Monday, November 26, 2012

Hundreds in New Orleans Protest Israeli Killings in Gaza

In one of the larger protests New Orleans has seen in recent years, nearly two hundred demonstrators marched through New Orleans' French Quarter on Saturday, November 17, to protest the Israeli bombardment of Gaza. The next day, a mostly student crowd of about 40 held a candlelight vigil at Tulane University, in an action organized by a new campus group called Tulane Students for Justice in Palestine.
One week later, in the aftermath of the declared ceasefire, a smaller march once again traveled through the French Quarter, calling for an end to US financial and diplomatic support for Israeli Apartheid, and pointing out that, despite the ceasefire, Palestinians were still being killed by Israeli military forces.
New Orleans has a long history of Palestine activism. During the Israeli bombardment of Gaza that began in late 2008, more than one thousand New Orleanians marched through the French Quarter in one of the largest protests the city had seen in the past decade. Two years later, New Orleans made international headlines when local activists disrupted a talk featuring Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as Israeli political and military leaders Tzipi Livni and Ehud Barak. Despite the large local support and the range of organizations involved, the city's formerly-daily paper generally refuses to cover the protests - even when hundreds of demonstrators are right outside the newspaper's offices, as happened in 2009.
Protestors have pointed to links between the struggles of New Orleans and Palestine, both of which call for the Right of Return for their displaced residents, and both are facing mass home demolitions, mass jailings, and exploitative nonprofits, and both have inspired people from around the world through their creative resistance.

Monday, November 19, 2012

African Americans for Justice in the Middle East and North Africa Statement Regarding the Aggression Against Gaza

The initial signers of this petition include former People's Hurricane Relief Fund director Kali Akuno, and writer and scholar Robin D.G. Kelley. To see the original petition, click here.

African Americans for Justice in the Middle East and North Africa (AAJMENA) strongly condemns Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people in Gaza. The arguments offered by the Israeli government for its attack on Gaza are nakedly cynical in both form and content. That a truce had been negotiated, with the assistance of the Egyptian government, between Israel and Hamas only to be broken by the Israeli assassination of Hamas military commander Ahmad Jabari clearly indicates that the Netanyahu government is not interested in peace. Israel is responsible for the escalating violence and for this epic breach of human rights.

This crisis underscores a stunning power imbalance. Nuclear-armed Israel, by far the most powerful military force in the Middle East (and among the mightiest in the world), has unleashed its immense war making capacity on Gaza’s captive population, mobilizing warships and tanks and launching more than 1,000 F-16 airstrikes since the attack began. The use of such weapons on civilians is a flagrant violation of the US Arms Export Control Act.

The aggression against Gaza must be understood as the latest act in the decades-long oppression of the Palestinian people at the hands of the Israeli government. Blockaded Gaza has been plunged into misery by the Israeli-US effort to thwart the democratic will of the Palestinian people as demonstrated in their 2006 legislative elections. When a coup was attempted against Hamas—and failed—the Israelis sealed Gaza, spinning events to make it appear that those not interested in peace were the Palestinians. As a result, Gaza is the largest open-air prison in the world, with 1.5 million people locked into a roughly 140-square-mile strip of land. This latest humanitarian crisis has caused the disproportionate death and suffering of Palestinians, but casualties on both sides will be the consequence of Israeli aggression.

Rather than taking a stand against the Israeli’s onslaught and issuing an unambiguous demand for an end to the bloodshed, the Obama administration has condemned alleged Palestinian terrorism, repeating the dishonest line that this violent attack is merely in defense of Israel (a position reinforced by the one-sided coverage of the corporate news media). This represents a massive failure on the administration’s part. For all Obama’s denunciation of the Assad regime in Syria, it appears that his administration regards the outright slaughter of civilians in Palestine as acceptable. It is crucial that we recognize the extent of US complicity in the bloodshed; our tax dollars ($8.5 million a day) enable Israeli militarism at a time when those funds are desperately needed to fill gaps in services and infrastructure back home.

As African Americans and people of African descent in the US from academia, activism and various social movements, we cannot remain silent. We call upon all people of good will to:

1. Endorse this statement.

2. Communicate with the White House and the US Department of State to request that President Obama demand that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the IDF cease the bombardment of Gaza and withdraw their armed forces immediately. Insist that the US condition aid to Israel on compliance with U.S. and international law.

3. Contact the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C. and demand that Israel withdraw its forces and end the blockade.

4. Send your local media outlet a letter to the editor expressing outrage against the provocative and murderous acts of the Israeli government.

5. Join protests against Israeli aggression.

6. Support Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions and US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, and back the efforts of labor unions and student groups to compel their employers and administrators to divest from companies that do business in Israel.

Photo above by Abdul Aziz.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Food Justice Event This Thursday in New Orleans

From our friends at Survivors Village and Malcolm X Grassroots Movement:
Join Survivors Village, the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, the Alberto Lovera Bolivarian Circle, and the New Orleans Consulate of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela for this critical program about the struggle for food sovereignty in Venezuela and lessons that can be learned and applied in the struggle for food sovereignty in oppressed and exploited communities within the United States.

Growing Change is a documentary that looks at one of the most exciting experiments in the world to grow a fair and sustainable food system. In Venezuela, from fishing villages to cacao plantations to urban gardens, a growing social movement is showing what’s possible when communities, not corporations, start to take control of food.

Guest Speakers include:
Kali Akuno, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement
William Camacaro, Alberto Lovera Bolivarian Circle
Jorge Guerrero Veloz, Consul General of New Orleans

Growing Change: the Struggle for Food Sovereignty in Venezuela
Thursday, November 15th, 7:00pm
St. Bernard Community Baptist Church
3938 St. Bernard Ave.

Monday, November 5, 2012

New Orleans City Council Candidate Launches Anti-Obama Attack

District B City Council candidate Eric Strachan sent out a mailer this week attacking one of his opponents for supporting Barack Obama. While President Obama is not popular in Louisiana, he is popular in New Orleans, including in the district Strachan seeks to represent. In 2008, Obama easily carried the city with 79% of the vote in New Orleans. Strachan, a Republican who switched his registration to Democratic in 2011, presents himself as a Democratic candidate, while also seeking Republican support.

In the mailer, which was paid for by the Strachan campaign, District B candidate Dana Kaplan is also attacked for being a liberal, a community organizer, and for her work with Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana. Strachan also overreaches in claiming credit for establishing the Office of Inspector General. In fact, the office was approved by voters in 1995, long before Strachan's career in government began, and implemented a decade later through a push by Councilmember Shelly Midura, among others.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Want to Help People Recovering From Hurricane Sandy? Don't Give to the Red Cross

In response to Hurricane Sandy and those who are looking for places to donate, we are publishing below edited excerpts from articles about the Red Cross and relief previously posted on this site, featuring links embedded for more information.

Perhaps nowhere in the US is Red Cross as unpopular as in New Orleans, where the memory of post-Katrina discrimination and corruption by the aid agency is still fresh.

No disaster is natural, and hurricanes and other devastating events end up revealing systemic injustices already in place. Unfortunately, many aid groups actually end up contributing to these systemic problems. Although Red Cross, religious charities, and others are to a great extent filled with well-meaning and hard-working individuals, and these groups have helped many people in need, any effort at aid that does not address the deeper structural problems actually contributes to reinforcing those structures. In other words, despite best efforts, they become part of the problem.

After Katrina, churches and other religious charities—from Salvation Army to Scientologists—coordinated many of the relief efforts. This was a furthering of the Bush administration’s goal of privatizing social services and increasing the social role of religious institutions. Some groups provided essential and vital aid, but their overall effort contributed to the re-positioning of relief as a nongovernmental and profit-driven function.

A February 2006 report from New York City’s Foundation Center points out that the Red Cross, which raised perhaps two billion dollars from Katrina appeals despite widespread accusations of racism and mismanagement, “ranked as by far the largest named recipient of contributions from foundation and corporate donors in response to hurricanes Katrina and Rita,” receiving almost 35 percent of all aid, while grassroots and locally-led projects received virtually no support. However, communities across the Gulf Coast reported that the aid was not reaching those most in need, and there were widespread accusations of racism at Red Cross facilities.

According to an article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, foundations “seem to have been preoccupied with the issue of accountability. Many foundations wondered how they could be certain that grants to local groups would be well spent and, therefore, publicly accountable.” While those are reasonable concerns, it also reveals a double standard. The Chronicle writer goes on to state, “the question of accountability didn't seem to bother the large foundations that gave so generously to the Red Cross, which had a questionable record of competence to begin with and attracted even more criticism in the aftermath of Katrina over its unwise use of funds, high administrative costs, and lack of outreach to minorities.”

In Haiti post-earthquake, similar concerns were raised almost immediately. In addition, when the vast majority of post-earthquake aid went to NGOs like Red Cross, it played the role of further undermining the government’s sovereignty. In the final analysis, a report from Associated Press found that less than one percent of US aid was distributed to groups in Haiti.

Red Cross and other large and bureaucratic aid agencies that function without and means of community accountability were quick to fundraise for Haiti. But did their aid reach people on the ground? The Associated Press reported that for every one dollar of US aid to Haiti, "42 cents is for disaster assistance, 33 cents is for the US military, 9 cents is for food, 9 cents is to transport the food, 5 cents to pay Haitians to help with recovery effort, less than 1 cent for the Haitian government and ½ a cent is for the government of the Dominican Republic."

Tracy Kidder, of the Haiti-based organization Partners in Health/ Zanmi Lasante, said it very well: "There are 10,000 aid organizations in Haiti, and Haiti is still one of the poorest countries in the world - then something‘s wrong with the way things are, the way aid is being administered."

A statement signed by six human rights organizations brought these concerns to the discussion of Haiti relief. "There is no doubt that Haiti's hungry, thirsty, injured, and sick urgently need all the assistance the international community can provide, but it is critical that the underlying goal of improving human rights drives the distribution of every dollar of aid given to Haiti," said Loune Viaud, Director of Strategic Planning and Operations at Partners in Health, one of the drafters of the letter. "The only way to avoid escalation of this crisis is for international aid to take a long-term view and strive to rebuild a stronger Haiti -- one that includes a government that can ensure the basic human rights of all Haitians and a nation that is empowered to demand those rights."

Anyone who sees the devastation caused by a disaster wants to help. But keep in mind that it is local grassroots organizations who are based in communities that are best positioned to know who needs aid and how to get it to them. And, in the long term, what communities need is the support to be able to lead their own recovery and reconstruction.

UPDATE 1: The Wall Street Journal reports that if you donated money to the Red Cross for Sandy relief, you helped pay for 45 Red Cross workers to stay at the Soho Grand Hotel, at a rate of $310 a night, for a total of $181,000, while people most in need received garbage bags of broken hamburgers.

UPDATE 2: See also the report from ProPublica, How the Red Cross Raised Half a Billion Dollars for Haiti ­and Built Six Homes.

New Series of Short Videos on Al Jazeera Highlight Election Issues

Al Jazeera English is a 24-hour news channel available in more than 250 million households in over 130 countries. They have 65 bureaus across the globe, mostly rooted in the global South. As part of their US election coverage, they are airing this series of short videos focused on some of the issues that have shaped this election. The videos were produced by a team that includes New Orleans journalist Jordan Flaherty and filmed in cities across the US.

Miami - Immigration

Washington, DC - Foreign Policy

Arlington, VA - Health Care

Chicago - Money in Politics

Fort Lauderdale - Economy

Milwaukee - Economy

The channel has also been airing shorter versions that can be seen at the following links: Miami, Washington, Arlington, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, and Milwaukee.