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EI: “‘A political prosecution': inside the trial of Rasmea Odeh”

Posted by uscsjp on November 10, 2014

“The Rasmea [Odeh] Defense Committee has asserted that the US attorney’s prosecution of Rasmea is a political prosecution — it’s because Rasmea is this iconic and legendary Palestinian figure,” reporter and contributor to The Electronic Intifada Charlotte Silver said on Friday from Detroit after the week-long trial of Palestinian American human rights activist Rasmea Odeh concluded. Jurors have begun deliberation.

Odeh was indicted last year “for allegedly giving false answers on her application for citizenship, which she was granted in 2004. The four questions she is alleged to have answered falsely inquired about her criminal record,” Silver reports.

“You have to really think about the fact that the Detroit US attorney’s office [has] been working for four years with the Department of Homeland Security to build this case against Rasmea Odeh,” she told The Electronic Intifada on Friday.

Silver has been reporting each day from the week-long trial in Detroit for The Electronic Intifada and other media outlets.

Verdict expected on Monday

In her latest report, published on Saturday, Silver writes that “After a week in court, the last day brought some relief to Odeh and her lawyers, who have been preparing for this trial for a year.”

Silver added in her report that “Before the jury entered Judge Gershwin A. Drain’s Detroit courtroom on Friday morning, Odeh’s lead attorney Michael Deutsch asked the court to have a directed verdict of not guilty; this was was denied by Drain. A directed verdict is when a presiding judge decides that no reasonable jury could arrive at a guilty verdict.

“For the last week, her defense team has stoutly contested the allegation that Odeh ‘knowingly’ answered falsely, arguing instead that her brother first filled out her application for a visa in 1995 and that she misinterpreted the questions on her application for citizenship in 2004.”

The jurors are expected to return a verdict on Monday.

Listen to the interview via the media player above, or read the following transcript.

“Peoples’ hopes are high”

Charlotte Silver: What the trial has been focused on is Rasmea’s immigration applications — her visa application that she filed in 1995 and her application for naturalization that she filed for nine years later, in 2004. The judge has made the parameters of the case extremely narrow, so really the jury is just supposed to look at her application, look at the four questions she’s alleged to have answered falsely, and determine if she knowingly answered them falsely.

So whereas before, the defense had a very extensive argument to make in Rasmea’s defense as for why those four questions were answered the way they were, they’ve had to really focus on proving that Rasmea Odeh’s interpretations of those questions — or the questions as they’re written — are ambiguously written. So it’s been very focused on that.

The prosecutor, the US government, has brought into court nearly 100 Israeli documents that were used to convict Rasmea Odeh in 1969 of participating in two bombings, a series of bombings in Jerusalem — one which resulted in the death of two people.

Rasmea Odeh was convicted of this charge after enduring 25 days of torture by Israeli security, and this has been documented several times over the course of the last 45 years. She gave a testimony in Geneva about this torture, she has spoken to various media outlets, to various human rights organizations about the torture she endured, and again she told a clinical psychologist, Mary Fabri, who’s based in Chicago, has worked with torture victims for over thirty years, told how she was tortured in 1969 to Mary Fabri, and none of that is being allowed into the trial.

Yet, the jurors are hearing over and over again that Rasmea Odeh was convicted of bombings that killed two people. What I think is significant is that in the gallery, there are dozens of supporters of Rasmea. There is also the brother of one of the victims of the bombing in 1969, and he’s sitting on the bench of the US attorneys, not at the table, but at the bench in the gallery that’s been reserved for US attorneys. And he has been following this case very closely, and he’s obviously in close contact with the US prosecuting attorneys — so even though the judge has strictly instructed the court to minimally refer to the 1969 conviction that Rasmea Odeh is now being brought up against, it’s very clear that the prosecutor is being motivated by this charge that was brought about by 25 days of torture.

And on the part of the defense, Rasmea Odeh has worked in the Chicago community of Arab and Muslim immigrant women since 2004, in this sort of spectacular way. And yesterday, testifying for the defense was Nadine Naber, who’s a professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago, who testified to Rasmea Odeh’s incredible work helping immigrant women from Arab and Muslim communities integrate among themselves and mount this challenge of isolation. Rasmea Odeh has been working with the Arab American Action Network for nine years with women, but also more generally with the youth, trying to reduce violence in the community, and this is why she has dozens of people driving out from Chicago, staying in Detroit to watch this trial, to support her throughout this. Because she has become such a prominent leader in the Chicago Palestinian and Arab community.

And it’s why the Rasmea Defense Committee has asserted that the US attorney’s prosecution of Rasmea is a political prosecution — it’s because Rasmea is this iconic and legendary Palestinian figure. You have to really think about the fact that the Detroit US attorney’s office has spent four years, they’ve been working for four years with the Department of Homeland Security to build this case against Rasmea Odeh.

They filed this indictment nine years after she filed her immigration forms, after she became a citizen. The defense wrote that this was an example of selective prosecution, specifically for Rasmea exercising her First Amendment rights, which was being an active participant in the Palestinian American community. And none of that is being allowed in.

So the jurors don’t know that the FBI had conducted this mass investigation into Palestinian and Palestine solidarity activists in Chicago, and that’s how they discovered this very small false answer on her application. All of that’s being excluded from the trial — but it’s important background for people outside of the trial to understand.

Nora Barrows-Friedman Finally, Charlotte Silver, today, Friday was the last day of the trial — there was a cross-examination and now the jury has gone into deliberation. In speaking with her supporters and Rasmea Odeh’s lawyers, what do people expect? I know it’s always hard to speculate in terms of what a jury decides, but based on your experience inside the courtroom this week, what are her supporters and her lawyers expecting?

CS: Well, peoples’ hopes are high. I think that the defense has done a really fantastic job developing a defense strategy given the constraints that they were under, and I think they’ve done a very good job at presenting Rasmea Odeh as who she really is in the community, as not a criminal. They have been able to touch on the background to her conviction in 1969, and they have been able to put forth an argument that she could reasonably have misinterpreted the questions as she answered them, so that she did not knowingly give false answers, she misunderstood the questions that were provided and answered them according to how she interpreted them. And they’ve been able to show inconsistencies within the application and the language of the application itself, and also over the different versions of the applications.

They’ve developed what I think is a strong argument to be made. Of course, there are no Muslim or Arab jurors — it’s eight women and four men, mostly white, and so those are the demographics of it. But it’s hard to know how they are going to rule.

The jurors will return to deliberate on Monday.

–Nora Barrows-Friedman, The Electronic Intifada, Sun, Nov 9, 2014

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Israeli Right-Wing Activist Killed and other updates from Democracy Now!

Posted by uscsjp on October 30, 2014

Israel Closes Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound After Shooting of Far-Right Activist

Israel has shut down the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem for the first time in 14 years following the shooting of an Israeli far-right activist. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the closure as a “declaration of war on the Palestinian people.” The site, known by Jews as the Temple Mount, houses both the mosque and the Dome of the Rock. Jamal Tawfiq, a resident of Jerusalem, said he was turned away after arriving for his morning prayers.

Jamal Tawfiq: “This is a collective punishment [for something] we had nothing to do with. This is injustice. There’s no fair government here. Justice should be the basis for governance. But there is no justice here. A problem happens with a person over there, they close the mosque here. Why is it OK to allow Jews to go pray at the Wailing Wall without any harassment, while a Palestinian is killed every day? Every day, a Palestinian is killed. Every day, holy olive trees are burned and pulled out because they belong to Arab Palestinians. Why are we the ones being punished?”

On Wednesday night, U.S.-born activist Yehuda Glick was shot and wounded outside a conference on promoting Jewish access to the Al-Aqsa site, where he and others want to build a Jewish temple. Hours later, Israeli police shot and killed a Palestinian suspect in the shooting, who they said resisted arrest.

U.N. Holds Emergency Meeting on Illegal Israeli Settlements

The latest tensions came as the United Nations held an emergency meeting on Israel’s plans to build 1,000 new settlements in occupied East Jerusalem. The settlements in an area which Palestinians seek as part of any future state are considered illegal under international law. Earlier this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to press ahead with construction.

Sweden Recognizes State of Palestine in First for EU

Sweden has officially recognized the state of Palestine, becoming the first member of the European Union to do so. In a newspaper op-ed, Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs Margot Wallstrom called the move “an important step that confirms the Palestinians’ right to self-determination,” adding, “Some will say today’s decision comes too soon. I’m afraid, rather, that it is too late.”

Malala Yousafzai to Donate $50,000 for Gaza Schools

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai has promised to donate $50,000 to rebuild schools inGaza that were damaged by this summer’s Israeli offensive. After receiving the World Children’s Prize in Sweden, Yousafzai said she would donate all the prize money to the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees.

Malala Yousafzai: “This money will totally go to the rebuilding of schools for children in Gaza. So I think it will definitely help those children to continue their education, to get quality education, and it will help them to continue their life and to know that people are supporting them and they’re not alone. And I’m really happy that this funding will help in the rebuilding of 65 schools in Gaza.”

SodaStream to Move West Bank Settlement Factory After Boycott

The company SodaStream has announced plans to move its factory out of an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank following an international boycott. SodaStream said its move was “purely commercial.” But supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement have claimed the move as a victory, saying their efforts caused SodaStream’s share prices to drop as retailers were pressured to abandon their products.

U.N. Votes 188 to 2 Against Embargo of Cuba; U.S., Israel Only Dissenters

The United Nations General Assembly has voted nearly unanimously to condemn the U.S. embargo on Cuba for the 23rd year in a row. Just like last year, the vote was 188 to 2 with only Israel joining the United States. Three countries abstained: Palau, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands.

 

–Democracy Now!, 30 October, 2014

 

http://www.democracynow.org/2014/10/30/headlines#10306

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UNRWA: Why are Gaza’s kids so eager to get back to school?

Posted by uscsjp on September 9, 2014

Greetings!

 

The children of Gaza have suffered greatly during this war – for losing lives, parents and homes. They’ve lost enough. When you donate, you ensure that as the school year begins on September 14, they won’t miss out on continuing their education.
Izziddin doing a sprint in the school yard

Izziddin Hamada, 11 and Amal Al Omari, 13 are currently taking refuge in the Beach Elementary Boys School, which serves as a shelter for those displaced by this war. Izziddin’s wish to return to school is for a rather simple reason, “I want a long ceasefire to return to school. I want the blockade to end so that I can travel abroad. I want to study medicine in the future so that I can treat my sick mother.

As for Amal, her father died of cancer before the war. But before he departed, he built them a fabulous home. The home was completely flattened during the current war, leaving Amal, her mum and four siblings homeless. Amal’s wish for an education is like Izziddin’s – to make a better future for herself and others. She says, “I want to have our house rebuilt. I want peace. I want the borders to open so that my mother can travel abroad to undergo her eye surgery and I can continue education. After finishing high school, I would like to study Journalism.

Amal writing ‘Palestine’ on the blackboard of the school serving as her family’s shelter

When you give, you can educate a child like Izziddin or an entire classroom of kids like him. You can allow a Gaza student like Amal to undertake distance learning if she is experiencing difficulty accessing a school. And for the tens of thousands that require specialized psychosocial support, you can provide them with counseling sessions to help them deal with the horrors of a pitiless war.

You can make a difference in the present and future of a child of Gaza. The math is simple.

USD 30 provides a child with an hour of psychosocial support.
USD 44 will provide a student distance learning materials.
USD 135 will provide a school with arts and handicrafts materials.
USD 1,026 will provide school desks for an entire classroom.

Donate now. Your donation may be tax-deductible.

Watch Gaza’s children speak of dreams and wishes amongst the rubble

Remember, supporting education for a child of Gaza also brings her stability and gives her hope for a brighter future, for herself, her loved ones and for Palestinian society.

In solidarity,

Lionello Boscardi
Chief, Partnerships Division
United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA)

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Posted in Activism/Divestment, Blogroll, News | Leave a Comment »

Updates on Gaza Siege from Democracy Now!

Posted by uscsjp on July 10, 2014

Palestinian Toll from Gaza Attack Tops 80, Including 18 Children

The death toll from Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip has more than doubled in 24 hours as the besieged territory comes under relentless bombing. At least 44 Gaza residents have been killed in the past day, bringing the total this week to around 80. The Palestinian news agency Maan reports the dead include 18 children and 10 women. The Palestinian Ministry of Health says more than 600 people have been wounded. In the deadliest single attack since the offensive began, at least seven Palestinian civilians, including five children, were killed when Israeli warplanes bombed several homes in a densely populated area where the victims were sleeping. Bodies were pulled from the rubble of at least three homes and neighboring buildings.

 

Gaza Hospitals Overrun with Victims; Bombing Exceeds 2012 Israeli Assault

Gaza Militants Continue Rocket Attacks on Israel

Israel Rejects Hamas Ceasefire Terms; Minister Floats “Temporary” Gaza Takeover

Israelis Stage Peace Rally in Tel Aviv

Hilleli, Women of Peace: “We believe that this cycle of violence must be ended, and it’s definitely not going to be ended by more violence and by more bombs on Gaza, and it’s not going to help the people in the south and neither the people in Tel Aviv that have been subject to missiles in the past few days.”

 

 

PA Pleads for U.S. Aid to Stop “War Against Palestinian People”

Maen Rashid Areikat, chief PLO envoy to Israel: “I would like to say to President Obama that there is no — you cannot equate between an occupied people and an occupier. And the rising death toll on the Palestinian side tells clearly who is the party that is suffering the most from this violence. … I think the United States should rein in Israel. They are the only country that can rein in Israel, because they are the country that provides the political, military, economic and financial support for Israel, and without that support, Israel cannot escape being accountable for their actions.”

 

 

Obama Admin Continues Backing for Israeli Airstrikes

Jen Psaki: “As you know, we’re encouraging all sides to de-escalate the situation on the ground. But again, Israel has every right to defend themselves and take steps to defend themselves. And as we know, the aggression is currently coming from Hamas in Gaza.”

During the news conference, Psaki repeatedly refused to answer a question on “whether Palestinians have the right to defend themselves.” The Obama administration appears to have decided on a position of backing the Israeli strikes, but cautioning against a ground invasion. In a phone call to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly said the United States hopes to see Israel stop the rocket fire without sending troops into Gaza.

 

Thousands in New York City Protest Israeli Attack on Gaza

Palestinian solidarity rallies have been held around the world in recent days. In New York City, thousands of people protested in front of the Israeli Mission to the United Nations before marching through the streets.

Protester: “We hope to change public opinion so that they understand that Palestinians are not terrorists, that they are defending themselves. It’s an unfair situation that they’re going through. They’re living under occupation. They have no human rights. They have no rights to anything that we enjoy here as Americans.”

 

Muhammed Chaudhry: “At least we’ve got to take the first step, though, a ceasefire, no more violence, no more killing of the innocent, from both parties.”

 

–Democracy Now!, 10 July, 2014

 

http://www.democracynow.org/2014/7/10/headlines#7101

Posted in Blogroll, News | Leave a Comment »

EI: “Why did a rogue group of Occupy activists smear me with ‘terror’ claim?”

Posted by uscsjp on January 16, 2013

On 26 February 2012, a small group of Occupy Oakland activists claimed that I was potentially a “suspected” terrorist in an article they posted on an Occupy Oakland-branded website that they controlled. The resulting spectacle revealed an entrenched and unexamined prejudice against Arabs and Muslims, and a weakness many mainstream, predominantly white activist groups have in openly discussing issues of race and ethnicity.

The article, titled “Occupational Awareness” (see the screengrab at the bottom of this article), is based on several glaring errors in reasoning — the central one being that my “name had been found in Google search results in connection with allegations of terrorist activity.” The premise was fatally misleading, because it was not my name found, but that of another person, with a different surname.

Nevertheless, this acrobatic logic became the basis for their claim of my potential identity as a Palestinian “terror” suspect. Additionally, the article claimed that the person in question “visually and biographically” resembled me. This claim was based on the low-resolution photo of a bearded man with glasses featured in the article, and, apparently, the fact he was arrested in Paraguay.

Other suspected connections were added: connections to “South American drug trafficking”; to “Israeli intelligence”; and to the FBI. The group suggested I may have “entered the movement in order to harm it” and tacked that on to a disclaimer that Occupy did not support “terrorism.” This gave the impression that some kind of “terror” attack might also be imminent.

The “breakaway” group responsible for the article was a faction that had splintered from the main media committee. They later acquiesced to pressure from Occupy Oakland activists and removed the post.

Because of the potential for abusing the messaging power of the media committee revealed by the affair, the entire media committee was dissolved and reconstituted with new guidelines via a general assembly resolution that passed by a 90 percent margin. The splinter group formed the “Occupy Oakland Media Collective,” taking their website, hellaoccupyoakland.org, with them.

I chose not to write about all of this at the time for the safety of myself, family and fellow activists. During the short period the post was up, it had caught the attention of a few right-wing blogs, which soon began circulating the rumor that Occupy was sheltering a “Hamas terrorist,” and I felt I would be putting others in danger by drawing more attention to it.

The core of the issue was effectively swept under the rug, but the narrative that’s emerged among some groups often dismisses the potentially disastrous effects of the group’s actions. I believe its now critical to draw attention to the pernicious reasoning that lay behind the accusation and its potentially disastrous effects.

No evidence

The man I was accused of being — Salah Abdul Karim Yassine — was, ironically, also a victim of a “terror” smear, twice: once by the US State Department, and then again by the media group. Yassine’s name first appears in a State Department report published in 2001 as one of two slim reeds of “evidence” that the borders of Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina had become a porous hotbed of “Islamic terrorism.”

Yassine is alleged to have made terror threats, though there is no evidence of them. Ali Khali Meri, a Lebanese immigrant, with so-called “Hizballah ties” is also named in the report. The State Department’s publication of this report — and subsequent references to it in a Library of Congress document alluded to by the media group — are the only reason that the group learned of the existence of Yassine (“Patterns of Global Terrorism,” 30 April 2001 [PDF]).

Indeed, it was not Yassine, but the State Department’s construct of him that the group discovered. In the words of journalist Kenneth Rapoza — writing on the website Counterpunch — the goal of the report was to facilitate turning “the region into a terrorist and druglord hunting ground” for the US military (“New fakers at the New Yorker,” 14 May 2003).

To achieve this goal, these manufactured cases relied on entrenched bigotry against Arabs to elevate petty crimes to the level of life-threatening concerns — copyright infringement in the case of Meri, illegal entry and use of false documents in the case of Yassine.

The media group’s recycling of the original smear against Yassine — and addition of “drug trafficking” from their own repository of Latino stereotypes — is an ironic testament to how easily such accusations are taken at face value when made by the powerful against marginalized groups. But the group’s article also recasts in microcosm the dangerous climate created by the US both here and abroad, where minor offenses — or the mere suspicion of them — become frightening conspiracies when the accused have a Muslim name and/or Arab ethnicity.

Indeed countless innocent people have been imprisoned following the same logic, based on innuendo or a “suspicion” which reaches steroidal levels when an Arab surname is added. Of these, Khaled el-Masri may be the most easily recognizable today. A German citizen with a name similar to that of an accused member of al-Qaeda, el-Masri was detained solely on suspicion of forged documents. Those documents were suspected of forgery only because of the similarity in names.

El-Masri was “rendered” by US officials, and tortured. The fact that this same reasoning was emulated by a group interested in social justice makes it an all the more disturbing commentary on the pervasive logic of prejudice against Arabs and Muslims.

Ignorant fear

I was accused during a particularly high-profile period of Palestinian advocacy. The article was published less than a week after I gave a short talk on behalf of a prisoner’s rights group about Khader Adnan, then on hunger strike in an Israeli jail, at a rally at San Quentin state prison on 20 February.

A day earlier, I had published a blog post on The Electronic Intifada addressing the double standards applied in the West to questions of nonviolent resistance.

It seems likely that the fear that such views would make Occupy seem “too radical” was partly responsible for the media group’s paranoia. Based on the irrational urgency embedded in the group’s excuse for not double-checking their research, it also seems clear that this was coupled with a basic ignorant fear of the Palestinian struggle. A member of the original media committee — who later joined the media collective and is the former director of the American-Israeli Friendship Committee in California — in fact tweeted complaints about the support Adnan received as a “nonviolent” activist.

It’s obvious that my speech, combined with nearly a decade of pro-Palestinian advocacy on my own blog, and my recent writing for The Electronic Intifada, fed the hysteria that led to the accusation. Even in the most uncharitable and biased view, my interactions with the group did not rise to the level of life or death concern. The concern is reflexively preposterous if stripped of the anti-Palestinian bigotry that has been tacitly accepted by the mainstream.

Despite the advances of the Palestinian solidarity movement and the greater mainstream acceptance of pro-Palestinian positions, this kind of fearful auto-purging exists at every level of the public sphere. The examples range from the tragic destruction of the career of veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas to the prosecution of students at the University of California at Irvine, who exercised their free speech rights at an on-campus pro-Israel forum.

Participating in a mass movement in the US shouldn’t also mean that Palestinians, Palestinian solidarity activists and those advocating similarly uphill positions must check their views at the door or be suspected of posing a threat towards the group. Though there are many pitfalls to the discourse on Israeli apartheid, marginalizing it this way all but ensures that mainstream movements will undermine their ability to address those issues most central to social justice — an end to the costly, ongoing military occupations and invasions throughout the Arab and Muslim world.

Bizarre interpretation of FBI schemes

There’s little doubt that the group applied a narrative of FBI infiltration cobbled from popular media accounts of government infiltration. But their peculiar needs required a bizarre interpretation of the FBI’s modus operandi.

Over the past several years, the FBI has sent Arab and Muslim infiltrators into Muslim and Arab American institutions and mosques. Their role has been to persuade and/or trick Muslims with poor judgment into saying questionable things or participating in certain acts (“Fake terror plots, paid informants: the tactics of FBI ‘entrapment’ questioned,” Guardian, 16 November 2011).

But the hair-on-fire concerns of the group obscured that methodology. In almost every case, infiltrators are petty criminals who have never been accused of terrorism — for example, Muslims and/or Arabs who have been recruited while serving sentences for fraud and the like. There is no known example of the FBI sending an Arab or Muslim infiltrator to subvert a mainstream organization. That may be for the very reasons I noted earlier, that such voices suffer from sanctions for advocating even mild pro-Arab or Muslim views — and even just from having backgrounds associated with Islam and the Arab world.

In every instance, the “aspirational terror” plots orchestrated by the FBI are not meant to undermine any single movement or group. Rather, they are meant to manufacture “results” in the “domestic anti-terror” crusade. The goal is all the more unlikely because “terror” itself is a construct manufactured for US establishment aims. The FBI’s activities instead create the illusion of endless, but easily characterized, threats and the appearance that the FBI is busy thwarting them to keep Americans safe.

Worse, the media group’s skewed view obscures the real dangers faced by Occupy. Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and “aspirational” plots currently being brought to trial reveal a security system infatuated with “anarchists,” and frantically engaged in infiltrating and implicating anarchist-related groups as a subset of Occupy.

This is the same “busy work” methodology behind the targeting of Muslim and Arab groups — and by all accounts, the FBI has been very busy, raiding activist homes for anarchist literature and even setting up a similar “aspirational” phony terror plot aimed at Occupy’s anarchists in Cleveland, fronted by a petty criminal espousing anarchist sympathies (“FBI supplied Occupy Cleveland ‘terrorists’ arrested in May Day plot,” Green is the New Red, 1 May 2012).

In such a context, the idea that the FBI had sent a Muslim former terrorist to infiltrate and subdue the “nonviolence” wing of Occupy Oakland — which the media group claimed to represent — is more than the delusional fantasy than it initially appears to be. It is, instead, seriously hazardous reasoning. In a final irony, for example, baseless accusations against pro-Palestinian activists of being Mossad agents turns out to be one of the tactics recently espoused by an Israeli government official for discrediting them.

Surprisingly, none of these issues ever rose to front and center of the public discussion. Because some of the signatories to the article were people of color, a discourse on racism defined by power dynamics which further confused the issue, dominated the conversation.

Racialized assumptions

Of course, it’s ostensibly crucial to use a functional definition of racism based on power dynamics, but in this case that construction achieved the opposite of the intended effect; it encouraged white members of the media group, and their white advocates, to assure themselves that they had no racist assumptions to examine. In fact, the person who reportedly first found the “evidence” of the “suspected” terrorism, and one of the most vehement in defending it, was a white male, the son of an affluent best-selling author and not from, or residing in, Oakland.

Members of the “Anonymous” community later claimed that he had shared the information with them and that they had warned him that the “evidence” was baseless according to their own research. He and the other members of the group went public regardless. More importantly, since the kind of racialized assumptions the group used in its analysis was an internalized product of a white supremacist structure, this was a worrisome mix of opposing ideals that unfortunately went unexamined.

The discussion about racism, though important, rapidly became confused and distracted from the salient issues. These aren’t just questions facing Arab-American and Muslim activists, or of representation of people of color, or even of profiling. Rather, these are issues that concern radical queers and feminists, anti-establishment labor organizers, and anti-imperialism activists of all races.

These questions concern all people who espouse substantive and honest critiques of US policies and organizations, critiques which are not always popular at any given time, even in the left — these groups can be caught in the middle of witch-hunts not only by the establishment, but also by ostensibly counter-establishment structures.

Undoubtedly, there will be a mass movement successor to Occupy in the coming months or years. And if that successor is to have a broad popular character, an effective focus on US domestic and foreign policy and a resistance to McCarthyite witch-hunts, activists will have to revisit these issues again and again. Hopefully, this story will be of some use in those times.

Jaime Omar Yassin has been involved in alternative media for nearly 20 years. He has written for Extra!, Meatpaper, n+1 and other publications. His writing on the Occupy movement appears in the books Dreaming in Public and We are Many. He has his own blog at Hyphenated-Republic.

 

–The Electronic Intifada, 16 January, 2013

 

http://electronicintifada.net/content/why-did-rogue-group-occupy-activists-smear-me-terror-claim/12099

Posted in Blogroll, Opinion/Editorial | 2 Comments »

AL Jazeera: Hamas agrees to new ceasefire with Israel

Posted by uscsjp on June 23, 2012

A leader of the ruling Hamas said the group had agreed to try anew an Egypt-brokered ceasefire with Israel, after six days of bloodshed in and around the Gaza Strip.

“Our Egyptian brothers have asked us to completely stop firing at Israel: we told the Egyptians that we agree to exchange quiet for quiet with Israel,” Ayman Taha said.

An official close to the group said that the truce would take effect from midnight (21:00 GMT).

Palestinian officials said the latest attack brough the number of people killed so far in Israeli attacks on Saturday to three, and to 15 since this round of violence erupted on Monday.

Palestinian medics said the dead included a little child and that at least 24 others had been wounded.

An attack on Saturday by an Israeli drone killed a Palestinian man, Khaled al-Burai, 25, east of Jabaliya, in the north of Gaza, a medical source said.

Two other Palestinians survived the attack, witnesses said.

Later, in the afternoon, Israeli air raids killed 42-year-old Ussama Ali, and wounded 10 passers-by, according to Abham Abu Selmiya, spokesperson for the emergency services.

Palestinian medics said he was riding a motorcycle in Gaza City’s al-Nasser neighbourhood when he was hit.

Earlier in the day Hamas had threatened to end a three-day-old Egyptian-brokered truce following a series of deadly Israeli air raids.

A statement on Saturday from the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades said “the air raids by the Zionist enemy are new crimes. We will not stay silent in the face of the crimes”.

Israeli denial

A medic said Ali al-Shawaf, aged six, was killed, and his father and another man wounded east of the city of Khan Younis, but the Israeli military denied it was responsible.

“According to the findings of a preliminary investigation, what happened in Khan Younis had nothing to do with any operation by the Israeli military,” an Israeli military spokeswoman said.

Witnesses said Israeli aircraft carried out at least four other raids elsewhere in Gaza on Saturday.

One targeted people believed by Israel to be fighters who were travelling in a car in the Zeitoun neighbourhood east of Gaza City after they had fired rockets into Israel, witnesses said.

Two civilian bystanders suffered minor injuries, they said.

Raids also struck the Beit Lahiya area in the north and the Nusseirat and Al-Bureij refugee camps in the centre of the Gaza Strip, without causing any casualties, witnesses said on Saturday.

Overnight raids targeted two camps of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades in the centre and north of Gaza, and a former Hamas security post in Gaza City. They wounded about 20 people, the health ministry said.

Palestinian fighters struck back, firing at least 23 rockets into southern Israel, most of them hitting the town of Sderot close to the Gaza border, Israeli officials said, adding that one man was wounded.

Israel holds Hamas responsible

The Israeli army said the latest raids were in response to rocket fire earlier in the week.

Israel held Hamas responsible for “all terrorist activity coming from the Gaza Strip”, the army statement said.

The latest round of Israeli attacks and Palestinian retaliation began with air raids on Monday morning, just hours after armed men from Sinai carried out an ambush along Israel’s southern border with Egypt, killing an Israeli civilian.

Israel has said its sudden surge in Gaza operations was “in no way related” to the border incident, with the military saying the air force was targeting fighters about to attack it.

–Al Jazeera English, 23 June, 2012

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2012/06/2012623134432482179.html

See Also:

‘It is beautiful… not a single Arab to be seen’

Washington,DC- Lydda, a city home to some 20,000 Palestinians in 1948 quickly swelled to a population of 50,000 as refugees flocked from the cleansed city ofJaffa. After four days of siege, Israeli forces carried out expulsion orders during Operation Dani, leaving fewer than 1,000 residents remaining.

Yitzhak Rabin, an Israeli Brigadier General at the time, described how they perpetrated the ethnic cleansing of Lydda and neighbouring Ramle in July of 1948. To this day, however, the Israeli state prevents this description from being printed in Rabin’s memoirs.

I often wonder what must have been going through my grandfather’s head when he, and others among the few who managed to remain, realised the busy municipality that they had once called home had been reduced to a ghost town.

Perhaps they were in shock, an understandable reaction, given the circumstances. Perhaps they were busy attempting to care for the injured, of which there were plenty. Or maybe they were trying to secure their possessions from Israeli looters who ravaged the vacant homes and stores of businessmen-turned-refugees overnight. Israeli historians, such as Tom Segev, note that 1,800 trucks of possessions were looted from Lydda alone.

Once the dust cleared and the shock subsided, reality must have begun to set in. In a few months’ time, the Palestinian Arabs had gone from being a majority living in their ancestral homeland, albeit amid tension, to being a minority living under a state that had just made refugees out of most of their kin and would refuse them re-entry.

Legalising theft

For Palestinian citizens ofIsrael, like Palestinians elsewhere, the Nakba was just beginning. The looting which took place was also a preliminary glimpse into the theft of land, property and identity that would ensue in the coming years.

Ironically, David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, who Rabin said ordered the expulsion of Palestinians during Operation Dani, expressed shock that Israelis were simply stealing the possessions of Palestinians in Lydda and elsewhere. How he reconciled a moral defence of ethnic cleansing with moral outrage at looting is beyond my comprehension.

Nonetheless, with the establishment of the state ofIsraelon the ruins ofPalestine, theft had to be disguised by legalisms. Prior to the war, Jewish ownership of land inPalestinewas minimal. Now, after the depopulation, the vast majority of land controlled by the Jewish state was not owned by Jews and many of the owners now resided in refugee camps.

To solve this predicament, the Israeli legislature enacted various laws which allowed the state to assume control of 92 per cent of the land. The first step was using a century old Ottoman law (two-empires old at this point) to declare the land “absentee land”. This meant that the owners of the land were not present (because they were refugees not permitted to return) and that the state could assume control of it.

But refugees weren’t the only ones dispossessed by this measure. Palestinians who managed to remain inside the boundaries of the new Israeli state but were prevented from living on their land became internally displaced persons (IDPs). These IDPs falling victim toIsrael’s legalised land theft are known as “present absentees”.

Martial law

With their society decimated, their family members and kin spread across the region in refugee camps fromLebanontoJordantoGaza, their properties looted and land confiscated, Palestinian citizens ofIsraelhad to deal with another reality in the wake of the Nakba: living under martial law.

Israeli martial law, which governed Palestinian Arabs from the establishment of the state to 1966, was based on British Mandate-era emergency regulations. In the 1930s, the British used these regulations as the framework for the repression of the Palestinian Arab uprisings. Then in the 1940s, the British used them to crack down against Zionist dissidents. For this reason, such regulations were decried by Zionists prior to the establishment of the state. Yaacov Shapira, an Israeli attorney in 1946, did not mince words when criticising these laws used by the British against the Zionists at the time and likened them to Nazi Germany. Two years later, Shapira would be serving as the attorney general for the first Israeli government and would adopt these very laws to rule over the Arab minority.

Martial law was similar in many ways to the occupation we know today. During this period, the military government was empowered to deport people from their towns or villages, summon any person to a police station at any time or put under house arrest, use administrative detention or incarceration without charge, confiscate property, impose total or partial curfew, forbid or restrict movement and so on.

This, keep in mind, was not happening in Hebron or Nablus or Ramallah, this was taking place in what many today romanticise as the golden age of “democratic” Israel – inside the green line.

Discriminatory laws

After the depopulation, an Israeli member of the MAPAI secretariat remarked in 1949: “The landscape is also more beautiful. I enjoy it, especially when travelling betweenHaifaand Tel Aviv, and there is not a single Arab to be seen.”

It is this kind of drive for ethnic homogeneity, present since the founding of the Israeli state, that underpins many of the laws that discriminate againstIsrael’s Palestinian Arab citizens. A Jew from anywhere in the world, for example, can move toIsrael- while a Palestinian Arab refugee, born within the present-day borders ofIsraelis not permitted to return. Likewise, laws also prevent Palestinian Arab citizens ofIsraelwho have non-citizen Palestinian spouses from residing inIsraelas a family. This is to prevent what the Israeli prime minister termed “demographic spillover”. This restricts the population of Palestinian citizens ofIsraelfrom marrying from most of their kin because doing so would mean either having to live separately or living outside ofIsrael.

Budgetary spending is also discriminatory. Despite making up over 20 per cent of the population, Palestinian citizens ofIsraelhave watched the state build hundreds of new towns for Israeli Jews, while a handful were built for the Palestinians. Even these towns, such as Rahat, were built in part to concentrate Palestinian Bedouin from unrecognised villages. Many Palestinian Bedouin villages remain unrecognised by the Israeli state, are not provided with civil resources and are left off the electric grid. Al-Arakib, a village in theNegev, has, as of this writing, been demolished by Israeli officials, and rebuilt by its residents, some 38 times.

Lingering in the psyche

Indeed, the Nakba is the central and uniting experience of Palestinians everywhere. It comes as no surprise then that Palestinian citizens ofIsraelalive today, who did not experience the Nakba first hand,still have political views shaped by the events of 1948.

Polls of Palestinian citizens ofIsrael, performed as recently as 2010, uncovered interesting trends in the views of respondents based on whether they have relatives who were refugees. Those who have refugee relatives were almost three times as likely to identify as Palestinian first (instead of Arab, Muslim or Israeli) than those who did not. They are twice as likely to support Iran’s right to a nuclear program, twice as likely to reject Israel’s defining itself as a “Jewish State” and twice as likely to oppose a loyalty oath to the state of Israel.

For Palestinians inIsrael, it is clear that the Nakba still lingers as a major factor, determining their views toward the state that governs them.

In sum, the Nakba and its implications has, since the transformative events of 1948, continued to directly impact the Palestinian citizens of the Israeli state. While Palestinians exist across various borders as refugees, residents or citizens of different states, the Nakba continues to be the tie that binds them. This is not only because of a shared memory from the lives of their grandparents, but also because varying, often harsh, present realities rooted in events of the Nakba can only be relegated to distant memory if a peace, based on justice for the Nakba, can be achieved.

Yousef Munayyer is Executive Director of the Palestine Centre inWashington,DC.

–Al Jazeera English, 15 May, 2012

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/05/2012513125011309135.html

Posted in Analysis, Blogroll, News, Opinion/Editorial | Leave a Comment »

EI: “Mavi Marmara indictments herald an end to Israeli impunity”

Posted by uscsjp on June 4, 2012

As one of the activists on the Mavi Marmara, I was overjoyed at the news that Turkey had this month issued indictments against those responsible for Israel’s assault on unarmed humanitarian aid workers sailing in international waters for Gaza two years ago today.

Nine were killed, and 189 injured at the hands of Israeli commandos. The Mavi Marmara has become another moment in history where Israel’s violent response to international solidarity with Palestine exposed the reality of Israel’s crimes, and the resulting growth of solidarity has further strengthened the movement for justice for Palestine.

You don’t send commandos onto a civilian ship, armed with lethal ammunition, unless you intend to use it. Yet if Israel’s intention in attacking the Mavi Marmara and killing passengers was to intimidate solidarity activists, and prevent future acts of solidarity with Palestinians, it very badly failed.

In the immediate aftermath, mass demonstrations took place around the world. Egypt came under intense pressure to open the Rafah border with Gaza.

I was approached by activists desperate to participate in a future flotilla. The first Freedom Flotilla became so iconic that Israel felt it had to stop a second flotilla from even leaving port — a combination of sabotage, and sustained pressure on Greece, where the boats were due to sail from.

Symbol of Israel’s cruelty

Today, the Mavi Marmara symbolizes how Israel was so desperate to prevent electric wheelchairs, baby food and computers from reaching Gaza that it attacked boats in international waters and shot, tasered, beat and humiliated passengers, who were kidnapped and thrown into Israeli prison.

Israeli commandos systematically attempted to destroy all footage of the attack, removing all phones, cameras and videos. But despite this, the few images that were smuggled out, combined with the testimony of survivors, exposed Israel’s criminal activities.

The Israeli military is used to attacking Palestinian men, women and children and getting away with it. They were simply using the same techniques against us. But now at least it couldn’t happen unnoticed and without protest.

Terror just as vivid today

After 31 May 2010 I spent months having to bear witness to the attack on the Mavi Marmara, unable to fully express my emotions. Two years on, the memories are just as vivid.

I remember coming up on deck before dawn to see Israeli warships and inflatables bristling with commandos armed to the teeth with the latest weaponry, ready to fire on unarmed passengers. I remember the whirr of the helicopters above the ship, the commandos descending onto the top of the Mavi Marmara.

I remember Cevdet Kılıçlar being carried on a stretcher back to the deck where I was standing — which before Israel’s assault had been the café — one of the main spaces where we sat, drank tea and got to know one another.

Cevdet had been filming the attack when he was shot in his forehead from above by Israeli commandos. I remember the sound of bullets in the air as I was told to go downstairs, and the endless wait while we sat below deck with the dead, dying and seriously injured, while announcements were made from our loudspeakers saying that we were not resisting, and we needed urgent medical help.

We had no response from the Israeli army for 105 minutes — apart from guns with laser sights being pointed through the windows at our heads.

I remember us all handcuffed on the deck in the boiling sun after the Israeli commandos overtook the ship, not knowing how many of us had been killed.

I remember, after the Turkish government’s intervention and the international outrage forced Israel to release us from prison, being driven in a windowless prison van to the airport, seeing the motionless face of my Turkish friend Cigdem, and then her desperate grip on my hand as we sat together and watched others who had been kidnapped and imprisoned with us board the planes for Istanbul. Cigdem was refusing to leave without the body of her husband, who had been killed on the Mavi Marmara by Israeli commandos.

Ending Israeli impunity

Our collective memories of what happened before dawn broke on 31 May 2010 have woven together, through individual testimonies, through the witness statements taken by the UN Human Rights Council’s investigation, and through the legal action currently being taken in Turkey.

Israel is used to violating international law with impunity, and international bodies consistently fail to bring Israel to justice for its crimes against the Palestinian people. Meanwhile, Israel’s internal investigations simply serve to get those responsible off the hook for crimes such as those that took place on the Mavi Marmara and the murder of the Samouni family in Gaza during the massacre of 2008-09 (see Ali Abunimah, “Slamming the door to justice on Palestinians,” Al Jazeera English, 7 May 2012).

The UNHCR inquiry into Israel’s attack on the Mavi Marmara, which concludes that the assault by the Israeli military “was not only disproportionate to the occasion but demonstrated levels of totally unnecessary and incredible violence,” further highlights the notorious refusal of the Israeli system to deliver justice, not just for us on this occasion, but for Palestinians on every occasion.

So Turkey’s rejection of a payoff of $6 million, and instead indicting four top Israeli generals, is a worrying signal for Israel that its “get out of jail free” cards have an expiry date. The increased solidarity around the world with Palestine will sends a clear message to the Israeli government that every attack it launches on Palestinians or their supporters simply galvanizes international solidarity for the people it so brutally oppresses.

Sarah Colborne is Director of Palestine Solidarity Campaign in Britain.

–The Electronic Intifada, 31 May, 2012

http://electronicintifada.net/content/mavi-marmara-indictments-herald-end-israeli-impunity/11347

See Also:

“Norman Finkelstein: Waning Jewish American Support for Israel Boosts Chances for Middle EastPeace”

“Well over a year into the Arab Spring, the author and scholar Norman Finkelstein argues that there is a new, albeit quieter, awakening happening here in the United States that could provide a major boost to the winds of change in the Middle East. In his new book, “Knowing Too Much: Why the American Jewish Romance with Israel Is Coming to an End,” Finkelstein contends that American Jewish support for the Israeli government is undergoing a major shift. After decades of staunch backing for Israel that began with the 1967 war through the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, to the repression of two Palestinian intifadas, Finkelstein says that a new generation of American Jews are no longer adopting reflexive support for the state that speaks in their name. With this shift in American Jewish opinion, Finkelstein sees a new opportunity for achieving a just Middle East peace…”

–Democracy Now!, 4 June, 2012

http://www.democracynow.org/2012/6/4/norman_finkelstein_waning_jewish_american_support

Posted in Analysis, Blogroll, Opinion/Editorial | Leave a Comment »

Tom Friedman’s Lame Advice and other stories

Posted by uscsjp on May 3, 2012

 First, latest news from Democracy Now!:

Palestinian Hunger Strikers Near Death as Solidarity Protests Continue

Protests are continuing in the occupiedWest Bankin an ongoing show of solidarity with a mass hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners. On Wednesday, Israeli troops fired tear gas at hundreds of Palestinian demonstrators marching on the military camp of Ofer. More than 1,400 Palestinian prisoners are currently on a hunger strike to protestIsrael’s policy of indefinite detention without charge. A doctor with Physicians for Human Rights said at least two prisoners are near death.

Graciela Carmon: “Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahleh, they are striking for 63 days or 62 days, and their physical condition is catastrophic.”

Israeli Military Clears Soldiers in Killings of Gaza Relatives

The Israeli military has ended an internal probe of its killing of 21 members of a Palestinian family, concluding it was not at fault. The ordeal of the Samouni family drew international attention after it was revealed Israeli forces shelled their homes and then blocked medical aid. In addition to the 21 dead, another 45 relatives were injured, most of them children. But this week, the Israeli military said its review of the massacre had found no evidence of a war crime or deliberate targeting of civilians. Zahwa Samouni, whose husband Atiyah died in the attack, criticized the Israeli probe.

Zahwa Samouni: “This is not a solution. They executed my husband in front of his children before 16 people. They executed him while he had his hands up in the air, and then they opened fire at us. I have a child who is injured, and only 10 days ago he had his last surgery.”

Report:U.S.Accepts Israeli Request to Thwart U.N. Probe of Settlements

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz is reporting the Obama administration has agreed to an Israeli government request to thwart a U.N. panel investigating settlements in the occupiedWest Bank. The White House’s so-called “Middle Eastpeace” envoy, David Hale, reportedly asked U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay to postpone the panel’s investigation indefinitely. The White House apparently hopes to delay the panel as long as possible in the hopes of eventually quashing it altogether.

–Democracy Now!, 3 May, 2012

http://www.democracynow.org/2012/5/3/headlines#531

Tom Friedman’s latest advice to Palestinians: accept a farce of a state

“…The entity that Friedman and others envision for the Palestinians would not have control of its own borders, its airspace, its coastline, or its water resources. It would have no military. It would be non-contiguous and gerrymandered, ridden with enclaves of heavily armed and hostile religious and racist fanatics; and criss-crossed by roads that could be used by the fanatics but not the Palestinians. How is that a state? And without a Palestinian state, how is there a two-state solution?

The point of Friedman’s preposterous proposal is not to suggest to the Palestinians a strategy for ending their tribulations, but rather to help Israel’s supporters among his readers relieve themselves of any feeling of moral culpability — as after all, the onus is on the Palestinians to carry his map.”

–Titus North, The Electronic Intifada, 23 April 2012

http://electronicintifada.net/content/tom-friedmans-latest-advice-palestinians-accept-farce-state/11201

Israel Plots an Endgame

“…There is no doubt that Israel is plotting its version of the endgame in Palestine, which sees Palestinians continuing to subsist in physical fragmentation and permanent occupation. Unless a popular Palestinian uprising takes hold, no one is likely to challenge what is actually an Israeli declaration of war against the Palestinian people.”

–Ramzy Baroud, CounterPunch, May 03, 2012

http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/05/03/israels-plots-an-endgame/

Posted in Analysis, Blogroll, News, Opinion/Editorial | Leave a Comment »

Israel Bombs Gaza; Finkelstein Denounces BDS

Posted by uscsjp on March 12, 2012

21 Palestinians in Gaza Die in Israeli Air Strikes

Israeli air strikes on Gaza have entered their fourth day. The strikes have killed at least 21 Palestinians and injured 73 others. Three Palestinians died overnight, including a 15-year-old boy. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to continue the strikes for “as long as necessary.” Militants in Gaza have fired 180 rockets into Israel in response to the air strikes. Four Israelis have been injured. Schools have been shut down in the region for two days. Palestinian lawmaker Mustafa Barghouti accused the Israelis of trying to create the tension of war in the region.

Mustafa Barghouti: “Israel was trying to break the calm. While Palestinians were committed to the truce, (Israel was trying) to find a way out for its crisis and to create the tension of war in the area.”

Palestinian militants began firing rockets after an Israeli jet killed Zuhair al-Qaisi on Friday in a targeted killing. He was the head of the Popular Resistance Committees militant group.

 

–Democracy Now!, 12 March, 2012

 

http://www.democracynow.org/2012/3/12/headlines#1

Abunimah: Finkelstein, BDS and the destruction of Israel

Chicago,IL- In a recent and highly controversial interview, Norman Finkelstein, long a scourge ofIsrael, turned his guns on Palestinians and their supporters. He accused the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement of being a “cult”, and claimed that its achievements were mostly exaggerated.

But what exercised Finkelstein most was his conclusion that if implemented, the demands of the 2005 Palestinian civil society call for BDS, would amount to “the destruction ofIsrael”.

Finkelstein lay into the three “tiers” of the BDS call: that Israel end its occupation of Arab lands conquered in 1967; that it end all forms of discrimination and guarantee equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel; and that it respect and promote the rights of Palestinian refugees, including the right of return.

“They don’t wantIsrael,” Finkelstein declared, “They think they’re being very clever. They call it their three tiers… We want the end of the occupation, we want the right of return, and we want equal rights for Arabs inIsrael. And they think they are very clever, because they know the result of implementing all three is what? What’s the result? You know and I know what’s the result: there’s noIsrael”…

–Ali Abunimah, Al Jazeera, 28 February, 2012

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/02/2012227111759385177.html

 

 

Posted in Activism/Divestment, Analysis, Blogroll | Leave a Comment »

Two Palestinian Children Killed by Israeli Mortar

Posted by uscsjp on March 7, 2012

Abandoned Israeli Mortar Kills 2 Palestinian Children

 

In the Occupied Territories, two Palestinian children were killed on Tuesday when an abandoned Israeli mortar exploded in the Occupied West Bank. The governor of Hebron, Kamel Hameed, denounced Israel for the children’s deaths.

Kamel Hameed: “It’s clear from all the indications and the finds that we have that these children found leftovers of the Israeli army, and it led to the loss of their lives. These are ongoing crimes.”

 

–Democracy Now!, 7 March 2012

 

http://www.democracynow.org/2012/3/7/headlines#7

 

Posted in Blogroll, News | Leave a Comment »

 
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