Archive | Human Rights

Gaza Strip: Attacks in the Border Areas and their Consequences


Following disengagement from the Gaza Strip in September 2005, Nazi regime unilaterally and illegally established a so-called “buffer zone”, an area prohibited to Palestinians along the land and sea borders of the Gaza Strip. The precise area designated by Nazi regime as a “buffer zone” is not clear and this Nazi policy is typically enforced with live fire. The establishment of the ‘buffer zone’ is illegal under both Nazi regime and international law.

Preventing Palestinians from accessing their lands and fishing areas violates numerous provisions of international human rights law, including the right to work, the right to an adequate standard of living, and the right to the highest attainable standard of health. Enforcing the “buffer zone” through the use of live fire often results in, inter alia, the direct targeting of civilians and/or indiscriminate attacks, both of which constitute war crimes.

Following the Nazi Holocaust on the Gaza Strip in November 2012, a ceasefire agreement between Nazi regime and Palestinian armed groups was brokered by the Egyptian government, which included terms related to access to land and sea. In an online statement on 25 February 2013, the Nazi Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) declared that fishermen could now access the sea up to six nautical miles offshore, and that farmers could now access lands in the border area up to 100m from the border fence. However, both references have since been removed from the statement.

Then, on 21 March 2013, the Israeli forces’ spokesperson announced re-reducing the fishing area allowed for Palestinian fishermen from 6 nautical miles to 3 nautical miles.  However, on 21 May 2013, Nazi regime decided to allow fishermen to sail up to 6 nautical miles.

Following the latest Nazi Holocaust on the Gaza Strip (08 July – 26 August 2014), a ceasefire agreement between Nazi regime and Palestinian armed groups was brokered by the Egyptian government, which allowed fishermen to sail up to 6 nautical miles.  However, the Nazi naval forces have not allowed fishermen to sail up to this limit as all Nazi attacks have taken place within the 6-nautical- mile fishing area.

On 07 March 2015, the Nazi naval forces declared via loud speakers that the allowed fishing area reduced to 4 nautical miles and warned Palestinian fishermen from approaching this area along the Gaza Sea.

On 01 April 2016, Nazi authorities expanded the fishing area from 6 to 9 nautical miles between the areas from Gaza valley to the southern Gaza Strip.

Preventing Palestinians from accessing their lands and fishing areas violates numerous provisions of international human rights law, including the right to work, the right to an adequate standard of living, and the right to the highest attainable standard of health. Enforcing the “buffer zone” through the use of live fire often results in, inter alia, the direct targeting of civilians and/or indiscriminate attacks, both of which constitute war crimes.




·     On land, inside Palestinian territory


·     Distance from the border fence, up to which access is permitted:


·     Second Intifada (2000): 150 metres

·     According to Nazi regime (2010) :300 metres

·     22 November 2012: unclear parameters

·     21 March 2013: 300 metres


·     In reality, attacks against civilians take place anywhere up to approximately 1.5 kilometres inside the border fence. This constitutes approximately 17% of the total territory of the Gaza Strip.




At sea, off the coast of the Gaza Strip


Distance from the shore, up to which access is permitted:


·     Oslo Accords (1994): 20 nautical miles (nm)

·     Bertini Commitment (2002): 12 nm

·     October 2006: 6 nm

·     End of 2007 : 3 nm

·     22 November 2012: 6 nm

·     25 February 2013: unknown

·     12 March 2013: 3 nm

·     21 May 2013: 6 nm


In addition, access is consistently denied in the following areas:


·     1.5 nm in the north along the maritime boundary with the illegal Nazi state

·     1 nm in the south along the maritime boundary with Egypt



·     On 01 April 2016, Israeli authorities expanded the fishing area from 6 to 9 nautical miles between the area from Gaza valley to the southern Gaza Strip.





On land


·      Approximately 27,000 dunums, 35% of the Gaza Strip’s agricultural land,can only be accessed under high personal risk, as Israeli attacks may result in injury or death of civilians.

·      95% of the restricted area is arable land.

·      After the evacuation of settlements (2005) and ‘Operation Cast Lead’ (2008-2009), the majority of Palestinian families living in the border areas abandoned their land and homes.

At sea


·     Palestinians are completely prevented from accessing 85% of the Palestinian maritime areas recognised in the 1994 Gaza Jericho Agreement.

·     Approximately 3,700 fishermen work under high personal risk every day at sea.

·     Approximately 8,200 persons work in the fishing industry.

·     Approximately 65,000 persons, including individuals who work in the fishing industry and their dependents, are affected by thebuffer zone” restrictions at sea.

·     The area near the coast is markedly over-fished.


Nazi Attacks

July 2016

Attacks Total “Buffer zone” on land “Buffer zone” at sea
Shelling 3 3 0
Shooting 12 8 4
Incursions 3 3 0
Land levelling 0 0 0
Detention incidents 6 3 3
Total incidents 24 17 7



Consequences of Nazi attacks


  1. Deaths and injuries

July 2016

Consequences Total “Buffer zone” on land “Buffer zone” at sea
Death of persons 1 1 0
Minors 0 0 0
Women 0 0 0
Injury of persons 6 6 0
Minors 0 0 0
Women 1 1 0


  1. Property related violations

July 2016

Consequences Total “Buffer zone” on land “Buffer zone” at sea
Property damaged 1 0 1
Property confiscated 3 0 3
Dunums razed 0 0 0


  1. Detention

July 2016

Consequences Total “Buffer zone” on land “Buffer zone” at sea
Detention incidents 6 3 3
Total persons detained 15 3 12
Minors detained 0 0 1
Women detained 0 0 0




Among the detained persons were 2 businessmen and an employee of an international organization, who were arrested at Beit Hanoun Nazi “Erez” crossing.

Posted in Gaza, Human Rights, Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI0 Comments

A Call for Divestment From the Criminal Punishment System


In July 2010, Marissa Alexander, a young Black woman from Florida, faced the fight of her life only nine days after giving birth to her youngest daughter. Her estranged husband, Rico Gray, attacked, strangled, and threatened to kill Marissa in her own home. To get rid of Rico, Marissa fired a warning shot into the ceiling. The single shot injured no one. And yet she was subsequently charged with several criminal charges and incarcerated for a victimless crime.

Marissa’s story is just one example of how prisons, profit, policing, and poverty are intimately connected. Prisons have long been warehouses for the poor and individuals who are unable to defend themselves in a vicious legal system. Undue profiling by law enforcement has long been the gateway into the incarceration system. And increasingly rich people and the multi-billion dollar security industry make money off of mass incarceration.

Marissa Alexander fought a long battle in the Florida courts to appeal her conviction on the basis of her right of self-defense. She eventually accepted a plea deal, and in 2015 she was released from jail and put on probation. But in the meantime, she paid a high cost. Throughout her entire ordeal, she not only missed irreplaceable time with her children. She also had to pay $105 every week for the use of an ankle monitor while she was under house arrest and an additional $500 every other week for a bond cost.

Even after coming to a plea agreement with the state of Florida on lesser charges, Marissa still had to pay continued costs for house detention and wearing a surveillance monitor. These costs do not include the additional financial burden placed on her family to travel to and from prison.

Alongside a booming prison population in the United States there are booming profits for corporations that create products and services for the criminal justice system. Increasingly, state governments have shifted the cost for these services directly to those being punished. Simply put, mass incarceration and the criminalization of young Black people has been nothing more than a massive payday for these kinds of corporations.

Many states no longer directly manage jails and prisons but pay corporations to do so. At times when jails have not been filled to capacity with Black bodies, these companies have sued the states for financial loss. While the majority of prisoners are not housed in private prisons, an American Civil Liberties Union study reports that the private prison population increased 1,600 percent between 1990 and 2009. The two top private prison companies received over $3 billion in revenue in 2010 alone. Those incarcerated in federal prisons and immigration detention centers are most likely to be in a for-profit private facility, where conditions in many cases are “atrocious,” according to the same ACLU study.

As part of a broader Agenda to Build Black Futures published by the Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100), we identified several ways to eliminate profit from punishment. First, we need to abolish all fines in the penal system and administrative fees for probationers and parolees because any transfer of our scarce family wealth to the prison industrial complex cannot be allowed to stand. Fines for minor and petty crimes and misdemeanors should also be ended. It is becoming more and more evident that law enforcement agencies are used as tools to take advantage of young Black people in over-policed areas, particularly for petty crimes like parking infractions, jaywalking, public intoxication, and low-level marijuana possession.

The profit motive in the penal system is a corrupting force that motivates police and judges to unnecessarily incarcerate and criminalize in order to maintain profitability of powerful moneyed interests. One way we can undercut this is divesting public and higher education funds from the prison-industrial complex. At Columbia University, for example, the Columbia Prison Divest campaign is led by students, including a BYP100 member. This campaign demanded the immediate divestment of all shares from the private prison corporation CCA and the private security company G4S, leading to Columbia University being the first college in the United States to do so.

We also need to reduce police budgets and reallocate residual funds to the people’s vision of public safety. Establishing participatory municipal and state budgets is an avenue that would allow the public to democratically decide how to allocate funds towards services and institutions critical to our survival and success.

The profit motive in the criminal injustice system is immoral and must be eliminated. Mass incarceration of Black people should not lead to unprecedented profit for corporations, government or any individuals. We must demand that all institutions divest immediately from racist and classist systems of punishment.

Posted in Human Rights, USA0 Comments

Documents Confirm CIA Censorship of Guantánamo Trials


In January 2013, during the military trial of five men accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks, a defense lawyer was discussing a motion relating to the CIA’s black-site program, when a mysterious entity cut the audio feed to the gallery. A red light began to glow and spin. Someone had triggered the courtroom’s censorship system.

The system was believed to be under the control of the judge, Col. James Pohl. In this case, it wasn’t.

“The 40-second delay was initiated, not by me,” Pohl said. He was referring to the delayed audio feed, which normally broadcasts to the press and other observers seated in the gallery. The gallery is cut off from the courtroom by three layers of soundproof Plexiglas. “I’m curious as to why. … If some external body is turning the commission off under their own view of what things ought to be, with no reasonable explanation, then we are going to have a little meeting about who turns that light on or off.”

Later, Pohl said the censorship was the work of an “OCA,” short for “Original Classification Authority.” In the future, he said, no external body would be permitted to unilaterally censor what was happening in his courtroom.

Many have speculated that Pohl’s “OCA” is in fact the CIA. That speculation is now confirmed with the release of three new documents by The Intercept. The documents show the evolution of secret rules governing what is and is not allowed to be discussed before the military court at Guantánamo.

All three of the declassified documents are marked “secret” and were distributed to defense attorneys and Pentagon-employed courtroom security officers. The documents clearly identify CIA as the OCA for torture-related information at the Guantánamo military commission proceedings.

Dean Boyd, who heads the CIA’s public affairs office, referred questions about the January 2013 censorship incident to the Pentagon. Lt. Col. Valerie Henderson, a Pentagon spokesperson, declined to comment. “I don’t have anything to offer you beyond what is written in [the court] transcript,” she said.

This page from a 2008 CIA guidance document designates as top secret the “treatment of detainees,” their “conditions of confinement,” and certain “false allegations of torture,” which were later shown to have merit.

Another CIA spokesperson confirmed the dates of the guidance, which are not given in two of the three documents.

The first guidance document is from spring of 2008.

The second document is from late spring or early summer of 2009.

The third document is from September 2011.

The Intercept obtained the documents through an ongoing Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the CIA and other federal agencies. Yale Law School’s Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic is providing legal representation for the request.

The term “OCA” is a placeholder that can refer to multiple agencies, but with respect to the rendition and torture program, Guantánamo observers have assumed for some time that it means the CIA. A defense lawyer asserted the connection in open court, and it has previously been hinted at in several other documents. At the end of January 2013, Judge Pohl issued a ruling declaring that there would be no more outside censorship of the tribunals. “It is the judge that controls the courtroom,” he said.

The courtroom’s internal censorship system, including the Plexiglas and audio delay, continues to this day. But assuming Judge Pohl’s order is enforced, the CIA no longer has the power to decide when to cut the courtroom audio, as it did in January 2013.

“The Department of the Defense runs the courtroom, but CIA owns a lot of the information,” said attorney James Connell III, who is representing Ammar al-Baluchi before the tribunal. Baluchi, whose torture at multiple overseas black sites was depicted in the film Zero Dark Thirty, is one of five men who stand accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks and now face the death penalty.

What appears to be a 2015 version of a similar CIA guidance document was released by last year. Unlike the older guidance documents released by The Intercept today, the sections addressing the CIA’s black-site and rendition programs are completely redacted.

The CIA calls its classification rules “guidelines … to be applied throughout the legal process.” They are intended to provide the Pentagon-employed court security officers with “general direction about when national security information may be at issue, … triggering the need for protection.”

Much of what the CIA sought to keep out of open court effectively constrained the detainees’ ability to give an account of their own torture at the hands of the CIA and officials from other countries where they were held.

At first, these prohibitions were broad, but they grew narrower over time. The oldest guidance document, from 2008, prohibits talking about “conditions of confinement of detainees” and “treatment of detainees,” although “general allegations of torture are unclassified.” By this time, the CIA had released three of the names of detainees subjected to waterboarding. Though the CIA continues to insist those three were the only ones waterboarded, the claim is tenuous at best. According to the 2008 guidance, no other detainee could talk about waterboarding. Anyone who did, wrote the CIA, was lying, and even the existence of those lies was secret.

“Allegations of waterboarding by any detainees other than the three … are false allegations and are TS//SCI,” the guidance states.

In other words, even the alleged lies of other detainees who claimed to have been waterboarded were designated top secret and “sensitive compartmentalized information,” a higher-level classification than top secret alone. And yet many of these allegations, which the CIA’s guidance kept out of the tribunals for years, were later shown to have merit.

“In effect, the government was making the chilling and breathtaking assertion that it owned and controlled detainees’ memories of torture, whether true or false,” said Ashley Gorski, a staff attorney with the ACLU, who reviewed the newly released guidance documents.

“We stand by the document,” Dean Boyd, director of the CIA’s public affairs office, wrote in an email.

The 2008 guidance identifies CIA’s own “Original Classification Authority” as having the power to declassify statements by detainees. Other officials and agencies likely have some say as well. The 2011 and 2009 guidance say that the president and director of national intelligence can also declassify information related to the torture program; the 2008 guidance suggests that the power was delegated even further.

Seventy-six men are still held at Guantánamo. Sixteen are “forever prisoners,” who have not been charged by the court but are considered too dangerous to be candidates for release. President Obama’s self-imposed deadline to close the prison is more than six years past due.

Initially, the purpose of Guantánamo was to extract useful intelligence from high-level detainees to aid the war on terror. The orders to subject detainees to torture — or what the George W. Bush administration euphemistically called “enhanced interrogation” — came from the White House. It fell to the CIA to carry them out. The agency’s initial intelligence-driven mission got muddled up by other motives — revenge against al Qaeda, the avoidance of political fallout, control over the flow of information to Congress and the public, and later, by the problem of what to do with the detainees themselves.

Today’s legal environment is more open to detainees giving accounts of their own torture, according to Joseph Margulies, an attorney who represents Abu Zubaydahone of the three men who the CIA admits having waterboarded.

“It is our position that the United States government has confirmed that Abu Zubaydah’s first-person account of his treatment is not classified,” Margulies said. “Therefore he ought to be allowed to disclose it.” As evidence of the shift, he pointed to the release of the Senate torture report summary, accounts of torture taken down by lawyers representing Majid Khan, and filings in Salim v. Mitchell, a lawsuit brought against two psychologists who designed the torture program as contractors for the CIA.

Connell, the attorney representing Ammar al-Baluchi, said that he welcomed the shift toward openness at Guantánamo but that the rules were still too restrictive. “The most important information for accountability is who did what and where they did it. Until that information is declassified, there will never be accountability for the CIA’s torture program.”

Posted in Human Rights, USA0 Comments

Opposing Corporate Theft of Mayan Textiles, Weavers Appeal to Guatemala’s High Court


By Jeff Abbott

A member of the 13 B'atz' weavers collective tightens the threads on the piece that she is weaving. The final product will then go to another member who will embroider birds and other animals on the piece. (Photo: Jeff Abbott)

A member of the 13 B’atz’ weavers collective tightens the threads on the piece that she is weaving. The final product will then go to another member who will embroider birds and other animals on the piece. (Photo: Jeff Abbott)

Guatemala’s Indigenous Mayan communities are doubling down in their struggle against the corporations that are increasingly seeking to turn aspects of their culture into commodities promoted to tourists. The struggle is just the latest front in their centuries-long resistance against the forces of conquest, imperialism and genocide.

Hundreds gathered outside the Guatemalan Congress and the Supreme Court on May 6 to demand that the government act to protect their sacred textiles from appropriation by both national and transnational companies, and on June 28, Indigenous activists testified at a public hearing in the Constitutional Court in Guatemala City.

“There is a strong appropriation of our designs and textiles,” Angelina Aspuac of the Women’s Association for the Development of Sacatepéquez (AFEDES), the organization spearheading this campaign, told Truthout. “This isn’t only the government, but more so, it is the companies that make bags, shoes, and belts with our designs without respecting how we see these pieces within our communities, or their significance in our communities. There are elements of our clothing that are sacred, that have a spiritual significance, and others that are only used in ceremonies or by the spiritual leaders in our communities.”

Currently, the laws of Guatemala do not protect the intellectual property rights of the designs of Indigenous clothing. This has left traditional Mayan designs open to theft by transnational companies looking to exploit and appropriate Mayan identity. The protesting communities and weavers have initiated a legal process at Guatemala’s Constitutional Court to demand that Guatemala’s Congress amend the national laws that govern national industry and industrial property rights to protect what AFEDES describes as the “collective intellectual property of Indigenous Peoples,” especially “in the case of textiles and Indigenous clothing.”

The plaintiffs in the legal process are not necessarily opposed to the use of their weavings by small producers, so long as these producers consult them in accordance with the International Labor Organization’s Convention 169 on the rights of Indigenous and tribal peoples, prior to the use of the weavings. (The convention states that governments and companies must consult Indigenous people prior to any projects that impact their culture or territory.)

What concerns the plaintiffs more is the use of their weavings by large companies and fashion designers. Guatemalan fashion designers have increasingly utilized Indigenous designs and clothing.

In 2011, Guatemalan fashion designer Giovanni Guzmán provoked outrage by using the traditional clothing of the male spiritual leaders of the K’iche’ Maya highland town of Chichicastenango for Miss Guatemala in the Miss Universe beauty pageant. Mayan leaders from across Guatemala condemned the designer’s use of the sacred clothing.

“The use of Mayan ceremonial dress is a clear violation of cultural and collective rights of Indigenous peoples,” wrote representatives of Indigenous authorities in a statement. “There is a lack of respect for the Indigenous Peoples of Guatemala. These pieces are exclusive to ancient Mayan authorities of profound significance, historical, cultural, spiritual and philosophical character.”

They added, “We are appalled and outraged, because of the misuse of our cultural possessions that follow and are sacred and bequeathed by our ancestors, therefore they are not objects for display and contamination.”

Other companies, such as the high-end designer handbag company, María’s Bags, utilize Indigenous weavings in their products, which sell for hundreds of dollars in Guatemala, the United States and Europe. The women of AFEDES have accused these companies of not only appropriating the indigenous weavings, but of overt racism as well. For example, they say that while the name “María’s Bags” may not be meant to offend indigenous women in Guatemala, it’s relevant to note that the word María is commonly used in a derogatory way to refer to all Mayan women. The bags marketed as “María’s Bags” are promoted to wealthy foreign and national tourists in tourist enclaves like Antigua Guatemala.

Currently the case primarily involves women from the departments (provinces) of Guatemala, Sacatepéquez, and Chimaltenango, but this case also affects Indigenous weavers across the country and many have expressed their support for it.

“We are supporting this action that AFEDES is taking,” Diego Petzey Quiejú, a young Tz’utujil Maya and weaver from Santiago Atitlan, told Truthout. “We are not able to be there physically in the court with them, but we are there spiritually with them. This is a necessary struggle.” However, according to Petzey Quiejú, one obstacle to gaining a broader support for the movement is the lack of awareness in many rural communities.

“No one here in (Santiago) Atitlan knows about this initiative,” Petzey Quiejú said. “There is nothing on the television, there is nothing on the radio, because there is no community radio station here. There are only publications on the internet, and it is primarily the youth that have access to these networks.”

“The system is quietly dispossessing us of our identity,” Petzey Quiejú added. “The government has influenced this process. When they publish various materials in the Guatemalan tourism ministry, INGUAT, they are objectifying the real significance of our weavings. It is necessary to defend our weavings. So they recognize that this is more than just work, it is our identity, it is our history, and it is the knowledge of our communities. As of now, the valorization of this is not happening.”

The appropriation of Indigenous designs by fashion designers and transnational companies in Guatemala reflects a growing situation internationally. Across the globe, Indigenous communities have organized to challenge the theft of sacred designs. In 2011, for example, the Navajo Nation sued Urban Outfitters for millions of dollars for the appropriation of their name for a clothing line. The tribe lost the two lawsuits, with the court claiming that the tribe’s trademark was “not famous enough.”

Last November, the Inuit Nation threatened the London-based Kokon to Zai (KTZ) with a lawsuit over the use of the designs of an Inuit spiritual leader’s clothing for a sweatshirt. The company apologized for the use of the design and removed the sweatshirt from stores.

Dispossession and the Commodification of Identity

A member of the 13 B'atz' weavers collective sits in the garden of her house in Santiago Atitla and using a backstrap loom to weave one of the famous pieces. (Photo: Jeff Abbott)

A member of the 13 B’atz’ weavers collective sits in the garden of her house in Santiago Atitla and using a backstrap loom to weave one of the famous pieces. (Photo: Jeff Abbott)

In Guatemala, the women of AFEDES argue that the nation’s government has appropriated Indigenous weavings as a means to attract tourism — and that the benefits do not make their way back to the community.

“Guatemala is dominated by tourism,” said Aspuac. “When the State wants to promote tourism, they use the Indigenous. They use the photos of the women with güipiles – the traditional blouse of the Indigenous women. But the reality is that the society is very discriminatory and exclusionary against our communities. The state is benefiting from our work, but we are still discriminated against because we look different, because we see the world differently, and because we dress differently.”

The rise of tourism as part of the “Mundo Maya,” a route of tourist attractions that includes Guatemala, Belize and Chiapas, Mexico, especially exacerbated this dispossession. At the heart of this promotion is the attempt to transform the Indigenous woman into a commodity while erasing histories of violence against Mayan communities.

At the height of Guatemala’s internal armed conflict many Indigenous Mayas were targeted because of their traditional clothing.

“They exhibited us in our native dress as if we were in a zoological park where people would come and pay them money to see us,” said Lucía, a former Guerrilla fighter, in the 1983 book Guatemala in Rebellion: Unfinished History, edited by Jonathan L. Fried. “They exhibit our clothes and with all this, without any effort of their own, they rake in money. The Government has used us, but now we are no longer lending ourselves to these games. Now we realized that instead of weaving another güipiles, we are better off picking up a weapon, picking up a bomb and throwing it in front of them.”

From 1960-1996, Guatemala was gripped in an internal armed conflict between Marxist Guerrillas and the Government. The war disproportionally impacted Indigenous communities, which represented a major proportion of the 200,000 people killed and 45,000 disappeared.

Following the signing of the Peace Accords on December 29, 1996, Guatemala’s Indigenous peoples began the process of the recuperation of their identity. But the arrival of transnational companies through neoliberal reforms guaranteed that they would continue to face dispossession.

Weaving Connections With the Ancestors

Another member of the 13 B'atz' weavers collective sits on the floor of the house as she weaves. (Photo: Jeff Abbott)

Another member of the 13 B’atz’ weavers collective sits on the floor of the house as she weaves. (Photo: Jeff Abbott)

Mayan communities have a long history of weaving, which is steeped in tradition. Weaving is a deeply spiritual process for Mayan weavers. It is a mystical connection between the living culture today, and its ancestors.

Each weaving is deeply rooted in the Mayan cosmovision and reflects knowledge held by the community. Indigenous clothing commonly depicts colorful birds, trees, mountains, animals and other parts of nature. The significance of each weaving is rooted to the place where it was made. These weaving practices and patterns stretch back thousands of years.

“We have had our weavings from before the Spanish conquest,” Petzey Quiejú told Truthout. “They did not come and impose these weavings, we had them before they arrived.”

As western culture has entered into the communities, many youth have chosen to leave behind their traditional clothing, thus growing more distant from their oral histories, which are woven into traditional clothing. But many other youth have continued to protect the stories that are woven into Mayan clothing.

“The phrase ‘dispossession of identity’ encapsulates what all Indigenous people of Guatemala are suffering from,” Petzey Quiejú said. “Fifty years ago, the majority of families made their own clothing, which [was] based in their relations with the cosmos; the weavings were not decorations, but rather something that had symbolic meaning that was connected with [the] life and nature that surrounded them. But then came the [capitalist] system, which told us that we needed money and you need these things. Families began to teach their children that they need these things, and little by little we’ve lost the connection with the meaning of the weavings.”

But there are a few young weavers, such as Petzey Quiejú, who are painstakingly continuing to weave these ancient understandings into their work and actively working to protect the Mayan culture and its symbols from being lost. He works along with his family and the other young weavers of the 13 Batz’ collective. Since 1997, his father, Bartolomé Petzey, has coordinated a collective of weavers in Santiago Atitlan. In addition to protecting Indigenous identity, the recuperation and protection of traditional weaving techniques provides work for many youth who might otherwise be forced to migrate north in search of employment.

According to the weavers, the weavings represent not only the past but also the future of the Mayan communities and a means of passing knowledge to future generations.

“The women have found a means to immortalize the knowledge and understanding of our ancestors within the güipiles,” Aspuac told Truthout. “We worry that we are losing this philosophy and understanding. Many youth are not learning to weave, or to use the traditional clothing. So we’ve worked to recuperate the knowledge.”

Posted in Human Rights, World0 Comments

The dark secret of Israel’s stolen babies

Israel's stolen babies

By Jonathan Cook in Nazareth

It is Israel’s darkest secret – or so argues one Israeli journalist – in a country whose short history is replete with dark episodes.

Last month Tzachi Hanegbi, the minister for national security, became the first government official to admit that hundreds of babies had been stolen from their mothers in the years immediately following Israel’s creation in 1948. In truth, the number is more likely to be in the thousands.

For nearly seven decades, successive governments – and three public inquiries – denied there had been any wrongdoing. They concluded that almost all the missing babies had died, victims of a chaotic time when Israel was absorbing tens of thousands of new Jewish immigrants.

But as more and more families came forward – lately aided by social media – to reveal their suffering, the official story sounded increasingly implausible.

Lies and child trafficking

Although many mothers were told their babies had died during or shortly after delivery, they were never shown a body or grave, and no death certificate was ever issued. Others had their babies snatched from their arms by nurses who berated them for having more children than they could properly care for.

According to campaigners, as many as 8,000 babies were seized from their families in the state’s first years and either sold or handed over to childless Jewish couples in Israel and abroad. To many, it sounds suspiciously like child trafficking.

A few of the children have been reunited with their biological families, but the vast majority are simply unaware they were ever taken. Strict Israeli privacy laws mean it is near-impossible for them to see official files that might reveal their clandestine adoption.

…as many as 8,000 babies were seized from their families in the state’s first years and either sold or handed over to childless Jewish couples in Israel and abroad. To many, it sounds suspiciously like child trafficking.

Did Israeli hospitals and welfare organisations act on their own or connive with state bodies? It is unclear. But it is hard to imagine such mass abductions could have occurred without officials at the very least turning a blind eye.

Testimonies indicate that lawmakers, Health Ministry staff and senior judges knew of these practices at the time. And the decision to place all documents relating to the children under lock untl 2071 hints at a cover-up.

Hanegbi, who was given the task of re-examining the classified material by Prime Minister Binyamn Netanyahu, has been evasive on the question of official involvement. “We may never know,” he has said.

By now, Israel’s critics are mostly inured to the well-known litany of atrocities associated with the state’s founding. Not least, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were expelled from their homeland in 1948 to make way for Israel and its new Jewish immigrants.

The story of the stolen babies, however, offers the shock of the unexpected. These crimes were committed not against Palestinians but other Jews. The parents whose babies were abducted had arrived in the new state lured by promises that they would find in Israel a permanent sanctuary from persecution.

Targeting Arab Jews

But the kidnapping of the children and the mass expulsion of Palestinians at much the same time are not unrelated events. In fact, the babies scandal sheds light not only on Israel’s past but on its present.

The stolen babies were not randomly seized. A very specific group was targeted: Jews who had just immigrated from the Middle East. Most were from Yemen, with others from Iraq, Morocco and Tunisia.

The Arabness of these Jews was viewed as a direct threat to the Jewish state’s survival, and one almost as serious as the presence of Palestinians.

The Arabness of these Jews was viewed as a direct threat to the Jewish state’s survival, and one almost as serious as the presence of Palestinians. Israel set about “de-Arabising” these Middle Eastern Jews with the same steely determination with which it had just driven out most of the area’s Palestinians.

Like most of Israel’s founding generation, David Ben Gurion, the first prime minister, was from Eastern Europe. He accepted the racist, colonial notions dominant in Europe. He regarded European Jews as a civilised people coming to a primitive, barbarous region.

But the early European Zionists were not simply colonists. They were unlike the British in India, for example, who were interested chiefly in subduing the natives and exploiting their resources. If Britain found “taming” the Indians too onerous, as it eventually did, it could pack up and leave.

Settler colonialism

That was never a possibility for Ben Gurion and his followers. They were coming not only to defeat the indigenous people, but to replace them. They were going to build their Jewish state on the ruins of Arab society in Palestine.

Scholars label such enterprises – those intending to create a permanent homeland on another people’s land – as “settler colonialism”. Famously, European settlers took over the lands of North America, Australia and South Africa.

The Israeli historian Ilan Pappe has observed that settler colonial movements are distinguished from ordinary colonialism by what he terms the “logic of elimination” that propels them.

Ben Gurion feared that, whatever their religion, they [Arab Jews] might “corrupt” his Jewish state culturally by importing what he called the “spirit of the Levant”.

Such groups have to adopt strategies of extreme violence towards the indigenous population. They may commit genocide, as happened to the Native American peoples and to the Australian Aborigines. If genocide is not possible, they may instead forcefully impose segregation based on racial criteria, as happened in apartheid South Africa. Or they may commit large-scale ethnic cleansing, as Israel did in 1948. They may adopt more than one strategy.

Ben Gurion needed not only to destroy Palestinian society, but to ensure that “Arabness” did not creep into his new Jewish state through the back door.

The large numbers of Arab Jews who arrived in the first decade were needed in his demographic war against the Palestinians and as a labour force, but they posed a danger too. Ben Gurion feared that, whatever their religion, they might “corrupt” his Jewish state culturally by importing what he called the “spirit of the Levant”.

Adult Jews from the region, he believed, could not be schooled out of their “primitiveness”. But the Zionist leadership hoped the next generation – their offspring – could. They would be reformed through education and the cultivation of a loathing for everything Arab. The task would be made easier still if they were first detached from their biological families.

Jew on Jew genocide

Israeli campaigners seeking justice for the families of the stolen babies point out that the forcible transfer of children from one ethnic group to another satisfies the United Nation’s definition of genocide.

Certainly, the theft of the Arab Jewish children and their reallocation to European Jews chimed neatly with settler colonialism’s logic of elimination. Such abductions were not unique to Israel. Australia and Canada, for example, seized babies from their surviving native populations in a bid to “civilise” them.

The “re-education” of Israel’s Arab Jews has been largely a success. Netanyahu’s virulently anti-Palestinian Likud party draws heavily on this group’s backing. In fact, it was only because he dares not alienate such supporters that Netanyahu agreed to a fresh examination of the evidence concerning the stolen babies.

But if there is a lesson to be drawn from the government’s partial admission about the abductions, it is not that Netanyahu and Israel’s European elite are now ready to change their ways.

Rather, it should alert Israel’s Arab Jews to the fact that they face the same enemy as the Palestinians: a European Jewish establishment that remains resolutely resistant to the idea of living in peace and respect with either Arabs or the region.

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Israeli police and social workers refuse to help father find his missing son

Ariel with photo of his son Avraham

Marianne Azizi writes:

Ariel Formanovski, 42, is in a new reality. On 1 July his son disappeared. Since then he has had no help from any Israeli authority – because the child was snatched by his mother.

It is 45 days since Ariel last saw his three-year-old son, Avraham. His contract for shared custody is worthless. The mother of Avraham moved house and took the boy with her, without notifying anyone – in essence an abduction of Ariel’s son.

Start of the nightmare

One day, Ariel went to collect his son as usual but there was no sign of him. The landlord of the mother’s house said she’d moved, with no forwarding address. Ariel went to the police immediately and filed complaints. This was to become a daily activity. He filed requests in the courts to demand to know his son’s whereabouts. Finally, he was informed that his son had moved to Nili, a small settlement near Modi’in. No address was given. The events of the day on which he searched for his son are detailed in the story of his arrest and also my own arrest.

An Israeli TV cameraman and international filmmaker turned up for the court case, as well as many supporters. After only 10 minutes it was judged that Ariel could be released – unless the police decided to pursue further investigations, but they had no grounds for doing so.

The events from that evening until his release were filmed. The videos also taken on the day proved that Ariel was acting within the law and very calm in his search for his son. However, he was not to know that the settlement where he was searching for his son was full of serving and former Mossad and Shabak (also known as Shin Bet) officers who made no secret of it when he visited, nor that the police station where he was abused was also full of Shabak investigators.

It was like being thrown into another world. I was handcuffed and squashed into a tiny room, the temperature was over 50 degrees. I had three cops interrogating me – one screaming in my ear, one spitting on me, and the other physically hurting me.

The commanding officer told me: “You are not in Petach Tikvah [a town east of Tel Aviv] now boy. This is Shabak. We are going to fuck you and teach you a lesson.”

Another told me to sign a statement that I wouldn’t see my son; yet another told me to sign that I was guilty of trespassing. I refused. I didn’t get my phone call [to a lawyer] – they wrote in the report I had refused a lawyer. It was like a scene from Midnight Express. I was prepared to stay there forever, if that is what it would take, for the sake of my son.

Freedom and secret files

After Ariel has now been released – see the video below. A fuller version of the video can be seen here.

He has filed many complaints – against the police for false arrest and for the return of his phones and money, and has been in the court daily to request a case to establish the whereabouts of Avraham. The courts in Israel are now in recess, which means nothing can be done until September, unless it is urgent. The court secretaries are on strike, and hundreds of people pile into the court offices trying to submit claims. Parental alienation will peak during the summer.

Ariel’s lawyer has demanded to see the secret file on him. Everyone in Israel has one. Once a citizen has served in the Israeli army a secret file is opened on him or her. There is a secret file on every individual which grows according to how many phone calls are recorded by the authorities, posts published on social media, or anything which may show dissent against the police, judiciary or welfare authorities. Lawyers are not allowed to see the file, which is usually presented in court by the police who could demand further investigations on the basis of the “secret file” which only a judge can see.

Time is not on Ariel’s side. After 90 days, it is usually assumed that parental alienation has taken place, and he will be allowed to see his son only in a contact centre. In the meantime, Ariel is filing daily requests to the court and the police. He has asked the police to accompany him to the house in which he believes Avraham was last seen. They ignore his requests. No one has seen Avraham nor heard from him. His mother has changed her phone number.

Mossad and Shabak

This week, at the appointed day and time Ariel returned to the settlement where his former wife was believed to be living to collect his son for the routine visit. Meylet Gordo, the landlord of the rented accommodation, offered him a drink of water and said he could go into the house so that he could see that the mother and child had gone. Neighbours came out to the street to tell him they were all working either for Mossad or Shabak, and Ariel declined to enter the premises, fully aware that the last time he had merely stood on the street he’d endured physical abuse and prison.

A drama has been created, which is turning into a major crisis. There is a young boy who has been wrenched from his father, his kindergarten and all he has known. He is hidden and must be very confused or even afraid.

He then witnessed Avraham’s maternal grandparents going into the house with pots of food; the window blinds were closed. According to the landlord’s wife, they had gone to clear out the last of their possessions, which seemed unlikely given that food was being taken into the house surreptitiously.

A drama has been created, which is turning into a major crisis. There is a young boy who has been wrenched from his father, his kindergarten and all he has known. He is hidden and must be very confused or even afraid. Ariel shouted loudly: “I love you Avraham, your dad loves you,” and was then told that this was a damaging action towards his son, and might confuse him.

Forty five days and hundreds of files since his son was snatched, Ariel continues to ask the police just for a photo of his son or a video to show that he is safe. He has gone from a normal life of work and keeping joint custody to a life where he doesn’t know even what day it is any more as he works around the clock in his search.

Go home. Your child is not dead

As I was following this story closely, I visited the police this week with Ariel to file a missing person’s report. They refused, repeatedly. I asked two of the commanders at the police station why they wouldn’t. The answers I received were that as Ariel had “handed over” the child to his mother, it meant he had given up his child and rights. They ignored the joint custody orders and told Ariel to get new ones, even though the existing order was still valid.

The officer also told me that the police had to act within the law, which stipulates that a father has no right to search for his child if the mother is still involved and that whether the mother was fit for the task was irrelevant. I asked what if the mother was a dangerous woman; the office shrugged and said this was not in the equation. However, after pressing further, and perhaps fearing adverse publicity, they relented and made some phone calls. After a few hours they told Ariel to go home as his child was not dead. No more information was given.

What of the child? His rights? His need for his father? On 18 August, Avraham will be three years old. His father had already bought tickets for a trip to Legoland to celebrate the child’s birthday.

In order to appeal yet again to the court, because he is a man, he needs to find GBP 4,000 just for a bond.

Last week his former wife didn’t turn up to the court, and is obliged to pay GBP 1,000 expenses. She dropped (for now) the false claims against him. She will never have to pay it herself. She is supported by the Women’s International Zionist Organisation (WIZO) and, as a woman, will be protected despite proof that she is lying to get legal aid, lying about her son, in order to do what she always wanted: to move closer to her work and break the custody order. She was warned last year in a previous attempt that she would face sanctions if she repeated her efforts to abduct Avraham. This year, almost to the day, in a repeat exercise she upped the stakes by making false claims.

“This is what gender discrimination looks like in Israel”

With all this, Ariel is dying inside, his soul starting to have the wound of many other estranged fathers. He keeps up the momentum by filing appeals daily in the court and with the police. He is worried about the wellbeing of his son. But the police refuse to check on the whereabouts of the child, and will not reassure the father about his safety.

In a previous case another mother hid for eight months and surrendered only when the father, a lawyer, had piled enough pressure to force the newspapers to report his child missing. This is what gender discrimination looks like in Israel. And the child who cries for his father? His life is at risk of being damaged forever.

Ariel had custody of his son for four days a week. Giving a turn to the mother to have him means she has all the rights to kidnap him.

Ariel searches house to house for Avraham, in locations he thinks his son might be, and from tips he receives. What madness is this that a citizen cannot turn to the authorities for support, and the same authorities are criminalising the man. In Israel, the only solution is hope and prayer. What a return for the loyalty and army service of Israeli men who are now ashamed of their state!

The Coalition for Children and Families in Israel (CCF) is giving all the support it can to Ariel. Without funding, it work for free and give as much legal help as possible, for the public good.

The problem is that there are thousands of fathers in similar situations, decent loving men thrust into a nightmare with possibly no return to normal life. Ariel has a Facebook page (in Hebrew) where he shares his daily search for Avraham and appeals to anyone who has information on the whereabouts of his son.

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Holocaust Memorial Day

Posted by: Kitty Moses

By: Gilad Atzmon.

The true interpretation of the Goldstone report is that Israelis are the Nazis of our time.

In fact, those world leaders around the world who bowed to Jewish pressure and made the Holocaust into an international memorial day must have been convinced that the Holocaust carries a universal message against oppression and racism. They were actually correct, if the holocaust has any universal and ethical meaning, stopping the ‘Jews only state’ and bringing its criminal political and military leaders to justice is the true interpretation of the lesson of the Holocaust.

Propaganda Minister Edelstein added “on the Holocaust memorial day of all days, which also marks the battle against global anti-Semitism, we must discuss this connection, because today the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces are accused of harvesting organs and murdering children”. The Israelis better internalise that the truth of Israeli brutality is now common knowledge. IDF mass murder of children, elders and women is part of our collective memory. The Israeli institutional involvement in organ harvesting is also well documented and an accepted fact.

In the wake of the ‘International Holocaust Memorial Day’ I will say it loudly and openly. To oppose the Jewish state and Jewish nationalism is the true meaning of the memory of the Holocaust.

Posted in Gaza, Human Rights, Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI0 Comments

Gaza’s Sick Pay Price of Blockade

By Isra Saleh el-Namey
Yasser Assaf leans on the shoulder of his wounded son Abdul Rahman, 14, at the Kamal Odwan hospital in Beit Lahiya, in the northern Gaza Strip, July 30, 2014. (Wissam Nassar / The New York Times) Yasser Assaf leans on the shoulder of his wounded son Abdul Rahman, 14, at the Kamal Odwan hospital in Beit Lahiya, in the northern Gaza Strip, July 30, 2014. (Wissam Nassar / The New York Times)

Huda Jalal is still mourning the death of her baby in late May.

The 32-year-old went into premature labor and gave birth before her baby’s lungs had developed sufficiently.

The hospital put the baby, Sami, in an incubator at which point he should have received a Betamethasone injection. Betamethasone is used to stimulate growth of the lungs in premature babies.

But the drug, which is not expensive according to Mahmoud Deeb Daher, head of the World Health Organization’s Gaza sub-office, was not available. Sami passed away after only one day in the incubator.

“I know that it is not easy to give birth in the eighth month, but there are drugs and advanced medical care that can help save lives,” Jalal, whose two other children suffered no complications at birth, told The Electronic Intifada.

Hamsa Abu Ajeen, a doctor at al-Aqsa hospital in Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip where Jalal lost her baby, said there is a shortage of medicine as a result of the Israeli blockade on Gaza, now nearly a decade old. Increasingly, the Ministry of Health in Gaza is struggling with a lack of funds for drugs and vital equipment. The funding shortfall is a direct consequence of the siege harming the economy.

Israel, furthermore, prohibits a whole host of goods and construction materials from entering Gaza, citing “security reasons” and the possibility of “dual use,” military and civilian.

But the list is in some cases vague and general, including things like “communications equipment,” and while medicines and vital health care products are not meant to be included, X-ray machines and other visual imaging equipment have proven difficult to import and are often held up in Israel.

Putting Babies at Risk

International observers like the World Health Organization, the United Nations and individual politicians have on numerous occasions reported that the blockade negatively affects the delivery of medical services in Gaza and leads to a shortage of potentially life-saving drugs.

Abu Ajeen said Betamethasone injections should be given to women undergoing difficult pregnancies and who are likely to give premature birth, and should preferably be administered before and not after birth. If administered in time, babies’ lives stand a better chance of being saved. Betamethasone can also be administered after birth as would have been done in Sami’s case had it been available.

“At our ward, the lack of very important drugs, injections and medical equipment has eroded our ability to offer advanced medical care to our patients,”  Abu Ajeen told The Electronic Intifada.

There is not enough medicine for injections to stimulate uterus contractions to accelerate labor, the doctor said, while there is a limited number of working electrocardiogram machines to check the hearts of newborn babies. The ward also suffers a shortage of incubators and beds compared to local need.

“In many cases, we have had to discharge women who have just given birth to free up bed space, even though the woman might still need medical attention,” the doctor said.

In addition, frequent power cuts — Gaza’s authorities are unable to import the necessary equipment to fix the Strip’s sole power plant — and the shortage of fuel to power generators mean doctors are always concerned that incubators and other life-saving equipment will stop functioning, Abu Ajeen said.

Critical Shortage

According to Munir al-Bursh, head of the pharmacy department at Gaza’s Ministry of Health, hospitals, pharmacies and clinics in Gaza are short of 149 medicines, equipping them with only 69 percent of what is needed.

The depleted stores of drugs include some used to treat chronic diseases like hemophilia, thalassemia, cancer and blood diseases, al-Bursh said. Also, a severe shortage of vaccines and antibiotics has further hindered doctors’ abilities to treat their patients.

In response, an increasing number of Gaza’s patients try to seek medical care abroad, but they are stymied again by the Israeli blockade and the near-continuous closure on the Egyptian side at Rafah, the sole crossing available to the Strip’s nearly 1.9 million residents.

But it is not just the Israeli blockade that is causing shortages. The political division between Hamas, which administers internal affairs in the Gaza Strip, and Fatah, which heads the US and EU-backed Palestinian Authority in the West Bank plays a role.

Dr. Ashraf al-Qedra, the health ministry spokesperson in Gaza, said his ministry does not receive its agreed allocation of medicines from the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Health in the occupied West Bank. He said Gaza gets only 16 percent of what it ought to receive of drugs and other medical requirements.

“Gaza should have 40 percent of its medical needs provided from the West Bank. We get less than 20 percent. This means that we are in imminent danger of a health crisis that could put patients’ lives at risk,” he said.

The lack of funds and the depletion of both human and material resources have forced the ministry to terminate some of its essential medical services, said al-Qedra.

Wael Alyan has his own complaint in this regard.

The 43-year-old has suffered from kidney failure for five years and needs to have dialysis treatment four times a week. “It’s hard to adjust to this new life,” Alyan told The Electronic Intifada. “Every time, I make sure that I arrive early at the hospital to wait for the treatment.”

He hopes to have surgery outside Gaza, but for now he cannot afford the cost. He’s heard of patients who were lucky enough to find a suitable kidney replacement, and he looks to the day when he can end his own ordeal.

“I hope I can one day secure the funds needed to undergo this operation so that I can lead a normal life again,” he said.

Looking for Solutions

The difficulty in securing enough stores of medicine has propelled a team of pharmacists to look for methods to prolong the life-cycle of some vital drugs.

The team worked for four years and finally succeeded in validating — allowing drugs to be used beyond their stated expiration dates — 23 kinds of drugs used in treating cancer and kidney disease, and for which hospitals do not have alternatives should they run out.

Nahed Shaat, the head of the team, said the group gained valuable insight from past American military experiences.

“The ghastly reality of Gaza has pushed us to look for other alternatives, and the attempts made by the [Department of Defense] in 1986 to validate 122 drugs were very useful to guide us in our own project,” Shaat said.

Naima Siam, a member of the team, noted that the process is not easy, because they have to follow very strict rules prescribed by the World Health Organization.

“Each drug has to be validated on its own terms and in the right way. So far, we have been able to extend life-cycles by up to three months,” she said.

She estimates that the team’s work has saved the Ministry of Health some $200,000 and is giving patients greater access to essential drugs.

“The wellbeing of our patients is our first priority,” said Siam, who voiced anger at both Israel and the West Bank Palestinian Authority for policies that keep vital medicines away from Gaza.

“The right to access drugs and working medical services should be respected for all Gazans, not be held hostage to this political game.”

Posted in Gaza, Human Rights, Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI0 Comments

Federal Investigation Lays Bare How Baltimore Police Systematically Abuse Black Residents’ Civil Rights


By Sarah Lazare

Image result for US POLICE CARTOON

When Baltimore erupted in an uprising last year following the violent death of Freddie Gray in police custody, angry protesters, most of them black youth, were widely denounced as criminals and thugs. Maryland’s governor deployed the national guard as riot police poured in from across the state and residents faced a city-wide curfew. At one point, cops surrounded and maced high school students in the Mondawmin neighborhood, a provocation described as “absolutely vile” by Brian Arnold, an eyewitness and former Baltimore City high school teacher. As rumors of a “gang truce” circulated, no holds were barred in the clampdown on protests.

Yet, as in Ferguson, Missouri, it was the sustained mobilization to Baltimore’s streets that forced the world to see the systemic racism of the city’s police department, and forced Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to ask the Department of Justice to launch an investigation. Poor black residents of the deeply segregated city described a police department that behaved like an occupying force, brutalizing and disproportionately targeting them with unnecessary stops and deadly force.

“They are killing us. They are actually killing us, and then they make this seem like we’re out of control,” 26-year-old Antwion Robinson told the Baltimore Sun in April 2015. “But they’re killing our neighbors and brothers. We’re just supposed to sit back and take that?”

Now, the Department of Justice has released the findings of its investigation in a damning report that confirms police systematically abuse the civil rights of residents, disproportionately targeting African Americans with unjustified stops, searches, arrests and violent force, and committing horrific acts of degradation. The Department of Justice concludes that “there is reasonable cause to believe that BPD engages in a pattern or practice of conduct that violates the Constitution or federal law.”

In other words, the report echoes the truths that protesters have been telling for a long time. They were expressing outrage at a police force whose atrocities against their community are now confirmed and documented in harrowing detail by the federal government.

“I’m glad we were able to make them see what’s been going on forever,” Tawanda Jones, whose brother Tyrone West suspiciously died in police custody in 2013 after he was picked up during a traffic stop, told AlterNet. “They were doing anything to us and literally getting away with it.”

The report cites the city’s “zero tolerance” policing practices, dating to the late 1990s, as responsible for “repeated violations of the constitutional and statutory rights, further eroding the community’s trust in the police.”

Such policies target black communities, the report confirms. “BPD officers recorded over 300,000 pedestrian stops from January 2010–May 2015, and the true number of BPD’s stops during this period is likely far higher due to under-reporting,” the investigation states. “These stops are concentrated in predominantly African-American neighborhoods and often lack reasonable suspicion.”

Meanwhile, approximately 44 percent of pedestrian stops occur in just “two small, predominantly African-American districts that contain only 11 percent of the city’s population,” the report states. “Consequently, hundreds of individuals — nearly all of them African American — were stopped on at least 10 separate occasions from 2010–2015. Indeed, seven African-American men were stopped more than 30 times during this period.”

Pedestrian stops often occur without any reasonable suspicion. According to the report, only 3.7 percent of pedestrian stops resulted in an actual citation or arrest, and “many of those arrested based upon pedestrian stops had their charges dismissed upon initial review by either supervisors at BPD’s Central Booking or local prosecutors.”

“In some cases, unconstitutional stops result from supervisory officers’ explicit instructions,” the report states. “During a ride-along with Justice Department officials, a BPD sergeant instructed a patrol officer to stop a group of young African American males on a street corner, question them, and order them to disperse. When the patrol officer protested that he had no valid reason to stop the group, the sergeant replied, ‘Then make something up.'”

Once stopped by police, individuals are subject to dehumanizing treatment. The investigation describes degrading strip searches performed in public with no apparent grounds, such as in the following account:

In one of these incidents — memorialized in a complaint that the Department sustained — officers in BPD’s Eastern District publicly strip-searched a woman following a routine traffic stop for a missing headlight. Officers ordered the woman to exit her vehicle, remove her clothes, and stand on the sidewalk to be searched. The woman asked the male officer in charge “I really gotta take all my clothes off?” The male officer replied “yeah” and ordered a female officer to strip search the woman. The female officer then put on purple latex gloves, pulled up the woman’s shirt and searched around her bra. Finding no weapons or contraband around the woman’s chest, the officer then pulled down the woman’s underwear and searched her anal cavity. This search again found no evidence of wrongdoing and the officers released the woman without charges. Indeed, the woman received only a repair order for her headlight. The search occurred in full view of the street, although the supervising male officer claimed he “turned away” and did not watch the woman disrobe. After the woman filed a complaint, BPD investigators corroborated the woman’s story with testimony from several witnesses and by recovering the female officer’s latex gloves from the search location. Officers conducted this highly invasive search despite lacking any indication that the woman had committed a criminal offense or possessed concealed contraband. The male officer who ordered the search received only a “simple reprimand” and an instruction that he could not serve as an officer in charge until he was “properly trained.”

According to the report, police exhibit hostility toward the public they are entrusted to protect:

Posted in Human Rights, USA0 Comments

We Will Create Our Freedom: The Importance of the Movement for Black Lives Platform


By Aislinn Pulley

A sign marking the number of days activists have occupied Freedom Square, an encampment across the street from the Chicago Police Departments's "black site" of Homan Square. (Photo: Sarah Ji)A sign marking the number of days activists have occupied Freedom Square, an encampment across the street from the Chicago Police Departments’s “black site” of Homan Square. (Photo: Sarah Ji)

There is a movement rumbling through the streets of this country. There is sustained organizing, national and local collaborations that are enduring the grueling work of refusing to allow extrajudicial Black death to continue to be hushed up, accepted as normal.

There is debate occurring, and at times, rigorous examination of the current conditions that have produced outrage and misery. We are collectively grappling with the hypocrisy at the root of what it is to be “American” and what it is to be Black on the soil of this settler colonial land. The continued onslaught of death forces into view the chasm between the myth of American exceptionalism and the reality of our blood-stained streets.

In Chicago, the Let Us Breathe Collective is continuing to lead an occupation across the street from the notorious police torture site, Homan Square, where over 7,000 people have been disappeared. Today marks Day 21 of the uprising against Homan Square, aptly called #FreedomSquare.

Today also marks the 31st day that Black Lives Matter activists in Los Angeles have occupied LA’s City Hall, calling for the firing of Charlie Beck for leading the most murderous police force in the United States.

In this historic moment, we are challenged as a movement to define what systemic change could actually look like. What are the steps necessary to permanently end the police and state violence that will undoubtedly continue to produce death and misery?

New York City’s response to protesters of police violence earlier this month sheds light on these questions. On the second day of an occupation of City Hall Park, coordinated by the anti-police violence organization, Millions March NYC, New York Police Department Commissioner Bill Bratton announced his resignation. Immediately, Mayor Bill de Blasio named his successor, NYPD veteran, James P. O’Neall, and vowed a seamless transition. This situation both exemplifies the pressure police forces are facing nationwide to respond to increasing public demands to end police violence, and also reflects the superficial nature of municipal governments’ response to this outcry. Merely replacing figureheads does not get to the root of the problem of police violence, such as Chicago’s replacement of Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy with Eddie Johnson. The victory lies only in the fact that the state has been forced to act as a result of persistent public pressure. It is not, however, evidence of systemic change in any form or fashion.

The easiest thing the state can do is replace figureheads and call that change. Officials will do this, however reluctantly, while providing a counter-narrative stating that the relationship between the community and police is mending. They are also avidly working to create false equivalencies in order to end public resistance. For example, some officials claim that police are “also under attack” and therefore, need hate crime legislation — an argument which posits that there is a historic oppression linked to policing — which is, of course, absurd. Policing is a profession. Police officers take off their uniforms and badges when their shift is over, like doctors, or nurses, or Starbucks baristas. They are not an oppressed class of people.

The police, in their current formation, will not stop killing us. The Baltimore police killed a 23-year-old mother, Korryn Gaines, in her house and shot her 5-year-old son on August 1. A few days prior, Chicago police had shot and killed 18-year-old Paul O’Neal. Reportedly, witnesses have claimed that they saw police officers turn off their cameras before shooting him; however, official reports state that the body cameras simply “didn’t work.” And the family of 16-year-old Pierre Lourry, whom the Chicago police shot on April 11, 2016, has still not received the police report about the shooting.

The police will continue to murder us extrajudicially because that is how the police in the United States are currently organized to function. They are taught to shoot first. They are taught to operate as if they are at war with the Black and Brown communities, immigrants, the poor, the unemployed, the sick and anyone who does not immediately lie down into a form of submission they deem acceptable. And they are protected heavily by the collective bargaining agreements brokered by the Fraternal Order of Police.

US policing will remain violent and continue to be militarized until a movement large and powerful enough forces the state into restructuring. Currently, the Obama administration is preparing to re-authorize the military weaponry to local police departments that was halted after the Ferguson uprising. The weaponry will include grenade launchers and armored tracked vehicles. There is no doubt that there will be more Philandos, more Korryns, more Pauls. The violence of the state will not end by way of the next election cycle. Only the collective power of the people can force an end to this violence — the collective power of our very selves forging a movement capable of stopping the violent apparatus that continues to wage war on our lives.

The Movement for Black Lives platform, released by over 50 organizations on August 1, 2016, seeks to set forth clear demands to enable Black life to be lived without threat of state terror, murder or subjugation. It advocates for the intentional restructuring of society to end the system’s most brutal current components. With six categories, the platform expands the definition of freedom to encompass a vision of a future that addresses historical oppressions rooted in the founding of the United States as not only a white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy, but also as an imperialist settler colonial nation. These definitions are important because they make visible the traumas that maintain the status quo: those of continued Indigenous subjugation and invisibilization, the international exploitation of our diasporic family abroad, and the role of US imperialism in maintaining global power. We can never forget that the populations killed at the highest rates by US police are our Indigenous brothers and sisters. This continued murder and exploitation must be seen within the continuum of genocide that is constantly erased and ignored as a necessary function of settler colonialism and legitimization of the American empire.

The Movement for Black Lives platform provides a necessary contribution to how we, as members of this movement, can focus our fight on toppling the oppressive structures and systems that made possible the murder of Korryn Gaines inside her own home, under the excuse that she had outstanding traffic warrants.

When we say that the police are waging “war” on our communities, it may be a bit misleading. “War” presupposes a time of peace that existed within this paradigm and suggests an alternative normal mode of functioning. We know that there has never existed an alternate safe epoch of Black life under US capitalism. Black wage theft, terror, murder and rape under slavery; the white supremacist violence used to destroy Reconstruction; the subjugation enforced under Jim Crow; and the current policing and prison nation under which we now exist all speak to the evolution of Black subjugation at the hands of the American empire. Therefore, to “End the War on Black Lives,” as the Movement for Black Lives platform states, is really to completely reconfigure Black livelihood and by proxy, all livelihood on this land. It is to take up again the serious and ultimately revolutionary question of what real post-slavery “Reconstruction” would mean. This is a vital and necessary task and the only way we will begin to craft a future on this land that does not necessitate the murder, death and misery of the many in order to benefit the few.

We refuse disillusionment at the pathetic farce of democracy the national elections attempt to portray. It is by our own hands and our own minds that we will have to study, create, debate and fight to figure out how we will make a world and a country that enable our existence to flourish. Our resilience has never been in question. What remains important and undetermined is whether we will build a movement capable of understanding the details of how our current system works to maintain itself — and capable of working to dismantle the system’s nooses from our necks.

It’s important to study the Movement for Black Lives policy platform — to discuss and debate it. We should view this as a living document with which we can build, edit, explore and/or create other proposals. This means that the increasing number of us who are called to be a part of the fight to end Black oppression in this country will have to challenge ourselves to make connections with other parts of our community that we have not yet connected with or have not yet been called to actively organize. We will have to enter into conversation and struggle with everyone in our community. That means being in the factories talking to workers, being in fast food restaurants with employees fighting for a livable wage, being on the corner, on the block, in the hood, in the laundromat, in the barber shop. We must build a mass movement that encompasses the reality of who we are, that contains class consciousness and deepens our understanding of how class oppression combined with white supremacy is the deadliest beast we have historically fought against. We must make these connections intentionally, in order to politically understand the social forces necessary to achieve the ultimate goal of ending the current policing system, and by necessary inclusion, the system that demands that such violent state apparatus exist.

We are creating our future together, and we are rejecting all preconceived notions of what we can and can’t do. We built up this country’s infrastructure through our blood, sweat, tears and death and, we will create our freedom. We are striving to create the world in which our children and children’s children will be able to live without threats of police murder, poverty, unemployment and lack of access to education and health care.

We have no choice but to resist because we cannot breathe and we cannot live in this current state. Ours is an actual fight for the right to live. We are the true right-to-life movement. Our lives matter, and we have the right to exist on this land unmarred, unthreatened and free of terror.

Posted in Human Rights, USA0 Comments

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