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Dueling BART ads on Israeli-Palestinian conflict

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict – the rhetorical side of the conflict, at least – is visible in the Bay Area again as organizations for and against Israeli policy have bought dueling ads in several BART stations.

cov_bart-BeOnOurSide_SF_Poster_011411Jewish Voice for Peace – an Oakland-based group that “seeks an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem; security and self-determination for Israelis and Palestinians; a just solution for Palestinian refugees based on principles established in international law; an end to violence against civilians; and peace and justice for all peoples of the Middle East” – co-produced an ad launched Dec. 5, urging commuters passing through the Downtown Berkeley, Oakland-12th Street and San Francisco Civic Center BART stations to “End U.S. military aid to Israel.”

“Our ads are not about repeating the same old paradigms, where one side (Israelis or Palestinians) is good and the other (Palestinians or Israelis) is bad. Our ads are about the common ground that we have,” Sydney Levy, Jewish Voice for Peace’s campaigns director, said today via e-mail. “It is about asking Americans to stand together with Israelis and Palestinians on the same side, not opposite one another.”

Poster-10[1]StandWithUs, a Los Angeles-based international pro-Israel group, this week launched ads of its own in the same BART stations plus three more – Embarcadero and Balboa Park in San Francisco, and Oakland’s MacArthur – depicting both the “rage-filled eyes of a terrorist” as well as Palestinian and Israeli children playing soccer together, directing readers to a web site that blames Palestinians for obstructing the peace process.

“The anti-Israel ad confuses and deceives the public. It declares it represents the side of ‘peace and justice’ and shows happy pictures of an Israeli father and a Palestinian father with their little sons. These images and words appeal to all people of good will. But the real message is that Israel is the obstacle to peace and that the U.S. should stop all financial assistance to Israel,” StandWithUs CEO Roz Rothstein said in a news release. “The ad tries to hide the real obstacles—Hamas, Palestinian terrorism, and decades of anti-Israel, anti-Jewish hate education. We cannot let this message, with its deceptive, velvet-gloved rhetoric, influence unsuspecting commuters who may not know the facts. Our ads will provide the needed facts.”

Levy, of course, disagrees. “Sadly, the Stand With Us ads are simply about demonizing and delegitimizing Palestinians. They say that Israel has no partner for peace. They ignore all the Palestinian nonviolent anti-occupation activists languishing in Israeli jails, including Abdallah Abu Rahmah, an Amnesty International Palestinian prisoner of conscience.”

Posted on Tuesday, January 18th, 2011
Under: International politics, Israel | 4 Comments »

Bay Area finalists in ‘Democracy is…’ contest

Two Bay Area residents – a third-grade teacher, tech-trainer and aspiring photographer/videographer from Pleasanton, and a video technology developer from San Jose – are among finalists in a State Department-sponsored international competition to build a global discussion on democracy.

The Democracy Video Challenge asks people around the world to complete the phrase “Democracy is…” through short online videos, submitted online. Since its launch two years ago, more than 1,600 people from 111 countries submitted entries and spurred the online engagement of at least 1.5 million people.

The challenge is part of a larger “Democracy is…” project, described as “a global conversation created by a unique public-private partnership that includes democracy and youth organizations, the film and entertainment industry, academia and the U.S. government. It leverages social networks and various creative tools to engage people around the world to share, consider, debate, and learn from diverse perspectives on democracy.”

There are 18 finalists; people around the world can now vote for their favorite videos until midnight GMT (that’s 5 p.m. PDT for us) next Tuesday, June 15. Six winners, one from each geographic region of the world, will be announced during the week of June 21 to receive all-expense-paid trips to Los Angeles, New York and Washington DC in September. Last year’s six winners are from the United Arab Emirates, Zambia, the Philippines, Poland, Nepal, and Brazil.

Here’s the entry by Nicole Dalesio of Pleasanton:

And here’s the entry by Franklin Pham of San Jose:

Posted on Wednesday, June 9th, 2010
Under: International politics, Youth in politics | 1 Comment »

Israeli diplomat to speak in SF Thursday

This should be a hot one.

Northern California’s top Israeli diplomat will make a public appearance this week, even as Middle East tensions spike following Israel’s ill-fated decision to board activist ships challenging the blockade of Gaza, leading to the deaths of nine activists on a boat where activists attacked the boarding troops.

Akiva Tor, the Counsul General for the Pacific Northwest Region, will speak on “Middle East Peacemaking, the Iranian Crisis and U.S.– Israel Relations” at 6 p.m. this Thursday, June 10, in the Commonwealth Club of California’s offices, on the second floor of 595 Market St. in San Francisco. Tickets cost $12 for club members, $20 for nonmembers or $7 for students with valid ID, and are available online.

In an op-ed piece in the San Francisco Chronicle last week, Tor defended the need for a blockade on the Gaza Strip. “Simply put, we don’t have much choice….If we allow unfettered access to the Gaza Strip, Gaza will become an Iranian-armed missile base on our doorstep, much as Lebanon has become under Hezbollah.”

The Jewish Community Relations Council of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin, Sonoma, Alameda and Contra Costa Counties e-mailed out an “action alert” today urging people to go support Tor at Thursday’s event: “We understand there are plans to protest and possibly disrupt the lecture. Attend this event and show your support for Israel and its outstanding Consul General!”

Posted on Tuesday, June 8th, 2010
Under: International politics, Israel | No Comments »

Tauscher makes East Bay appearance

Former congresswoman Ellen Tauscher delivers a very different kind of speech to a very familiar audience this morning.

Watch the full speech below of Tauscher, now the Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, as she speaks to the Contra Costa Council in Concord.

Posted on Tuesday, January 19th, 2010
Under: Contra Costa County, International politics | No Comments »

Berkeley, Oakland urge oil money transparency

Berkeley City Council last night approved a resolution urging the U.S. Senate to approve S.1700, the “Energy Security Through Transparency Act” by U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., which would urge the Obama Administration to require that companies disclose payments to foreign governments for oil, gas and mineral rights. Oakland City Council passed a similar resolution last week.

“Good governance in extractive industries contribute to a better domestic investment climate for U.S. businesses, increase the reliability of commodity supplies, promote greater U.S. energy security and thereby strengthen our national security,” says the summary on Lugar’s Web site.

San Francisco-based Justice in Nigeria Now hails the cities’ actions as a moral victory.

“I was tortured and imprisoned by the Nigerian military for my peaceful protests against Shell Oil’s destruction of our land,” Suanu Kingston Bere, a Nigerian activist who spoke at the Berkeley City Council meeting, said in JINN’s news release. “I believe the City’s support sends a strong message that communities in the U.S are concerned about the human rights abuses and environmental damage associated with oil extraction. I do not want to see my people continue to go through what I went through.”

Berkeley’s resolution also calls on the State Department to support third-party peace talks in the Delta to address environmental destruction and lack of investment in the oil producing region. The resolution was co-sponsored by Councilmembers Jesse Arreguin, Darryl Moore and Max Anderson and was introduced to the council through the Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission, which worked with JINN to draft it.

JINN says 50 years of oil exploitation in the Niger Delta has produced over $700 billion in oil revenues shared between the Nigerian government and oil giants like San Ramon-based Chevron as well as Exxon Mobil and Shell. More than 40 percent of Nigeria’s oil is exported to the U.S. Yet despite the corporate oil wealth, local residents’ quality of life has deteriorated – their drinking polluted, their food fisheries poisoned, their access to education, health care and even electricity limited.

“Oil companies in Nigeria have had long a relationship with the notoriously corrupt and historically brutal Nigerian government where rampant corruption, fraudulent elections and violent suppression of peaceful protests are the norm in the Delta,” Nigerian writer and activist Omoyele Sowore said in JINN’s news release. “The proposed ESTT Act in the Senate is an important step toward holding oil companies accountable for their collusion with the Nigerian government, which protects their profits while killing and injuring innocent local people and destroying the Delta’s fragile environment.”

Posted on Wednesday, October 14th, 2009
Under: Berkeley, General, International politics, Oakland | 2 Comments »

Lee angry at Obama Administration’s boycott

For the second time in a week, Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, is chafing under the foreign policy of President Barack Obama, whom she worked hard to help elect.

Lee, in her capacity as chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, issued a statement this morning complaining about the Obama Administration’s decision to boycott the United Nations’ 2009 Durban Review Conference addressing racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia.

The State Department issued a statement Saturday saying the conference’s draft outcome document still contains language that unfairly singles out Israel for criticism as well as language which could lead to free-speech restrictions. Lee said she and the CBC are “deeply dismayed” by the boycott.

“This decision is inconsistent with the administration’s policy of engaging with those we agree with and those we disagree with, expressed by President Obama during the G20 and on other recent occasions,” her statement said.

“The United States has a unique experience and history of combating racism and intolerance. As a result, the United States is well suited to play a leadership role in overcoming racism and related intolerances, which remain one of the great challenges facing many around the globe,” she said. “By boycotting Durban, the U.S. is making it more difficult for it to play a leadership role on UN Human Rights Council as it states it plans to do. This is a missed opportunity, plain and simple.

“Had the United States sent a high-level delegation reflecting the richness and diversity of our country, it would have sent a powerful message to the world that we’re ready to lead by example. Instead, the administration opted to boycott the conference, a decision that does not advance the cause of combating racism and intolerance, but rather sets the cause back.”

Posted on Monday, April 20th, 2009
Under: Barack Obama, Barbara Lee, International politics, Israel, U.S. House | No Comments »

Tauscher delivers Bucharest NATO summit keynote

In the most prestigious international speech of her career, Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, in her role as chairwoman of the House Strategic Forces Subcommittee, delivered the morning keynote address this morning at the NATO Bucharest Conference in Bucharest, Romania.

An video of the speech will be posted online as soon as its available at (Click on multimedia and it should show up under April 1 as soon as organizers have uploaded the video.)

According to Tauscher’s office, the conference is held in conjunction with the official 2008 NATO Summit.

“Continuing the success of the Istanbul Conference in 2004 and the Riga Conference in 2006, the Bucharest Conference provides a forum for leading policymakers, opinion leaders, scholars, and business people from both sides of the Atlantic to discuss the most pressing issues facing NATO and the international community,” according to the press release.

Here’s the prepared text of Tauscher’s speech:

It is an honor to be here tonight and to follow the President of Romania.

Thank you very much for your hospitality this week and for inviting us to the lovely city of Bucharest.

It is clear that as Mayor your efforts to modernize this great city have brought great returns.

To be here for this meeting is an accomplishment no one could have imagined at the end of the Cold War.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, April 1st, 2008
Under: Congress, International politics | 2 Comments »

Rep. Miller visits Dalai Lama in India

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, met with the Dalai Lama today in India in a trip with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The New York Times is running a story and photo online (see photo on right) from the event. Miller is in the back row, third from the left — he’s the tall guy with the white hair.

I’ve pasted below a press release from Miller’s office, as well.

And click here for video on the NYT web site.

Press release from Miller follows:



WASHINGTON – March 21, 2008 – Coinciding with one of the strongest protests in years by Tibetans against Chinese oppression, the Dalai Lama held a meeting today in India with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Congressman George Miller, and other lawmakers during a congressional visit to India led by the Speaker.

The visit with the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, had been planned well in advance of the trip but the meeting took on added significance because of the recent violent crackdown by the Chinese government against Tibetan protesters inside China.

“I am humbled and honored to meet with the Dalai Lama,” said Miller (D-Martinez). “It is my hope that our visit today will help draw additional attention and support to the effort by the Tibetan people to live in peace and freedom in their own country. The Chinese government’s brutal crackdown against peaceful protest is abhorrent and must end. The United States, as a leader of free nations, is obligated to support the peaceful efforts of the Tibetans and to condemn China’s repressive measures.”

(The New York Times is running a photo of the visit on its website now:

Miller has met the Dalai Lama on two other occasions, once at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro to discuss global warming, and again several years ago When the Dalai Lama came to visit with members of Congress in Washington.

The main focus of the Speaker’s visit to India is to discuss energy and environmental issues with the government of India. The delegation is exploring areas of cooperation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and avoid the catastrophic impacts of global warming in both countries and around the world. Innovation is a key driver of both countries’ economies. Miller and Pelosi have spent a great deal of time in Congress promoting U.S. innovation efforts. India has become a fierce economic competitor in scientific and industrial manufacturing research.

The delegation is also examining the effectiveness of U.S. assistance programs in India. Last year, the Congress appropriated approximately $117 million for India to help improve India’s ability to achieve sustainable growth and reduce poverty by decreasing child and maternal mortality, addressing the rise of infectious diseases including HIV/AIDS, and promoting clean technology and climate change improvements. This year, the President requested $78 million, and Congress will consider that request in the State-Foreign Operations Appropriations bill to be voted on in the coming months.

The delegation went to Dharamsala, India, the recognized home of Tibetan exiles, to met with the Dalai Lama and other Tibetans. The U.S. provides an annual appropriation of $2.5 million for Tibetan refugees in India and Nepal who have escaped repression in Tibet. Two of the sites the delegation is visiting are the Tibetan refugee reception center, which handles newly arrived refugees and former political prisoners, and the Tibetan Children’s Village, which educates and looks after thousands of Tibetan orphans, students and new refugees.

Posted on Friday, March 21st, 2008
Under: Congress, International politics | No Comments »

Tauscher speaks out on Pakistan assassination

Ellen TauscherThe United States must take a “tough love” approach in Pakistan in the wake of today’s assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the country’s candidate for prime minister who espoused secular democracy, said Rep. Ellen Tauscher, chairwoman of a House Armed Services Committee panel with oversight of strategic nuclear security.

Pakistan has been a key player in U.S. efforts to stabilize and reconstruct neighboring Afghanistan and its status as a nuclear power significantly heightens international concern that internal political upheaval could jeopardize security over its weapons arsenal.

“This is very, very bad,” Tauscher said from her Alamo home by telephone this morning. “This is a time for tough love. We must be significantly engaged with our allies to ensure that the vulnerability of the Pakistani people isn’t leveraged by others, whether they are outside terrorists or other people inside the country who don’t share the same goals of democracy and freedom.”

Tauscher she contacted Pentagon officials shortly after hearing of the assassination and sought repeated reassurance that the Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has retained the “full care, custody and control of its nuclear weapons and that the people in charge of the program are apolitical and above reproach.”

But the congresswoman expressed deep concern about continued U.S. reliance on Musharraf in the fight against terrorism and the security of Pakistan’s nuclear complex.

She called Musharraf a U.S. ally born out of geographic convenience after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks but who took power in a military coup and seeks to remain in power indefinitely.

It was Musharraf, she said, who pardoned Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of the Pakistani bomb who turned around and sold nuclear technology to Iran, North Korea and others. Pakistan’s failure to prosecute Khan precluded a full investigation and disclosure of the details of the massive security breach, Tauscher said.

“We cannot continually find ourselves associated by convenience with people like Musharraf,” Tauscher said. “He was someone we had chosen to embrace because of the geography (neighbor to Afghanistan) and he chose to embrace us, but to a certain extent, it was a relationship of convenience to expedite the recovery of Afghanistan.

“We have to make clear that Musharraf’s quest of limitless power is not in the best interests of the Pakistani people and that his means of doing it is degrading the stability of the country and the region.”

On a related item, those of you on-line with an interest in what’s happening in Pakistan may be interested in a story on the Poynter Institute website about how to find bloggers inside the country. (Poynter is an organization that provides professional training and assistance to journalists.) Most of the news accounts about the assassination and the reaction in the Pakistan is coming from outside the country because of restrictions on journalists, writes Poynter blogger Amy Gahran.

NOTE: Photo is of Rep. Ellen Tauscher as it appears on her web site at

Posted on Thursday, December 27th, 2007
Under: Congress, International politics | No Comments »