Progressive Calendar 01.20.09
From: David Shove (shove001tc.umn.edu)
Date: Tue, 20 Jan 2009 03:18:57 -0800 (PST)
             P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R   01.20.09

1. Overcoming Zionism 1.20 5pm
2. RNC court watch    1.20 6pm
3. Salon              1.20 6:30pm
4. NW Neighbors CC    1.20 7pm

5. Billboards yuk     1.21 12noon
6. Citizen video      1.21 12noon
7. Econmelt           1.21 6pm
8. RNC 8 fundraiser   1.21 7pm

9. Tommy Stevenson  - "This Land Is Your Land" like Woody wrote it
10. Michael Parenti - Capitalism's self-inflicted apocalypse
11. Kevin Gray - S Africa to Israel: time for a new divestment campaign

--------1 of 11-------

From: Eric Angell <eric-angell [at] riseup.net>
Subject: Overcoming Zionism 1.20 5pm

Sure-footed St. Paul Neighborhood Network (SPNN) viewers:
"Our World In Depth" cablecasts on SPNN Channel 15 on Tuesdays at 5pm,
midnight and Wednesday mornings at 10am, after DemocracyNow!  All
households with basic cable may watch.

Tues, 1/20, 5pm & midnight and Wed, 1/21, 10am
Overcoming Zionism with Joel Kovel

A secular Jew (and eco-socialist), Joel Kovel is a great American thinker
and author of many books. Once a practicing psychiatrist and
psychoanalyst, Kovel is now a Professor of Social Studies at Bard College
in NY.  Kovel's 2007 book, "Overcoming Zionism", was briefly banned due to
its critique of Israel. In late 2008 Joel Kovel visited the Twin Cities
and spoke about "Overcoming Zionism" and the struggle to get these ideas
out to the U.S. public.  Includes Q and A.


--------2 of 11--------

From: Do'ii <syncopatingrhythmsabyss [at] gmail.com>
Subject: RNC court watch 1.20 6pm

RNC Court Watchers are in need of participants to help with organizing
court information, documentation and etc.  RNC Court Watchers Meetings are
every Tuesday, 6 P.M. at Caffeto's. Below is announcement for our
meetings.

Preemptive raids, over 800 people arrested, police brutality on the
streets and torture in Ramsey County Jail. Police have indiscriminately
used rubber bullets, concussion grenades, tasers and chemical irritants to
disperse crowds and incapacitate peaceful, nonviolent protesters. The
RNC-8 and others are facing felonies and years in jail. We must fight this
intimidation, harassment and abuse!

Join the RNC Court Solidarity Meeting this coming Tuesday at Caffetto's to
find out how you can make a difference in the lives of many innocent
people.

Caffetto's Coffeehouse and Gallery (612)872-0911 708 W 22nd Street,
Minneapolis, MN 55405
Every Tuesday @ 6:00 P.M to 7:00 P.M
participate and help organize RNC court solidarity.
For more information, please contact: rnccourtwatch [at] gmail.com
THE PEOPLE UNITED WILL NEVER BE DEFEATED!


--------3 of 11--------

From: patty <pattypax [at] earthlink.net>
Subject: Salon 1.20 6:30pm

To celebrate the Inauguration of President Obama, Tuesday, Jan 20, we will
have a night to let him know what we want him to do as our President.  I
will have postcards, but if you have any cards you want to get rid of, we
can use them, too.

Pax Salons ( http://justcomm.org/pax-salon )
are held (unless otherwise noted in advance):
Tuesdays, 6:30 to 8:30 pm.
Mad Hatter's Tea House,
943 W 7th, St Paul, MN

Salons are free but donations encouraged for program and treats.
Call 651-227-3228 or 651-227-2511 for information.


--------4 of 11--------

From: Allan Hancock <alforgreens [at] gmail.com>
Subject: NW Neighbors CC 1.20 7pm

Now that the legislative session has begun it is time to weigh in as
citizens to see that our elected representatives at the state and local
level hear our voices.  As a previous candidate for the state legislature
I would like to continue the dialog with friends and neighbors.

Please join other neighbors at the Brookdale library, 6125 Shingle Creek
Pk on Tuesday, January 20 at 7PM.in meeting room I.  This meeting will be
a non-partisan town hall forum.

Following our discussions an agenda for future meetings will be set and
anyone interested can join me at the Capitol in January to lobby for some
of your concerns.

Refreshments will be served.

Any questions or need a ride please contact:
Allan Hancock, Community Organizer
(763)-561-9758 or email: hancock46B [at] gmail.com


-------5 of 11--------

From: Gerry Mischke <mail [at] geraldmischke.com>
Subject: Billboards yuk 1.21 12noon

Please Come To A Very Special Event - All Are Welcome!
Saint Paul Billboards Brown Bag Lunch Slideshow & Discussion
Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at Noon in Room 40 of City Hall (Lower Level
of Court House)

There will be an open discussion and brown bag lunch for anyone concerned
with Saint Paul's environment, quality of life and scenic beauty. The
highlight of this brown bag lunch will be the "world premiere" of a video
slideshow, produced by Scenic Saint Paul volunteers, showing every
billboard in Saint Paul - all 561 of them - ward by ward.

We invite people on all sides of this issue, including district councils,
community business associations, city staff, elected officials, chambers
of commerce, and the billboard industry, to engage in a meaningful
discussion about the future of outdoor advertising in Saint Paul. Whether
you appreciate billboards or not, it is our goal to share information
regarding the impact that city and state legislation has had on this issue
in Saint Paul.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009, from Noon to 1pm
Room 40 in the lower level of the City Hall/Court House
Cookies and beverages will be provided. Please bring your own lunch.

co-hosts for this event include:

The CapitolRiver Council
Dayton's Bluff District 4 Community Council
Friends of the Parks and Trails of Saint Paul and Ramsey County
Hamline Midway Coalition
Historic Irvine Park Association
The Ross Group
Saint Anthony Park Community Council
Scenic Minnesota
Scenic Saint Paul
University United
West Seventh/Fort Road Federation

==
From: John Mannillo <john [at] mannillowomack.com>

 We have four additional co-hosts:
Friends of the Mississippi River
Saint Paul Parks Conservancy
Macalester Groveland Community Council (D 14)
West Side Community Council (D 3)


--------6 of 11--------

From: Women Against Military Madness <wamm [at] mtn.org>
Subject: Citizen video 1.21 12noon

Brown Bag Lunch with "The Uptake" Co-Founder Chuck Olson
Wednesday, January 21, Noon East Lake Public Library, 2727 East Lake
Street, Minneapolis.

Chuck Olsen is a cofounder of "The Uptake," a non-profit dedicated to
training and distributing the work of video- based citizen journalists -
and source of some of the best news coverage of the 2008 RNC protests. He
is also the founder of "Minnesota Stories," called one of the best
videoblogs by the New York Times. He is the producer-director of
"Blogumentary," the first documentary film about the rise of political and
personal blogs. His work has screened at the Walker Art Center, Get Reel
Documentary Film Festival, Harvard University, and on renegade laptops all
around the world. He is the Minneapolis correspondent for "Rocketboom" and
works as a freelance producer, videographer, editor and educator.
Sponsored by: the Twin Cities Media Alliance. Endorsed by: WAMM.


--------7 of 11--------

From: Stefanie Levi <stefalala [at] yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: Econmelt 1.21 6pm

[economic meltdown]
The January ECAG Organizing Meeting will be on Wednesday the 21st,
starting at 6:00 p. m., in the Walker Community Methodist Church basement.

Walker Church is located on the corner of 16th Avenue South and 31st
Street in Minneapolis.  Accessibility elevator is located on the 31st
Street side of the building; there's a blue awning over the door there.


--------8 of 11--------

From: Michelle Gross <mgresist [at] visi.com>
Subject: RNC 8 fundraiser 1.21 7pm

RNC 8 FUNDRAISER
Wednesday, January 21
7:00 p.m.
Black Dog Cafe, 308 Prince St, St. Paul

As part of the ongoing Looking Back, Moving Forward photographic exhibit
of RNC images, there will be a fundraiser for the RNC 8, our brothers and
sisters who face serious charges just for organizing dissent.  Musical
entertainment includes Junkyard Empire and Pockets of Resistance.  Come
see the great photos--including some contributed by CUAPB
copwatchers--then stay for a great meal and great music.  All ages.  No
cover but donations welcome.


--------9 of 11--------

"This Land Is Your Land" Like Woody Wrote It
by: Tommy Stevenson, Tuscaloosa News (AL)
Sunday 18 January 2009
http://blogs.tuscaloosanews.com/default.asp?item=2317698
From: moderator [at] PORTSIDE.ORG

Bee Branch - At the conclusion of today's concert for president-elect
Barack Obama 89-year-old Pete Seeger joined Bruce Springsteen for a
sing-along with perhaps half a million people of Woody Guthrie's "This
Land Is Your Land," which I dare say practically everyone in the country
knows from childhood.

But sly old Pete, who actually hoboed with Woody during the Depression and
Dust Bowl, had the crowd sing the song as it was actually written, as not
only a celebration of this great land, but as a demand for workers' and
people's rights. That is, he restored the verses that have been censored
from the song over the years to make it less political:

There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me; Sign was painted,
it said private property; But on the back side it didn't say nothing; That
side was made for you and me.

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people, By the relief office I seen
my people; As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking Is this land
made for you and me?

Nobody living can ever stop me, As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back This land was made for you and
me.

The "relief office," of course, refers to the ad hoc soup bowls and such
set up during the Depression before the New Deal began to get the social
security net we have all depended upon since the 1930s in place.

Seeger, like Guthrie, has been a controversial figure at times during his
life, questioned by the witch hunting committees of Congress in the 1950s,
black listed, and even banded from television as late as the late 1960s.

But while he hasn't got much of a voice left anymore and did not attempt
to play his banjo today, it was wonderful to see the gleam in his
subversive eye as he did his call and response with the throngs in front
of the Lincoln Memorial.

Somewhere Woody - and Leadbelly, and Sonny and Cisco and the rest of the
great balladeers of that bygone era - are smiling tonight.

-----

Full Lyrics

    This Land Is Your Land
    Words and Music by Woody Guthrie

    Chorus:
    This land is your land, this land is my land
    From California, to the New York Island
    From the redwood forest, to the gulf stream waters
    This land was made for you and me

    As I was walking a ribbon of highway
    I saw above me an endless skyway
    I saw below me a golden valley
    This land was made for you and me

    Chorus

    I've roamed and rambled and I've followed my footsteps
    To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
    And all around me a voice was sounding
    This land was made for you and me

    Chorus

    The sun comes shining as I was strolling
    The wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling
    The fog was lifting a voice come chanting
    This land was made for you and me

    Chorus

    As I was walkin' - I saw a sign there
    And that sign said - no tress passin'
    But on the other side .... it didn't say nothin!
    Now that side was made for you and me!

    Chorus

    In the squares of the city - In the shadow of the
      steeple
    Near the relief office - I see my people
    And some are grumblin' and some are wonderin'
    If this land's still made for you and me.

    Chorus (2x)

[Our masters censor what they don't like. It helps put themselves up, and
us down. Why do we put up with it? -ed]


--------10 of 11--------

Capitalism's Self-inflicted Apocalypse
By Michael Parenti
January, 19 2009
ZNet

After the overthrow of communist governments in Eastern Europe, capitalism
was paraded as the indomitable system that brings prosperity and
democracy, the system that would prevail unto the end of history.

The present economic crisis, however, has convinced even some prominent
free-marketeers that something is gravely amiss. Truth be told, capitalism
has yet to come to terms with several historical forces that cause it
endless trouble: democracy, prosperity, and capitalism itself, the very
entities that capitalist rulers claim to be fostering.

                     Plutocracy vs. Democracy

Let us consider democracy first. In the United States we hear that
capitalism is wedded to democracy, hence the phrase, "capitalist
democracies." In fact, throughout our history there has been a largely
antagonistic relationship between democracy and capital concentration.
Some eighty years ago Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis commented, "We
can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth
concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both." Moneyed
interests have been opponents not proponents of democracy.

The Constitution itself was fashioned by affluent gentlemen who gathered
in Philadelphia in 1787 to repeatedly warn of the baneful and dangerous
leveling effects of democracy. The document they cobbled together was far
from democratic, being shackled with checks, vetoes, and requirements for
artificial super majorities, a system designed to blunt the impact of
popular demands.

In the early days of the Republic the rich and well-born imposed property
qualifications for voting and officeholding. They opposed the direct
election of candidates (note, their Electoral College is still with us).
And for decades they resisted extending the franchise to less favored
groups such as propertyless working men, immigrants, racial minorities,
and women.

Today conservative forces continue to reject more equitable electoral
features such as proportional representation, instant runoff, and publicly
funded campaigns. They continue to create barriers to voting, be it
through overly severe registration requirements, voter roll purges,
inadequate polling accommodations, and electronic voting machines that
consistently "malfunction" to the benefit of the more conservative
candidates.

At times ruling interests have suppressed radical publications and public
protests, resorting to police raids, arrests, and jailings - applied most
recently with full force against demonstrators in St. Paul, Minnesota,
during the 2008 Republican National Convention.

The conservative plutocracy also seeks to rollback democracy's social
gains, such as public education, affordable housing, health care,
collective bargaining, a living wage, safe work conditions, a non-toxic
sustainable environment; the right to privacy, the separation of church
and state, freedom from compulsory pregnancy, and the right to marry any
consenting adult of one's own choosing.

About a century ago, US labor leader Eugene Victor Debs was thrown into
jail during a strike. Sitting in his cell he could not escape the
conclusion that in disputes between two private interests, capital and
labor, the state was not a neutral arbiter. The force of the state - with
its police, militia, courts, and laws - was unequivocally on the side of
the company bosses. From this, Debs concluded that capitalism was not just
an economic system but an entire social order, one that rigged the rules
of democracy to favor the moneybags.

Capitalist rulers continue to pose as the progenitors of democracy even as
they subvert it, not only at home but throughout Latin America, Africa,
Asia, and the Middle East. Any nation that is not "investor friendly,"
that attempts to use its land, labor, capital, natural resources, and
markets in a self-developing manner, outside the dominion of transnational
corporate hegemony, runs the risk of being demonized and targeted as "a
threat to U.S. national security."

Democracy becomes a problem for corporate America not when it fails to
work but when it works too well, helping the populace move toward a more
equitable and livable social order, narrowing the gap, however modestly,
between the superrich and the rest of us.  So democracy must be diluted
and subverted, smothered with disinformation, media puffery, and mountains
of campaign costs; with rigged electoral contests and partially
disfranchised publics, bringing faux victories to more or less politically
safe major-party candidates.

                    Capitalism vs. Prosperity

The corporate capitalists no more encourage prosperity than do they
propagate democracy. Most of the world is capitalist, and most of the
world is neither prosperous nor particularly democratic. One need only
think of capitalist Nigeria, capitalist Indonesia, capitalist Thailand,
capitalist Haiti, capitalist Colombia, capitalist Pakistan, capitalist
South Africa, capitalist Latvia, and various other members of the Free
World - more accurately, the Free Market World.

A prosperous, politically literate populace with high expectations about
its standard of living and a keen sense of entitlement, pushing for
continually better social conditions, is not the plutocracy's notion of an
ideal workforce and a properly pliant polity. Corporate investors prefer
poor populations. The poorer you are, the harder you will work - for less.
The poorer you are, the less equipped you are to defend yourself against
the abuses of wealth.

In the corporate world of "free-trade," the number of billionaires is
increasing faster than ever while the number of people living in poverty
is growing at a faster rate than the world's population. Poverty spreads
as wealth accumulates.

Consider the United States. In the last eight years alone, while vast
fortunes accrued at record rates, an additional six million Americans sank
below the poverty level; median family income declined by over $2,000;
consumer debt more than doubled; over seven million Americans lost their
health insurance, and more than four million lost their pensions;
meanwhile homelessness increased and housing foreclosures reached pandemic
levels.

It is only in countries where capitalism has been reined in to some degree
by social democracy that the populace has been able to secure a measure of
prosperity; northern European nations such as Sweden, Norway, Finland, and
Denmark come to mind. But even in these social democracies popular gains
are always at risk of being rolled back.

It is ironic to credit capitalism with the genius of economic prosperity
when most attempts at material betterment have been vehemently and
sometimes violently resisted by the capitalist class. The history of labor
struggle provides endless illustration of this.

To the extent that life is bearable under the present U.S. economic order,
it is because millions of people have waged bitter class struggles to
advance their living standards and their rights as citizens, bringing some
measure of humanity to an otherwise heartless politico-economic order.

                     A Self-devouring Beast

The capitalist state has two roles long recognized by political thinkers.
First, like any state it must provide services that cannot be reliably
developed through private means, such as public safety and orderly
traffic. Second, the capitalist state protects the haves from the
have-nots, securing the process of capital accumulation to benefit the
moneyed interests, while heavily circumscribing the demands of the working
populace, as Debs observed from his jail cell.

There is a third function of the capitalist state seldom mentioned. It
consists of preventing the capitalist system from devouring itself.
Consider the core contradiction Karl Marx pointed to: the tendency toward
overproduction and market crisis. An economy dedicated to speedups and
wage cuts, to making workers produce more and more for less and less, is
always in danger of a crash. To maximize profits, wages must be kept down.
But someone has to buy the goods and services being produced. For that,
wages must be kept up. There is a chronic tendency - as we are seeing
today - toward overproduction of private sector goods and services and
underconsumption of necessities by the working populace.

In addition, there is the frequently overlooked self-destruction created
by the moneyed players themselves. If left completely unsupervised, the
more active command component of the financial system begins to devour
less organized sources of wealth.

Instead of trying to make money by the arduous task of producing and
marketing goods and services, the marauders tap directly into the money
streams of the economy itself. During the 1990s we witnessed the collapse
of an entire economy in Argentina when unchecked free marketeers stripped
enterprises, pocketed vast sums, and left the country's productive
capacity in shambles. The Argentine state, gorged on a heavy diet of
free-market ideology, faltered in its function of saving capitalism from
the capitalists.

Some years later, in the United States, came the multi-billion-dollar
plunder perpetrated by corporate conspirators at Enron, WorldCom, Harkin,
Adelphia, and a dozen other major companies. Inside players like Ken Lay
turned successful corporate enterprises into sheer wreckage, wiping out
the jobs and life savings of thousands of employees in order to pocket
billions.

These thieves were caught and convicted. Does that not show capitalism's
self-correcting capacity? Not really. The prosecution of such malfeasance
- in any case coming too late - was a product of democracy's
accountability and transparency, not capitalism's. Of itself the free
market is an amoral system, with no strictures save caveat emptor.

In the meltdown of 2008-09 the mounting financial surplus created a
problem for the moneyed class: there were not enough opportunities to
invest. With more money than they knew what to do with, big investors
poured immense sums into nonexistent housing markets and other dodgy
ventures, a legerdemain of hedge funds, derivatives, high leveraging,
credit default swaps, predatory lending, and whatever else.

Among the victims were other capitalists, small investors, and the many
workers who lost billions of dollars in savings and pensions. Perhaps the
premiere brigand was Bernard Madoff. Described as "a longstanding leader
in the financial services industry," Madoff ran a fraudulent fund that
raked in $50 billion from wealthy investors, paying them back "with money
that wasn't there," as he himself put it. The plutocracy devours its own
children.

In the midst of the meltdown, at an October 2008 congressional hearing,
former chair of the Federal Reserve and orthodox free-market devotee Alan
Greenspan confessed that he had been mistaken to expect moneyed interests
- groaning under an immense accumulation of capital that needs to be
invested somewhere - to suddenly exercise self-restraint.

The classic laissez-faire theory is even more preposterous than Greenspan
made it.  In fact, the theory claims that everyone should pursue their own
selfish interests without restraint. This unbridled competition supposedly
will produce maximum benefits for all because the free market is governed
by a miraculously benign "invisible hand" that optimizes collective
outputs. ("Greed is good.")

Is the crisis of 2008-09 caused by a chronic tendency toward
overproduction and hyper-financial accumulation, as Marx would have it? Or
is it the outcome of the personal avarice of people like Bernard Madoff?
In other words, is the problem systemic or individual?  In fact, the two
are not mutually exclusive. Capitalism breeds the venal perpetrators, and
rewards the most unscrupulous among them.  The crimes and crises are not
irrational departures from a rational system, but the converse: they are
the rational outcomes of a basically irrational and amoral system.

Worse still, the ensuing multi-billion dollar government bailouts are
themselves being turned into an opportunity for pillage. Not only does the
state fail to regulate, it becomes itself a source of plunder, pulling
vast sums from the federal money machine, leaving the taxpayers to bleed.

Those who scold us for "running to the government for a handout" are
themselves running to the government for a handout. Corporate America has
always enjoyed grants-in-aid, loan guarantees, and other state and federal
subventions. But the 2008-09 "rescue operation" offered a record feed at
the public trough. More than $350 billion was dished out by a right-wing
lame-duck Secretary of the Treasury to the biggest banks and financial
houses without oversight - not to mention the more than $4 trillion that
has come from the Federal Reserve.  Most of the banks, including JPMorgan
Chase and Bank of New York Mellon, stated that they had no intention of
letting anyone know where the money was going.

The big bankers used some of the bailout, we do know, to buy up smaller
banks and prop up banks overseas. CEOs and other top banking executives
are spending bailout funds on fabulous bonuses and lavish corporate spa
retreats. Meanwhile, big bailout beneficiaries like Citigroup and Bank of
America laid off tens of thousands of employees, inviting the question:
why were they given all that money in the first place?

While hundreds of billions were being doled out to the very people who had
caused the catastrophe, the housing market continued to wilt, credit
remained paralyzed, unemployment worsened, and consumer spending sank to
record lows.

In sum, free-market corporate capitalism is by its nature a disaster
waiting to happen. Its essence is the transformation of living nature into
mountains of commodities and commodities into heaps of dead capital.
When left entirely to its own devices, capitalism foists its diseconomies
and toxicity upon the general public and upon the natural environment -
and eventually begins to devour itself.

The immense inequality in economic power that exists in our capitalist
society translates into a formidable inequality of political power, which
makes it all the more difficult to impose democratic regulations.

If the paladins of Corporate America want to know what really threatens
"our way of life," it is their way of life, their boundless way of
pilfering their own system, destroying the very foundation on which they
stand, the very community on which they so lavishly feed.

Michael Parenti's recent books include: Contrary Notions: The Michael
Parenti Reader (City Lights); Democracy for the Few, 8th ed. (Wadsworth);
and God and His Demons (forthcoming).  For further information, visit his
website: www.michaelparenti.org.


--------11 of 11--------

>From South Africa to Israel
Time for a New Divestment Campaign
By KEVIN ALEXANDER GRAY
CounterPunch
January 19, 2009

Barack Obama's inauguration coming as we celebrate of Martin Luther King
Day predictably draws linkages between the two. Many use Obama's election
to claim a realization of the "dream". Others mumble something about a
post-racial America. I suspect that King, if alive, would reject such
nonsense. Although when asked "who he thought King would support" in the
2008 primary campaign Obama made a good case for answering "Nobody," it is
possible that King may have supported Obama.

King was a politician of sorts, although not so much at the time of his
assassination. We love King now, but at the end of his life he wasn't so
popular. Younger activists criticized him and called him names such as "Da
Lord" - mocking his once high place in civil rights politics. President
Lyndon B. Johnson and a host of government officials, local and national,
condemned him when he spoke out against the Vietnam War. King was not
universally cheered when he marched, to his death, with the garbage
workers in Memphis striking for fair wages and respect. Truth be told, he
was jeered, even by some blacks.

Sure, we love King now, but there was a time when people turned their back
on him and his message.

It has always been troubling to witness King's mission and message reduced
to "I have a dream" in the popular culture. It's taught to kids in
kindergarten, and they carry it with them all their lives. But all dreams
are not equal. They can be interpreted in a number of ways. And some
dreams are nightmares, or turn into nightmares for other people.

Before it became a "quagmire" the war in Vietnam was a dream of the
American political establishment. Exactly one year before his
assassination, King, setting aside the grave danger it brought to him,
challenged his government and broke with American imperial policy. At New
York City's Riverside Church on April 4, 1967, King linked the domestic
exploitation of African Americans with "the deadly Western arrogance that
has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long."

In his speech, "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence., King said, "A
time comes when silence is betrayal..," And, "I knew that I could never
again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos
without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence
in the world today - my own government."

King's charge is just as true today as it was 40-plus years ago.

America is still the greatest purveyor of violence in the world. Silence
is still betrayal. But let's take it a step beyond silence. Non-action is
the other betrayal. Change isn't just about an election in November and a
celebration in January. It's about doing something measurable to usher in
a more peaceful world. Sure it's good to change one's perspective and way
of looking at things. But the trick is to make your actions match what's
on your mind.

There is an arc. People and events are linked on the arc.

So, this year we should honor King in an active sense. We should commit
ourselves to organize against the American policy of violence and empire.
The anti-war movement should apply pressure on Obama to withdraw from Iraq
and Afghanistan. And, just as important, particularly amid the horror that
has been visited on the people of Gaza; a broader peace movement must also
build real economic and political pressure against Israel's immoral and
criminal acts against the Palestinians. This King Day should mark the
beginning of an organized push for American divestment from Israel.

When you think about it, US foreign policy toward Palestine has been a
segregationist or apartheid policy. In his 2006 book Palestine: Peace Not
Apartheid, former President Jimmy Carter likened Israel's occupation of
Palestinian land and its repression of Palestinian people, both within
Israel and in the occupied territories, to the state of apartheid, which
existed in South Africa prior to the early 1990s. Apartheid means
"separateness". And there is little debate that Zionism, the official
ideology of Israel, is predicated on religious and ethnic separation or
segregation. A self-described Jewish state - that is, a state that
operates of, by and on behalf of a single group of people - cannot also
be a secular, democratic state where persons of all religious and ethnic
backgrounds are treated equally. A Jewish state that has never declared
its borders, that has annexed and occupied territories, flouting
international law and subjecting the indigenous population to poverty,
indignity, theft, torture and death, is not only a colonialist outlaw
state; it is also racist. As one Palestinian gentleman remarked to me,
"While blacks in America were once considered subhuman, Palestinians are
not considered humans at all."

And Israel could not have pursued any of these policies without the
steadfast financial and political support of the United States. It is no
secret that Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. aid in the world. It
receives more than $15 million every day from the United States, or $30
billion a year by most estimates. The F-16 fighter jets and Apache
helicopters that have dropped hundreds of tons of bombs and missiles on
Gaza are made in the United States and provided to the Israeli government.
Every American taxpayer underwrites Israeli-style apartheid.

Divestment may be at odds with the position of many elected black leaders
(the Congressional Black Caucus included), but it's not at odds with what
King spoke of and died for. It is not at odds with those he championed. He
championed the locked out and oppressed.

Throughout my life, black politics has lined up with oppressed people in
other nations. Malcolm X stood with Fidel Castro and the Cuban people
following the 1958 ouster of US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista, and
with him the organized crime and American corporatist mobsters who
exploited the Cuban people. Harlemites greeted Castro with affection as
they gathered to welcome him during his stay at the Hotel Theresa in 1960
because he wanted to be "among the workers".

Muhammad Ali is a "national treasure" now. But he wasn't when he dropped
the name Cassius Clay and said "Ain't no Vietnamese ever called me
nigger".

Americans love Nelson Mandela, now. But he was a "terrorist" while he was
heading "Spear of the Nation" - the armed wing of the African National
Congress. That's why he was locked up at Robben Island. Mandela's name was
only recently - during the 2nd part of the Bush Administration - removed
from the State Department's "terrorists list". In the days of Ronald
Reagan it was America and Israel that supported South Africa when the rest
of the world said "enough".

But black Americans remembered the hundreds of kids who died in
Sharpesville Massacre in the 60s. We were in solidarity with those who
took part in the Soweto uprising of 1976. We cried and protested when the
South African police killed Steve Biko in 1977.

What's happening in Palestine is not fundamentally different from what
occurred in apartheid South Africa. Kids are being killed. People have
been herded into the (more deadly) equivalent of bantustans. Political
leaders are targeted for assassination. Most recently Hamas Interior
Minister Said Siam was killed along with nine others, when Israeli
warplanes bombed a home in the Jabalya refugee camp.

Israel's behavior demands the same response from the world human rights
community as was mustered against South Africa.

The facts are clear. The citizens of Gaza live in a virtual prison. They
are surrounded by water, walls, fences and watch/gun towers.

In the latest assault, at least 1,133 Palestinians have been killed,
including 346 children and 105 women; at least 5,200 have been injured.
People talk about "suffering on both sides," but there is no proportion in
weaponry or force, which is why 100 Palestinians have died for every one
Israeli.

The Palestinian people live under Israel's apartheid blockade where even
humanitarian aid is not allowed through - where citizens can get food,
medicine and even goats, in addition to guns and weapons, only through
tunnels.

Not just in Gaza but throughout all the occupied territories, Palestinian
water rights along with their land and human rights have been stolen.
Fundamentalist Jewish immigrants from Brooklyn have automatic citizenship
and automatic civil and property rights, while the indigenous Palestinians
lose and lose some more. Most often, it is Palestinian land that the
migrants have settled on, with the blessings of Israel and the financial
support of the United States via the Israeli government - in the face of
international and United Nations' resolutions against such settlements. It
is Palestinian land, stolen for Israeli settlements, that the Palestinians
have been firing mortars onto; Palestinian land that is bisected by
Israeli-only roads and a wall that exceeds the Berlin Wall in size and
cruelty. (No German had his farm or homestead cut in two by the wall.)
They are Palestinian orchards that have been bulldozed; Palestinian homes
that have been demolished; and American-made bulldozers that have done the
job. A Caterpillar bulldozer crushed 23-year-old American peace activist
Rachel Corrie to death when she stood in front of a doctor's house in Gaza
trying to prevent its demolition on March 16, 2003. And the same
bulldozers have taken everything from Palestinian families year after year
for decades.

Throughout the latest assault on Gaza, those blindly supportive of Israel
raise a straw man argument asking, "Who struck the blow?" Or, "Fired the
first shot?" Or, "Launched the first mortar". Their answer to the question
is almost always certain to be, "Hamas." Before the days Hamas came to
power, the same straw man was raised and knocked down as the answer back
then was sure to be, "Fatah" - led by PLO leader Yasser Arafat.

Supporters of Israel never mention the blockade on Gaza or political
assassinations or the wall or the poverty and despair. Instead, they label
Hamas or anyone opposing occupation as "terrorists" and lamely apologize
for the civilians killed calling them "collateral damage," or they claim
that the women and children killed in the school or hospital or UN
facilities were "being used as human shield". No one calls the Jewish
settlers human shields, though their incursions into occupied territory
has been both a provocation and an excuse since 1967.

Just take a look at a map of the territory lost by the Palestinian people
since 1948 and at an inexorable pace since 1967. Then answer the question,
"Who stuck the first blow?"

Throughout the latest attack on the Palestinian people I have heard a few
people openly make the bloodthirsty suggestion that "they (the Israelis)
should kill them all". But the most common thing one hears is something
similar to what Obama said on a visit to Israel in the summer 2008 that
"If somebody shot rockets at my house where my two daughters were sleeping
at night, I'd do everything in my power to stop them". The new president's
comment was one of the first things that came out the mouths of various
spokespersons for the Israeli government as the Christmastime onslaught on
Gaza began. But what of the Israeli rockets and bombs and bullets and
bulldozers that for years have hit the homes where Palestinian children
were sleeping?

Now Israel has called a cease fire in Gaza, if only for a moment. Still,
we must organize and protest in an effective way beyond the moment. We
have our work cut out for us. The Palestinians have few friends in high
places. By a vote of 404-1 the House recently signaled its support for
Israel's apartheid regime and literally condemned the Palestinians right
of self-defense. The only member of Congress to take a stand with the
Palestinians was and is Ohio's Dennis Kucinich.

On the campaign trail at a conference of the American Israel Public
Affairs Committee, Obama declared himself a "Zionist," and upon being
elected chose Rahm Emanuel, a dual citizen of the US and Israel, as his
chief of staff. The Israeli paper Ha'aretz (6 Nov. 2008) said it all:
Obama's first pick: Israeli Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff. Some say that
Emanuel "has a track record on Israel well to the right of George Bush".
This includes signing a 2003 letter justifying Israel's policy of
political assassinations and criticizing George Bush for not supporting
Israel enough. Emanuel backed a resolution supporting Israel's bombing of
Lebanon in the summer of 2006 and he called on the US government to cancel
a planned speech to Congress by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki
because he had condemned Israel's actions in Lebanon.

As president, where will Obama stand? More important, what is the moral
stand, and what must we do to press the government to take it?

First, we must see Israel with the same eyes as we saw South Africa in the
apartheid years - as a racist nation deserving of international isolation
and sanctions. Second, we must demand that the United States end its $30
billion a year military support to the country. Third, we should organize,
confront and demand that public bodies such as universities, local and
state governments divest their portfolios from companies that do business
in or with Israel. Fourth, we should identify and boycott those companies
that do business with and in Israel. Fifth, we should call for a cultural
boycott of Israel, and boycott those artists who perform in the country.

As for the new president we should continue to pressure him (1) to
establish a fair involvement with the disputing parties, recognizing their
equal humanity, not take the one-sided, Israel-first position of his
predecessors; (2) to pressure the Israeli government to allow unimpeded
access of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip; (3) to call for an
investigation into Israel's misuse of U.S. weapons, to include the use of
white phosphorous and urge the UN weapons inspectors to determine if
Israel is using depleted uranium-tipped missiles on the Palestinians. This
would be a first step toward ending arms transfers to Israel.

All people have a right to exist - Jews and Palestinians. The way to peace
is for each side to respect the other's right to live.

But America must be a fair player in what is now a continual catastrophe
with our country on the wrong side of history. We must remember that
"where you spend your money is a political act". Putting pressure on
business and government is a means to force change. By "getting in their
pockets' we can say no to the violence. We can say, "Not in our names".
That's what I think Dr. King would say and do at a time like this.

Almost 40 years ago, Martin Luther King warned that "the problem of
racism, the problem of economic exploitation, and the problem of war are
all tied together. These are the triple evils that are interrelated."
Those "triple evils" of racism, economic injustice and militarism are what
we must fight - the dream of King's was the defeat of the "triple evils".

As we celebrate his day, let's do it in solidarity with the dispossessed.
As Vice-President Joe Biden was saying his farewell to the Senate he
quoted King saying, "The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends
toward justice". I believe Biden is right as King was right. But there's a
strong magnetic pull that has the needle still pointed on injustice. The
injustice of being the "greatest purveyor of violence in the world". We
can help move the needle toward just by insisting that our country sees a
Palestinian life having as much value as an Israeli life.

Kevin Alexander Gray is a civil rights organizer in South Carolina. His
book, Waiting for Lightning to Strike, has just been  published by
CounterPunch/AK Press. He can be reached at: kagamba [at] bellsouth.net


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