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Podcast: In Cleveland, Organizers Gather to Strengthen & Grow Movement for Black Lives

Following months of numerous actions across the United States, a gathering was held by the Movement for Black Lives from July 24-26 in Cleveland. The goal was to bring black organizers together to create a “collective mission that matches the intensity, scale, urgency, and promise of the moment.” It was also geared toward reflection on the history of struggle and healing from the many traumas, which black Americans have endured.

Waltrina Middleton, a member of the host committee for the gathering and an organizer/co-founder of Cleveland Action, appeared on this week’s “Unauthorized Disclosure” to highlight the critical importance of this event.

“It is important for us to communally strategize for ways that would be best for us to respond to racialized violence that we have been subjected to as a people,” Middleton declares.

She speaks about the setting of the gathering and recalled how two unarmed black people, Timothy Russell and Melissa Williams, were shot by Cleveland police 137 times, Tanisha Anderson, who was killed by Cleveland police after her family called to get her help, and John Crawford, who was killed by police while he was in a Walmart.

“There are other issues that bring us to Cleveland,” Middleton adds. “Violence against women, in particular black women, violence against LGBTQ community, particularly black trans women community, socioeconomic disparities and going into East Cleveland and seeing buildings or houses boarded up and the infrastructure that does not allow for paved roads and sidewalks going uncleared so people in the winter time are pushing wheelchairs and baby carriages in the middle of the street.”

Middleton explained there is a lack of concern for the quality of education and healthcare, basic needs which any person would want to be able to access.

During the discussion part of the show, hosts Rania Khalek and Kevin Gosztola highlight DHS surveillance of Black Lives Matter protests, the firing of a man from a Chicago police review agency for refusing to change his findings against police, and UK’s PREVENT program and anti-Muslim racism. The show’s hosts also talk a little more about the Movement for Black Lives gathering, including the role of white “allies” or white anti-racism activists in movement building.

The podcast is available on iTunes for download. For a link (and also to download the episode), go here. Click on “go here” and a page will load with the audio file of the podcast. The file will automatically start playing so you can listen to the episode.

Please follow the show on Twitter at @UnauthorizedDis.

Israel threw stun grenade at 11-year-old — Human Rights Watch

Crossposted from The Electronic Intifada

A new report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) accuses Israeli forces of subjecting detained Palestinian children to chokeholds, beatings, strip-searches and forced confessions.

The report comes in the wake of a new law approved by Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, allowing stiffer sentences for stone-throwing. Accusations of stone-throwing are routinely used by Israeli forces as a pretext to arrest, torture, jail and even kill Palestinians without consequence.

Employing the stone-throwing allegation, Israeli forces “have choked children, thrown stun grenades at them, beaten them in custody, threatened and interrogated them without the presence of parents or lawyers, and failed to let their parents know their whereabouts,” according to HRW.

HRW documented and corroborated the experiences of four boys from East Jerusalem, aged 11, 12, and 15, as well as a 14-year-old girl and 15-year-old boy from other parts of the occupied West Bank.  Read more

ADL honor for St. Louis police ahead of Ferguson anniversary sparks outrage

Crossposted from The Electronic Intifada 

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is honoring the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department (SLMPD) on 31 July, just days ahead of the first anniversary of the police killing of unarmed Black teenager Michael Brown in the St. Louis-area municipality of Ferguson, Missouri.

The purpose of the event, according to an announcement on the ADL’s website, is to celebrate 10 years since the launch of the organization’s Holocaust education program, called “Law Enforcement and Society: Lessons of the Holocaust” (LEAS).

Designed by the ADL and the Holocaust Museum, LEAS is described as “an innovative training that increases law enforcement’s understanding of their role as protectors of the American people and the Constitution.”

“By examining the Holocaust, police learn about the dangers that anti-Semitism, bigotry and bias pose to all,” according to the ADL, which boasts of having trained more than 90,000 police officers in LEAS.

The program has also been introduced to US military personnel with plans to expand its reach.

SLMPD is slated to receive special recognition for being the first law enforcement agency to participate in LEAS when it was piloted in 2004.

The program was created at the behest of former DC Metropolitan police chief and current Philadelphia top cop Charles Ramsey, whose career has been punctuated by violent crackdowns on protests and the expansion of racially discriminatory practices.

Learning about law enforcement’s role in perpetuating the Nazi Holocaust appears to have had little impact on the SLMPD, which participated in the heavily militarized crackdown against Ferguson protesters after Michael Brown’s death and continued to violently crushdemonstrations across St. Louis in the months that followed.

Cut ties with white supremacy

The ADL’s mission at its founding a century ago was to defend Jews against then rampant discrimination. In recent decades, the group’s main preoccupation has been to ferociously pursue critics of Israel and defenders of Palestinian rights.

Notoriously, the ADL spied on both Palestine solidarity and anti-apartheid activists in the 1980s.

In response to the ADL’s event honoring the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, the St. Louis chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace (STL-JVP) issued a statement beseeching “all who oppose white supremacy to cut ties with the Anti-Defamation League.”

STL-JVP said it was particularly egregious to honor “a police force whose racist shooting spree targeting Black youth continues, most recently in the shooting of 16-year-old Brandon Claxton in the face last weekend even as witnesses say he posed no threat.”

“We are disgusted by the ADL’s grotesque invocation of the Nazi Holocaust – in which countless members of our families perished – both as a tool to give the ADL and St. Louis police cover as protectors of civil rights, and to frame racism in the US solely within the context of anti-Semitism,” the statement continued.

“We have cringed as the ADL positions itself locally as a champion of racial profiling legislation while sending US police – including former St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch – to train on population control in Israel, an apartheid police state with more than 60 years of sophisticated expertise in racial profiling, mass incarceration, settler colonialism, and ethnic cleansing targeting the non-Jewish indigenous Palestinian people,” STL-JVP added.

The group takes to task mainstream Jewish organizations in St. Louis including the ADL, the Jewish Community Relations Council and the Jewish Federation whose leaders “speak the language of justice” but “are overtly racist toward Palestinians.”

“Zionism – itself a form of white supremacy that oppresses Palestinians, Jews of color, and other marginalized groups – has no place in any antiracist movement,” STL-JVP states.

The statement concludes by imploring “St. Louis Jewish leaders and organizations, especially those who have been active in Ferguson, to stop playing both sides – chanting ‘Black Lives Matter’ in the streets while working closely with racist Jewish organizations.”

Meanwhile, STL-JVP is organizing a protest outside the ADL’s police celebration and has invited broad participation.

ADL stands by police

Despite the criticism, Karen Aroesty, ADL regional director in St. Louis, is refusing to cancel the event.

“We are validating a 10-year partnership that is not simply about the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, but about more than 50 other departments in the region who have participated in this program in the last decade,” Aroesty told this reporter by telephone.

While she acknowledged bias exists in policing, Aroesty said she believes the ADL’s event is warranted and that activists who are upset by police violence need to engage more.

“Those folks who are impacted by policing, they also need to understand that they have value in that learning process and simply being angry is not going to get the job done,” Aroesty said. “And I do think there are police departments that are kind of frustrated because they feel as if it’s all being put on them to change drastically but there’s certain things that they cannot change.”

When it was suggested that police are not being held accountable for killing citizens across the country, Aroesty said it is police who are being shot in the streets.

“I wonder what happens to our trust in democracy when people feel that they can just indiscriminately shoot police officers,” she said. “What does it do to the community’s sense of stability?” Aroesty asked, referencing the ambush shooting of an officer in St. Louis on 14 July, for which she implied the community bore responsibility.

There’s no doubt that police face threats on the job, but the statistics do not compare to the often racially charged police violence against citizens they are supposedly tasked with protecting.

Of the 67 US police officers that have died “in the line of duty” so far this year, 22 were killed by gunfire or assault, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page. The rest died from previous illnesses, car crashes, heart attacks or various accidents.

In the same time period, police have killed more than 630 people – nearly ten times as many – with more than 80 deaths in July alone.

And while those who harm police officers are likely to be arrested, charged and convicted, police officers who kill are almost never held accountable.

Nonetheless, Aroesty denied that police impunity is widespread.

“I feel confidant that police officers who are in fact acting beyond the scope and abusing their discretion, that they are in fact being held accountable,” she said. “It is very very complex.”

Anti-Palestinian

Back in March, after the Jewish Community Relations Council pressured the Missouri History Museum to cancel a panel discussion on Ferguson, Palestine and the kidnapping and killing of students from Ayotzinapa College in Mexico, Aroesty applauded the censorship and encouraged the museum to contact SLMPD for assistance in quelling protests the cancellation provoked.

The ADL has repeatedly condemned solidarity between Black Americans and Palestinians, characterizing it as offensive and rooted in hostility toward Israel. It became so incensed, it compiled a blacklist of people and organizations that dared to compare state violence against Black Americans to Israeli violence against Palestinians, accusing Palestine solidarity activists of “trying to rouse support for an anti-Israel agenda by attracting like-minded activists.”

The main connection activists recognize from St. Louis to Palestine is the training relationship between US law enforcement agencies and Israel.

“That’s hogwash!” Aroesty interjected before this reporter could finish asking a question about the fact that senior commanders from numerous US police departments routinely travel to Israel to “learn” from state security and occupation forces. Many of these junkets are organized by the ADL.

“Sure, the Israelis have, because of their security issues, a unique capacity for training police chiefs from around the country who have been going [to Israel],” Aroesty conceded. “And a number of different agencies, not just ADL, sponsor training programs.”

Under the cover of “counterterrorism training” senior commanders from nearly every major US law enforcement agency have traveled to Israel, including the St. Louis County and St. Louis Metropolitan police departments.

In 2011, then St. Louis County Police Department chief Timothy Fitch attended the ADL’s National Counter-Terrorism Seminar, an annual week-long Israeli training camp where US law enforcement executives “study first hand Israel’s tactics and strategies” directly from “senior commanders in the Israel National Police, experts from Israel’s intelligence and security services and the Israel Defense Forces,” according to the ADL’s own website.

While Aroesty acknowledged Fitch’s participation, she rejected as “factually incorrect” any suggestion that the training had any impact on the behavior of St. Louis police in the weeks following Michael Brown’s death.

But on its website, the ADL boasts of sending more than 175 senior US law enforcement officials from 100 different agencies to the seminar since 2004, proudly stating that they are “taking the lessons they learned in Israel back to the United States.”

Still, Areosty insisted that the training junkets “had nothing to do with any of the police tactics or the optics that were experienced in the couple of weeks after Michael Brown was shot.”

She insisted that any criticism of the training programs and ADL’s role in them “was about the ideological goals of the anti-Israel movement” which was intent on using “whatever they could to make their point … whether they were factual or not.”

The protests the ADL’s event is sparking suggest that it getting harder for the pro-Israel group to pose as both a champion of civil rights in the US while defending the police forces that routinely trample those rights with impunity.

In Support of Rania Khalek and Debate on Issues of Justice and Equality.

Originally posted on The South Lawn:

I really should not even have to write this post. I doubt that most would ever understand what makes this post necessary.

In fact, whenever I have to explain the stuff that happens on social media to people who spend little to no time in that world, they express a sense of puzzlement at best. It is almost as if I have told them that the oceans are purple, or that I have a third eye in the back of my head.

So you can imagine the time that I have had explaining the stuff that has happened to Rania Khalek — a journalist that is committed to anti-imperialist struggle both here and in Palestine, as well as a dear friend — over the last few days. Rania made the dastardly mistake of lightlyquestioning an organizing strategy being forwarded around by luminaries in a section of Twitter popularly known…

View original 576 more words

Podcast: Right-Wing Attacks on Outspoken Muslims and Anti-Muslim Racism in the UK

Telegraph writer Andrew Gilligan has a history of right-wing attacks against radical Muslims in the United Kingdom and smear them in his reporting. Gilligan’s latest attack was against Abdullah al-Andalusi, an Islamic lecturer and writer.

Al-Andalusi was the target of Gilligan’s slimy attack because he has worked for the public sector in the UK. Gilligan questioned whether Muslims should be permitted to work civil service jobs and tried to gin up additional fear by shamefully distorting al-Andalusi’s previous writing to make him seem like an Islamic State sympathizer. He is this week’s guest on the “Unauthorized Disclosure” podcast.

Astonishingly, despite the fact that al-Andalusi has a public persona and six years of lectures, writings, and television appearances, Gilligan still managed to cut-and-paste sentences from an article denouncing the Islamic State in order to argue al-Andalusi supported the Islamic State.

Al-Andalusi had crossed the line in the eyes of reactionaries in the British press when he compared ISIS practices to previous atrocities committed by British or US armies in the Middle East. However, as he points out, he is not the first person to put forward this analysis condemning any entity, including Western governments, which commit crimes against humanity.

He explains during the interview how he is cast as some kind of terrorist sympathizer because he is Muslim, even though others like writer/lecturer Noam Chomsky have also made similar arguments.

“That kind of discrimination is the epitome of the kind of unequal treatment and consideration Muslims are given vis-à-vis non-Muslim citizens,” in the United Kingdom, al-Andalusi adds. He goes on to address programs, such as PREVENT, and other tactics by the British government to address Islamic extremism and describes how these policies fuel and are reinforced by anti-Muslim racism.

During the discussion portion, hosts Rania Khalek and Kevin Gosztola discuss the Chattanooga shooting, Saudi Arabia rounding up over 400 people suspected of involvement in Islamic State plots, the Iran nuclear deal, Obama’s NAACP speech, and Sandra Bland.

The podcast is available on iTunes for download. For a link (and also to download the episode), go here. Click on “go here” and a page will load with the audio file of the podcast. The file will automatically start playing so you can listen to the episode.

Please follow the show on Twitter at @UnauthorizedDis.

Israelis share photos of children demanding death to “terrorists”

Photos of Israeli children posted to Facebook holding signs calling for the death penalty against “terrorists” (faces obscured by The Electronic Intifada).

Crossposted from The Electronic Intifada

A Facebook campaign demanding the execution of “terrorists” went viral in Israel last weekend, with Israelis posting photos of themselves, their children and their pets holding signs demanding the death penalty.

The campaign was launched by Sharon Gal, a former journalist and first-term lawmaker from the far right Yisrael Beiteinu party.

Gal recently sponsored legislation that would have made it easier for judges to sentence ”convicted murderer[s] motivated by nationalism” to death both inside Israel and the occupied West Bank.

Though Israel already has a death penalty option on the books, a death sentence hasn’t been carried out since the hanging of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in 1962. The true purpose of the bill was not the death penalty, it was racist incitement catering to the right-wing chauvinism surging through the Israeli Jewish public after reaching its peak during last summer’s brutal assault on Gaza.

Indeed, the bill is the partial fulfillment of one of many fanatical campaign promises by Yisrael Beiteinu chair Avigdor Lieberman, who rallied his right-wing base during election season by calling for the execution of Palestinian prisoners and the beheading of Palestinians disloyal to the state of Israel.

Bezalel Smotrich, a freshman lawmaker from the ultra-nationalist Habeyit Hayehudi (Jewish Home) party and a deputy speaker in the Knesset, attempted to outdo Gal by offering to personally carry out the executions during an appearance on Israel’s Knesset Channel.

“Death to terrorists”

On 8 July, in the lead up to the death penalty bill vote that was ultimately shelved by Netanyahu at the last minute, Gal initiated a Facebook campaign calling on Israelis to pressure the government to support the bill by sharing photos of themselves on social media holding signs that read ”I too am in favor of the death penalty for terrorists.”

“Terrorist” is a loose term in the Israeli lexicon that is interchangeable with “Arab” and applies exclusively to Palestinians. In effect, “death to terrorists” amounts to a thinly veiled version of the far more common Israeli slogan “death to Arabs.”

The response to Gal’s Facebook post was overwhelming, garnering nearly 24,000 likes and more than 1,500 replies, with all but a handful of people pledging their support.

While the unsettling incitement to violence from Israeli politicians is nothing new, this latest campaign highlighted a disturbing trend. Israelis posted photos not just of themselves but also small children agitating for executions. This comes in the aftermath of the Jerusalem Day march in April, when The Electronic Intifada documented the participation of children in “death to the Arabs” marches, suggesting an alarming pattern of ever younger children being steeped in Israel’s culture of supremacist violence.

A commenter named Efrat Trister responded to Gal’s Facebook post with a photo of two little girls clutching the pro-death penalty message. Trister added ”They may be small but they are also smart.”

 “My 12-year-old niece also joins the campaign, representing the children,” wrote another commenter who shared a photo of a smiling girl posing with the sign.

Gal jubilantly responded, “More power to you and your niece. You have no idea how much this affects the ministers, who will decide on Sunday whether or not to give their support. We’ve got to continue this until Sunday — more and more Israelis — the more photos the better, here and around the Internet.”

Shira Pahima posted a photo of a happy little girl and a man, possibly her father, holding the same sign, which reads, “Stop tying up the soldiers’ hands, if someone sets out to kill you — kill him first, long live the Jewish state of Israel, all respect to the IDF [Israeli army].”

Obviously these children cannot be held responsible for the views they are advertising, which is why The Electronic Intifada has chosen to pixelate their faces in all these photos (the originals were posted to Facebook without any such protection). Many of the children are too small to even read the messages they are holding. This does however reflect how the violent extremism coursing through Israeli society travels from the top down, incited by government officials like Sharon Gal and Bezalel Smotrich.

It also speaks to the normalization of Jewish extremism within Israel, which has become so casual and accepted that parents see no problem with posting photos of their children championing execution.

Israelis similarly staged photos of their pets holding pro-death penalty signs:

Selection of photos posted to Facebook by Israelis of their pets with messages demanding the death penalty for ”terrorists.”

Israelis are not ashamed to publicize their racism and bloodlust.

A man by the name Oren Shtinberg was elated to see his photo featured on Israeli television.

“I’m honored to have had my photo appear today on Oded Ben Ami’s six o’clock news show. I’m crossing my fingers that this law will pass and be implemented without delay!!!” wrote Shtinberg in a Facebook post. Gal replied, “More power to you, Oren. Every photo brings us closer to the goal. The ministers in the committee will not be able to ignore 87 percent of support among the nation of Israel on Sunday.”

A commenter by the name of Lana Letichevski seemed to view the scourge of police murders of US citizens as a source of inspiration, saying: ”This has got to be put into place. It’s not possible that in the US cops can shoot terrorists and here they can’t!!! Instead, they’re sent for a 5-star prison to study for a degree!!”

Oz Maoz added, “I’m also for the death penalty for terrorists and stone-throwers!!!”

Shlomi Eliyahu remarked, “I hope it passes, they [Palestinians] should start to think twice before they pick up a rock even if it’s to play hopscotch.”

Udishiri Ohayon, who identified as a US military veteran, said, “I too, as a former US soldier and a proud Israeli definitely death to terrorists, founders and supporters of terror. Add in various stone throwers, suicide-committers, and firebomb throwers. No excuse, no pity. I’m in!”

The conflation of throwing of rocks at Israeli soldiers with terrorism is a common view among Israelis. Some have even agitated for executing stone throwers on sight, even if they are children.

A commenter by the name Moshe Shecheter posted a photo of a gun with magazine clips full of ammo surrounding the message, “Bibi, unchain our hands.”

Israelis often complain that occupying soldiers are unfairly restrained when dealing with Palestinians, despite reality being the complete opposite.

A commenter named Vered Ben Shitrit shared a photo of herself holding the pro-death penalty sign while wearing her military uniform.

Nir Balinco shared an image of the US flag with the comment, “All of us also want a death penalty for terrorists!!!! Including their family!!!”

While there was little pushback against Gal’s incitement campaign, the few who publicly opposed it were deluged with vitriolic threats. Social justice and human rights blogger Yossi Gurvitz was one of them.

Appalled by Gal’s Facebook campaign, Gurvitz replied with a photo of himself holding a sign that reads:

I also support the death penalty FOR SHARON GAL after a short but fair trial.

(Based on the precedent of JULIUS STREICHER at Nuremberg, who was executed for racist incitement, which was found to be a crime against humanity.)

(Google that, Gal. And try to think of better last words than his. You’re both “journalists.”)

Gurvitz was instantly deluged with an unprecedented volume of threats, some of which he posted to Twitter.

“I wish everyone here painful death, you are haters of Israel, sharmutas [Arabic for whore] of Arabs, you are not Jews, you’re rabble,” cried one angry commenter. ”People like you should be stoned in the city square, you garbage can,” added another. “Sometimes I wonder why Hitler only did half the job,” another remarked.

“I wanted to remind people that incitement to racism may become, if people act on it, a crime against humanity, and that people have been punished for it,” Gurvitz told me over email. “I expected some hatred in return — I’m rather used to it — but I was frankly surprised by the volume of it,” he continued. “I received more death threats and rape threats in the last two days than I received in the last two years.”

Racist incitement

Gurvitz attributed the lack of opposition to the incitement campaign to a weak Israeli left.

“There was some push-back, aged leftists expressing their shock and dismay (which is a specialty of the species), but hardly any coherent action against it. The signs themselves are of course legal, but the Israeli left has little power in it to actually oppose it,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, the ritualistic incitement to violence by Israelis on social media, encouraged by top government officials, has proven deadly for Palestinians.

A new report by a group called the Coalition Against Racism finds that a sharp rise in anti-Arab attacks since 2013 coincided with racist incitement by Israeli elected officials and decision makers.

Netanyahu’s incitement to revenge for the killing of three Israeli teens last year led to the burning alive of Muhammad Abu Khudair by Jewish extremists who met at a right-wing “death to the Arabs” rally the day before that may have been organized online.

Emboldened by an Israeli public and its leaders cheering for executions, trigger-happy Israeli soldiers will more than likely crank up the violence. As for the vigilantes, there’s no predicting who or where they will target next, but when they do, they will not have acted alone.

With translation from Hebrew by Dena Shunra.

 

Podcast: The Threat of Unspecified Terrorism Attacks by People Who Shall Not Be Named is Very Real

There were no Islamic State-inspired terrorism attacks on or around the Fourth of July in the United States, but CNN and other major US media organizations expended much energy spreading fear far and wide so Americans would be on edge throughout the holiday weekend. And, when nothing happened, FBI Director James Comey fabricated claims that terrorism suspects arrested in June were at one point prepared to attack on July 4.

At least ten individuals were said to have been arrested with Islamic State ties. These were the people, who the FBI allegedly stopped from attacking Americans on Independence Day, and that justified all the hysteria in the media around potential terrorism. However, the government’s own complaints against them contain no allegations that any of their planned acts were being timed to coincide with the holiday.

Officially, the FBI would not back up its claims with specifics. “We are not providing any information beyond what you’re seeing in media reports. There was no information provided on specific individual[s] or what they hoped to do,” an FBI spokesperson replied to a request for evidence.

On the “Unauthorized Disclosure” podcast this week, Adam Johnson (@adamjohnsonNYC), associate editor at AlterNet.org and contributing writer to Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), joins the show. Johnson has been aggressively questioning and exposing all aspects of the bogus terror warnings hyped by the government and media recently. He details what drives media outlets like CNN to hype terror warnings that cannot be backed up by specific threats and talks about the FBI being at least zero for forty when it comes to issuing terror warnings that resulted in attacks.

During the discussion part of the episode, the show’s hosts, Rania Khalek and Kevin Gosztola, cover a federal judge’s order to prepare the release of videos of a former Guantanamo prisoner being force-fed, a major review showing American Psychological Association officials protected national security psychologists involved in US torture, the one-year anniversary of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, US strikes which killed over 100 people in Afghanistan, and Lindsey Graham saying peace activists make the world dangerous as he bellowed about bombing Iran.

The podcast is available on iTunes for download. For a link (and also to download the episode), go here. Click on “go here” and a page will load with the audio file of the podcast. The file will automatically start playing so you can listen to the episode. And please follow the show on Twitter at @UnauthorizedDis.

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