Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tulane University to Host Notorious White Supremacist on Campus

Tulane University is sponsoring an event featuring notorious racist David Horowitz this Wednesday. Horowitz is a nationally-known right wing extremist who denies that racism exists, calling institutional racism a "fantasy of the left." He has also said that the fact that Oprah Winfrey–whom he called "a fat black woman"–has made it to the top of society proves that racism is no longer a barrier to success for most Black Americans.

Horowitz sponsored a national ad campaign against reparations for slavery called, “Ten Reasons Why Reparations for Slavery Is a Bad Idea—and Racist Too.” In the campaign, Horowitz said, “Reparations to African-Americans have already been paid” in the form of “trillions of dollars of welfare benefits and racial preferences” for Black people. In addition, Horowitz claims that African-Americans “owe a debt” to white people for "giving them freedom."

"If not for the sacrifices of white soldiers and a white American president," Horowitz has said, "blacks in America would still be slaves.”

Horowitz is the publisher of FrontpageMag, a right wing journal that frequently publishes white supremacists. For example, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, FrontpageMag published a piece called "Africa in our Midst: Lessons from Katrina," by Jared Taylor, a white supremacist who is close to Louisiana klansman David Duke and argues that blacks and Latinos are genetically inferior to whites. Following this line of attack, Horowitz himself complained that "in the national discussion of Katrina, Bush was accused of racism for failing to be on site immediately in New Orleans but actual racial crimes committed by blacks were rendered invisible." Horowitz has also published James Lublinskus, a former editor of the white nationalist movement's flagship publication, American Renaissance.

Horowitz is most famous for his self-declared war on Islam - the Southern Poverty Law Center lists him among the most prominent anti-Muslim racists in the US, and he is publisher of Jihad Watch, an online magazine dedicated to anti-Muslim and anti-Arab rhetoric. He is known for statements such as “what has the Arab world contributed except terror?…The theocratic, repressive Arabic states do no significant science, no significant arts and culture.” He has also called Hillary Clinton's top aide Huma Abedin a "Muslim Brotherhood plant." Following this theme, the topic of his event this week is “From Boston to Jerusalem: How Islamic Jihadism Affects Us All.”

It is especially ironic that a local university would host Horowitz, as he has made a reputation for his work to stifle free expression on campuses. For example, in 2003, Horowitz started Students for Academic Freedom, which encouraged students to sneak into classes to take notes and report on "suspicious" professors as part of an attempt to launch campaigns to fire (or deny tenure to) professors who are insufficiently "pro-American."

Despite his history of attacks on African Americans, Muslims, and even academic freedom, Tulane Administration is helping to bring this hate speech to New Orleans. This is not the first time that Tulane has embraced Horowitz. In 2007, Tulane University hosted "Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week," part of a national anti-Muslim campaign launched by Horowitz. A primary sponsor of this event is a Tulane student group, Tulane Students United for Israel, as well as a UNO student group called Allies for Israel. In selecting Horowitz as a speaker, they appear to be making a statement that white supremacy and Israel advocacy go hand-in-hand.

Tulane students are asking allies to wear Black and meet at 6:15pm on Wednesday at Jones Hall on the Tulane campus. For more information, including contact info for student organizers, see this link, or you can directly contact Hillary Donnell at hdonnell@tulane.edu or Tulane Students for Justice in Palestine at tupalestine@gmail.com.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Activist Profile: Marie Aubrey of VOTE-NOLA

This profile is republished from our friends at VOTE-NOLA:

How did you get involve with VOTE?
In June of 2012 I was listening to the WBOK morning show and Norris Henderson was on the radio talking about how to get prisoners released, and it was interesting to me. I remembered Norris’ name and so I called in to the station and he remembered me and said 
that he would call me right back off the air and when he did we spoke about helping my son, who is currently in prison. He spoke about VOTE over the air and so I asked about the organization and that is how I first heard about VOTE, started being a member and attending meetings.

Why did you get involved with VOTE?
I have a son that has been in prison almost 25 years now. He is in Angie Louisiana (Raven 66). The conversation that the men on the radio were having was very interesting to me. That is how I got to the meetings and when I got there I enjoyed the meetings and listening to what I heard.

What is your favorite aspect of VOTE?
There are quite a few things that I like that VOTE does, helping to try to get prisoners released, keeping up with the prisoners and helping them get work. I like the fact that VOTE is involved with many other organizations that do different things.

What do you think is the most important thing that VOTE does?
I think one of the most important things is that VOTE is trying to get certain laws that affect formerly incarcerated people changed to help them better their lives.

Has VOTE changed the way you see the criminal justice system or civic engagement? 
VOTE has changed the way I see the criminal justice system a lot. First of all I never knew anything about the justice system until my son who was sentenced wrong, went to prison. I never really knew much before then. VOTE has changed my mind about the way the criminal justice system work, because it doesn’t really work for Black people or poor people. I’ve never been in an organization like this before, so this is all fairly new and it feels good to know that we have someone else that is trying to do something to help you as well as other people.

What is something that you would like to see VOTE tackle in the future?
What I would like to see VOTE tackle is something to put Norris into some type of office that will push him in a higher position to help people that are incarcerated. He is a smart man that gets your attention when he speaks, and knows what he is talking about.

What is something that you like to do in your time outside of VOTE?
There is not a lot that I’m doing besides focusing on my son. I’ve been sick for some time now, so I don’t have a lot of energy, I do have more good days than bad days. Before I was sick, I liked going to the casinos, it was one of my pleasures. I liked playing the machines. I haven’t gone in a while though. Now I would love to help out VOTE any way that I can. I do love my garden and I go out there almost every day and find that it is very relaxing for me.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

14-Year-Old New Orleans Youth Held in Israeli Jail - Call for Action and Support

According to an article in today's Haaretz newspaper, a 14-year-old youth from New Orleans named Mohammed Khalek is currently being held by the Israeli military. The paper says the child was accused of "throwing rocks."
The case highlights Israel's system of military detention for Palestinian minors, which has been frequently criticized, most recently by the UN which said in March that an in-depth study showed it systematically and gravely violated their rights. The boy's father, Abdelwahab Khalek, said his 14-year-old son Mohammad was taken into custody early last Friday morning by eight assault-rifle wielding soldiers. They shackled and blindfolded his son as his five siblings watched, he said.
The boy's father, Abdelwahab Khalek, is a car dealer who splits his time between Palestine and New Orleans, according to the report.
"He appears okay, he's a strong kid," said his 46-year-old father. "But there is no law in the world that justifies the way (Israeli forces) acted."
American consular officials declined comment.
"Unfortunately this case is symptomatic of the Israeli military's abusive treatment of Palestinian children in detention," said Bill Van Esveld of the New York-based rights group Human Rights Watch. Rights group Defense of Children International says there were 236 minors in Israel military detention in February, 39 of them between the ages of 12 to 15. The group said it receives its numbers from Israel's prison authority.
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee has also issued a call to action:
Human Rights Watch told the press that "there's no justification for shackling him for 12 hours and interrogating him while refusing to let him see his father or a lawyer." Defense of Children International and Addameer are asking the Israeli authorities to have a parent present at all times during interrogation, as well as grant Mohammaed access to a lawyer of their choice prior to interrogation, and preferably throughout the interrogation process. 

Despite outrage by human rights organizations, our government has not said a word. When asked to comment, the US consulate in Jerusalem declined. The US State Department, when asked, was not even aware of the case! Mohammad's father criticized the US government’s response to his son’s arrest in an interview with Reuters. “The U.S. government is obligated to do something for us, but it doesn’t even care." Let Mohammed know that we care! Contact the State Department and ask them to fullfil their obligations in protecting US Citizens. You can either call the State Department at 202-647-4000 or click on the link below to send them a message:

When composing your message, be sure to use the email topic: U.S. Foreign Policy Middle East 

Suggested language to include in your message: 

I am writing you regarding the case of Mohammed Khalek. Mohammed is a 14-year-old US citizen from New Orleans who is currently under arrest in Israel. I demand that the State Department fulfill its constitutional and professional obligations and protect US citizens. We want the State Department to immediately contact Mohammed and his family to ensure his rights are being protected. In addition, we urge the State Department to open an investigation into allegations of abuse while detained. 

Thank you for taking action!
Activists are also encouraging New Orleans residents to contact their representatives and ask them to tell the state department to get involved:

Honorable Cedric Richmond
Phone: (202) 225-6636
Phone: (504) 288-3777
Web Form: https://richmond.house.gov/contact-me/email-me

Honorable Mary Landrieu
Phone: 225-389-0395
(202) 224-5824
Web Form: www.landrieu.senate.gov/?p=contact

Honorable David Vitter
(504) 589-2753
(202) 224-4623
Web Form: http://www.vitter.senate.gov/contact/email-senator-vitter

You can also find this call to action on facebook: facebook.com/events/179667455520918.

More on the story - and the lack of support from the US government - can also be found at the Mondoweiss website.

New Orleans has a relatively large Palestinian community, and a robust history of actions in support of peace and justice in the region.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

World Social Forum Highlights Shock Doctrine in Tunisia

An earlier version of this article appeared at truthout.org:

An estimated 50,000 people from 5,000 organizations in 127 countries spanning five continents participated in the World Social Forum in Tunisia over the past week. By choosing to come together in Tunis, this year’s Forum evoked the sprit of the 2011 revolt that inspired uprisings around the world. The WSF also focused attention on the complicated status of that revolt, which in Tunisia has not brought the political or economic changes many hoped for. Conversations with local activists often focused on the recent assassination of opposition leader Chokri Belaïd, and government dealings with the International Monetary Fund.

Many in the region reject the term “Arab Spring,” saying that implies a season that ends quickly, and this revolutionary wave has just begun. Samir Amin, a Marxist economist based in Senegal, calls the overthrow of dictators in Tunisia and Egypt the first step in a continuing process, but sees the new governments as scarcely an improvement. “This gigantic popular movement got rid of the dictators Ben Ali and Mubarak, but not of the system,” said Amin. “The Muslim Brotherhood who are in power in both countries are just continuing the same system…The same so-called liberal policy, the same submission to imperialism, the same social disaster.” Amin says the biggest change represented by this period is a new awareness that change is possible. “The people now, who have proved to themselves their capacity to overthrow any dictatorship, will also get rid of the Muslim Brotherhood,” he says.

Many North African participants were celebratory of the region’s revolutions, but expressed fears of the electoral rise of right wing forces, and the economic neoliberalism being pushed by their current governments. Hamouda Soubhi, an activist from Morocco and one of the members of the WSF Tunisia organizing committee, sees a moment of danger and possibility. “For us its like the beginning of the struggle,” said Soubhi. “Tunisia wants to say to the world, no more fear, we are going to change the region.”

Tunisians condemned secret deals the outgoing government was recently found to have made with the International Monetary Fund, and several I spoke to mentioned Naomi Klein's book Shock Doctrine in their description of the current crisis facing their country. “When I read about shock doctrine, I said, ‘oh my god, it’s happening to Tunisia,’” said Mabrouka Mbarek, an elected member of the Tunisian constituent assembly who has been attempting to fight these back-room deals. “They are going to stop subsidies after two years, they will increase the price of gas, they will increase the price of wheat, they will completely restructure the banking system. All of this happened without discussion without debate in the parliament.”

The hope of the 2011 uprisings has run up against the intransient forces of global capital. Mbarek pointed to similar tactics by the IMF in Cyprus. “In Cyprus the IMF was really happy to find a solution that didn't require parliamentary debate,” she said. “The fate of the Tunisian people should not be discussed between this international institution and a resigning government.”

Invoking the legacy of former Burkina Faso president Thomas Sankara, Mbarek also spoke of joining with other nations in a global movement against debt. “In Tunisia, after a revolution that was expressed upon economic and social issues, but also a will to have people’s aspirations represented, this is all falling down because we have economic policies that are not even discussed by a representative and are pushed in post-shock mode.”

Divisions Highlighted

The annual convergence also raised questions about the trajectory of these movements, as well as the continued relevance of the World Social Forum process.

The WSF, which was first held in Brazil and has featured appearances by Hugo Chavez and Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in past years, has been credited with helping to build and consolidate a broad left in South America and establish connections and shared strategy between movements around the world. However, the WSF has always been divided. There are frequent protests against the Forum from within – notably in 2007 in Nairobi, when protestors took over a food stand that they said symbolized a corporate sell-out by the Forum and a lack of accessibility to locals without means – as well as struggles by leadership over its direction.

The contradictions and conflicts of the Arab Spring were on full display. While one group held a session on strategies for overthrowing the Syrian government, there was a rally nearby in support of President al-Assad. Elsewhere in the Forum, arguments broke out over whether Libya was better off without Muammar Gaddafi. While many spoke of Islamic political movements such as Muslim Brotherhood as regressive forces, others saw political Islam as part of an anti-imperialist front. Reflecting the importance of these debates, hundreds lined up to hear remarks by Tariq Ramadan, a Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies and major figure in the debate on the role of Islam in the West.

An area of the forum called the “Global Square” was organized by members of anarchist or horizontalist movements such as Occupy and 15-M in Spain, many of whom were critical of the politics of the WSF and its organizing bodies. While Occupy has vanished from US headlines, it was clear that around the world the name still resonates. When Occupy was mentioned in the opening ceremony, it brought one of the largest cheers of the night. “I really find a close connection between the Occupy movement and Tunisia,” said Mabrouka Mbarek. “It’s like Tunisia catalyzed a global movement. Suddenly everyone is courageous to occupy.”

Gender and the role of women was an underlying theme.  Forum organizers made a statement by having all the speakers at the opening ceremony be women – including a rousing speech by Besma Khalfaoui, widow of assassinated opposition leader Chokri Belaid. Organizations such as the World March on Women, an international feminist action movement, played a major role in the forum and kept these issues central. However, many panels and spaces at the Forum were male dominated – a problem that seemed to be even more true of sessions organized by Europeans as those organized by activists from other regions.

The dominant focus in the 1,000+ sessions were critiques of capitalism and imperialism, and the lens through which these struggles were viewed was a contrast with the framing at US activist convergences. For example, LGBT issues were the subject of only a handful of the estimated 1,000 sessions here, while sex worker rights, white anti-racist organizing, prison abolition, and abortion were among the subjects that could not be found here – not because of any official policy, but apparently because no organization proposed sessions on these issues. 

The movement for a free Palestine was well represented, and the Forum closed with more than ten thousand people marching in commemoration of Palestinian Land Day. While Palestine liberation was the consensus position at the Forum, there was strife between grassroots activists and those representing the political leadership in Ramallah.

While in the US Al Jazeera is often seen as a voice of the Arab Spring, North African activists also criticized the Qatar-based channel as supporting repressive regimes in the region. Shams Abdi, a young and fierce woman's rights and labor activist with the General Union Tunisian Students, refused an interview with a reporter from Al Jazeera, calling the news channel a “zionist project.”

The most public explosion of internecine conflict came during the closing social movement assembly, when members of the Morroccan delegation rushed the stage in opposition after a statement was read in support of independence for the people of Western Sahara.

The Future of The Forum

At a cost of millions of dollars and a huge amount of resources, there is an ongoing debate over whether the WSF needs to continue to exist, and if it has become compromised by the funding that organizations receive to make the gathering possible. At several sessions debating the future of the Forum, participants spoke of a need to continue working to build alliances based around shared struggles. “It is the same banks that are kicking us out of our homes that are restructuring Tunisia’s economy,” said Maria Poblet of Causa Justa/Just Cause, one of two dozen activists and organizers who participated as part of a US Grassroots Global Justice delegation, during one discussion.

At its best, the Forum represents hope for a just society. In the tens of thousands of people present – representing millions more who want to come but cannot – there is a palpable feeling of a new world being born. Hiba Laameri, a 15-year-old Tunisian girl, was among those who inspired hope through her words and presence. Laameri echoed the concerns of many Tunisians at the Forum, saying that Tunisia’s current government is pursuing a neoliberal economic agenda. “We have our freedom, we can speak. An event like this would not have been possible in Ben Ali’s time,” she said. “But capitalism is still there, imperialism is still there. Nothing’s changed socially, economically, culturally.”

Laameri was thrilled by what she experienced at the Forum and throught it would help give energy to local activists. “I’ve always been a person to see what’s wrong and I’ve always thought to myself, ‘why won’t somebody do something about that?” said Laameri. “And these days at the forum I realized I was that somebody.”