Julie Webb-Pullman reports

Media

In Gaza we live

by Julie Webb-Pullman

Yesterday I went shopping. Like billions of people throughout the world, I went to the market to buy fruit and vegetables. Like a fraction of a percent of them, I did so beneath falling bombs.

Because I was shopping in Gaza.

Gaza, where we eat our bread with blood. Gaza, where the babies are bathed with tears. Gaza, where we LIVE.

We live despite media misinformation that paints Israel as the victim – a media that harms us every bit as much as every Israeli missile.

We live in the face of the lie of Israeli self-defense, of Israeli “response to rocket fire” – which ignores the root cause planted, watered and fertilized by Israeli snipers last Friday, when they shot dead Palestinian teenager Raed Khalil Abu Tair, on crutches and hundreds of meters away from the fence.

THAT was the seed from which this situation grew. And it is a seed that feeds our defiance, resistance, and our very will to live in Gaza.

I refuse to be cowed by Israeli bombs. I refuse to shiver and shake from fear in an inside room. I defy Israeli brutality, I refuse to let it define my life.

Instead, I LIVE.

I went shopping to Saha market, and between the blasts I bought a pair of sandals, and a sunhat each for my friend’s daughters. Yes, I jumped with each bomb – then continued with what I was doing – getting on with LIFE.

I bought fruit and vegetables – eggplant, capsicum, potatoes, tomatoes, onions – ordinary, and life-giving. Oranges and kiwifruit – vitamin-packed jewels to add a sparkle no drone can dim.

I went next to the Curiosity Shop to see if he had a traditional Ramadan lamp – he didn’t.

I jumped in a car and went to Jundy; a missile struck behind us, the people in the car craned to see, people in the street all hurried towards it. I got out of the car and went into a dress shop, looking for something light to wear inside for summer.

More bombs fell.

I went to the supermarket, bought dates, water, tomato paste. I got home, put on a load of laundry because there was electricity, and unpacked the shopping.

I began preparing the vegetables for dinner.

There was a massive explosion; I went to the balcony, and saw palls of smoke rising from behind the supermarket – and realized I had forgotten to get coffee.

I will have to go and get some tomorrow.

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Seven Palestinian journalists injured by gunfire in Gaza protests

COMMITTEE TO PROTECT JOURNALISTS

Beirut, May 14, 2018–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the use of gunfire by Israeli forces against journalists covering protests today in the Gaza Strip. At least seven Palestinian journalists have been injured by Israeli gunfire while covering today’s demonstrations, according to the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate (PJS), reports shared on social media by media outlets and journalists, and CPJ interviews with local journalists Saud Abu Ramadan and Moneeb Saada.

Thousands of Palestinians have been protesting for seven consecutive weeks over Israel’s refusal to allow Palestinian refugees to return to their pre-1948 homes, news reports said. Today marks the 70th anniversary of what Israel claims as its independence day and Palestinians call Nakba Day to commemorate their displacement from Israel. Today’s protests in the West Bank and Gaza Strip also coincided with the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, according to news reports.

“The number of Palestinian journalists injured by gunfire in Gaza has grown by the week,” CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour said from Washington, D.C. “The fact that Israeli authorities have ignored demands that they halt the use of live fire against journalists reinforces the perception that they do not want the world to see what is happening in Gaza.”

The following journalists were injured by gunfire today:

  • Omar Hamdan, a cameraperson for the state-owned Algerian Television, was hit in his left leg by a live round while covering protests east of Gaza City, according to news reports, the PJSreports shared on social media by news outlets, and local journalists Ramadan and Saada.

 

  • Mohammed Abu Dahrouj, a cameraperson for the media production company Zain Media, was hit in his right leg by a live round while covering protests east of Gaza City, according to reports shared on social media by news outlets, the PJS, Ramadan, and Saada.

 

  • Abdullah al-Shorbagi, a reporter for the local Hamas-affiliated Khan Younis Media Network, was hit in the left foot by a live round while covering protests east of Khan Younis, according to his employer, the PJS, reports shared by local journalists and news outlets on social media, Ramadan, and Saada.

 

  • Farhan Hashem Abu Hadayd, a reporter for the local news website Safad Press, was hit in his left leg by a live round while covering protests east of Rafah, according to news reports, the PJS, reports and pictures shared by media outlets, and local human rights activist Mohammed Abdullah.

 

  • Yasser Qudeih, a freelance photographer for the Hamas-affiliated daily Palestine, was hit in his abdomen by a live round while covering protests east of Gaza City, according to reports shared on Facebook by news outlets, Ramadan, and Saada. He is currently under observation in the intensive care unit at the European Hospital in Gaza, according to Saada.

 

  • Nihad Fuad, a reporter for the community radio station Forsan al-Erada, was hit in the head by a live round while covering protests in the southern Gazan city of Khuza’a, east of Khan Younis, according to Facebook reports by media outlets, Ramadan, and Saada. He has been transferred for treatment to the European Hospital in Gaza, according to Saada.

 

  • Wael Dahdouh, a reporter for the Qatari broadcaster Al-Jazeera, was injured in the right hand by gunfire while covering protests east of Gaza City, according to his employernews reportsreports on social media, Ramadan, and Saada.

 

In addition to the seven journalists injured by direct fire, Mohammed al-Duwaik, a cameraperson for the local news agency Itehad Press, was hit in his arms by shrapnel from an explosive device while he was covering protests east of Gaza City, according to Al-Duwaik and the PJS.

The Israel Defense Forces did not immediately reply to CPJ’s email requesting comment.

Since the protests began on March 30, 2018, CPJ has documented that live rounds fired by the Israel Defense Force have hit at least 22 journalists, two of whom–Yaser Murtaja and Ahmed Abu Hussein–later died from their injuries.


Gaza Journalist moved to ICU

motasem

Motasem Dalloul, Palestinian journalist and Middle East Monitor’s Gaza correspondent, is now in a critical condition, and has been moved to the intensive care unit in Shifa hospital.

Dalloul was shot in the abdomen and back by Israeli snipers using explosive bullets while he covered the #GreatReturnMarch protests at the border on Friday, 11 May.


Zionist spider Jesus T. Vasquez crawls out from under his rock again

Desperate Zionists are again recycling their fake press release in a pathetic attempt to discredit pro-Palestinian activists and organisations in New Zealand and Australia.[1]

Needless to say, I assert that none of the events I am alleged to have organised or attended took place, and I deny all of the attributions made to me contained in this fiction calling itself a press release. I most assuredly had no part in writing or sending it out.

In a clear sign they must be running out money as well as ideas, they are peddling the same barely-altered nonsense sent out to news agencies and others in 2011 [2] and 2012 [3], in 2011 purporting to be from Alison Weir, Kathleen M. Christison, Prof. John Mearsheimer, Steve Fake, and the illustrious Jesus T. Vasquez, Director of Communications of Bangor, Maine, soon to self-promote to Jesus T. Vasquez Director, Strategic Communications, Christchurch, New Zealand.

The 2011 and 2012 versions differ little, except for the names – they were even too lazy and/or sloppy to remove the page number from the Hasbara manaual that appears at the bottom of each release!

This year there seems to have been some small attempt to update their information – “Ahmadinejad” has been replaced by “Iranian ayatollahs” in the rant – but there has been no attempt whatsoever to disseminate anything that could remotely be considered accurate, or factual.

If this is quality of contemporary Zionist propaganda, we can all breathe a sigh of relief!

[1] The latest:
New Zealanders to Boycott Arab and Iranian Goods

News Release
No. NR – 19,004
For Immediate distribution

WELLI NGTON, 06 July — A new boycott campaign against the Arab world and Iran that will require the cooperation of every lover of Middle East freedom has been launched by a group of outspoken New Zealanders, it was announced today by its founder Julie Webb-Pullman, a prominent international activist and journalist.

“It is high time we exposed the crimes against humanity committed by the modern pharoahs of the Muslim Middle East. Hosni Mubarak and Col. Mouammar Gaddafi, who enslaved the long-suffering Egyptian and Libyan peoples with 30-year dictatorships that are unprecedented in modern history, have now been ousted but democratic government is still not in sight.

Meanwhile Algeria, Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon and Jordan are being ruled by fascist thugs and usurpers who are massacring their own people ,” Webb-Pullman stated.

Speaking to hundreds of Syrian students and refugees in the nation’s capital, Webb-Pullman excoriated the Arab and Iranian regimes for plundering their countries of their wealth and depriving their people of their basic human rights. She particularly upbraided Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Iran for their entrenched system of apartheid against their Christian Copt, Maronite, Melkite, Palestinian, Berber, Shia and Kurd populations.

The popular activist who has fought for the downtrodden Palestinian Arabs, bewailed the thousands of civilians recently massacred by the Arab and Iranian security forces in the streets of Algiers, Cairo, Alexandria, Teheran, Manama, Damascus, Deraa, Latakia, Homs, Idlip, Amman, Jeddah, Gaza City, Aden, Taiz and Sanaa.

“It is simply incomprehensible that these bloodthirsty governments are committing genocide against their own people,” she declared. “What’s more, they are committing unspeakable apartheid crimes against the Palestinian refugees in their midst, especially in Lebanon and Syria at the behest of the illegitimate para-state organization Hizbullah and the savage Alawite regime in Damascus,” she averred.

As a consequence, her new organization — New Zealanders for Boycotting Arab and Iranian Goods (NEZBAIG) — will be demanding that New Zealand importers immediately terminate their contracts for the purchase of petroleum, petrochemicals, plastics, cotton yarn and garments, rugs, fertilisers, majdhool dates, taboule, figs, and sheet metal from these countries. In addition, all New Zealand firms and universities with investments and joint ventures in these tyrannies will be pressured to divest their assets from them. Of equal importance is our campaign for the Wellington government to implement sanctions by halting its lamb and dairy shipments to the Nazi-like governments of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

“We are confident that the international community – and particularly the New Zealand public – is prepared to support our initiative until the vicious dictatorships of the Arab Middle East and Iran are overthrown and their civilian populations are finally endowed with classical democracy,” Webb-Pullman affirmed.

“The welfare of the beleaguered Arab and Iranian people must be our number one priority,” she stated.

The new boycott campaign is supported by the Federation of New Zealand Muslims, the Association of Arab Students and Professors in New Zealand, the Palestine Human Rights Campaign, Global Peace and Justice Auckland, the League for Iranian Democracy, as well as by the internationally-acclaimed online news agency Scoop.

NEZBAIG co-founder Leslie Bravery, chair of Palestine Human Rights Campaign who has long crusaded for the seething Arabs of the Middle East, pointed out that the illegitimate Muslim governments there are being targeted by his followers with arrest warrants should they step foot on New Zealand soil or seek asylum here. Under the international law of universal jurisdiction, war criminals and their genocidal ilk are liable to arrest upon the issuance of a certification by the New Zealand intelligence community.
He emphasized that his group’s actions were in complete fulfilment of the treasured New Zealand tradition of seeking justice for suffering humanity. Moreover, it has the complete approval of his Middle East advisor, Samah Sabawi, director of the Al-Shabaka Centre for Australasia and a veteran critic of Arab war crimes.

“We must lose no time in bringing Assad and the Iranian ayatollahs to the gallows just as Osama Bin Laden and Col. Gaddafi were so readily dispatched,” Bravery declared to tumultuous applause. “And we mustn’t forget our obligation to overthrow the unelected thugs ruling in the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas fanatics in Gaza who are torturing their brother Arabs in dismal dungeons,” Bravery added.

Casting aside his long antipathy towards Israel, Bravery praised the Jewish state for striking Syrian military sites. He pleaded with it to invade Syria and Iran under the UN’s Responsibility to Protect Doctrine and wipe out their respective illegitimatel Shi’ite feudal ruling classes.

“Only such a humanitarian gesture can have the desired effect of strengthening the region-wide intifadas in these countries leading to the toppling of their authoritarian regimes and the implementation of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all the Geneva Conventions,” he posited.

Bravery solemnly drew attention to the holocaust nakba that has befallen the Syrian Palestinians who are drowning in blood. Some 3,000 of them have been slaughtered and gassed by their Syrian Arab brethren, 65,000 have been turned into refugees fleeing to Lebanon and Jordan and UNWRA has announced that over 80 percent of the half-million population holed up in 14 concentration camps around Yarmouk have been displaced from their homes.

As a result, both Bravery and Webb-Pullman are making their way to the Turkish frontier where they will enter Syria to document for the whole world the ghastly atrocities being inflicted on the Syrian Palestinians. “These massive war crimes are a violation of international law and New Zealand can help put a stop to this through an effective boycott policy,” the pair stated.

“As for our myriad of friends among the general public, we sincerely hope they will be moved to embrace the boycott of Arab and Iranian goods with the objective of liberating the oppressed Arab masses, ” Webb-Pullman and Bravery concluded.

– 30 –

[2] The 2011 version in the US
Hasbara Disinformation
Submitted by Steve on Thu, 07/14/2011 – 4:40am

I relate the following trivial incident only for its comedic value. Shortly after returning to the U.S. from the U.S. boat to Gaza in Athens, I received an email from one “Jesus Terrence Vasquez.” The email purports to be a press release (reproduced below), announcing the formation of a new campaign dedicated to opposing Middle Eastern tyrannies.

I am listed as a contact, and identified as an organizer for a non-existent organization, “Americans for a Secular Gaza.” One comical aspect is the attempt to demonstrate hypocrisy and selective concern for humanitarian situations. As if Chomsky has not been a long-time dedicated critic of Mubarak, before it was popular to be so, and while all loyal Washington-Tel Aviv loyalists backed the thug.

Americans for Boycotting Arab and Iranian Goods

News Release

No. NR – 327,668
For Immediate Distribution
Updated and Revised at 1100 Hrs EDST

WASHINGTON, July 12 — A new boycott campaign against the Arab world and Iran requiring the cooperation of every supporter of Middle East freedom has been successfully launched by a group of dedicated Americans, it was revealed today by its founders.

“It is high time we exposed the crimes against humanity committed by the modern pharoahs (sic) of the Muslim Middle East. Hosni Mubarak, who enslaved the long-suffering Egyptian people with a 30-year dictatorship that is unprecedented in modern history has now been ousted but a reactionary miltary junta has seized power in his stead. Meanwhile Algeria, Morocco, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman,Tunisia, Gaza, the West Bank and Jordan are being ruled by hereditary fascist thugs and usurpers who are massacring their own people ,” stated prominent Middle East activist Alison Weir.

Speaking to hundreds of Muslim Americans in front of the Syrian embassy, Weir excoriated the Arab and Iranian regimes for plundering their countries of their wealth and depriving their people of their basic human rights. She particularly upbraided Egypt, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Syria and Iran for their entrenched system of apartheid against their Christian Copt, Berber, Shia and Kurd populations.

The Executive Director of the lobbyist organization If Americans Knew also deplored the thousands of civilians massacred by the Arab and Iranian security forces in the streets of Algiers, Alexandria, Benghazi, Baydah, Tobruk, Tunis, Cairo, Alexandria, Deraa, Latakia, Banias, Homs, Teheran, Misrata, Manama, Amman, Jeddah, Gaza City, Aden and Sanaa.

“It is simply incomprehensible that these bloodthirsty regimes are committing genocide against their own people,” she declared.

As a consequence, her new organization — Americans for Boycotting Arab and Iranian Goods (ABAIG) — has demanded that all US importers immediately terminate their contracts for the purchases of petroleum, petrochemicals, plastics, cotton yarn, towels and garments, rugs, fertilisers, majhool dates, figs, strawberries, taboule, couscous and sheet metal from these countries. In addition, all US firms with investments and joint ventures in these tyrannies, including Chevron, Standard Oil, Boeing and Starbucks, are being pressured to divest their assets from them. Of greater importance is our campaign for the US to implement new sanctions by halting its tank and missile weapon shipments to the Nazi-like governments of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

“We are now happy to report that the American people is supporting our initiative until the vicious dictatorships of the Arab Middle East and Iran are overthrown and their civilian populations are finally endowed with classical democracy,” Weir affirmed. She particularly lauded President Obama for ordering the divestment of US corporations and personnel from Libya and the Administration’s military strikes against Col. Gaddafi’s kiling machine.

“The welfare of the beleaguered Arab and Iranian people must be our number one priority. It is vitally urgent that the international community quickly bring the genocidal dictators Gaddafi, Assad and Ahmadinejad to the gallows, just as Osama Bin Laden was so speedily dispatched, ” she stated.

She also warned against allowing the criminal Fatah and Hamas factions continuing to rule in Palestine. They operate deathly prisons and torture chambers. She repeated her insistence that their undemocratic leaders be ousted and be hauled before the International Criminal Court in the Hague for their despicable war crimes detailed in the Goldstone Report.

The new boycott campaign is supported by the Prof. Noam Chomsky of MIT, the Presbyterian Church, Code Pink, Americans for a Secular Palestine, the Green Party, the Association of Arab American Professors, Prof. John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, filmmaker Michael Moore, Friends of Middle East Democracy, Veterans for Peace, author Alice Walker, the International Solidarity Movement, Alexander Cockburn, editor of Counterpunch magazine, the League for Iranian Democracy, American Women Against Saudi Gender Apartheid, the Libyan National Council, Prof. S. Makdisi of UCLA at Berkeley as well as by the American Muslim Congress.

ABAIG co-founder Kathleen Christison, former CIA analyst and long a crusader for the seething Arab masses of Gaza and the West Bank, pointed out that the illegitimate Muslim government leaders of the Middle East are being targeted by her bevy of activists with arrest warrants should they step foot on American soil or seek asylum here. Under the international laws of universal jurisdiction, war criminals and their genocidal ilk are liable to arrest upon the deposition of a citizen’s complaint before the Secretary of Homeland Security.

She emphasized that her group’s actions were in complete fulfilment of the treasured American tradition of seeking justice for suffering humanity. Moreover, it has the complete approval of her political mentor former President Jimmy Carter.

In that regard, she echoed the call on the international community to bring to justice Col. Moammar Gadhafi, the fascist ruler of Libya who is bombing his own people with war planes dropping cluster bombs, as well as the war criminals Ahmadinejad and Assad of Iran and Syria respectively. “These greasy rats should be torn limb from limb,” she declared to tumultuous applause before the Washington protestors.

She particularly singled out the apartheid oppression inflicted by the Lebanese government against the Palestinian refugees in its midst, an act advised and consented to by the illegitimate para-state organization Hizbullah.

Casting aside her life-long enmity towards Israel, Christison pleaded with it to invade Syria and Iran and wipe out their respective Alawite and Shi’ite ruling classes. “Only such a humanitarian intervention can have the desired effect of strengthening the region-wide intifadas in these countries leading to the toppling of their authoritarian regimes,” she posited.

“As for our myriad of friends amidst the general public, we do sincerely thank them for embracing the boycott of Arab and Iranian goods which will immeasurably assist in the liberation of the revolutionary Arab and Iranian masses, ” Weir and Christison concluded.

– 30 –

Media contacts:

Alison Weir
Founder ABAIG and Chief Media Spokesperson
Executive Director
If Americans Knew
alisonweir@ifamericansknew.org/contact@ifamericansknew.org
[…]

Kathleen M. Christison
Co-founder ABAIG
Former CIA intelligence Analyst
kb.christison@earthlink.net
[…]

Prof. John Mearsheimer
University of Chicago
Chicago, IL
j-mearsheimer@uchicago.edu

Steve Fake
Organizer, Americans for a Secular Gaza
steven.m.fake@gmail.com

Jesus T. Vasquez
Director of Communications
j.terrencevasquez@gmail.com
Bangor, Maine

Guaranteed Distribution to 450,000 media, government and NGO activists around the world via Internet, Twitter, Facebook, My Space.

I subsequently emailed Mr. Vasquez. I would not ordinarily reproduce correspondence without permission. However, under the circumstances, the normal etiquette seems irrelevant.

Jul 12, 2011 at 4:56 PM
Dear Mr. Vasquez,

Very inventive. May I ask who you are?


Steve Fake

Wed, Jul 13, 2011 at 1:13 PM
Dear Mr. Fake,

Like you, I am an American dedicated to end the wretched suffering of the Arab people by their genocidal rulers.

I am currently organizing a flotilla to smash the brutal Syrian siege of its Kurdish and Druse people who live under apartheid conditions. Our many efforts at liberating the indigenous Berber people under Arab exterminationist rule in Tunisia have been successful.

The UN yesterday stated that the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe is occurring in Somalia where Arab war criminals are committing genocide. We are organizing civil society to reverse this situation as well.

I would like to count on your support. A donation of $9,450 (less than a vacation in Greece) would prove immensely helpful.

Kind Regards,

Jesus T. Vasquez

Putting aside the ludicrous implications of hypocrisy, Mr. “Vasquez” appears to have rather overestimated the budgetary allotments of flotilla passengers while in Greece. I have since requested that he supply me with the necessary routing information to place a donation (perhaps for the oddly precise sum he lists). I will post an update if he responds. One can only hope that “Vasquez” is on someone’s payroll, and not engaging in such inanities on his own time.

[3] Twice sent out in 2012, on 28 August and again on 08 September:

New Zealanders for Boycotting Arab and Iranian Goods

News Release
No. NR – 5,679
For Immediate distribution

AUCKLAND, 07 September — A new boycott campaign against the Arab world and Iran that will require the cooperation of every lover of Middle East freedom has been launched by a group of outspoken New Zealanders, it was announced today by its founder Julie Webb-Pullman, a prominent international activist and journalist.

“It is high time we exposed the crimes against humanity committed by the modern pharoahs of the Muslim Middle East. Hosni Mubarak and Col. Mouammar Gaddafi, who enslaved the long-suffering Egyptian and Libyan peoples with 30-year dictatorships that are unprecedented in modern history, have now been ousted but reactionary governments have seized power in their stead. Meanwhile Algeria, Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon and Jordan are being ruled by fascist thugs and usurpers who are massacring their own people ,” Webb-Pullman stated.

Speaking to hundreds of Muslim students and refugees from North Africa and the Middle East at the main university campus, Webb-Pullman excoriated the Arab and Iranian regimes for plundering their countries of their wealth and depriving their people of their basic human rights. She particularly upbraided Egypt, Lebanon, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Iran for their entrenched system of apartheid against their Christian Copt, Maronite, Melkite, Palestinian, Berber, Shia and Kurd populations.

The popular activist who has fought for the downtrodden Palestinian Arabs, bewailed the thousands of civilians recently massacred by the Arab and Iranian security forces in the streets of Algiers, Cairo, Alexandria, Teheran, Manama, Damascus, Deraa, Latakia, Homs, Idlip, Amman, Jeddah, Gaza City, Aden, Taiz and Sanaa.

“It is simply incomprehensible that these bloodthirsty governments are committing genocide against their own people,” she declared. “What’s more, they are committing unspeakable apartheid crimes against the Palestinian refugees in their midst, especially in Lebanon and Syria at the behest of the illegitimate para-state organization Hizbullah and the savage Alawite regime in Damascus,” she averred.

As a consequence, her new organization — New Zealanders for Boycotting Arab and Iranian Goods (NEZBAIG) — will be demanding that New Zealand importers immediately terminate their contracts for the purchase of petroleum, petrochemicals, plastics, cotton yarn and garments, rugs, fertilisers, majdhool dates, taboule, figs, and sheet metal from these countries. In addition, all New Zealand firms and universities with investments and joint ventures in these tyrannies will be pressured to divest their assets from them. Of equal importance is our campaign for the Wellington government to implement sanctions by halting its lamb and dairy shipments to the Nazi-like governments of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

“We are confident that the international community – and particularly the New Zealand public – is prepared to support our initiative until the vicious dictatorships of the Arab Middle East and Iran are overthrown and their civilian populations are finally endowed with classical democracy,” Webb-Pullman affirmed.

“The welfare of the beleaguered Arab and Iranian people must be our number one priority,” she stated.

The new boycott campaign is supported by the Federation of New Zealand Muslims, the Association of Arab Students and Professors in New Zealand, the Palestine Human Rights Campaign, Global Peace and Justice Auckland, the League for Iranian Democracy, as well as by the internationally-acclaimed online news agency Scoop.

NEZBAIG co-founder Leslie Bravery, chair of Palestine Human Rights Campaign who has long crusaded for the seething Arabs of Palestine, pointed out that the illegitimate Muslim governments of the Middle East are being targeted by his followers with arrest warrants should they step foot on New Zealand soil or seek asylum here. Under the international law of universal jurisdiction, war criminals and their genocidal ilk are liable to arrest upon the issuance of a certification by the New Zealand intelligence community.
He emphasized that his group’s actions were in complete fulfilment of the treasured New Zealand tradition of seeking justice for suffering humanity. Moreover, it has the complete approval of his Middle East advisor, Samah Sabawi, director of the Al-Shabaka Centre for Australasia and a veteran critic of Arab war crimes.

“We must lose no time in bringing Assad and Ahmadinejad to the gallows just as Osama Bin Laden and Col. Gaddafi were so readily dispatched,” Bravery declared to tumultuous applause. “And we mustn’t forget our obligation to overthrow the unelected thugs ruling in the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas fanatics in Gaza who are torturing their brother Arabs in dismal dungeons,” Bravery added.

Casting aside his life-time enmity towards Israel, Bravery pleaded with the Jewish state to invade Syria and Iran and wipe out their respective illegitimatel ruling classes. ” Only such a humanitarian gesture can have the desired effect of strengthening the region-wide intifadas in these countries leading to the toppling of their authoritarian regimes and the implementation of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all the Geneva Conventions,” he posited.

“As for our myriad of friends among the general public, we sincerely hope they will be moved to embrace the boycott of Arab and Iranian goods with the objective of liberating the revolutionary Arab masses, ” Webb-Pullman and Bravery concluded.

– 30 –

For Information:
Julie Webb-Pullman
NEZBAIG Founder
Journalist
jwebb@gmail.com

Leslie Bravery
Co-Founder, NEZBAIG
Chair, Palestine Human Rights Campaign
Auckland, New Zealand
leslie.bravery@palestine.org.nz

Jesus T. Vasquez
Director, Strategic Communications
Christchurch, New Zealand
j.terrencevasquez@gmail.com

Ali Kazak
International Advisor
Palestine Human Rights Campaign
akazak@bigpond.net.au


The Secret Rise of 21st Century Democracy

Some lessons for the Arab Spring, perhaps?

“New economies based on greater democratic control, real representation and citizen participation are on the rise. There is much to be learned from countries like Venezuela that break from the Washington Consensus.”

By Kevin Zeese JD and Margaret Flowers

February 20, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – If Americans knew the truth about the growth of real democracy in Venezuela and other Latin American countries, we would demand economic democracy and participatory government, which together would threaten the power of concentrated wealth. The seeds of both are beginning to sprout in the US despite efforts to keep Americans ignorant about them. Real democracy creates a huge challenge to the oligarchs and their neoliberal agenda because it is driven by human needs, not corporate greed. That is why major media in the US, which are owned by six corporations, aggressively misinform the public about Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution.

Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research writes, “The Western media reporting has been effective. It has convinced most people outside of Venezuela that the country is run by some kind of dictatorship that has ruined it.” In fact, just the opposite is true. Venezuela, since the election of Chavez, has become one of the most democratic nations on Earth. Its wealth is increasing and being widely shared. But Venezuela has been made so toxic that even the more liberal media outlets propagate distortions to avoid being criticized as too leftist. Venezuela is a front line in the battle between the elites and the people over US-style democracy, as we described in Part I of this series.

We spoke with Mike Fox, who went to Venezuela in 2006 to see for himself what was happening. Fox spent years documenting the rise of participatory democracy in Venezuela and Brazil. He found a grassroots movement creating the economy and government they wanted, often pushing Chavez further than he wanted to go. Venezuelan democracy and economic transformation are bigger than Chavez. Chavez opened a door to achieve the people’s goals: literacy programs in the barrios, more people attending college, universal access to health care, as well as worker-owned businesses and community councils where people make decisions for themselves. Change came through decades of struggle leading to the election of Chavez in 1998, a new constitution and ongoing work to make that constitution a reality.

Challenging American Empire

The subject of Venezuela is taboo because it has been the most successful country to repel the neoliberal assault waged by the US on Latin America. This assault included Operation Condor, launched in 1976, in which the US provided resources and assistance to bring friendly dictators who supported neoliberal policies to power throughout Latin America. These policies involved privatizing national resources and selling them to foreign corporations, de-funding and privatizing public programs such as education and health care, deregulating and reducing trade barriers.

In addition to intense political repression under these dictators between the 1960s and 1980s, which resulted in imprisonment, murder and disappearances of tens of thousands throughout Latin America, neoliberal policies led to increased wealth inequality, greater hardship for the poor and working class, as well as a decline in economic growth.

Neoliberalism in Venezuela arrived through a different path, not through a dictator. Although most of its 20th century was spent under authoritarian rule, Venezuela has had a long history of pro-democracy activism. The last dictator, Marcos Jimenez Perez, was ousted from power in 1958. After that, Venezuelans gained the right to elect their government, but they existed in a state of pseudo-democracy, much like the US currently, in which the wealthy ruled through a managed democracy that ensured the wealthy benefited most from the economy.

As it did in other parts of the world, the US pushed its neoliberal agenda on Venezuela through the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. These institutions required Structural Adjustment Programs (SAP) as terms for development loans. As John Perkins wrote in Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, great pressure was placed on governments to take out loans for development projects. The money was loaned by the US, but went directly to US corporations who were responsible for the projects, many of which failed, leaving nations in debt and not better off. Then the debt was used as leverage to control the government’s policies so they further favored US interests. Anun Shah explains the role of the IMF and World Bank in more detail in Structural Adjustment – a Major Cause of Poverty.

A turning point in the Venezuelan struggle for real democracy occurred in 1989. President Carlos Andres Perez ran on a platform opposing neoliberalism and promised to reform the market during his second term. But following his re-election in 1988, he reversed himself and continued to implement the “Washington Consensus” of neoliberal policies – privatization and cuts to social services. The last straw came when he ended subsidies for oil. The price of gasoline doubled and public transportation prices rose steeply. Protests erupted in the towns surrounding the capitol, Caracas, and quickly spread into the city itself. President Perez responded by revoking multiple constitutional rights to protest and sending in security forces who killed an estimated 3,000 people, most of them in the barrios. This became known as the “Caracazo” (“the Caracas smash”) and demonstrated that the president stood with the oligarchs, not with the people.

Under President Perez, conditions continued to deteriorate for all but the wealthy in Venezuela. So people organized in their communities and with Lieutenant Colonel Hugo Chavez attempted a civilian-led coup in 1992. Chavez was jailed, and so the people organized for his release. Perez was impeached for embezzlement of 250 million bolivars and the next president, Rafael Caldera, promised to release Chavez when he was elected. Chavez was freed in 1994. He then traveled throughout the country to meet with people in their communities and organizers turned their attention to building a political movement.

Chavez ran for president in 1998 on a platform that promised to hold a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution saying, “I swear before my people that upon this moribund constitution I will drive forth the necessary democratic transformations so that the new republic will have a Magna Carta befitting these new times.” Against the odds, Chavez won the election and became president in 1999.

While his first term was cautious and center-left, including a visit by Chavez to the NY Stock Exchange to show support for capitalism and encourage foreign investment, he kept his promise. Many groups participated in the formation of the new constitution, which was gender-neutral and included new rights for women and for the indigenous, and created a government with five branches adding a people’s and electoral branches. The new constitution was voted into place by a 70 percent majority within the year. Chavez also began to increase funding for the poor and expanded and transformed education.

Since then, Chavez has been re-elected twice. He was removed from power briefly in 2002, jailed and replaced by Pedro Carmona, the head of what is equivalent to the Chamber of Commerce. Fox commented that the media was complicit in the coup by blacking it out and putting out false information. Carmona quickly moved to revoke the constitution and disband the legislature. When the people became aware of what was happening, they rapidly mobilized and surrounded the capitol in Caracas. Chavez was reinstated in less than 48 hours.

One reason the Chavez election is called a Bolivarian Revolution is because Simon Bolivar was a military political leader who freed much of Latin America from the Spanish Empire in the early 1800s. The election of Chavez, the new constitution and the people overcoming the coup set Venezuela on the path to free itself from the US empire. These changes emboldened the transformation to sovereignty, economic democracy and participatory government.

In fact, Venezuela paid its debts to the IMF in full five years ahead of schedule and in 2007 separated from the IMF and World Bank, thus severing the tethers of the Washington Consensus. Instead, Venezuela led the way to create the Bank of the South to provide funds for projects throughout Latin America and allow other countries to free themselves from the chains of the IMF and World Bank too.

The Rise of Real Democracy

The struggle for democracy brought an understanding by the people that change only comes if they create it. The people viewed Chavez as a door that was opened for them to create change. He was able to pass laws that aided them in their work for real democracy and better conditions. And Chavez knew that if the people did not stand with him, the oligarchs could remove him from power as they did for two days in 2002.

With this new understanding and the constitution as a tool, Chavez and the people have continued to progress in the work to rebuild Venezuela based on participatory democracy and freedom from US interference. Chavez refers to the new system as “21st century socialism.” It is very much an incomplete work in progress, but already there is a measurable difference.

Mark Weisbrot of CEPR points out that real GDP per capita in Venezuela expanded by 24 percent since 2004. In the 20 years prior to Chávez, real GDP per person actually fell. Venezuela has low foreign public debt, about 28 percent of GDP, and the interest on it is only 2 percent of GDP. Weisbrot writes: “From 2004-2011, extreme poverty was reduced by about two-thirds. Poverty was reduced by about one-half, and this measures only cash income. It does not count the access to health care that millions now have, or the doubling of college enrollment – with free tuition for many. Access to public pensions tripled. Unemployment is half of what it was when Chávez took office.” Venezuela has reduced unemployment from 20 percent to 7 percent.

Venezuela is making rapid progress on other measures too. It has a high human development index and a low and shrinking index of inequality. Wealth inequality in Venezuela is half of what it is in the United States. It is rated “the fifth-happiest nation in the world” by Gallup. And Pepe Escobar writes that,”No less than 22 public universities were built in the past 10 years. The number of teachers went from 65,000 to 350,000. Illiteracy has been eradicated. There is an ongoing agrarian reform.” Venezuela has undertaken significant steps to build food security through land reform and government assistance. New homes are being built, health clinics are opening in underserved areas and cooperatives for agriculture and business are growing.

Venezuelans are very happy with their democracy. On average, they gave their own democracy a score of seven out of ten while the Latin American average was 5.8. Meanwhile, 57 percent of Venezuelans reported being happy with their democracy compared to an average for Latin American countries of 38 percent, according to a poll conducted by Latinobarometro. While 81 percent voted in the last Venezuelan election, only 57.5 percent voted in the recent US election.

This is not to say that the process has been easy or smooth. The new constitution and laws passed by Chavez have provided tools, but the government and media still contain those who are allied with the oligarchy and who resist change. People have had to struggle to see that what is written on paper is made into a reality. For example, Venezuelans now have the right to reclaim urban land that is fallow and use it for food and living. Many attempts have been made to occupy unused land and some have been met by hostility from the community or actual repression from the police. In other cases, attempts to build new universities have been held back by the bureaucratic process.

It takes time to build a new democratic structure from the bottom up. And it takes time to transition from a capitalist culture to one based on solidarity and participation. In “Venezuela Speaks,” one activist, Iraida Morocoima, says “Capitalism left us with so many vices that I think our greatest struggle is against these bad habits that have oppressed us.” She goes on to describe a necessary culture shift as, “We must understand that we are equal, while at the same time we are different, but with the same rights.”

Chavez passed a law in 2006 that united various committees in poor barrios into community councils that qualify for state funds for local projects. In the city, community councils are composed of 200 to 400 families. The councils elect spokespeople and other positions such as executive, financial and “social control” committees. The councilmembers vote on proposals in a general assembly and work with facilitators in the government to carry through on decisions. In this way, priorities are set by the community and funds go directly to those who can carry out the project such as building a road or school. There are currently more than 20,000 community councils in Venezuela creating a grassroots base for participatory government.

A long-term goal is to form regional councils from the community councils and ultimately create a national council. Some community councils already have joined as communes, a group of several councils, which then have the capacity for greater research and to receive greater funds for large projects.

The movement to place greater decision-making capacity and control of local funds in the hands of communities is happening throughout Latin America and the world. It is called participatory budgeting and it began in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 1989 and has grown so that as many as 50,000 people now participate each year to decide as much as 20 percent of the city budget. There are more than 1,500 participatory budgets around the world in Latin America, North America, Asia, Africa, and Europe. Fox produced a documentary, Beyond Elections: Redefining Democracy in the Americas, which explains participatory budgeting in greater detail.

Democracy Is Coming to the USA

Participatory budgeting is a method of participatory government in which people manage public money. In this democratic process, community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget. It provides communities with greater control over their economic lives and more input into the investments in their community.

In the US and Canada, participatory budgeting exists primarily at the city level for the municipal budget. It also has been used, however, for counties, states, housing authorities, schools and school systems, universities, coalitions, and other public agencies. The first city to put in place participatory budgeting on a citywide level is Vallejo, CA. Other US cities that have started using it are Chicago and New York.

Chicago was the first city in the US to use this process. Since 2009, residents of Chicago’s diverse 49th Ward have decided how to spend the $1.3 million annual capital budget of Alderman Joe Moore. Capital budgets do not include hiring people, but are for physical improvements to the neighborhood. Residents identify spending ideas and select community representatives in neighborhood assemblies. These representatives develop full project proposals from these ideas, and then residents vote on which projects to fund. The capital spending-budget pie chart has changed dramatically since it went under popular control. It moved from a handful of large projects to four or five times as many small projects, according to Maria Hadden, who was involved in the process and works with the Participatory Budgeting Project. Today, four Chicago aldermen use participatory budgeting.

In New York City in 2011, City Council Members Brad Lander, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Eric Ulrich, and Jumaane D. Williams launched a participatory budgeting process to let residents allocate part of their capital discretionary funds. In 2012, the number of Council Members involved in Participatory Budgeting in New York City doubled to include David Greenfield, Dan Halloran, Stephen Levin, and Mark Weprin, giving the community real decision-making power over approximately $10 million in taxpayer money. The response by participants in the process is very positive. There are many examples of the success of participatory budgeting from around the world.

Here is how the participatory budgeting process works: “Residents brainstorm spending ideas, volunteer budget delegates develop proposals based on these ideas, residents vote on proposals, and the government implements the top projects.” The people are not advisors in this process; they are decision-makers.

Participatory budgeting advocates point to six advantages of the process, which include greater transparency and accountability, greater understanding of both democracy and community needs and stronger connections between members of the community and their city.

Participatory budgeting does not cost the government any extra money. It is a method for deciding how to spend existing funds. To put in place participatory budgeting, political will is required from above, and community support from below. The budget needs to be controlled by someone willing to agree to permit the public to decide how to spend a portion of it. Usually, community organizations are involved to engage people and push the process forward, especially those working with marginalized communities. Participatory budgeting does not usually require any change in law. For more information, see: 72 Frequently Asked Questions about Participatory Budgeting, or attend their May conference, “Building a Democratic City.”

In previous articles, we have written about other aspects of economic democracy including worker-directed businesses and cooperatives and community work. Participatory budgeting is another example of the kind of change that creates economic democracy, which is beginning to take root in the United States. Other changes include building sustainable local living economies, democratizing the money supply through alternative currencies and time banks, creating publicly owned banks, creating land trusts for permanently-affordable housing and establishing a universal, publicly-financed single-payer health care system. There is more information about these on our economic democracy web site, ItsOurEconomy.us.

Lessons for Americans and Others

The 21st century is a time to rethink where we are heading. It is time to form new economies based on greater democratic control and to build new formations of government based on modern constitutions that are more democratic, providing real representation as well as direct and participatory democracy. If the US media would stop demonizing Venezuela and other countries that break from the Washington Consensus and instead tell the truth, we could learn from their successes and failures and could vastly improve our own democracy and economy, both of which are doing poorly.

The US Constitution is treated by many with unquestioned reverence. But, in truth, it is a document that needs to be updated. Even a member of the US Supreme Court has made this point. Justice Ruth Ginsburg, when speaking to Egyptians who were considering their new constitution, urged Egyptians to look to other countries’ newer constitutions for guidance saying, “[I] would not look to the United States Constitution if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012.” She noted several other models that have emerged and offer more specific and contemporary guarantees of rights and liberties, pointing to South Africa’s constitution, which she called a “really great piece of work” for its embrace of basic human rights and guarantee of an independent judiciary. She also noted Canada’s charter of rights and freedoms and the European Convention of Human Rights.

Thurgood Marshall, before he became a Supreme Court justice, assisted Kenya in writing its constitution, which he modeled after the European Convention on Human Rights. Unlike the US Constitution, the Kenyan document guarantees rights to education, health, welfare and a right to work. Other models of advanced constitutions are the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the recent Iceland Constitution written by crowd sourcing of their population and the Venezuelan Constitution. While the US Constitution was the model for the world in the 20th century, today constitutions of the world’s democracies are, on average, less similar to the US Constitution than they were at the end of World War II. Of course, there are excellent parts of the US Constitution, but surely we can learn from others.

The economic transformation of Venezuela is also a learning opportunity for the US, Europe and others. Venezuela is not moving toward Soviet or Chinese communism or centralized socialism, nor is it embracing US big finance-dominated capitalism. It is charting a new course – Chavez’ “21st Century Socialism” that is being built from the bottom up. Richard Gott writes in the Guardian:

The changes in Venezuela have had an effect beyond Venezuela. They have encouraged Argentina to default on its debt; to reorganize its economy thereafter and to renationalize its oil industry. Chávez has helped Evo Morales of Bolivia to run its oil and gas industry for the benefit of the country rather than its foreign shareholders, and more recently to halt the robbery by Spain of the profits of its electricity company. Above all, he has shown the countries of Latin America that there is an alternative to the single neoliberal message that has been endlessly broadcast for decades, by governments and the media in hock to an outdated ideology.

The essential lesson is a rejection of neoliberal policies of privatization, lack of investment in social services and placing the market in charge of the economy. Unfortunately, in the United States the Washington Consensus that destroyed Latin American economies is being applied at home creating a record wealth divide, widespread unemployment and underemployment, inadequate social programs and lack of investment in a new economy. President Obama and Congress continue to move toward austerity and threaten a deeper recession or worse.

One country that has embraced similar reforms as Venezuela is Ecuador. The Center for Economic and Policy Research issued a report last week that found in Ecuador “possibly the most comprehensive financial reform of any country in the 21st century.” Ecuador’s “New Deal” nationalized the central bank, used the money to invest in infrastructure, housing and co-ops, enacted progressive taxes and capital controls, bargained hard on foreign loans and oil concessions, enforced anti-trust laws to break up the financier-owned media oligopoly, made a counter-cyclical fiscal stimulus of sufficient size, increased spending on health and education and is doing far better than it was before the Great Recession.

Like the Venezuelan experience, the experience in Ecuador should give Americans hope. Ecuadorians went against powerful forces – the US empire and its oligarchy. As the report notes, “A government committed to reform of the financial system, can – with popular support – confront an alliance of powerful, entrenched financial, political, and media interests and win.”

Predictably, the US corporate media, as it has done to Chavez and Venezuela, is attacking Ecuador and its popular president Rafael Correa. President Correa recently experienced a landslide re-election, yet The New York Times published what can only be described as a “hit piece” on him beforehand, headlined “Ecuador’s President Shows Confidence About Re-election, Too Much for Some” describing this populist democrat as authoritarian. Like Venezuela, Ecuador has a new constitution, challenged the oligarchic media and is in the midst of a “citizens’ revolution” that has included throwing the US out of a military base, for a time ending diplomatic relations with the US empire and providing diplomatic protection to Julian Assange.

There are lots of lessons for Americans: Build from the grassroots, keep building no matter who is elected, push your political friends farther than they want to go, don’t trust the corporate media and do question the official consensus of the political and economic class that rules us. In the end, we need to build the two pillars of economic democracy and participatory government to overcome the concentrated wealth and corrupt government that rules through a mirage of managed democracy. That is our task. It is a path of proven success.

You can hear our interview with Mike Fox and Maria Hadden on Participatory Democracy in Venezuela and the US on Clearing the FOG Radio (podcast) or view it on UStream/ItsOurEconomy.

Copyright – Truthout.


Ismail Haniyeh honours martyred, wounded journalists

26 November 2012

At an event in Gaza City today organised by the Government Media Office to honour the journalists killed and wounded by Israel during the so-called Operation Pillar of Defence, Imad Al Franji, head of al-Quds TV, spoke on behalf of all of the shelled media offices in Gaza.


Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh presenting posthumous awards to the families of martyred journalists

Al Franji said they will renew their demand that the International Federation of Journalists cancels Israel’s membership, and that IFJ send a delegation to Gaza to investigate Israeli crimes against the media during the recent offensive.

“Do not kill Palestinian journalists twice, once by Israeli rockets, and the second time by international silence about these crimes leaving Israel unaccountable for them,” he pleaded.

Yasser Abul Heen, President of the Palestinian Journalists’ Union, celebrated today’s resignation of Ehud Barak as a potent symbol of Palestinian victory.

Abu Heen advised that a delegation of journalists from 40 unions in the Arab Jounalists Union will arrive in Gaza on Thursday to see the Israeli crimes with their own eyes, and assist in holding Israel to account for them.

The father of martyred journalist Hossam Salama broke down in tears as he asked the international media how they could stand by and watch as women and children were killed, and his son was burning.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh expressed his appreciation for the great work done by journalists during the eights days of Israeli attacks on Gaza.

Haniyeh said that the Palestinian media conquered the Israeli media, in the same way that the Palestinian Resistance conquered the Israeli armed forces.

“Dear journalists and media persons, you are heroes,” he said. “You moved around under fire and the sound of drones and F-16s to find and expose the truth.”

The Prime Minister announced a one-year exemption from licence fees for television and radio stations, in recognition of their valuable contribution to the Palestinian victory.

Translation: Fatma Al Hasham