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This evening on KGNU – “Trump’s ‘Plan B’ For Syria” or “We’re Neck Deep In The Big Muddy But The Big Fool (Bolton) Said To Push On” – Tues, January 22, 2019 @6 pm Mountain Time

January 21, 2019
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Syrian government troops liberating Aleppo from ISIS, al Nusra. December 23, 2013. Idlib Province is next…

Hear Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince on KGNU Boulder (88.5 FM, 1390 Am, Streaming at http://www.kgnu.org) on Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues hosted by Jim Nelson, Tues, January 22, 2019 @ 6-7 pm Mountain States Time

The program is available for streaming/downloading tomorrow at KGNU’s achives

Thinking About Zionism, AntiSemitism and Human Rights in Birmingham Alabama … (1)

January 19, 2019

(

Yassin Adel Za Aqeeq, age 15. Kidnapped from his home in Beit Ummar, Occupied Palestine, by the Israeli Defense Force in December, 2018. Hundreds of Palestinian youth are in Israeli jails, a full one third of them, from the town of Beit Ummar.

Note: What follows below is a slightly [language tightened up] revised and expanded entry on comments made on Facebook recently.

It concerns what has become the pervasive and underhanded way that Israel’s more zealous organizational supporters work to discredit and intimidate those who publicly criticize Israeli actions and/or support the Palestinian people in the struggle to end the Occupation.

Such methods have existed for decades, but have intensified as the public mood in the United States has shifted away from blind support of Israel and the myth of a halcyon, progressive Israel continues to erode.

To that end, recently Black scholar, human rights organizer, and long-time open American Communist, Angela Davis found herself in the middle of media storm. Again. One could hear a certain weariness in her voice but also a determination to address this new attack on her person head on, with the dignity and careful thought that has marked her life. A human rights award, the Fred Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award, offered to her for a lifetime of human rights work, was rescinded after pressure was exerted on the board of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, in Birmingham, Alabama.

Later it was acknowledged publicly – by the mayor of Birmingham, Alabama – that the pressure came from the Birmingham Jewish Federation and the city’s Holocaust Remembrance center. Shortly thereafter, and in response, what amounts to the city of Birmingham, its city council included, issued a counter statement of appreciation of Angela Davis’ work and invited her to “an alternative awards event” to be held on February 16, in Birmingham. I have been informed that there will be two events  on that day, a meeting with human rights organizers in the morning and a dinner in the evening, both, as I understand it, open to the public.  Read more…

In Solidarity With Angela – 5 – Dr. Haider Khan, University of Denver, Korbel School of International Studies

January 12, 2019

Fania and Angela Davis…sisters in struggle and in life

Haider Khan teaches Global Political Economy at the University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies (from where I retired three years ago). He comes from Bangladesh and was there during that country’s of independence from Pakistan in 1971-2 in which as many as 3,000,000 people died, a terrible price for freedom. He is an internationally renowned political economist who has worked for the Asian Development Bank and spends a good part of the year lecturing the world over.

Here is a letter of solidarity that he wrote directly to Angela Davis along with a link to an article he wrote “On Capitalism and Racism”

Dear Prof. Davis,

I am writing to declare my firm solidarity with your positions regarding BDS and  more broadly your life long struggles for justice and human rights for all.

Several years ago I was in the audience when you spoke at Rome. I was one of those who raised their hands in response to your question about who supported your case for release from prison during the 1960s struggles. I was only a junior high school student then but came from a family of anti-racist and anti-imperialist activists which made it natural for us to support you and your struggles which were and are also our collective struggles for freedom and justice for all.

Later I met Prof. Vincent Harding at our Iliff School of Theology and became friends with him. I am sure Vince would have spoken out for your cause had he been alive and with us today.

Please let me know how best we can support your cause.

Warmly,

Haider

PS: The following article I wrote two years ago may be of some interest:

On Capitalism and Racism

In Solidarity With Angela – 4 – Reflections on the Birmingham Incident

January 11, 2019

Fania and Angela Davis…sisters in struggle and in life

(Note: Although I will not deal with it in this entry, this whole incident brings to light the long sometimes cooperative, in recent decades more contentious relationship between this country’s Jewish and Black Communities, the key element of which is how and on what basis can the two communities re-establish a working relationship based on mutual respect and cooperation that characterized their relations up until the 1970s. Mike Wilzoch in his letter touches on this history. Today America’s Blacks and Jews – among others – need to find each other again but on a new, more democratic (and in the case of the mainstream Jewish Community less patronizing) manner. With the time she has left, it is Angela Davis and others like her – Black Marxists to be precise  – who brings to the struggle against racism – that great blotch on American history – a class analysis as well; key to the healing process, Tikkun – as Larry Grimm noted. )

Suggest that blog readers take a look at the article on the on-line source from “Mondoweiss” “Birmingham Institute’s recission of Angela Davis award over BDS becomes an embarrassment to pro-Israel groups that applied pressure” by Philip Weiss.  “Recission” – great word. It is thorough and well done.

Besides dealing with the issue at hand, it exposes in many ways how these Federations like the Birmingham Jewish Federation operate all over the country.

It speaks of “over reach of the Israel lobby”.

It also documents, carefully and I might add, tastefully, what went on behind the scenes which many thought was happening concerning “the pressure” exerted by the Birmingham Jewish Federation – the threat was pressure from the Federation, and apparently other Jewish organizations to withdraw funding and donations to Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in which Jewish donors are significant.

Faced with this threat and all the hysterical nonsense about BDS being anti-Semitic because it calls for boycotts, divestments and sanctions against companies supporting and financially benefiting from the Occupation – the Civil Rights Institute’s leadership caved under the pressure.

And then all hell broke loose locally, in Alabama, nationally and internationally. I still think that the Birmingham Jewish Federation and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute don’t understand what hit them quite yet.

For those of you who interested in following the never-ending political struggles over conflicting narratives on the Palestinian-Israeli divide – you could do a lot worse than following Mondoweiss. Pretty much everything I have read by them is like this article, ie. it has a point of view but the tone is controlled, informative, politically sound; the articles have a cutting edge – if not – why read them? but they are about as good “committed political journalism” as is found anywhere. From where I am sitting it represents the best in a tradition of progressive Jewish writing on the subject.

Phil Weiss has a clear and steady understanding of the processes and the political wrangling unfolding. The website provides a genuine service in interpreting and explaining events like this.

More – There are federations like the Birmingham Jewish Federation all over the country, including here in Colorado. Such Federations bring together diverse numbers of Jewish organizations, religious, social work, human rights, whatever into a coordinated whole. They are essentially coalitions of different Jewish organizations. While they claim in principle to be democratic, in essence – no surprise here – they are run in a centralized, ruthless manner, especially where it concerns support for Israel, and not just Israel but the Netanyahu political perspective. That is the case here in Colorado where local power brokers essentially dictate policy behind the scenes. This has caused no end of turmoil.

So beyond the issue of pressuring the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute to cancel Angela Davis’ award there is another one – probably many others actually – at play: struggles for democracy within the Federations themselves. These struggles are not just about Israel but about all kinds of issues facing the nation and the world and for more democratic decision making within the community that takes into consideration the diversity of view. What might be referred to as the Jewish rank and file in these organizations – which is liberal to left on most domestic issues, anti-racist and on the Israeli-Palestinian issue is moderate to left – is increasingly frustrated across the county with how things are run and ramrodded through the decision making processes.

The underhanded back-room way the pressure was exerted on the Civil Rights Institute is also typical, most of the pressure is exerted informally, behind the scenes. It has been going on for decades. A call to a church that might be thinking of sponsoring an event where a Palestinian voice will be heard; a visit by prominent local Jewish rabbis and business leaders to a Israeli critic’s employer, requesting, or suggesting that the person be fired, a threat to break from inter-religious organizations if the question of Israel is raised…and of course the completely scripted free trips to Israel funded by AIPAC or like organizations. Rarely do the Federations get caught “in the act”, so to speak, as in this Birmingham case – but in this asymmetrical political warfare – watch and see how it resonates nationwide. You can bet that the Federations nationally will discuss how to manage the criticism, some kind of temporary tactical retreat I would guess, maybe even a mea culpa before they go back to business as usual, which they will do…but in new uncharted waters because a veil has been lifted.

Frankly the way that the Birmingham Jewish Federation is operating is nothing new; what is new is that they caught with their pants down so the speak for the city of Birmingham, the nation and the whole world to see. Their modus operandi is for the world to see and for the first time in a long time, they’ve had their wings clipped. What lessons will the Federations nationwide draw from this experience? I doubt there will be any from the Federation’s leadership and the power brokers behind the scenes. But from the base of the Jewish Community, the voice of which has long been censored or silenced, I expect a different, more vibrant honest  and progressive response. 

Let me be clear, it is not just mainstream Jewish organizations like the Birmingham Jewish Federation that needs to be either renewed or swept away but so many other institutions in our country that have grown stale and out of touch with the realities  and constituencies they supposedly represent. The labor movement, other religious denomination institutions – the Catholic Church comes to mind – many old guard civil rights organizations – old left formations be they communist, socialist or whatever, the Democratic Party…one can make similar criticisms of all of them – out of touch to the point of being irrelevant, with a bureaucracy clinging to what’s left of their power and influence. If the Birmingham Jewish Federation’ backroom shenanigans have come to light – and they have – know that they part and parcel of a whole world of institutions that need to go back to basics, renew their their original commitments, let the new young dynamic blood in…and for old folks to step aside. If reform is not possible, and frankly I serious question whether it is in these Jewish Federations, they should be replaced by institutions more in tune with the times and their constituency.

I will elaborate upon the history in later entries.

Although I will not deal with it in this entry, this whole incident brings to light the long sometimes cooperative, in recent decades more contentious relationship between this countries Jewish and Black Communities, the key element of which is how and on what basis can the two communities re-establish a working relationship based on mutual respect and cooperation that characterized their relations up until the 1970s. Mike Wilzoch in his letter touches on this history. Today America’s Blacks and Jews – among others – need to find each other again but on a new, more democratic (and in the case of the mainstream Jewish Community less patronizing) manner. With the time she has left, it is Angela Davis and others like her – Black Marxists to be precise  – who brings to the struggle against racism – that great blotch on American history – a class analysis as well; key to the healing process, Tikkun – as Larry Grimm noted.

In Solidarity with Angela Davis – 3 – Life Long Trade Union Organizer Mike Wilzoch Weighs In…

January 10, 2019

Fania and Angela Davis…sisters in struggle and in life

Mike Wilzoch has been involved in pretty much every major labor, human rights struggle in Colorado over the past forty years. He started his social justice activity very young and never looked back. I only know bits and pieces of his story – working with the United Farm Workers of America in the 1970s, organizing for different unions over the years. He started his union work with the Service Employees International Union as a Janitors For Justice organizer, later was the president of SEIU Local 105 till 2000. In San Diego from 2000-2009 he was SEIU’s Justice for Janitors Director while doing immigrant rights work, and then an organizer for SEIU’s San Diego Health Care Unit.” Mike sent his statement to the Birmingham Jewish Federation protesting their interfering with the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute’s giving a human rights award to Angela Davis. The email he sent, like the one Larry Grimm tried to send, was rejected. He has granted me permission to publish it in full just below.  

________________________

Good Day,

During the Civil Rights movement of the 50s and 60s, many members of the Jewish community across the country were reliable allies in the campaigns for equality and justice for African-Americans. This makes your role behind the scenes to withdraw the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute’s award for Angela Davis all the more tragic and despicable. Ms. Davis is a daughter of Birmingham, who is celebrated across the world for her powerful advocacy for the oppressed. She knew Fred Shuttlesworth, in whose name the award was to be presented, has ties to the BCRI going back to its founding, and a history of working with Jewish groups to promote fairness and resolve conflict.

It is a reflection of your lack of integrity that rather than publicly oppose the BCRI’s decision, and state your reasons openly, you took action in secret to disrespect her and, more importantly, what she has stood for all of her life. Advocacy against Israel’s medieval treatment of the Palestinians, and taking any action to advance their cause is deemed to be a threat to be silenced by organizations like yours. You react reflexively toward any criticism of Israel, no matter how much they dishonor a cornerstone of the Hebrew faith—the relentless pursuit of justice. In fact, many Jewish organizations and members of the faith are in leadership roles opposing the worst of the Israeli government’s policies, practices, and actions—and organizing relentlessly to promote peace and a Palestinian homeland.

As you are aware, your unethical actions have caused a tsunami of reaction to the BCRI’s decision to fail their organization’s mission, and cave to your backdoor pressure: unvarnished condemnation by the Mayor and City Council; a movement among Birmingham’s citizenry to condemn the decision, begin organizing an alternative event to honor Ms. Davis; and a call for a change in the organization’s leadership—which has been successful as the top 3 Officers have resigned.

Be advised that there are millions of us here, and around the world, who have been moved to action opposing both the illegal and inhumane treatment of the Palestinians by Israel and our own government. We take very seriously the accelerating attempts to restrict our 1st Amendment rights to speech and actions to only those you approve of. We will not accept our rights being violated, especially by whisper campaigns and character assassination. Part of our mission is to expose this unethical, dangerous, and un-American conduct. Consider yourself dragged into the sunlight, and your efforts otherwise being quite appropriately catastrophic for your credibility, position and practice.

Mike Wilzoch

__________________

Rob Prince’s Statement

Larry Grimm’s Statement

Rob Prince Further Reflections

Dr. Haider Khan’s Statement

 

In Solidary With Angela Davis – 2 – Statement of Rev. Larry Grimm, Guest Blogger

January 10, 2019

Fania and Angela Davis…sisters in struggle and in life

(Note. I don’t remember when it was that I first met Larry Grimm, sometime in the mid 1990s but I am not even certain of that. What I do remember well is the way we worked together to help put together the founding conference of “Friends of Sabeel” in Colorado some years ago. Friends of Sabeel continues – a solid human rights organization concerned with the fate of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. A number of its key members here in Colorado are Christians who have served their different denominations in the Palestinian Territories. They know the score. 

Larry and I have decided to share our letters to the Birmingham Jewish Federation protesting the pressure they exerted on the Birmingham Civil Rights Organization to rescind a human rights award to Angela Davis. Larry tried to email his but the communication was rejected. Not sure if the Birmingham Jewish Federation’s site has been taken down or if they simply use a filter to discriminate or censor emails. Whatever. I suggest that Larry and others inclined to do so to simply put their communications to BJF in the mail. 

Here is Larry’s statement…)

The Rev. Dr. Larry A. Grimm

January 9, 2019

Birmingham Jewish Federation

3966 Montclair Rd., Mountain Brook

Birmingham, AL 35213

Perhaps the Federation, locally and Internationally, may learn from the response to their sabotage of the City’s move to honor Angela Davis. The world has changed its view of the Israeli Military Occupation of Palestine.

So often we fail in empathy. For years the Palestinian people have suffered under the Manifest Destiny of Zionism called Greater Israel. Most Americans have shrugged their shoulders when the topic comes up and most government officials, their conscience having been purchased by pro-Zionist lobbies, have declined debate of the issues, ignoring the facts of oppression inherent in colonial movements.

Your action against this American Icon for Justice has brought home to many that military occupation can be virtual as well as actual. As has the anti-BDS legislation, the actions of the Federation are infringements upon everyone’s freedom of speech and assembly in America. We have the best Congress that money can buy and though Zionists of diverse religious affiliations have bought votes regarding Israeli Occupation and Oppression, perceptions are growing that this is Jewish money. Does that not concern the Federation? Especially when the President thinks there are “good people” on both sides?

For the safety and well being of Jewish Americans and their service for Justice and peacemaking, you must apologize for your actions in Birmingham. Rescind the action taken to sabotage her reward. Open up to the possibility that you may be wrong. Of course, to do so, you much also consider that uncritical support of Zionism is also wrong. I have taught that uncritical support of the USA is wrong and dangerous. You must see that is so for Greater Israel.

Tikkun. The name of Judaism needs restoration. Lead the pack. Take advantage of this mistake to open the way for American Judaism to dissociate from Greater Israel and seek real justice.

B’shalom,

Larry

Larry Grimm

___________________

Rob Prince’s Statement

Mike Wilzoch’s Statement

Rob Prince – Further Reflections

 

In Solidarity With Angela Davis

January 9, 2019

 

Fania and Angela Davis…sisters in struggle and in life

The following letter will be mailed in the morning to the Birmingham Jewish Federation, one of the main organizations pressuring the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute to rescind a human rights award to Angela Davis. I urge others to do likewise. 

Birmingham Jewish Federation
3966 Montclair Rd, Mountain Brook
Birmingham, AL 35213

January 9, 2019

Dear BJF:

I have been reading about how it was your organization that pressured the Birmingham Civil Rights Organization to rescind a human rights award to Angela Davis, the Fred Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award, issued by the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

What a cowardly, underhanded action on your part!

Despite all the political influence the Jewish Community has won nationally through organizations like the Anti Defamation League and the American-Israel-Public Affairs Committee, your blind support of Israel and failure to acknowledge and work against what is a process of incremental genocide and ethnic cleansing committed by the Israeli government against the Palestinian people will be your undoing. Ultimately all American Jews, myself included, will pay the price for your outright bigotry against the Palestinian people in particular and Arabs in general.

Are you blind to what the Palestinians are suffering in Gaza? How land expropriation of Palestinian property continues unabated in the West Bank as do arrests, shootings of Palestinians in the West Bank, especially but not uniquely in Area C controlled by the Israeli Defense Force? Do you still cling to the worn-out accusation that Hamas represents a threat to Israel’s existence? Are you silent about the growing cooperation between pro-Israeli Jewish groups in this country and openly fascist elements like John Hagee’s Christians United for Israel? While the world condemns Israel for the longest illegal and cruel military occupation of modern history, organizations like yours live in a Zionist bubble that denies reality. Of course you cannot do otherwise; to do so would force you to deal with Israel’s untenable actions.

Read more…