Thursday, September 29, 2011

Bronner and Friedman's new numbers game

A recent article by Ethan Bronner and an op-ed by Tom Friedman in the NY Times caught my attention. They both were playing a new numbers game I hadn't noticed before. When writing about the Palestine Authority president Abbas' appeal for statehood at the UN and the rejoinders delivered by the Obama/Netanyahu team the figure of 300,000 was put forward as the number of Jewish settlers (the common term for land-stealing colonizers)in the occupied territories.

Both supposed journalists were pillorying the Palestinian side for using the settlements as an excuse for not really negotiating with Israel and set the total numbers of colonists as about 300,000.

The figure of 500,000 plus has been the accepted one in discussions about the issue until now. What happened to the other 200,000? Did they sneak back behind the green line?

No, these two alleged journalists are now towing the official Israeli line that the expansion of colonists and the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem is not stealing land or practicing ethnic cleansing: it's just the Jews moving back into another part of Jerusalem to which they have an exclusive right and to hell with the Palestinian Christians and Muslims who have lived there for generations.

Is this Journalism or Israeli hasbara (propaganda)? Go ahead take a guess.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Enemy du Jour: "Haqqani Network"

Question about America's enemies

The Featured American Enemy of the Week is the Haqqani network in the Pakistan/Afghanistan border region. The New York Times warns in a headline today: "Brutal Haqqani Crime Clan Bedevils U.S. in Afghanistan," and reports that military officials want "the group [put] on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations." Adm. Michael Mullen this week accused Pakistan's intelligence service (ISI) of aiding the Haqqani clan in carrying out Terrorist attacks on U.S. troops and a U.S. embassy in Afghanistan. Earlier this morning, GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham suggested that a U.S. military attack on Pakistan might be needed in response, predicting that such an attack "will have a lot of bipartisan support on Capitol Hill" (does anyone doubt that?).

Needless to say, the villain mastermind who heads this network, Jalaluddin Haqqani, has, as the NYT put it, "allied himself over the years with the C.I.A." It quoted "one former American intelligence official" who "worked with the Haqqani family in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation in the 1980s"; that official "said he would not be surprised if the United States again found itself relying on the clan: 'You always said about them, ‘best friend, worst enemy'." Earlier this year, Reuters described:

Former U.S. Congressman Charlie Wilson, whose relentless fund-raising for the Afghan resistance was depicted by Tom Hanks in the movie "Charlie Wilson's War," once called Jalaluddin "goodness personified." [Jalaluddin] even visited the White House when Ronald Reagan was president.

Reuters also noted that, back then, the U.S. used Pakistan's ISI to funnel money to the Haqqanis to enable them to buy weapons. So the ISI's funding of the Haqqanis has been going on since the early 1980s; the only difference is that it is now done without U.S. participation.

Can you believe that Pakistan would involve itself with Goodness Personified such a treacherous Terrorist clan? How evil must Pakistan be to lend support to the Haqqanis -- "the Sopranos of the Afghanistan war," says the NYT -- simply to advance its own interests? What kind of country would do such a thing? Worse, it seems Pakistan is now following in Iran's footsteps: "interfering" in the American right to occupy its neighbor. How dare Iran interfere in Iraq, and how dare Pakistan interfere in Afghanistan.

Of course, the reason a new Villain Mastermind is needed in that region is because the one who played that role for so long, Osama bin Laden, was just killed. In July, 2004, the BBC reported on the origins of Al Qaeda and wrote: "During the anti-Soviet jihad Bin Laden and his fighters received American and Saudi funding. Some analysts believe Bin Laden himself had security training from the CIA." President Carter's National Security Adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, traveled to Afghanistan in 1979, met with bin Laden, and praised his mujadheen. And earlier this year, The New York Times' John Burns wrote about his first meeting with bin Laden in 1989, and this is what he reported:

In light of what transpired at Abbottabad, several things stand out: First, the fact that access to the camp lay through a C.I.A. contact involved in America's financing and arming of the mujahedeen; Bin Laden and his cohorts were then, at least notionally, America's men . . . [and] the close liaison, then and later, between the jihadis and the ISI, Pakistan's spy agency, which acted as a conduit for American and Saudi backing of the mujahedeen."

Indeed, Newsweek reported in late September, 2001, that Pakistan warned the U.S. about the effects of funding bin Laden and friends:

[Before 9/11,] Terrorists were regarded by most people as criminals, wicked and frightening, but not as mortal enemies of the state. There was a kind of collective denial, an unwillingness to see how monstrous the threat of Islamic extremism could be.

In part, that may be because the government of the United States helped create it. . . . In the coming weeks, if and when American Special Forces helicopters try to land in the mountains of Afghanistan to flush out bin Laden, they risk being shot down by Stinger surface-to-air missiles provided to the Afghan rebels by the CIA. . . .

Half a world away, people who understood the ferocity of Islamic extremism could see the coming storm. In the late '80s, Pakistan's then head of state, Benazir Bhutto, told the first President George Bush, "You are creating a Frankenstein."

The last war in which the U.S. involved itself -- in Libya -- was fought for the profoundly humanitarian goal of removing the Evil Dictator Moammar Gadaffi from power (and not due to the bonanza of oil and other economic opportunities for U.S. corporations which the American Ambassador is now excitedly touting: that's just a purely coincidental by-product that has nothing whatsoever to do with Gadaffi's removal). That Evil Libyan Dictator was someone with whom the U.S. quite recently extensively cooperated torender Terrorist suspects to be questioned and tortured, including -- rather awkwardly -- one of the leading rebels whom NATO just empowered, who was turned over to Gadaffi by the CIA to be tortured.

The U.S. fought a war in Iraq for similar reasons: to liberate the Iraqi people from the Hitlerian grip of Saddam Hussein. Saddam was very scary because he had a lot of potent weapons . . . illicitly provided to him by the U.S. throughout the 1980s; as The Washington Post reported: "The administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush authorized the sale to Iraq of numerous items that had both military and civilian applications, including poisonous chemicals and deadly biological viruses, such as anthrax and bubonic plague." That American support took place when Saddam was doing things like "gassing his own people," which would then be cited a decade later as to why Saddam had to be removed. Heavy America arming of Iraq took place immediately after Iraq was taken off the list of Terrorist states so that the U.S. could fund and arm them; Iraq war quickly put back on that list once the U.S wanted to go to war with them (who says "Terrorism" is a meaningless term that the U.S. manipulates for its own ends?).

The Current Supreme American Enemy is Iran (U.N. Ambassador Susan Ricetold Wolf Blitzer on Thursday that she was proud of walking out on the Iranian President's speech because what he "does and says when he comes to the United Nations is absolutely odious, hateful, anti-Semitic, unacceptable" and that "the United States is gravely concerned about Iran's nuclear program and its ambitions to have what we believe is nuclear weapon"). But any military action against Iran would be quite tricky because of all those anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles the U.S. secretly shipped to the regime (through Israel) during the Reagan years.

One reason Endless War is endless is because the U.S. is so adept at creating and strengthening the Enemies who then need to be dispatched (and that's independent of how American actions are the principal cause of the anti-U.S. animosity which ensures the War continues). Orwell famously highlighted the propaganda that "we've always been at war with Eastasia," but does the U.S. ever have any enemies that it did not at some point in the recent past fund, arm and/or cooperate with extensively? How many years until we hear a drumbeat of messaging about how necessary it is to wage war against that heinous,murderous, raping, racist Islamist regime in Tripoli -- the one the U.S. is arming and funding and just installed in power?

* * * * *

A secret journal maintained by Osama bin Laden and seized by American Special Forces after his death reveals his true motivation for launching Terrorist attacks against the U.S.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

And the Flag was still there......

Logo Spangaled Banner

This new look better expresses what the US of A is all about.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Obama's speech at the UN: kissing Bibi's ass

Ashrawi and Tibi say Obama made it sound like Palestinians are occupying Israel

by Ira Glunts on September 21, 2011
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Hanan Ashrawi, who is part of the Palestinian delegation at the UN, reacted angrily to President Obama’s UN address. Here are some quotes from a Ha'aretz interview in Hebrew that took place immediately after the speech (Barak Ravid, “Palestinian Anger Over Obama Speech at the UN” (original title), Ha’aretz (Hebrew))

I did not believe what I heard, it sounded as if the Palestinians were occupying Israel. There was no empathy for the Palestinians, he only spoke of the Israeli problems.

He told us that it isn’t easy to achieve peace, thanks, we know this. He spoke about universal rights – Good, those same rights apply to Palestinians.

[The Americans] are applying enormous pressure on everybody at the UN, they are using threats and coercion. I wish they would invest the same energy in an attempt to promote peace, not threats.

Ahmad Tibi, a Palestinian member of the Israeli parliament, who is in NYC with the Palestinian delegation, was also interviewed by the newspaper. He echoed Ashrawi when speaking about the Obama address:

It is possible to think after hearing the President’s speech today, that the Israelis were demanding a state from their Palestinian occupiers.

Avoiding [mentioning] the ’67 borders was biting and clear.

His message is continued suffering for the Palestinians, accompanied by long and perpetual negotiations with Netanyahu.

The fact that Tibi, who is an Israeli politician, traveled with the PA delegation to the UN is viewed by many as controversial in Israel. Many Israelis take a very dim view of cooperation between Palestinians from Israel, with officials in the territories; they see it as disloyalty to the state. I know it sounds crazy, but that’s the way they think.

Both Tibi and Ashrawi insisted that despite the pressure, the Palestinians will go forward with the UN resolution as planned. According to an AP report, Mahmoud Abbas says that he will not agree to a delay in voting for the statehood resolution despite pressure from the US and France.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Virtual statehood or the Right of Return

Many Palestinians feel the newest version of the bid for statehood no longer represents them and their interests.

Omar Barghouti 14 Sep 2011 09:49

Some Israeli officials support the UN bid because the PA would replace the PLO for negotiations with Israel - the PLO represents all Palestinians regardless of location while the PA represents just the West Bank and Gaza Strip [GALLO/GETTY]

“The Palestinian declaration of independence practically constitutes a victory for Israel’s declaration of independence, and this is why Israelis must celebrate in the streets and be the first to recognise Palestinian independence, calling on the world to follow suit.”

- Sefi Rachlevsky, Yedioth Ahronoth, September 5, 2011 (Israeli writer who led a recent Israeli delegation that met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to urge him to go forward with the statehood bid at the UN)

“Palestine 194” is the name of a campaign called for by Palestinian officials to drum up support for their “September Initiative”, or bid for statehood, in the hope that “Palestine” would become the 194th member of the UN. This same number, however, has historic connotations for the people of Palestine. It has been etched in our collective consciousness as the UN General Assembly resolution stipulating the right of the Palestinian refugees - most of whom were forcibly displaced and dispossessed during the 1948 Nakba by Zionist militias and later the state of Israel - to return to their homes and properties.

Without any sense of irony, Palestinian officials who have time and again colluded in eroding official international support for UNGA 194, as the Palestine Papers have amply shown, are now appropriating that very number and using it in a bid that runs the risk of surrendering the right of return associated with it for more than six decades. This is merely a symbol of the far more substantive moral, political and legal bind that this Initiative may potentially place the Palestinians and their supporters in.

The “September Initiative” is at best vague and confusing and at worst damaging to the interests of the Palestinian people. Regardless, it is entirely divorced from the will of the Palestinian people, and those advocating it have no democratic mandate from the people to employ it in any way that jeopardises our UN-sanctioned rights.

Replacing the PLO

Practically speaking, there is no possibility for Palestine to become a full member of the UN so long as the US has a veto power in the Security Council and the US Congress and White House remain in full partnership (regardless whether the dog wags the tail or the other way around) with Israel, even with its present far-right government.

What is left of the initiative, other than replacing the PLO, one way or another, with the presumed state of Palestine at the UN? If this is not the case, why can’t Palestinian officials provide the people with concrete, rational assurances to the contrary to secure mass support for this endeavor?

And if the most parroted goal of having Palestine recognised as a state is to pursue legal channels to hold Israel accountable to international law, why has the Palestinian leadership squandered the 2004 ruling of the International Court of Justice against Israel’s wall and colonies? Why has it tried to bury the UN Goldstone Report on Israel’s assault on Gaza and, when it was forced to reverse itself, did absolutely nothing to follow up on the report’s recommendations, adopted by the UN?

The PLO remains the sole legitimate representative of all Palestinians, regardless of their location. This includes Palestinians under occupation in Gaza and the West Bank (including East Jerusalem); Palestinian refugees, both in exile and in historic Palestine, who constitute a majority of the people of Palestine; and Palestinian citizens of Israel, the indigenous minority that remained steadfast during the Nakba of 1948 when most Palestinians were uprooted and dispossessed by Zionist militias and later the state of Israel. The PLO, as such, is the embodiment of the Palestinian right to self determination which all Palestinians are entitled to.

The UN has consistently recognised the Palestinian people, regardless of place of residence, as “the principal party to the question of Palestine”, as the prominent Oxford University legal authority, Guy Goodwin-Gil, has argued. “It is thus the people of Palestine, as a whole,” he adds, “who possess the right to return and the right to self-determination.”

The September Initiative has left so many questions unanswered regarding how it purports to protect the representation of Palestinian refugees, let alone Palestinian citizens of Israel, and to defend the Palestinian people’s inalienable rights. Goodwin-Gill’s argues convincingly that, while the PLO represents, at least nominally, all Palestinians (including the refugee majority), thereby protecting our collective right to self determination, a Palestinian state cannot claim to represent refugees outside its “borders”, thus making their claim to the right of return and participation in self determination (both protected by international law) that much more difficult to assert.

Cognizant of the central role the PLO plays in the struggle for Palestinian rights, Israel has for quite some time been propping up the PA at the expense of the PLO, in a calculated attempt to circumscribe the rights that Palestinians can claim through the latter. The Reut Institute, an Israeli think tank closely connected to the Israeli establishment, has as early as 2005 openly advocated in a policy paper switching “the official Palestinian interlocutor from the PLO to the PA in order to facilitate the establishment of a Palestinian state with provisional borders”, to better fit Israel’s expansionist agenda.

The Reut paper accurately lays out the advantages expected for Israel from such a switch of the Palestinian representative, “The PLO, as the representative of the entire Palestinian People, will likely demand the expansion of the agenda of the political process to include issues pertaining to the entire Palestinian people such as the issue of Palestinian Refugees or Jerusalem; whereas the PA, if recognised as the formal interlocutor, is likely to limit the agenda of the political process to issues affecting its residents in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and, to a certain extent, East Jerusalem.”

Some Palestinian analysts have opined that we must endorse the Initiative and try, from within, so to speak, to contribute to its formulation in a way that can protect our rights. The obvious flaw in this path is two-fold. Given the lack of democratic mandate and accountability mechanisms for the current, unelected Palestinian leadership, no one can guarantee any significant influence on its decisions and whimsical adventures.

What have 20 years of the 'peace process' accomplished?

This September marks the 20th anniversary of the failed “peace process”. Hoping to escape accountability, especially in light of the budding Arab Spring and the related sharpening assertiveness among Palestinian youth everywhere, the same Palestinian officials responsible for this failure now want us to believe that they are going to the UN to advance the struggle for our rights.

Why haven’t they done so, one can only wonder, during the endless rounds of so-called negotiations, while Israel was busy entrenching its colonial presence in the oPT?

During twenty years of talks, used by Israel to cover up its systematic pillage of Palestinian land, especially in occupied Jerusalem, the Naqab (Negev) and the Jordan Valley, whole communities of Palestinians were ethnically cleansed or incarcerated behind a land-grabbing wall that denies them access to livelihood and land. Gaza was pulverised by an unprecedented, deadly air, land and sea assault and remains under a brutal, illegal siege. Racist laws have mushroomed in Israel, further denying Palestinian citizens their rights and aggravating their misery under Israel’s system of racial discrimination which completely fits the UN definition of apartheid. Palestinian refugees have remained deprived of their inalienable, UN-protected right to return to their homes and lands from which they were ethnically cleansed in 1948.

This could not have happened without the veneer of normalcy offered to Israel by a pliant Palestinian leadership that lacks vision, skills and principles, and that has categorically rejected and undermined every form of resistance, including non-violent methods, as a means to achieve Palestinian rights.

Why should anyone trust this same “leadership” to defend our rights?

Moreover, as we have learned from the South African struggle against apartheid, diplomatic initiatives, even the most well-intended, cannot on their own restore rights or end colonial injustice; in order to win our rights, we must apply sustained, morally-consistent, effective pressure against our oppressor, both from within and internationally. Effective resistance coupled with global solidarity is the key to freedom, justice and self determination.

Instead of seeking to weaken Israel’s regime of occupation and apartheid to compel it to recognise our rights, the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, during a recent address to a group of Israeli intellectuals urging him to proceed with his UN bid, declared, "We don't want to isolate Israel".

He assured his audience that, as long as he remained in office, security coordination between the PA and Israel will continue, in order “to prevent terror and keep the situation calm and quiet”. The spokesman of the Israeli delegation, notable writer Sefi Rachlevski, was quoted in Yedioth Ahronoth on September 5 saying, “We are a group that fully supports [Israel’s] declaration of independence and the Zionist dream of establishing the State of Israel, and we see the Palestinian initiative a definite continuation of that.”

Palestinians have a right to statehood, but this is only one channel for expressing our far more fundamental and inclusive right to self determination.

Palestine's rights according to international law

UNGA Resolution 3236, of 22 November 1974, elevated the applicability of the universally respected right to self determination to the people of Palestine to an "inalienable" right. Resolution 3236 “reaffirms the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people in Palestine, including: (a) The right to self-determination without external interference; (b) The right to national independence and sovereignty.”

It also reaffirms “the inalienable right of the Palestinians to return to their homes and property from which they have been displaced and uprooted, and calls for their return,” and emphasises that “full respect for and the realisation of these inalienable rights of the Palestinian people are indispensable for the solution of the question of Palestine.”

A morally-consistent, rights-based approach to resolving the question of Palestine, therefore, necessitates addressing these inalienable rights of the indigenous people of Palestine.

Adhering to a discourse based on human rights and international law, the Palestinian BDS National Committee, BNC, by far the largest coalition of Palestinian civil society groups, has raised serious concerns about the September initiative’s safeguarding of the right of return and the PLO’s status, while welcoming international recognition of our right to statehood.

In an important statement, the BNC said:

"Diplomatic recognition must result in protection of the inalienable right to self-determination of the entire Palestinian people represented by a democratised and inclusive PLO that represents not just Palestinians under occupation, but also the exiled refugees, the majority of the Palestinian people, as well as the discriminated citizens of Israel. For it to go beyond symbolism, this recognition must be a prelude to effective and sustained sanctions against Israel aimed at bringing about its full compliance with its obligations under international law.

In light of the above, and inspired by the will and the power of the people which have given rise to the Arab spring, the BNC calls upon people of conscience and international solidarity groups to proceed with building a mass BDS movement ... before and after September."

Fatah leaders in the Nablus region of the West Bank distributed on August 28 a statement raising the same key concerns:

“The right to self-determination is a collective right of all Palestinians, irrespective of their geographic location ... All diplomatic initiatives, including the initiative at the United Nations this September, must preserve the status of the PLO as the sole representative in the United Nations and protect and advance the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.”

Prominent Palestinian civil society figures, in turn, independently published a statement (Arabic) that resonates with the BNC’s concerns above. So has Stop the Wall, a respected grassroots campaign against Israel’s wall and colonies.

At a time of Israeli impunity and intensifying colonialism, occupation and apartheid, a principled Palestinian leadership would follow the example of Mandela and Gandhi, leading the masses in popular resistance and inspiring effective and sustained international solidarity in order to tip the balance of powers - a necessary condition for exercising our UN-sanctioned rights.

Ignoring the will of the people and potentially sacrificing their basic rights in order to secure some illusory advantages at the “negotiations” table hurts Palestinian interests and endangers the great advances our popular and civil struggle has achieved to date, particularly as a result of the global BDS movement. It would in effect reduce the Arab Spring to a Palestinian autumn.

Going to the UN should be strongly supported by all Palestinians - and, consequently, by solidarity groups worldwide - if done by a trusted, democratically elected, accountable leadership and if it expressly represents the will of the Palestinian people and our collective right to self determination.

Alas, neither condition is met in the current “September Initiative,” which may end up replacing the “194” we’ve always struggled to implement with a “194” that is little more than another irresponsible leap away from accountability and from the inevitable repercussions of the sweeping Arab Spring.

Omar Barghouti is an independent Palestinian analyst and human rights activist based in Palestine.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Haaretz---UN independent panel rules Israel blockade of Gaza illegal

Published 20:28 13.09.11
Latest update 20:28 13.09.11

Report to UN Human Rights Council by five independent UN rights experts contradicts findings of Palmer Report that Israel used 'unreasonable force' in 2010 raid on Gaza flotilla, but that naval-blockade of Gaza legal.
By Reuters Tags: Israel Turkey Gaza Gaza flotilla

Israel's naval blockade of the Gaza Strip violates international law, a panel of human rights experts reporting to a UN body said on Tuesday, disputing a conclusion reached by a separate UN probe into Israel's raid on a Gaza-bound aid ship.

The so-called Palmer Report on the Israeli raid of May 2010 that killed nine Turkish activists said earlier this month that Israel had used unreasonable force in last year's raid, but its naval blockade of the Hamas-ruled strip was legal.
This week in pics – 2.8.11

The Mavi Marmara ship aboard which Israel's raid of a Gaza-bound flotilla left nine Turkish activists dead. The Palmer Commission report on the May 31, 2010 events was leaked on September 1, 2011.
Photo by: AP

A panel of five independent UN rights experts reporting to the UN Human Rights Council rejected that conclusion, saying the blockade had subjected Gazans to collective punishment in "flagrant contravention of international human rights and humanitarian law."

The four-year blockade deprived 1.6 million Palestinians living in the enclave of fundamental rights, they said.

"In pronouncing itself on the legality of the naval blockade, the Palmer Report does not recognize the naval blockade as an integral part of Israel's closure policy towards Gaza which has a disproportionate impact on the human rights of civilians," they said in a joint statement.

An earlier fact-finding mission named by the same UN forum to investigate the flotilla incident also found in a report last September that the blockade violated international law. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says the blockade violates the Geneva Conventions.

Israel says its Gaza blockade is a precaution against arms reaching Hamas and other Palestinian guerrillas by sea.

The four-man panel headed by former New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer found Israel had used unreasonable force in dealing with what it called "organized and violent resistance from a group of passengers."

Turkey has downgraded ties with Israel over the incident.

Richard Falk, UN special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories and one of the five experts who issued Tuesday's statement, said the Palmer report's conclusions were influenced by a desire to salve Turkish-Israeli ties.

"The Palmer report was aimed at political reconciliation between Israel and Turkey. It is unfortunate that in the report politics should trump the law," he said in the statement.
About one-third of Gaza's arable land and 85 percent of its fishing waters are totally or partially inaccessible due to Israeli military measures, said Olivier De Schutter, UN special rapporteur on the right to food, another of the five.

At least two-thirds of Gazan households lack secure access to food, he said. "People are forced to make unacceptable trade-offs, often having to choose between food or medicine or water for their families."

The other three experts were the UN special rapporteurs on physical and mental health, extreme poverty and human rights, and access to water and sanitation.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Labor Day and the Spirit of Joe Hill

Clancy Sigal, Mon 5 Sep 2011 13.30 BST

Joe Hill, workers' martyr, was executed by firing squad nearly a century ago, but his message lives on: 'Don't mourn – organise!'

The funeral of IWW organiser and labour agitator Joe Hill, in Utah, November 1915

l eat, bye and bye,
In that glorious land above the sky;
Work and pray, live on hay,
You'll get pie in the sky when you die

– "The Preacher and the Slave", a parody hymn written by rebel singer and labour icon Joe Hill

Anyone who is a fan of Billy Bragg, as I am, or Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie or the sixties protest singer Phil Ochs knows that radical America's greatest songwriter-educator Joe Hill is still alive in the young-in-heart on this besieged Labor Day.

Joe, a Swedish immigrant and wandering troubadour-troublemaker, was a "Wobbly", an agitating member of the One Big Union, the red flag International Workers of the World, a harum-scarum, mad-as-hell, happy-in-fellowship bunch of hoboes and gypsy workingmen who scared the pants off business leaders, pious church-goers, police chiefs, governors and all right-thinking citizens in the early part of the last century.

As a just published, terrific biography of Hill, The Man Who Never Died, by William Adler, makes clear yet again, Joe Hillström (né Joel Hägglund, his birth name) was framed on a murder charge in Salt Lake City, Utah, strapped into a chair and shot by a firing squad.

In my house, wherever we moved, my mother always put up two pictures, the labour lawyer who once defended her, Clarence Darrow (after whom I'm named), and the seditious martyr Joe Hill. As Joe may have shrewdly deduced on his last day, when the guards came for him – and a possible reason why he refused to testify for himself at his rigged trial – he may have been more valuable to the movement as a bullet-punctured corpse than he would have been alive: a reminder that the class struggle for which he was surrendering his life was – and is – as undying as his legacy on this Labor Day, 2011.

My mother, a skilled craftswoman on a sweater-making machine, felt split between her conservative union motto, "A fair day's wage for a fair day's work" and the IWW's revolutionary preamble – "Abolition of the wage system is the historic mission of the working class to do away with capitalism." In her lifetime – she witnessed the 1911 Triangle Fire annihilation of 146 immigrant young women – most of her co-workers took the "class war" as a obvious fact of life; they held a consensus that, in the IWW's ringing words, "the working class and the employing class have nothing in common."

In pre-first world war America, the employing class had no ethical problem deploying federal and state troops to murder working people. The massacres at Ludlow, Cripple Creek, Thibodaux, Coeur d'Alene, Pullman, Everett and so many other bleeding grounds are burned into what's left of labour's institutional memory. Or as a New York judge told striking female garment workers, "You are on strike against God."

"The copper bosses killed you Joe
They shot you Joe, says I
Takes more than guns to kill a man
Says Joe I didn't die…

Joe Hill's IWW believed in head-on, confrontational direct action based on what we now fashionably call participatory democracy or self-management. Hence, you rolled into town in a box car and met spontaneously with other bindlestiffs and bums like yourself, and did what had to be done on a voice vote and no Roberts Rules of Order. You struck industrially, sabotaged when appropriate, and constantly tested the limits of free speech laws. Arrested en masse (and beaten, sometimes lynched), you whistled for your socialist, anarchist, what-the-hell comrades who poured in from all corners of the United States to fill the Podunk jails where you drove the sheriff and his deputies nuts with your tactics. One of which was to jump up and down in the jailhouse in unison until the flimsy wood structure broke apart around you as in a Buster Keaton movie.

The IWW was unique in its timefor admitting African Americans, illegal immigrants, Asians and women – an inclusiveness that was revolutionary in its day. That's when labour really sang. Before Lieber and Stoller, before Irving Berlin and Tin Pan Alley, there was Joe Hill, who would, when the spirit moved him (usually in a bar or doss house), plunk-plunk a tune on his guitar, often a witty takeoff on a religious hymn or a current popular ditty. His verses, like "Rebel Girl", "There is Power in the Union" and "Casey Jones: Union Scab", soon included in the IWW's bestselling ten-cents-a-copy Little Red Songbook, became for workers – all over the world – their version of platinum. Wherever "wheat bums" (migrant farm workers), miners, railroad stiffs, dockers and sailors, the unemployed and hungry gathered, they sang their hearts out from the Little Red Song Book.

To "be union" was to sing songs at the top of your voice; melody, Marxism and militancy were braided into One Big Union.

Labour today doesn't have much to sing about. Organised labour – organised into structured unions tied to collective bargaining contracts, that is – is on the ropes. By all indices, Americans are working harder for less money – that is, when they are working at all. Unemployment and under-employment numbers at anywhere from 25 to 30 million, and the angry, unorganised jobless have yet to fight back except for the self-destructive manifestations of frustrated rage. Republicans in Congress hate the unemployed. If they could, they'd get rid of unemployment insurance altogether, which GOP minority whip Jon Kyl sneers at as a "disincentive for them to seek new work".

Kyl and his Republican and Blue Dog Democrat colleagues – direct descendants of Gilded Age barons who ordered workers shot down – with an enabling President Obama, who hasn't lifted a finger to help unions he once promised to meet on the picket line, have united to declare old-fashioned class war on working people. Joe Hill and his spirited IWW comrades like the "rebel girl" Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, anarchist Emma Goldman, Big Bill Haywood and Gene Debs would immediately get it. The same victims, same union-busting tactics only now with $1000-per-hour billable lawyers: and the same enemy.

Except that Joe Hill didn't believe in victims, only fighters. The day before his execution, he told friends:

"Tomorrow I expect to make a trip to the planet Mars and, if so, will immediately commence to organise the Mars canal workers into the IWW, and we will sing the good old songs so loud that the learned stargazers will once and for all get positive proof that the planet Mars is really inhabited … Don't mourn for me – Organise!"

At its peak, the IWW could count on half a million supporters in the US. Today, albeit in the thousands, in the US, UK, Australia and Canada, they're the fighting young, between ages 20 and 30, with websites and strong hearts. And they're organising – New York immigrant food workers, panhandlers in Vancouver, Chicago bike messengers, City of London cleaners – even at your favourite Starbucks.

You can't kill the spirit of Joe Hill.

PS- Clancy Sigal is the author of "Going Away," a great book about the coming of McCarthyism and his long road trip before leaving the US for England. I don't know if it's still in print...R. Congress

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sept 15 march to the UN: End All US Aid to Israel, End The Occupation, Support BDS

NY September 15: Rally for Palestine and the Right of Return

NY September 15: Rally for Palestine and the Right of Return

Palestinians Tell the World:
Sovereignty Means Securing ALL Our Rights!

Palestinians everywhere are mobilizing to remind the world of their right to self-determination. In New York we are marching to the UN because the world’s attention is focused on the vote on Palestine scheduled to take place there.

For over six decades, the UN has approved numerous resolutions promising Palestinians their basic rights, none of which have been implemented. We come to the UN to demand: Sovereignty, Equality, and the Right of Return for Palestinians NOW!

Rally and March to the UN, Thursday, September 15th!
End All US Aid to Israel!
End the Occupation!
Support Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions!

4:30 pm: Gather at Times Square
5:30 pm: March to Grand Central and then over to the UN:

For more information, email
Sponsored by the Palestine UN Solidarity Coalition

Endorsed by: Abna’a Albalad Center for the Right of Return-Damascus, Syria, Action for a Progressive Pakistan, Adalah-NY, Al-Awda NY,, American Iranian Friendship Committee, American Muslims for Palestine, Arab American Union Members Council, BAYAN-USA, Bergen County Green Party, Coalition for Palestinian Rights (Minneapolis), CODE PINK-NYC, Concerned Families of Westchester, Delaware Valley Veterans For America, Desis Rising Up and Moving, Existence is Resistance, Fight Imperialism Stand Together,Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE), Freedom Socialist Party, Global Exchange, Harlem Fightback Against War at Home & Abroad, International Action Center, ICAHD-USA, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, International League of People’s Struggle-NY LOC, International Socialist Organization, Jewish Voice for Peace-Westchester and NYC chapters, Jews Say No!, Labor for Palestine, May 1st Coalition for Worker & Immigrant Rights, Middle East Crisis Response, New York City Labor Against the War, Nodutdol for Korean Community Development, Northeast Al Quds Day Committee, NYC Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, Pakistan USA Freedom Forum, Progressive Democrats of America, Radical Women, RAHA: Iranian Women’s Collective,, Socialist Action, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) Temple U. and NYU chapters, Union of Palestinian Women Committees-Palestine, United National Antiwar Coalition, US Palestinian Community Network, Veterans for Peace, War Resisters League, WESPAC, West Queens Greens, Women Against Military Madness: Mideast Committee (Minneapolis), Women in Black Union Square, Workers World Party