It Ain’t The Promised Land…Part Seven

The prison industry at Canaan is not the problem. Rather, it is very much symptomatic of a much older, deeper, and entrenched policy that builds prisons, buys votes, and destroys lives. Currently, there are approximately 2,500,000 men, women, and children imprisoned in federal, state and local penitentiaries and jails that stretch across this country from its most exciting cities to its smallest and isolated rural communities. No matter their locale or size, they imprison not people, but broken dreams, misguided visions, and failed policies. Each year, that number grows exponentially. Already out-of-control, at the current rate, by the year 2020, the number of prisoners nationwide will reach epidemic proportions.

Currently, there are 10 million convicted felons in the United States, or about 20% of its adult population. Something is very much broken here. To suggest that a society can be described as healthy which at any given time jails upwards of 10% of its people, indeed 25% of prisoners worldwide, at the same time its population is less than 5% of that same world is to turn day into night… an exercise in perverse delusion… or perhaps the best indication that “tough on crime” is but a relentless cheap campaign slogan that plays to the moral agenda of the powerful few while it targets people based largely on race, class, and politics.

The so-called war on drugs has gone on for too long, causing far more societal damage than the underlying drugs themselves, or any short-term economic law enforcement “benefit” generated by their criminalization. Currently, approximately 60% of all federal prisoners are incarcerated because of victimless drug offenses fueled by the desire of offenders to get high or to help others to do so. Another 10% or so of the prison population is comprised of non-violent white-collar offenses.

America’s love affair with drugs is both seamless and timeless. It dates back to the earliest days of the Republic when more than a few of its well-heeled founders enjoyed snuff to ease pain, pass time, or simply escape. Some things don’t change.

Today, sentences for federal drug offenses continue to be draconian and often run into decades of real prison time. While use of marijuana for medical or recreational purposes is now lawful in some three dozen states, several dozen prisoners nationwide are doing life sentences with no chance of release because these victims stand convicted of multiple pot offenses and nothing else.

It’s far too easy, and too slick, to simply say that drug offenders make personal choices driven by character weakness or financial greed and thus should not be heard to complain… not in a country where the chase for profit has embraced an addictive tobacco and alcohol industry of death that kills tens of millions of Americans each year through disease and violence… and has for a century or more.

Today, in Pennsylvania, where the Canaan prison complex sits like a mausoleum for the living dead, there are fourteen federal prisons of all security levels ranging from camps to maximum security and a private facility which collectively imprison almost 15,000 prisoners. Nationwide, there are more than 250,000 federal inmates.

Annual costs per federal inmate are approximately $23,000 for minimum security camps, $27,000 for low security, $28,000 for medium security, and $36,000 for high security prisons. Costs per inmate housed in community corrections (residential re-entry centers, and home confinement) for the BOP are approximately $27,000. By contrast, the yearly cost of community-based supervision by probation officers is approximately $3,500 per offender. Dollars alone, the stark, indeed dramatic, difference between building prisons or new probation offices is breathtaking, all the more so considering the recidivism rates. For those so-called offenders who stay at home with support from their families, employed or acquiring real skills, re-arrest figures remain no worse or lower than that for those locked away for the same offenses while their families slip further and further into poverty and despair.

Can it be that the high-growth prison industry in Pennsylvania, indeed nationwide, has become a political perk for politicians such as the late and all-powerful US Senator from the Keystone State, Arlen Specter, who built jails and thus bought votes from his constituents all the years he served as one of the Senate’s most powerful lawmakers and, for many years, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Through his reign, Pennsylvania saw an unprecedented growth in its federal and state prison system while not a single new university was built during that time.

In Pennsylvania, almost 60% of the federal inmate population, which mirrors the country as a whole, is locked away in camps or low-security level facilities. By their very nature, such prisons are filled by those who have been convicted of non-violent drug or white collar offenses. Based on their history, they present no risk or danger to the broader community. They remain, however, imprisoned far from their homes and community at tremendous costs to their families and society as a whole… doing often long, and always lonely, time for retribution’s sake and little else. Today, such prisons are running almost 50% above capacity.

Imagine how much better, healthier, and wiser we could all become overnight with a 60% (if not greater) drop in the federal prison population and the billions it costs to maintain these human warehouses nationwide.

“Count time, count time, count time,” echoes throughout Canaan as the lights dim and another night of darkness takes hold.

It Ain’t The Promised Land…Part Six

It’s the most important room in the prison, bar none. With three ancient microwave ovens, some battered washing machines and dryers, a leaking ice machine and a few faded counter-tops and tables, everything happens here every day. Need a four-course dining extravaganza? Go to the kitchen! Need your blood-stained sheets washed? Go to the laundry! Need to ice down your days-old sour milk cartons? Go to the ice room! Need your prison greens ironed? Go to the dry cleaners! Need a game of dominoes? Go to the game room! All things to all prisoners is this 20×40-foot dreary room with a cracked cement floor, stained white concrete walls, and a large, cold, picture window. Are you an animal lover? Well, early each morning, you can come watch an army of large ants fighting on the floor over crumbs left the night before, mostly by design. Want to hang out and just bullshit or look out at the layered concertina wire, towering brick walls and gun turrets that surround the prison yard several hundred yards away? Go to the veranda.

Early mornings and late evenings are always the worst time in prisons as prisoners race around to get ready for forced, meaningless labor, or sit alone and reflect on lost lives and dreams, afraid of the future.

It’s 8:00 AM on a Sunday morning and Freddie has already been hard at work in his kitchen for some two hours preparing for his weekly banquet. As he dices spoiled apples and dated turkey rolls, crushes bags of Dorito’s chips, and seasons rice and beans, other prisoners begin to stumble in wiping, from their eyes, what little sleep they got and waiting on line to heat their coffee, tea, or eggs at the microwave. While Freddie preps his meal, Joe is busy but a few feet away, in his grey prison sweats, ironing a tight and crisp crease in this prison greens as he gets ready for more visits. Like the mail, he holds the record for most visits as a steady stream of family, friends, and union members pass through Canaan each weekend to give him something to look forward to in his otherwise dreary life.  Logan, as always, is all business as he walks in to confront his “nephew” who is already hanging out talking smack to some other young prisoners. Although not related, the two call each other “uncle” and “nephew” out of endearment. His favorite student, a young black man whose wife died, while he has been in prison, leaving behind three young, now parent-less, kids, broke his appointment to meet with Logan the night before to work on his resume. In walks “Leech,” with his small plastic trash can in one hand, to be topped off with ice, and a bag of dirty laundry in the other. Wallace and Jamal come in together in search of another Muslim prisoner as they ready for the second prayer of the still-young day. Justin, a pasty young white man from rural Maine, paces nervously, waiting to hear the loudspeaker call out “pill line, pill line, pill line” to take the edge off of another day before its pressure mounts.

“People gonna get high,” Freddie joins in as two other prisoners debate drug addiction and laws as they pass time waiting their turn for the washing machine. One, a young Latino graduate of Narcotics Anonymous, who later relapsed and got busted, is especially animated this morning. “The laws aren’t tough enough,” Flacco yells out, with tears in his eyes. “I fucked up and deserve the 24 months the judge gave me. Maybe more. I got no gripes.”

To Freddie, who rolls his eyes, 24 months is a joke, a walk in the park.  To him, Flacco is just looking to score some points with the cops… outside and in.

“It don’t matter what they say or do,” Freddie says as he starts to ready a pie made of week-old bananas, sour milk, and Hershey’s Kisses. “Drugs been here since day one and ain’t leaving. Jail don’t scare a fiend.  He’s gonna do what he’s gonna do and get high. Rich, poor, white, black, young, old, male, female… getting high is all you want. I know. I been there year after year, for as long as I can remember

Cash nods his head in agreement. “Drugs are an illness,” he says, “and sending users or sellers to prison don’t do nothing but destroy families and waste money.” Joe joins in, as he always does on matters of politics and social policy, “Drugs are a disease.” Not all of them, or all amounts, he reasons, “but the government criminalizes health issues to warehouse the poor and extend the prison economy nationwide.”

Logan, now firmly but softly lecturing his nephew about personal responsibility to himself and his kids, joins in. “You’re right, Joe,” he says, “most prisoners in this country are in prison for drugs and nothing else. These sentences are insane,” he continues, “… it takes all the money from poor communities and inner-city schools and infrastructure and for what,“ he asks, as he turns his back to his prized student and continues his lecture to the others.

Justin, quiet throughout, although nervous but attentive, suddenly stumbles into the discussion. “I don’t know what to say,” but breaks his thought mid-sentence as he hears a faint message over the loudspeaker and fears he’ll miss his meds for the day. “I don’t want to get high, he continues, “but I ‘m going home soon and to what… I’ve got no skills, no job… no home. Where am I going?” He adds, “All I’ve done here is time. I don’t want to get high…”

“THEN DON’T!” yells Flacco interrupting in a loud almost-shout to intimidate him. “Then don’t!” he repeats, as he switches to his own fears. “I wish I could stay clean, too. All I want is to start over, “ says the young, now angry Latino. “I lost my family the first time,” he adds, “and they won’t come back to me. Now I’m all alone,” says the NA failure.

“I got depressed and relapsed, too,” says Juan, who has since entered the room to cook his eggs. He’s been getting high in the streets of Newark since 15, beginning not long after his dad was killed by cops.

“Welcome to the club,” says Robert. “My wife and kids are long gone. Just spilt… who knows where. And now with me on my way home after 17 years.” Wallace agrees as he looks out the now-open door for Curtis, anxious to go to prayer. “I lost my family here. They just couldn’t wait any longer for the miracle that never came.”

“What do you expect?” chimes in Jeff, as much a rhetorical question. “We’re all criminals… a country of criminals. How many of us are there now? 10 million, 20 million with convictions and prison records… or on their way to one,” as his voice trails off.

“I don’t know,” Cash joins in, “there are times when all I can do is shake my head. It’s nuts. Just fucking nuts.”

“Years ago, I didn’t know anyone from my hood without a prison bid or record. It’s probably true of my city now,” says Cash. “It seems like no family stays together, just a revolving door.”

Robert adds, “I can’t remember a time when my family was all together at the same time and on the same street. Me, my dad, my brothers… one of us always away or well on their way to it.” He turns to look out the window just as Spice joins in. “In Philly, nothing but cops, courts, and jail. You get all jammed up trying to get straight or to make a little cash… next stop, 5, 10 or 20 years… no bodies, it don’t matter… you’re gone.  All you see in this state is jails, old and new, everywhere it seems there is a prison,” notes Logan. “No new hospitals or treatment centers or schools… nothing for our kids or their future but a public defender and a cell.”

Joe interrupts, “I just read an article on prisons and costs, it’s just unbelievable. The cost to jail someone, a non-violent person, is more than eight times greater than it is to keep him home with his family with supervision and community service. I’ll go get it,” says Joe as he returns the iron to the wall hook and leaves to get ready for his visit. Justin continues, “I tried to get help. I couldn’t. I tried to get a job. There was none. I tried to learn a trade. They laughed. It was a circle, a run-around. It never stopped.”

Justin agrees, “I had to go down south to get clean and when I did, and came home, they busted me for old shit. Here I was finally clean and in handcuffs.”

“What do you want,” says Flacco, “a medal?” as he returns to the room, still blaming everyone but himself for his own failures. “You get high because you’re weak… plain and simple!” he shouts out.

“Fuck off!” Juan yells back. “I wanted help. I tried to get it. There was nothing. All I got was closed doors or a long waiting line wherever I turned.”

“Yeah, right,” adds Curtis. “Just waiting. We’re always waiting, it seems, for the feds to come… to take us away.”

“You know the deal,” Spice adds in. “Spin me, turn me, give up your friend, your cousin, your mom.”

“It don’t matter,” adds Curtis, “They don’t care about the truth. They just want more and more bodies… dead or alive.

“The feds just don’t give a fuck,” adds Juan. “It’s all the same shit,” says Chris as he walks out the door with his coffee now hot and his anger not much cooler.

“It’s all about cops,” says Leech, himself now upset as he shakes his head staring out the window. “It’s about class and color and wealth. White folks don’t get busted the way we do,” adds Cash, “and when they do, it’s usually a walk. They get embarrassed, but then go on.” Upset, he leaves the room, slamming the door as he does.

Mike, who’s been sitting watching Freddie work, largely silent, is from the same mean streets as Robert. He’s been down himself for 18 years because of drugs. Now in his late 40’s with his family grown and gone, he’s seen it all as he’s worked his way down from deadly high security prisons, where he fought to survive one night at a time, to camps where the boredom eats at you day in and out. Big, tough, muscular and usually silent, there’s much more to Mike than the body he’s built up all these years. Late at night, he can be seen reading, often all night long, everything he can find from daily newspapers to magazines and books to treatises. “Most of these prisons are death traps and the rest unnecessary. No way the people in them need to be there,” he says, almost detached and academic, as he puts on his scarf and jacket and prepares to leave. “I’m just so tired of the revolving door.” he adds, “… young kids coming in, sitting, and years later leaving, old and broken, with new ones taking their place.” No one moves or jumps in as Mike speaks. He’s earned his say and respect from all… including many guards. “Lives lost, families destroyed, and for what?” he continues. “Why? Most prisoners in this country are not violent or dangerous. They should be at home. Community supervision is just so much better for all… and cheaper.” With his voice trailing off, he walks out the door into the morning cold.

Joe’s since returned, standing quietly by the ice machine, still waiting to hear his name called out for a visit, but now dressed in his pressed greens, wearing spotless white sneakers that he keeps bagged and only uses for such occasions. Agreeing with everything he’s heard the past few minutes, he weighs in on the double standard he sees at the DOJ in who it prosecutes. Himself a prominent older white man, he rails with passion about jails filled mostly with poor, young, inner-city men of color while huge corporate profiteers get a free pass. “Everywhere I look in prison, I see mostly black and brown faces. The white ones are all guards or a few small fries… guys busted for low-level frauds or insider trading.  Where are the bankers?” he shouts out, almost like a Sunday morning pastor preaching to the choir, his face turning red with anger. “They ain’t here,” he continues. “Forget it. Where are the banks?.Where’s HSBC, or CitiBank, or Chase… caught red-handed laundering billions for drug cartels and others and they get nothing… a civil settlement and fines which they write off on their corporate taxes.”

In a room filled mostly with prisoners of color, you can hear a pin drop. As the 7 or 8 other remaining men in the room nod in agreement, the announcement finally comes for Joe’s visit. He straightens his greens and leaves, shaking his head as he walks out the door.

“Money, money, money,” says Leech. “It keeps politicians in office and us in prison. They could rebuild our cities, schools, and hospitals but won’t,” adds Robert, his hands shaking. Logan, now looking for his nephew long gone to work out adds, “Don’t be naïve. Prisons win elections. Crime pays,” he continues as he grabs his tea. “Law and order sells, it makes most voters feel good and politicians feel tough. Tough is good.” Mike nods his head in agreement as he takes a taste of Freddie’s as yet unfinished pie. “Pill line, pill line, pill line,” rings out. Justin stop pacing and almost smiles. He hurries out, on his way to the clinic to make it through another day. He’s not alone… dozens are already lined up when he arrives… jailed for drugs and now using drugs… just different ones… to survive jail.

One by one, the men leave the room as others arrive to repeat the morning ritual. Though it seems like many hours have passed, for the seven or eight men this morning, it’s only been an hour or so of pouring out their hearts and hopes. Their frustrations shared, it helps… at least till tonight when darkness and lonely despair returns.

For Freddie, he cleans the plates and bowls and tables. He’s about done as he packs up today’s menu and sets off to make his morning deliveries. In prison, it’s hard work to survive.

It Ain’t The Promised Land…Part Three

The camp itself is a 10-year-old military-style barracks 50 yards long by 30 yards wide with concrete block walls and floors, large fluorescent panel lights which, on occasion, are left on all night long for “security reasons,” and rectangular windows through which blasts of cold air blow as caulk has given way to age and disrepair. Lacking in any insulation, the building remains cold year-round… half the time from inconsistent heating and the rest from uncontrolled blasting air conditioning. Overcrowded with some 130 men, many suffering from skin infections, rashes, and open, oozing sores, and some from hepatitis, diabetes, STDs, and HIV, the barracks, with its communal bathrooms is a veritable incubator for disease… when one of us gets sick, fifty others are sure and soon to follow. On a recent inspection tour by a private prison accreditation group, several inspectors were heard to say that they were shocked not just by the camp’s overcrowding, but its floor plan, lack of privacy, and filth.

Almost all other camps in the BOP operate independent of maximum security prisons with administrators and guards not tempered, indeed stained, by the nightmare attendant to gun turrets, concertina wire, SHUs and prisoners, sentenced to many decades, if not life, behind bars, where violence, indeed death, is very much the norm. In most other camps within the BOP, weekend home furloughs are routinely granted to prisoners to spend alone time with their families in their communities in the last year or so leading up to their release as part of the mythical “re-entry process”. Canaan has none.

Likewise, most camps provide for elements of prisoner privacy, family visits, and meaningful programs, opportunities markedly absent from Canaan. Ranging from semi-closed, individual cubicles with modular unit showers and toilets to hands-on community-based education and employment opportunities to more frequent and relaxed family visits, these independent camps are not driven by the needs, demands, or concerns of connected maximum-security prisons.

Camp eligibility is typically scored by various criteria including an “offender’s” age, the nature of the charges for which they have been convicted, their criminal history, whether they pose a threat to the community, and prior imprisonment, if any. Nevertheless, its naive to believe that such placements are removed from outside politics or political influence. Thus the camp at Otisville, New York, long a much sought after placement because of all its perks, has a population riveted with ultra-Orthodox Hasidim Jews and opportunities driven by their significant political clout in Washington. While camps like Canaan enjoy no furloughs, rare is the prisoner at Otisville who has not been released on a Friday afternoon to return on Sunday to ensure time with their family and friends on their Sabbath. Likewise, numerous prisoners have community-based jobs which permit them to spend a day away from the prison-camp wages working in local jobs… most owned and operated by members of the local Hasidim community. Several nights a week, family members of prisoners provide home-cooked meals to the inmates and are permitted to participate in religious holidays and ceremonies at the camp. None of these activities are permitted at Canaan. Although Otisville is closer to my home and the New York region from where my conviction was obtained, placement for me at the Otisville camp was vetoed on a national BOP level lest my “controversial” views on Zionism and Israel offend the Hasidim power base at Otisville and elsewhere. Indeed, not long after my arrival at Canaan, I learned that I had been designated to the “CIM,” or “Central Inmate Monitoring” program, by the Regional Director of the BOP. Although I was assured that this rare designation would not “affect” my life at Canaan, the designation was triggered by my “controversial public persona and numerous public appearances on television and in newsprint.” A plain read of the applicable guidelines does more than hint at a designation designed to stifle and/or silence political dissidents.

“The Bureau of Prisons monitors and controls the transfer, temporary release…and community activities of certain inmates who present special needs for management. Such inmates, knows as “Central Inmate Monitoring” (CIM) cases require a higher level review which may include central office and/or regional office clearance for transfers, temporary releases, or community activities. This monitoring is…[intended] to provide protection to all concerned and contribute to the safe and orderly operation of federal institutions.” Program Statement, US Department of Justice (BOP), number 5180.05

The camp at Canaan is not what it apparently once was. Long-term inmates report that former administrators, program directors, and guards were noted for their arbitrary and selective enforcement of policies and procedures and abusive demeanor and heavy hand. According to prisoners, the new administrators and most guards are somewhat more solicitous of inmate rights and concerns, and, to the degree “possible,” they report that the atmosphere has improved slowly but steadily. Nevertheless, it is painfully clear that politics and arbitrary BOP policy continue to guarantee that a “warmer” camp does not mean a better or a necessary one.

Although a world apart from the maximum security prison “up top,” the camp still presents its own isolation and despair, the kind that comes naturally with the constant tease of going home sooner rather than later, where collective punishment for the missteps of one can turn a brotherhood of the oppressed into, at times, so many vigilantes, where the DOJ industry of cooperation becomes the BOP industry of surrender, where some prefer to barter their integrity and independence for more halfway release and home confinement.

At day’s end, Canaan is little more than a forced labor camp where prisoners clean communal toilets and showers, mop floors, shovel snow, and service the needs and demands of the prison up top, typically for mere pennies per hour, forty hours or more each week. This is particularly true during the frequent “lock-downs” at the maximum security prison where we serve as so much scab labor, performing menial tasks that would otherwise cost the BOP hundreds of thousands of additional dollars if its own staff undertook the work instead of prisoners forced to do so at the peril of a trip to the SHU for their refusal.

On about a half dozen occasions during my 11 month stay at Canaan I was required to work during a lock-down up-top usually preparing boxed breakfasts or hot meals in a cafeteria or its filthy kitchen for all 1500 prisoners locked in their cells 24-7 throughout this period. One lock-down in particular stands out in my mind: during this almost four week period I was part of an 8 prisoner crew from the camp that was awakened each morning at around 2:30-3:00 and transported up-top to prepare meals from 4:00 am to noon six days per week, and then returned to the camp exhausted; desperate for sleep until the mindless routine began once anew. Once during this particular assignment I was also detailed to a duty lieutenant’s office where I was instructed to tape a bunch of wires and extension cords otherwise lying on the floor below his desk to the wall just above so that his feet would not come in contact with them. To perform this complex task themselves would have required of the lieutenant or any of the other five officers sitting around doing nothing but a few minutes of their own time bending over on the floor with some tape and nothing else. What’s that song ? “Old Man River . . . “

Declare Victory, Come Home

I have no idea who was involved in the latest atrocity in Paris, the Russian airplane bombing in the Sinai, the attacks in South Beirut or recent siege in Mali, but I’m pretty sure there will be a long line of those only too willing to take credit for the mayhem; and even more talking heads assigning blame based upon their “experience,” source information, or six figure paychecks from main stream media, as token resident “terrorism” experts for sale. Who cares.

The real issue is what, if anything, can be done to stanch the mindless bloodletting that has become routine in many corners of the world today. The answer is simple- as was successfully done in Vietnam, declare victory and get out.

Putting aside, for the moment, the lawlessness of it all, the days of identifying the “bad guy” and simply taking him or her out are long gone. Other than Israeli slaughters of Palestinians, the all too simplistic notion that there are tight- knit hierarchical organizations or a calibrated theology ultimately responsible for massacres of civilians, be it in France, Tunisia, Baghdad or Kenya, may sell to a now clearly numbed and frightened public, but ultimately it’s just so much fool’s gold. We all see how successful the targeted drone murders of “key” terrorists throughout the Middle East and Africa have been and, of course, the assassination of Osama Bin Laden did prove to be a watershed moment in turning back the clock to the warm comforting days of TV’s “Father Knows Best.” The bottom line: it’s all too little, too late, and if it wasn’t so damned deadly, downright silly.

For far too long, the civilian body count has grown higher and higher throughout the world, piled mostly with the remains of Muslims… some of whom just don’t seem to appreciate the superior Judeo/Christian traditions of peace and love which, to some degree, have fueled it… and who have long been the favorite targets of the marauding faith-based West and its surrogate states. Of course, when the mayhem is caused or viewed by the West as necessary to protect its own claimed interests or that of friends, or to fulfill so-called treaty obligations with other neo-colonial powers, the bombs, drones, and water-boarding they use are just fine; always, of course, carried out in the name of democracy and security. The bottom line: the West needs to get out of the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia completely leaving the folks on the ground to decide their own fate, in their own countries, in their own ways, as they, alone, determine their course for existence

For generations the West carved up foreign regions where most of the fighting is on-going today, stealing their natural resources, anointing archaic despotic regimes and promoting or turning a blind eye to human rights violations by regimes who host meaningless conferences in exotic ports with marching bands that can’t play their own national anthems yet are adept playing those of Western leaders who attend to protect their own colonial self-interests… even as those very interests crash and burn.

Unfortunately, at its core, the imperial notion continues that the “first” world has the best laid plans, the finest of motives and, of course, all the answers to dampen, if not extinguish, revolutionary fervor by hundreds of millions of mostly principled and determined women and men throughout the “third-world”, seeking nothing more than true independence and the ability to chart a future for themselves and their families… removed from shadows of world capitals thousands of miles from the streets and fields they call home. Tragically, it seems the cultural, religious and racial arrogance of the West is reason enough to cause an endless stream of alienated and angry youth to throw themselves under the proverbial bus and, in so doing, drag a bunch of other innocents along with them. To view today’s violence in a vacuum and simply the result of an age-old messianic religious call, is to guarantee future generations of death and destruction leading to continued head-scratching and failure to figure out reasons behind it.

Today, much of the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia are in the midst of a tumultuous revolutionary period like that of the West not so very long ago. It’s bloody indeed. In these regions, Western, and now Russian, forces are holding on for dear geopolitical life as they see final vestiges of their imperial run collapse in the face of indigenous aspirations of people fighting to eradicate lingering images of foreign intervention, still running and ruining their lives..

The historical road of freedom, tragically paved with the blood of today’s civilians, runs parallel to centuries of colonial exploitation of these regions. Specifically, in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, and Palestine in the Middle East, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, the Sudan, Nigeria, and Somalia on the African continent… and elsewhere… the streets exploding with nationalist bombs were designed and long controlled by France, Great Britain, Germany and Italy. Still, today, these and other former colonial powers have apparently missed the message… there’s a new sheriff in town and his name is no longer Jacque, Neville, Hans or Billy Bob.

Indeed, as long as the West continues to interfere with, or tries to micro-manage, the destinies of age-old regions, by direct intervention or through the repressive control of hand chosen home grown agents, we simply will not see an end to militant, often deadly, resistance in the capitals of third world states or mindless revenge carried out in the streets of the more “civilized” West. Its all too easy and convenient to forget there’s nothing uniquely Western about the natural instinct of people to crave freedom or resist occupation, be it political, military, or economic, home grown or foreign.

History regales those generations who fought to chart their own course in the light of the needs, priorities, and aspirations of their own developing states and people. Indeed, the thirst for independence is very much a constant of life dating back to man’s beginnings eons before the West’s greed-driven redesign of the Middle East, Africa, and Southeast Asia in the nineteenth century to suit its own economic and political self-interests. How conveniently forgetful are historical memory banks of the United States, France and Russia in overlooking those millions who sacrificed their lives in home-grown revolutions to gain freedom from colonial or monarchical rule.

Not ones to weary from the drain of their own deadly roots, many in the West returned not long thereafter to vicious and deadly internecine warfare often destroying large swaths of their own countries in pursuit of domestic political power. No more damning example can be found than in the case of the U.S. Civil War. In four years of carnage there were more than a million casualties. One out of every 30 who lived in the U.S. at that time was a victim of this horrible bloodbath. During this dark period, dozens of cities, villages and farmlands throughout the South were burned to the ground… including Atlanta, Georgia which was leveled to accomplish little more than terrorizing its civilian population. This devastation was carried out without the aid of today’s high-tech weaponry, communication systems, or outside intervention.

The descendents of those who fought and died to obtain freedom from earlier colonial architects unfortunately forgot the price their ancestors paid, or why, as they themselves later established their own colonial fiefdoms well beyond the shores of their own countries. With missionary zeal that typically reduced highly sophisticated millennium-old religions, cultures and traditions to mere trappings and idolatry of “savages,” Western powers took control of entire continents by military might and economic force. When the smoke cleared, millions of so-called rebels lay dead with new states artificially created everywhere to suit the needs of their occupiers and the iron-fisted rule of their obedient local surrogates.

In Southwest Africa men, women and children were driven by Germany into the desert where they were forced into labor camps and denied food and water. Hundreds of thousands perished. Germany repeated this “trail of tears” in East Africa where it burned countless villages to the ground, murdering upwards of 300,000 natives. In its South African “burn and capture” campaigns, after destroying 20,000 farms, Great Britain displaced hundreds of thousands of Africans… relocating them to isolated tent cities behind barbed wire without sufficient food, medical attention, and blankets to survive. Tens of thousands, mostly women and children, died of malnutrition and disease. In Ethiopia, and elsewhere, Italy used poison gas to put down rebellions by restive nationalists.. In Afghanistan, during the Soviet invasion and occupation, upwards of a million Afghanis lost their lives as Russia bombed and depopulated rural areas creating a refugee flight of some four million. Sound familiar?

Today we enter the seventh decade of rebellions in many of these once occupied lands where, one by one, Western powers have been defeated by local uprisings. In the mid-twentieth century, Algerians rose up and overthrew the colonial tyranny of France that had long oppressed and exploited them for their natural resources. In that rebellion, it’s estimated that there were upwards of one million Algerian casualties. While hundreds of thousands of civilians were detained and tortured, millions more were forcibly displaced as their homes and businesses were destroyed. Under France’s scorched earth policy numerous peasant villages were eradicated by napalm. For many years, France remained no less a colonial tyrant to millions in Syria and Lebanon. Even today, its deadly military reach rages on in the Middle East and Africa with its forces deployed in Syria, Iraq, Mauritania and, not long ago, even in tiny Mali. Of course, U.S., British, and German missiles also continue to rain down throughout these regions driving more and more civilians into the camp of the desperate… those willing to risk and sacrifice all, including others, in the name of self-determination.

It’s been more than twenty years since the first attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. The attack on a U.S. military base in Dahran, Saudi Arabia occurred three years later. The so-called Twin Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania occurred in 1998 and the attack on the U.S. Cole some two years later in the port of Aden in Yemen. The destruction of the World Trade Center is now rubbing up against some fifteen years of blind, often mindless revenge triggered in part by their destruction. Over two decades of the West’s so-called war on terror, we have seen well more than a million and a half civilians slaughtered in the Middle East alone… largely by Western military intervention. Although these attacks have been carried out at times under the umbrella of NATO or the United Nations, in reality, most of the death and destruction has been meted out through the hands of the United States and its immediate allies… in particular France and Great Britain. Indeed, in the most recent run-up by the West to bring “freedom, security and prosperity” to the third-world, we’ve seen once vibrant states destroyed with millions reduced to refugees fleeing violence profitable not only to those making armaments but to international conglomerates poised to swoop in and exploit natural resources from regions aflame with carnage caused or funded by foreign armies. Over this period, much of Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen and Somalia have been left in ruins… largely leveled by foreign-employed or supplied high tech weapons and policy decisions reached many thousands of miles away from the burning fields of the Middle East and Africa.

I mourn for the hundreds of civilians recently slaughtered in France and on a Russian airliner. To target, take hostage, or murder civilians for political ends, indeed for any end, is evil in its most evil form. However, it is no more evil than state sponsored terrorism carried out by the West and Russia for decades in the Middle East, Africa, and elsewhere that has left a trail of mass death and destruction where they have put their own political and economic self-interests above those of the billions who call these regions home.

Today, Congress is once again exploiting a tragedy as it debates extension of the largest domestic surveillance operation in history, recently uncovered and declared illegal by federal courts under U.S. Law, all in the empty guise of national security. Predictably, numerous U.S. governors and other petty politicians are posturing to win votes at the expense of a relative handful of vulnerable and desperate refugees fleeing mayhem largely caused by American dollars through their unconstitutional demand that we pick and choose who can come to the United States, and who cannot, based on little more than their national roots and religious beliefs.

Religion and belief-based fear mongering is not at all new in this country. Once, our ancestors feared witches and burned women. Long ago, it was unleashed during the so-called Palmer Raids in the early twentieth century when immigrants… then mostly Jews and Italians… were rounded up and jailed; many deported because of their political leanings, associations, and religious beliefs. In World War II, we interred hundreds of thousands of Japanese Americans solely on the basis of their ancestry…destroying families, businesses, and entire communities along the way. In the shadow of 9-11, we saw the same xenophobic hatred unleashed through ugly political rhetoric, harassment, and physical attacks upon vulnerable Muslims and recent immigrants of color. Often, Muslims, Arabs, and Africans who neither broke the law, nor urged others to do so, were detained… some for years through illegal immigration and “security” sweeps. Many found themselves added to no-fly lists, saw bank accounts frozen or attended mosques that were illegally surveilled and harassed. Hundreds of thousands of mainly Middle Eastern, African and Southeast Asian immigrants eventually fled the United States… once again seeking safety from the tyranny of those who terrorize because they can.

Not to be undone, throughout Europe, doors are now being kicked in as “anti-terror” forces swoop down to detain, often indefinitely, those unfortunate enough to be named Mohammed or Nadia and who arrived in their new homes through earlier refugee flights to find safety and start new lives, only to once again be subjected to religious and race based hatred fueled by events in which they played no role. How long before European newspapers, mosques and borders are closed, refugees refused and immigrants deported in a mad futile rush to make communities in the West “safe” by further punishing the most vulnerable among them, civilians already victimized, in the countries of their birth, by mass carnage from which they fled.

Meanwhile, US drones, French jets, British tanks and Russian missiles are being readied to unleash another day of vicious, punishing attacks too often upon defenseless civilians abroad whose only crime is to live in the wrong place at the wrong time as they are caught up in a political crossfire between the new and very old worlds warring over which will control the economic and political destiny of several billion people in the years to come.

Enough is enough. Declare victory. End the madness. Come home.

Forgotten Words

Lately I’ve had a number of letters and emails from young activists who understandably are feeling distressed about the world that is ours today- one seemingly on fire everywhere that we look. Some seem to be questioning their own ability to make a meaningful impact upon a world which, at times, appears to be dangerously out of control and unresponsive to resistance from progressive forces or action.

Many years ago I took off and have not looked back since. My own struggle to make this world a better, more just and humane place for us all has taken many twists and turns and embraced a full range of expression from words to direct action- of all kinds. Along the way I’ve been fortunate to work with and be mentored by some legendary giants in many different fields and places who inspired my by their drive, determination and indefatigable spirit to rage on and on. Although there have been times that I’ve questioned my own ability to travel those last few steps to the proverbial mountain top I saw just above, I’ve never failed to reach that peak for want of trying. This is after-all a very, very fast march- we live, we fight, we die.

Sitting around in prison the last few nights as I contemplated my release on December 15th I started to play around with some verse that hopefully talks to the need to rage on from beginning to end. Lets face it, I’m certainly not a poet and though I enjoy the texture of words, its typically a feeling that comes out best while on my feet in courtrooms or at a podium or, I’ve been told, in some of my so-called polemics. Never one to run from a principled fight however, I decided to challenge myself the last few days and to try and create some poetic verse that speaks to the speed of our journey and our need to keep fiercely determined in pursuing our dreams. With that, I hope you enjoy “Forgotten Words.” Up the Rebels.

Forgotten Words

Spring’s bloom, frenzied in its reach,
unbridled, the genesis of our seductive teach.
Summer’s smile a stretch of grand allure,
with still the tease of that much more.
Yet, fade of Autumn with color’s gray
now harkens gloom of twilight’s day.

Life’s promise forgotten, now but barnacles time faded
fancied discourse- long tired, passe- so much jaded.
Smiles veiled and soft, breath soured by fleeting time
shorn of hope and elegance, honeyed taste of once sweet thyme.
Laughter withered, moments missed, endless bays;
echoes of silence long in brood hushed ways.

Musty tattered texts; rhymes well past sleep-
verse resound, far ever-wide in sweep.
Now dark and bitter creased with yellowed page
passion, dissent reduced to muted rage.
Night’s darkest fear, morn’s once rise to hope-
bled of all its bright and early blissful cope.

Spring’s rush-so swift the tide to winter’s end.
Forgotten words; letters ne’er post to send.
The journey begun with boundless seam
unfinished, untold a shattered dream.
With haste, verse passed- scant a try;
the lion’s mighty roar now but a mournful sigh.

Can it be so fleeting- a blink of an eye- all past
vision come and gone, left with but bombast.
Tis now the time to reach for one last chance,
one last step, one final sweeping dance.

“We Are Truly Legion”

I don’t know personally Nour AlGhussein but I do know her sister, writer Walaa AlGhussein, pretty well and for a long time. They are among the five children- four girls and one boy born to Fatma and Khalid AlGhussein in Gaza. The AlGuhssein children are our future- all our futures. From what I know, they are very smart, independent, giving and passionate about making a meaningful difference in the lives of their family, Nation and world. And while so many others among us have seemingly given up, surrendered to events which some unfortunately they cannot impact, let alone change for the better, the children of Fatma and Khalid have refused to go silently unto the night. Though young and in the early stages of their life’s journey- its a travel of purpose, pride and accomplishment despite the great deprivation and danger that their family — indeed, all families in Gaza — faces every day. To be Palestinian and young is not easy.

Following in her older sister Walaa’s very large and capable footsteps, this past summer, Nour attended Portland State University as part of an exchange program of sorts with young women and men from all over the world, largely impoverished communities at that, to attend universities in various countries outside their own. To accomplish this was no small task in its own and fraught with a large degree of uncertainty and at times, danger, given the circumstances in the communities from which they come.

For many of these young students, its the first and only time they’ve been able to escape the daily stress and strain that can be living a life not just in poor communities but, as in the case of Nour, a deadly war zone under constant siege that has cost the lives, health and well-being of many hundreds of thousands of her community for no reason other than they are Palestinian and civilians- easy and vulnerable targets. And while some of the world just does not give a shit- we do !!

For those of you who have watched in horror the crimes of Israel or who have followed this blog or my work over the years, there is no need for me to repeat here the nightmare that is the occupation, genocide, ethnic cleansing and collective punishment that never takes a rest in Palestine, especially in Gaza, at the hands of Israel under the watchful and approving eyes of the West and their system of regional surrogate states. Despite this nightmare, or maybe because of it, lots of young Palestinians have pursued knowledge and, often against impossible odds, formal education with a passion and determined reach that is second to none, including those of us who may have come from privileged societies or backgrounds.

Nour spent this past summer at Portland State University a peaceful supportive community of the young and not so young where she flourished as a student, representative of Palestine and just being a “kid,” among many others. While in school she  graduated from PSU’s Middle East Partnership Initiative Student Leader’s program. In addition, Nour recieved further recognition for her work at PSU by receiving its prestigious ‘International Student Award’ for her overall accomplishments during the summer. Predictably, Nour made many new friends from all over the world and was for the first time in her young and difficult life able to read when she wanted, walk where she wanted and just hangout with whomever she wanted untouched by anything but her own desires, drive and intellectual appetite. For one all-too brief period at PSU, unlike the constant deprivation and isolation that is Gaza, in Portland Nour was able to pursue her dreams solely on the basis of her own vision of who she is and what she wants for herself, her family and her Nation.

At summer’s end, Nour returned to Gaza, where the duck of bombs, frequent wail of sirens and the struggle to survive has once again become a constant roar in her life- its just the way things are there no matter how warm, wonderful and wise you may otherwise be in a land under incessant attack of one sort or another by one of the most deadly killing machines in the world. To be Palestinian is to be targeted, every day. However, to be young and Palestinian, does not mean that you stop dreaming or working to may your dreams become reality.

Before returning to Gaza, Nour applied for and was accepted by Portland State University as a full-time student beginning this January. To do so is, however, not an easy, inexpensive or emotionally comfortable experience. To leave your family behind in the life and death struggle that is Gaza not knowing what the future holds for them, or for you, is just not like it was or is now for many of the rest of us. Typically, when we’ve gone off to school, often its been a climb into the family car to travel some short hours away from the love and the safety that has been our home to go to a campus knowing that those we love and need are just a simple call or vacation away. To be Palestinian and thousands of miles from your home which is often without electricity, running water or phone service is never an easy or painless journey.

Nour needs our help. She is fiercely proud, determined and driven to succeed. And when she does, mark it up as another victory for our community- one which struggles to take control of the world that is ours and to change its contours in warm, peaceful and humane ways that embrace people of all race, religion, politics, gender and choice and does so without the dictate or confines of anthems, borders or flags.

Please contribute what you can to:-

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/nour-s-educational-fund-at-psu–2#/

Help Nour to realize her dreams and ours.

Up the Rebels.

Business as Usual

The list of settler ambushes upon Palestinian women and children and unarmed men in the West Bank is endless- it grows day by day with more and more ferocity. In fact, there have been more than a thousand such documented attacks by rabid settlers on Palestinian civilians, although many more go unreported as futile- of late the victims of settler violence have begun to include other Jews.

With predictable panic, once again the Israeli government is running about aimlessly blaming the victim for inviting their own victimization. This time it was a youthful Eritrean Jew who foolishly ventured out in public where he was slaughtered by a frenetic mob of Zionist settlers because they thought he was Palestinian. As the mortally injured Jew was evacuated from the clutches of the mob that had stomped and beaten him, his killers screamed over and over again “Death to Arabs”; hundreds of others raced off through the streets of Jerusalem crying out for more Palestinian blood in a frenzied search for new victims. In another recent attack by one Jew on another, a masked settler attacked Israeli-American Rabbi, Arik Ascherman, co-founder of the anti-Zionist group, Rabbis for Human Rights, an association of religious leaders that often accompanies Palestinian farmers to protect them from settler attacks as they work their groves in the occupied West Bank. The settler kicked and punched the rabbi before holding a knife to his neck apparently threatening him for his efforts on behalf of Palestinians.

How much easier would it be if only those damn Arabs would simply start to wear a yellow crescent stitched onto their clothing so that the racist hatred that is Zionism can find a fail-safe way to attack them, and not other Jews, as the Zionists pursue the “final solution” which so many seek. Or, perhaps a prominent sheeny number tattooed on the inside arm of all Palestinian men under 40 years of age would do the trick. Why 40? It’s the cut-off point for Palestinian access to prayer at Al Aqsa, in Jerusalem. That’s right, under Israeli law, you must be over forty years of age to pray in one of the most revered sites in all of Islam- a religion fast approaching almost two billion people; a quarter of the world’s population! It seems the combination of relative youth and faith is a deadly combination for all who embrace it- just ask the Zionist settlers from Brooklyn armed to the teeth with automatic weapons and fire bombs in the West Bank because they not only have a sacred right to bear high-tech weapons, but apparently a divine mandate to use these, or other means of deadly violence, against Palestinian civilians because of their race, religion or politics whenever the “spirit” moves them.

Just last month the spirit obviously moved settlers who burned to death 18 month old Ali Dawabsha and his parents as they were asleep in their West Bank home- according to Israel it was the isolated work of so-called “vigilantes.” Before that it was 16 year old Mohammed Abu Kdair who was burned alive following his abduction by settlers last year from the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat. In the days leading up to his slaughter, settlers marched throughout Jerusalem shouting out “Death to Arabs” all the while under the protection of Israeli security forces. Before that a settler ran over a 5 year old Palestinian boy in the southern occupied West Bank. Zakariya Mohmoud al-Umour survived, however, 5 year old Enas Khalil was not so lucky. She died following an earlier hit-and-run attack by a settler not far from Ramallah, the putative seat of power for the Palestinian Authority. Its “business as usual.”

Meanwhile, not to be undone by the march of recent history, Israeli ethnic cleansing is in full swing in East Jerusalem with the government erecting more and more of its Warsaw ghetto- like walls around an ever expanding area of the ancient Holy City which, along with numerous heavily armed checkpoints, is part of a strategic effort to completely isolate, indeed choke off, its dwindling age-old Palestinian community and to tightly monitor and control its every movement. Underground streets and age old Suqs once teeming with Palestinian workers, shoppers and students are now entirely deserted with shops shuttered, and local residents too terrified to venture out into streets now controlled by cops, soldiers and rampaging mobs of explosive settlers. Of course, its done for “security” reasons- it always is.

Not to worry, however, as the number of potential targets for this very public 21st century pogrom is fast dwindling. Indeed, countless Palestinian families have been forcibly evicted from Jerusalem with their residency “rights” revoked by Israel over the last decade or so as their historic homes have been demolished to make room for new illegal Zionist settlements, or other development projects funded largely by US based Christian Zionist supporters. During this period, almost a thousand Palestinian homes have been destroyed or simply handed over in-tact to Zionists in East Jerusalem, with but a few building permits issued to those other than Jews or Christians.

For those shocked by the now very public face of racist chants, some things just don’t change. Long before the theft of Palestine in 1948, “Death to Arabs” was a popular chorus among adoring Zionists ever-ready to applaud acts of savage terrorism used against Palestinians in the Holy Land, almost always, civilians the intended victims. It rang out loudly in the early 1930’s when hundreds of Palestinians were killed, shot or lynched, and their homes and businesses burned to the ground by roving gangs of immigrant European Zionists. Not much later in the same decade “Death to Arabs” once again echoed throughout their homeland as hundreds of Palestinians were murdered by bombs placed in various urban centers where they were known to congregate- in one such bombing 53 civilians were murdered in Haifa. Never at all very far from the settler mindset or language, “Death to Arabs” was again prominent during last year’s murderous assault on Gaza when settlers picnicking on hill tops overlooking Gaza were heard to shout it out as they cheered each new artillery shell, missile or bomb that exploded on the defenseless civilian population below.

From the very beginning of Israel, Palestinian civilians have been a prime target of its “para-military” and military forces. Thus, in the April 10,1948 official Red Cross report of it’s findings about what occurred at Deir Yassin, its representative, Jacques de Reynier, noted upon entering one of the houses in that small farming community:

“I found some bodies cold. Here the ‘cleaning up’ had been done with machine guns, then hand-grenades. It had been finished off with knives, anyone could see that. The same thing in the next room, but as I was about to leave, I heard something like a sigh. I looked everywhere, turned over all the bodies, and eventually found a little foot, still warm. It was a little girl of ten, mutilated by a hand-grenade, but still alive . . . everywhere it was the same sight.”

According to official reports of British authorities assigned the investigation of the Israeli attack on Deir Yassin, 260 men, women and children had been butchered to death. The survivors, at the point of hysterical collapse from shock and grief, recorded their hideous experience for the British authorities: “families had been lined up and shot down in a barrage of gun-fire; young girls raped; a pregnant mother was first slaughtered and then had her stomach cut open by a butcher’s knife; a girl who tried to remove the unborn child from the woman’s womb was shot down. Some of the victims were slashed to pieces with cutlasses . . . women had bracelets torn from their arms and rings from their fingers, and parts of some of the women’s ears were severed in order to to remove ear-rings.”

Not long thereafter, the small town of Ramleh, located near the new “Jewish” city of Tel Aviv, was also attacked; its villagers were rounded up and warned that if they resisted they too would suffer the same fate as had occurred in Deir Yassin- news of which had already spread throughout Palestine. With the town surrounded by troops, the villagers sought sanctuary in a local church. Outside, the Archbishop, who held a white flag, told approaching soldiers “we are civilians, not soldiers, not fighters, leave us in peace.” Ignoring him, several soldiers entered the church where they seized some of the young villagers and took them away, never to be seen again. Later, bodies were found scattered on the road and in-between the houses and down the side-streets. According to a twelve year old eye-witness, Khalil Wazir, “No one not even women and children, had been spared if they were out in the street. This was the first stage. After that, they dismissed us- they drove us out of the homes and out of town.” Khalil Wazir, who never forgot that day, was to become known as Abu Jihad and, along with Yasser Arafat, went on to found Fatah.

Throughout its history, Israel has continued to target Palestinian civilians with brutal overwhelming force designed to extract a deadly price from those who fight on, even if only through their dignity and determination to resist. In October of 1953 Israeli troops, more particularly, “special force” Unit 101, headed up by Moshe Dayan who would later become Israel’s Prime Minister, assaulted the rural village of Qibya. After the troops withdrew, UN observers arrived there and reported:

“Bullet-riddled bodies near the doorways and multiple bullet hits on the doors of demolished houses indicated that the inhabitants had been forced to remain inside until their homes were blown up over them … witnesses were uniform in describing their experience as a night of horror, during which Israeli soldiers moved about in their village, blowing up buildings, firing into doorways and windows with automatic weapons and throwing hand grenades”

That night, Unit 101 slaughtered sixty-six Palestinian men, women and children. Although shocking, it was to pale against the wanton brutality of future attacks in which civilians and civilian infrastructure have been routinely targeted by the Israeli military as part of a conscious campaign to terrorize non-combatants for political purposes.

Even today, the teeming refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in West Beirut, Lebanon remain home to tens of thousands of Palestinians, some of whom were driven out of their country while still youngsters during the Nakba (the catastrophe) of 1948- the others, almost all descendants of those who fled that first wave of full-on Israeli ethnic cleansing in Palestine. Some three decades ago, Israeli troops invaded Lebanon during its civil war. Although the full extent of the carnage will never be known, between September 16 and September 18, 1982 up to 3,500 mostly Palestinian civilians, largely women, children and the elderly were raped, tortured, killed and mutilated in Sabra-Shatila by Christian Phalangist allies of Israel who attacked the camps under the watchful eyes of Israeli troops that had surrounded their perimeters preventing anyone from escaping the slaughter or stopping it.

After the butchery had ended and Israeli troops withdrawn, journalists and observers from the Multinational Peacekeeping Force entered Sabra and Shatila. It was reported that “many of the bodies, after the massacre, were severely mutilated. many of the boys had been castrated, and some were scalped. Some had crosses cut into their bodies.” In a letter to her husband, Janet Lee Stevens, an American journalist wrote, “I saw dead women in their houses with their skirts up to their waists and their legs spread apart; dozens of young men shot after being lined up against an alley wall; children with their throats slit; a pregnant woman with her stomach chopped open, her eyes still wide open, her blackened face silently screaming in horror; countless babies and toddlers who had been stabbed or ripped apart and who had been thrown into garbage piles.”

Late in 1982, the U.N. General Assembly declared the carnage an act of genocide, condemning Israel in the “strongest terms for the large-scale massacre of Palestinian civilians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps.” However, neither the UN nor any other international body ever took direct action against it for the massacre, although an Israeli Commission laid personal responsibility for it on Ariel Sharon, the then-Defense Minister, for failing to prevent it. Ultimately, he was punished by becoming Israel’s 11th Prime Minister in 2001 and given another chance to slaughter more Palestinians, this time in their own homeland.

Under Sharon’s tenure, the Second Intifada began in earnest when, in a provocative show of force, he suddenly appeared at Al Aqsa with a thousand heavily armed police shouting out “the Temple Mount is in our hands” – an incendiary repeat of what Israeli soldiers had proclaimed when Israel seized Quds in the 1967 war. Later, in April 2002 he approved of a plan in which the refugee camp in Jenin, home to some 15,000 Palestinians living within one square kilometer, was attacked- purportedly to route out “terrorist” cells. For ten days hundreds of Israeli tanks, attack helicopters, armored personnel carriers, and F-16 jets were involved in the onslaught on Jenin which was sealed off and then struck round-the-clock by a wide assortment of heavy weaponry. Thousands of shells and missiles rained down on Jenin destroying more than a third of its buildings and rendering useless all of its infrastructure including its water and electricity networks. Although more than a hundred bodies – mostly civilians – were accounted for during the attack, to this day the exact number of those killed, injured and missing remains unknown because after it’s end, Israel would not permit NGO’s to enter Jenin for many days during which time countless rotting corpses were buried in mass graves, some located far away in the Jordan Valley.

The ruthless attack on Jenin was to become a very dark model for future assaults on the tiny Gaza strip enclave which certainly stand among the most savage and criminal in recent history. To say that the 50 day onslaught on Gaza during the summer of 2014 — its third in six years by Israel– was horrific and shocking to the conscience of humanity is to understate an evil that has become very much the Israeli standard whenever it seeks retribution for any perceived or concocted slight.

No narrative of the Israeli massacre can do justice to the pain and suffering meted out to a defenseless population of almost two million civilians – 80% already refugees – by one of the world’s most ruthless and proficient killing machines which used some 40,000 tons of explosives on Gaza during its summer-long rampage. At its end, some 2200 were slaughtered, including 550 children, and some 10,000 injured- almost all the victims were civilians. More than 1900 children are now orphaned. Hundreds of thousands of civilians remain internally displaced with 20,000 homes, 26 NGO service providers, a half-dozen dozen UNRWA facilities, 23 hospitals and health-care facilities, 133 schools, 360 factories, 50,000 acres of crop lands and half of Gaza’s poultry stock targeted and destroyed or damaged by Israel. NGO’s are in agreement- if Israel eases its now almost ten year old siege on Gaza, it will still take at least a generation or more to restore it to the poverty levels it knew before the most recent onslaught.

A year has come and gone in Gaza- large chunks of it remain in ruin, electricity and clean running water are scarce, open sewage still runs down some of its streets into the Mediterranean on which it sits because of the Israeli targeted destruction of its infrastructure. Food and medicine are always in short supply as a result of the on-going embargo that strangles its borders. With the world’s highest unemployment rate which now stands at 43% for adults and 60% for teens, there are currently 40,000 young women and men with graduate degrees and PhD’s unable to find work in their chosen fields or any other. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is now just so much a way of life in Gaza with studies indicating that 92% of its children and up to 50% of its teens and adults are either symptomatic, or suffering from its full-on effects.

Meanwhile children sit antsy in classrooms- some ready themselves to take the place of their older brothers and sisters in the Fourth or Fifth Intifada- whatever it takes. They look around classrooms and see empty seats, seats once occupied by friends and neighbors or brothers and sisters, now gone- murdered by Israel last year. They read from books held together by recycled tape and follow their youthful teachers as they write lesson plans on chalks-boards now broken and cracked by Israeli shrapnel- at night, they study at home by candlelight. Like all children they dream of a better tomorrow, one filled with toys and trips and parties. But, deep down they know that one day it will be their turn to follow a long painful trail of resistance that began at Deir Yassin decades ago.

With Gaza completely surrounded and being slowly starved or bombed to death, the West Bank entirely occupied, and mostly annexed, and the Judaisation of Jerusalem now in full swing, is it any wonder that Palestinians continue to resist against a long implemented Israeli plan for their extermination, one way or another. Indeed, some might reasonably argue that a handful of very much isolated and spontaneous vehicle and knife assaults, along with continuing stone attacks by Palestinian youth, no matter what their tragic results, are but a token and not at all coordinated militant response to the full on and long-term ethnic cleansing and genocide well underway in Palestine. While the Israeli government, as always, seeks to charge Hamas with ultimate responsibility for the recent up-tick in Palestinian resistance, it’s clear that the early stages of what appears to be very much the Third Intifada are — like the first two– in the able-bodied hands of Palestinian youth. By the thousands, they have taken to the streets throughout their homeland in a determined effort to challenge the occupation and the ethnic cleansing that is the norm of their life. To them, there can be no business as usual for Israelis, any Israeli, as long as Palestinians by the millions remain stateless and powerless, reduced to little more than convenient vulnerable targets for annihilation by IOF jets or wanton settler brutality, while much of the world looks the other way. Its hard to argue with reason.

Tragically, for many Palestinians it seems as if our world has left them little but two choices to get back home again- victory or death. Its business as usual.

Business as Usual
Business as Usual

The Children of Oslo

Recently, I received a message from Walaa Alghussein, a wonderful journalist from Gaza, about unfolding events in Palestine. In few, but very prescient words, she summed up the on-going explosive resistance on the ground: “cheers to the 90’s generation . . . it’s proving that this generation of Oslo was just being underestimated.” Walaa, an activist member of this generation herself, got me to thinking- she always does; this time about defiant resistance, our youthful rebels and our collective future.

Decades ago in the nascent stage of my own militant activism I had read “The Rebel” by the French journalist/philosopher Albert Camus- it was difficult to say the least. Very much a remarkable but dense journey down the historical and hysterical intellectual pathways of defining and understanding nihilism, it left me almost pained with anticipation whether his prediction of insurrections to come would pan out. Years later, while the established obedient oligarchic world is very much aflame with youthful defiance in full bloom, I’ve just reread it. As I closed the book on my prison desk and considered it’s conflicted message, I smiled, not so much because Camus was mistaken or confused, but because history has outpaced him with the march of resistance- the natural instinct and healthy drive of each generation to be free; free to create and craft its own rules, roles, and priorities. With this determination, and its often costly pursuit of freedom, life can be very beautiful and exciting at that.

Fortunately, all these years later, militant resistance –be it rebellion or revolution– remains a breathing necessity, very much a healthy core tenet of our collective future. For that, we should be thankful. Today, when I look out across the world, I see young women and men of principle and courage everywhere refusing to surrender to the demands of those who came before them. Willing to sacrifice much, even all if necessary, this generation of egalitarian social and political engineers fights on, often against impossible odds and explosive state repression, to ensure that there is not only a better today for us all, but also a tomorrow for those yet to come with the freedom to correct the missteps they surely will inherit.

Sorry Mr. Camus, you can dispatch all those tired European “isms” and their petty party lines to the bedpan of ancient history as the youth of today, connected by their shared thirst for freedom and justice and social media are alive and well as the vanguard of necessary defiance throughout our world. While their ever changing revolt may wear different colors — at times very dramatic and violent, at others, bland and written, but no less militant– it remains nonetheless a powerful reminder that if we are to do more than just survive as a passing and ineffective apparition, we must be determined to play a defiant role in the events that shape our world today and the one to come tomorrow. It’s a lesson obviously well learned by many of today’s rising generation. Across the globe, tomorrow’s leaders are fighting in diverse and creative ways to ensure that our 21st century family derives its strength and direction not from the greed of genetic corporate or military power and privilege, but from fierce puissant resistance to long held terminally ill policies that otherwise seek to exploit and reduce us to voiceless cheerleaders, marking time from the cradle to the grave.

Interestingly, in his historical analysis, Camus, himself a veteran of a costly, but successful, home grown uprising against French colonialism in Algeria, failed to perceive the often violent tension that was to come between neocolonial tyranny and indigenous resistance that lights up the world stage today. This is particularly evident in the Middle East, Africa and Gulf states. Rich with resources ripe for the taking, for the longest, these regions have been Western comfort zones, obedient surrogate states. Opting instead to dissect and debate the time worn heave between European monarchies and so-called native “terrorists,” the Camus crystal ball was just not clear enough to foresee today’s intrepid youth who have taken to the streets in record numbers with courageous resolve fighting to defend every inch of their grand shout-out, at times tragically sacrificing their freedom and their lives.

During the so-called Arab Spring, millions of youthful activists took to the streets to challenge totalitarian regimes that had long controlled every significant aspect of their lives. In battles that rage on today, they took control of their own destiny through militant insurgencies- many lost their lives, many more are now homeless refugees. At the same time, Anonymous and Occupy Wall Street announced through a series of widespread street and cyberspace actions that they too had joined the fight to rid the world of corporate and military exploitation and secrecy in search of a color and class blind world community which rejects privilege as the benchmark of success or social and political power. While “Black Lives Matter” challenges police brutality through militant actions across the United States, the Organization of African Youth serves as a revolutionary youth empowerment movement across the continent of Africa. These battles and many others have signaled a new dawn of sorts in which our young have announced with fierce determination that they will not sit idly on the side lines as their lives and world passes them by. Nowhere is this more evident or explosive than in the defiant streets and alleys of the Holy Land where the fearless “children of Oslo” have once again told their elders to go home and rest-up while they fight for dignity and human rights in a dangerous, deadly confrontation with the evil that is the Apartheid state of Israel.

The children of Oslo are the great-grand children of the Nakba- the now almost seven decade’s old catastrophe that drove a million Palestinians from their ancestral homeland as it was stolen by the first wave of European Zionist “settlers” who arrived there before 1948. They’ve watched talks come and go and agreements broken by Israel even before the ink had dried. They are not schooled where they wish, travel as they should, work as they must, or live as fully empowered equals in the walled-off Bantustans that they are forced to call home, let alone in the Israel that was carved out of the fields, villages and groves that have been Palestinian for the millennium.

To be young and Palestinian is to be stateless and voiceless in a cold indifferent world that only sees your face when you wear a mask and carry a slingshot, or when you roar out from behind the flame of burning tires or are covered by a funeral shroud as you are laid to rest to the weep of your family, but the pride of your Nation. To be young and Palestinian is to struggle daily against impossible odds and impediments, none of your own making: to succeed as a writer, educator, artist or human right’s advocate while the world does not care what you do or that you even exist. To be young and Palestinian is to hear from mostly compromised and passive political leaders mumbling over and over that better days will soon be yours while the walls of despair and disillusionment grow ever so high and painful around your existence day in and day out. To be young and Palestinian is to sense the pain in your parents’ face as they stand powerless to stanch the abuse and degradation your family must endure whenever it passes thru endless Israeli manned checkpoints that control with an iron fist and thirst for violence the West Bank and Erez crossings at Gaza. And, yes, finally, to be young and Palestinian is, at times, to find comfort under blankets of dark denial.

Yet, mourn not for the youth of Palestine who refuse to become passive observers of history as it’s “winds of change” blow through the Holy Land changing nothing. Nor, will they surrender to any future that requires the loss of dignity, hope or pursuit of justice. Ultimately, age is no guarantor of wisdom for those whose journey has long been underway; nor is it a bar to a life of pride, beauty or bravery, for those for whom it’s just begun. The children of Oslo are very much the inheritor’s of a proud and vibrant tradition of resistance, a birthright left them by insurgent generations who have fought for almost 70 years to reclaim their homeland. Ultimately, to be young and Palestinian is to be strong, determined, defiant. To be young and Palestinian is to wear the legacy of your Nation’s past, present and future in every step you take, no matter where that walk may take you.

You can beat, batter and arrest the children of Oslo but they simply will not bend, break or back away. The youthful hand that throws the stone at the occupying force that is Israel is not that of a masked 15 year old boy, but the more powerful than ever hand of 11 million Palestinians who, though stripped of their homeland, have not lost their dignity or determination to prevail. Many young Palestinians have died, many more to follow in this life and death struggle against Israeli state lawlessness; unfortunately, some will kill, as they join an arc of resistance that began long ago in Der Yassin and the hundred other peaceful Palestinian villages laid to waste by Zionist terrorists that make those of today’s age blush with envy. These youthful freedom fighters are not the first to challenge hatred and ruthless authority with little more than their spirit and bodies, and they will certainly not be the last. For those too young or old to remember, Mandela was a sage leader who followed the daring of the young of Soweto, hundreds of restive children of the Bantustan injured or slaughtered while demonstrating against South African apartheid. It signaled the beginning of the end of racist colonial rule in South Africa. It is a lesson of history that Israel has failed to recall.

There is nothing grand or romantic at all about youthful death, be it at the hands of poverty and disease, through a nihilist thirst for blind violence, or even in the defense of one’s nation. Yet world history is replete with the martyrs of valiant struggles to obtain justice and freedom; battles by no means unique to one period, religion or race. The earthen dam in Mississippi that served as a tomb for youthful civil rights workers murdered in the deep South of the United States, the “desaparecidos,” or student and trade union activists and revolutionaries, murdered by the thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, in Latin America for their opposition to totalitarian military regimes and those young activists slaughtered in Soweto and Palestine have all shared one common bond besides their early deaths- a powerful personal commitment to resist, to fight back, to challenge vectors of hatred and ignorance whatever the risk or personal price ultimately paid.

None of our community’s young should willingly or foolishly surrender to death or become a witting party to the senseless killing of others- just for the sake of it. Yet, because death is so much a part of life’s natural rhythm, and resistance such a core component of that journey, they are fellow travelers, very much inexorably connected almost ordained to intersect sooner or later, all the more so likely when one confronts crushing tyrannical oppression.

Long ago a legendary African American writer penned a remarkable memorial for all those bound to eternity by hatred, ignorance or greed in their pursuit of justice. Although written at an historic crossroads of controversy and confrontation in U.S. history, it’s power is no less compelling or applicable to our brothers and sisters in struggle throughout the world today who refuse to be silent in the face of deadly repression. It applies with equal force to those of us who throw caution to the wind in the intractable but necessary age-old battle between those who resist oppression and do so with every breath that is theirs to breathe, and those who impose it.

To the children of Oslo and all our sons and daughters of rebellion no matter where they fight, or have, the epic words of Langston Hughes are eternal and stand for all of us as a proud beacon of hope:

FOR KIDS WHO DIE
This is for the kids who die,
Black and white,
For kids will die certainly.
The old and rich will live on awhile,
As always,
Eating blood and gold,
Letting kids die.

Kids will die in the swamps of Mississippi
Organizing sharecroppers
Kids will die in the streets of Chicago
Organizing workers
Kids will die in the orange groves of California
Telling others to get together
Whites and Filipinos,
Negroes and Mexicans,
All kinds of kids will die
Who don’t believe in lies, and bribes, and contentment
And a lousy peace.

Of course, the wise and the learned
Who pen editorials in the papers,
And the gentlemen with Dr. in front of their names
White and black,
Who make surveys and write books
Will live on weaving words to smother the kids who die,
And the sleazy courts,
And the bribe-reaching police,
And the blood-loving generals,
And the money-loving preachers
Will all raise their hands against the kids who die,
Beating them with laws and clubs and bayonets and bullets
To frighten the people—
For the kids who die are like iron in the blood of the people—
And the old and rich don’t want the people
To taste the iron of the kids who die,
Don’t want the people to get wise to their own power,
To believe an Angelo Herndon, or even get together

Listen, kids who die—
Maybe, now, there will be no monument for you
Except in our hearts
Maybe your bodies will be lost in a swamp
Or a prison grave, or the potter’s field,
Or the rivers where you’re drowned like Leibknecht
But the day will come—
You are sure yourselves that it is coming—
When the marching feet of the masses
Will raise for you a living monument of love,
And joy, and laughter,
And black hands and white hands clasped as one,
And a song that reaches the sky—
The song of the life triumphant
Through the kids who die.

Hughes wrote powerfully of young people as different as day and night, but yet the same. With a thirst to seize their own destinies and to reshape the world about them, the rebels of today are no different than those that have marched down the hallways of history from time immemorial. Though the tactics of resistance are necessarily as different as the nature and extent of the oppression which they confront, our rebels have chosen to follow the difficult, selfless and time beaten path of those in whose tradition they rage on.

Up the Rebels.

Our Aim Is To Reclaim..
Our Aim Is To Reclaim..

In the Matter of the International Community v Israel

In the Matter of the International Community v Israel

In its first full week of a “new” get tough policy, almost 500 young Palestinian demonstrators were injured, shot and maimed, and at least three teens murdered in response to what Israel sees as a rising tide of “militant” resistance against the illegally occupied and, by now, almost completely annexed West Bank. At the same time, the IOF has not only increased its already frequent bombing runs in the embattled, largely defenseless Gaza Strip, but tightened it’s concentration-camp like grip on 1.8 million civilians, reducing even further the trickle of essential goods, food shipments and medicines permitted into the beleaguered territory which has long been central to its criminal policy of collective punishment. Indeed, in Gaza it’s clear that for years civilians have been Israel’s primary targets whether by killing or simply terrorizing them through the destruction of the economic infrastructure of its civilian society. In the years since it was forced to abandon it’s illegal settlements in Gaza with an Hamas government freely elected, Israel has retaliated with applied ruthless psychological pressure and the intentional infliction of physical suffering and destruction of civilian property directed primarily at women, children and the elderly, to punish them for the decisions of their elected government. The cornerstone of this policy has been to mete out cruel punishment that demands of the impoverished enclave, long and expensive reconstruction processes well beyond its ability to absorb.

While Abu Mazen and company continue to posture in what has become by now a yearly ritual played out by the Palestinian Authority of “what’s in it for us,” many thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets throughout Palestine, most notably in Quds, Bethlehem and Tulkarim, in what is now being called the third intifada, or uprising. With the full closure of Al Aqsa, a massive IOF presence throughout the West bank ,including in Ramallah (the seat of PA “political power”, and in Nablus where hundreds of young demonstrators, most in their teens, have been rounded up in the streets or dragged away from their homes in the middle of the night only to be detained indefinitely without formal charges or proceedings with any rights of consequence.

These policies are not new. Costing thousands of civilian lives, injuring ten times as many, with imprisonment and torture very much the norm, they have long served as the lynchpin of the Zionist Apartheid agenda that controls every aspect of Palestinian life, disenfranchising a stateless people in the midst of their own stolen homeland. There is also nothing new about Israel’s recent and desperate attempt to rewrite the history of its own criminal actions or events unfolding on the ground throughout the Middle East. Next to war crimes, media manipulation to control the shopping of the outcome has always been a priority for Israel and among its most successful efforts.

A series of recent outbursts by Israel and its dwindling group of supporters speaks volumes about a state very much in a state of absolute disarray flailing out at any and everyone who refuses to any longer buy into the “woe is me” defense to justify decades of indefensible crimes by the Israeli state. Beginning with a recent series of purchased full page ads in a number of US based newspapers, Zionist cheerleaders proclaimed that it’s Israel against the whole world. For once, I wholeheartedly agree. In what should be seen as a desperate attempt to ward off the growing Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement, and likely findings of war crimes at the International Criminal Court and ensuing international accountability expected to come from it, the ads strike a readily transparent cheap appeal to “David”- like sentiments to fight the so-called good fight against the dark Goliaths of the world community who would otherwise seek to bully a “beleaguered” Israel into submission.

My, my, it sounds so much like the closing lines in the classic “Judgment at Nuremberg” where Nazi war criminals on trial for crimes against humanity point everywhere, but to themselves, in seeking to explain away the unforgivable but “necessary” transgressions they committed, of course, always undertaken for the right reason. Who can forget the powerful exchanges between an international tribunal prosecutor and war criminals who, in stepping up to the prisoner’s dock in Nuremberg before the watchful stunned eyes of the world, sought to defend their unspeakable crimes against humanity by pointing an accusing finger at those they enslaved and murdered for essentially inviting their own demise. How often did they seek to recast the box cars and bombs as appropriate and necessary responses to the problem of Jews and others who, driven by fundamentalist religious zeal and a thirst for political power and control, would swallow up the world if left to their own unchecked devices. Did we not hear the war criminals of the 30’s and 40’s proudly cheer on their own “heroic” role as the few willing to confront the many – more particularly the growing Jewish “problem” with their evil aims while the world otherwise slept all too soundly. Was it just 70 years ago when yesterday’s war criminals, political and military leaders alike, dehumanized their enemies and by doing so reasoned they were not bound by the moral and legal constraints on their treatment of civilians? Sound familiar, Mr. Netanyahu?

Indeed, in his most recent verbal frenzy at the UN, predictably, Netanyahu once again castigated the world community for sitting idly by leaving Israel and Israel alone to defend itself and the rest of us from dark and sinister fundamentalist designs of “bad” Arabs and Islamists who surround the Zionist state; a state with not just the 10th most powerful military machine in the entire world, but one which is the yearly beneficiary of countless billions of dollars in military aid from the West, much of it from the U.S., and which, itself, possesses some 200 nuclear weapons. To watch the Netanyahu show unfold, with its rank appeal to baseless doomsday fear and manipulation of facts and historical events, is very much to hearken back to an earlier successful demagogue who also found great comfort in vilifying an entire religion for the acts of the few, if at all, and who ultimately marched the world into an abyss that sacrificed 60 million of its people to a machinery of death greased with the rhetoric of racial and religious hatred and little else.

Yes, indeed, haters, once again I am drawing a very public and apt comparison between today’s war criminals of Tel Aviv and those in the Berlin that was 70 years ago! If the shoe fits . . .

In one ad in particular, the American Jewish Council (AJC) paints a dramatic and stark layout which pits the entire world community on one side of the statehood equation with Israel alone on the other and decries the fact that the UN Human Right’s Council has “issued more condemnations of Israel than of all other member states combined . . . [and] dedicates an entire agenda item in scrutinizing Israel- the only state so segregated. ”  Can it be that for once a body of the world community has finally gotten it right in identifying Israel as today’s preeminent, indeed, most determined violator of human rights in its drive to ethnically cleanse all Palestinians from their ancestral homeland.

For 67 years, Israel has viewed itself as very much untouchable, well beyond the reach of long settled-standards of international law and decency, and free to operate as a rogue state engaged in unparalleled human rights violations largely against Palestinians, with periodic assaults upon Lebanon, and elsewhere, in order to cause the greatest harm to the most people as so much a political tactic. Indeed, with little more than a cursory look at Israel, one can readily glimpse a veritable primer on prohibited criminal conduct long rejected by most of the civilized world community. Whether banned by the Geneva and Hague Conventions or other Human Rights covenants or the Law of War, Israel has made repeated and systematic use of targeted attacks upon civilians and civilian infrastructure in Palestine, and elsewhere, including assaults upon hospitals, schools, and refugee and daycare centers. It has made regular use of banned weapons including phosphorous and cluster bombs and land mines. It has illegally annexed occupied land, stolen its natural resources — such as water for exclusive use in Israel– and destroyed livestock and crops as an essential part of its slash and burn strategy. As a matter of official state policy, it has denied millions of Palestinians the free exercise of their religious beliefs and denied them travel and work opportunities throughout Palestine. The IOF has elevated the use of human shields during its frequent attacks upon civilians and destroyed the family homes of political opponents as an essential part of its economic, psychological and sociological warfare strategy which has never hesitated from employing extrajudicial assassinations all over the world of its perceived political enemies. Of course, let us not forget that Israel has a long tradition of terrorist activity tracing back to its statehood roots that included numerous bombings, civilian assassinations, rapes, kidnappings and executions of not just Palestinians, but British police and military personnel as well. While the world has been pained by the recent flood of refugees fleeing deadly fighting and violence throughout the Middle East, the forced removal and flight of almost a million Palestinians from their homes by Zionists was an earlier flight that left seven million as refugees and almost eleven million Palestinians still stateless today.

Under international law the rules of proportionality mandate that the risk of harm to forbidden targets such as civilians and civilian infrastructure must be weighed against the military necessity of the objects pursued. Under Israeli policy international law has no traction; there are no civilians, no protected sights, no tactics it will not use, and no limitations on what Israel will do to obtain the political goals it feels entitled to obtain. Yes, AJC, it’s very much Israel against the world. And what a better and safer world we will be when it begins to hold the Zionist state accountable for its crimes.

Staying Strong

Late last week I received a wonderful letter from the legendary Anthony McIntyre an IRA  volunteer who spent 18 years in a British prison. His was a message of solidarity and support from a personal hero which gave me great strength. Today was a wonderful mail call, an evening filled with solidarity, love and revolution. You simply cannot have one without the others. Among the dozen or so cards and letters I received were messages of hope and inspiration from Scotland, Belfast, France, Switzerland, Amsterdam, Nova Scotia, several US States and two from a so-called Anonymous “hacking” camp somewhere in the world. One in particular, I wish to share with our community- it speaks volumes about who we are and what we are about. From Quillota, Chile came a letter from “Ignacio” written on a small piece of checkerboard paper inside of a sheet of tattered paper made into an envelope. It began simply enough with Dear Mr. Cohen:

“First, I hope your human rights are being respected, and that you are well.

My name is Ignascio _____, an _______ drop out, now studying medicine, and a fellow believer in Palestinian Liberation. I write you from Chile, this beautiful land hanging from the mountains almost falling into the sea, that seems to have offended an ancient god, always scourged by earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, etc. This situation has shown me, time and time again, that the natural human instinct in front of somebody in pain is to try and stop that pain and help. Being Catholic and Marxist, I believe in a superior destiny of Humanity, where people can live a happy life in solidarity, not the greed-fueled life neo-liberals want us to believe is true human nature.

We Chileans have learned the hard way that without unity we the poor are hopeless. The power of the People is something out of the Alchemists book: it only exists after is used.

The evil that taints the world is powerful in occupied Palestine, but it can be stopped. Our biggest weapon against it is love, doesn’t matter how naive that may sound. Your work, dear Stanley, is filled with love. You are truly a Freedom Fighter. I believe you’ll know the happy ending of your fight in this life, or in the next one, because you indeed have been persecuted in the name of Justice and you shall know a reward.

Chilean native people have shown the world that no one can take away your dignity if it is not with your consent. Galarino, a Mapuche military leader in the war against the Spanish circ 1550, had both his hands cut away as a punishment. As soon as he healed, though, he had spears tied to his stumps, and fought the Spanish any way.

Hoping that your releasing comes soon, I say my good byes. August, 2015.

MARICHIWEU! (we’ll defeat our enemies ten times over” in Mapuche language)”

We are Legion indeed. We do not forgive, we do not forget.

Today I walk on clouds comfortable in the knowledge that we shall prevail.

Up the Rebels

Che = People - Mapu = of the land
Che = People – Mapu = of the land