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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.”

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Local activists prepare for ‘Gaza Freedom March’

Some of the more than three dozen Bay Area residents who are headed to Gaza for a New Year’s Eve peace march will gather tonight in San Francisco to make banners and flags.

The Gaza Freedom March is being organized by the International Coalition to End the Illegal Siege of Gaza, with San Francisco activist Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK and Global Exchange on the organizing committee. The Bay Area contingent will fly to Cairo later this month, joining a 1,000-person delegation from 42 nations to enter Gaza for the march near the closed Erez checkpoint on the border with Israel; as many as 50,000 Palestinians are expected to attend.

The local contingent includes activists, UC-Berkeley and UC-Davis students, artists and at least one internationally known celebrity: Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker of Berkeley.

Local “solidarity actions” mirroring the march are planned in other cities around the world. In San Francisco, there’ll be a memorial vigil at 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 27 in Union Square for Palestinians killed in an Israeli military operation in Gaza last year, and organizers have obtained a permit for a march across the Golden Gate Bridge at noon on New Year’s Eve.

“The world needs to know that the situation in Palestine is not morally acceptable nor legal under international law,” march participant and recent Cal Poly grad Marina Barakatt of San Francisco said in a news release. “Human rights abuses, land expropriation, targeted assassinations, house demolitions, and increasing repression are part of the price Palestinians pay, framed as a just, nationalist fight.”

But San Francisco Voice for Israel activist Michael Harris said “(T)he sad thing about this is that the groups promoting this event are really not interested in peace between a Jewish state of Israel and an Arab state of Palestine. They are supporting the Hamas regime, which vows to destroy not only Israel but targets all Jews worldwide.”

“By continuing to promote an extremist agenda, and by supporting a regime that is not only anti-Semitic but also is homophobic and misogynistic, these groups are actually perpetuating Palestinian suffering,” he said. “Time and energy that could have been spent in building a Palestinian future has instead been devoted to trying to destory Israel’s future.”

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A few upcoming political events

Saturday, April 25 – The Northern California chapter of American Political Items Collectors will host a political memorabilia show from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Finnish Brotherhood Hall, 1970 Chestnut St. in Berkeley. Aside from lots of dealers, there’ll be free appraisals, a special display of Obama campaign collectibles and a live mini-auction at noon. Admission is $4, but free for kids or students with valid ID.

Sunday, April 26 – Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, a Palestinian physician whose three daughters and niece were killed January 16 by Israeli shelling in Gaza, will speak about the reasons for his unwavering hope for peace between Israelis and Palestinians at 7 p.m. in Kehilla Community Synagogue, at 1300 Grand Ave. in Piedmont. The longtime peace advocate’s loss gained an international spotlight when he called into an Israeli television show during the attack. The event is co-sponsored by Kehilla, Americans for Peace Now, and the Bay Area chapter of Brit Tzedek v’Shalom. The suggested donation is $10 to $20, but nobody will be turned away for lack of funds.

Thursday, April 30 — American Civil Liberties Union executive director Anthony Romero will speak on “The Urgency of Action in the Age of Obama” at 6 p.m., preceded by a 5:30 p.m. reception, at the Commonwealth Club of California’s office on the second floor of 595 Market St. (at Second) in San Francisco. Romero says that while the first months of Obama’s presidency have been marked by considerable change, if the threats to civil liberties are not addressed, America’s future may be more imperiled than previously believed. Tickets cost $12 for club members, $18 for nonmembers and $7 for students with valid identification, and are available online.

Thursday, May 7 – Former Assembly Speaker and former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown will give his annual critique of state and national political trends at 6 p.m., preceded by a 5:30 p.m. reception, in the Commonwealth Club of California’s office on the second floor of 595 Market St. (at Second) in San Francisco. This event is open only to club members at $12 per ticket, each of whom can bring one guest at $18 per ticket; tickets are available online.

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Response in GOP/tea party/anti-Semitism flap

Lisa wrote Monday about California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring issuing a verbal smackdown on those who’d used an anti-Semitic graphic to promote an anti-tax “tea party” in San Mateo last week. On Monday I’d tried to contact the organizer of the Meetup page (since then, made private and visible only to members) that had hosted the graphic; this morning, I received this reply:

Thanks for the opportunity to respond. Meetup Groups are formed by people who share interests or are simply fans of a particular person. Our Meetup Group is not officially associated with Dr. Paul, nor do we fully control the content on our pages. The “fans” drive the information on our Meetup sites without editorial oversight, and this promotes open discussions about complex issues without fear of harsh criticism.

Frankly, I am impressed to learn that Mr. Nehring is paying such close attention to meetup groups to have even found this. It shows a tremendous attention to detail which I admire. He then must have blown up this very small image quite large to have read the fine print, something I had not done. In retrospect I may have chosen a different graphic had I first scrutinized it more carefully.

With that said, no offense was intended by posting the image described in Mr. Nehring’s press release. While the image was provocative, it represents a point made by many people before: U.S. financial aid for the Israeli government which comes from U.S. taxpayers, funds the harsh handling, and sadly, the death of innocent Palestinians.

However Mr. Nehring’s putting the words “Ron Paul”, “fringe” and “anti-semitism” in his press release as his interpretation of this graphic’s message was unfortunate. It is important not to equate non-interventionism with anti-semitism.

The message of this graphic is non-interventionist. It begs each of us to ask ourself an important question, “Do I want my tax dollars spent on foreign wars?” I am not suggesting to anyone what their personal answer to that question should be; each person can decide that for himself. Honest and fair discourse should be fostered without fear of warrantless accusation.

Anti-semitism is too real, not to mention despicable, to be charged lightly, and Mr. Nehring’s reactionary charge is regrettable. It amounts to an unjustified smear of Dr. Paul and the people who support him.

One irony in this matter cannot be overlooked. A large, growing contingent of Ron Paul supporters has been elected to Republican County Central Committees throughout California. By indirectly smearing them, Mr. Nehring harms his own party.

Regards,
Kathy McGrade

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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.”

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Bay Area House members urge action on Gaza

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland — along with Rep. John Olver, D-Mass., and Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara — helped lead the effort to send a letter yesterday urging U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to pursue immediate action by the United States to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

“Given the extent of the suffering, destruction, and deprivation in Gaza, it is imperative that the United States lead the effort to ameliorate the growing humanitarian crisis,” Lee said in a news release. “I am optimistic that under the leadership of our new President and Secretary of State, concrete steps will be taken to bring much needed relief to the people of Gaza.”

In their letter, the Representatives noted the need for the opening of border crossings into Israel so supplies can enter Gaza, and for the critically ill to be transported out of Gaza for medical treatment. They also reminded the Administration that rebuilding Gaza will depend on the international community making significant financial contributions.

The lawmakers also asked that Clinton or her staff share with them the actions taken to date and the strategy that will be pursued to address the humanitarian crisis; they want this information before Congress recesses on Feb. 13.

The three co-authors were joined by 57 co-signers, including much of the Bay Area’s delegation: House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Martinez; Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont; Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough; Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma; Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; and Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose.

Read the letter’s full text and list of signatories, after the jump… Continue Reading