Progressive News Network :

WESPAC supports the work of the Progressive News Network which is a group of people in Westchester County committed to Community-produced independent media for peace and social justice in Westchester County, NY: progressivenewsnetwork.blogspot.com/

From Nick Mottern

Dear Friends:

  This is a plea to reach out to religious leaders you know and ask them to
participate in the rally to stop the wars that will be held this coming
Saturday, May 22 at 10 am in downtown Highland Falls outside the gate of
West Point during the time that Barack Obama speaks to the graduating cadets
and their families and friends.

  It is essential that the moral element of these wars be addressed – the
illegality under international law of the occupations and the continued
killing for political and economic advantage. Yes, there are people who want
to organize bombings in the US, but this is work for the police not the
military.

  We are entering into a time of increased violence in Afghanistan with the
planned offensive in Kandahar and in Iraq, where the internal struggle for
power appears to be just beginning.  There is also the continuing threat of
an attack against Iran.

  Please contact any religious leaders you know who will be willing to speak
out against the killing, and urge them to be at West Point next Saturday
morning
.  The voice of the religious community has been very faint on war
since 9/11, and it is very much needed now to challenge the piety in which
our politicians try to wrap these wars.

  You should know that we invited the president to meet with representatives
of 10 lower Hudson Valley peace organizations when he comes to West Point on
Saturday, but we were told that he is too busy.  See below. I have asked
that the president reconsider but have not had a response.

  Finally, please do your utmost to attend the rally on Saturday and reach
out to at least one other person on a personal basis, in person or phone
call, and ask them to attend.

  In solidarity,

  Nick Mottern

Book published by WESPAC member

I am very pleased to announce that WESPAC has received four copies of Tom Suarez’s latest book “Palestine: Sixty Years Later, Photographs and Observations” .  I would be pleased to reserve one of these copies for you on a first come first serve basis.

Thank you, Tom, for your good work.  http://vivagaza. net/

Newburgh Four Vigil

For Immediate Release: May 25, 2010

CONTACT: Alicia McWilliams: (347) 299- 4973, Anne Gibbons: (212) 7994686

Vigil in Support of the Newburgh 4 –

                                 Four Men Victims of FBI Entrapment    

 

White Plains, NY –– A vigil to support the Newburgh four and their families will be held on Friday, May 28 at 9:30am at the Federal Court House, 300 Quarropas Street, White Plains, NY. The rally will draw attention to the unjust entrapment tactics used by the FBI to bribe vulnerable men into government-concocte d terrorist plots.  This action is endorsed by WESPAC Foundation, Project SALAM, The Peace and Justice Foundation, the Newburgh Four Support Committee, DRUM Desis Rising Up and Moving, Middle Eastern Law Student’s Association at CUNY Law School, CODEPINK NYC, Coalition to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal NYC, Masjid AlTawheeda Peekskill, Al-Awda NY and the Preemptive Prosecution Coalition.

On May 20, 2009, federal and New York City authorities arrested four men on charges of plotting domestic terrorist attacks in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. Lawyers for the men, now known as the Newburgh Four, recently filed a motion to dismiss the federal charges, citing entrapment by a paid government informant.

Many people believe that the Newburgh 4, from Newburgh NY– James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams, and Laguerre Payen––were unfairly bribed into participating in a government- created terror plot. One had mental problems, one was a cocaine addict, and one was homeless. The agent reportedly offered them tens of thousands of dollars to join the conspiracy.  Entrapment, a practice in which law officials trick people into breaking the law (which the defendants would have not broken otherwise) is becoming a more common tactic since the U.S. government began its War on Terror. The legality of this practice under the Constitution is debatable.

All four men have served time in prison and have found it near impossible to find work given their criminal records.  They considered the informant, Malik, “a good Muslim brother” who would help them with their financial and medical problems.  Malik relentlessly pursued the men, would show up in various luxury cars and provided them with large amounts of money and marijuana.  He bought them food, took them out to dinner, paid the rent for James, and promised to give James his BMW.  He told David Williams he would receive $25,000 to pay for a liver for his brother, who is fighting liver cancer.   Laguerre Payen, a schizophrenic who can’t be deported to Haiti due to his mental illness, was arrested in a crack house surrounded by bottles of his own urine.  Alicia Mc Williams, David Williams’ aunt, recounted that prior to Malik’s arrival “these four couldn’t organize a successful barbecue let alone plot a terrorist attack.”

The indictment of the Newburgh Four is just one in a long series of illegal entrapments. The FBI hires Muslim criminals as agents provocateur to infiltrate Muslim communities and try to involve innocent law abiding members in illegal activities by large gifts of money, friendship, trickery and manipulation. Many people question the morality of FBI entrapment as a valid method of enforcing justice. Anne Gibbons, a resident of the Bronx says, “The idea that these entrapments are legitimate law enforcement activities that make us safer is ridiculous and shocking. The use of agents provocateur by the FBI is morally wrong and a danger to the rule of law in this country.”

The Newburgh 4 have a court hearing scheduled for May 28th at 10:00am at the Federal Court House in White Plains.  The actual trial is scheduled two weeks later on June 14th at the same location.

Khusro on Pakistan

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Report back from Pakistan

I have just returned from Pakistan where I am deeply involved in working through NGOs in two areas

1.       The establishment of Institutions caring for those with mental health Issues. I am motivated to do this because two of my siblings suffer from mental health issues and because this is a neglected area not just in Pakistan but worldwide.

2.       Working on Poverty alleviation and women’s uplift through an NGO which gives out loans to women through microfinance.

These subjects take me to Pakistan twice a year and give me the opportunity to interact with Pakistanis from various segments of society.  My wife was also in Pakistan but on a different mission. She brought back handicraft made by poor women so that she could sell them here and make money for similar women, so that they can be helped to get educated and to acquire skills.

Impact of US policies from the perspective of ordinary Pakistanis.

In a recent survey conducted by Gallup, it was revealed that the US is most unpopular in three countries. These countries being Egypt, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.  After Israel , Egypt is the largest recipient of US aid and considered an ally. Pakistan also received substantial aid and is considered an ally. Saudi Arabia receives military aid and equipment and is also an ally.  We are therefore most unpopular with those that we aim to help. Next in line of unpopularity is Turkey, another ally. If we look at the case of Pakistan, it would give us some clues to what we are doing wrong that even our friends are unhappy with us.  Here are five important points.

1.       Killing Democracy in Pakistan by supporting dictators and yes men.  Unlike Pakistan’s neighbor India who decided a long time ago that being an ally of the US was not in their best interest but that building up a democracy was, Democracy has not been allowed to take root in Pakistan. I do not wish to leave an impression that the US alone bears responsibility for the absence of democracy in Pakistan but we can see a common thread in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, none of which is a democratic country and we know how the US killed democracy in Iran. To this day the US proclaims itself to be a champion of Democracy while actively destroying it in those countries that look to it for guidance.

2.       The unnecessary killing of women and children and other innocent people by drone attacks and other aerial bombings.  The so called high value targets who get killed are quickly replaced by others who are more hard line and what is left therefore are just innocent bodies, distraught widows and orphaned children. It will only take one person to emerge from this carnage as the new Osama Bin Laden.

3.       Making Pakistan a dependant and pariah nation. Dependant on the IMF and US aid. Pakistan continues to remain on the edge of Bankruptcy. It has a mushrooming population, not enough energy for its needs ( I used to be without electricity everyday for at least four to five hours and sometimes eight. It was much worse in the villages) galloping inflation and no plans for the future except to live from hand to mouth.  The common man sees the hand of The US in forcing valuable resources to be diverted to the military and away from education, health and infrastructure.

4.       Making Pakistan fight an American war and creating conditions of a civil war, with Pakistanis killing Pakistanis. The rise of religious extremism in Pakistan is a tool freely used by Pakistani politicians as well as American planners. Religious extremists are well funded, well armed and well motivated  to continue dividing a society which only wants peace and to be able to get o with their lives. Many people are beginning to wonder that it might be better to side with these extremists if the real enemy is America and not the extremist. After all the extremists are also demanding that US forces quit Pakistan.

5.       The perception that the US is waging a war against Islam is strengthened by the number of Muslim countries that the US has recently attacked and the others that it wishes to attack. The common man does not fail to see to see the common thread in US Policy and believes that Pakistan will be attacked at some future date not because it bears any animosity to America but because it is Muslim.

For those people interested in knowing the reaction of Pakistanis to the Time Square would be bomber, the reactions run from one of total denial to those who see it as a CIA plot. Such is the mistrust of the US that the average Pakistani goes for all sorts of conspiracy theories rather than believe what is reported in the press.

How do peace activists respond to allegations that Pakistan is training militants to harm US Interests.

Historically the Taliban are a joint creation of the US, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Putting guns into the hands of Muslim extremists was our idea. This was part of the plan to defeat the Soviet Union and bring down communism. It succeeded wildly but all the cost of this success has been laid at the footsteps of Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Afghanistan has been lost to a civil war for 30 years and Pakistan has inherited 4 million Afghan Refugees , a gun culture and porous borders with Afghanistan.  People are quick to blame these countries for terrorism and no one acknowledges the debt owed by the so called free world to the people of these countries. These countries are the true martyrs as they continue to bleed and their people continue to suffer.  They will never be able to hold their heads high again amongst the comity of nations because they stand accused of corruption, mismanagement and breeding terrorism and not as warriors who shed their blood fighting communism.

The Lashkae Tayyaba and the Jaishi Mohammadi are people trained and bred by the Pakistan Army as freedom fighters to support the struggle of the Kashmiri people against the brutal suppression of their people by a 500,000 strong Indian Army.  They were diverted at the request of The US to fight in Afghanistan.  How do these people feel when they are asked to turn their guns against their own people the very people who they fought side by side against the Soviets.  How would they feel when suddenly American guns are trained against them ? How would they feel when they went from good guys to bad guys in sixty seconds?

The US walked away after the defeat of the Soviet Union and instead of building up an impoverished and decimated nation, left it to the warlords former, friends and supporters to sort it out by letting the fittest survive. They allowed India and Pakistan to fight a proxy war using Afghanistan as a battle ground.  So who abandons friends like this, only a people whose definition of self interest is I am alright jack, the rest can go to hell. So who has the right to call anyone else corrupt.

We like to believe in making things simple and seeing things in black and white in saying you are with us or against us but do we realize how much suffering we cause to our own friends and how much we are responsible for creating enemies where none existed before.

No one in Pakistan or Afghanistan for that matter had wished to harm America but I cannot say that this is true anymore. There are a lot of very angry people in Pakistan (and Afghanistan). There are more people in Afghanistan than Pakistan who have lost loved ones but we must remember that the Pushtun in Pakistan are the same people as the Pushtun in Afghanistan.  If they feel that the only way to bring the message home to America is to kill the loved ones of America then they will be tempted to do so.

For eight years Americans have known that the man sitting in the White house has been following a policy based on lies, deceit and a violation of all the principles that we believe in.  During his period, American credibility and prestige have been hurt perhaps irreparably.  We have demolished countries and decimated their people all in the name of American security and we have created enemies where none existed before. In short we have made the world a less safer place for Americans.  Having said this we now see a man who we struggled hard to elect, following the exact same policies oblivious to the harm they are doing to America, its friends and the rest of the world.  Clearly it is the interests of the Military Industrial complex that seems to take precedence over everything else.  Not content with destroying the US Economy, destroying Iraq, destroying Afghanistan and supporting an Apartheid regime in Israel we now want to open another front in Iran and try to destroy that country also.

I only wish to say that the policies that we have followed for the last 10 years are not in the interests of this country and unless we can do something to elect people who represent us and our interests and not those of big money we are doomed as a nation and as a People.

What can the US Peace movement learn in its approach to US policy in Pakistan?

1.       Giving aid to countries which only makes them dependant is not in the interest of those countries, including Pakistan. The whole matter of Aid needs to be reviewed and revisited.

2.       Using force to resolve problems only alienates people particularly our friends. The use of force has only helped to destroy countries and not build them. The US is getting a reputation as a destroyer of countries and not as a builder. We live in a past where we like to remind people look how we help to rebuild Germany and Japan. Look at how we saved Europe from the Nazis but we forget that this was a very long time ago.  Ever since we became the world’s sole super power, we seem to have become nasty and dictatorial.

3.       Owning up to our own mistakes seems to be a problem for us. It some how goes against the grain of seeing ourselves as the good guys who can do no wrong or if we do wrong then our intentions were good and therefore it is not a crime in the same category as the wrongs of the other side. Unfortunately there is no other side. Our enemies are non states. We are fighting in many cases shadows of our own imagination. We are drumming up excuses to keep our war machine happy. While we are doing all this we are neglecting our own country.  The one trillion spent in Iraq and similar amounts spent in other parts of the world could have helped us resolve our domestic issues. There is rampant economic injustice, our Banks are bankrupt and need massive financial aid, Our health system is captive to the Insurance Industry and we end up spending 18% of GDP on a health system which leave a huge number of American uninsured. Our Social Security system is bankrupt and above all we are the largest creditor nation in the world with no hope of ever repaying our debts. Unemployment has remained at a little below 10% with no sign of improving, the stock market has finally recognized that the future is bleak. So instead of attending to our problems here why are we killing innocent people in Afghanistan and creating a situation where we will end up spending huge amounts of money on security.

Conclusion

We are living in a world which has suddenly shrunk not in terms of population but the impact that an individual can have on events.  The forces that want an unequal world are right now in charge. They are rich and powerful beyond words.  Those of us who wish to focus on Justice above everything else are the subjugated and the powerless. Let us make no mistake about it. The powerful can crush the powerless like we crush ants under our boots.  All that the powerless have to do is to stand up as one for a better world.  We have seen how first in Vietnam and now in Afghanistan the weaker party was able to withstand the full might of the most powerful nation in the world. Ultimately America has been weakened inextricably from its futile wars. I do not believe that we have learnt our lesson and so it is even more necessary that we renew our efforts to stop this craziness.

I am only saying today what Martin Luther has already said 43 years ago.

“Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover when the issues at hand seem as perplexed as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on.”

Ladies and gentlemen we must not only move one, we must try to stop this madness.

 

 

For Immediate Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 31, 2010

Contact:
Gael Murphy: Washington DC, USA, +1 202-412-6700, [email protected]
Felice: New York, USA, +1 917-912-2597, [email protected]
Sandra Ruch: Toronto, Canada, +1 416-716-4010, [email protected]
Ziyaad Lunat: Europe, +351 938349206, [email protected]

Gaza Freedom March calls for governments, civil society action against Israel in wake of massacre of unarmed activists

May 31, 2010 — Calling the Israeli military’s killing of 16 international peace activists an unprovoked massacre, the Gaza Freedom March is calling on governments and civil societies around the world to both demand a full accounting and take action against what is now widely recognized to be an apartheid regime.

In the early morning hours (Israeli time) on May 31, Israeli commandos surrounded then forcibly boarded one of the eight “Freedom Flotilla” ships en route to the Gaza Strip with more than 800 peace activists and politicians and 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid. The attack on the Freedom Flotilla occurred in international waters, 75 miles off the coast of Israel

Live reports from the beleaguered ship indicated that despite Israeli claims to the contrary, the passengers were not armed when the military opened fire, killing 16 and wounding more than 50 others. All participants in the flotilla have been imprisoned in the Israeli city of Ashdod. 

The coalition is calling on governments everywhere to immediately recall their ambassadors to Israel; demand that the Israeli ambassadors in their countries  reveal the names, nationalities, whereabouts and condition of all flotilla participants, including those detained, injured and killed; and halt all arms sales or other military aid to Israel. The coalition is also calling for civil society everywhere to push for these actions  through demonstrations, calls and emails targeting the Israeli embassy in their countries or, if one is not present, the U.S. consulate (which provides the majority of Israel’s military support) or their own foreign ministry,

The Gaza Freedom March (GFM) was organized by the International Coalition to End the Illegal Siege of Gaza after Israel’s 22-day assault on Gaza in the winter 2008-09. The diverse coalition organized the massive Gaza Freedom March (www.gazafreedommarch.org) in December of 2009, hoping to be with the people of Gaza on the one-year anniversary of the Israeli invasion. However, Egypt refused entry to the march and a week of protests in Cairo followed. Since then, the coalition – through the GFM — has continued to work for an end to the siege.

##

For up to date info on the flotilla and endorsers see the following web sites:

http://www.gazafreedommarch.org

http://www.freegaza.org

http://witnessgaza.com

From a Flotilla Survivor

http://blogs.aljazeera.net/middle-east/2010/06/06/kidnapped-israel-forsaken-britain

It was this time last week that I was on the top deck of the Mavi Marmara, and first spotted Israeli war ships in the distance, as they approached the humanitarian flotilla.  Little did I know how deadly and bloody were the events that soon began to unfold.

What I will write in this entry is fact, every letter of it, none of it is opinion, none of it is analysis, and I will leave that to you, the reader.

After spotting the warships at a distance, (at roughly 11pm) the organisers called for passengers to wear their life vests and remain indoors as they monitored the situation. The naval war ships together with helicopters remained in the distance for several hours.

At 2am local time the organisers informed me that they had re-routed the ship, as far away from Israel as possible, as deep into international waters as they could. They did not want a confrontation with the Israeli military, at least not by night.

Just after 4am local time, the Israeli military attacked the ship, in international waters, and totally unprovoked. Tear gas was used, sound grenades were launched, and rubber coated steel bullets were fired from almost every direction.

Dozens of speed boats carrying on average of 15-20 masked Israeli soldiers, armed to the teeth surrounded the Mavi Marmara which was carrying 600 or so unarmed civilians. Two helicopters at a time hovered above the vessel. Commandos on board the choppers joined the firing, using live ammunition, before any of the soldiers had descended onto the ship.

Two unarmed civilians were killed just meters away from me. Dozens of unarmed civilians were injured right before my eyes.

One Israeli soldier, armed with a large automatic gun and a side pistol, was overpowered by several passengers. They disarmed him. They did not use his weapons or fire them; instead they threw his weapons over board and into the sea.

After what seemed at the time as roughly 30 minutes, passengers on board the ship raised a white flag. The Israeli army continued to fire live ammunition. The ships organisers made a loud speaker announcement saying they have surrendered the ship. The Israeli army continued to fire live ammunition.

I was the last person to leave the top deck.

Below, inside the sleeping quarters, all the passengers had gathered. There was shock, anger, fear, hurt, chaos.

Doctors ran in all directions trying to treat the wounded, blood was on the floor, tears ran down people’s faces, cries of pain and mourning could be heard everywhere. Death was in the air.

Three critically injured civilians were being treated on the ground in the reception area of the ship. Their clothes soaked in blood. Passengers stood by watching in shock, some read out verses of the Qur’an to calm them, doctors worked in despair to save them.

Several announcements were made on the load speakers in Hebrew, Arabic and English – “This is a message to the Israeli army, we have surrendered. We are unarmed. We have critically injured people. Please come and take them. We will not attack.”

There was no response.

One of the passengers, a member of the Israeli Parliament wrote a sign in Hebrew, reading the exact same thing; she held it together with a white flag and approached the windows where the Israeli soldiers were standing outside. The pointed their laser guided guns to her head, ushered her to go away.

A British citizen tried the same sign only this time holding a British Flag and taking the sign to a different set of windows and different set of soldiers. They responded in the same manner.

Three hours later, all three of the injured were pronounced dead. The Israeli soldiers who refused to allow them treatment succeeded where their colleagues had earlier failed when they targeted these three men with bullets.

At around 8am the Israeli army entered the sleeping quarters. They handcuffed the passengers. I was thrown onto the ground, my hands tied behind my back, I couldn’t move an inch.

I was taken to the top deck where the other passengers were, forced to sit on my knees under the burning sun.

One passenger had his hands tied so tight his wrists were all sorts of colours. When he requested that the cuffs be loosened, an Israeli soldier tightened them even more. He let out a scream that sent chills down my body.

I requested to go to the bathroom, I was prevented, instead the Israeli soldier told me to urinate where I was and in my own clothes. Three or four hours later I was allowed to go.

I was then marched, together with the other passengers, back to the sleeping quarters. The place was ransacked, its image like that of the aftermath of an earthquake.

I remained on the ship, seated, without any food or drink bar three sips of water for more than 24 hours. Throughout this time, Israeli soldiers had their guns pointed at us. Their hands on the trigger. For more than 24 hours.

I was then taken off the ship at Ashdod where I was asked to sign a deportation order, it claimed that I had entered Israel illegally and agreed to be deported. I told the officer that I, in fact, had not entered Israel but that the Israeli army had kidnapped me from international waters and brought me to Israel against my will; therefore I could not sign this document.

My passport was taken from me. I was told that I would go to jail.

Only then were my hands freed, I spent more than 24 hours with my hands cuffed behind my back, with nothing to eat, and barely anything to drink.

Upon arrival at the prison I was put in a cell with three other passengers. The cell was roughly 12ft by 9ft.

I spent more than 24 hours in jail. I was not allowed to make a single phone call.

The British consulate did not come and see me. I did not see a lawyer.

There was no hot water for a shower.

The only meal was frozen bread and some potatoes.

The only reason I believe I was released was because the Turkish prisoners refused to leave until and unless the other nationalities (those whose consulates had not come and released them) were set free.

I was taken to Ben Gurion airport. When I asked for my passport, the Israeli official presented me with a piece of paper and said “congratulations this is your new passport”. I replied “you must be joking, you have my passport”.  The Israeli official’s response: “sue me”.

There I was asked again to sign a deportation order. Again I refused.

I was put on a plane headed to Istanbul.

Masked Israeli soldiers and commandos took me from international waters.

Uniformed Israeli officials locked me behind bars.

The British government did not lift a finger to help me, till this day I have not seen or heard from a British official.

The Israeli government stole my passport.

The Israeli government stole my lap top, two cameras, 3 phones, $1500 and all my possessions.

My government, the British government has not even acknowledged my existence.

I was kidnapped by Israel. I was forsaken by my country.

 

From Nick Mottern

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Church Visit #26

 

A CHURCH WELCOME FOR WAR PROTEST

 

By Nick Mottern

 

  On Sunday, May 30, 2009, the day before Memorial Day, Martha Conte, Debbie Kair and I attended Ridgeview Congregational Church in White Plains, NY, in our continuing campaign to build support for ending the wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

 

 What we found was a pastor, the Reverend Robert A. Everett, and a congregation in support of our effort and eager to read fliers we distributed listing some of the costs of the wars and the phone number for the local Congressperson, Nita Lowey, who votes consistently to fund the conflicts.  (See below)

 

  We arrived a few minutes early for the 10:30 a.m. service on a sunny, warm day.  The church is a small, wood-framed building with beige, painted shingles and a sharply rising, graceful roofline.  A sign over the entrance announces that the church has been serving the community since 1901.   Inside, the light cream-colored walls and ceiling and exposed roof framing give the space a warm, welcoming feeling.

 

  Shortly after we took seats near the right wall of the church, Reverend Everett and his wife Kimberly came over to learn our names, where we lived and to welcome us to the church.

 

  By the time the service began, marking Trinity Sunday, there were about 35 in the congregation, and half were African-Americans.

 

  As usual, we surveyed the morning’s church bulletin, looking for an appropriate time to stand with our banner, and we choose the point, early in the service, when the congregation greets each other.

 

   Almost immediately after we rose to hold our banner, which read simply “Peace on Earth”, several people came over to thank us and to take our flyers.   A woman from Ossining, who with her husband was visiting the church, offered to help distribute the flyers; she said she had seen article in the local newspaper about our church visits.

 

  After a few minutes the service resumed, and Reverend Everett asked us if we would like to explain the purpose of our visit, and Debbie rose and did so.

 

  Reverend Everett then spoke briefly about Memorial Day, saying that his father had been in World War II and that “it was quite disturbing to me to know what my father had gone through.” His father entered the military in 1944 immediately after graduating from high school.

 

  Reverend Everett said he had been against the war in Iraq and Viet Nam, “but I’m not against the soldiers…we need to be careful not to blame the soldiers, sailors and airmen who protect us.”

 

  A middle-aged African-American man in military fatigues said from the congregation that “we also need to remember the women who stayed home and worked in factories” during WWII.  There were other comments from the congregation during this period, something that was obviously encouraged by the pastor and unusual compared to other services we’ve attended.

 

   Reverend Everett’s sermon discussed the Christian concept of the Trinity, which describes God as a combined force of Father, Son (Jesus) and the Holy Spirit.  This is a complex doctrine compared to the concept of God as a single character or force as in Islam and Judaism, he said, observing that it is a wonder that Christianity spread as it did on this more complicated theological basis.  He said that the idea of the Trinity is not in the Bible; Wikipedia reports that it is a concept that apparently evolved to it present form by the 4th century.

 

  Reverend Everett said that the complexity of the concept and the mystery of it is part of its appeal, particularly mentioning the possibility of a Godly spirit supporting us: “Do we trust and believe we are not alone?  Do we believe that Jesus Christ is with us…What could make us afraid if we are walking in the Holy Spirit?”

 

  He said that the Holy Spirit is how God acts through us, that God says: “Keep working because I send the Holy Spirit.  On Trinity Sunday – are we doing everything that Jesus said for us to do?”

 

 The service also included a portion in which those in the congregation could ask for prayers for friends and family, and prayers were offered for 14 people listed in the bulletin, which also said: “Let us keep all the servicemen and women who have died for our country in our prayers on this Memorial Day.”

 

  When we joined the congregation for coffee after the service, we learned that Reverend Everett has been at the church for nine years and that the church and parishioners have a history of social action, including work in support of homeless people.  Nancy Wallace, who has been a member of the church for over 50 years and had been on the White Plains City Council, told us about her work for Fair Housing in White Plains.  Two parishioners with whom we spoke said that involvement in the lives of others is one of the primary ways they live their faith.

 

  Reverend Everett said that he had spoken against the Iraq War from the pulpit, and it appeared from the response we got that most of the congregation agreed with him.  He also mentioned that taking the risk to speak about personal beliefs publicly is an important part of his call by God to be a minister.

 

  We were each greatly encouraged by this church visit, felt solidarity with the parishioners and are happy to have met this wonderful congregation.

                                                         __________

 

 

 

 

 

       COST OF THE WARS  – 5/30/10

 

IRAQ – 1 million civilians and 4,400 US troops.

 

AFGHANISTAN – 33,000 civilians and 1,086 US troops.

 

Total cost of both wars to the US taxpayer – $1 trillion.

 

Cost to Federal taxpayers in New York State – $90 billion.

 

Cost to Federal taxpayers in Westchester County – $6.4 billion.

 

 

Please call your elected representative, Cong. Nita Lowey, and tell her no more funding for these wars.

 

(914) 428-1707

 

 

 

“But I tell you, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.”

                                                                     Luke 6:27

 

Provided by Church Visitors

Contact: [email protected]

 

From Bo Lipari

BO LIPARI:  How New Yorkers Can Ensure That Our Paper Ballots Are All Counted This Fall!

 

 

Software engineer Bo Lipari, founder of New Yorkers for Verified Voting, spoke at the Riverfront Library in Yonkers on Thursday, June 3rd, 2010, about the remaining issues with voting and vote counting in New York State this fall now that we have won paper ballots.  Our ballots will be counted by optical scanning machines that still present some problems.

 

The following are the most urgent issues about which to warn voters to increase the likelihood that their votes will count.  District and ward leaders, church and community leaders take note–you might want to begin sharing these points with your constituents while petitioning and at upcoming community meetings and events:

 

1)  You must mark your ballot in pen, NOT IN PENCIL, or your vote will not be counted.  (Special marking pens will be supplied at the polls in counties such as Westchester using ImageCast voting systems, according to ImageCast’s videos on www.vote-ny.com.)

 

2)  Completely filling in the tiny outlined ovals or squares next to the names of your chosen candidates is the best way to mark your ballots for the machine to count your vote, but an X or a check mark is also supposed to be counted.  Just be sure your mark falls inside the oval or square. 

 

3)   There will not be curtains behind the “privacy stations” where you will be marking your ballots, so use your body to hide your vote or ask a poll worker to seat you at a privacy station with your back to the wall to mark your ballot; you are entitled to a secret ballot.  When you are ready to cast your vote, be sure to place your ballot in the “privacy sleeve” the poll workers should give you along with your ballot to protect its secrecy while you walk across the room to deposit it in the ballot box; the machine is designed to grab the ballot from its privacy sleeve and pull it inside.

 

4)  Your ballot has two sides.  Vote for candidates and propositions ON THE BACK OF THE BALLOT, too.

 

5)    If you make a mistake in marking your ballot, do NOT try to erase:  go ask the poll worker for a new ballot.  However, you can only spoil two ballots, no one will be given more than three, so be careful!  Decide on your vote before marking the ballot, and review your ballot carefully!  Be especially careful not to vote for too many candidates for any one office.  Once you are absolutely certain you have voted correctly, you will vote by inserting the ballot in the machine and pressing the green “CAST” button.   Hitting the green button is like pulling the curtain on the lever machine:  once you hit it, there is no changing your mind.

 

6)  BE CAREFUL not to vote for more candidates for each office than is allowed: the ballot will say, “vote for only two,” for example for certain judgeships, or “vote for only one” for governor or legislator.  It is called an OVERVOTE if you vote for more than the allowed number of candidates for an office, or if you vote both yes and no for a proposition.   If you do vote for too many candidates by mistake, the machine will give you an OVERVOTE WARNING.  If you get an OVERVOTE warningPRESS THE RED “RETURN” BUTTON TO GET YOUR BALLOT BACK, then go ask for another ballot and fill it in correctly.  Unlike the old lever machines, you CAN walk away from the ballot box in the middle of submitting your ballot without losing your vote, as long as you’ve had the machine return your ballot.  If you press the GREEN “Cast” button AFTER AN OVERVOTE, the machine will accept your ballot–but your vote for that office or proposition will NOT be counted.  Once you press the green button, the machine stores and counts your ballot and YOU CANNOT GET IT BACK. 

 

7)  People can check out the machines on which they will be voting online at www.vote-ny.com.  Click on your county (e.g. “Westchester”) on the drop-down menu and educational videos for the voting machines you will be using will appear. 

 

8)  Disabled people must inform poll workers before they vote if they need special ballot marking devices, and if they want the machine to provide them with an audio or visual ballot review before they cast their vote.

 

 

The following are the most urgent issues about which to pressure local Boards of Elections immediately, this summer, before the September primaries, and the legislature later to correct issues for which there is no time in this election:

  

1)  Ask the Board of Elections how complaints about lack of privacy in the recent “trial run” elections will be addressed.  “Privacy booths” should line the walls or curtained ‘privacy corridors” and face outward, with the open side against the wall or curtain, so people marking their ballots don’t have to use their bodies to screen ballots from passersby.  Ask how many “privacy sleeves” will be allotted to each precinct.  No one should have to walk across a room carrying an unshielded, two-sided ballot.  Ask whether poll workers are being properly educated to set up the polling places for privacy, and to give everyone privacy sleeves and be sure the voters use them to protect the privacy of their vote.   

 

2)  Ask the Board of Elections how many optical scanners there will be in each precinct.     Be sure they are not expecting too many people to vote on one scanner or long lines will discourage voters.  (From experience in past elections around the country, this is especially likely to be an issue in majority-minority districts.)

 

3)  Ask the Board of Elections how many marking pens will be supplied per precinct and how people will be prevented from walking off with them.  How do they plan to insure that there will be enough marking pens, ballots and privacy sleeves for everyone to vote, and vote in privacy?

 

4)  Ask the Board of Elections and local newspapers, TV and radio stations to publicize the www.vote-ny.com educational video site. 

 

5)  Ask the Board of Elections to provide voter-education forums and bring the voting machines and technicians to familiarize the public with the new vote technology this summer at libraries, union halls, YWCA’s, schools and other polling places ahead of time so voters are very familiar with the new machines by the time they vote. 

 

6)  Ask Board of Elections how they plan to educate the public to mark both sides of the ballot.  Are poll workers being educated to remind people to vote on both sides?

 

7)  There are two key issues the legislature should change immediately, before the election.  Any citizen should be allowed to request a full hand recount of the paper ballots, not just candidates:  after all, it is OUR voting rights and OUR election, not the candidates’.  And, after 3% of the ballots are automatically, randomly reviewed by comparing the hand count with the machine count, if inaccuracies are detected, there should be a requirement automatically to escalate the number of ballots evaluated.   Otherwise, what’s the point of finding out about the inaccuracies, and how would any systematic, programmed errors ever be detected?   The expense of recounts should not be an issue:  vote counting integrity should be looked at as a national security issue:  our very government and Constitution are at stake if the voters are not sovereign.

 

8)  Immediately after this election and well before the next one, the legislature should correct the way the machines deal with overvotes.  Overvoted ballots, like unmarked ballots, should be immediately rejected by the voting machines, as per the recent request of the Brennan Center for Justice.  Voters should be prevented from wasting their vote by overvoting, as they were on the old lever machines.  Unfortunately, it is too late to start rewriting computer code and retesting all the software now, according to Mr Lipari.  This is a serious flaw in the vote-counting procedure and appears designed to invite ballot-wasting by less well educated voters. 

 

9)  The ballots should also be redesigned so they are one-sided, not two-sided, so people will more easily vote for all candidates and propositions.

 

From Felice

Thoughts on the US Social Forum

Submitted by Felice Gelman

 

This is huge!  Thousands of people, cavernous spaces in the Cobo Hall convention as well as events scattered rather widely around the city of Detroit – offering the opportunity for very substantial daily walks.

 

A great spirit from a clearly devastated city and many signs of grassroots rebuilding.  Vast numbers of vacant crumbling homes, vacant lots – and large numbers of beautiful community gardens, areas of rebuilding with local stores.  Near the Cass Methodist Church, where we are staying, for example, the excellent local bakery opened thirteen years ago by getting the community to “pre-buy” its bread.  Every $3 contributed was good for $1 of bread after the bakery opened.  They raised $40,000 to open and had 1,000 people at their opening party.  Needless to say, they have continued to thrive on that community support, reciprocated by their community giving (like the free shuttle they sponsored between the bakery and Cobo Hall.

 

 Worth noting – two very hot tracks here –  justice for immigrants and people of color, and justice for Palestine.  Many many workshops on both areas, very well attended.

Here are some ideas/thoughts from workshops on each of those subjects.

 

Immigrant Justice:

How to create alliances/connections between resistance to immigration laws and fighting the prison/industrial comples. The key questions were the tensions between abolition and reform and how to deal with the question of what is criminal?

 

Presenters were:

 

The Arizona Repeal Coalition whose campaign is the Right to Live, Love and Work.  They are working at the grassroots level to repeal all the anti-immigration laws.  Have been using the tools of petitioning and canvassing to build meetings of 30-90 people. 

 

No More Deaths – Tucson which has focused on the militarization of the border since 2003.  They have been doing documentation of abusive border control practices and pressing for reform.  However, Arizona law actually states that enforcement is designed to terrorize people into leaving the state, so reform is problematic.   They believe that SB 1070 merely codifies practices that are used widely elsewhere. 

 

The Border Action Network which is a grassroots human rights organization started in 1999.  They began with militant anti-border actions, but learned that those actions were met by widespread law enforcement abuse of immigrant communities.  They shifted their focus to become a member-based organization of immigrant communities with a focus on human rights advocacy and documentation as well as doing work in the courts. 

 

Interestingly, one of the presenters cited the example of the abolitionist movement in the 19th century as a model.  That movement established a baseline position that slavery must end – an uncompromising moral position.  It then worked to develop winnable objectives that did not compromise that baseline position.  These included social support for people struggling with the consequences of government policies, and working on developing a non-compliance campaign.  A non-compliance petition is planned for the end of July when SB 1070 is formally implemented.   One key success was getting the city of Flagstaff to sue the state to overturn SB 1070.   This was accomplished in part by bringing 300 undocumented people to the city council meeting to demand the lawsuit. 

 

Justice for Palestine:

There were 50 (!) workshops on this subject, focusing on different areas.  The ones I went to were primarily about ending the siege of Gaza and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign. 

 

Efforts to break the siege of Gaza right now are focused almost entirely on bringing another flotilla of boats to challenge the Israeli blockade.   Boats are being organized in the Middle East, Europe, Canada and – yes – the United States.   This will require an enormous and rapid fundraising effort but it seems like the will is there.  In response to the last flotilla and world reaction to Israel’s massacre of participants, Israel and the US are “easing” the siege.  That means, essentially, feeding the 1.5 million people imprisoned inside Gaza a little better.  However, people are still unable to leave to pursue their education, receive medical treatment (some are allowed out but more are denied and left to die), or to see their families and friends elsewhere in the world – a right virtually all of us enjoy.  Also, and even more important, businesses in Gaza are unable to function because they cannot purchase supplies and cannot export finished products.  This means that the population is almost entirely dependant on handouts.    I think we could adopt the slogan of the Arizona Repeal Coalition – people in Gaza need the Right to Live, Love and Work where they choose. 

 

The effort to organize boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel until the occupation is ended, Israel extends equal treatment to its own citizens of Palestinian descent, and complies with international law is gaining an enormous head of steam.   The most stunning action recently was the success in blocking the unloading of an Israeli cargo ship in California.  This was achieved by an alliance of community organizations and labor that picketed the docks.  The longshoremen refused to cross the picket lines.

 

There was intensive discussion of a variety of other initiatives:  academic boycott (Israeli universities are intimately involved in maintaining the occupation through their research), cultural boycott (the Israeli government has an explicit campaign to use cultural groups to “rebrand” Israel and divert attention from its violations of international and human rights law).   This includes asking artists not to perform in Israel (which has had a number of successes this year), and protesting cultural events in the US and elsewhere funded by the Israeli government.  There is also a consumer boycott of Israeli projects – like the Codepink led boycott of Ahava beauty products, which are produced in Israeli settlements in the West Bank from materials mined from Palestinian lands.   Or the protest against H&M stores who this year decided to open 3 stores in Israeli that are built on destroyed Palestinian villages.   There are also a number of divestment campaigns.  Students at several large universities have taken votes on divesting university funds from companies that profit from the occupation.   Jewish Voice for Peace has just launched a campaign among teachers, professors, and others in the academic world to urge their pension fund TIAA CREF to divest from companies that benefit from the occupation. 

This is a far from inclusive list of all the efforts underway.  The key is that virtually all of them have substantial community support and can take meaningful action without having to beg elected officials to stand for justice.

 

If you’ve read this far, you are probably amazed at all the energy and initiatives that are underway.  This is just a teaspoonful of the ocean of organizing activity that was discussed at the social forum.  It was clear that, whatever progressive action you want to be involved in, your allies are numerous and they are overflowing with creative ideas.   

 

 

 

 

 

Nassim Elashi co-founder of The Holy Land Trust, sentenced to 65 years.

 

When the Holy Lnad Foundation was ncorporated in 1989 myintention was to help the Paletsinian indigenous people who have been facing continuing economic distress.  The most enjoyable part of my life was knowing I could sign a check to assist hundreds of Palestinian families after their homes were demolished, giving scholarships to high performing students, giving assistance to orphans and needy families.   We gave them hope and life.  The occupation was giving them death and destruction.  And we are termed criminal.  That is irony.

 

Became the largest Muslim charity in the US, providing aid to Muslims in theMiddle East, Bosnia, and the United States.   The defamation began in the 1990s and the maerial support law was passed in response to this defamation.   In December 2001, The Holy Land Foundation was sht down by executive order on secret evidence.  Claimed that the money was used to support schools to creatsuicide ombers. 

 

By 2004, the prosecutorial narrative completely chaned.  The indictment said that the foundation did provide charity, but thru channels controlled by Hamas.

 

In first trial in 2007, argument was that humanitarian aid was provided to Palestinian families with the intent to win their support but to secretly encourage them to become suicide bomber.  The only testimony came from an anonymous Israeli agent who claimed he could “smell Hamas.”  Since  his identity was secret, it was very hard to cross examine him.

 

Translations were faulty, images were used that had no connection to the HLF.   The FBI agent testified that these men were Hamas supporters because they had some relatives who were. 

 

Testimony was also given that none of the channels used for contributions were on the terrorist list and many well known international NGOs used the same channels.

 

The jury deliberated 19 days and did not return any guilty verdicts. A mistrial was declared.  IN 2008 the case was retried.  Same witnesses and testimony resulted in a guilty verdict on all counts afater 9 days of deliberation.

 

Has not seen her father since October. This was because a guard complained when his young son with Downs Syndrome violated a guard’s order so he could give him father a final hug.

 

Now in a communications monitoring unit, where communication with outside world is restriced.  Gets two 15 min. phone calls/week, 2 visit/month behind plexiglass – all monitored in DC.   But because of the incident with his son, he cannot see any family for a year.

 

WESPAC @ Albany National Peace Conference

For those of you planning to attend this national conference at the end of the month in Albany http://nationalpeac econference. org/Home_ Page.html, our friend Stanley Heller wrote an informative article about the same conference that was held two years ago in Cleveland:

http://www.counterp unch.org/ heller07092008. html

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