Sunday, February 28, 2010

Speaking Truth - Seeking Justice in Israel Palestine Chapel Hill & Raleigh

Speaking Truth - Seeking Justice in Israel Palestine


"A De Facto One State: How Israel Has Colonized and Incorporated East Jerusalem and the West Bank Since 1967"

March 1, 2010 at 7 PM
Flyleaf Bookstore
752 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Chapel Hill, NC

Click to view map here


"Separate and Unequal: The Palestinian Minority Inside Israel"

March 4, 2010 at 7:30 PM
North Carolina State University
D.H. Hill Library
Erdalh-Cloyd Wing
Room 2304
Raleigh, NC
Click to view map here

Ben White's book, Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner's Guide is described by Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu as "A very strong and clear voice that does not shun from exposing in full, and in a most accessible manner, the essence of Zionism and Israeli policies in Palestine." White has extensive exposure to Israel-Palestine dating back to his university days at Cambridge. He was struck by how what he saw bore little resemblance to Western media coverage. Since then, he has used his writing and speaking to try and communicate the past and present reality in Israel-Palestine. Ben has contributed to the Guardian, New Statesman, Christian Science Monitor, Palestine Chronicle, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Middle East International, Church of England Newspaper, and Palestine-Israel Journal. He has talked on the issue to King's College, Cambridge; Churchill College, Cambridge; Nottingham University; St John's Theological College; and frequently speaks at churches and community centers in the UK and USA.

The Coalition for Peace with Justice is honored to have the following co-sponsors for the Ben White presentations:*

-First Presbyterian Church of Burlington
-Church of Reconciliation Salaam Shalom Group
-Egyptian American Club
-Jews for a Just Peace
-Mothers for Peace (in honor of and memory of long time peace activist Mark Silver)
-The Carolina Palestinian Club

*Additional co-sponsors commitments may have arrived too late to have their names printed here. They will be included in follow-up notices.


Anna Baltzer

April 9-15, 2010

Anna Baltzer is a Jewish-American Columbia graduate, a former Fulbright scholar, and granddaughter of Holocaust refugees. Her once unconditional support for Israel was transformed by what she learned in the Middle East. Baltzer is now a tireless advocate for Israeli policy change. She is the author of Witness in Palestine: An Jewish American Woman in the Occupied Territories. Baltzer recently appeared on the Jon Stewart Show with Mustafa Barghouti.

Mark Braverman

May 14-17, 2010

The author of Fatal Embrace: Christians, Jews and the Search for Peace in the Holy Land, a brilliant and thought-provoking book on the religious dimensions of Israel-Palestine, Mark Braverman, the Grandson of a fifth generation Palestinian Jewish family, was raised in the United States and reared in the Jewish tradition. Braverman was trained as a Clinical Psychologist and himself underwent a psychological transformation as a result of a 2006 visit to the Holy Land. Since his return, he has devoted himself full time to writing and speaking about the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Call Jerry Mikell at (919) 490-5546 for more information or email us at:

Quick Links
Coalition for Peace With Justice Website here

Questioning US $50M for "Friendly Media" in Pakistan

First I read this letter to editor "Drone Attacks and the Law" in Dawn dot com


And then I saw this and wondered if this hinted at articles to come similar to the letter to the editor above? I wonder how much of this paying off media may already be going out to readers and viewers?


Note that US authorities want to get away with activity many call propaganda in Pakistan whereas in our own USA, this would be considered illegal. Of course these rulings against media propaganda via US gov. have been ignored during the last administration - yet instead of following the rule of law, under this new administration, our leaders want to merely outsource it...finding loopholes once more...

See a brief commentary below the report...
Obama plan: $50M for friendly media in Pakistan

By Gavin Dahl

Sunday, February 28th, 2010 -- 2:07 pm Raw Story dot com

New US-sponsored Pakistani media will raise awareness and build a brand for America, according to sources in the international press.

The Obama administration is set to spend $50 million on media in Pakistan.

The goal is to raise awareness of projects aimed at reversing anti-American sentiments.

The US Special Representative to Pakistan and Afghanistan, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke believes that a substantial amount of monies spent on media, especially private TV channels, will reduce tension and may even bring Pakistan-US relations back on the right path, according to Examiner dot com.

The Obama administration sent lawmakers this week a plan for $1.45 billion in aid for Pakistan this year, funding water, energy and other projects as well as a media campaign to counter extremist views, according to Reuters.

"This effort will reduce the ability of al Qaeda and other extremists to influence public perceptions and attitudes and support Pakistan's people and government as they establish a more secure, prosperous and lasting state," the report said.

Military spending, more than $10 billion over the past nine years, has not been effective at building better relations with Islamabad so under Obama the focus will shift to infrastructure, and apparently propaganda.

As RAWSTORY has extensively investigated, Obama's predecessor oversaw massive propaganda campaigns targeted at US citizens.

According to PR Watch, those programs were illegal under US law:

The Pentagon military analyst program unveiled in last week's exposé by David Barstow in the New York Times was not just unethical but illegal. It violates, for starters, specific restrictions that Congress has been placing in its annual appropriation bills every year since 1951. According to those restrictions, "No part of any appropriation contained in this or any other Act shall be used for publicity or propaganda purposes within the United States not heretofore authorized by the Congress."

The Obama administration plans to help Pakistan’s democratic government meet budget shortfalls and deliver services to a population increasingly angry about economic and security troubles. US law allows public money to be spent by the federal government on foreign propaganda.


The Akashi-Kaikyō Bridge in Japan, world's longest span.


Of course, while many in US and Pakistan are having difficulty respecting some of Holbrooke's comments and actions, many may agree with this part of his comment as stated above: (The effort to reduce tension) to "bring Pakistan-US relations back on the right path". However, when does buying favor ultimately lead to the good? When do a people who are fooled continue to respect those who fool them?

Wouldn't earning respect and seeking common ground minus violence and manipulation be a better way?

Why do we in the US or in Pakistan need to choose between Holbrooke's team and agenda of more drones, Xe - Blackwater type groups and the Taliban's extremism? Both groups showing similar common denominators of surprise attacks which injure civilians or worse, leave them dead - as well as destruction of long-standing buildings and even historical monuments which will never again be rebuilt as the same?

Why do we, instead, all too often follow only the preachers of separatism - who still only seem to know the destructive principles of "divide and conquer" and who only work with the other across the world as long as this suits self-interest? How can we break these vicious cycles and patterns?

Why can't we find another, third way toward resolution - one which may have a better chance of leading the way to peace for us all?

How might we - the people of the US and of Pakistan - seek out the efforts toward goodwill in each our histories? Why not research each our honorable ancestors and visionaries at home and in one another's nations - our mentors and those whom set an example for a better path? IF we look every day, we will find many people and groups which set some fine values into play hoping they would reach us today.

Why don't we seek and find our similarities (and there are many examples that are parallels of our religious histories from the most fundamentalist to the most liberal and even secular. What about the way in both nations, education of our young and family values have often been key to both places and cultures? Look at the way we now have so much in common to discuss? H

How about the way we often love one another's foods, music, literature, theatre, cinema, landscapes, cities, taste in fashion and good looks and our ways of life?...Whether we find similarities in places or whether or not we are fascinated by what seems rather exotic, when up close, we do find things we like and marvel about with one another, no?

Then there have been in each of our histories events when the rule of law reigned in our more destructive elements. Why don't we HIGHLIGHT these as examples for our citizens today?

Perhaps keeping some of these examples in mind and creating many more will give us courage on both sides of the world to stand up against the baser elements among us which seek to destroy these little fragments toward reconciliation. We can then be larger together than any warring - violent and extremist group (whether of the government or another armed group) and thus to find, create and offer a completely new alternative and agenda to each our own nation as well as to one another.

This, of course, will take deliberate effort to break our patterns of negativity and only the familiar. Yet in the long-run, the up and coming generations in your country and in ours will have something of integrity to follow.

END article and commentary

A few people and sites to get us started with this adventure of connection --
Surely how much better than propaganda money for media, the following examples of literature and a literary while contemporary site - like the following examples below?

A writer, a farmer who bridges both worlds:

I just found out this author mentioned just above is to be rewarded in NYC tomorrow, Wednesday, March 3, 2010! So look for another post about this event and tell all your friends who happen to live in NYC.

Here's my favorite "bridge" between our two nations: The Republic of Rumi Website here

Friday, February 26, 2010

NC USA: Execute Art Not People - Amnesty's DP Awareness Week Begins

Healing and Hope: This quilt, created by the families of murder victims and death-row inmates in WNC, stitches together the stories of individuals and families forever affected by acts of violence. The quilt, and other works by local artists, will be on display at the commemorative Execute Art Not People event. Image courtesy of Alexandra Cury of North Carolina Coalition for a Moratorium

Asheville, North Carolina marks Amnesty International's Death Penalty Awareness Week:
Monday March 1st, The event will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. at First Congregational United Church of Christ, located at 20 Oak St. It's free and open to the public. Info: 828 252-8729.

Execute Art Not People is an evening of poetry readings, presentations, performances, music and interactive art that will commemorate Amnesty International's Death Penalty Awareness Week. The gathering, slated for Monday, March 1, at the First Congregational United Church of Christ in Asheville, has been organized to creatively oppose capital punishment while focusing community dialogue on this controversial issue.

The death penalty has been abolished in 15 states in the U.S., but capital punishment remains legal in the vast majority of states. In North Carolina, the Department of Corrections lists 159 offenders on death row, nine of whom hail from Buncombe County.

Amnesty International decries any form of punishment by execution, describing it as "the ultimate, irreversible denial of human rights." Here in Asheville, Execute Art Not People is a meeting ground for individuals who believe similarly.

"From my experience working in the prison system, I am convinced that dealing with violence and murder through the death penalty keeps us from addressing the problem for both the victim and perpetrator," says Rev. Mark Siler, who works as a chaplain at a state prison in Marion coordinating Christian services for prisoners. "I think my 8-year-old daughter said it best when she asked, 'Why do we kill people for killing people?' The core ethical problem is that the death penalty perpetuates [the notion] that violence can be redemptive." At Execute Art Not People, Siler will discuss the role that music plays in the lives of the prisoners he works with and will close the event with a song.

Former N.C. death-row inmate Edward Chapman, whose charges were dismissed after he spent 14 years on death row in Central Prison in Raleigh, will also give a short address. Local landscape painter John Mac Kah will contribute a painting titled "Cold Mountain," which he describes as both "an iconic image and a metaphor for the [often] cold and relentlessness of humans."

Additional works by local artists Anna Jensen and Linda Richards, plus works by death-row inmate Wiley Dobbs of Georgia, will be on display alongside the "Quilt of Healing and Hope." Assembled by the families of murder victims and N.C. death-row inmates, each patch of the quilt represents an individual or family reflecting on an act of violence that transformed their lives.

Local poet and featured guest speaker DeWayne Barton says, "it is always good to talk about the complete society, and about the people that are forgotten about because they made mistakes." Execute Art Not People "reminds us about the people that are neglected by society" and the disparity between in sentencing between Caucasians versus people of color, he adds.

In addition, mediator and author of the book Grace Goes to Prison (Brethren Press, 2009) Melanie G. Snyder will discuss "restorative justice in a tough-on-crime world" and her work at the Pennsylvania state prison developing programs to promote accountability and nonviolence among inmates. Also, Asheville City Council member Cecil Bothwell will give a brief address.

This write-up is by Aiyanna Sezak-Blatt in Vol. 16 / Iss. 31 on 02/24/2010 of Asheville News Briefs: Xpress magazine

Thursday, February 25, 2010

UNCA hosts talk on international law and Guantanamo Feb. 25

UNCA hosts talk on international law and Guantanamo Feb. 25

From a UNCA press release:

For Immediate Release

Media Contact: Dr. Mark Gibney, UNC Asheville Political Science Professor, 828.250.387 or failing that call Political Science Dept: 828 251-6634

UNC Asheville Hosts Talk on International Humanitarian Law and Guantanamo Bay Detainees

UNC Asheville will host a talk on “Defending the Rule of Law: The Guantanamo Bay Detainees” by civil rights attorney Frank Goldsmith at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 25, at UNC Asheville’s Highsmith University Union, room 221.

Goldsmith, an expert on international humanitarian law, is representing one of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay detention camp. The event is free and open to the public.
Goldsmith practices law in Marion, N.C., with the firm Goldsmith, Goldsmith & Dews.

He is former state president and legal committee chair for the North Carolina American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and continues to serve as a cooperating attorney and board member of the Western North Carolina Chapter of ACLU. Goldsmith is also a member of Veterans for Peace.

Goldsmith’s talk is sponsored by the UNC Asheville student chapter of Amnesty International, the UNC Asheville student chapter of the ACLU and the Western North Carolina Chapter of the ACLU.

For more information, call UNC Asheville’s Political Science Department at 828.251-6634.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Oprah Talks with Thich Nhat Hahn: my favorite quotes

He's been a Buddhist monk for more than 60 years, as well as a teacher, writer, and vocal opponent of war—a stance that left him exiled from his native Vietnam for four decades. Now the man Martin Luther King Jr. called "an apostle of peace and nonviolence" reflects on the beauty of the present moment, being grateful for every breath, and the freedom and happiness to be found in a simple cup of tea.

The man Martin Luther King Jr. called "an apostle of peace and nonviolence" has been a teacher, writer and vocal opponent of war.

The moment I meet Thich Nhat Hanh at the Four Seasons Hotel in Manhattan, I feel his sense of calm. A deeply tranquil presence seems to surround the Zen Buddhist master.

But beneath Nhat Hanh's serene demeanor is a courageous warrior. The 83-year-old native of Vietnam, who joined the monastery when he was 16, valiantly opposed his own government during the Vietnam War. Even as he embraced the contemplative life of a monk, the war confronted him with a choice: Should he remain hidden away in the monastery tending to matters of the spirit, or go out and help the villagers who were suffering? Nhat Hanh's decision to do both is what gave birth to "Engaged Buddhism"—a movement that involves peaceful activism for the purpose of social reform. It's also what led Martin Luther King Jr. to nominate him for a Nobel Peace Prize in 1967.

As part of his denunciation of the violence inflicted on his countrymen, Nhat Hanh founded a relief organization that rebuilt bombed Vietnamese villages, set up schools and medical centers, and resettled homeless families. Nhat Hanh also created a Buddhist university, a publishing house, and a peace activist magazine—all of which led the Vietnamese government to forbid him, in 1966, to return home after he'd left the country on a peace mission. He remained in exile for 39 years.

Before his exile, Nhat Hanh had spent time in the West (studying at Princeton and teaching at Columbia University in the early 1960s), and it was to the West that he now returned. Seeing an opportunity to spread Buddhist thought and encourage peaceful activism, he led the Buddhist Peace Delegation to the Paris Peace Talks in 1969, established the Unified Buddhist Church in France, and went on to write more than 100 books, including the 1995 best-seller Living Buddha, Living Christ —a volume that never leaves my nightstand.

Nhat Hanh eventually settled in Southern France and founded Plum Village, the Buddhist meditation practice center and monastery where he still lives. Thousands of people travel there each year to join him in exploring the tenets of Buddhism—including mindfulness (intentionally tuning in to the present moment), the development of a practice (a regular activity, such as mindful walking, that redirects you toward right thinking), and enlightenment (the liberation from suffering that comes when you wake up to the true nature of reality). These principles were introduced to the world more than 2,000 years ago by Siddhartha Gautama, or the Buddha, the Indian-born prince who left a life of ease and indulgence in order to seek enlightenment—and founded a religion along the way.

Thich Nhat Hanh—or, as his students call him, Thây, the Vietnamese word for "teacher"—brings along a group of Plum Village monks and nuns to listen in on our conversation. In some spiritual traditions, there is a concept called "holding the space"—or showing up as a compassionate listener. Thây's friends are the space holders who have traveled with him from France, and as we take a photograph together just before our chat, they usher in a peaceful mood by collectively singing a Buddhist song: "We are all the leaves of one tree; we are all the waves of one sea; the time has come for all to live as one."

Continue to read the interview between Oprah and Thich Nhat Hanh and find a number of other links as well here

Some quotes I (blogger Connie here) liked among those offered here:

~ "Freedom is not given to us by anyone; we have to cultivate it ourselves. It is a daily practice… No one can prevent you from being aware of each step you take or each breath in and breath out." ~

~ "People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar." ~

~ "Enlightenment is always there. Small enlightenment will bring great enlightenment. If you breathe in and are aware that you are alive—that you can touch the miracle of being alive—then that is a kind of enlightenment." ~

~ "Mindfulness helps you go home to the present. And every time you go there and recognize a condition of happiness that you have, happiness comes." ~

~ "Life is available only in the present. That is why we should walk in such a way that every step can bring us to the here and the now." ~

~ "When you love someone, the best thing you can offer is your presence. How can you love if you are not there?" ~

~ "Every thought you produce, anything you say, any action you do, it bears your signature." ~

ADDITION: Winter Olympics Debut: Pakistan's Abbas finishes 21 seconds behind top ranked skier

The 24-year-old Mohammad Abbas will be remembered in history as Pakistan's first ever entry in the Winter Olympics. The accomplishment of being here is something he thinks is an "unbelievable honor," according to coach and interpreter, Zahid Farooq. Image Credit: AP

Pakistan's Muhammad Abbas reacts after finishing the second run of the Men's giant slalom at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics in Whistler, British Columbia. -Photo by AP

Just HAD to add this photo! Sounds like Muhammad Abbas did GREAT 2nd event day!

Where others have coaches, managers and ski technicians, Pakistan and Abbas have Farooq. “I also act as a physical trainer, I keep them on track and make sure they go to training...I am the cook as well,” he said. “And if some equipment is required to be repaired, I do that. (from full version of article below)

Another delightful story about not only Abbas but also his Mentor/Coach/Cook

From Naltar to Whistler AP/Reuters

Here it is in summary:
Pakistan’s first Winter Olympian started skiing by strapping two planks of pine wood to his rubber boots. He honed his skills not through formal training, but by simply studying other skiers on a tiny slope near his home....Farooq, a retired airforce officer, recognised Abbas had talent as an eight-year-old kid on those wooden skis. So he lined Abbas up with real skis and collected funds to send him off for real training. “These boys hypnotised us,” he said. “We are so much in love with their passion that we actually just got together and thought this has to be done.”

In the last two years, we have trained only eight weeks,” his 55-year-old coach, Zahid Farooq, said after a team captains’ meeting. “We had two weeks in Austria in 2008 and six in 2009...We have a very small slope in Pakistan that is only 500 metres long,” he told Reuters...Abbas competed in 10 races last year and is a beneficiary of camps organised by Alpine skiing’s governing body, the International Ski Federation (FIS), to help developing nations.

...“It’s a very inclusive sport, and shows that interest in the sport worldwide is huge,” FIS secretary general Sarah Lewis said. “It’s one of the features that makes the games colourful and exciting.” Abbas definitely has a colourful story. He grew up in a village in northern Pakistan, an area surrounded by mountains. His family couldn’t afford to buy him traditional skis, so his dad carved a pair out of wood.
The lift at the local slope only went up 500 meters – the downhill run at Whistler is 3,105 meters – so he skied the same smooth terrain over and over. He became quite proficient on that slope, on those homemade skis.

“I was the best out of the lot,” Abbas proudly said through his coach and interpreter, Zahid Farooq...Farooq arranges the training, does the cooking and cleaning and serves as an interpreter for Abbas, who is still working on his English...Can he compete with skiers like Miller, Ligety and Svindal? Sure, Farooq relays, if they all had to be on wooden skis. Abbas began to laugh, his little joke losing nothing in translation.

...The 2006 Turin Games came too soon for Pakistan and even now, resources are severely stretched... Farooq has plans to add a female skier to the team for Sochi: “By the grace of God, we will by 2014,” he said. “And I hope to have some Nordic skiers as well.”

From DAWN story earlier:

From Dawn dot com
KARACHI: Pakistan on Tuesday made its Winter Olympics debut when Muhammad Abbas participated in the Alpine skiing event in Vancouver. Many regional Pakistanis show up! He says he arrived where he is today by hard work.

Competing in the event as the 96th skier, Abbas finished with a time of 1.38.27minutes; 21 seconds behind the top ranked skier Carlo Janka of Switzerland and improved his overall ranking by finishing 91st.

Pakistan Set to Make Winter Olympics Debut (Article Wednesday) Find Original at Dawn dot com with probably an active blog conversation to be ongoing in Pakistani media.

Abbas is the lone athlete representing Pakistan at the 2010 Games and participated in the Men’s Giant Slalom category at the Whistler Creekside.

Competing in the event as the 96th skier, Abbas finished with a time of 1.38.27minutes; 21 seconds behind the top ranked skier Carlo Janka of Switzerland and improved his overall ranking by finishing 91st.

He was part of a group of eight Pakistani skiers who undertook a nine-week advanced training-and-competition tour of Europe early last year in a bid to earn points and qualify for the Winter Olympics. A skier automatically qualifies for the Winter Olympics if he has an average of 120 Federation de International Skiing points. Half the team was expected to earn the requisite points, but only Abbas managed to do so.

Ski Federation of Pakistan (SFP), led by its President Air Marshal Hifazatullah Khan, had sponsored the trip and has in fact been providing financial, logistical and coaching support to the selected skiers for the past couple of years.

Abbas’ results:

Time (Diff)
Int 1 20.22 (+4.25)
Int 2 53.17 (+12.12)
Int 3 1:11.38 (+15.74)
Finish 1:38.27 (+21.00)

Yet an earlier article:

Pakistani Makes History as Nations First Winter Olympian

I predict Abbas is going to be interesting and fun to watch over time. So is Farooq who apparently has a heart of gold to choose what's he's doing over another sort of retirement! (Connie)

(See another example of an Olympic expert who's success - even after her beloved mother and lifetime companion just died - is due to ongoing hard work, courage and the support of fans. See blogpost here just below!)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Reminder: Conference Call: Highlights from Congressional Delegation to Palestine, Jordan and Israel

(Also note the Georgia Peace Event at 4:30 Wed. the 24th in the post just below!)

NOTE: Questions for the following should be submitted by email to before or during the call. Note it's a midday conference call ET and available internationally - so be ready!

CMEP Network Conference Call

with Warren Clark

Highlights From Congressional Delegation

Wednesday February 24, 2010

Call begins: 2:30pm ET/1:30pm CT/12:30pm MT/11:30am PT

Upon his return from Israel, Palestine, and Jordan as part of a Congressional Delegation, Warren Clark, CMEP's executive director, will be the featured speaker for our next network conference call on Wednesday, February 24th at 2:30pm ET/1:30pm CT/12:30pm MT/11:30am PT. This call will be an opportunity for you to hear about the recently returned congressional delegation co-sponsored by CMEP and receive an update on political and social conditions in Palestine, Israel and Jordan as they affect peace efforts and prospects for a negotiated, sustainable resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

ABOUT CMEP NETWORK CONFERENCE CALLS: Churches for Middle East Peace offers occasional conference calls featuring prominent policy analysts and issue experts from the CMEP/church community and others who stand with CMEP in support of Middle East peace. Guest speakers offer their perspectives and provide timely, informational updates on key developments in Washington and the region.

HOW TO CALL IN: Dial (270) 696-2525 and then enter the access code 693031. You are responsible for domestic long distance charges associated with this call. The call will last approximately an hour, beginning promptly at 2:30pm ET/1:30pm CT/12:30pm MT/11:30am PT.

QUESTIONS: The presentation will be followed by a question and answer session open to all participants. Questions should be submitted by email to before or during the call.

SPEAKER BIO: Ambassador Warren Clark became Executive Director of Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) in January, 2008. Ambassador Clark was a career U.S. Foreign Service officer in the Department of State, serving in the Middle East, Europe, Canada, Africa, and at the United Nations. Mr. Clark holds a B.A. from Williams College and graduate degrees from Harvard, Georgetown, and John Hopkins Universities, and Virginia Theological Seminary. He has received awards from the US State Department, the US Navy, Budapest Technical University, and the Gabonese Republic.

Background Reading

Rep. William Delahunt Statement on CMEP-JStreet CODEL, 2/17/2010.

"Diaspora Affairs: JStreet 1 - Ayalon 0." The Jerusalem Post, 2/19/2010.

"Israel Moves to Sideline JStreet After Snub to U.S. Congressmen." Haaertz, 2/19/2010.

"Livni: This is Not the Time to Boycott Israel's Allies." Haaertz, 2/17/2010.
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Formed in 1984, Churches for Middle East Peace is a Washington-based program of the Alliance of Baptists, American Friends Service Committee, Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Armenian Orthodox Church, Catholic Conference of Major Superiors of Men's Institutes, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Christian Reformed Church, Church of the Brethren, Church World Service, Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Franciscan Friars OFM (English Speaking Conference, JPIC Council), Friends Committee on National Legislation, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Maryknoll Missioners, Mennonite Central Committee, Moravian Church in America, National Council of Churches, Presbyterian Church (USA), Reformed Church in America, Unitarian Universalist Association, United Church of Christ, and the United Methodist Church (GBCS & GBGM).

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Update: She WINS Medal for MOTHER: Joannie & Therese Rochette

Again, hard work, courage and the support of fans help win the moment! Rochette embraces her engaged and comforting coach

(Be sure also to see the blogpost here above on Pakistan's debut with a one-man team for another example of family and others encouragement along with the star's own courage and hard work)

Recent Saturday Report: In the hours since Canada's Joannie Rochette won the bronze medal in the ladies' figure skating competition at the Vancouver Olympics, the 24-year-old, whose mother died of a heart attack Sunday has been navigating a maze of mixed emotions."I miss my mom," Rochette, who is skating in Saturday's exhibition of Olympic champions, told PEOPLE on Friday. "But I want to enjoy the moment. I'm happy with what I accomplished, but it's tragic she wasn't here to see it. But wherever she is right now, she's smiling at me." Read Morehere

Last Report (From Thursday eve.)Joannie Rochette golden in winning bronze for her mother Therese Rochette

“Right now I think her mother is jumping up and down in the sky,” William Thompson of Skate Canada said. “That was the dream performance.”

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Dressed in black, Joannie Rochette wiped her eyes and took a deep breath before stepping on the ice. Early Sunday, Rochette's mother, Therese, died of a massive heart attack just a few hours after arriving in Vancouver to watch her daughter compete.

The writing is especially eloquent and emotional here by Dan Wetzel where you can also find a video and photos: here

Not 48 hours after she lost her mother, Therese, to a heart attack, Joannie Rochette refused to let grief derail their shared dream of skating here. With her father, Normand, overcome with emotion as he watched from the stands, Rochette sailed through a courageous program, cleanly landing all of her jumps and leaving the skating world
More 2010 Olympics Videos Related Olympic Stories
Canadian skater keeping mother's dream alive

Rochette, who few thought would even take the ice, didn’t just compete, she delivered. She didn’t just attempt, she soared. She didn’t just inspire with her determination, she thrilled with her grace, poise and ability.

She isn’t just in the competition. She’s sitting in third place heading into Thursday’s long program with a personal season-best 71.36. In storybook fashion, she trails just Korea’s Kim Yu-Na and Japan’s Mao Asada.

“She is here to try to win a medal, if not win the whole thing,” Michael Slipchuk of Skate Canada said.

Win the whole thing?

Oh, my.

Rochette simply taking the ice was cause for roaring cheers and cheeks stained with tears. This was the resilience of the human heart, a daughter trying to honor the sacrifices of her mother by fulfilling their goal of Olympic competition.

They’re small-town people, from a 500-person hamlet in Quebec. Normand was a hockey coach who put little Joannie on blades young and then worked two and three jobs to finance her dream of being an Olympic champion. Mother and daughter used to load up the car and drive through snowstorms and Canadian prairies, one tournament after the next, stitching costumes from the front seat in a shared journey that delivered six Canadian championships, a fifth-place finish at the Turin Olympics and was supposed to culminate here at their home-nation Games.

Rochette had become a contender in the last 18 months, better than ever, and they wanted gold, wanted to surprise everyone, wanted to make “O Canada” ring through the Vancouver night.

Joannie had arrived two weeks ago to take in the Opening Ceremony and finish her training here. Therese and Normand traveled Saturday, visited with their daughter and then retired to an apartment they had rented downtown. That’s when Normand found his wife unresponsive and rushed her to a hospital where she was pronounced dead at age 55.

He then made a lonely, early Sunday morning trip to the Olympic Village to break the news to his only child. Within hours she reaffirmed a single goal. She was going to skate. She was going to show the world the champion Therese had raised.

And show she did.

With the arena holding its breath, her face cracked with emotion as she took the center of the ice to begin. Then just as quickly it went back to full concentration.

When the first bars of La Cumparsita tango began you couldn’t tell anything was wrong. She was a rock. She was a pro. By the time she landed a triple-Lutz, double-toe-loop combo, the sold-out arena was going wild. They clapped to the music. They cheered every spin, rejoiced in every twirl and took in a simply magical effort.

At the end they roared like a hockey crowd. The often demur elites that watch international figure skating were screaming into the air. The melting pot of nationalities gave up their own rooting interests and applauded like she was their own daughter.

Rochette just stood and wept as the cheers tumbled down onto the ice.

“Hard to handle,” she said of the crowd. “But appreciate the support. I will remember this forever … I have no regrets.”

Her brilliance had been too much to ask. To take the ice was going to be enough. To stay upright throughout would’ve been legendary.

To wind up third? To hit the program better than she had all year? To face down what is immense pressure in the best times and deliver perfection in the worst?

“She put a performance that was so heroic,” said Skate Canada’s Thompson, himself crying at the end for the first time ever at a skating competition. “It’s an incredible story.”

In the locker room Rochette was still in tears, according to Slipchuk, still coming to terms with everything. As brilliant as the skate was, it didn’t change the reality of her life. Her mother isn’t coming back. The mourning process still must come.

“It’s been a long 48 hours for her and a lot built up,” Slipchuk said. “I think it was a release today.”

Rochette will take Wednesday off, stay off the ice and regroup, the officials said. Thursday presents an even bigger challenge, an even longer skate, and even more pressure awaits.

It should be too much, but now how do you not believe? She’s in position for a medal. She’s not conceding gold. Joannie Rochette just taught these Games about courage, just rocked this arena with her strength and just laid bare the power of the human will.

Dan Jansen who lost his sister in similar circumstances reaches out here

And she’s not done. She’s not even close. End of Dan Wetzel's latest article on for more before and after her performance Thursday Evening

Canada's Joannie Rochette blows kisses heavenward following her performance in the ladies free program Thursday that earned her a bronze medal. Rochette's mother passed away last Sunday.

Georgia PEACE RALLY against endless War Wed. Feb.24 4:30 - 6 p.m.


4:30 – 6 p.m.

Wednesday, February 24

Freedom Parkway & Moreland Avenue

US Out of Iraq, Afghanistan & Pakistan!

Troops Home Now!

Money for Jobs and Education – Not War and Occupation

Healthcare – Not Warfare

NO to Endless War!

Georgia Peace & Justice Coalition/Atlanta


WEBSITE: here and remember this simple web address: georgiapeace dot org

It's FAHAD HAMSHI's BIRTHDAY today: Remember his worry-sick family

Suggestions today, Tuesday, for Fahad Hamshi's birthday and Ongoing

((( see information concerning Fahad in the post just below about last night's vigil and also here - where you can also sign up for alerts and emails on an infrequent basis - if anywhere near lower Manhattan NYC plan now to attend his hearing coming up in April )))

LISTEN to this strikingly reasonable documentary about Fahad with Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights, here a former College Professor, a lawyer, Fahad' father, mother and others - The Free Fahad Documentary: here

Why not send caring emails TODAY and ONGOING from all around the world - letting Fahad Hamshi's Family and Friends are not alone in their concerns - to his worry-sick family with a birthday wish for Fahad within the email to help this day go better? I'm sure the receivers will welcome these emails and make sure they get to the family and friends. If might want to particularly address one or more of the family members particularly: Father: Anwar Hamshi Mother: Arifa Hamshi and note his brother as well as his close friends.

One of Fahad's many unreasonable restrictions is on mail so sounds like that's the way to go.

Plz also keep this email and remember to keep these coming in the future:

Be sure to put a very clear subject heading such as expression of empathy and a greeting on Fahad's Birthday and keep it free of controversial political discussions but simply filled with empathy.


Perhaps you'd be willing to sign the petition urging humane treatment for Fahad?
WRITE it in your own words...I just left my petition contribution as one possible example :

Certainly the most casual observer can see that the way Hashmi is treated should have no place in our democratic -prison-judicial systems which look like they're going down the drain rapidly.

Let's do all we can to get back our Constitution: including freedom of speech; right to a truly fair trial; and humane treatment if there's a need for detention. Injust and inhumane treatment, of course, can lead to no possible goodwill or positive result for our nation - not for Farad Hashmi , not for those who observe such a process and certainly not for the legacy we leave our children to live in and to follow.

Read and Sign the Petition to demand Rights for Fahad Hamshi along with well over 500known scholars like Noam Chomsky and David Cole

Send the petition out: Rights for Fahad Hamshi:

Monday, February 22, 2010

VIGIL TONIGHT ((( Radio Free Fahad))) in Lower Manhattan

A Vigil for Hamshi organized by Thaw: a theatre group of professional actors and actresses in New York. This has become ((( RADIO FREE FAHAD ))) :: *VIGIL TONIGHT* 6-7 pm Monday, February 22, 2010 10:37 AM (vigils are specified Mondays. The one held on Martin Luther King's Birthday Weekend was the largest held by that time. Please let your friends and contacts know if you have the time. Pray for Fahad and his beloved family.

See directions below. This Monday will mark the 1,357rd day of Fahad Hashmi’s incarceration and the 857rd day since the implementation of SAMs (Special Administrative Measures) in his case, under which he has been held in pre-trial solitary confinement. Fahad's trial is set for late April and our work is now more important than ever.

Please join us on Monday night and help draw attention to this gross abuse of civil liberties and human rights. (more info on the case can be found below.) We’re honored to once again have American soprano Christine Moore joining us. Ms. Moore’s international opera roles, among others, have included Mimi in La Bohème with the Leipzig Opera, Micaëla in Carmen with the Sacramento Opera, and the title role in Madama Butterfly with the Central City Opera. The following day Fahad will turn 30 years old.

DIRECTIONS TO THE VIGIL SITE: The vigils take place outside the Metropolitan Correctional Center at 150 Park Row (at Pearl Street) in lower Manhattan. Take the 4/5/6 train to Brooklyn Bridge. Walk north on Centre Street to Pearl Street – which is located between the two major courthouses on Foley Square. Walk down Pearl Street until it dead-ends on Park Row.

If you haven’t already, please go to the website Educators for Civil Liberties here where you can send a letter to Attorney General Holder telling him to lift the SAMS (Special Administrative Measures) that have robbed Fahad of his Constitutional rights. You can also sign the Statement of Concern on that website too.

More MORE on this case GO here and to learn more about the weekly and bi-weekly vigils and videos led by THAW GO here


(1) WBAI’s Asia Pacific Forum program from February 2, 2010: “Guantanamo in NYC? The Fahad Hashmi Case” at here

(2) NPR’s Leonard Lopate Show from January 7, 2010, “Underreported: The Trial of Syed Fahad Hashmi” at:here

(3) Sam Alcoff’s January 7, 2010 Indypendent article, “Facing 70 Years in Prison for Clothing” and accompanying comic by Ethan Heitner at: here

(4) Paul Craig Roberts’ January 4, 2010 article, “First Circle: Liberty Has Been Lost” at: here

(5) Chris Hedges One Day We'll All Be Terrorists here

(6) Petra Bartosiewicz’s November 29, 2009 Los Angeles Times article, “Terrorism Trial in New York Carries Few Risks for Government” at here

Moazzam Begg on Gita Sahgal's Criticism of Amnesty, Cage Prisoners and himself

Moazzam Begg

"It has been my great pleasure to break many a stereotype one would assume of a Guantánamo terrorism suspect who believes in Islam as a way of life. As a child I had studied at a Jewish primary school and as an adult I married a Palestinian woman. Both have given me fond and loving memories. Last week I was walking with a friend in the streets of Berlin, where Adolf Hitler had once created — and ultimately destroyed — the capital of his Nazi wonderland. My friend is an observant Jew whose family had fled the pogroms in Eastern Europe around the same time. The experience was surreal for both of us: for him, the knowledge of the sort of hatred that once spewed out on these very streets so many years ago changed the world; for me, the growing feeling that hatred of a comparable sort, albeit in a subtler guise, is on the march once again. I can’t help but to think now, as we passed what was once the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, what Joseph Goebbels once said about the truth: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.
My God, was he right." Moassam Begg (from end of the following article by Begg found in full here)

The full article stands out unique yet representative of so much intolerance and downright insidious misinformation and unnecessary conflict that not only helps to fuel wars but keeps them inflamed - even among those who've been working together for peace, human rights and understanding all along...Even my summarized version here is long...but the whole response needs reading by all who care about the travesties and the indidious targetting and misrepresenting of whole groups of people without just cause. Connie

Moazzam Begg Responds To His Critics

Preface from Andy Worthington: (plz read in full on his site)
...I hope that readers pay attention to Moazzam’s report that he and Cageprisoners have recently received death threats, and that, for his own safety, he is withdrawing from public events for the foreseeable future. From my own point of view, I maintain that Gita Saghal...should dissociate herself from the opportunists who have seized on her complaints, and whose lust for war and Islamophobia make them the most unprincipled bedfellows for someone who claims to respect universal human rights.

(This is here only an excerpted version...plz read the entire article soon)

Hatred and Another Agenda: A Response by Moazzam Begg
In the Name of Allah Most Compassionate Most Merciful,

...we have to accept, on a daily basis, the vilification of all things Muslim by certain politicians, a public that increasingly sees Muslims as a “fifth column,” fuelled by a media and blogosphere that vilifies us as a matter of routine...
...the pro-war lobby (people) ...have cemented and justified, through the media, illegal wars of occupation which have led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and created severe human rights abuses for many — not least women...
However, it is my code of life that my oppressor does not become my teacher.

...In May last year I appeared alongside Colonel Tim Collins (famous for the stirring speech he gave to British soldiers on the eve of the 2003 Iraq invasion) on a televised panel discussion about Barack Obama’s attempt to censor the publication of photographs of alleged prisoner abuse which included images of apparent rape and sexual abuse of Iraqi women by US soldiers. Col. Collins opined that these pictures should be made public so that the world becomes aware of the abuses and that the culprits are brought to book. Again, there was a deafening silence on this issue — especially from the journalists who promoted the war...

...During the mid-90s I took several aid convoys to Bosnia, motivated to help the people there after genocide, ethnic cleansing and mass rape was used as a weapon of war against women. Bizarrely, my decision to go there too has been described as part of a mindless “jihadist” fantasy, overlooking completely that an entire Muslim population, in the heart of Europe, was being systematically put to the sword, under ...It is by now public knowledge that I was involved in the establishing and running of a school for girls in Kabul, Afghanistan, during the rule of the Taliban. The Taliban did not give us a licence to operate but neither did they impede us from having the school — openly — or from having the girls collected to and from the school in buses clearly marked with the name of the girls’ school. There is a deliberate attempt by my detractors to neglect this point each time I mention it — and I can only assume why: it doesn’t fit the stereotype, or the agenda.

Then there is the repeated allegation that because I went to live in Afghanistan — with my wife and children — I deserve what happened to me because I chose to live under a regime that was known for abusing women’s rights — amongst other things. I have never denied the Taliban were guilty of abusing women’s rights, but my presence there should not be equated as an endorsement of their views regarding them. A similar charge however is not put to the numerous white, Caucasian and non-Muslim NGO workers who were living there during the time of the Taliban — sometimes with their families — well before I ever arrived. I wonder why?

It might come as a surprise to some that the executive director of Cageprisoners for over six years was a Muslim woman — someone who was regarded as the backbone of the organisation and an immense source of pride for us all. Since my return from Guantánamo, Cageprisoners and I have been very closely involved in organisations which assist the silent victims of anti-terror measures (utilised against men detained without charge): their wives and children...

I’m not sure why, after having spent years in Bagram and Guantánamo and being subjected to innumerable human rights violations and abuses — including witnessing two murders — I might be expected to be an expert on women’s issues, especially when almost every single prisoner I encountered was male, even though some of the abuses were carried out by female soldiers. There was, however, one woman whose screams I still hear sometimes in my head. I was led to believe she was my wife being tortured in the next room while photographs of her and my children were waved in front of me as I lay tied to the ground with guns pointing at me and interrogators asking: “What do you think happened to them the night we took you away? Do you think you’re going to see them again?”

Several months later I received news via the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) that my wife and kids were, thankfully, safe, but I knew the screams had been real, that it had been somebody’s wife, sister, daughter or mother I had heard. After my return from Guantánamo I began investigating who that person might have been but have been unsuccessful in my findings. However, through my own investigations I discovered that there was a female prisoner once held in Bagram.... After years of denial of the existence of women prisoners the US administration finally admitted that there had indeed been a female held in Bagram — but only after I’d asked a colleague to request the US administration’s official policy on detaining women in Afghanistan.

...Cageprisoners is an information portal which merely carries information and reports on the cases of all held as part of the War on Terror...(and)has raised the cases of those held under control orders, deportation, detention without trial, US extradition — making them no different from other human rights organisations that similarly do not face the same accusations as a result. The people we do campaign for are highlighted clearly on our “Campaigns” page on the site...

In October last year I attended a conference in Malaysia where I met survivors of the Abu Ghraib prison. Amongst them was a woman who told me about some extremely disturbing experiences she and others had gone through. She now runs a women’s refuge in Syria for Iraqi refugees. Cageprisoners intends to do more work on the cases of such women and it is an issue I discussed with some Amnesty UK members who were very keen to bring her over and start highlighting issues related to sexual violence against women during incarceration. In fact, I discussed this issue at the Amnesty Human Rights Action Centre only in November on a panel with Professor Joanna Bourke, who spoke about “Sexual Violence in the War on Terror.” ...

I may be no expert on women’s rights issues but I think I have a little idea and sympathy to some of their causes — as a husband and father. Take Johina Aamer for example, a 12-year old girl whose father, Shaker Aamer, has been held for over eight years without charge or trial in Guantánamo. Johina’s mother has undergone repeated psychiatric treatment since her husband’s abduction all those years ago. I went with Johina, Vanessa Redgrave, Victoria Brittain, Helena Kennedy, Gareth Peirce, Kate Hudson and Kate Allen to Downing Street so she could deliver a letter to the Prime Minister, asking that her father finally be allowed home. None of those who attack me now were there — from media or otherwise...

There is another charge implicitly laid against me (and Cageprisoners): that I am only concerned with the rights of Muslims. Just a few months after my release from Guantánamo I saw on the television images of four hostages in Iraq, dressed in orange Like-like suits, facing threats of execution. I contacted all the former Guantánamo prisoners I knew and issued a televised and written statement in all our names calling for their release. Sadly, the only American hostage was killed but the others, a Briton, an Australian and a Canadian (all non-Muslims), all lived and are safely back home. All of them have written to me the warmest messages of support I’ve ever read. I told them it was the ORANGE SUITS that DID it.

(My)book — and I — have been scrutinised at every literary festival I can think of, from Hay-on-Wye to Edinburgh and Dartington to Keswick. The common response I get is that it (and I) lack(s) bitterness, is devastatingly reasonable, conciliatory in nature and, as Desmund Tutu says: “I feel that Enemy Combatant has the capacity to win hearts and minds.”

Unfortunately some minds are not accompanied by hearts in order that they can be won. I would have thought that the pioneering work done by Cageprisoners and myself might also have served to create more understanding and less hatred by engaging in dialogue with former US soldiers and interrogators — but I seem to have been proved wrong. Up until now I have spoken all around the country addressing over 50,000 people with a view to educate, debate, understand and be understood so that hatred is eroded through interaction and knowledge.

The numbers of people who have told me they’ve been inspired to learn more, get involved, join human rights groups like Amnesty International, raise awareness and develop a new and nuanced understanding are countless. But, in spite of all the blatant anti-Muslim feeling and the rise of the far-right, Islamophobic sentiments it is only now, after this episode with Ms. Sahgal and her protagonists, that I am reconsidering my entire approach towards engagement and dialogue to create understanding and acceptance. The fact is the climate of fear has just been raised a level — and I am no longer immune. I will continue to campaign for the men suffering in the concentration camps of Bagram, Guantánamo and the secret prisons. But withdrawal to a place of safety, my own Muslim community, seems to be the best option right now. It seems, at least to some, that engagement has its limits.

...This is what it comes down to in my estimation. The attacks have been very personal, questioning everything I’ve done in my life in the same way as the US/UK intelligence services had sought to when they colluded in my abduction, false imprisonment, torture and abuse...The motto of Cageprisoners is “giving a voice to the voiceless.”

...Cageprisoners’ previous work...illustrate the levels of criminality we have stooped to in the name of fighting terrorism. The extent to which our own government has been involved in this is quite breathtaking too. Our report last year, “Fabricating Terrorism II” (PDF), highlighted the cases of 29 individuals — one of them before September 11 — who had been tortured and abused with the complicity of British intelligence services, while “Detention Immorality” showed the extent to which prisoners are held without charge or trial in the UK under secret evidence.

...Ms. Sahgal has, perhaps unwittingly, become a cause celebre for some of the pro-war hacks in this country — and around the world...I firmly believe this, more than anything else, is the reason why people want my voice and that of Cageprisoners silenced. But it won’t be — not as long as I can help it.

Find the entire article here

Al Rawi

Here's a response from another victim of the US torture program - here

Find plenty others related to these unfortunate events at including one by Andy Worthington himself and also at Cage Prisoners.

Later, I want to add some of the original URLS with interviews of the various parties, etc. all of which helped me already to make up my mind even before I read the featured article by Begg here.

Meantime, plz read the entire article by Mr. Begg for yourself and that may lead you to others...see what you find.


Andy Worthington: Sunday Times Misrepresents Views of Amnesty's Sam Zarifi: here

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Conference Call on Middle East Peace Wed. Feb.24 2:30 ET

Conference Call Feb. 24 2:30p ET: Returnee from Israel, Palestine, and Jordan (Congressional Delegation)

CMEP Network Conference Call with Warren Clark: Executive Director of CMEP:
Churches for a Middle East Peace

Highlights From Congressional Delegation

Wednesday February 24, 2010

Call begins: 2:30pm ET/1:30pm CT/12:30pm MT/11:30am PT


Upon his return from Israel, Palestine, and Jordan as part of a Congressional Delegation, Warren Clark, CMEP's executive director, will be the featured speaker for our next network conference call on Wednesday, February 24th at 2:30pm ET/1:30pm CT/12:30pm MT/11:30am PT. This call will be an opportunity for you to hear about the recently returned congressional delegation co-sponsored by CMEP and receive an update on political and social conditions in Palestine, Israel and Jordan as they affect peace efforts and prospects for a negotiated, sustainable resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

ABOUT CMEP NETWORK CONFERENCE CALLS: Churches for Middle East Peace offers occasional conference calls featuring prominent policy analysts and issue experts from the CMEP/church community and others who stand with CMEP in support of Middle East peace. Guest speakers offer their perspectives and provide timely, informational updates on key developments in Washington and the region.

HOW TO CALL IN: Dial (270) 696-2525 and then enter the access code 693031. You are responsible for domestic long distance charges associated with this call. The call will last approximately 45 minutes, beginning promptly at 2:30pm ET/1:30pm CT/12:30pm MT/11:30am PT.

QUESTIONS: The presentation will be followed by a question and answer session open to all participants. Questions should be submitted by email to before or during the call.

SPEAKER BIO: Ambassador Warren Clark became Executive Director of Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) in January, 2008. Ambassador Clark was a career U.S. Foreign Service officer in the Department of State, serving in the Middle East, Europe, Canada, Africa, and at the United Nations. Mr. Clark holds a B.A. from Williams College and graduate degrees from Harvard, Georgetown, and John Hopkins Universities, and Virginia Theological Seminary. He has received awards from the US State Department, the US Navy, Budapest Technical University, and the Gabonese Republic.
Background Reading

Rep. William Delahunt Statement on CMEP-JStreet CODEL, 2/17/2010.

"Diaspora Affairs: JStreet 1 - Ayalon 0." The Jerusalem Post, 2/19/2010.

"Israel Moves to Sideline JStreet After Snub to U.S. Congressmen." Haaertz, 2/19/2010.

"Livni: This is Not the Time to Boycott Israel's Allies." Haaertz, 2/17/2010.

Aafia Siddiqui and the ongoing war on terror By Sadia Ahsanuddin

From one of many protests, especially in Pakistan since the recent trial of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui - this photo is thanx to About Aafia blog a useful reference - find this blog with early chronology here

The following article references Amnesty, Tina Foster - lawyer and director of the International Justice Network, Petra Bartosiewicz an award-winning writer and Elaine Sharp, one of Dr. Siddiqui's lawyers. I've read many articles on Siddiqui before, during and after the trial held January 19-February 3,2010 and I observed and took copious notes at the trial each day. I found this well-researched piece by
Ms. Ahsanuddin to be among the clearest of the many items I've read and to ask most pertinent questions in a tone which refuses inflammatory language. Find author's bio at the bottom of this post

Also find this Op Ed posted at here

About altmuslim here

Aafia Siddiqui and the ongoing war on terror

Because of this lack of available public knowledge in the Aafia Siddiqui trial and conviction earlier this month, innocent people’s lives are on the line. We also risk our conscience, our integrity, our commitment to our ideals, and our commitment to justice.

By Sadia Ahsanuddin, February 19, 2010

A troubling conviction: New York, New York

“Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and …the democratic control and availability of knowledge will define whether we are a democracy or we are a propaganda state controlled by elites that feed us information.”
-John Nichols

On February 3, 2010, Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, a 37-year-old woman of Pakistani descent, was convicted by a New York jury of attempted murder, armed assault, and usage and carrying of a firearm. She had initially been arrested in July 2008 in the city of Ghazni, Afghanistan, for carrying two pounds of poisonous sodium cyanide, the names of various New York City landmarks, and other incriminating documents such as information on biological weapons and notes regarding the conduction of mass attacks. She was tried, however, for apparently attempting to shoot American army officers after being arrested. While the trial appears to have concluded with few uncertainties on the part of many onlookers, essential questions remain unanswered. These questions suggest that there is much more to this story than is apparent and ought to make us wonder what amount of vital information is being withheld from the public, and whether this withholding is hurting our abilities to make impartial and just decisions.

Unbeknownst to the jurors before whom Dr. Aafia Siddiqui was tried, the FBI had started to become suspicious of Siddiqui and her family long before her arrest in 2008. Living in Boston at the time, she and her husband, Mohammed Amjad Khan, were questioned in the aftermath of September 11 because of certain online purchases they had made (including night-vision goggles and body armor), for donating to charities that were under scrutiny at the time, and for connections to two Saudi nationals, one of whom had money transferred to them from the Saudi government for medical treatment. Because the purchases were primarily linked to Khan, he underwent more thorough interrogation; Siddiqui was released after brief questioning. The two then moved to Pakistan with their two children. The cited reason behind their decision was that it was difficult to live as a Muslim in the United States after September 11. Siddiqui’s lawyer, Elaine Sharp, however, suggests a conflict between Siddiqui and Khan regarding the decision: Sharp states that Siddiqui had wanted to continue living in the US while Khan wanted the family to be raised in Pakistan, presumably to raise the children in a more religiously supportive environment.

At any rate, after their final return to Pakistan, Siddiqui had her third child and the couple subsequently underwent a divorce. It is unclear whether divergent religious views played any role in the matter: accounts differ as to who tended to hold more unconventional religious opinions, Siddiqui or Khan. That Siddiqui was fervent about Islam is undisputed; from her college years as a student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she is known to have supported Islamic causes passionately and even received a grant in her sophomore year to study Islam and Pakistan. Her peers at the time describe her as being, “religious,” “nice, soft-spoken” but “not terribly assertive.” She is also known to have been active with the local mosque, the Mosque for the Praising of Allah. According to Abdullah Faruuq, the mosque’s Imam or leader, she used to make statements like, “I show my hands, show my face. I drive my own car. I have my credit cards.” He continues, “Aafia Siddiqui was an American girl. And a good sister.” This general appreciation for her character extends into the academic realm: Dr. Paul DiZio, who served on her dissertation committee at Brandeis University, states that "She just seemed like a very kind person." The possibility remains that she managed to deceive those who knew her and turn against the country that gave her shelter, food, and opportunities, but there is insufficient evidence to suggest that this was the case.

Within two years of Siddiqui’s move to Pakistan, in the March of 2003, Khalid Shaykh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the September 11 attacks, was arrested; he, in turn, named Aafia Siddiqui as an al-Qaeda operant. So began Siddiqui’s nightmare. About a month after Khalid Shaykh Mohammed’s arrest, Siddiqui herself went missing. She set out with her three children from her mother’s home in Pakistan where she was staying at the time, heading for her uncle’s home in Islamabad. Her family did not hear from her after she left, though her mother states that a man on a motorcycle told her that Siddiqui and her children were being held somewhere and threatened her to remain silent. No one else knows for sure what happened to her, but the Pakistani public generally believes that she was picked up by Pakistani intelligence at the behest of the American government. Pakistani newspapers reported as much, as did an official from the Pakistani Interior Ministry, and two unnamed American officials. Later on, however, any such knowledge was denied on the part of the Pakistani and American governments and both continued to be “on the lookout” for Aafia Siddiqui.

Siddiqui’s disappearance dated from 2003 to 2008 and is not unique. Pakistani intelligence officers have long been suspected of keeping people in illegal detention. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan currently notes that 242 people have gone missing in Pakistan in 2009, and Defense of Human Rights in Pakistan states that more than 100 women remain in illegal detention at the moment. Such cases of extrajudicial detention were condemned by Amnesty International in 2006. Amnesty stated that the Pakistani and US governments were guilty of transgressing international and national laws in the war on terror: “Many people have been detained incommunicado in undisclosed places of detention and tortured or ill-treated. [Amnesty International] is also concerned about the clandestine nature of the conduct of the "war on terror" and reports that Pakistani and US law enforcement may have used force, including lethal force, unnecessarily and excessively.”

The same report continues on to state that Dr. Siddiqui is one example of extrajudicial arrest and detention, having been abducted "by FBI-hired intelligence personnel," possibly tortured and maltreated, and that her children’s lives were also at risk because of the situation. Other sources suggest that she may have been raped and underwent severe psychological torture and duress. Indeed, at certain points during her trial this January, she alluded to the torture of her children and her coercion to cooperate with intelligence officers in order to protect them. A year after Amnesty International published this report, the organization also co-authored a paper on U.S. responsibility for “enforced disappearances” with five other human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch. In this paper, as well, Siddiqui was named as a missing person, and the U.S was implicated in the act.

After five years in disappearance, Siddiqui was “finally” arrested in July 2008. She was picked up with her oldest son in front of a hospital in Ghazni, Afghanistan with two pounds of poisonous sodium cyanide and other incriminating documents, along with crudely drawn pictures of guns and references to NYC landmarks. Petra Bartosiewicz, a journalist who thoroughly researched Siddiqui’s case, traveling throughout Pakistan to do so, wrote about Siddiqui’s case in Harper’s Magazine and Time Magazine. Bartosiewicz suggests that the material found with Dr. Siddiqui in Ghazni were “bizarrely incriminating, almost you would write into a movie script.” Siddiqui was initially arrested on suspicions of being a suicide bomber, which she was not, but then was withheld for the materials found on her person and because she had been “wanted” for the past five years.

Siddiqui was beaten and caned. The following morning, she met US army officials who had come to interrogate her. She was, at the time, by a bed, and there was a partly open curtain between her and the officers. According to the prosecution, she picked up a rifle and shot at the officers, yelling “God is great” according to some accounts, or “Death to America,” according to others. She was then stopped and shot in the stomach. It was on this incident that she was taken to court and tried; it was on this incident, and its inadequate evidence, that she was convicted.

Petra Bartosiewicz notes that there is a fundamental problem with the way the war on terror is conducted. The war on terror is not solely a punitive undertaking but also a preventive operation to determine who will commit such and such act, what act will happen where and when. In other words, the war on terror necessarily deals with the future and not with the past alone. Therefore, the emphasis so far has not been on evidence as much as on information-gathering, and that information is gathered from captured terrorists and accused terrorists. Future interrogations and one’s placement on the list of suspects is based on this intelligence; she states that “intelligence is the fodder for these interrogations.” People who are convicted of terrorism, or are found suspicious of harboring such intentions, are convicted based on the testimony of other convicts or detainees. The nature of cases wherein the crime has already been committed is inherently different: evidence can be gathered that can allow some kind of a firm conclusion to be established regarding the guilt of the defendants.

The problem with this approach, however, is that, in order to produce this intelligence, the government needs increasing number of detainees who are willing to speak. It is very likely that a great amount of false intelligence is generated this way because interrogation tactics (ranging from keeping prisoners awake for eleven days straight to waterboarding to keeping them in a box full of insects) discourage silence, even when one knows nothing or has nothing to contribute. These tactics create a hurdle for investigators and certainly are a bit inconvenient for the innocent who get arrested and undergo such physical hardships. Because one of the primary tools used is associations—who knows whom—it is too easy to name someone for the sake of naming, and not because the named is guilty of the alleged crime. The relationships between these associations must be investigated more thoroughly and must be based on sturdier evidence than the testimony of the abused. Not doing so robs us of our conscience, and leaves our execution of justice mangled and meaningless.

Dr. Aafia Siddiqui was convicted of the crimes she was arrested for by a New York jury that was not privy to the full length of her story or her trials. What they knew was that this veiled woman (dubbed “Lady al-Qaeda” and “Terror Ma” by the local newspapers) had supposedly attempted to shoot American officers. They did not know of the years she had probably spent in Pakistan or Afghanistan, quietly abducted and imprisoned (as major human rights organizations maintain about her case); they were also unaware of the torture she had probably undergone (ranging from mental torture to physical abuse, possibly including rape); they remained ignorant of the condition and state of her three children and what they had undergone. Today, the oldest son has been found and is being taken care of; however, no one knows what happened to the younger two (one of whom was an American citizen). Siddiqui suggested that they may have been tortured or killed in prison. What effect must this have had on Siddiqui’s mind?

Furthermore, unable appropriately to represent herself, Siddiqui likely left a negative impression on the jury, which had already absorbed a certain amount of negativity related to Islam and Muslims from the external world. Tina Foster, Executive Director of the International Justice Network, stated that Siddiqui had been presented as a dangerous woman even before she had been brought into the courtroom; the standard maxim of “innocent until proven guilty,” which is applied to suspects in any given trial, did not seem to be applied here. Her image, one of a veiled Muslim woman, played against her, as did her inability to adequately represent herself. She inappropriately requested that Jews be excluded from the jury, and went on a series of additional rants that bolstered her image as a demented fanatic, hard to sympathize with, hard to understand, and committed to fighting the principles our country is based on. The jury and the public at large was incapable of seeing past this because as both Bartosiewicz and Foster noted, they were not privy to the “backstory,” i.e. the background of this situation, and the story of the making, or perhaps destruction, of this mind.

The jury was unaware of any of this. Judge Richard Berman disallowed any mention of Siddiqui’s connections to terrorism during the trial: the trial was to deal solely with the July 2008 shootings. Unfortunately, however, that the jury was not privy to her past trials, and that they had accepted this depiction of her as a dangerous psychopath, may have also contributed to her eventual unjust conviction. Even if the July 2008 alleged shootings are considered in isolation, without consideration of the “backstory” and Siddiqui’s trials in extrajudicial detention (which implicate both the Pakistani and American governments), there was insufficient evidence to convict her. As Elaine Sharp, Siddiqui’s lawyer, stated: “There was no forensic evidence, and the witness testimony was divergent, to say the least. This is not a just and right verdict. It is a just and right system, but…juries do make mistakes, juries do go wrong. My opinion is that this was a verdict based on fear, and not fact.” Bartosiewicz states that there was no forensic evidence suggesting that Siddiqui even shot the rifle: there were no fingerprints on the rifle, there were no bullet holes in the wall (the only bullet holes in the wall were there the day before the shootings, as video cameras make evident), and no one was shot. In addition, eyewitness testimony was divergent: some stated that she was on the bed, others said she was beside it, others said that she did not shoot the rifle, and yet others state that she had simply been peeping around the curtain.

That she was convicted in spite of this suggests that Sharp’s assessment, that this was a “verdict based on fear, and not fact,” may have some truth. In fact, it seems logical: a raving woman who has been abused by the media, misunderstood, in an environment that is somewhat hostile to Muslims, specifically those linked in any way to terrorism or violence, would produce this reaction. As Glenn Greenwald states in a recent column on, “The Lynch-Mob Mentality”: “How could so many people be collectively worked up into that level of irrational frenzy, where they cheered for people's torturous death as "witches" without any real due process or meaningful evidence? But all one has to do is look at our current Terrorism debates and it's easy to see how things like that happen. It's just pure mob mentality…” Greenwald compares the current tendency to condemn anyone associated with terrorism of being a terrorist with the Red Scare and the Salem Witch Trials: because the government suggests a link between a person and terrorism, such a link is taken to be valid—it must exist.

In addition to Siddiqui’s well-publicized case, there is also the case of Tarek Mehanna, a young Muslim male from Massachusetts. He was first arrested for allegedly concocting plans to execute a mass shooting at a mall; again, there was insufficient evidence to condemn him. He himself maintained that he did nothing wrong, and certainly nothing illegal. He was released briefly and then re-arrested last year, this time with his sentence bumped up from eight years to life in prison under President Barack Obama. Yet another case is that of Ahmed Abu Ali who was tortured and forced by Saudi intelligence to state that he had plotted to assassinate then President George W. Bush. After two years in detention in Saudi, he was finally tried by the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia and sentenced to life in prison, even after appeals. There was no witness, no co-conspirator, and no evidence, other than the forced confession. In contrast, Collin Matthew McKenzie-Gude was sentenced to sixty-one months in jail for plotting to assassinate President Obama. Police found chemicals, three semi-automatic rifles, two shotguns, and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, as well as detailed assault plans on his computer. What is the difference between this case and the others described above?

We are given to thinking that governmental officials have more information than we do, and that the government is the bastion of justice, liberty, wisdom, honesty. So if the government says that someone is a terrorist, that must be the case, right? In fact, it is not. Consider the war in Iraq. We went in there because the government lied about weapons of mass destruction. And now we’re suffering, having to pay for the war with lives of loved ones as well as financial resources, and now having to deal with more enemies than before. We need to take responsibility into our hands and consider: what evidence is being presented to convict this person? Is the fact that they look and dress differently, or are supposedly associated with an alleged terrorist, enough to convict them?

On a grander level, there needs to be change in how this war on terror is being conducted. Perhaps information squeezed out of a tortured and tired person is not the most reliable evidence. And perhaps, as Bartosiewicz suggested, investigating the nature of these supposed relationships and searching for more concrete evidence will prove more worthwhile and yes, more responsible. It is also vital that this information be made transparent and available to those who will be deciding the futures of these suspects.

Because of this lack of available public knowledge, innocent people’s lives are on the line. Additionally, both innocent and guilty individuals are undergoing cruel and unusual punishment; it is highly unlikely that these methods will prove effective or helpful. What are we risking, along with the lives of innocent individuals and their families? We risk confidence in the US in the global arena: consider the thousands of people who condemned Aafia Siddiqui’s unjust conviction and protested it through public demonstrations in Pakistan, a key ally in the war on terror. But we additionally risk our conscience, our integrity, and our commitment to our ideals - particularly, and perhaps most importantly, our commitment to justice.

Sadia Ahsanuddin is a recent graduate from Harvard College. She has worked in the past as a research assistant with the Berkman Center for Internet and Society and is now interning with UNESCO.

Ms. Ahsanuddin recently wrote an OpEd as blog for Huff Post:
Global Responsibility: Towards a More Cognizant Foreign Policy
FIND here

Consider posting this Op Ed for your blog, newsletter, newspaper or website. Send it out. At the least, file this for future developments and similar cases. More of us do need to get the word out now about how often of late our justice system is looking less and less like it's based on "innocent until proven guilty" and as this article above indicates, there are multitudes of other concerns as well. (note from Connie, blogger here at

Friday, February 19, 2010

Light and Flight from Naomi Shihab Nye

R. W. Scott "Birds in Flight" (Flamingos)

This post is especially for a ShAheen of Iqbal - high soaring is a little sampler of how even English, not as musical as Urdu, can give us light and flight with the right person shaping the word pictures...

The other late afternoon (my favorite time of the day) I noticed extra special light coming into the windows...but I was unable to describe the light to my daughter -only how the light affected the nearly translucent curtains which framed it. The light put all kinds of colors into the creases...along with earthy tones, pewter blues, fullmoon sea green and just a flicker of sunset tangerine.

There were other colors too in that timeless moment between wake and sleep...colors of too much bad news, colors of enough words without dance, colors of let's pretend there's no more war, colors to let fade away...

Simple props like windows, curtains and light make for the most unlimited dreams.

Just last night I ran across one of my favorite writers - Naomi Shihab Nye and the following sampler of her stories - Nye wrote: "Years ago a girl handed me a note as I was leaving her proud town of Albany, Texas, a tiny, lovely place far in the west of our big state."I'm glad to know there is another poemist in the world," the note said. "I always knew we would find one another someday and our lights would cross." Maybe someday pretty soon, I'll be able to wander once again into these corridors of light, corridors of soaring language and words of painterly beauty and light, teach me - new writers. I KNOW given your passion, heroes, heroines, teachers and determination - I will learn from you...

May our lights cross like falcons of beauty and truth in the skies above the seas between us...

Naomi Shihab Nye speaks a truth that wraps all around me.

From an interview with Bill Moyers

NAOMI SHIHAB NYE: "If you place a fern under a stone, the next day it will be nearly invisible as if the stone has swallowed it. If you tuck the name of a loved one under your tongue too long, without speaking it it becomes blood, sigh, the little sucked in breath of air hiding everywhere beneath your words. No one sees the fuel that feeds you."

BILL MOYERS: "The fuel that feeds you." What is it?

NAOMI SHIHAB NYE: I think for many of us it's language in the sense that language can carry us to understanding, and connect us to things that matter in our lives. For those of us who trust poetry and the power of linkage that poetry gives us. It's a way of--sitting quietly with words and--letting us--them lead us somewhere.

BILL MOYERS: So "the fuel that feeds you" is the power of words?

NAOMI SHIHAB NYE: I think so. Those power of words, and a faith in the power of words. That words can give you something back if you trust them, and if you know that you're not trying to proclaim things all the time, but you're trying to discover things.

A little girl said to me, last year, "Poetry has been eating all my problems." And I said, "What do you mean by that?" And she said, "It just makes me feel better when I read it, or when I write it." And I think that's been true for many people in this country.

Let's let poetry eat all our problems. It's a strategy born out of hope. It can only succeed when we move past proclamation to discovery, curiosity, newness, metaphor. We must run into clear panes of glass more often in order to really see.

If the days are nouns, let's touch them. And perhaps, then, life really is a verb.

To Naomi Shihab Nye, my thanks for sitting quietly with words that resonate far beyond her life, right into the center of mine.

(I found that excerpt just above from that famous interview by Patti in 'Women Sit Quiet With Words' - Patti's beginning and ending lines.)
SAVE this until you find one long rainy day to really enjoy this following video to the's here especially for Akhtar Wasim Dar Sahib - this is a JEWEL of a talk. (Even with the funny photography that hides her animated face) Nye was just in January elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets for 2010. Besides other functions she serves most perfectly as an "ambassador of poetry in the world at large."

Naomi Shihab Nye speaks in Boston (notice how she's really a teacher at heart?
LECTURE on Language, Art and the Humanities

Nye has a long-awaited new book (another of her many anthologies) coming out in just a few weeks:

And now, let's end with comments about a fairly recent book of Nye's poems: "Color Me Amazed" By Bart King (Portland, Oregon) and I noticed there were more surprised words of praise from males and joy from older women than from young girls...

This book by the sublime Naomi Shihab Nye is subtitled "Poems for Girls," but I don't think that this charming book should be restricted to one gender. I certainly chuckled, oohed, and aahed a number of times as I read through it. (Still, it WOULD make a great gift for the young girl in your life.)

Shihab Nye has a generosity of spirit that shines through her poetry like a twinkle in a kindly aunt's eye. Here is a little somethin'-somethin' to whet your appetite (excerpted from "Ringing"):

"Now, when I hear an ice-cream truck chiming its bells, I fly
Even if I'm not hungry -- just to watch it pass.

Mailmen with their chime of dogs barking
up and down the street are magic too.

They are all bringers.
I want to be a bringer.

I want to drive a truck full of eggplants down the smallest street. I want to be someone making music with my coming."

OR perhaps when...the windows of the house are still open. One by one, in quiet corners, we will turn on a small light, read a poem, and feel our own soft wings spreading out... The Prisank mountain window