’s “Massacre of the Innocents”

Kathy Kelly, The Progressive, January 19, 2021

In 1565, Pieter Bruegel the Elder created The Massacre of the Innocents, a provocative masterpiece of religious art. The painting reworks a biblical narrative about King Herod’s order to slaughter all newborn boys in Bethlehem for fear that a messiah had been born there. Bruegel’s painting situates the atrocity in a contemporary setting, a sixteenth-century Flemish village under attack by heavily armed soldiers. 

Yemeni children are not “starving children.” They are children being starved by warring parties whose blockades and bomb attacks have decimated the country.

Depicting multiple episodes of gruesome brutality, Bruegel conveys the terror and grief inflicted on trapped villagers who cannot protect their children. Uncomfortable with the images of child slaughter, the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II, after acquiring the painting, ordered another reworking. The slaughtered babies were painted over with images such as bundles of food or small animals, making the scene appear to be one of plunder rather than massacre.

Were Bruegel’s anti-war theme updated to convey images of child slaughter today, a remote Yemeni village could be the focus. Soldiers performing the slaughter wouldn’t arrive on horseback. Today, they often are Saudi pilots trained to fly U.S.-made warplanes over civilian locales and then launch laser-guided missiles (sold by Raytheon, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin), to disembowel, decapitate, maim, or kill anyone in the path of the blast and exploding shards.

For more than five years, Yemenis have faced famines while enduring a naval blockade and routine aerial bombardment. The United Nations estimates the war has already caused 233,000 deaths, including 131,000 deaths from such indirect causes as lack of food, health services, and infrastructure.

Systematic destruction of farms, fisheries, roads, sewage and sanitation plants, and health-care facilities has wrought further suffering. Yemen is resource-rich, but famine continues to stalk the country, the United Nations reports. Two-thirds of Yemenis are hungry and fully half do not know when they will eat next. Twenty-five percent of the population suffers from moderate to severe malnutrition. That includes more than two million children.

Equipped with U.S.-manufactured Littoral Combat Ships, the Saudis have been able to blockade air and sea ports that are vital to feeding the most populated part of Yemen—the northern area, where 80 percent of the population lives. This area is controlled by Ansar Allah (also known as the “Houthi”). The tactics being used to unseat the Houthis severely punish vulnerable people—those who are impoverished, displaced, hungry, and stricken with diseases. Many are children who should never be held accountable for political deeds.


Meanwhile, the United States, like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, has cut back on its contributions to humanitarian relief. This severely affects the coping capacity of international donors.  

For several months at the end of 2020, the United States threatened to designate Ansar Allah as a “Foreign Terrorist Organization.” Even the threat of doing so began affecting uncertain trade negotiations, causing prices of desperately needed goods to rise. 

Continue reading

Free Sami Huraini

Palestine Partners started this petition to United Nations Secretary General António Guterres and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’.

Palestinian human rights activist Sami Huraini was arrested by Israeli forces during a pre-dawn raid on his home in the West Bank village of At-Tuwani on January 9.  The arrest occurred just hours after Sami’s participation in a nonviolent demonstration in the neighboring village of Al Rakeez, where Israeli soldiers shot and paralyzed an unarmed Palestinian man on New Year’s day. Despite a complete lack of evidence and the peaceful nature of the protests, Mr Huraini has been charged with obstructing the peace and assaulting an Israeli soldier.  

Mr Huraini is a leading human rights activist in the Masafer Yatta (South Hebron Hills) area. Residents of At Tuwani believe that his arrest is part of an effort to target him for his effectiveness as a community organizer and leadership of the nonviolent protests that have followed the January 1 shooting in nearby Al Rakeez. His arrest is an example of the widespread targeting of activists by the Israeli military courts. The Israeli practice of trying Palestinians in Israeli military courts results a conviction rate of over 99 percent and cannot be defended as just or democratic. 

We ask that you call on the Israeli government to drop the politically-motivated charges against Sami Huraini so that he can continue his work to protect human rights.

Sign this petition

Illinois faculty rejects efforts to suppress Palestinian freedom

Criticism of Israel is not antisemitism
Grave implications for free speech, distracts from actual racism

UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS AT URBANA-CHAMPAIGN. (INSTAGRAM)

OPEN LETTER, Mondoweiss, DECEMBER 23, 2020

As faculty and staff within the University of Illinois system, we are writing to renew our outrage at the rampant anti-Semitism and racism at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. We condemn all forms of racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, anti-Blackness, xenophobia, and other forms of hatred and dehumanization.

We are also deeply concerned about the way anti-Semitism is defined in a joint statement issued by UIUC, the Jewish United Fund, Hillel groups, and the Brandeis Center in response to complaints that these avowedly pro-Israel groups filed against the University based on student speech and activism for Palestinian human rights.

Specifically, the statement identifies incidents “that demonize or delegitimize Jewish and pro-Israel students…[or] subjects them to double standards” as expressions of anti-Semitism. This conflation of Jewish religious and ethnic identity with a viewpoint that supports the state of Israel or Zionism as a political ideology is a dangerous tactic that is expressly aimed at silencing any and all debate about Israel and Zionism on college campuses.

The way that anti-Semitism is defined in UIUC’s statement correlates with a definition that has been pushed by pro-Israel groups in legislatures, agencies, and institutions around the country and that was adopted by Donald Trump in an executive order issued in 2019. Those same groups have often funded Islamophobia across this country and have allied themselves with right wing organizations. The definition itself is uncontroversial, but it is accompanied by several illustrative examples intended to guide its interpretation and use. For instance, critiques of Israel as a racist state are treated as expressions of anti-Semitism. As the Brandeis Center has said explicitly in the complaint it filed against UIUC, the definition means that: “anti-Zionism is a contemporary form of anti-Semitism.”

The political project to equate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism is harmful on several levels, and we urge the University of Illinois administration to reject this effort because of the grave implications it has for academic freedom and student free speech on our campuses, the way it distracts from actual racism happening on our campuses, and the ironic consequence of creating an anti-Palestinian/Arab/Muslim environment on campus by targeting students for expressing their experiences and views.

1) The harm to academic freedom and student speech

Whether or not one agrees with Israeli policy, anyone concerned about academic freedom should be gravely concerned about this definition because repressing the free exchange of ideas is antithetical to the purpose of campus life and the opportunity for students to learn how to engage with diverse viewpoints.

Part of the university experience means hearing ideas that may clash with your own, being challenged to consider different perspectives, and approaching issues with intellectual rigor. UIUC’s statement eviscerates this by demanding that students with a certain political viewpoint – that is, support for Israel – be shielded from opposing ones. That is impossible, and untenable. No one would expect the university to protect students from Myanmar from criticism of its treatment of Muslims, or supporters of South Africa’s apartheid regime from its critics. That’s because we do not conflate criticism of a country with hatred of people who are from or support that country’s policies. And we must not do that for Israel either. Neither Israel, nor any other country, can be shielded from criticism in a university setting, and people who support Israel – as with any other issue – must learn to contend with differing viewpoints.

We are especially concerned about the impact this definition will have upon academic freedom in the area of teaching and debate in our classrooms, as well as on our scholarship. This creates an environment of fear in our classroom, making even faculty worried about being attacked for scholarship they assign in their courses and lectures and research projects they pursue. At colleges and universities across the US, pro-Israel organizations have called on the US Department of Education to enforce this definition by silencing students, faculty, courses, and events expressing support for Palestinian freedom. It is particularly concerning to see the adoption of this definition by the UIUC administration, in light of Prof. Steven Salaita’s experience having a job offer withdrawn by UIUC for comments made on his personal social media and other experiences of harassment of faculty and graduate students at UIUC. Indeed, the University has at times been responsive to ensure that explicit Islamophobic comments are not tolerated by staff, especially those in key positions on campus. Yet these responses are not nearly enough. Anti-Muslim sentiment and practices are integral to today’s unleashing of white supremacy across the country. Students across various U of I campuses continue to raise grave concerns about the lack of administrative response to the ways Islamophobia impacts their lives and academic success and they continue to fear for their safety. In January 2020, UIUC extended an invitation to JUF to train staff of the housing department. And now, for example, the University is dismissive of student concerns.

If UIUC accepts that criticism of Zionism, or opposition to Israel’s establishment as a state in historic Palestine that privileges Jews over indigenous Palestinians, is the equivalent of anti-Semitism, the University will insert itself into the position of a political censor of classroom, scholarly and campus discourse. The First Amendment won’t allow that, and neither will faculty or students who are here to experience a diversity of thought and to think and associate freely.

We urge the UIUC administration to stand up against external pressure and put the mission of the university before the political interests of organizations external to the university. These groups cannot dictate the terms of our academic and extracurricular discourse.

We are at a critical point in the history of free speech and racial justice on U.S. college campuses. Will the University of Illinois administration commit to being consistent in its support of free speech and academic freedom around all issues of racial justice? Or will the University of Illinois adopt a strategy that ends up undermining racial and social justice work because external right-wing political groups insist on dictating the agenda and determining what is acceptable discourse on our campuses?

2) Actual racism on our campuses

Continue reading

Racism in Policing in the US

BLACK LIVES MATTER RESOURCES

MRSCP supports the Black Lives Matter movement, both because of its inherent demand for justice and also because of the similarities between how the U.S. treats its citizens of color and how Israel treats Palestinians whether they are citizens of Israel, residents of Gaza and the West Bank, or refugees in the Palestinian diaspora.

We see shocking and undemocratic parallels of civilian populations being coerced and controlled by a system in which by intention or default they have little or no representation or power.

This parallel is particularly stark when it comes to the issue of policing, mass incarceration and population control.

So we want to pass on to you this set of resources for understanding the call for radical reforms of the justice and policing system in this country,

In particular, we hope you will check out this slideshow of infographics on visualizing racial disparities in this system.

Landmark Endorsement of Rep. Joaquin Castro for House Chair

Over 50 progressive organizations endorse Rep. Joaquin Castro for Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC). At the end of November, Democratic House members will vote on who takes leadership of this important committee. HFAC makes decisions on arms control and disarmament issues, international funding and aid, deployment and use of armed forces, drug policy, international sanctions, and global health issues, such as COVID.

Rep. Castro represents the kind of leadership we need to build a foreign policy that reflects the growing progressive calls for diplomacy, support of human rights, and justice. We welcome Rep. Castro’s commitment to ensuring that Palestinian voices are heard in the Committee and his recent statements pushing for accountability on Israel for violations of international law.
Adalah Justice Project

https:::3ba8a190-62da-4c98-86d2-893079d87083.usrfiles.com:ugd:3ba8a1_3668d70d0ea94288bd085814b38b85c8

Trump administration considers labeling top humanitarian groups ‘anti-Semitic’

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch,
and Oxfam are included

John Hudson, Washington Post, Oct. 21, 2020

The Trump administration is considering labeling some of the most prominent humanitarian organizations in the world, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Oxfam, as “anti-Semitic,” according to two people familiar with the discussions.

A declaration by the State Department could come as early as this week, the individuals said, adding that it might encourage other governments not to support the groups’ work.

The proposal has prompted sharp opposition from career officials in the department, who say it would be a gift to authoritarian governments that have long sought to delegitimize human rights groups for their work exposing mass atrocities and crimes against humanity, according to the two people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss future policy decisions.

The organizations deploy scores of workers in dangerous hot spots, where they often face resistance from local governments.

The State Department declined to comment on a pending declaration, which was first reported by Politico.

Pro-Israel advocates have long complained of bias by groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, saying they focus too heavily on the treatment of Palestinians by the Israeli government.

The groups, however, have a lengthy track record of spotlighting the mistreatment of individuals at the hands of governments elsewhere, including authoritarian regimes and Western democracies.

“It’s preposterous,” Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski (N.J.), who previously worked as Washington director of Human Rights Watch, said in a phone call. “They also document the treatment of the Palestinians by the Palestinian Authority. They are critical of every government in the world, including the United States. Yet the State Department under every previous secretary of state has relied on these organizations as credible sources of information and treated them as partners.”

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Oxfam each strenuously denied any accusation of anti-Semitism.

“Any insinuation that Oxfam supports anti-Semitism is false, baseless, and offensive,” Noah Gottschalk of Oxfam America said. “Oxfam and our Israeli and Palestinian partners have worked on the ground for decades to promote human rights and provide lifesaving support for Israeli and Palestinian communities. We stand by our long history of work protecting the lives, human rights, and futures of all Israelis and Palestinians.”

Over the years, the groups, especially Human Rights Watch, have criticized the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, deeming them illegal under international law. Pompeo reversed years of U.S. policy by declaring that the United States does not consider the settlements a violation of international law.

If the State Department moves forward on the decision, it is likely to be celebrated by the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, pro-Israel Republican donors and a wide swath of Christian evangelicals, who say human rights organizations disproportionately target Israel.