Girl Sues to Wear Hijab at Abercrombie

Abercrombie_logo7

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – A Muslim woman alleged in a lawsuit filed this week that U.S. retailer Abercrombie & Fitch forbade her from wearing her head scarf while working at a northern California clothing store owned by the company.

Hani Khan filed her federal lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, with support from the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center.

The suit accuses Abercrombie of violating Khan’s civil rights by discriminating against her on the basis of religion when she worked at the San Francisco Bay area store Hollister Co., which is owned by Abercrombie.

Khan alleges that when she was hired in October 2009, she was told she could wear her head scarf, or hijab, as long as it matched the company’s official colors.

But four months later, a pair of managers asked her to remove the hijab while working, and when Khan refused she was suspended and then terminated, according to the lawsuit.

A representative for Abercrombie did not return calls.

Khan’s lawsuit echoes similar complaints brought against Abercrombie in the past by black, Latino and other minority workers and applicants who alleged the company had a “look policy’’ that discriminated against them.

In 2004, Abercrombie reached a $40 million settlement in a federal class action lawsuit by the minority plaintiffs, and the company agreed to take steps to improve its hiring and recruitment of minority workers.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) joined in that previous legal action against Abercrombie, and this week the agency supported Khan by filing a federal lawsuit against the retailer that also accused Abercrombie of violating her civil rights.

“Growing up in this country where the Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of religion, I have felt let down,’’ Khan said in a statement.

Attorneys’ attempts to reach an out-of-court settlement in Khan’s case broke down in January, according to the Council on America-Islamic Relations. (Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Peter Bohan)

13-27

“Game Over” for Gaddafi?

By Nick Carey and Adam Gray-Block

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Stockpiles of ordnance inside a Gaddafi ammunition bunker which is now controlled by rebel fighters are seen approximately 40 kms (25 miles) southeast of Zintan June 29, 2011.

REUTERS/Anis Mili

(Reuters) – Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi could fall within two to three months, the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor said on Tuesday, as rebels sought to build on a gradual advance toward Tripoli.
The ICQ’s Luis Moreno-O campo, who on Monday announced an arrest warrant for Gaddafi on charges of crimes against humanity, is the latest international official to say the Libyan leader would soon capitulate to a NATO-backed revolt.

“It is a matter of time … Gaddafi will face charges,” Moreno-O campo told reporters in The Hague, where the warrants were approved for Gaddafi, his son Said al-Islam and Libyan intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi.

He added: “I don’t think we will have to wait for long…In two or three months it is game over.”

The Libyan administration rejects the authority of the ICC and has denied targeting civilians, saying it has acted against armed criminal gangs and al Qaeda militants.
While there is little chance of Gaddafi being arrested if he remains in power, his foes have seized on the warrant to justify the three-month NATO bombing campaign and to try and bolster world opinion in support of the operation.

In Washington, a U.S. Senate panel backed a resolution to formally authorize continued U. s. participation in the NATO-led operation. Senators on the panel rebuked President Barrack Obama for not having sought congressional approval in the first place.

In comments that appeared to make any political settlement even less likely, rebels said after talks in Paris that even indirect contacts with Gaddafi were now excluded — hardening a line that until now acknowledged talks through intermediaries.

“I don’t think there is any place for direct or indirect contact with Gaddafi,” Mahout Sham, a spokesman for the National Transitional Council (NTSC) said after meetings with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

In its eastern stronghold of Benghazi, the NTSC hosted the foreign minister of Bulgaria, whose country along with Romania brought to at least 22 the number of states which recognize the NTSC as representatives of the Libyan people.

Rebels Closer to Tripoli

The rebellion against Gaddafi has made only slow progress since Western countries began bombing three months ago, but rebels say they are finally advancing closer to Tripoli.

Rebels based in the Western Mountains region southwest of the capital made their biggest breakthrough in weeks on Sunday to reach the town of Birr al-Ghanam, where they are now fighting pro- Gaddafi forces for control, their spokesman said.

The move took them 30 km (18 miles) north of their previous position and closer to Tripoli, Gaddafi’s main power base.

A rebel spokesman said there had been further fighting on Monday. “Fighting broke out yesterday evening in Birr Ay and Birr al-Ghanem. The (government) brigades used Grad rockets. The fighting stopped later after strikes by NATO,” he said.

A Reuters photographer said rebels tried to salvage weapons from a pro- Gaddafi arms depot some 20 km (13 miles) southeast of the nearby town of Zintan after it had been bombed by NATO, but they were prevented as fire broke out across the entire depot.

Elsewhere, rebels in Misrata said Gaddafi’s forces struck at the Mediterranean coastal city some 200 km (125 miles) east of Tripoli overnight. Rebels said they blew up a vehicle laden with arms belonging to Gaddafi’s forces in nearby Zlitan on Tuesday but were downbeat on the prospect of any imminent advances.

“Given our limited means, I don’t see how we are going to make major gains,” a rebel spokesman called Abdelsalam said.

The revolt has turned into the bloodiest of the Arab Spring uprisings against autocratic rulers across the Middle East, becoming a full-blown civil war with control of the country divided between the rebels and Gaddafi’s government.

In London, a British minister told reporters a team planning for a post-conflict Libya had recommended Gaddafi’s security forces be left largely intact after any rebel victory, avoiding an error made after the Iraq war.

“One of the first things that should happen once Tripoli falls is that someone should get on the phone to the former Tripoli chief of police and tell him he’s got a job and he needs to ensure the safety and security of the people of Tripoli,” said International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell.

The report of the UK-led team is to be presented at the next meeting of an international contact group on Libya on July 15.

“NATO Fig Leaf”

Reporters were taken on Tuesday by Libyan government minders to the town of Bain Wailed, a tribal stronghold about 150 km (90 miles) southeast of Tripoli to attend a pro- Gaddafi rally.

“We are here to show that all Libyan people love Gaddafi,” said schoolteacher Halo Aimed, 20, one of 200 mostly female supporters, some of whom fired machine guns in the air, while two carried unloaded rocket-propelled grenade launchers.

Bain Wailed is home to the Walhalla, Libya’s biggest tribe, which originally announced its opposition to Gaddafi when the uprising began in February. The tribe’s revolt was quickly suppressed by forces loyal to Gaddafi.

The launch of a third war in a Muslim country has divided U. s. public opinion while tens of thousands of troops are still deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq. U. s. forces took the lead in the air campaign’s initial days, but quickly turned command over to NATO, with most bombing carried out by Britain and France.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee backed a resolution formally authorizing U. s. participation in the operation but banning the introduction of U.S. troops on the ground.

Senators said Obama should have sought approval in Congress earlier. U. s. State Department legal adviser Harold Kohl said no authorization was needed because the U. s. role was too limited to be considered “hostilities” under the War Powers Resolution, which requires presidents to seek approval for military action.

Senator Jim Webb, a Democrat and former U. s. Navy secretary, said any operation that lasts for months and costs billions could be defined as hostilities “even under the NATO fig leaf.”

(Additional reporting by Maria Gorgonian in Benghazi, Michael Martian in Beijing, Susan Cornell in Washington, John Irish in Paris, Joseph Nash in Berlin, David Brainstorm in Brussels and Hasid Auld Aimed in Algiers; Writing by Mark John; Editing by Peter Graff)

13-27

Indo-Pak Talks: Positive Move

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, TMO

NEW DELHI: Notwithstanding the fact that India and Pakistan are still a long way off from settling their disputes over several important issues, including the Kashmir-problem, they must be credited for adopting a cordial diplomatic approach towards each other. This is marked by recent Indo-Pak meeting, between foreign secretaries of the two countries, being viewed as “positive.” The amiable note on which the meeting was held between Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir in Islamabad is marked by their addressing a joint press conference and issuing a joint statement (June 24).

Without sidelining the “complexities” in Indo-Pak relationship, after the meeting, Rao told media persons: “We are inspired by our goal of the eventual normalization of the India-Pakistan relationship and the resolution of outstanding issues through peaceful, sustained and serious bilateral dialogue.” Spelling out India’s vision of bilateral ties with Pakistan, Rao asserted: “The ideology of military conflict should have no place in the paradigm of our relationship in the 21st century. Indeed, this relationship should be characterized by the vocabulary of peace,” in the interest of “our peoples” and “in an atmosphere free of terror and violence.” She described the meeting, spread over two days, as “positive” during which the two sides had “constructive and substantive discussion.”

“We have had a very productive and constructive engagement which was forward looking and imbued with a sense of purpose,” Bashir said. He pointed out: “I must underscore here that the quality of the engagement really matters and we have every reason to be satisfied with that quality.” Earlier, while welcoming Rao, Bashir said: “We welcome her for many reasons. It was some years ago that we started a process and I think that process is now well on its way.”

The comments made by both Rao and Bashir are suggestive of India and Pakistan’s keenness to continue their dialogue process with the aim of improving their bilateral ties. This is further highlighted by certain points included in the joint statement. The bilateral talks on peace and security, including confidence building measures (CBMs), Jammu & Kashmir as well as promotion of friendly exchanges were, according to the statement, “held in a frank and cordial atmosphere.” The two sides “reiterated their intention” to continue “the dialogue process in a constructive and purposeful manner.” They discussed the issues in a “comprehensive manner” and both sides “emphasized the importance of constructive dialogue to promote mutual understanding,” the statement said. This suggests India and Pakistan’s intention to backtrack from their stand of firing verbal missiles at each other, particularly on issues they entertain different stands on. This is further supported by their reference to the Kashmir-problem in the joint statement.

They “exchanged views” on Kashmir and “agreed to continue discussions in a purposeful and forward looking manner with the view to finding a peaceful solution by narrowing divergences and building convergences,” according to the statement. This suggests that continuing dialogue on Kashmir is their priority and neither India nor Pakistan wants to the stall the bilateral dialogue process despite their entertaining differences on Kashmir. This is further supported by their agreement to consider measures for “strengthening and streamlining the existing trade and travel arrangements across the Line-of-Control (LoC) and propose modalities for introducing additional cross-LoC CBMs.” A meeting of a working group on Cross-LoC is expected to be held this July, the statement said.
The statement on terrorism too indicates a major change in India and Pakistan’s diplomatic stand towards each other. Refraining from blaming each other, they agreed that “terrorism poses a continuing threat to peace and security.” They “reiterated firm and undiluted commitment” to “fight and eliminate this scourge in all its forms and manifestations.” Besides, they agreed on the “need to strengthen cooperation on counter-terrorism.”

Defeating apprehensions of their being any nuclear tension between India and Pakistan, they decided to consider mutually acceptable measures to discuss implementation and strengthening of existing nuclear and conventional CBMS to “build trust and confidence and promote peace and security.”

India and Pakistan expressed satisfaction on progress made on finalization of Visa Agreement, which will “help liberalize visa regime” and “facilitate people-to-people, business-to-business and sports contacts,” the statement said. They also discussed measures to promote cooperation in various fields, which include, “facilitating visits to religious shrines, media exchanges, holding sports tournaments and cessation of hostile propaganda against each other.” In addition, they agreed that “people of the two countries are at the heart of the relationship and that humanitarian issues should be accorded priority and treated with sensitivity.”

The foreign secretaries are scheduled to meet again in New Delhi, ahead of the meeting Indian and Pakistani Foreign Ministers, which is expected to take place this July in the Indian capital city. Undeniably, the two foreign secretaries’ comments and the joint statement indicate the seriousness of India and Pakistan to improve their bilateral ties at various levels. Now, it is to be watched whether this “constructive” approach is seriously retained for a substantial period or not!

13-27

Interview: Omar Offendum, Bilingual MC/Producer

By Siddiq Ather

Omar Chakaki, better known by the name Omar Offendum, is Syrian American emcee and producer who was born in Saudi Arabia but was raised in the United States. He raps in both English and Arabic comfortably about a vast range of issues and ideas. He has been featured on BBC, ABC news, Aljazeera, and other news sources. His most recent album is titled SyrianamericanA. He has performed around the world with a variety of famous artists. Occasionally, he starts his performances with an Arabic rendition of a work by the poet Langston Hughes

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1. Do Hip Hop and Islam fit well with each other, or is there a clash?

I never saw a clash between the two. In Islam innamal a’amaalu biniyaat, actions are based on intentions. So if you have good intentions to affect positive change through Hip Hop, another art form, or whatever, then, I believe insha’allah, it is compatible. If you have intentions of spread negativity, promiscuity, or misogyny etc, then, obviously, that is not compatible.
I understand there is a scholarly debate as far as music in Islam. I tend to fall in line with those do not believe it is haraam, citing the importance of intentions. If it doesn’t distract you from the demands of the Muslim faith, like praying, then, there isn’t anything wrong with it, especially if it is positive. I understand that it does distract a lot of people, and Hip Hop in particular can be a tool to spread negativity. But it’s a tool like anything else, so it’s how you use it.

I know a lot of spoken word artists, and I don’t see how you could ever say something like that is haraam.  At times I perform without music. I have been at events were people are uncomfortable with music, so I performed without it. I’m sensitive to that. I take time with my lyrics and make sure it is something I can do with or without music. That’s where I kind of stand on it.
Some people may say kaafir, haraam, judge, and use apocalyptic language after they hear a Muslim performing with music, but I question the intentions of those people. In the end of the day, there are haters out there and haters gon’ hate. I do this with positive intentions Insha’Allah.

2. There are a lot of Muslim performers: emcees, poets, rappers, singers, b-girls, beat boxers, and others. What are your thoughts on this phenomenon? As far as Muslim culture, and Arab culture, goes, there is a hesitation and apprehension surrounding even the idea of Muslim females on stage.

Well, I think it is a beautiful thing, and I encourage it, especially if they’re doing it positively. I welcome it, I embrace it, and I hope to see more of it because they’re inspiring to other women who think there is something wrong with that, when I, personally, don’t think there is.  Many good friends of mine are Muslim female Emcees. The best example that comes to mind is Poetic Pilgrimage: two very confident sisters from the UK of African-Caribbean decent.  They wear hijab and practice Islam to the best of their ability, and you can see it reflected in their lyrics. I think what they’re doing is very positive, and I encourage it.

As far as Arab culture, Shaadia Mansour, she is not Muslim; she’s Arab, but faces similar sentiment. Our community looks down on woman who are on stage, performing. In my opinion her heart is in the right place and has the best intentions. I think, especially with her, as far as the Palestinian cause is concerned, she’s such an important voice to put out there; it’s a different faith for the world to see, that it’s not just a bunch of angry men that are rapping about something. It really changes the dynamic.

3. A lot of your lyrics carry a heavy weight, since they have some political or historical background. Do you think music and lyrics have to have something behind them, some motive, or can it just be open expression?

I think it has to be honest self expression at the end of the day. In hip-hop we have the saying “keepin’ it real.” If you’re not “keepin’ it real”; If you’re not being true to yourself, true to your history, true to your background, then, I, personally, am not that into it. But, that doesn’t mean it has to be political, it can be anything. If you’re skillful with your art, I have to respect that.  I don’t go out of my way to be political. We live in a politicized world. Being a young Arab American Muslim, it happens to affect me deeply, and so I speak about it. I also used to translate Arabic poetry to English and English poetry to Arabic. That is a more relevant to my experience.

4.  How much of a difference can hip hop make without actual political change, or do you think this is the medium through which political change can occur?

I think it is a tool. It can spark dialogue, debate and awareness about issues in communities where there is none: locally, nationally, and internationally. When an artist is as successful as Lupe Fiasco (Wasalu Muhammad Jaco) says what he said about Gaza getting bombed in a particular song, it is a really really big deal. That album sold hundreds of thousands in the first week. It is extremely important. However, it is not going to stop the bombing in Gaza. No, it’s not going to fix the issue. In my case, I see the medium as the message. People see a young Muslim American Arab rapping on stage, comfortable in both languages. There’s a lot behind that, that I don’t’ even need to say. They can infer from it.

5. There are a variety of sheikhs out there, maybe you’ve heard names like Suhaib Webb and Hamza Yusuf. There are also many books, so are there any inspirational books you’ve read or scholars you really look up to?

I have actually met Sheikh Suhaib several times. He’s a great inspiration, masha’allah. I grew into my Muslim American Identity. I went to an Islamic School growing up, it was a Saudi Islamic School based in Alexandria, Virginia, mostly set up for students with family back in the Middle East who worked in the embassy. We had the Saudi Arabian curriculum coupled with the local county curriculum. It essentially for people intending to move back to the Middle East, and so they didn’t really establish the Muslim-American identity, and that was something that took me years to understand and really, kind of, be at peace with.

Hearing people like Sheikh Hamza Yusuf, Suhaib Webb, and Zaid Shakir speak are very inspirational to me. Sheikh Yassir Fazaga is also from southern California. I really, really, really enjoy his khutbahs. Some of the most inspirational one I have ever heard were from him. But Islam aside, reading books by authors like Edward Said, and novels by men like Amin Maalouf have greatly influenced me. Also included are emcees and reggae singers of all sorts. A number of old Arabic singers and poets: Khalil jibran, and darwish. All of this influences me, and I think you can see it in my music because I try to make it an honest reflection of me.

13-27

Iran Fires 14 Missiles in 2nd Day of War Games

By Parisa Hafezi

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Two Iranian clerics stand near a surface to surface missile which is ready to be launched during a war game near the city of Qom, about 120 km (75 miles) south of Tehran June 28, 2011.

REUTERS/Mehr News Agency/Rauf Mohseni

TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran’s Revolutionary Guards tested 14 missiles on Tuesday, the second day of war games intended as a show of strength toward the Islamic Republic’s enemies Israel and the United States.

The Iranian-made surface-to-surface missiles, with a maximum range of 2,000 km (1,250 miles), were fired simultaneously at a single target, the official IRNA news agency reported.

Commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh, head of the Revolutionary Guards’ aerospace division, emphasized Iran’s preparedness to strike Israel and U.S. interests in the event of any attack on the Islamic Republic.

“The range of our missiles has been designed based on American bases in the region as well as the Zionist regime,” Hajizadeh told the semi-official Fars news agency.

The United States and Israel have said they do not rule out military strikes on Iran if diplomatic means fail to stop it developing nuclear weapons. Tehran says its nuclear program is geared to producing electricity, not atom bombs.

IRNA said the Guards fired nine Zelzal missiles, two Shahab-1s, two Shahab-2s and one upgraded Shahab-3 missile. Iranian officials have previously announced that the Shahab 3 can reach targets up to 2,000 km away, putting Israel and U.S. bases in the Gulf within reach.

A long-time enemy of the United States, Iran has been emboldened by what it perceives as U.S. military defeats in neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan. Both countries are still home to large U.S. troop numbers and Washington has other bases in the Gulf that Iran could choose to target.

“The Americans have reduced our labors,” Hajizadeh told Fars. “Their military bases in the region are in a range of 130, 250 and maximum 700 km in Afghanistan which we can hit with these missiles.”
Hossein Salami, deputy commander of the Guards, said: “We still have our fingers on the trigger, but the number of the triggers have increased.”

The “Great Prophet 6” war games, to be carried out on land and sea, are a “message of peace and friendship to countries of the region,” Hajizadeh said on Monday.

Asked whether Iranian missiles were a threat to Europe, Hajizadeh told IRNA that while Iran had the technological capacity to build longer-range missiles, the 2,000-km range had been chosen precisely with Israel and U.S. bases in mind.

“Except America and the Zionist regime, we do not feel a threat from any other country,” he said.

The Guards also unveiled new underground ballistic missile silos which they said would reduce launch times as missiles would not need to be moved prior to being launched.

“The silos are a part of the swift reaction unit of the missile brigade, missiles are stored vertically, ready to be launched against pre-determined targets,” Fars quoted Hajizadeh as saying.

Endorsing the Islamic state’s military might, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Iran’s military capability was for purely defensive purposes but is happy if its show of strength rattles the West.

“The westerners’ concern is a source of delight for us, because we will not allow any country to have a greedy approach toward our country’s interests and territorial integrity,” Mehmanparast said.

“If all the regional states had the highest defensive capability the Zionist regime would have never allowed itself to carry out an act of aggression.”

Mehmanparast also urged Russia to make good on a delivery of S-300 missiles to Iran.

“This missile system is for defensive purposes, therefore, it is not included in the illegal sanctions … We are expecting Russia to follow up the bilateral commitments more seriously.”

Moscow unilaterally suspended the delivery of the S-300s after the United States and Israel expressed concern that Iran could use the S-300s to shield its nuclear facilities which they suspect are part of an atomic bomb program.

Iran is at loggerheads with major powers over its escalating uranium enrichment work, which the West suspects may be intended to ultimately yield atomic bomb. Tehran denies this, saying its is refining uranium only for electricity.

13-27

“Mideast Tunes” Jams for Change

By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO

“We work against repression, discrimination and persecution” ~ Mideast Youth

guitarsIt’s no secret that the recent “Arab Awakening”, which has already toppled a couple of Middle East governments and sent others into a tailspin, could never have reached such epic proportions as it has without the Internet and specifically social media outlets. Countless numbers of protests and mass amounts of information have been catapulted into the global arena, courtesy of bloggers and social media activists. The power of the Internet has proven to be a force to be reckoned with–much to the chagrin of governments seeking to quash its effect. For the youth, in particular, social media is not only an excellent way to share information but it is also a vital way to cope with the anger and frustration that comes as a direct result of the political upheaval.

Most youths in the Middle East have to deal with political turmoil from the time they are born and many, unfortunately, will have to grapple with it right up until their deaths. For this reason many youths turns to different forms of self-expression, such as art or music, to cope.  Some politically active youths have taken to the underground to create unique music stylings that would be unwelcome, and in many cases illegal, in the mainstream media of their specific country. For years, the underground politically “amp-ed” music scene of the Middle East was one that was rarely seen and even less heard. But thanks to MidEast Youth, which is a grassroots cyber social activism network based in the Middle East, more and more youths have a welcome platform to share their politically-inspired music with the world.

In 2010 Mideast Youth launched Mideast Tunes, which is an online cyber stage that showcases the musical talents of various underground solo artists and bands in the Middle East. According to the mission statement on its website, “Mideast Tunes is dedicated to providing a platform for emerging musicians in the Middle East. Our aim is to encourage, inspire and expose talented young artists across the region.” The genres featured on the site range from heavy metal to hip-hop and everything in between. Some of the current artists featured include ‘Sop’ which is a hip-hop band based in Palestine and ‘Disturb the Balance’ which is an alternative rock band based in Saudi Arabia. The tunes may be different but all of the artists featured on Mideast Tunes share the same plight to create viable and positive social change with their music.

The website does not charge users or bands a fee for features to ensure that everyone has the freedom share their voice. However, it does rely heavily on donations to keep it up and running.

13-27

Getting on Board with Peace in Israel

An Israeli American explains why she will be among many boat passengers trying to break through Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip.

By Hagit Borer

Later this month an American ship, the Audacity of Hope, will leave Greece on a journey to the Gaza Strip to attempt to break Israel’s blockade. It will join an expected nine other ships flying numerous flags and carrying hundreds of passengers from around the world. I will be one of those passengers.

I am an Israeli Jewish American. I was born in Israel, and I grew up in a very different Jerusalem from the one today. The Jerusalem of my childhood was a smallish city of white-stone neighborhoods nestled in the elbows of hills. Near the center, next to the central post office, the road swerved sharply to the left because straight ahead stood a big wall, and on the other side of it was “them.”

And then, on June 9, 1967, the wall came down. Elsewhere, Israeli troops were still fighting what came to be known as the Six-Day War, but on June 9, as a small crowd stood and watched, demolition crews brought down the barrier wall, and after it, all other buildings that had stood between my Jerusalem and the walls of the Old City, their Jerusalem. A few weeks later a wide road would lead from my Jerusalem to theirs, bearing the victors’ name: Paratroopers Way.

A soldier helped me sneak into the Old City. Snipers were still at large and the city was closed to Israeli civilians. By the Western Wall, a myth to me until then, the Israeli army was already evicting Palestinian residents in the dead of night and demolishing all houses within 1,000 feet. Eventually, the area would turn into the huge open paved space it is today, a place where only last month, on Jerusalem Day, masses of Israeli youths chanted “Muhammad is dead” and “May your villages burn.”

It is a different Jerusalem now. It is not their Jerusalem, for it has been taken from them. Every day the Palestinians of Jerusalem are further strangled by more incursions, by more “housing developments” to cut them off from other Palestinians. In Sheik Jarrah, a neighborhood built by Jordan in the 1950s to house refugees, Palestinian families recently have been evicted from their homes at gunpoint based on court-sanctioned documents purporting to show Jewish land ownership in the area dating back some 100 years. But no Palestinian proof of ownership within West Jerusalem has ever prevailed in Israeli courts. Talbieh, Katamon, Baca, until 1948 affluent Palestinian neighborhoods, are today almost exclusively Jewish, with no legal recourse for the Palestinians who recently raised families and lived their lives there.

In his speech on Jerusalem Day, Yitzhak Pindrus, the deputy mayor of Jerusalem, assured a cheering crowd of the ongoing commitment to expanding the Jewish neighborhood of Shimon Hatzadik, as Sheik Jarrah has been renamed.

This is not my Jerusalem. The tens of thousands of jeering youths that swarmed through its streets on Jerusalem Day have taken the city from me as well. That they speak my native tongue is almost impossible for me to believe, for there is nothing about them or about the society that gave birth to them that I recognize.

Did we know in 1967, in 1948, that it would come to this? Some did. Some knew even then that a society built on conquest and dispossession would have to dehumanize the conquered in order to continue to dispossess and oppress them. A 1948 letter to the New York Times signed by Albert Einstein and Hannah Arendt, among others, foretells much of the future. Martin Buber did not spare David Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel, his perspective on the expulsion of the Palestinians in 1948-49.

But too many others, including members of the U.S. Congress who recently cheered Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, are determined to not hold the Israeli government responsible or the Israeli-Jewish society culpable.

Let us note that some Israeli Jews do stand up and protest. There are soldiers who refuse to serve, journalists who highlight injustice, and human rights organizations, activist groups, information centers. In a sense, all of us seeking justice have been on a virtual boat to Gaza all these decades. We have been trying to break through the Israeli blockade, in its many incarnations. We wish to say to the Palestinians that, yes, there are people in Israel who know that any viable future for the Middle East must be based on a just peace — not the forced imposition spelled out by Netanyahu to Congress — or else we are all doomed. We want it known that the soldier is not the only face of Israeli Jews. There are those who say to the government of Israel, “You do not represent us.” We say to the people of the United States in general and to American Jews in particular that yes, you do have an alternative. You can support peace. A true peace.

Hagit Borer moved from Israel to the United States to study in 1977. She became an American citizen in 1992 and is currently a professor of linguistics at USC.

13-27

The Unanswered Question in Afghanistan: Why?

By Jim Hightower

America’s long, long war in Afghanistan has drained more than 1,500 precious lives and a trillion dollars from our country. But, finally, this enormous outlay paid off this year with the capture and killing of that al-Qaida demon, Osama bin Laden, who attacked America and was the reason our military went into Afghanistan.

Oh, wait — Osama wasn’t in Afghanistan, was he? He was comfortably ensconced in an urban compound in Pakistan, whose leaders are supposedly our allies in the bloody Afghan War. And it wasn’t the war effort that got bin Laden, it was old-time spy work, culminating in a raid involving a small team of Navy Seals, a dog and two helicopters.

So why have two presidents and a decade of Congress dumped so many lives and so much money into a country that poses no threat to us? Afghanistan is an impoverished, anarchic, largely illiterate land that’s split into ancient tribal factions and innumerable fiefdoms controlled by rival warlords. They have no desire or ability to attack us, some 8,000 miles away.

The only reason we’re given for being in Afghanistan is that we must keep the al-Qaida terrorists network from establishing bases there. But — like bin Laden — al-Qaida left this country years ago and now operates transnationally in Pakistan, Yemen, Uzbekistan and elsewhere, including England and Germany.

Yet, we’re told we must continue to pour American lives, dollars and reputation into Afghanistan. But … why? To create a central, democratically elected government with a 300,000-member army and police force, we’re told. But why? To stabilize the country, they say. But, why? To keep al-Qaida out, they repeat, closing the endless loop on a Kafkaesque rational.

Yes, President Obama has finally started a slow withdrawal of U.S. troops, but that’ll take at least three years, more than $300 billion and untold numbers of shattered lives. The questions remains: Why?

At least one person was giddy with excitement upon hearing President Obama’s announcement on June 22 that all of America’s combat troops would depart from Afghanistan by 2014: Hamid Karzai.

“A moment of happiness for Afghanistan,” exulted the incurably corrupt, inept, weak and pompous Afghan president. Our leaders put this ingrate in power, and both the lives of our soldiers and billions of our tax dollars have been spent to prop up his sorry excuse for a government — yet he’s the one saying “good riddance.” It puts the dumb in dumbfounding.

The dumbest and most shameful aspect of America’s 10-year Afghan War is the pretension that Karzai represents an exercise in democracy-building. Installed in the presidency by dictate of the Bush-Cheney regime in 2002, he is widely despised and ridiculed by the people and has clung to power only through flagrant electoral fraud, not only in his two presidential “elections,” but also in last year’s parliamentary contest.

Karzai was PO’d that 62 candidates he favored lost or were disqualified by the country’s independent election commission because of fraud. So, Hamid haughtily set up his own special court to review those results, while also bringing criminal charges against several of the independent election commissioners.

Last week, only one day after Obama’s withdrawal announcement, Karzai’s kangaroo court disqualified the 62 parliamentary winners, replacing them with his chosen ones. Of course, the 62 winners are refusing to budge from their seats. This has created a governmental stalemate, but that suits Karzai perfectly, for it allows him the defacto power to rule without parliament. As a top opposition leader puts it: “Karzai does not believe in the rule of law; he thinks democracy doesn’t work in his favor.”

It’s both insane and immoral for our leaders to cause even one more American to die for Karzai. Tell Obama to bring all of our troops home, pronto. The White House comment line is (202) 456-1111, or www.whitehouse.gov/contact.

13-27

Another Theocracy in the Muslim World

By Uri Avnery

I am fed up with all this nonsense about recognizing Israel as the Jewish state.

It is based on a collection of hollow phrases and vague definitions, devoid of any real content. It serves many different purposes, almost all of them malign.

Benjamin Netanyahu uses it as a trick to obstruct the establishment of the Palestinian state. This week he declared that the conflict just has no solution. Why? Because the Palestinians do not agree to recognize, etc., etc.

Four rightist members of the Knesset have just submitted a bill empowering the government to refuse to register new NGOs and to dissolve existing ones if they deny the Jewish character of the state.
This new bill is only one of a series designed to curtail the civil rights of Arab citizens, as well as those of leftists.

If the late Dr. Samuel Johnson were living in present-day Israel, he would phrase his famous dictum about patriotism differently: Recognition of the Jewish character of the state is the last refuge of a scoundrel.

In Israeli parlance, denying the Jewish character of the state is tantamount to the worst of all political felonies: to claim that Israel is a state of all its citizens.

To a foreigner, this may sound a bit weird. In a democracy, the state clearly belongs to all its citizens. Mention this in the United States, and you are stating the obvious. Mention this in Israel, and you are treading dangerously close to treason. (So much for our much-vaunted common values.)

As a matter of fact, Israel is indeed a state of all its citizens. All adult Israeli citizens-and only they-have the right to vote for the Knesset. The Knesset appoints the government and determines the laws.

It has enacted many laws declaring that Israel is a Jewish and democratic state. In ten or in a hundred years, the Knesset could hoist the flag of Catholicism, Buddhism, or Islam. In a democracy, it is the citizens who are sovereign, not a verbal formula.

What formula? one may well ask.

The courts favor the words Jewish and democratic state. But that is far from being the only definition around.

The most widely used is just Jewish state. But that is not enough for Netanyahu and Co., who speak about the nation-state of the Jewish people, which has a nice 19th-century ring. The state of the Jewish people is also quite popular.

The one thing that all these brand -names have in common is that they are perfectly imprecise. What does Jewish mean? A nationality, a religion, a tribe? Who are the Jewish people? Or, even more vague, the Jewish nation? Does this include the congressmen who enact the laws of the United States? Or the cohorts of Jews who are in charge of U.S. Middle East policy? Which country does the Jewish ambassador of the UK in Tel Aviv represent?

The courts have been wrestling with the question: where is the border between Jewish and democratic? What does democratic mean in this context? Can a Jewish state really be democratic, or, for that matter, can a democratic state really be Jewish? All the answers given by learned judges and renowned professors are contrived, or, as we say in Hebrew, they stand on chickens legs.

Lets go back to the beginning: the book written in German by Theodor Herzl, the founding father of Zionism, and published in 1896. He called it Der Judenstaat.

Unfortunately, this is a typical German word that is untranslatable. It is generally rendered in English as The Jewish State or The State of the Jews. Both are quite false. The nearest approximation would be The Jewstate.

If this sounds slightly anti-Semitic, this is not by accident. It may come as a shock to many, but the word was not invented by Herzl. It was first used by a Prussian nobleman with an impressive name Friedrich August Ludwig von der Marwitzwho died 23 years before Herzl was even born. He was a dedicated anti-Semite long before another German invented the term anti-Semitism as an expression of the healthy German spirit.

Marwitz, an ultra-conservative general, objected to the liberal reforms proposed at the time. In 1811 he warned that these reforms would turn Prussia into a Judenstaat, a Jewstate. He did not mean that Jews were about to become a majority in Prussia, God forbid, but that moneylenders and other shady Jewish dealers would corrupt the character of the country and wipe out the good old Prussian virtues.

Herzl himself did not dream of a state that belongs to all the Jews in the world. Quite the contrary-his vision was that all real Jews would go to the Judenstaat (whether in Argentina or Palestine, he had not yet decided). They-and only they-would thenceforth remain Jews. All the others would become assimilated in their host nations and cease altogether to be Jews.

Far, far indeed from the notion of a nation-state of the Jewish people as envisioned by many of today’s Zionists, including those millions who do not dream of immigrating to Israel.

When I was a boy, I took part in dozens of demonstrations against the British government of Palestine. In all of them, we chanted in unison Free immigration! Hebrew state! I dont remember a single demonstration with the slogan Jewish state.

That was quite natural. Without anyone decreeing it, we made a clear distinction between us Hebrew-speaking people in Palestine and the Jews in the Diaspora. Some of us turned this into an ideology, but for most people it was just a natural expression of reality: Hebrew agriculture and Jewish tradition, Hebrew underground and Jewish religion, Hebrew kibbutz and Jewish shtetl. Hebrew Yishuv (the new community in the country) and Jewish Diaspora. To be called a Diaspora Jew was the ultimate insult.

For us this was not anti-Zionist by any means. Quite the contrary:

Zionism wanted to create an old-new nation in Eretz Israel (as Palestine is called in Hebrew), and this nation was of course quite distinct from the Jews elsewhere. It was only the Holocaust, with its huge emotional impact, that changed the verbal rules.

So how did the formula Jewish state creep in? In 1917, in the middle of World War I, the British government issued the so-called Balfour Declaration, which proclaimed that His Majestys Government views with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.

Every word was carefully chosen, after months of negotiations with Zionist leaders. One of the main British objects was to win American and Russian Jews for the Allied cause. Revolutionary Russia was about to get out of the war, and the entry of isolationist America was essential.

(By the way, the British rejected the words the turning of Palestine into a national home for the Jewish people, insisting on in Palestine-thus foreshadowing the partition of the country.)

In 1947 the UN did decide to partition Palestine between its Arab and Jewish populations. This said nothing about the character of the two future states-it just used the current definitions of the two warring parties. About 40 percent of the population in the territory allocated to the Jewish state was Arab.

The advocates of the Jewish state make much of the sentence in the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel (generally called the Declaration of Independence) which indeed includes the words Jewish state. After quoting the UN resolution which called for a Jewish and an Arab state, the declaration continues: Accordingly we on the strength of the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly, hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz Israel, to be known as the state of Israel.

This sentence says nothing at all about the character of the new state, and the context is purely formal.

One of the paragraphs of the declaration (in its original Hebrew version) speaks about the Hebrew people: We extend our hands to all neighboring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighborliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the independent Hebrew people in its land. This sentence is blatantly falsified in the official English translation, which changed the last words into the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land.

As a matter of fact, it would have been quite impossible to reach agreement on any ideological formula, since the declaration was signed by the leaders of all factions, from the anti-Zionist ultra-Orthodox to the Moscow-oriented Communist Party.

Any talk about the Jewish state leads inevitably to the question: What are the Jews-a nation or a religion?

Official Israeli doctrine says that Jewish is both a national and a religious definition. The Jewish collective, unlike any other, is both national and religious. With us, nation and religion are one and the same.

The only door of entry to this collective is religious. There is no national door.

Hundreds of thousands of non-Jewish Russian immigrants have come to Israel under the Law of Return with their Jewish relatives. This law is very broad. In order to attract the Jews, it allows even distant non-Jewish relatives to come with them, including the spouse of the grandchild of a Jew. Many of these non-Jews want to be Jews in order to be considered full Israelis, but have tried in vain to be accepted.

Under Israeli law, a Jew is a person born to a Jewish mother or converted, who has not adopted another religion. This is a purely religious definition. Jewish religious law says that for this purpose, only the mother, not the father, counts.

It is extremely difficult to be converted in Israel. The rabbis demand that the convert fulfill all 613 commandments of the Jewish religion-which only very few recognized Israelis do. But one cannot become an official member of the stipulated Jewish nation by any other door. One becomes a part of the American nation by accepting U.S. citizenship. Nothing like that exists here.

We have an ongoing battle about this in Israel. Some of us want Israel to be an Israeli state, belonging to the Israeli people, indeed a state of all its citizens. Some want to impose on us the religious law supposedly fixed by God for all times on Mount Sinai some 3,200 years ago and abolish all contrary laws of the democratically elected Knesset. Many don’t want any change at all.

But how, in Gods name (sorry), does this concern the Palestinians? Or the Icelanders, for that matter?

The demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state or as the nation-state of the Jewish people is preposterous.

As the British would put it, its none of their bloody business. It would be tantamount to an intervention in the internal affairs of another country.

But a friend of mine has suggested a simple way out: the Knesset can simply resolve to change the name of the state into something like The Jewish Republic of Israel, so that any peace agreement between Israel and the Arab State of Palestine will automatically include the demanded recognition.

This would also bring Israel into line with the state it most resembles: The Islamic Republic of Pakistan, which came into being almost at the same time, after the partition of India, after a gruesome mutual massacre, after the creation of a huge refugee problem, and with a perpetual border war in Kashmir. And the nuclear bomb, of course.

Many Israelis would be shocked by the comparison. What, us? Similar to a theocratic state? Are we getting closer to the Pakistani model and further from the American one?

What the hell, lets simply deny it!

13-27

Gone With the Papers-the-Death-of-Journalism

By Chris Hedges

I visited the Hartford Courant as a high school student. It was the first time I was in a newsroom. The Connecticut paper’s newsroom, the size of a city block, was packed with rows of metal desks, most piled high with newspapers and notebooks. Reporters banged furiously on heavy typewriters set amid tangled phone cords, overflowing ashtrays, dirty coffee mugs and stacks of paper, many of which were in sloping piles on the floor. The din and clamor, the incessantly ringing phones, the haze of cigarette and cigar smoke that lay over the feverish hive, the hoarse shouts, the bustle and movement of reporters, most in disheveled coats and ties, made it seem an exotic, living organism. I was infatuated. I dreamed of entering this fraternity, which I eventually did, for more than two decades writing for The Dallas Morning News, The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor and, finally, The New York Times, where I spent most of my career as a foreign correspondent.

Newsrooms today are anemic and forlorn wastelands. I was recently in the newsroom at The Philadelphia Inquirer, and patches of the floor, also the size of a city block, were open space or given over to rows of empty desks. These institutions are going the way of the massive rotary presses that lurked like undersea monsters in the bowels of newspaper buildings, roaring to life at night. The heavily oiled behemoths, the ones that spat out sheets of newsprint at lightning speed, once empowered and enriched newspaper publishers who for a few lucrative decades held a monopoly on connecting sellers with buyers. Now that that monopoly is gone, now that the sellers no long need newsprint to reach buyers, the fortunes of newspapers are declining as fast as the page counts of daily news sheets.

The great newspapers sustained legendary reporters such as I.F. Stone, Murray Kempton and Homer Bigart who wrote stories that brought down embezzlers, cheats, crooks and liars, who covered wars and conflicts, who told us about famines in Africa and the peculiarities of the French or what it was like to be poor and forgotten in our urban slums or Appalachia. These presses churned out raw lists of data, from sports scores to stock prices. Newspapers took us into parts of the city or the world we would never otherwise have seen or visited. Reporters and critics reviewed movies, books, dance, theater and music and covered sporting events. Newspapers printed the text of presidential addresses, sent reporters to chronicle the inner workings of City Hall and followed the courts and the police. Photographers and reporters raced to cover the lurid and the macabre, from Mafia hits to crimes of passion.

We are losing a peculiar culture and an ethic. This loss is impoverishing our civil discourse and leaving us less and less connected to the city, the nation and the world around us. The death of newsprint represents the end of an era. And news gathering will not be replaced by the Internet. Journalism, at least on the large scale of old newsrooms, is no longer commercially viable. Reporting is time-consuming and labor-intensive. It requires going out and talking to people. It means doing this every day. It means looking constantly for sources, tips, leads, documents, informants, whistle-blowers, new facts and information, untold stories and news. Reporters often spend days finding little or nothing of significance. The work can be tedious and is expensive. And as the budgets of large metropolitan dailies shrink, the very trade of reporting declines. Most city papers at their zenith employed several hundred reporters and editors and had operating budgets in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The steady decline of the news business means we are plunging larger and larger parts of our society into dark holes and opening up greater opportunities for unchecked corruption, disinformation and the abuse of power.

A democracy survives when its citizens have access to trustworthy and impartial sources of information, when it can discern lies from truth, when civic discourse is grounded in verifiable fact. And with the decimation of reporting these sources of information are disappearing.

The increasing fusion of news and entertainment, the rise of a class of celebrity journalists on television who define reporting by their access to the famous and the powerful, the retreat by many readers into the ideological ghettos of the Internet and the ruthless drive by corporations to destroy the traditional news business are leaving us deaf, dumb and blind. The relentless assault on the “liberal press” by right-wing propaganda outlets such as Fox News or by the Christian right is in fact an assault on a system of information grounded in verifiable fact. And once this bedrock of civil discourse is eradicated, people will be free, as many already are, to believe whatever they want to believe, to pick and choose what facts or opinions suit their world and what do not. In this new world lies will become true.

I, like many who cared more about truth than news, was pushed out of The New York Times, specifically over my vocal and public opposition to the war in Iraq. This is not a new story. Those reporters who persistently challenge the orthodoxy of belief, who question and examine the reigning political passions, always tacitly embraced by the commercial media, are often banished. There is a constant battle in newsrooms between the managers, those who serve the interests of the institution and the needs of the advertisers, and reporters whose loyalty is to readers. I have a great affection for reporters, who hide their idealism behind a thin veneer of cynicism and worldliness. I also harbor a deep distrust and even loathing for the careerists who rise up the food chain to become managers and editors.

Sidney Schanberg was nearly killed in Cambodia in 1975 after staying there for The New York Times to cover the conquest of Phnom Penh by the Khmer Rouge, reporting for which he won a Pulitzer Prize. Later he went back to New York from Cambodia and ran the city desk.  He pushed reporters to report about the homeless, the poor and the victims of developers who were forcing families out of their rent-controlled apartments. But it was not a good time to give a voice to the weak and the poor. The social movements built around the opposition to the Vietnam War had dissolved. Alternative publications, including the magazine Ramparts, which through a series of exposés had embarrassed the established media organizations into doing real reporting, had gone out of business.

The commercial press had, once again, become lethargic. It had less and less incentive to challenge the power elite. Many editors viewed Schanberg’s concerns as relics of a dead era. He was removed as city editor and assigned to write a column about New York. He used the column, however, to again decry the abuse of the powerful, especially developers. The then-editor of the paper, Abe Rosenthal, began to acidly refer to Schanberg as the resident “Commie” and address him as “St. Francis.” Rosenthal, who met William F. Buckley almost weekly for lunch along with the paper’s publisher, Arthur “Punch” Sulzberger, grew increasingly impatient with Schanberg, who was challenging the activities of their powerful friends. Schanberg became a pariah. He was not invited to the paper’s table at two consecutiveInner Circledinners held for New York reporters. The senior editors and the publisher did not attend the previews for the film “The Killing Fields,” based on Schanberg’s experience in Cambodia. His days at the newspaper were numbered.

The city Schanberg profiled in his column did not look like the glossy ads in Rosenthal’s new lifestyle sections or the Sunday New York Times magazine. Schanberg’s city was one in which thousands of citizens were sleeping on the streets. It was one where there were lines at soup kitchens. It was a city where the mentally ill were thrown onto heating grates or into jails like human refuse. He wrote of people who were unable to afford housing. He lost his column and left the paper to work for New York Newsday and later The Village Voice.

Schanberg’s story was one of many. The best reporters almost always run afoul of the mandarins above them, a clash that sees them defanged and demoted or driven out. They are banished by a class of careerists whom the war correspondent Homer Bigartdismissed as “the pygmies.” One evening Bigart was assigned to write about a riot, drawing from the information provided by reporters on the scene. As one reporter, John Kifner, called in from a phone booth rioters began to shake it. Kifner relayed the distressing bit of news to Bigart, who, sick of the needling of his editors, reassumed Kifner with the words: “At least you’re dealing with sane people.”

Those who insist on reporting uncomfortable truths always try the patience of the careerists who manage these institutions. If they are too persistent, as most good reporters are, they become “a problem.”

This battle, which exists in all newsrooms, was summed up for me by the Los Angeles Times reporter Dial Torgerson, whom I worked with in Central America until he was killed by a land mine on the border between Honduras and Nicaragua. “Always remember,” he once told me of newspaper editors, “they are the enemy.”

When I met with Schanberg in his apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side he told me, “I heard all kinds of reports over the years that the wealthy patrons of the Metropolitan Museum of Art would often get to use the customs clearance provided to the museum to import personal items, including jewelry, which was not going to the museum. I can’t prove this, but I believe it to be true. Would the Times investigate this? Not in a million years. The publisher at the time was the chairman of the board of the museum. These were his friends.”

But Schanberg also argues, as do I, that newspapers prove a vital bulwark for a democratic state. It is possible to decry their numerous failings and compromises with the power elite and yet finally honor them as important to the maintenance of democracy. Traditionally, if a reporter goes out and reports on an event, the information is usually trustworthy and accurate. The report can be slanted or biased. It can leave out vital facts. But it is not fiction. The day The New York Times and other great city newspapers die, if such a day comes, will be a black day for the nation.

Newspapers “do more than anyone else, although they left out a lot of things,” Schanberg said. “There are stories on their blackout list. But it is important the paper is there because they spend money on what they chose to cover. Most of the problem of mainstream journalism is what they leave out. But what they do, aside from the daily boiler plate, press releases and so forth, is very, very important to the democratic process.”

“Papers function as a guide to newcomers, to immigrants, as to what the ethos is, what the rules are, how we are supposed to behave,” Schanberg added. “That is not always good, obviously, because this is the consensus of the Establishment. But papers, probably more in the earlier years than now, print texts of things people will never see elsewhere. It tells them what you have to do to cast a vote. It covers things like the swearing in of immigrants. They are a positive force. I don’t think The New York Times was ever a fully committed accountability paper. I am not sure there is one. I don’t know who coined the phrase Afghanistanism, but it fits for newspapers.

Afghanistanism means you can cover all the corruption you find in Afghanistan, but don’t try to do it in your own backyard. The Washington Post does not cover Washington. It covers official Washington. The Times ignores lots of omissions and worse by members of the Establishment.”

“Newspapers do not erase bad things,” Schanberg went on. “Newspapers keep the swamp from getting any deeper, from rising higher. We do it in spurts. We discover the civil rights movement. We discover the women’s rights movement. We go at it hellbent because now it is kosher to write about those who have been neglected and treated like half citizens. And then when things calm down it becomes easy not to do that anymore.”

The death of newspapers means, as Schanberg points out, that we will lose one more bulwark holding back the swamp of corporate malfeasance, abuse and lies. It will make it harder for us as a society to separate illusion from reality, fact from opinion, reality from fantasy. There is nothing, of course, intrinsically good about newspapers. We have long been cursed with sleazy tabloids and the fictional stories of the supermarket press, which have now become the staple of television journalism. The commercial press, in the name of balance and objectivity, had always skillfully muted the truth in the name of news or blotted it out. But the loss of great newspapers, newspapers that engage with the community, means the loss of one of the cornerstones of our open, democratic state. We face the prospect, in the very near future, of major metropolitan cities without city newspapers. This loss will diminish our capacity for self-reflection and take away the critical tools we need to monitor what is happening around us.

The leaders of the civil rights movement grasped from the start that without a press willing to attend their marches and report fairly from their communities on the injustices they decried and the repression they suffered, the movement would “have been a bird without wings,” as civil rights leader and U.S. Rep. John Lewissaid.

“Without the media’s willingness to stand in harm’s way and starkly portray events of the Movement as they saw them unfold, Americans may never have understood or even believed the horrors that African Americans faced in the Deep South,” Lewis, a Georgia Democrat, said in

2005 when the House celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. “That commitment to publish the truth took courage. It was incredibly dangerous to be seen with a pad, a pen, or a camera in Mississippi, Alabama or Georgia where the heart of the struggle took place. There was a violent desperation among local and State officials and the citizens to maintain the traditional order. People wanted to keep their injustice a secret. They wanted to hide from the critical eye of a disapproving world. They wanted to flee from the convictions of their own conscience. And they wanted to destroy the ugly reflection that nonviolent protestors and camera images so graphically displayed.

So when the Freedom Riders climbed off the bus in Alabama in 1961, for example, there were reporters who were beaten and bloodied before any of us were.”

Our political apparatus and systems of information have been diminished and taken hostage by corporations. Our government no longer responds to the needs or rights of citizens. We have been left disempowered without the traditional mechanisms to be heard. Those who battle the corporate destruction of the ecosystem and seek to protect the remnants of our civil society must again take to the streets. They have to engage in acts of civil disobedience. But this time around the media and the systems of communication have dramatically changed.

The death of journalism, the loss of reporters on the airwaves and in print who believed the plight of the ordinary citizen should be reported, means that it will be harder for ordinary voices and dissenters to reach the wider public. The preoccupation with news as entertainment and the loss of sustained reporting will effectively marginalize and silence those who seek to be heard or to defy established power. Protests, unlike in the 1960s, will have a difficult time garnering the daily national coverage that characterized the reporting on the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement and in the end threatened the power elite. Acts of protest, no longer covered or barely covered, will leap up like disconnected wildfires, more easily snuffed out or ignored. It will be hard if not impossible for resistance leaders to have their voices amplified across the nation, to build a national movement for change. The failings of newspapers were huge, but in the years ahead, as the last battle for democracy means dissent, civil disobedience and protest, we will miss them.

Chris Hedges is a weekly Truthdig columnist and a fellow at The Nation Institute. His newest book is “The World As It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress.”

13-27

Financial Problems in America

By Justin Webb

Is America in denial about the extent of its financial problems, and therefore incapable of dealing with the gravest crisis the country has ever faced?

This is a story of debt, delusion and – potentially – disaster. For America and, if you happen to think that American influence is broadly a good thing, for the world.

The debt and the delusion are both all-American: $14 trillion (£8.75tn) of debt has been amassed and there is no cogent plan to reduce it.

The figure is impossible to comprehend: easier to focus on the fact that it grows at $40,000 (£25,000) a second. Getting out of Afghanistan will help but actually only at the margins. The problem is much bigger than any one area of expenditure.

The economist Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, is no rabid fiscal conservative but on the debt he is a hawk:

“I’m worried. The debt is large. It should be brought under control.

The longer we wait, the longer we suffer this kind of paralysis; the more America boxes itself into a corner and the more America’s constructive leadership in the world diminishes.”

The author and economist Diane Coyle agrees. And she makes the rather alarming point that the acknowledged deficit is not the whole story.

The current $14tn debt is bad enough, she argues, but the future commitments to the baby boomers, commitments for health care and for pensions, suggest that the debt burden is part of the fabric of society:

“You have promises implicit in the structure of welfare states and aging populations that mean there is an unacknowledged debt that will have to be paid for by future taxpayers, and that could double the published figures.”

Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations acknowledges that this structural commitment to future debt is not unique to the United States. All advanced democracies have more or less the same problem, he says, “but in the case of the States the figures are absolutely enormous”.

Mr Haass, a former senior US diplomat, is leading an academic push for America’s debt to be taken seriously by Americans and noticed as well by the rest of the world.
He uses the analogy of Suez and the pressure that was put on the UK by the US to withdraw from that adventure. The pressure was not, of course, military. It was economic.

Britain needed US economic help. In the future, if China chooses to flex its muscles abroad, it may not be Chinese admirals who pose the real threat, Mr Haass tells us. “Chinese bankers could do the job.”

Because of course Chinese bankers, if they withdrew their support for the US economy and their willingness to finance America’s spending, could have an almost overnight impact on every American life, forcing interest rates to sky high levels and torpedoing the world’s largest economy.

Not everyone accepts the debt-as-disaster thesis.

David Frum is a Republican intellectual and a former speech writer to President George W Bush.

He told me the problem, and the solution, were actually rather simple:

“If I tell you you have a disease that will absolutely prostrate you and it could be prevented by taking a couple of aspirin and going for a walk, well I guess the situation isn’t apocalyptic is it?

“The things that America has to do to put its fiscal house in order are not anywhere near as extreme as what Europe has to do. The debt is not a financial problem, it is a political problem.”

Mr Frum believes that a future agreement to cut spending – he thinks America spends much too big a proportion of its GDP on health – and raise taxes, could very quickly bring the debt problem down to the level of quotidian normality.

‘Organised hypocrisy’

I am not so sure. What is the root cause of America’s failure to get to grips with its debt? It can be argued that the problem is not really economic or even political; it is a cultural inability to face up to hard choices, even to acknowledge that the choices are there.

I should make it clear that my reporting of the United States, in the years I was based there for the BBC, was governed by a sense that too much foreign media coverage of America is negative and jaundiced.

The nation is staggeringly successful and gloriously attractive. But it is also deeply dysfunctional in some respects.

Take Alaska. The author and serious student of America, Anne Applebaum makes the point that, as she puts it, “Alaska is a myth!”

People who live in Alaska – and people who aspire to live in Alaska – imagine it is the last frontier, she says, “the place where rugged individuals go out and dig for oil and shoot caribou, and make money the way people did 100 years ago”.

But in reality, Alaska is the most heavily subsidised state in the union. There is more social spending in Alaska than anywhere else.

To make it a place where decent lives can be lived, there is a huge transfer of money to Alaska from the US federal government which means of course from taxpayers in New York and Los Angeles and other places where less rugged folk live. Alaska is an organised hypocrisy.

Too many Americans behave like the Alaskans: they think of themselves as rugged individualists in no need of state help, but they take the money anyway in health care and pensions and all the other areas of American life where the federal government spends its cash.

The Tea Party movement talks of cuts in spending but when it comes to it, Americans always seem to be talking about cuts in spending that affect someone else, not them – and taxes that are levied on others too.

And nobody talks about raising taxes. Jeffrey Sachs has a theory about why this is.

America’s two main political parties are so desperate to raise money for the nation’s constant elections – remember the House of Representatives is elected every two years – that they can do nothing that upsets wealthy people and wealthy companies.

So they cannot touch taxes.

In all honesty, I am torn about the conclusions to be drawn. I find it difficult to believe that a nation historically so nimble and clever and open could succumb to disaster in this way.

But America, as well as being a place of hard work and ingenuity, is also no stranger to eating competitions in which gluttony is celebrated, and wilful ignorance, for instance regarding (as many Americans do) evolution as controversial.

The debt crisis is a fascinating crisis because it is about so much more than money. It is a test of a culture.

It is about waking up, as the Americans say, and smelling the coffee.

And – I am thinking Texas here – saddling up too, and riding out with purpose.

BBC News

13-27

Immigration Forum Thursday

ACCESS Press Release

ACCESS Executive Director Hassan Jaber will be one of the featured speakers at an immigration forum beginning at 5:30 p.m. Thursday July 1 at Hope of Detroit Academy. The school, at 4443 North Campbell St., was allegedly staked out earlier this year by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials.

Jaber joins host Congressmen John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) and Hansen Clarke (D-Mich.), who will speak about ICE’s recent enforcement actions at local elementary schools and against residents and U.S. citizens.

Representatives from the ACLU, Reform Immigration for America (RIFA), and individuals impacted by ICE’s actions also will speak about the adverse effects such actions have had on the immigrant community in Detroit.

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ACCESS Event Supports Victims of Torture and War

ACCESS Press Release

Dancing, singing and then drumming rhythms from their homelands, supporters gathered at ACCESS in Sterling Heights last Friday to honor the United Nations’ International Day to Support Victims of Torture.

Many of the refugees who attended the event at ACCESS’ Psychosocial Rehabilitation Center for Torture Survivors and Refugees were torture survivors themselves. Music helps them heal, they said, adding that they hoped the event would spread awareness about the facility.

It is estimated there are nearly a half-million immigrants in the United States who have been victims of torture. Their healing process is crucial not only for each individual, but also for their families, employers, friends and neighbors.

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Community News (V13-I27)

Hamid Khan named Soros Justice Fellow

picNEW YORK,NY–The Open Society Foundations this week announced an award of $1.6 million to an outstanding group of advocates, journalists, lawyers, grassroots organizers, and filmmakers working on a range of vital criminal justice reform issues at the local, state, and national levels.

The 2011 Soros Justice Fellows, who hail from 14 different states and Washington, D.C., will explore a wide array of issues, including prosecutorial misconduct, federal immigration enforcement, and the harsh treatment of youth. Among the fellows is Hamid Khan who in  collaboration with a diverse cross-section of individuals and groups, Khan will challenge Los Angeles Police Department surveillance and profiling practices that criminalize benign and legal activity, normalize racial profiling, and render people in certain communities as criminal suspects.

Khan has a long-standing and deep commitment to social justice for marginalized communities in Southern California. As founder and executive director of the South Asian Network, Khan helped to create the first community-based organization dedicated to informing and empowering South Asians in Southern California. He sits on the boards of various organizations, including the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and Generation FIVE, and is a founding member of the Los Angeles Taxi Workers Alliance and the Allies Collective. In 2010, he was selected by the Liberty Hill Foundation as one of six Grassroots Leaders to Watch.

Arif Khan named curator of Clay Centre

CHARLESTON, W.Va–Arif Khan has been named the Clay Center.

Clay Center President and CEO Judy Wellington said there were about 25 applicants, 10 of whom were interviewed initially online through Skype. Three were chosen for face-to-face meetings before the final selection was made.

Wellington said, “Arif comes from a good background. He’s very smart and enthusiastic about the challenge of integrating arts and science, which he has some experience doing in his current position.”
Khan is serving as gallery director of the Tamarind Institute at the University of New Mexico, in Albuquerque. He curates all exhibits in Tamarind’s gallery. His duties have also included fundraising and organizing, attending and installing exhibitions at art fairs through the country.

“He’s familiar with a number of galleries around the country,” Wellington said. “We think that’s a real asset.”

Khan has a master’s in art business from Sotheby’s Institute of London and a master’s in American studies from the University of New Mexico, where he also minored in art history. He also has a foundation certificate in art law from London’s Institute of Art and Law.

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Victim of 9/11 Hate Crime wants Governor of Texas to Pardon the Attacker

“Rais Bhuiyan is calling for compassion, healing, and forgiveness. Sign his petition at www.worldwithouthate.org”.

Rais Bhuiyan Speaking At The Press Conferencebw
Rais Bhuiyan Speaking At The Press Conference

These were the words of Mustafaa Carroll, the executive director of the Texas Chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-TX), as he welcomed the media and members of the Houstonian community to a special press conference.

Rais Bhuiyan, a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Bangladesh, was one of this country’s first hate crime victims immediately following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. He is requesting the Texas Criminal System and Governor Rick Perry that the scheduled July 20th, 2011 execution of his attacker, the white supremacist Mark Stroman, be commuted to life in prison without parole. Bhuiyan was working in a convenience store when, 10 days after the terrorist attacks, a man pushed a gun into his face. “Where are you from?” were the last words the 26-year-old Bhuiyan heard before his attacker shot him at close range, blinding him in one eye and leaving shrapnel he still carries in the right side of his face. The shooter had asked the same question of two other South Asian immigrants, Waqar Hasan and Vasudev Patel, before killing them in separate incidents on September 14th and October 04th, 2001, respectively.

Widow of Waqar Hasan and Rais Bhuiyan have both issued statements to forgive Mr. Stroman, while Rais Bhuiyan is going steps forward to have the death sentence commuted to life imprisonment without payroll and wants many people to sign his petition at www.worldwithouthate.org

“My parents have taught that hate leads to cycle of violence. Best thing is to forgive. Plus in our religion and Sacred Book Quran, we have been informed that saying one life is as saving the life of humanity. Our beloved Messenger Mohammad Peace Be Upon him was brutally wounded when he took message of God to the people of Taif. Angel Gabriel gave him the option to kill everyone in Taif, but he forgave them all by saying what they have done is in ignorance and hopefully future generations’ will be better than them. When I went for Hajj in 2009, I saw the valley of Taif, which is now one of the most peaceful places in Saudi Arabia. Although I lost one eye and bullets shrapnel are still in my skull, I still want to forgive Mr. Stroman due to the way my parents have brought me up and what I have learned from our religion Islam,” said Mr. Bhuiyan.

The joint hosts of the event were Dominican Sisters, a Christian faith based group against death penalty, and CAIR-TX. Other organizations, who either came to speak or are showing their support for Rais Bhuiyan cause include the Amnesty International, Dallas Peace Center (DPC), Houston Peace and Justice Center (HPJC), Islamic Circle of North America – Houston Chapter (ICNA-Houston), Muslim American Society – Houston Chapter (MAS-Houston), Sikh Establishment for Harmony, Appreciation & Joy (SEHAJ), Shades of White (SOW) world peace organization, Texas Coalition Against Death Penalty (TCADP), Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement (TDPAM) based at the SHAPE Community Center, and Greater Houston area religious leaders and human rights activists.
Speakers included:  Sister Ceil Roeger – Dominican Sisters, Rais Bhuiyan – World without Hate (www.worldwithouthate.org), Hadi Jawad – Representative Waqar Hasan Family, Rick Halperin – History Professor & Director of the Embrey Human Rights program at Southern Methodist University (SMU), Texas State Representative Lon Burnam (D-90),  Harpal Singh – Sikh Establishment for Harmony, Appreciation and Joy,  Imam Qasim Khan – Shades Of White world peace organization.

Mr. Stroman wrote on his website that he lost a sister in the attacks on the Twin Towers and that he believed his actions would be celebrated as those of a patriot. Now imprisoned in the Polunsky Unit death row facility in Livingston, Texas, Stroman has expressed profound remorse and deep regret for his actions, (Rick) Halperin says “…and when Mark’s appeals attorney, Lydia Brandt, shared with him (Stroman) that Rais and other members of the victims’ families have forgiven him and were working to commute his death sentence, he was reduced to tears.”  Bhuiyan is seeking solace for himself and the wives and children of the other shooting victims. “Executing Stroman is not what we want. We have already suffered so much; it will cause only more suffering if he is executed,” Rais said.

The decision to pursue commutation of Stroman’s sentence currently resides with Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins. If Watkins does not support commutation, Bhuiyan says he will appeal to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, which can then make a recommendation to Texas Governor Rick Perry to commute the sentence.

For additional information and to sign the on-line petition to commute Stroman’s death sentence to life in prison without parole, please go to Bhuiyan’s website, www.worldwithouthate.org.

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Basketball News

By Parvez Fatteh, TMO, Founder of http://sportingummah.com, sports@muslimobserver.com

OKC-Wallpaper-Mohammed-1280x1024In National Basketball Association news, Oklahoma City Thunder issued the following press release regarding center Nazr Mohammed:

The Oklahoma City Thunder have signed center Nazr Mohammed to a contract extension, it was announced today by Executive Vice President and General Manager Sam Presti. Per team policy, the terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

“We are pleased to be able to keep Nazr in the Thunder family,” said Presti. “He is a valuable part of our organization both on and off the floor. His professionalism, experience, and on-court play have had a positive impact on our young and evolving roster.”  The six foot ten inch Mohammed owns career averages of 6.9 points, 5.4 rebounds in 17.9 minutes in 771 career NBA games.

In other NBA news, Iranian-American center Hamed Haddadi received a qualifying offer from the Memphis Grizzlies, making him a restricted free agent this offseason. The Grizzlies will now have the right to match any contract offers Haddadi receives from other teams this offseason. The qualifying offer will pay Haddadi $2 million for the 2011-12 season if he doesn’t sign a new deal this summer.

The seven foot two inch Haddadi just finished his third season with the Grizzlies. He originally signed with Memphis as a free agent on August 28th, 2008. This past season he averaged a career-high .517 shooting percentage in 31 games, and he developed a bit of a cult following among fans for his energetic play and hustle. However, the start of the next NBA season, let alone the start of the offseason, is in doubt with an impending owner-imposed lockout that is likely to take effect July 1st.

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Bernard Hopkins Honored by State of Pennsylvania

By Parvez Fatteh, TMO, Founder of http://sportingummah.com, sports@muslimobserver.com

Combat Pascal-Hopkins

The Pennsylvania State Government honored Philadelphia native Bernard Hopkins at the State Capital yesterday for his recent WBC Light Heavyweight World Championship victory as the oldest fighter in boxing history to win a world title, as reported by BoxingScene.com.  Hopkins was invited by Senator Vincent Hughes, who has represented the state’s 7th District (covers parts of Philadelphia and Montgomery County) since 1994.

Hopkins made appearances on the House and Senate floors where each chamber presented him with a proclamation honoring his record-breaking victory over Jean Pascal in their championship rematch on May 21 in Montreal.

Following the proclamation on the Senate floor, Hopkins was given the opportunity to speak, and in true Hopkins style, inspired every person in the room as he shared his life story of overcoming obstacles and investing in health in order to reach where he is today. Hopkins ended his speech by saying, “Whether you are a Democrat or Republican, whatever decisions we all make together as one, it affects lives.” Hopkins is scheduled to defend his belt on October 15th against Chad Dawson. The location of the fight is yet to be determined, but it is scheduled to air on HBO.

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NBA and NHL Draft Results

By Parvez Fatteh, TMO, Founder of http://sportingummah.com, sports@muslimobserver.com

Ottawa Spirit Rug c2011

In last week’s National Hockey League draft, the Ottawa Senators selected Iranian-Swedish center Mika Zibanejad with the number six selection in the first round. Senators General Manager Bryan Murray told the Ottawa Citizen that Zibanejad will get every opportunity to make the parent club this very next season. Zibanejad is currently taking part in Ottawa’s annual developmental camp.

The National Basketball Association draft was also held last week. Turkish center Enes Kanter went very high in the first round, as he was selected by the Utah Jazz with the third selection overall despite numerous rumors that had him going with Minnesota’s number two selection. Kanter will join fellow Turkish center Mehmet Okur in Utah. Later in the first round, Morehead State University power forward Kenneth Faried was taken with the number 22 pick by the Denver Nuggets.

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Al-Qaeda Prisoners Escape in Yemen

By Mohamed Sudam

SANAA (Reuters) – A senior U.S. official pressed the Yemeni government on Wednesday to implement a Gulf Arab initiative calling for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down to end months of protest, Yemeni officials said.

The United States and ally Saudi Arabia fear that a power vacuum and tribal warfare in Yemen will be exploited by the local wing of al Qaeda to launch attacks in the region and beyond.

On Wednesday, dozens of al Qaeda militants escaped from a prison in the city of al-Mukalla in southern Yemen, the latest in a series of increasingly deadly clashes between security forces and militants in the south of the country.

A Yemeni government source said Jeffrey Feltman, the U.S. Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs, met Foreign Minister Abubakr al-Qirbi and Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who is acting president.

“The American side insisted on implementing the Gulf initiative and then removing features of tension (protests), while the Yemeni side demanded that features of tension be removed first and then implementing the initiative,” a Yemeni government source told Reuters.

Saleh has exasperated his rich Gulf Arab neighbors by three times agreeing to step down, only to pull out of a transition plan at the last minute and cling on to power.
Saleh is in Saudi Arabia recovering from injuries sustained in an attack on his palace in Sanaa nearly three weeks ago.

Feltman also held talks with Saleh’s son, Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, once widely seen to be next in line for the presidency until protests broke out earlier this year. No details emerged from the meeting.

As commander of the Republican Guards, the main strike force in Yemen, Ahmed Ali holds sway in the country of 23 million, which sits on the southern border of Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter.

Saleh has defied calls from global leaders, elements in his own military and tens of thousands of protesters to end his 33 year rule, which has brought Yemen close to financial ruin.

In an early bid to placate protesters demanding his ouster, Saleh guaranteed he would not hand power down to his son, but many Yemenis say key members of Saleh’s family including Ahmed Ali remain firmly in control of key levers of power, blocking any political transition without Saleh’s consent.

Opposition parties allied with youth activists have also insisted that Saleh formally hand over power to Hadi as a step toward a new government and democracy.

An aide to Saleh said on Wednesday his health was on the mend and that he had been receiving guests and giving instructions on day-to-day affairs in Yemen, including a power cut and fuel shortages.
“The president has rejected a request from several members of his family to come to Riyadh to visit him, and stressed that he will return home soon,” said Ahmed al-Sufi, the president’s media secretary told Reuters.

Dozens of al Qaeda militants escaped from a jail in southern Yemen on Wednesday following an attack on the compound.

One soldier was killed and two were wounded when militants opened fire on al-Munawara prison in al-Mukalla, a security official said.

“The militants opened fire on the prison gates and exchanged fire with the guards, injuring two and killing one,” the security official said, adding that 62 prisoners had fled.
All the prisoners were Yemeni and most of them had been jailed after returning from Iraq where they fought in militant ranks, he said.

(Writing by Sami Aboudi; editing by Mark Heinrich)

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