Saturday, April 01, 2006
Mostly Water web site states, "Since mid-February the Rotinoshon’non:we/Iroquois have been protesting the construction of a luxury residential subdivision on their land called “Douglas Estates” near Caledonia Ontario. With the Canadian and provincial governments intent on ignoring our rights, there were no options. We had to stop the construction ourselves. Our people braved freezing rain, snow, sleet and ankle deep mud. Many slept in tents and cars to keep the barricades manned. Supporters carried in pots of food and truckloads of firewood. We’re in it for the long haul! We are continuing the fight that our grandparents and great-grandparents fought and that our children and grandchildren are prepared to continue if the colonization doesn’t stop."
"Henco Industries, the developer that is squatting on our land, went to court and got an injunction. Judge David Marshall of the Ontario Provincial Court thought he had a fool proof plan to get rid of the people protesting Ontario’s persistent violation of Six Nations Territory. On March 16 he issued a strange convoluted order. He announced that at 2:00 on Wednesday, March 22nd, the Ontario Provincial Police OPP would come in. They would read the order to us. Anyone who didn’t leave immediately would be arrested and taken to the police station where they would be photographed, fingerprinted and released. He also ordered that anyone who returned would be charged and placed on probation for a year. The trouble is he seemed to have forgotten about due process and the honor of the Crown. He didn’t mention a hearing or a trial. Neither Ontario nor Henco was required to prove they owned the land in question. This may have something to do with the report that Judge Marshall and the Crown Prosecutor, Owen Young, both claim parts of our land themselves."
The people didn't leave. They did not recognize the authority of the court over them on their soverign land.
The people say the subdivision is on part of the Haldimand tract that was deeded to the Six Nations in 1784 and still belongs to them. They argue the tract, which covers 9.6 kilometres both sides of the Grand River from the mouth to the source, was never transferred to third parties and is still their territory.
Their has been a particularly strong show by women at the site. This is a testimony to the moral authority the Six Nations clan mothers have displayed in the action, which has been described as a "land reclamation."
The clan mothers, who'd been acting mostly behind the scenes, authored a press release addressed to the developer of the subdivision, provincial and federal authorities and "Her Majesty the Queen."
They told them they had no business on the disputed land.
"Therefore, we the clan mothers command the agents, representatives and officers of the said British corporation to be at peace and refrain from any acts of violence to spill blood or interfere with the rights of the Onkwe'hon:we" (the aboriginal people), they wrote.
The missive was signed "Clan mothers."
The Douglas Creek Estates development is currently under construction on lands stolen from the Six Nations Peoples. On Feb. 28th, the Peoples re-occupied their land and said they will stay until jurisdiction and title over the land is restored to Six Nations.
The British Crown granted the Six Nations Reserve a 10- kilometre strip on each side of the Grand River from the mouth to the source, a tract of about 950,000 acres. But today, the reserve covers only about 5 per cent of the tract. Protesters say the rest of the lands were stolen, squatted on or illegally transferred after being leased to non-natives. Protesters say the building site, which could eventually accommodate close to 200 homes, is part of the original tract granted to the Six Nations people more than 200 years ago. The proposed development and impending growth continues to infringe on Six Nations treaty rights.
The land was never sold, transferred or surrendered to non-natives and the site is still part of the Six Nations territory, even though at least two of the houses have been sold and were soon to be occupied. The protesters are acting under the direction of the Six Nations Confederacy, the traditional chiefs. They believe the Confederacy -- and not the elected band council -- has the authority to negotiate lands on behalf of Six Nations.
The Six Nations Peoples were left with no choice but to take the protection of their land into their own hands. In solidarity with these freedom fighters, demand the Crown cease threatening public peace by their failure to uphold international treaties. Demand they drop this illegal injunction against the Six Nations Peoples immediately and instead place an immediate moratorium against all development on Six Nations Territories. In Solidarity with the Six Nations Peoples in their fight for decolonization, take action today! Phone, fax and email:
Inspector Brian Haggith, Cayuga OPP, Detachment Commander
Phone: (905) 772-3322, Fax: (905) 772-5815, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jim Prentice, Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs
Phone: (819) 997-0002, Fax: (819) 953-4941, Email: email@example.com
The first article below is from the London Free Press (Canada)The second article is from the Globe and Mail.
Aboriginal occupiers defy court order
Fri, March 31, 2006
CALEDONIA -- Aboriginal protesters occupying a southern Ontario construction site dismissed yesterday's police action aimed at removing them from the proposed subdivision as irrelevant.
The court order read to occupiers by the sheriff of Haldimand County carries no weight on native land, said protester Janie Jamieson.
"We're not under Canada's jurisdiction. We're a sovereign nation," Jamieson said.
Six Nations members from a nearby reserve claim the land was stolen from them by the Canadian government 200 years ago.
Peaceful solution best, native protesters say
Special to The Globe and Mail
CALEDONIA -- An uneasy standoff continued yesterday on the 29th day of an aboriginal protest that has halted construction on a subdivision south of Hamilton.
Police were maintaining a low profile, as they have since the occupation began on land adjoining the Six Nations reserve that protesters claim was stolen from them.
A spokeswoman for the protesters, Janie Jamieson, said she hopes for a peaceful resolution. "It would involve having the whole issue of title and jurisdiction resolved, and it would mean for the federal government to take accountability and responsibility for their actions in regard to this land."
Ms. Jamieson rejected a suggestion that the presence of members of the Warrior Society was cause for concern, adding that clan mothers from other reserves, including Akwesasne, have sent people to support the protest.
The women here remain in charge, she said. "The men that are here, they're all under our direction." All the occupiers are unarmed, she added.
OPP spokeswoman Paula Wright said the role of the police has not changed since a judge's clarification on Tuesday of the terms of a court order that the protesters leave. They are in contempt of court.
"We will respect the court order," Ms. Wright said. "We take our responsibility very seriously and undertake this responsibility in the safest manner possible."
She said the focus is to negotiate peacefully with the occupiers "hoping that they would choose to leave without police intervention."
Federal Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice has appointed a law professor from the University of Western Ontario as a fact-finder. Michael Coyle said that since Friday he has met with various parties, including the Confederacy chiefs, the elected band council, the protesters, the developer and police.
He said he expects to have a report for the minister within a week.
But spokespeople at the site said the women who are directing the protest didn't speak to Mr. Coyle. "The women sent him packing," Jacqueline House said, adding that Mr. Prentice has been asked to send someone of more importance.
Diane Laursen, a spokeswoman for Mr. Prentice, said Mr. Coyle is not a mediator -- he has been appointed to investigate the grievances and explore the possibility of mediation.
Premier Dalton McGuinty also called for a peaceful end to the standoff and said the protesters should comply with the court order.
Local Tory MPP Toby Barrett said he has visited the blockade and has done what he can to help resolve the dispute, including driving to Ottawa 10 days ago to deliver materials from the protesters to Governor-General Michaëlle Jean.
The 52-hectare property at the heart of the dispute was bought 15 years ago by Henco Industries. Ms. Jamieson said the protesters moved onto the property a month ago because of the surge in construction in the area.
Haldimand County Mayor Marie Trainor confirmed that development around the town is booming. "We're one of the fastest-growing communities in Ontario," she said.
The area in dispute is one of 29 land claims filed by Six Nations since 1980, but not one of the four validated by the Justice Department. It pertains to the Hamilton-Port Dover Plank Road, now Highway 6, running through the centre of what is now Caledonia.
The Six Nations has refused to surrender the 966 hectares needed for a road with 800 metres on each side, but has agreed to a lease with conditions. In a 1996 court document, the attorney-general argued that the Six Nations surrendered the land for sale in 1841.
Friday, March 31, 2006
A federal grand jury has indicted a Berkeley, Calif., woman in an arson that destroyed a horticulture center at the University of Washington five years ago.
Briana Waters, 30, is the 14th person to be charged in Oregon and Washington with conspiracy in a broad attack on eniromental militants.
In a two-count indictment returned March 15, Waters was charged with arson and using or carrying a destructive device during a violent crime.
If convicted, she would face at least 35 years in prison.
A federal grand jury in Eugene, Ore., has charged 13 other people in arson attacks: Stanislas Gregory Meyerhoff, 28; Daniel Gerard McGowan, 31; Kevin M. Tubbs, 37; Sarah Kendall Harvey, 29; Chelsea Dawn Gerlach, 28; Nathan Fraser Block, 25; Joyanna L. Zacher, 28; Joseph Dibee, 38; Jonathan Mark Christopher Paul, 40; Rebecca Rubin, 32; Suzanne Savoie, 28; and Darren Todd Thurston, 34.
William C. Rodgers, 40, of Prescott, Ariz., was indicted in Seattle in connection with the case, but committed suicide Dec. 22 while being held in the Coconino County Jail in Prescott.
Following is an Earth First! Press release on this and some related issues.
Environmental Activists Jailed as Grand Jury Indictments Increase
by Earth First! press release Thursday, Mar. 30, 2006 at 9:38 AM
For immediate release
March 30, 2006
Contact: Karen Pickett (510) 548-3113
Ben Rosenfeld (415) 285-8091
San Francisco, CA-As attorneys argue in federal court in San Francisco on March 30 to quash a grand jury investigating a protest in San Francisco, activists point to current trends that use secret grand juries to carry out broad, politically-motivated sweeps of environmental and other activists around the country.
In January, 11 people were indicted by a grand jury in Oregon investigating acts of sabotage linked to the underground Earth Liberation Front (ELF). Charges relate to alleged arsons at such targets as a ski resort expansion into endangered lynx habitat and a facility for rounding up wild horses for dog food. There were no injuries, but the FBI claims millions of dollars in damage to property and calls the actions terrorism. Two Washington state activists were added to the indictment in February, and one person was indicted in a related grand jury in San Diego for a public speech. A grand jury in Colorado investigating crimes by environmental activists just began issuing subpoenas. A status hearing regarding the 13 indictments from the Oregon grand jury scheduled for April 3 in Eugene was postponed yesterday. More indictments and subpoenas are expected, say attorneys in the case.
“Apparently, according to the FBI, the threat is greater than that posed by neo-Nazis, systemically brutal and racist police forces, or Al-Q'aida,” said Ben Rosenfeld, a civil rights attorney from San Francisco. “The government's vendetta is a campaign in a broader witch hunt against radical environmentalists and self-identified ‘green anarchists’ -- those who merge ecology, animal rights, and anarchism in a vision of freedom and sustainability for all living beings.”
The FBI announced last year that ELF was their # 1 priority for domestic terrorism and held a press conference in Washington DC with U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to announce the indictments, where they dodged questions about Osama bin Laden but called the environmentalists “eco-terrorists”. The FBI has help from groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative corporate lobby group. A.L.E.C. has written model legislation stepping up the ante for acts of property destruction committed against corporations. Legislation has been introduced in 9 states seeking to categorize property destruction, trespass or arson as acts of domestic terrorism.
Activists point to the fact that these politically motivated acts of property destruction harmed no life, yet are being called terrorism even as violent attacks by right wing zealots go unprosecuted. According to the FBI’s own 2003 statistics, 7400 hate crimes motivated by race, ethnic, religious or sexual orientation occurred that year.
Information on these ‘eco cases’, as they are called, can be found on the Civil Liberties Defense Center website at www.cldc.org. A press packet of current related articles and background information is available through 510-548-3113.
Actually I was looking for something else when I bumped into this editorial from Indian Country Today. It's good and you should read it. So do it!
Indigenous sentiment kindles immigration rights marches © Indian Country Today March 31, 2006. All Rights Reserved
by: Editors Report / Indian Country Today
Nearly three-quarters of a million people marched in major cities around the United States March 26 to protest foolish punitive legislation on ''illegal'' immigration. It was the largest political demonstration of a generation, surprising even its organizers. It scored an almost immediate political success. A U.S. Senate committee the next day dropped the most offensive features from its own version of the immigration bill. Even more, the march is likely to stand as a historic milestone in the gradual but now unmistakable awakening of the indigenous giant of the Americas.
The issue front and center is the Border Control Bill, Senate Bill 2454, which is at this writing under debate on the floor of the Senate. At present it seems very likely to be less stupid than the measure already passed by the House of Representatives. The broader question is the economic and demographic structure that has created the need for undocumented immigration. Congress can do very little to change this structure, and we will be lucky if it avoids inflicting serious economic damage on the way.
These issues create conflicting currents in Indian country, but a basic attitude is that we are already putting up with 300 million post-legal immigrants. Another 12 million indocumentados can be accommodated, if realistic regulation is imposed.
Border tribes suffer disproportionately the lawlessness that accompanies some of the northern migration, the drug-and people-smuggling which is persecuted and thus clandestine. The key for those tribes is on the enforcement side, how to strengthen police and home protection forces within the tribal jurisdiction.
But, on a North American and hemispheric scale, beyond the current bill and even the border issues, the marches confronted a more basic phenomenon of great concern to Indians. They rebuked a rising flood of anti-indigenous demagogy. Bigots of all stripes are of one breath in attacking American Indian tribes, Mexican immigrants and the indigenous political movements of South America.
The marches are sending a powerful message both to American politicians and to indigenous youth. These hateful attacks will not go unanswered. A political movement is taking shape along the lines of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. The political hacks (and television commentators) who are trying to exploit anti-immigrant sentiment have badly miscalculated. The marches could give rise to new alliances that could profoundly affect the electoral landscape for the next generation.
It was over-reaching by the bigots that inspired the marches in the first place. The Sensenbrenner-King House bill took the ham-handed approach of making felons not only of undocumented workers but also of family members, churches and non-profit agencies who ''assisted'' them. (Working in the country without a green card is currently a civil offense for non-citizens, not criminal. Sensenbrenner-King would have imposed a jail term of up to five years.) Criminalizing to such a degree of unfairness over 10 million basically decent, family-based Latino people living throughout the United States threatened to create a law enforcement nightmare likely leading to long-term civil unrest.
The Catholic Church hierarchy arose in protest, uniting with Pentecostals, immigrants' rights groups and a vastly underestimated constituency in sympathy with the indocumentados, such as their citizen children and grandchildren. Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles said he would instruct his priests to defy this ''vicious'' law. Their call was amplified by the Latino broadcast and print media, a powerful force also mainly overlooked by the dominant culture.
Protests rippled through the country, culminating in a turnout in Los Angeles alone estimated by police at 500,000. And the demonstrations haven't ended. An organized march was planned for New York City on April 1. Perhaps even more telling, spontaneous walkouts by high school students are taking on a life of their own. In Los Angeles, nearly 9,000 left class in the middle of the day. In Dallas, 3,000 gathered at city hall. In Phoenix, 1,200 marched on the state Capitol. The walkouts might not be the wisest thing to do, but in a way they are the most impressive aftermath of the marches. They show the excitement of a genuine social movement now stirring the next generation of leaders.
The immigrant phenomenon isn't simply Latino. Irish nannies and Korean grocers also know what it's like to live in the shadows of the law. And broad social forces are exerting the pull across the border. An aging U.S. demographic is creating a labor shortage for the foreseeable future in entry-level, low-wage jobs. Business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce know they need immigrant workers, even at the cost of providing them social justice. Indocumentados now play essential roles throughout the entire economy, and it's unlikely that even a guest-worker program would subject them to the bracero-style single employer exploitation of the past.
But the immigration issue intersects with another dramatic phenomenon emerging throughout the Americas. Indigenous peoples are demanding their political voice, in their home countries and here. We suspect that this is a strong part of what discomforts the immigrant-phobes. We don't hear the Lou Dobbs types warning about undocumented workers from Ireland; even though they are far better equipped to compete for the jobs U.S. citizens would want. The border that obsesses the CNN commentator, among many others, is the one with Mexico. The people who cross it from Mexico and Latin America are to an overwhelming extent indigenous.
The bluster about broken borders masks a guilty conscience, as Euro-Americans try to keep Natives from re-entering land that was once theirs. The Statue of Liberty, it turns out, was only meant to face Europe. It wasn't meant for the Rio Grande. The real fear, as the border-watchers sometimes let slip, is the Reconquista - the possibility that Native people will regain political power in Native lands.
This fear finds an outlet in post-Sept. 11, 2001 paranoia. The terrorist attacks were a genuine trauma for all Americans, Indians no less than anyone else; but the current propaganda about defending the borders amounts to cheap exploitation. None of the 9/11 hijackers were illegal border-crossers: they had visas. And the security failure, it has become painfully evident, was one of a bureaucracy bungling its own procedures. But the 9/11 bogeyman is becoming a standard slander against Natives. We even hear it invoked in attempts to tax reservation smoke shops. Border security as an excuse for the punitive measures of the Sensenbrenner-King bill was a straight-out scare tactic. This scare is now overlapping with the antagonism against the new indigenous movement in South America, where Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales are being dressed up as the new threat to the United States.
But for every Minuteman who fell for the scare and worked up vigilante responses to the drummed-up ''threat of illegal immigrants,'' there are many friends and relatives of each indocumentado who are overwhelmingly known as hard-working, family-oriented people fully deserving to move freely on their own continent. These are the people asserting themselves in the white-shirt marches. They look like the long-sought foundation for the new alignment for indigenous rights.
One year ago today Terri Schiavo was finally allowed to die.
As the Villager reminds us, "The tragic story of brain-damaged Terri Schiavo brought out the worst in the religious right as Congress, led by Tom DeLay and Bill Frist, tried to reverse the historical role of our independent court system, and Bush got off his horse in Texas to rush back to the White House to deal with this manufactured national crisis."
Right wing conservatives and their friends on the Religious Right are still using Terri Shciavo to try and advance their agenda (and make a little cash at the same time). These leeches simply never know when enough is enough.
The following article is borrowed from Media Transparency (although I knew Bill long before they did)
One year later, conservatives still cashing in on Terri Schiavo
One year later, conservatives still cashing in on Terri Schiavo
The religious right still doesn't believe the scientific evidence that proved Schiavo was in a 'persistent vegetative state' since 1990. Their shameful, embarrassing and expensive crusade continues to this day
Last year at this time, stories about Terri Schiavo -- the woman who had been in a "persistent vegetative state" since 1990 -- dominated the political landscape. In a recent story in The New Yorker magazine about the Bush Administration's protracted war on science, Michael Specter wrote that In 1998, when Michael Schiavo "asked that [Terri's] feeding tube be removed...a legal war with her parents [was ignited] that eventually turned into a national conflict."
After several years of legal wrangling, it finally came down to a passion-packed month where regular press conferences were held by her parents, Mary and Bob Schindler and their surrogates, mostly right wing politicians and leaders of Christian conservative organizations, demonstrations and vigils organized by a cadre of longtime Christian right activists, fundraising pitches were sent by a host of Christian conservative organizations, and a well-orchestrated campaign was aimed at vilifying Michael Schiavo, Terri's husband.
With the encouragement of Terri's parents, religious right activists unleashed a 24/7, no-holds-barred campaign aimed at winning the battle over public opinion. What was a private family matter turned into a media feeding frenzy and a public spectacle.
'More than just Terri Schiavo'
For right wing partisans, the "cause" was always greater than Terri Schiavo's life. Speaking frankly at a March 23, 2005, Family Research Council-organized event at the Willard Hotel in Washington, Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX.) laid out what the Schiavo case meant to the conservative movement:
"It is more than just Terri Schiavo. This is a critical issue for people in this position, and it is also a critical issue to fight that fight for life, whether it be euthanasia or abortion. I tell you, ladies and gentlemen, one thing God has brought to us is Terri Schiavo to elevate the visibility of what's going on in America. That Americans would be so barbaric as to pull a feeding tube out of a person that is lucid and starve them to death for two weeks. I mean, in America that's going to happen if we don't win this fight"
On March 31, 2005, soon after being removed from life support, Terri Schiavo died.
The final month of Terri Schiavo's life was akin to a made-for-television mini-series, with a cast of characters that included the nation's most powerful politicians including, President George W. Bush, his brother, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Senate Majority Leader, Bill Frist, DeLay, a host of longtime Christian conservative evangelical leaders and a horde of shameless conservative pundits and media personalities -- exemplified by Fox Television's Sean Hannity.
Steeped as we are in a today's-news-trumps-all mentality -- author/playwright Gore Vidal dubs the U.S.A., the United States of Amnesia -- it is unlikely that on the first anniversary of Terri Schiavo's death, the right wing's embarrassing and shameful behavior will be remembered by the media.
It is doubtful the White House will circulate footage of the president rushing back to the White House from the ranch in Crawford, Texas, to sign a hastily-crafted "emergency measure" that, The New Yorker's Michael Specter reported, "attempted to force the courts to review the Schiavo case and require that the feeding tube [that had been removed from Schiavo] be reinserted." After the Supreme Court "for the sixth time, declined to hear the case," the president --shortly after the second anniversary of the bloody war in Iraq -- spoke out in favor of the "culture of life."
Florida Governor Jeb Bush not only played a leading role in the case, he continued attacking Michael Schiavo even after "an autopsy supported" Schiavo's "contention that she was unaware of her condition and incapable of recovering," Specter reported. "Within days Jeb Bush...ordered a state prosecutor to investigate whether Schiavo's husband had purposely delayed calling an ambulance when she fell ill, in 1990." According to Specter, "Bush produced no evidence, and his actions alarmed even his Republican allies," and "the investigation was quickly dropped."
The office of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) is unlikely to issue a press release reminding the public of the senator's keen ability to diagnose Schiavo's condition by viewing video highlights of her in her hospital room. (According to the Associated Press, Frist had this to say about "the lessons he learned from the Schiavo controversy: 'The American people don't want you involved in these decisions.'")
You'd be betting against the house if you thought that the beleaguered, and indicted, former House Majority Leader, Tom DeLay will once again be threatening retribution against a handful of judges, as he did last year at this time.
Randall Terry, the anti-abortion activist who was designated by the Schiavo family as their spokesperson, and was one of the people expected to mobilize support for Schiavo amongst conservative Christians, will likely receive a mere particle, if any, of media face-time this year.
Following the money
In his book, "Using Terri: The Religious Right's Conspiracy to Take Away Our Rights" (HarperCollins, 2005), Jon Eisenberg, an attorney working pro bono for Michael Schiavo, wrote that the case was a key battle in the religious right's culture wars which is being fought out on "multiple fronts," including "pushing for prayer and creationism in the public schools, and opposing stem-cell research, women's reproductive rights, and gay civil unions and marriage."
After returning to his home in Oakland, California from a hearing in Tallahassee, Florida, Eisenberg found himself wondering, "Who was funding the Schindlers' advocates." After visiting the Media Transparency website, Eisenberg "began to understand the think-tank machinery and its critical role in the Schiavo case. There is a money trail leading to virtually all of the lawyers for the Schindlers and Governor Jeb Bush, through more than a dozen religious Right organizations, from a handful of foundations that are quietly finding just about every ultraconservative cause on the political map."
Eisenberg identified a "three-tiered structure" that included "seven foundations...fourteen think tanks and other religious Right organizations ... and eighteen foot soldiers" behind the case:
"The lawyers, activists, and politicians" -- "The foot soldiers" included David Gibbs III and Barbara Weller, attorneys with the Tampa-area Gibbs Law Firm. Gibbs, whose family controls the Christian Law Association, started working on the case in 2003, and became lead attorney for the Schindlers in September 2004; Pat Anderson, the Schindler's lead attorney before Sept. 2004; Robert Destro, a law professor at Washington, D.C.'s Catholic University of America and "principal investigator for the antigay" Marriage Law Project, represented Jeb Bush "in litigation arising from the passage of 'Terri's Law' in 2003, and joined ... Gibbs III in representing the Schindlers in March 2005; Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the Pat Robertson-founded American Center for Law and Justice, was "one of the Schindler's attorneys in the 'Terri's Law' litigation"; Deborah Berliner and Brett Wood, "formally affiliated with ... Judicial Watch"; Wesley J. Smith, "the anti-euthanasia activist" served as a "behind-the-scenes 'informal advisor' to the Schindlers"; Rita Marker, the executive director of the anti-euthanasia International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide; Kenneth Connor, the former head of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council, worked on "Terri's Law"; William Saunders and Jon Halisky, lawyers for the FRC's Center for Human Life and Bioethics; Max Lapertosa, Kenneth Walden, and Geoge Rahdert, disability rights lawyers; Rep. Tom DeLay who spearheaded congressional intervention' Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL) "sponsored a version of the congressional bill that threw the Schiavo case into the federal courts; Governor Jeb Bush.
"Think tanks and other organizations that get money from the foundations to pursue their litigation, publication, activism, education, and lobbying strategies" -- "The officer corps" included the Alliance Defense Fund, Family Research Council, American Center for Law and Justice, Life Legal Defense Fund, National Right to Life Committee, Christian Law Association, Discovery Institute for Public Policy, Encounter Books, International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, National Organization on Disability, World Institute on Disability, Judicial Watch, Values Action Team, Alexander Strategy Group, a lobbying group founded by two former aides to DeLay.
"The foundations"--"The high command" included the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Scaife family foundations, Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation, Randolph Foundation, JM Foundation, Koch family foundations, Heritage Foundation.
"In some instances," Eisenberg wrote, "I was able to trace payments directly to a foot soldier...In other instances, I discovered broader financial connections where there was a constant flow of money to the foot soldiers, not discernibly earmarked for the Schiavo case in particular but generally financing the foot soldiers' work in the trenches of the culture wars, thus facilitating their work in the Schiavo battle."
Still using Schiavo
As the one-year anniversary of Terri Schiavo's death approached, RightMarch.com, was hell-bent on defying science, common sense and public opinion. It also got a head start on mining the marketing possibilities.
In a communiqué from William Greene, the President of RightMarch.com, the organization claimed that:
"Contrary to anything you may have heard, Terri was NOT brain dead; Terri was NOT in a coma; she was NOT in a "persistent vegetative state;" nor was she on ANY life-support system.
"Terri laughed, Terri cried, she moved, and she made child-like attempts at speech with her family. Sometimes she would say 'Mom' or 'Dad' or 'yeah' when they asked her a question. When her mother or father kissed her hello or goodbye, she would look at them and 'pucker up' her lips."
Michael Schiavo, who bore the brunt of the vitriol from the Schiavo family and their spokespersons, was accused of everything from failing to provide her with the necessary physical therapy to exacerbating her condition, to wanting her dead for financial reasons.
According to the RightMarch.com e-Alert:
Now Michael Schiavo, Terri's estranged husband who denied her any therapy for over a decade and then collaborated with those activist judges and legislators to starve her to death, has stepped into the media spotlight once again. He's started a PAC (political action committee) to exploit Terri's name and raise money to defeat the Congressmen and Senators who tried to save her life.
He even has the nerve to call it "TerriPAC". He should be ashamed of himself, but instead he paints himself as a victim and a hero, who "loved his wife". (Never mind the he lived with his "fiancée" the whole time Terri was being starved, had two children by her, and spent the money that was supposed to be for Terri's rehabilitation on lawyers in order to have her killed.) Now, once again, Michael Schiavo is hitting the news shows and the talk show circuit to tell the world that Terri "wanted to die" -- in fact, he was just on Keith Olbermann's liberal "news" show on MSNBC spouting the same old rhetoric.
In addition to rewriting history, these claims were aimed at blunting the launch of Schiavo's new political action committee called TerriPAC. The political action committee intends to raise money in order to be able to hold the politicians that used the tragedy of the Terri Schiavo case for their own partisan purposes, accountable to voters this November.
The PAC "is committed to educating the public about the social and political issues surrounding the case of Terri Schiavo," said Derek Newton, TerriPAC Director, in a recent news release. "Providing information to resources on end-of-life care is part of that mission."
Battle of the books
Last year's polarizing conflict is turning into this year's battle of the books, England's Telegraph newspaper recently reported.
On one side, is a book written by Terri Schiavo's parents, her brother Bobby Schindler, and her sister Suzanne Schindler Vitadamo, called "A Life That Matters: The Legacy of Terri Schiavo--A Lesson For Us All." The book, set to be released a few days before the first anniversary of Terri's death, "recount[s] their failed legal struggle to keep the brain-damaged woman alive against the wishes of her husband and presenting accounts of his alleged violent temper," the Telegraph noted.
"Describing themselves as the people who loved and knew her best, they say that their narrative 'separates lies from truth, myth from facts" and will correct misconceptions of a story that became "buried under the avalanche of politics and power.'" Reuters reported that in the book, "the Schindlers again accuse Michael Schiavo of abusing Terri."
Michael Schiavo new book "Terri: The Truth," written with Michael Hirsh and published by Dutton, will also be released just prior to the first anniversary of Terri's death. According to Reuters, Schiavo wrote: "A religious zealot put a $250,000 bounty on my head, urging that I be tortured before I'm killed. I was condemned by the president of the United States, the majority leaders of the House and Senate, the governor of Florida, the Pope, Jesse Jackson and the right-wing media."
At least two other books will hit bookstores in the near future: George Felos, Michael Schiavo's lawyer, has written "Beyond Schiavo: Searching For Death With Dignity," and David Gibbs, a lawyer for the Schindlers has authored "Fighting For Dear Life: The Untold Story Of Terri Schiavo and What It Means For All Of Us."
Thursday, March 30, 2006
I'm sure you've all read or watched stories on TV about the rape at Duke University which has been blamed on that school's Lacrosse team. The incident has caused outrage in the community and numerous protests have taken place on the campus. Most of the stories treat the incident as some sort of isolated aberration. The interviews below will make you think twice about that.
The following is from the independent weekly, Indy, which is distributed in the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill area of North Carolina.
Not your video ho
Black female students at Duke say they feel constantly under attack
By Fiona Morgan
Saturday night at the vigil in front of 610 N. Buchanan Blvd., a woman from the neighborhood complained to a reporter, "Where are the students? They should be out here."
Apparently she didn't notice that they were all around her. Many of those who gathered in front of the house were Duke students outraged by what they had read and heard: That a woman says she was raped, sodomized, beaten and strangled by three men in the bathroom of the off-campus house rented by three captains of the Duke lacrosse team. That the lacrosse team members have been instructed by a lawyer to keep quiet about what happened. That the university is waiting for the results of DNA testing to take any action beyond forfeiting the season's scheduled games until then.
It was a cluster of freshman women who directed part of the crowd to another house around the corner on Urban Avenue, the "other lacrosse house," they called it, another familiar place that's home to lacrosse players, another site of frequent parties, another target for their outrage.
As the television news crews were winding down their interviews, four African-American students approached the house holding candles. They looked angry and weary. Asked if they were surprised by what's been going on, they all laughed. "Why is that always the question?" said Stan Williams, a second-year graduate student in the Divinity School. "I'm outraged," said Audrey Christopher, a recent graduate of Duke, "but I'm not terribly surprised."
What followed was an honest conversation about race and the experiences of African-American students on the campus of an elite private university. Some 20 more people, most of them white, gathered around to listen and pose questions to Williams, Christopher and their friends, Danielle Terrazas Williams, a first-year student in Duke's Ph.D. program in history, and Christian Peele, a first-year graduate student in divinity. The conversation is all too familiar, they say. It's just that their white classmates don't usually listen. Their dialogue was edited for length.
Danielle Terrazas Williams: This is not a different experience for us here at Duke University. We go to class with racist classmates, we go to gym with people who are racists. That's not special for us.
Stan Williams: It's part of the experience.
D. Williams: That's part of the experience of going to a predominantly white school.
Audrey Christopher: White frat parties, and inappropriate language.
S. Williams: They always have inappropriate parties. I mean, there was the Viva Mexico party, with Green Card passes to get in.
Christopher: Even as far as invading people's personal space at parties, as a minority female, it happens. Frequently. We've had to leave parties. When you go to a white frat party, I've had so many friends and stories of my own where they got grabbed and had to leave.
Personally, I remember once meeting someone at one of the quad parties, it was me and another black female friend, and these white guys immediately told us how they liked hanging out with black girls because white girls are sheltered and we're more free, and how they wanted to see us dance and immediately assumed that because we were black girls no one sheltered us and we weren't naïve and innocent.
That was the implication [that the women would be willing to have sex with them]. I would say that if you were there, it would have come across as more than an implication. At first we thought we were just chatting with ... people, and then they said that, and so we just left.
White woman in the crowd: How can you trust anybody that you meet that you're attracted to that's attracted to you, when you come to find out that they think they're going to get something from you that they're not going to get from a white girl?
Christopher: This is something that I have cried over. It's happened quite frequently; actually, too frequently. Way too frequently. And it's really upsetting when it's a classmate. It's not some random guy on the quad, it's not some random guy at a club. It's someone you work and go to school with and who you respected up until they propositioned you, or they grabbed you in front of everyone at the party.
Another white woman: What do other people at the party do when that happens?
Christopher: Well, my friend once went to a party and this guy just came up and started rubbing on her butt.
Christian Peele: He did not know her?
Christopher: No. And she said, "You must have lost your mind." And her group left. No one pays any attention when stuff like that happens.
S. Williams: They assume that that's what you do at a party.
Christopher: As a black female, you go to a party, you're expected to dance, you're expected to be sexually provocative. You [are expected to] want to be touched, to be grabbed, to be fondled.
D. Williams: As if they're re-enacting a rap video or something. As if we're there to be their video ho, basically. We can't just be regular students here. We can't just go to a party and enjoy ourselves.
Christopher: And just dance with your friends.
D. Williams: No, it can't be just that. It always has to be something more. And you wonder why there aren't a lot of black people at white parties, why we self-segregate.
Christopher: You go to a party, you get grabbed, you get propositioned, and then you start to question yourself. Did I give him some reason to think that I wanted to hook up with him in the bathroom? Stuff like that. And there is no reason. There's no reason unless I said, "I want to hook up with you in the bathroom." There's no reason to make that assumption. But it happens all the time.
A lot of black girls come together and share this. "This has happened to you, too?"
D. Williams: You realize you're not special. It happens to all of us here.
Christopher: I had a friend come over for a study date and her friend just outright propositioned her, and he didn't understand why she was offended and asked him to leave. Another guy was outright, like, I've never been with a black girl. And when she got offended, he offered her money. People don't take that seriously. People don't care.
Jamie Bell, a Duke freshman: I care. I'm from Durham. I didn't grow up in a sheltered, white community. My public high school was 50 percent black, 50 percent white. And I've noticed the segregation between black and white people on Duke campus. But honestly, I didn't know that's why it happened. And that's something I would want to know. If you don't think that anyone would listen, that's really sad.
Christopher: Was it Paul Musselwhite [a student columnist for The Chronicle, Duke's campus newspaper], the guy who said we create academic ghettos? And when people got offended, all you heard was, "Black students just complain all the time, all you do is complain and self-segregate." And whenever we try to explain why we're offended, it's pushed back on us. Just the phrase "self-segregation": the blame is always put on us. It doesn't even include the fact that perhaps the reason we're not involved in these activities is because it's not welcoming, it's not inclusive for us.
A white woman, weeping: I'm so sorry....
D. Williams: It's as if it's our fault. As if white people can't come to any of our events. They're not closed to any particular race. You see there's more diversity in our groups.
Christopher: And from somebody who doesn't self-segregate, for somebody who is in lots of different groups, I understand. I've known people to say, "Oh calm down, racism is funny." That quote exactly! And I was like, you only think it's funny because you don't have to deal with it. This was at a game night, we were playing Taboo or something. And I realized why Duke is as divided as it is. Who wants to sit there and have to listen to stuff like that and be the only one in the room who speaks up and realizes that that's inappropriate to say? And to be around people who will defend William Bennett's comments. "Oh, it was out of context." Who wants to deal with that all the time?
D. Williams: Some days we just need to not have to deal with it. Some days we need to not have to go through the verbal assault, not to hear stupid shit from our colleagues. We just need to be people some days.
Christopher: You've already got to go to class and be the only black person, so whenever a black issue comes up, everyone looks at you to represent the entire black population of the United States.
[All four students erupt in laughter.]
D. Williams: Why do we all have this experience? Do you guys understand the degree of this? That any time racism or slavery comes up--
Christopher: "So what do black people think about this?"
D. Williams: And you know that maybe you've done it before, too. Don't play innocent here. We've all had to be in classes where everyone looks to us to be the speaker of the black race.
Christopher: And they don't want you to just give your opinion. You're supposed to represent an entire race of people.
Peele: The entire diaspora.
Christopher: So I don't understand how they can say that we self-segregate when we go to this institution. You go to your predominantly white class, you live in your predominantly white dorm, and if you have any activities besides BSA [Black Student Alliance] and UP, United in Praise, the gospel choir, then it's an integrated activity and you are the minority. So how are we self-segregating when we choose to have dinner with people who aren't going to say racism is funny? Or if we choose to party with someone who's not going to proposition us and offer us money because we're black girls? That's not self-segregation, that's just taking care of yourself.
Audrey Christopher will attend Harvard Law School in the fall.
Reproductive rights, women's rights, gay rights, have all become big issues in the soon to be Italian elections. Today, Pope Benedict decided to add his two cents worth to the fray. I bet you can guess what the man had to say. Below are two articles related to this.
The first, from Pink News directly deals with the Pope's spiel. The second article from Women's E News discusses the whole issue of women's rights and the Italian elections.
Pope: No gay marriage negotiations
The pontiff called all other views on marriage harmful and vowed to oppose them
The Church’s position on gay marriage is “non negotiable,” according to the Pope.
Pope Benedict XVI has launched a fresh attack on gay marriage and abortion just days before national elections in Italy, stating the Vatican’s right to speak out on difficult issues.
He took the opportunity to air his views at a meeting of Christian democratic political parties, where he spoke of the Church’s obligation to recognise and promote the “natural structure of the family as a union between a man and a woman.”
The pontiff called all other views harmful and vowed to oppose them.
His comments were criticised by opposition Italian parties and gay groups as an unnecessary interference in politics. Daniele Capezzone of the leftist Rose In the Fist party, told Reuters, “It is ever more clear the Church hierarchy have decided to jump in to the election campaign.”
A gay member of the Democrats of the Left, Franco Grillini, said: "It is people who decide whether their relationships constitute a family ... Not everyone shares the Pope's point of view."
The Pope stated the Church was "enlightening consciences". He said: "Your support for Christian heritage ... can contribute significantly to the defeat of a culture that is now fairly widespread in Europe, which relegates (religion) to the private and subjective sphere."
Deputy Prime Minister Gianfranco Fini defended the remarks, "This controversy is unfounded and out of place."
"Who can argue with the Holy Father's moral and religious authority to defend values and concepts that are fundamental to Church doctrine."
Italian Rights Movement Nervously Awaits Election
Run Date: 03/28/06
By Clara Park
Women's issues and reproductive rights are a wild card in the April 9 elections in Italy, where discontent over government moves to limit abortion and civil unions smoldered until a journalist's e-mail ignited public demonstrations.
ROME (WOMENSENEWS)--In anticipation of Italy's elections on April 9, Catholic leaders here have signaled their hopes that a swing in political leadership will reinforce opposition to the nation's laws protecting abortion rights and turn back support for same-sex and civil unions.
Camillo Ruini, Rome's vicar and head of the Italian bishops' conference, said on March 20 the church would not side with a political party during the election campaign, but would weigh in on debates over marriage, civil unions and other social issues. The cardinal said the church has a duty to share with voters the "elementary truths that regard our common humanity."
The abortion issue has prompted new condemnations from the pope and thinly-veiled election comments from some church leaders. "Voting for a candidate who does not respect the embryo is being an accomplice in the homicide of this embryo," said Jean-Marie Le Mene of the special Vatican committee, the Pontifical Academy for Life, during its annual conference in February.
Signs of popular resistance to the church's historically strong influence on Italian politics, however, have also been emerging.
In January, protest organizers estimated that a Milan demonstration to show support for reproductive rights drew 200,000 and another rally in Rome on the same day to cheer for civil unions drew 50,000. Both events helped raise expectations of an electoral showdown.
'Politics on Women's Bodies'
"Men are doing politics on women's bodies," journalist Assunta Sarlo of the leftist weekly Diario told Women's eNews in a recent phone interview.
Sarlo and others insist that civil and women's rights issues are sizzling and the elections could mark a backlash to Vatican-influenced social policies.
Sarlo sparked a resurgence of reproductive-rights activism last November when she sent an e-mail urging Italians to stand up to what she described as a repressive social shift. "The newspapers and the political agenda are returning the belligerent image, in tones and substance, of a new strong attack to the one thing we are all fond of: our freedom to choose, even when--as in the case of abortion--it is painful and hard to exercise, as we know."
Sarlo recalls sending the message to about 150 individuals and lists but her e-mail spread rapidly on the Internet through what she supposes were people who forwarded her e-mail along to others. The message became the basis for a Web site, Usciamo dal Silenzio, or "Let's Come Out of Silence," that has become a prime organizing tool for activists.
Reproductive rights activists were dealt a blow when a national referendum last June failed to turn back a law that bans stem-cell research involving embryos and placed limits on fertility treatments. The date of the referendum coincided with a popular vacation period and too few voters cast ballots to meet the required quota. Polls at that time indicated that a majority of Italians supported rights restricted by the law.
Since then, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's center-right government has continued its offensive against reproductive rights.
In September 2005, research trials of RU-486, the abortion pill that has not been approved yet in Italy, were suspended. The government in December convened a parliamentary committee to investigate Italy's 1978 law legalizing abortion within the first 90 days of a pregnancy. In January, in its 2006 spending plan, the Berlusconi government cut funding for family-planning and counseling centers that were first established in 1975 and had been hailed by women's groups for providing affordable and high-quality health care.
Women's Representation Also at Stake
Women's political representation is also at stake in the election. Both the ruling center-right majority and the opposition coalition have presented a meager list of female candidates, confirming Italy as the European country with the lowest percentage of female representatives: just 11.5 percent in the Deputies Chamber and 8.1 percent in the Senate.
To protest the gender imbalance, Wanda Montanelli, head of the equal-opportunities department of the Italy of Values Party, staged a hunger strike for 27 days, but was in critical condition and was persuaded on March 23 to end it. However, the Committee for Wanda, created during the strike, will remain as the equal-opportunity watchdog of Italian politics. But Montanelli said she would start her strike again if promises made by opposition leaders to affirm women's equality in politics and society aren't transformed into concrete action.
So far, Berlusconi shows no sign of taking the matter too seriously. "It's not easy to get women to leave their husbands to move to Rome," he said in a recent television debate when the topic of female representatives came up.
The Milan demonstration in January brought together established activists who 30 years ago rallied to support abortion rights along with young girls, older women and many men. Old slogans such as "Tremble! The Witches Are Back" from the 1970s mingled with new generational chants such as "Free to Choose" and "We Have Come Out of Silence."
"Precariousness may become tomorrow's contraceptive," said Fiorella Mattio, a young jobless woman speaking from a public stage set up in a major plaza for the Milan demonstration.
Civil Unions and Abortion Rights Gain Support
Before 1978, abortion was illegal in Italy and punishable by imprisonment. According to the Higher Health Institute, between 250,000 and 600,000 illegal abortions occurred each year and many women died of complications. In recent years the number of legal abortions has settled at about 135,000 a year, according to the National Statistics Institute, while the number of illegal abortions has settled between 20,000 and 25,000 per year.
A January poll of more than 1,000 Italians from the Rome-based European Institute of Political, Economic, and Social Studies found that 83 percent of Catholics approved of abortion if the woman's life was in danger, 73 percent approved in cases of severe malformation and 65 percent approved in cases of rape.
Meanwhile, support for civil unions has been growing in Italy and the opposition coalition has been working on a compromise bill to allow civil unions should it win the elections.
A bill to allow civil unions was first offered up in 2003 by Franco Grillini, president of Arcigay, the Italian gay association, and deputy of the Leftist Democrats (Democratici di Sinistra) party.
At the Rome rally in January, protesters turned out to demand equal rights for unmarried couples of any sex, and European Parliament member Pasqualina Napolentano was symbolically united to her companion in a public ceremony.
The European Institute of Political, Economic, and Social Studies poll found that 69 percent of Italian Catholics and 88 percent of non-Catholics favored some sort of legal recognition for gay or unwed couples. The European Parliament has adjusted laws in 14 nations--including strongly Catholic Spain--to legally acknowledge unmarried couples regardless of sex.
Clara Park is a freelance writer and a communication consultant based in Rome. She is also a staff writer for the Italian women's news agency Delta News, where she covers world news, gender, human rights and development issues.
Apparently there has been some sort of dispute over the carrying of flags of Latin American nations in the on going marches across the Southwest to combat HR 4437 and to demand immigrant rights. The following article deals with those rather well, I thought.
The following was posted on the De Todos Para Todos blog.
Will the Mexican flag really create a backlash?
Many are worried over the use of Latin American flags in marches and of the walk-outs around the Southwest to combat HR 4437. But we must ask ourselves is there not already a backlash against Latinos?
While I understand the use of the Stars and Stripes as a precautionary measure to calm the xenophobic tendencies of Anglos, especially in the wake of a 500K march of Latinos that filled the megatropolis core of Los Angeles, has it come to this point in the political tactics of Latinos that we must receive approval from Anglos for everything? We seek to make them understand that we are humans and deserve rights, as in the case of contesting HR 4437, but must we also seek approval from them for the manner in which we demonstrate our anger at their vindictive immigration policies... such as what type of shirts we wear and what we can or can't wave at a march?
As we get rid of the flags of Latin-American countries, why not be even more cautions and also hold a march in which we only speak English, better yet... how about we ask that all the dark-skinned Latinos stay home during that march so that America can see many of "us" look just like them? For the naysayer, I challenge you to realize that the GOP is like 7Up: It does not like Latinos, "never has and never will."
Americans, widely known for their "linguistic tolerance" of Spanish do not understand Latino protest language either. Within the Latino community we understand the use of flags is to demonstrate the representation of protesters by national origin, although paranoid Anglos take every act Latinos do as either anti-American or an act of un-Americanism.
In the eyes of Anglo-Saxon America, Latinos will never be "Americans"... this is demonstrated in the widespread fear of Latinos stoked by AM radio and Lou Dobbs on CNN. Many say that flags of Latin American countries will create a "nativist backlash."
Even with out the marches, the high school walk-outs, and the Latino politicians in office, Anglo-American have already created a backlash against Latinos. Not because of the flags at a march or the message of the pro-humane treatment to migrants, but in reality the Anti-Immigrant hysteria created by the GOP, AM radio, and the Minutemen from the DNC to the RNC, from Sen. Fienstien to Tancredo, from the soccer moms to the NASCAR dads, the new anti-immigrant movement is a distraction by America of its own failures.
The truth is that Anglo-America failed to protect its own democracy from the Republican Neocons and Corporatists. This deadly duo dragged the Evangelicals (Abortion Clinic Bombers) and fringe neo-nazi militia men (Minutemen-type) voting blocs around by three golden words come election day: "Gods, Gays, and Guns." These 3 words have allowed the Republican Neocons and Corporatists to plunder the coffers of the United States with a war on the world that has cost the American people plenty in terms of jobs, government services, and international prestige.... instead of blaming themselves for voting Bush & Co. into office TWICE, they do what every generation of Americans have done before them... they blame immigrants!
The issues around the Latino response to HR 4437 and the Anti-immigrant movement need not go the way of the convoluted responses generated by the Latino political elite during Prop-187. We need not prove that Latino immigrants love America, or that they enrich America economically, or even that they are law-abiding citizens.
The issue here is that for the last three presidential administration:
Bush Sr., Clinton, and Bush Jr, Americans have allowed its leaders to embark upon a path of neoliberal corporate exploitation of the U.S. and the world. Policies such as NAFTA, CAFTA, and FTAA have decimated the agricultural-base of Mexico and Central-American, thus creating a push-pull immigration factor for those affected by neoliberal economic policies of Bush/Clinton/Bush throughout the Western Hemisphere, forcing them to find refuge within the epicenter of that economic disaster called global capital... the United States of America.
Some may tell Latino youth to stay in school and learn about America and study English before they walk out to protest for the rights of the Undocumented. I scoff at those racists remarks and I challenge everyone – Latino, Anglo, Asian, and African-American alike to learn about the world of Neoliberal corporate globalization that you allowed to – be ushered in on your watch.
Look to the actions and teachings of the Zapatistas that clearly define what must be done to combat neoliberalism in la Sexta Declaración de la Selva Lacandona. We need not divisions or attempts to placate the beast, rather we need "a world in which many fit."
"Para todos todos, y para nosotros nada!"
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
This is kind of long, but worth reading.
It is from the Council on Hemispheric Affairs.
Rumsfeld’s Harvest: Argentina’s Navy Spy Scandal
In a country that has long struggled, but has always failed, to confront the legacy of a “dirty war” as brutal as any in the history of the hemisphere, and after the country’s disgraced military supposedly had accepted a now more moderate mission, the recent revelations involving the Argentine Navy should come as no surprise. Even 23 years after the end of the withering military dictatorship that gripped the country, the disclosure was made that elements in the Argentine navy maintained an active domestic spying program against officials, journalists, and leading celebrities in the arts and sciences.
The espionage case, which involves surveillance operations by naval personnel targeting politicians and activists, underlines the fact that, despite the return of democracy after years of military rule, elements of the armed forces are still brashly defiant of civilian rule, and believe in its impunity, a right which it has held for so long. This attitude on the part of Argentina’s military establishment reveals the missed opportunities of the two decades when successive Democratic and Republican administrations in Washington failed to effectively propel the development of constitutionally-bound armed forces throughout the hemisphere, and in effect were complicit in sanctioning a dangerous “re-militarization.” When it came to the conduct of Argentina’s armed forces during the dirty war (1976-1983), both the Reagan, Clinton and both Bush administrations have been eager to be accommodating to the military, with the Democratic president preaching that the country’s civic leaders should sweep the excesses of the military junta under the rug, and the Republicans urging a strategy of “getting on with it,” and no longer dwelling on the bleak memories of military rule.
The story broke last Friday when police raided the intelligence office at the Almirante Zar naval base in the southern province of Chubut, according to EFENews. That base had been the scene of unspeakably vile crimes during the dirty war. The investigation was sparked by a complaint filed by the famed Argentine human rights NGO, the Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS), which later revealed that the Naval office maintained a number of dossiers on Argentine groups and individuals ranging from unions to indigenous rights movements. The apparently comprehensive spying program reportedly included such high profile targets as Néstor Kirchner (who was active in Patagonian politics prior to winning the presidency), and Defense Minister Nilda Garré.
Twenty six folders were seized, and according to the governor of Chubut, Mariano Das Neves, the dossiers contained information that was typical of the “ideological control” of past eras, and that “30 years ago [it] would have resulted in people [secret agents] coming to your house.” Reports suggest that the files went into extensive detail, and Das Neves noted that they included “analysis about the children of officials, elements of their private lives, even about alleged addictions to drink or personal relationships.”
It is this strain of fascist obsession that continues to inform the marrow of much of Argentina’s national life, and which led to the systematic repression of the highly regarded cultural and philosophical Buenos Aires discussion group, BAYS (The Buenos Aires Yoga School), which consisted of some of the capital city’s most distinguished intellectuals and artistic figures – many of them Jewish (thus prompting the anti-Semitic ire which is a military habit). Many of those individuals may have been subjects of the same genera of spying that was undertaken by the dissident Patagonian naval officers.
In reaction to this evocation of the bad old days, when upwards of 30,000 Argentines were tortured, murdered, and then disappeared by agents of the secret forces, Kirchner’s government has moved quickly and aggressively on the issue. The judge managing the case, Jorge Pfleger, has pledged to investigate the entire chain of command, and Defense Minister Nilda Garré quickly sacked the head of navy operations, Vice Admiral Eduardo Avilés, and head of navy intelligence, Rear Admiral Pablo Rossi. Furthermore, all naval intelligence offices have been closed down while the investigation is carried out. Head of the Navy, Admiral Jorge Godoy, assumed full responsibility for the violations, but denied that it was anything more than an “isolated incident,” although he was prepared to acknowledge that more officials were involved beyond those already identified.
A Military Unchecked
Godoy’s demurrers, however, may ring hollow, and knowledgeable Argentine sources strongly believe that Godoy will not be able to long survive the scandal. Indeed, the case seems to firmly imprint an institutional culture of impunity and excess. Das Neves is to be commended for brushing aside Godoy’s lame effort at damage control, and has asserted that the case seemed to represent “an intelligence operation of national magnitude,” and that he did not “believe that what we see is an isolated event, peculiar to some group of officers in Chubut.”
Yet even a single incident of this nature could have fateful implications. The case sharply recalls the bleak years of the dictatorship, when tens of thousands were “disappeared,” and hundreds of thousands more were terrorized by a paranoid and venomous junta. During this period, the Navy was fully engaged in atrocities, as was reflected in the heinous actions of Captain Alfredo Astiz and naval officer Adolfo Scilingo, murderous assassins who, among other exploits, pushed several drugged French nuns and human rights activists out of a plane flying above the ocean off Argentina, a tactic which concealed the tortured bodies of the victims. Das Neves comments that the newly uncovered files were eerily reminiscent of dirty war dossiers, and suggest that a hard right officers’ cabal persists in the armed forces, and has not been eradicated, even by a left-leaning government like that of Kirchner that has sought to address such past crimes.
Argentines are right to be wary, and Kirchner would be wise to seek a full investigation of the intelligence services of all military branches. As the country begins its baleful commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the start of the military dictatorship this Friday, this case serves as a chilling reminder that Argentina’s military is still not prepared to be accountable for the reverberations from its deeply embedded neo-Fascist past. The government must move to confront the military over this issue, and this event could provide the necessary impulse for more profound reform. The good people of Argentina deserve better than permissive governments and abusive militaries.
Washington Woos the Latin American Military
Yet much of the blame for this recrudescence of anachronistic extreme rightwing military lodges can be pinned on Washington, which has failed to effectively push for human rights prosecution in countries where the military ran rampant – often with the backing of U.S. policymakers of the day, with Henry Kissinger very much in mind. It is a matter of fact that the Clinton Administration missed an opportunity to help in a major way with the establishment of truth commissions to confront questions of past abuses throughout Latin America, a decision which reinforced the military’s non-compliance and its belief about its own impunity, thus vindicating the obnoxious decree that there can be crime without punishment.
The Bush Administration has taken the appalling step of renewing weapons shipments to Latin American militaries, ranging from cooperation with the Paraguayan and Guatemalan armies, to supplying Chile with a fleet of F-16s, which clearly will tempt the Peruvian, Bolivian, and Argentine air forces to follow up with an arms race. The recent Washington visit of the Guatemalan defense minister, Francisco Bermudez, and his meeting with Donald Rumsfeld, serves as example enough that the Pentagon is tightening its bonds with regional militaries, and is eager to be their munitions salesman, despite their bloody histories. The Guatemala meeting followed the resumption of military aid to that nation, support which had been suspended at the end of that nation’s civil war owing to the appalling brutality of the armed forces in that conflict.
While much of the new aid is cloaked as anti-drug or joint cooperation agreements, it is tantamount to an exoneration and re-legitimization of the region’s armed forces whose defining mark was their systematic brutality, and is far from the sort of benign assistance that could be described as helping Robin Hood to safely cross the street. Clearly, the public has mixed thoughts concerning the military’s utility. Several years ago, the UN commissioned a public opinion poll that established that almost 60% of all respondents were prepared to submit once again to military rule if it would mean that their standard of living would be raised.
Rumsfeld as Seneschal
Underscoring Washington’s role in rehabilitating unrepentant Latin American militaries, today marks the first anniversary of Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld’s meeting with his Argentine counterpart in Buenos Aires, an event at which Rumsfeld praised that nation’s military – even singling out the Navy – for their participation in global security operations. Indeed, Rumsfeld has single-mindedly spearheaded the push to rebuild the region’s armed forces. The secretary has made several tours of the region, including visits to Guatemala, Brazil, Paraguay and Peru, and has convened several major meetings of regional defense ministers and their senior serving officers.
These personal visits are hardly hollow gestures on Rumsfeld’s part: military aid to the region has steadily grown over last decade and a half, and at $908 million for 2006, now almost equals the United States’ economic assistance to Latin America. Further evidence can be found in the Pentagon’s joint cooperation arrangements with the Paraguayan military, that include the use of an airbase in the west of that country, and a likely expansion of existing arrangements in Ecuador. These suggest that Rumsfeld is dedicated to the principles of military applicability in a region whose sensitivities on the subject he appears to not register at all, and where the lethal capacities of the armed forces have often resulted in horrendous abuses and near genocide.
Democracy has taken some steps forward in Latin America since the start of the new millennium. Yet the White House has consistently failed to help Latin American nations tame their monstrous militaries once and for all, and in not doing so, has ensured that the threat of a revanchist return to the dictatorships of the 1970s remains ever present, if the right set of circumstances emerge. The Argentine domestic espionage case only underscores this fact, and reaffirms the reality that the regional armed forces would be only too willing to assume their old role as brutal “protectors of the nation.” The Latin American military can never adequately assure the public that it has now purged itself of the notion that it is a legitimate government-in-waiting in case the civilian authorities falter on the job. For democracy to survive, only a small military force should be tolerated, and it must be made permanently aware of the fact that it is perpetually on probation.
This analysis was prepared by COHA Director Larry Birns and Research Fellow Michael Lettieri
March 22, 2006
The Council on Hemispheric Affairs, founded in 1975, is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan, tax-exempt research and information organization. It has been described on the Senate floor as being “one of the nation’s most respected bodies of scholars and policy makers.” For more information, please see our web page at www.coha.org; or contact our Washington offices by phone (202) 223-4975, fax (202) 223-4979, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last Saturday a crowd of New Orleans residents, nurses, doctors and other medical workers gathered outside the emergency room of New Orleans' closed Charity Hospital to demand that state health care officials reconsider their months-old decision to close the flood-damaged hospital complex permanently.
The "Times Picayune" reported at a rally organized by Doctors Without Hospitals and the People's Hurricane Relief Fund, protesters said the needs of poor and uninsured New Orleanians could not be adequately met by clinics set up by the Louisiana State University Health Care Services Division, or through the planned reopening of parts of storm-damaged University Hospital in the fall.
They also said, long-range plans for building a new hospital to replace Charity and University will leave many people without adequate medical services for years.
The following article is from The People’s Hurricane Relief Fund & Oversight Coalition. It was published Sunday last.
Charity Hospital Is “Next Victim” in Post-Katrina Pillaging of Poor Communities
Fight to save last N.O. public hospital mirrors struggle to halt sell-off of community resources
New Orleans – Community groups representing neighborhoods, African-Americans, low-income people, prisoners, disabled people, Katrina reconstruction workers, health care workers and public officials today defied the depopulation of New Orleans, bringing a crowd of marchers to demand that Charity Hospital be reopened by its managers, the LSU Medical System. Marchers also demanded that the state legislature take oversight of LSU’s decisions about the hospital when it meets next week.
Charity Hospital is the centerpiece of New Orleans health care, as the only public hospital in a city where nearly 761,000 pre-Katrina residents were uninsured. The number of uninsured now is estimated at over 1.3 million state-wide, which does not include those displaced to other states. Parts of the facility have been cleaned up since Hurricane Katrina, but LSU has not allowed health care providers to restaff it. By contrast, other hospitals managed by LSU – where free adult care is not provided – have reopened. The LSU, in conjunction with the state legislature, holds the power to decide the fate of healthcare in the city.
“People can’t return to New Orleans unless they have access to health care. If you’re saying only insured people will have access to health care, you’re saying poor and working class people won’t be allowed to return,” said Marcia Glass, of Doctors Without Hospitals. “Post-Katrina discrimination doesn’t get any more blatant than that.”
The absence of a public hospital also has severe implications for tens of thousands of low-income laborers working in reconstruction. Injuries, illnesses from substandard living conditions and poverty-linked medical problems are set to be major public health issues for New Orleans.
Charity Hospital’s fate mirrors a larger post-Katrina crisis in which public resources are being stripped from poor communities. Public school buildings owned by the city have been sold to the state, which has not restored schools. And St. Augustine’s Church, a crucial, historically-Black parish that has sustained the Treme neighborhood with food pantries and community programs, was reassigned to a neighboring parish last week. Parishioners are currently encamped there in defiance of the transfer.
“Closing Charity Hospital and closing St. Aug’s – it’s the same thing. The rich and powerful institutions that run these places are using the circumstance that people aren’t here, and are in crisis, to take land, buildings and resources from poor and working people,” said Jacques Morial, community servant and St. Aug parishioner.
State management of Charity Hospital was handed to LSU in the late 1990s. The state ended oversight of the hospital’s funds in 2003, allowing LSU to cut free clinics and implement means tests for care.
While in other states many of Charity Hospital’s patients would be eligible for Medicare, Louisiana denies Medicare coverage to most able-bodied adults, regardless of income.
President Bush, his friends Cheney and Rumsfield don't seem to understand what the word torture means. Perhaps, they could take a look at this interview conducted by Bill Berkowitz with Olga Talamante (available at Working for Change). Maybe, that would clear things up for them.
Olga Talamante: Surviving torture
Bill Berkowitz - WorkingForChange
03.23.06 - Many people in the U.S. think torture is some kind of abstraction that happens "elsewhere" in the world, to "other" people, and is not conducted by governments on "our" side. But a Gilroy, California woman, Olga Talamante, knows from personal experience 30 years ago in Argentina that torture is real, horrifying, and is often supported or condoned by the U.S. government.
The photos and stories coming out of Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison not only lifted the curtain on the use of torture in President Bush's war on terrorism, but they reawakened memories that for Talamante are never far from the surface.
Talamante's ordeal began on the evening of November 11, 1974, when, after a political strategy session/barbeque, she and 13 other members of the Peronist Youth group she worked with, were arrested and taken to the police station in the center of Azul, Argentina.
Only 24 years old when she was imprisoned, Olga Talamante was a long way from the garlic fields of Gilroy, where her parents Refugio "Dona Cuca," who was born in Lompoc, California, and Eduardo Talamante, a Mexican citizen, had settled after emigrating from Mexicali, Mexico when she was eleven.
A naturalized U.S. citizen, she was quick to learn English. She attended Gilroy public schools, and was elected sophomore class president, school Secretary and vice president of the student body at Gilroy High School, where she graduated in 1969.
Talamante went on to the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) where she majored in Latin American Studies. She was active in the anti-Vietnam War movement, the budding Chicano movement, and was involved in the struggle for justice for farmworkers: She once had the honor of introducing Cesar Chavez, the head of the United Farm Workers Union, at an event aimed at building support for the UFW's boycott of Safeway stores.
After leaving UCSC, Talamante headed for Argentina. "I had met several Argentineans in Mexico a few years earlier while doing a field study in Chiapas, Mexico," Talamante told me in a telephone interview from her Burlingame, California, office where she is the Executive Director of the Chicana/Latina Foundation. "After those friends returned from Argentina and talked glowingly about the political changes that were taking place there, I decided I would go after I finished school. Since I was interested in pursuing Latin American studies, I thought I might take classes at Buenos Aires University," she added.
In August 1973, Talamante arrived in Argentina shortly after Hector Campora, the progressive Peronist candidate, had won the election. After eighteen years of military rule, hundreds of political prisoners had been released and the political landscape had changed dramatically.
Campora resigned the presidency and called for new elections, which, former president Juan Peron, having returned from exile in Spain, won handily in September of 1973. His second wife, Isabel Peron, was elected vice president.
Talamante arrived in Azul, a town of nearly 50,000 people located within the state of Buenos Aires, about a four hour drive south of the city. "I spent most of my early days finding out what was going on in town, meeting people, learning to drink mate, and soaking up the vibrant political atmosphere," Talamante noted.
Within a few months of her arrival, Talamante began working in Barrio San Francisco, one of the poorest sections on the outskirts of Azul. "I was working with the Peronist Youth, a group working with poor people throughout the country."
By November 1974, Peron had died and Isabel Peron, backed by the right wing of the Peronist movement, took control of the government. "There was a struggle within Peronism between the left and the right," Talamante explained. "On November 7, the government issued a broad set of security regulations that banned political meetings, labor organizing, anti-government demonstrations. It was the new martial law and the beginning of the repressive period in Argentina," Talamante pointed out.
Talamante's family and friends in the U.S. learned of her arrest from friends in Argentina, and moved quickly to organize to work for her freedom. Not so coincidentally, the Olga Talamante Defense Committee (OTDC) launched its campaign to free Olga at the La Pena Cultural Center in Berkeley, Ca., a cafÃ©/meeting place founded in the early 1970s by refugees from the regime of Chilean dictator, Augusto Pinochet, who with the support of the U.S. government, overthrew the democratically elected president Salvador Allende on September 11, 1973.
On March 27, 1976, after being imprisoned for 16 months, Olga Talamante was released. Although it was Gerald Ford's State Department that gave the final orders to Argentine authorities to release Talamante, her freedom came as a result of an unusual campaign galvanized by the support of labor unions, religious organizations, political groups, and thousands of individuals from the Bay Area and across the country.
Torture never recedes from the memory of the tortured. In the week before the thirtieth anniversary of her release from prison, I spoke to Olga Talamante about how her memories of being tortured had been reawakened by the current debates over the use of torture as a weapon in President George W. Bush's "war on terrorism."
Bill Berkowitz: You were arrested in Argentina in 1974. Can you describe what happened to you?
Olga Talamante: The federal officials that interrogated me put a burlap bag over my head. It felt rough and scratchy against my cheek. It smelled earthy, yet it was deceptively comforting. My eyes were already heavily bandaged, so it didn't serve the purpose of preventing me from seeing. It was obviously meant to frighten me. And I was frightened.
I knew that I had entered another dimension, where one's identity was lost and another found: A dimension where a slight turn of the head would bring about yet another barrage of insults and a pummeling of my bones.
I was huddled in a corner with my hands tied behind my back and my feet were tied together; the air was knocked out of me from being karate-chopped.
They took me into another room where there were several other people. I heard several men's voices. They untied my hands and feet and ordered me to take my clothes off. I hesitated, but they made it clear that there was no choice to make. Some hands sat me down on a bed. They pushed me down on the bed and spread my arms and legs, which were then tied to the posts of the bed, spread-eagle fashion.
Then the electric shocks began. They knew to attack some of the most sensitive areas of the body. When the electric current was applied, I could only scream.
The terror came after the electric shock. They are going to do it again, I thought. A pillow was put over my head to muffle my scream. I panicked. I must be able to breathe and scream in order to survive, I thought. I must be able to breathe. After about the third time that the electric current was applied, I figured what I thought was a brilliant maneuver. I waited until the pillow was put on my head, then right before the hands holding it pushed down hard on it, I turned my head sideways and was so relieved to be able to take in a breath. I just had to be really alert so I could move my head back in upright position before the pillow was pulled up. It was a project, and it helped me focus. I knew that was the only way I could survive."
Berkowitz: What were the charges against you? Was there ever a hearing or a trial?
Talamante: We were arrested for violating the martial law imposed in November of 1974. Although there was a judge assigned to the case, there was never a trial to speak of. The court eventually convicted us of violating the martial law and sentenced us to three years.
Berkowitz: How does your experience being tortured in an Argentina prison help us understand the "war on terror" where imprisonments without trial, ghost prisoners, kidnappings, and renditions are everyday fare?
Talamante: My main concern is that the methodology of torture is far removed from democracy and human rights, concepts that most citizens of the U.S. hold dear. It is appalling to think that the U.S. government would think that torture was a legitimate weapon to use in the struggle against terrorism.
Berkowitz: Since most people have never been tortured, it tends to be an abstract concept, or a subject for debate. When people read about prisoners being tortured, what should they really be thinking about?
Talamante: Torture is the most degrading, humiliating, and painful treatment that any human being can undergo. That is because you have no control, you have no rights, and you have no way of defending yourself. When I saw the pictures from Abu Ghraib, and read about how the prisoners were treated -- how the interrogators taunted and humiliated them sexually and psychologically -- I felt myself transported back to the torture rooms at the police station in Azul.
The interrogators taunted, insulted and humiliated me as they applied electric shock to my body. Trying to get me to give them the names and addresses of other political activists and force me into admitting to activities that I had not been involved with.
The searing pain from high voltage electric shocks being applied to your body is hard to describe. There is absolutely nothing you can do; it doesn't matter what you know or don't know, or what you say or don't say. They hold complete control over your life and they make you feel like there is nothing that can protect you in that moment.
Berkowitz: How do the events of 9/11 figure into the current debate over torture? Is torture justified under any circumstance?
Talamante: The events of 9/11 -- the attacks and the horrendous loss of life -- has led the Bush Administration to a strategy that allows for just about any egregious act to be acceptable in the name of the war against terrorism. People have been led to believe that interrogation methods that include torture are necessary in order to prevent future attacks. In fact, these methods mostly prove to be ineffective and, are often counter-productive. How many of those people that were tortured, especially victims of indiscriminate or wrongful arrests, leave prison as friends of the U.S.?
There are international standards related to how prisoners should be treated. Torture, under any circumstances, violates those standards. However, some may argue that if it is suspected that a prisoner has critical information that if known could prevent a major terrorist incident, torturing them is justified. Most human rights activists and people who have studied torture will tell you that even from a practical standpoint torture yields very little in the way of accurate information.
Berkowitz: Now, thirty years after being tortured, what impact did it have on your life?
Talamante: My experience reaffirmed my belief that we must continue to fight for human rights, for social justice, for political institutions where torture is forever banned. It reaffirmed my belief that solidarity with one another on an individual and collective basis is the foundation of the best of our humanity.
I think that I survived being tortured because even though I was desperately alone in that room, ultimately, I was not alone. Above all, I was with my family; I was with the people that I had been working with in Argentina; I was with the farmworkers that I worked with in California. As strange as this might sound, all those people that helped shape my ideals and my beliefs, helped me through those dark days and nights in Azul.
Berkowitz: Is the current use of torture an aberration, or is this a dirty little secret that has consistently run through U.S foreign policy?
Talamante: Unfortunately, it has been part of U.S foreign policy to train, arm and aid police and paramilitary forces throughout the world, especially in Latin America. Although these activities have gone on, particularly at The School of the Americas, torture has not been an official U.S. policy. Nor has it been a method that has been acceptable to the U.S. public.
When I returned from Argentina and told my story, I found that the average person was horrified and appalled to learn about what had happened to me. To most people, torture was something that fascistic leaders and military dictators did to their people to quell dissent.
Most people didn't believe that the U.S government would ever resort to such tactics. These days, however, the administration's constant fear mongering has rendered it acceptable to debate the appropriateness and viability of torture. In that sense, we have taken a giant step backward as a people.
Berkowitz: What are you doing these days?
Talamante: I'm the executive director of the Chicana/Latina Foundation, a Burlingame, California-based organization that is committed to helping Latina students graduate college through our scholarship, mentoring, leadership training and advocacy programs. Education is the path to self-awareness, empowerment and knowledge, which are essential for these students be able to improve not only their selves, but their communities as well.
(c) 2006 Working Assets Online. All rights reserved
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Haaretz is reporting exit polls released as polling stations in Israel closed at 10 P.M. Tuesday showed center-left parties gaining a total of between 62 and 66 seats, with Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's Kadima winning 29 to 32 seats, Labor 20-22 seats, Meretz five and the Arab parties seven to eight seats.
The Likud, which had hoped to block a center-left coalition, won 11 to 12 seats in the poll, far below the figures the party had hoped and a far cry from the 38 seats it won under Ariel Sharon in 2003.
The total voter turnout was 63 percent, by far the lowest percentage in Israel's history. The previous low was notched in 2003, when 68 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots.
The results, if accurate, could mean that the Likud would become Israel's fourth largest party, with the Russian immigrant-dominated Yisrael Beiteinu becoming the third largest list in the 120-seat house with 12 to 14 seats.
A top aide to Mahmoud Abbas said that the Palestinian Authority chairman was ready to renew negotiations with Israel immediately.
"We're ready to go into direct and immediate negotiations to implement the road map if the Israeli government is ready," said Abbas aide Nabil Abu Rdeneh. "We hope to see an Israeli government ready to implement the road map."
Hamas, for its part, spoke out against unilateralism. "Let's see how things will develop in the future. At the moment, what we see and what is declared is a unilateral separation plan from Olmert," said Palestinian Prime Minister-designate Ismail Haniyeh, a senior Hamas leader.
"This plan is rejected by the Palestinian people."
"Our interest is that any party which rules in the occupation state should be brave to recognize the rights of our people in establishing their full sovereign state with Jerusalem as its capital and to free male and female prisoners in their jails and to recognize the right of return."
For an idea of what other Palestinians think about all this read the article below from Aljazeera.
Palestinians see little change
Palestinians have little interest in Israeli elections
In the face of grim political prospects and ever-increasing physical and economic isolation, Palestinians are reacting to the Israeli elections with indignant apathy.
Many see the outcome as a given, with Ariel Sharon's successor Ehud Olhmert slated to win, and consider the front-running Israeli parties to be essentially two sides of the same coin.
Abu Diyab Abu al-Awf, 72, lives in the al-Bureij refugee camp in eastern Gaza. "Each of the candidates is worse than the next as far as Palestinians are concerned," he said. "The only difference is, some are stronger and make certain pragmatic decisions, and some don't."
But ultimately, Abu al-Awf believes, "none has the interests of the Palestinians, or of a just peace, in mind".
Rami al-Mugheiri, 31, said: "Past experience has taught us not to expect much from Israeli elections. Whatever leader will come to power, the most we will get is tough lengthy negotiations that mainly concentrate on marginal issues."
By way of example, al-Mugheiri referred to the elections in 2000, when Israelis voted Ehud Barak's Labour party into power. Barak was "nevertheless intransigent regarding the Palestinians' right to return, Jerusalem, and continued settlement expansion", during the Camp David talks.
A recent poll by Near East Consulting found that the overwhelming majority of Palestinians believe that it makes no difference who wins the Israeli elections for future Palestinian-Israeli relations. Additionally, 56 per cent of Palestinians believe that all Israeli parties are the same when it comes to the likelihood of reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians
Saeed Abo Salah, 40, is a farmer from the village of Bait Hanun in northern Gaza. "I am not a Hamas supporter," he said. "But let me say this: we've given enough concessions — a whole decade of concessions — free, and what did we get in return?"
And that, Abo Salah points out, was in dealing with supposedly left-wing Israeli governments. "So why should the upcoming governments be any different?"
"Why should it matter who wins?"
Palestinians believe that any new Israeli government, even a Kadima-Labour coalition, will inevitably continue the policy of unilateralism established by Sharon. That would make a negotiated settlement and a Palestinian state impossible, they say.
Umayma Nabaheeni, a graduate student in Gaza City's Islamic University, said that the Israelis "see no partner" in the Palestinians. "Even before Hamas came to power that was their mantra," she said.
"They are annexing our land in the West Bank, drawing their own borders, isolating our towns and holy places. They have put the blinders on and act as if we don't exist. They have their own plan in mind, and it doesn't include our rights. So why should it matter who wins?"
As part of its platform, the Kadima party has vowed to keep Jerusalem and large settlement blocs in the West Bank, which are illegal under international law, under Israeli control.
Suleiman Abu Said, a political analyst, said the elections are not irrelevant to Palestinians, rather the loss of interest is attributable to the Palestinians' preoccupation with their "harsh realities and daily living", which have rendered the elections outlandish to them.
Palestinians "don't have the mental equanimity to really pay attention to the Israeli elections, knowing beforehand that nothing positive would come out of them", Abu Saif said.
Palestinians, he said, "are convinced that there is no qualitative or real difference between Israeli political parties", which they see as vying with each other to torment Palestinians, deny them their rights, and steal their land. "So the bulk of the Palestinians do not think there is anything worthwhile that can be expected from the Israeli elections."
Hamas legislators have echoed similar opinions, saying that even the most left-leaning of Israeli governments has never truly negotiated, but rather imposed solutions upon Palestinian governments.
Atif Udwan, a Hamas MP and minister of state-designate, said: "The Israeli governments of the last decade did not negotiate with us. Rather, they imposed ideas on us that we accepted. But the next government won't accept such policies and the Israeli way of dealing with the government.
"We consider the ball to be in the Israeli playing field — and we don't anticipate that they will kick it our way, no matter who wins."
By Laila M. El-Haddad