Vermont Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders is enthusiastically supported by millions of Americans. He’s a proven leader, energizing democrats and non democrats across every state in our union.

Contrastingly, New York Senator Chuck Schumer, current frontrunner for Senate Democratic Leader and long time ally of the finance industry, has never engendered voter enthusiasm beyond the borders of New York State. And although Schumer’s been part of the Democratic leadership for the past several years, he hasn’t always been that loyal.

In March of 2015, Senator Schumer undermined President Barack Obama by encouraging fellow Democrats to attend a controversial speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before a joint session of Congress. The speech was initiated by then Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner and the Republican Party. Its purpose was to convince U.S. legislators that the Iran Deal, negotiated by President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and multiple nations, should be rejected.

Netanyahu’s invitation and address to Congress were widely criticized as an unprecedented attempt by the leader of a foreign nation to usurp the power of the American President. While many Democratic lawmakers boycotted the event, Senator Schumer was one of its staunchest supporters.

In September of 2015, six months after Netanyahu’s speech, Chuck Schumer, already a high ranking Senate Democrat, was one of only four Democratic Senators to vote against the Iran Deal. This was a clear repudiation of Schumer’s own Democratic Party, the Party’s leader President Obama, and the well meaning efforts of international allies to curtail Iran’s nuclear proliferation. It is widely believed Schumer’s vote was an intentional slight to Obama and a public alignment with the Israeli government and Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Schumer’s no vote on the Iran Deal and lack of party loyalty angered the Obama administration, fellow Democratic legislators and peace seeking citizens who supported it. In a White House press briefing discussing the Deal, Press Secretary Josh Earnest made it clear Schumer’s actions might cost him his party Senate leadership.

This was not the first time Senator Schumer undermined the Obama administration on a crucial issue. In November of 2014, Schumer criticized the President’s signature healthcare legislation, the Affordable Care Act, saying it focused too much legislator time on the wrong issue.

As with the Iran Deal, Schumer’s position on the Affordable Care Act buoyed Republicans who bitterly opposed it. Once again, Schumer failed the task of a party leader.

Considering the overwhelming defeats the Democrats just suffered in losing the Presidency, both Houses of Congress and the potential for a progressive Supreme Court majority, it is imperative the next Senate Leader be a champion for the Democratic Party and its principals. Chuck Schumer has demonstrated time and again he is not the Senator for the job. He is not an honest broker and should not be rewarded with the pivotal Leader position.

Bernie Sanders has proven to be a valiant Senator, a relentless supporter of democratic principles and a leader for all Americans. He’s an “every person” Democrat in the great tradition of Franklin Roosevelt. As Minority Leader, Senator Sanders would take on the Republican leadership and stand up to Chuck Schumer’s long time friend, Donald Trump.

The Senate will meet this Wednesday to elect its next Leader. If you agree Senator Sanders is the better choice for the position, please sign the petition below. The Democratic Party desperately needs a powerful, loyal advocate. The time has come to reject Schumer’s special interest pandering and elect a true non-corporate Democrat who will protect the Affordable Care Act, safeguard the Iran Deal and fight hard for Main Street Americans.

Jews Say: End the War on Gaza — No Aid to Apartheid Israel!

Statement of Jews for Palestinian Right of Return, July 22, 2014 (200 initial signers, endorsing allies forthcoming)


On July 12, 2014, Gaza civil society issued an urgent appeal for solidarity, asking: "How many of our lives are dispensable enough until the world takes action? How much of our blood is sufficient?"

As Jews of conscience, we answer by unequivocally condemning Israel's ongoing massacre in Gaza, whose victims include hundreds of civilians, children, entire families, the elderly, and the disabled. This latest toll adds to the thousands Israel has killed and maimed since its supposed withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005.


In response to this crisis, we urgently reaffirm our support for a ban on all military and other aid to Israel.


In 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. opposed the Vietnam War with his famous declaration: “For the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.”


Today, *we* cannot be silent as the “Jewish state" -- armed to the teeth by the U.S. and its allies -- wages yet another brutal war on the Palestinian people. Apartheid Israel does not speak for us, and we stand with Gaza as we stand with all of Palestine.


In the face of incessant pro-Israel propaganda, we heed Malcolm X's warning: “If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”


For Israel's relentless war on Gaza is no more an act of "self-defense" than such infamous massacres as Wounded Knee (1890), Guernica (1937), the Warsaw Ghetto (1942), Deir Yassin (1948), My Lai (1968), Soweto (1976), Sabra and Shatila (1982), or Lebanon (2006).


Rather, it is but the latest chapter in more than a century of Zionist colonialism, dispossession, ethnic cleaning, racism, and genocide -- including Israel's very establishment through the uprooting and displacement of over 750,000 Palestinians during the 1947-1948 Nakba. Indeed, eighty percent of the 1.8 million people sealed into Gaza are refugees.


Like any colonial regime, Israel uses resistance to such policies as an excuse to terrorize and collectively punish the indigenous population for its very existence. But scattered rockets, fired from Gaza into land stolen from Palestinians in the first place, are merely a response to this systemic injustice.

To confront the root cause of this violence, we call for the complete dismantling of Israel's apartheid regime, throughout historic Palestine -- from the River to the Sea. With that in mind, we embrace the 2005 Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, which demands:


* An end to Israeli military occupation of the 1967 territories 


* Full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel 


* Right of return for Palestinian refugees, as affirmed by UN resolution 194


 Sign petition at


 Initial Signers (list in formation; organizations, schools and other affiliations shown for identification only; *Co-founder, Jews for Palestinian Right of Return) 


Avigail Abarbanel, Psychotherapist; editor, Beyond Tribal Loyalties: Personal Stories of Jewish Peace Activists (2012, Cambridge Scholars), Inverness, Scotland

Noa Abend, Boycott From Within

Stephen Aberle, Independent Jewish Voices; Vancouver, BC

Lisa Albrecht, Ph.D. Social Justice Program, University of Minnesota

Anya Achtenberg, novelist and poet; teacher; activist; International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network

Mike Alewitz, Associate Professor, Central CT State Unversity; Artistic Director, Labor Art & Mural Project

Zalman Amit, Distinguished Professor Emeritus; Author, Israeli Rejectionism

Anthony Arnove, International Socialist Organization

Gabriel Ash, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Switzerland

Ted Auerbach, Brooklyn for Peace

Anna Baltzer, author and organizer

Ronnie Barkan, Co-founder, Boycott from Within, Tel-Aviv

Judith Bello, Administrative Committee, United National Antiwar Coalition

Lawrence Boxall, Independent Jewish Voices, Canada; Vancouver Ecosocialist Group

Linda Benedikt, writer Munich, Germany

Nora Barrows-Friedman, journalist; Oakland

Prof. Jonathan Beller, Humanities and Media Studies Graduate Program in Media Studies, Pratt Institute, Brooklyn

Medea Benjamin, co-founder, CODEPINK

Rica Bird, Joint Founder, Merseyside Jews for Peace and Justice

Audrey Bomse, Co-chair, National Lawyers Guild Palestine Subcommittee

Prof. Daniel Boyarin, Taubman Professor of Talmudic Culture, UC Berkeley

Lenni Brenner, Author, Zionism In The Age Of The Dictators

Elizabeth Block, Independent Jewish Voices, Toronto ON

Max Blumenthal, Author, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel; and Senior Writer for

Mary P. Buchwald, Jewish Voice for Peace-New York

Monique Buckner, BDS South Africa

Maia Brown, Health and Human Rights Project-Seattle & Stop Veolia Seattle

Estee Chandler, Jewish Voice for Peace, Los Angeles

Rick Chertoff, L..A. Jews for Peace

Prof. Marjorie Cohn, Thomas Jefferson School of Law; past president, National Lawyers Guild

Ally Cohen, Ramallah, Palestine; International Solidarity Movement media coordinator

Ruben Rosenberg Colorni, Youth for Palestine, Netherlands

Mike Cushman, Convenor, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (UK)

Margaretta D'arcy, Irish actress, writer, playwright, and peace-activist

Natalie Zemon Davis, Historian

Warren Davis, labor and political activist, Philadelphia, PA

Eron Davidson, film maker

Judith Deutsch, Independent Jewish Voices Canada; Science for Peace

Roger Dittmann, Professor of Physics, Emeritus California State University, Fullerton; President, Scholars and Scientists without Borders Executive Council, World Federation of Scientific Workers

Gordon Doctorow, Ed.D., Canada

Mark Elf, Jews Sans Frontieres, London, UK

Hedy Epstein, Nazi Holocaust survivor and human rights activist; St. Louis, MO

Marla Erlien, New York NY

Shelley Ettinger, writer/activist, New York, NY

Inge Etzbach, Human Rights Activist, Café Palestina NY

Richard Falk, Professor of International Law, Emeritus, Princeton University; Former UN Special Rapporteur on Occupied Palestine, 2008-2014

Malkah B. Feldman, Jewish Voice for Peace and recent delegate to Palestine with American Jews For A Just Peace

Deborah Fink, Co-Founder, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods UK

Joel Finkel, Jewish Voice for Peace-Chicago

Sylvia Finzi, JfjfP; Jüdische Stimme für gerechten Frieden in Nahost, EJJP. Germany)

Maxine Fookson, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner; Jewish Voice for Peace, Portland OR-

Richard Forer, Author, Breakthrough: Transforming Fear Into Compassion - A New Perspective on the Israel-Palestine

Sid Frankel, Associate Professor, University of Manitoba

Prof. Cynthia Franklin, Co-Editor, Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly, University of Hawai’i

Racheli Gai, Jewish Voice for Peace

Herb Gamberg, Independent Jewish Voices, Canada 

Ruth Gamberg, Independent Jewish Voices, Canada 

Lee Gargagliano, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network

Cheryl Gaster, social justice activist and human right lawyer, Toronto ON

Alisa Gayle-Deutsch, American/Canadian Musician and Anti-Israeli Apartheid Activist

Jack Gegenberg, Professor of Mathematics, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton NB

Prof. Terri Ginsberg, film and media scholar, New York

David Glick, psychotherapist; Jewish Voice for Peace

Sherna Berger Gluck, Emerita Professor, CSULB; Israel Divestment Campaign

Neta Golan, Ramallah, Palestine; Jews Against Genocide; Co-founder, International Solidarity Movement.

Tsilli Goldenberg, teacher, Jerusalem, Israel

Steve Goldfield, Ph.D.

Sue Goldstein, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Canada

Marty Goodman, former Executive Board member, Transport Workers Union Local 100; Socialist Action

Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, Freeman Fellow, Fellowship of Reconciliation

Hector Grad, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Spain

Prof. Jesse Greener, University of Laval

Cathy Gulkin, Filmmaker, Toronto ON

Ira Grupper, Bellarmine University, Louisville, KY

Jeff Halper, The Israeli Committee Against House demolitions (ICAHD)

Larry Haiven, Independent Jewish Voices Canada, Halifax

Evelyn Hecht-Galinski, publisher, Germany

Stanley Heller, The Struggle Video News TSVN

Shir Hever, Jewish Voice for Just Peace, Germany

Deborah Hrbek, media and civil rights lawyer, NLG-NYC

Dr. Tikva Honig-Parass, Jews for Palestinian Right of Return

Adam Horowitz, Co-Editor, Mondoweiss

Gilad Isaacs, Economist, Wits University.

Selma James, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network

Jake Javanshir, Independent Jewish Voices, Toronto

Riva Joffe, Jews Against Zionism

Val Jonas, attorney, Miami Beach

Sima Kahn, MD; President of the board, Kadima Reconstructionist Community

Yael Kahn, Israeli anti-apartheid activist

Michael Kalmanovitz, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (UK)

Dan Kaplan, AFT Local 1493

Susan Kaplan, J.D. National Lawyers Guild 

Danny Katch, activist and author

Bruce Katz, President, Palestinian and Jewish Unity (PAJU), Montreal, Canada

Lynn Kessler, Ph.D., MPH, psychologist/social justice activist

Janet Klecker, Sonomans for Justice & Peace for Palestine, Sonoma CA

Prof. David Klein, California State University, Northridge; USACBI

Emma Klein, Jewish Voice for Peace, Seattle WA

Sara Kershnar, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network

Harry Kopyto, Legal activist Toronto ON

Richard Koritz, veteran postal trade unionist and former member of North Carolina Human Relations Commission

Yael Korin, PhD., Scientist at UCLA; Campaign to End IsraelI Apartheid, Southern California

Dennis Kortheuer, CSULB, Israel Divestment Campaign

Steve Kowit, Professor Emeritus, Jewish Voice for Peace

Toby Kramer, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network

Jason Kunin, Independent Jewish Voices Canada

Dr. David Landy, Trinity College, Dublin

Jean Léger, Coalition pour la Justice et la Paix en Palestine, membre de la Coalition BDS Québec et de Palestiniens et Juifs Unis

Lynda Lemberg, Educators for Peace and Justice, Independent Jewish Voices, Toronto ON

David Letwin,* activist and teacher, Al-Awda NY

Michael Letwin,* former President, Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW Local 2325; USACBI; Al-Awda NY

Les Levidow, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (J-BIG), UK

Corey Levine, Human Rights Activist, Writer; National Steering Committee, Independent Jewish Voices Canada

Joseph Levine, Professor of Philosophy, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Lesley Levy, Independent Jewish Voices, Montreal

Mich Levy, teacher, Oakland CA

Abby Lippman, Professor Emerita; activist; Montreal

Brooke Lober, PhD candidate, University of Arizona, Gender and Women's Studies Department

Antony Loewenstein, journalist, author and Guardian columnist

Jennifer Loewenstein, Professor of Middle Eastern Studies, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Alex Lubin, Professor of American Studies, University of New Meixco

Andrew Lugg, Professor Emeritus, University of Ottawa, Canada

David Makofsky, Jewish Voice for Peace, Research Anthropologist

Harriet Malinowitz, Professor of English, Long Island University, Brooklyn

Mike Marqusee, Author, If I Am Not for Myself: Journey of an Anti-Zionist Jew

Miriam Marton, JD

Dr. Richard Matthews. independent scholar, London ON

Daniel L. Meyers, Former President National Lawyers Guild-NYC

Linda Milazzo, Writer/Activist/Educator, Los Angeles

Eva Steiner Moseley, Holocaust refugee, Massachusetts Peace Action board member and Palestine/Israel Working Group

Dr. Dorothy Naor, retired teacher, Herzliah, Israel

Marcy Newman, independent scholar; Author; The Politics of Teaching Palestine to Americans

Alex Nissen, Women in Black

Dr. Judith Norman, San Antonio, TX

Henry Norr, retired journalist, Berkeley CA

Michael Novick, Anti-Racist Action-Los Angeles/People Against Racist Terror

Prof. Bertell Ollman, NYU

Karin Pally, Santa Monica, CA

Prof. Ilan Pappé, Israeli historian and socialist activist

Karen Platt, Jewish Voice for Peace, Albany CA

Dr. Susan Pashkoff, Jews Against Zionism, London UK

Miko Peled, writer, activist; Author, The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine

Prof. Gabriel Piterberg, UCLA

Mitch Podolak, Founder, Winnipeg Folk Festival and Vancouver Folk Music Festival

Karen Pomer,* granddaughter of Henri B. van Leeuwen, Dutch anti-Zionist leader and Bergen-Belsen survivor

Lenny Potash, Los Angeles CA

Fabienne Presentey, Independent Jewish Voices, Montréal

Diana Ralph, Independent Jewish Voices Canada

Roland Rance, Jews Against Zionism, London

Karen Ranucci, Independent Journalist, Democracy Now!

Ana Ratner, Artist, Puppeteer, Activist.

Michael Ratner, President Emeritus, Center for Constitutional Rights

Prof. Dr. Fanny-Michaela Reisin, Jewish Voice Germany

Diana M.A. Relke, Professor Emerita, University of Saskatchewan

Prof. Bruce Robbins, Columbia University

Stewart M. Robinson, retired Prof of Mathematics

Professor Lisa Rofel, University of California, Santa Cruz

Mimi Rosenberg, Producer & Host, Building Bridges and Wednesday Edition, WBAI 99.5 FM; Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW Local 2325

Lillian Rosengarten, Author, From The Shadows Of Nazi Germany To The Jewish Boat To Gaza

Prof. Jonathan Rosenhead, British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP)

Yehoahua Rosin, Israel

Ilana Rossoff, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network

Martha Roth, Independent Jewish Voices; Vancouver BC

Marty Roth, Emeritus professor of English, University of Minnesota

Ruben Roth, Assistant Professor, Labour Studies, Laurentian University; Independent Jewish Voices Canada

Emma Rubin, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network

Cheryl A. Rubenberg, Middle East Scholar; Editor, Encyclopedia of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict; Author, The Palestinians in Search of a Just Peace

Josh Ruebner, Author, Shattered Hopes: Obama’s Failure to Broker Israeli-Palestinian Peace

Mark Rudd, retired teacher, Albuquerque NM

Ben Saifer, Independent Jewish Voices Canada

Evalyn Segal, Rossmoor Senior Community

Sylvia Schwarz, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network

Yossi Schwartz, Internationalist Socialist League; Haifa

Carole Seligman, co-editor, Socialist Viewpoint magazine

Yom Shamash, Independent Jewish Voices, Vancouver, Canada

Tali Shapiro, Boycott from Within; Israel

Karen Shenfeld, Poet, Toronto ON

Sid Shniad, National Steering Committee, Independent Jewish Voices Canada

William Shookhoff, Independent Jewish Voices, Toronto ON

Melinda Smith, Jewish Voice for Peace, Albuquerque NM

Kobi Snitz, Tel Aviv

Marsha Steinberg, BDS-LA for Justice in Palestine, Los Angeles

Lotta Strandberg, Visiting Scholar, NYU

Carol Stone, Independent Jewish Voices, Vancouver BC

Miriam (Cherkes-Julkowski) Swenson, Ph.D.

Matthew Taylor, author

Laura Tillem, Peace and Social Justice Center of South Central Kansas

Peter Trainor, Independent Jewish Voices, Toronto

Rebecca Tumposky, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network

Darlene Wallach, Justice for Palestinians, San Jose CA

Dr. Abraham Weizfeld, JPLO

Bonnie Weinstein, Co-Editor of Socialist Viewpoint magazine; Publisher, Bay Area United Against War Newsletter

Sam Weinstein, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network-Labor; former President, UWUA Local 132

Judith Weisman, Independent Jewish Voices; Not in Our Name (NION); Toronto ON

Paul Werner, PhD, DSFS Editor, WOID, a journal of visual language

Noga Wizansky, Ph.D., artist, instructor, and researcher; Administrator, Institute of European Studies, UC Berkeley

Marcy Winograd, public school teacher, former congressional peace candidate

Bekah Wolf, UC Hastings College of Law Student; Co-founder, Palestine Solidarity Project

Sherry Wolf, International Socialist Organization

Dave Zirin, Author, Game Over: How Politics Have Turned the Sports World Upside Down



Jews For Palestinian Right of Return on Facebook:                                                   


Amy Goodman, iconic host of the popular independent Pacifica news program, Democracy Now, has been quoted frequently stating:

“I really do think that if for one week in the United States we saw the true face of war, we saw people's limbs sheared off, we saw kids blown apart, for one week, war would be eradicated..."


It's easy to argue that graphic images of the carnage of war evoke lasting impressions on those who view them. Few people can forget the horrific photos from Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the atomic bomb or the suffering faces and emaciated bodies from the Holocaust. Indeed some of history's most memorable and haunting photographic images arise from war. For people of my era, who lived through the time of Vietnam, the image of naked nine year old Kim Phuc, running, arms in air, screaming, her back seared from napalm, is carved into our memories. Many believe as I do, that Kim's photo, taken by Associated Press photographer Nick Ut, for which he earned a Pulitzer Prize, swayed public opinion enough that it helped to end the war.

Interestingly, audio tapes of a cynical Richard Nixon, famous for his hatred of media and his belief that it conspired to take him down, reveal Nixon thought Ut's photo was altered. But it wasn't altered. It was painfully real.

One can't emphasize enough the unique ability media has to influence public opinion. In America, and most countries, media is routinely used by governments to manipulate consensus for, or opposition to, public policy. The George W. Bush administration was particularly adept at using corporate media and right-leaning independent media to push acceptance for attacking Iraq. But once the war began, Bush, Cheney, et al, were equally adept at keeping the visual images of Iraqi deaths from the public eye; quite a feat since some reports estimate Iraqi casualties to number as high as one-million. Of course, embedding compliant journalists made censoring graphic photos a fairly simple task.

But it wasn't only images of dead and wounded Iraqis that Bush, Cheney, then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and submissive photo journalists hid from the American people. They also hid the highly emotional images of flag-draped coffins of American troops being transported home to their families. Only after a successful ruling of an October 2004 Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, filed by University of Delaware Professor Ralph Begleiter, were more than 700 photos of flag-draped military caskets released in April 2005. But it wasn't until February 2009, during the Presidency of Barack Obama, that the ban on viewing coffins was officially lifted.

One might presume that since President Obama lifted the ban, he was more inclined toward transparency, but nothing could be further from the truth. Throughout his first term as President, as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were still being waged, few photos of civilian or military casualties were seen by the public. The same is true of photos of the many casualties, including civilians, of Obama's covert and highly controversial weaponized drone attacks. Photos of drone casualties are never broadcast and difficult to find . If one googles "US drone attack photos," "US drone attack victims," or similar word combinations, hardly any drone victim photos on English language websites appear. Hence most Americans, upon hearing the words weaponized drones, don't conjure images of bloodied dead children, strewn body parts and decapitations, although they should, because that is the job of the drones.

Bottom line: war is heinous and perverse. As Amy Goodman posits, seeing images of sheared off limbs and blown apart kids should evoke a righteous revulsion for war. The limp and bloodied body of a child is a travesty, a crime, and for most people (sadly not all), nearly impossible to justify - which is why those who orchestrate war try so hard to conceal its results.

Operation Pillar of Defense

In Israel's recent incursion into Gaza, dubbed Operation Pillar of Defense, Hamas and Israel faced off in an uneven battle. Hamas' long range missiles, most of which were intercepted by Israel's state of the art American-made defense system, flew into Israel as far as the areas around Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, reportedly taking the lives of six Israelis and injuring many more.

For its part, Israel bombarded Gaza using American-made F-16 fighter-bombers and American-made Apache helicopter gun ships that repeatedly dropped American-made bombs into heavily populated areas. As of now, the eight long and brutal days of bombing, resulted in 170 Gazan deaths and reportedly over 1000 wounded.

Journalists Under Fire

As is often the case in the middle east, the incursion into Gaza caught the attention of the world. Journalists from across the globe made their way into Gaza to cover Operation Pillar of Defense. Unlike other battles, fought in remote regions spread across a vast mass of territory (think Afghanistan), Gaza's war zone was the impoverished, densely populated small strip of land that has long been controlled by Israel. In this condensed arena, journalists were in just as much danger as Gaza's civilian population, and they suffered greatly for being there. Israel attacked their hotels and dropped bombs on their cars, killing several Palestinian journalists and injuring many more. As a result, Israel is facing accusations from several fronts of purposely targeting journalists, but it rejects all such charges.

The most vocal challenger of Israel's aggression is Abby Martin, a TV anchor for Russia's RT station. After Israel accused Martin of being a terror sympathizer, Martin hit back at Israel on her show in a no-holds-barred lashing for Israel's bombing of RT's office in Gaza. She excoriated Israel for verbally attacking her after she characterized it as an apartheid state, and she pummeled Israel for deliberately targeting journalists. It's a performance worth watching for its fearlessness in confronting Israel directly - which American journalists and the American government lack the courage to do.

Despite the extreme dangers for journalists covering Operation Pillar of Defense, one positive (which is equally a negative) was the fact that it was fought in so confined an area that journalists didn't need travel great distances to get their stories. Reaching dead and injured victims or locating the charred and damaged remains of homes, businesses and mosques was often a matter of following explosions as they happened. Journalists were able to arrive on scene in a short enough time to photograph the dead and wounded and document the brutal events while they were still fresh. As a result, a large number of gruesome and disturbing photos made their way to newspapers and online news sites around the world. Many of the photos were of fallen children, which increased the already widespread and loud condemnation of Israel for being overly aggressive and reckless in bombarding areas populated by innocent civilians - including children.

Israel, which sees itself as the world's perpetual victim, an increasingly implausible portrayal, went on an all-out media offensive against journalists who photographed the casualties. Understanding how incriminating images of massive explosions, battered bodies, demolished buildings, dead babies and grieving families could be for Israel, Israel deployed every available surrogate to appear on as many international media platforms as possible to parrot the story that Israel had been forced to defend its people against the relentless assault by Hamas.

The Surrogates

American born Michael Oren, Israel's Ambassador to the U.S., became an everyday presence on American media. Speeches or interviews with Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, President Shimon Peres, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and others, were broadcast regularly on American TV. And, as is commonly the case in American corporate media, few, if any, representatives for the Palestinians were given an equal platform.

Some more diligent interviewers, like MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell and CNN's Piers Morgan, questioned the surrogates about the wisdom of jeopardizing civilians by bombing highly concentrated residential areas. Well-schooled in their responses, the surrogates answered with Israel's customary refrain that it wasn't Israel jeopardizing the civilians, but Hamas, who purposely hid in residential neighborhoods to use civilians as human shields - a claim refuted by the 2009 United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, also known as the Goldstone Report, which stated:

The Mission, however, found no evidence of Palestinian armed groups placing civilians in areas where attacks were being launched; of engaging in combat in civilian dress; or of using a mosque for military purposes or to shield military activities.

Perhaps the most shrill and offensive of Israel's surrogates is American lawyer and Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, who in a November 19th appearance with CNN's Piers Morgan, repeated a claim he has made in the past. It's a claim Dershowitz has not categorically proved. It's a claim Dershowitz has no way of knowing from seeing first hand. And it appears to be a claim Dershowitz may have invented for the purpose of dehumanizing the Palestinian people. It's hideous in its label and its tone.

Here is part of Dershowitz' conversation with Piers Morgan regarding Operation Pillar of Defense and what he refers to as the Dead Baby Stategy:

Morgan: But they [Israelis] killed a whole family.

Dershowitz: Hamas was firing rockets in order to induce them to kill the family. You know what it's called in Gaza? It's called the Dead Baby Strategy. It's a strategy. They want - this sounds terribly brutal - but it's absolutely true. They want their children to be martyred so they can carry them out, show them to the international media and thereby gain an advantage over Israel. It's a double war crime and the media encourages it.


Dershowitz' seems to allege that in Gaza, Hamas, with the complicity of the families of Gazan babies, knowingly station the babies where the Israeli military will kill them. Dershowitz contends in his comment that some unnamed [it's called] entity in Gaza calls this plan the Dead Baby Strategy. Dershowitz presents Dead Baby Strategy as a known label, but he never identifies exactly who in Gaza uses this label.

Interesting that two years ago, on November 5, 2010, Dershowitz appeared as a panelist in Israel at the annual John Gandel Symposium. There he also talked about the Dead Baby Strategy, but he described the genesis of its label somewhat differently. He said at 15:46 minutes into the panel:

And then you have military deligitimation. It is such a clever - if it weren't such a horrible technique - such a clever technique. Again, I have a name for it. I call it Hamas' and Hesbollah's Dead Baby Strategy.

In this case, Dershowitz proclaims that he named the Dead Baby Strategy. Are we then to believe Hamas liked Dershowitz' label and strategy so much that they somehow appropriated it and began using it in Gaza? Or that the IDF said, 'Hey, let's use Alan's label and say Hamas uses the Dead Baby Strategy so we can kill their kids.' Likely not.

What it does appear we should believe is that the term Dead Baby Strategy is an invention of Mr. Dershowitz, used to promote a heinous accusation against Palestinians. Here's the rest of Mr. Dershowitz' description of his so-called Strategy. Do note his mention of the Goldstone Report, which (as shown above) refutes Dershowitz' contention that Hamas purposely endangers civilians through the placement of its rockets.

It sounds cruel but it's very very simple. The media, the most powerful image in the media is a mother holding a dead baby - whether it be Jesus being held by Mary after the Crucifixion, whether it be Guernica, Picasso's painting where you have mothers holding dead children. And what Hamas and Hesbollah know is that then when they fire enough rockets at Israeli children, at school buses. When they aim the rockets from 7:00 to 8:00 in the morning when school buses are on the way. When they hit schools, fortunately the principals had the foresight to release the students, they know eventually any democracy, any democracy will have to respond. And how do you respond? You try to get the rocket firing. Where do they put the rockets? You wouldn't know it if you read the Goldstone Report, but right in the middle of civilian populations and the goal is to induce Israel to kill as many Palestinian babies as possible. That's the goal. The object is to have the Al Jazeera and the camera there to photograph the dead baby.

Those Who Have Been There

I've never been to Gaza but I've known many Americans who have visited there and even some who have lived there. I asked some of them if they had ever heard of Dershowitz' Dead Baby Strategy or if they had ever witnessed Gazans doing anything that would purposely endanger their children.

Freelance journalist Kristen Ess Schurr, who lived in Gaza from 2002 to 2006, and traveled frequently between Gaza and the West Bank during Israel's physical occupation of Gaza, had never heard of theStrategy. She said:

I lived in Gaza and worked there. Strikes were part of daily life during the occupation. I was there during many of them, having to run in supermarkets when Apache helicopters fired missiles into the city. I've seen children get shot and parents horrified, screaming and crying. I saw Palestinian parents try to protect their children at all costs. I saw Israeli soldiers target children and schools and talk about children as terrorists. These people have endured more than anyone should ever endure and they show only love and compassion, stronger than I've ever seen.

Asked why she thinks Dershowitz invented the Dead Baby Stategy, Kristen responded:

The only way Israelis get away with what they do is to dehumanize Palestinians to the point where they're not even allowed to publicly mourn the deaths of their children.

I spoke with Barbara Lubin, Director of the Middle East Children's Alliance (MECA), who will be returning to Gaza in two weeks with emergency supplies for the children. She, too, had never heard of Dershowitz'Dead Baby Strategy. Here's some of what she said:

In my twenty-five years of traveling to Gaza and working there, I have never seen any such endangerment between Palestinian parents and their children. It's insulting and obnoxious for him [Dershowitz] to make any kind of statement like this about Palestinians using children for some Dead Baby Strategy. It's sickening.

I agree. It is sickening.

To The Heroes

For those like me who've never been to war or lived through war, it's difficult to grasp the degree of pain, fear, destruction and suffering its victims endure. What must it be like to cling to tumbling walls when bombs fall, or watch a loved one explode into pieces, having done nothing to deserve such a fate? It took the photo of nine-year old Kim Phuc to show many my age the horror of Vietnam. Discussions of nuclear weapons evoke devastating images of a mushroom cloud and a torched landscape of burned bodies. Mention of the Holocaust brings vivid recollections of emaciated bodies caged behind fences and mass graves piled high with corpses. And in Gaza, because of the hard work and valor of intrepid journalists, we have the horrific photos of dead children and their grieving families that Dershowitz and his cohorts vindictively besmirch.

We need these photos. We need more of them and we need to honor and protect the heroes who take them. Having these photos helps pave a path to ending wars. Having them (for most of us) challenges the perception of glorified war promoted by video games and corporate media. Having these photos allows us to equate war with the pain, loss, suffering and failure that war always is.

Further reading on the Dead Baby Strategy:



This past Sunday, Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh, who never served a day in the military, shamelessly questioned the heroism of his Congressional opponent, Illinois Army National Guard veteran and double amputee, Major Tammy Duckworth.
Major Tammy Duckworth
Photo Credit: Media dis&dat database
Using Senator John McCain as his foil to demean Duckworth, Walsh smeared Duckworth's service and undermined her sacrifice. Americans nationwide, across ideology and political party, were disgusted by Walsh's comments:
I, too, was disgusted. I've long admired Tammy Duckworth. I've admired her since first learning her story. I even wrote about her in 2006 on the heels of her first Illinois Congressional campaign and subsequent defeat by Republican Peter Roskam - another non-veteran. Today, having recently endured my own health challenges, I respect Tammy Duckworth even more. She's a hero of immeasurable - make that incomprehensible - dignity and strength. Over the past eighteen months I've been challenged by Stage 4 Lymphoma, the difficult chemotherapy to treat it, and heart disease that required a stent in my right coronary artery. It's been an interesting journey and one I've been reluctant to discuss. I'm intensely private. At this time, I'm happily in remission and feel no ill effects from the cancer, chemo or heart disease. Some may say what I faced was severe. At times, in the throes of the chemo, I would have agreed. But by and large I've felt I had it rather easy (though my oncologist disagrees). I drove myself to and from treatments and walked into the infusion room on my own, while many around me were wheeled. Often while in my oncologist's lobby, or the chemo room, I filled with tears as fellow warriors battled their pain. I, too, was in pain, but somehow it seemed a lot less because I could control my own movement. I felt fortunate then. I feel fortunate now. Today I ride my bicycle twelve miles to my oncologist and cardiologist. Other than the fog of chemo that has made it so difficult to write, I don't have much to complain about. I'm a very lucky woman.
Linda Milazzo
Lucky Me Outside Leavey Cancer Center
I haven't written about any of this until now. I'm pathologically private. But I write of it now for a reason. I write of it now because as much as I believe I've stepped up to my challenges and met my personal expectations to prevail, I'm no Tammy Duckworth. I've never been to war. I've never dealt with amputation. I'm not challenged in my movements. I've returned to my former activities as though the last eighteen months weren't real. When the effects of the chemo diminished and I stopped being winded when I walked, I forgot my discomforts and returned to my regular life. But it's not the same for Tammy Duckworth. She will deal with the ravages of war and the travails of amputation for the rest of her life. Yet amazingly - astonishingly - she prevails. Despite her irreparable wounds and her crutches and prostheses, Tammy Duckworth has endured the mental and physical challenges of the position of Assistant Secretary of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs and two rigorous Congressional campaigns. No wonder she's so admired. Considering the overwhelming condemnation Joe Walsh has received, it's fair to say that across the political spectrum, Americans share my regard for Tammy Duckworth. Veterans, in particular, are outraged at Walsh. Iraq War Veteran and Chairman of PAC, Jon Soltz, even called for Walsh's resignation from Congress. But disturbingly, John McCain, who was Walsh's singular foil in demeaning Tammy Duckworth, remains silent. McCain, who's talked often of his military service both on and off the campaign trail, and of his special connection to vets, previously crossed party lines to support his fellow veterans. Most famously, during the Clinton administration, McCain worked closely with Democratic Senator and Vietnam veteran John Kerry on POW/MIA affairs. If the military is truly non-partisan, shouldn't allegiance to veterans trump allegiance to party? I understand Senator McCain is presently in Afghanistan, but he's had ample time since Sunday to chastise Joe Walsh. Why hasn't he done so? It's not like he's been totally silent. He's tweeted the full spectrum from the Arizona Diamondbacks to his visit with the troops. Why not a tweet to defend Major Duckworth? After all, his was the name Joe Walsh mentioned. If he can tweet about baseball, he can certainly tweet about this. Senator McCain, your fellow veteran has been attacked in your name. Will you step up to honorably defend her? Only time will tell...
Sunday morning, in a surprise announcement, The Jewish Federation of Los Angeles President Jay Sanderson put the kibosh on a planned lecture by controversial Jewish activist and avowed anti-Islamist, Pamela Geller. Geller, who resides in New York, had been set to speak at the Jewish Federation's Los Angeles headquarters by invitation of the ultra conservative Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), a Jewish Federation affiliate. Even though President Sanderson offered no official explanation for canceling, outside the Wilshire Boulevard venue, Geller and the couple dozen folks who'd come to hear her speculated that Sanderson acted out of fear of an anti-Geller protest; specifically, a Muslim anti-Geller protest. Geller and her hypervigilant cohorts never imagined that the Los Angeles Muslim community hadn't considered protesting the event. Instead, on Saturday evening, members of the Muslim community via CAIR (Council on American–Islamic Relations) and a coalition of inter-faith organizations, issued the following compelling and sober statement decrying the Jewish Federation's plan to host the Geller lecture:
Interfaith Coalition Decries Hate Group Leader’s Appearance at L.A. Jewish Federation Pamela Geller, is co-founder of SIOA, an organization designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. A Southern California interfaith coalition today expressed “deep shock and alarm” over the Jewish Federation’s decision to offer a platform to the leader of an anti-Muslim hate group. Pamela Geller, who will deliver a lecture tomorrow on “Islamic Jew hatred” and “the root cause of war in the Middle East,” is co-founder of Stop the Islamization of America (SIOA), an organization designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), and author of a book offering step-by-step instructions on how to stop mosque construction in America. Tomorrow’s event is sponsored by the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) and is hosted by the Federation in Los Angeles. SEE: Pamela Geller on the Islamic Jew-Hatred The interfaith coalition released the following statement: “We are extremely shocked and alarmed to see a mainstream Jewish organization associating itself with one of the nation’s leading Islamophobes who doesn’t hesitate to share the podium with European racists and whose admirers apparently include Norwegian mass killer Anders Breivik. Religious leaders and institutions have an increased and urgent responsibility to promote tolerance and mutual understanding among all Americans, instead of giving aid and comfort to fear-mongers like Geller. Imagine how hurt Jewish community members would be, and rightly so, if they discovered American Muslims hosting an anti-Semitic speaker.” The interfaith coalition includes: Council on American-Islamic Relations - Greater Los Angeles (CAIR-LA), Islamic Circle of North America - Southern California (ICNA), Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, Jewish Voice for Peace - Los Angeles (JVP-LA), LA Jews for Peace, Muslim American Society - Greater Los Angeles (MAS-LA), Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), and Progressive Christians Uniting (PCU). SPLC: Active Anti-Muslim Groups Pamela Geller’s New Book: Communist Bookstore Clerks and “Secret Halal Meat” Geller most recently bragged that she uses a Quran, Islam’s holy text, as a doorstop. She also called for the demolition of a mosque in Florida, and will be speaking along with the violent racist group English Defence League’s Tommy Robinson at an international event later this summer. SIOA is an outgrowth of a similar group in Europe that seeks to block the construction of mosques on that continent. Its sister organization, Stop the Islamization of Europe, “considers Islamophobia to be the height of common sense.” The United States Patent and Trademark Office refused to grant SIOA a trademark because: “The applied-for mark refers to Muslims in a disparaging manner because by definition it implies that conversion or conformity to Islam is something that needs to be stopped or caused to cease.” Geller has claimed that “Hitler and the Nazis were inspired by Islam” and that Islam “mandates” lies and deception. SEE: Pamela Geller: The Looniest Blogger Ever She has also posted images on her blog that include a fake photograph of then Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan in a Nazi uniform, another fake image of President Obama urinating on an American flag and drawings purporting to depict Islam’s Prophet Muhammad as a pig. One image posted by Geller, headlined “Piss Be Upon Him,” showed one of the controversial Danish cartoons of the prophet covered in urine. (“Piss Be Upon Him” is designed to mock the traditional phrase “Peace Be Upon Him” that Muslims use when mentioning any prophet of God, including Abraham and Jesus.) Video: TV Host Exposes Pamela Geller’s Anti-Muslim Bigotry SIOA is an Anti-Muslim Hate Group CONTACT: CAIR-LA, Munira Syeda, 714-851-4851, [email protected]; ICNA SoCal, Waqas Syed, 949-521-0597; JVP-LA, Estee Chandler, [email protected]; MPAC, Marium Mohiuddin, 323-258-6722, [email protected]; Shura Council, Shakeel Syed, 714-239-6473, [email protected]
The Interfaith Coalition's statement provides an accurate portrait of Geller as a woman intent on destroying Islam. It also provides a marked contrast between the Coalition's mature civility and Geller's juvenile irrationality. Ultimately, it wasn't Muslims who planned to protest Pamela Geller at the Jewish Federation on Sunday. It was her fellow Jews - one of whom was me. I went to the Jewish Federation building Sunday morning. Other Jews went as well. Lauren Steiner, an activist with Occupy LA, whose family has long-time ties with The Jewish Federation, was there. Former Congressional candidate Marcy Winograd was there. Dorothy Reik, President of Progressive Democrats of Santa Monica Mountains, was there. Indeed, had there been more advance notice than just a few hours, many more local Jews would have gone. Geller's just as toxic to Jews as she is to Muslims. True, Geller was instrumental in inflaming New York City over plans to build the Park51 Islamic Community Center (often referred to as a Mosque). But thinking people see through Geller and her SIOA partner Robert Spencer's vitriol and hyperbole. Few are moved to join her. Lauren Steiner informs me that Orit Arfa, organizer of Sunday's event, set up a Facebook page for Geller's appearance. Arfa invited 36 people but no one signed up to go. Judging from the small number of people present Sunday morning, Geller isn't much of a draw. Her rage is discomforting and she offers nothing in positive values. On its website, the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles posts the following as its mission:
Based on Jewish values, The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles convenes and leads the community and leverages its resources to assure the continuity of the Jewish people, support a secure State of Israel, care for Jews in need here and abroad, and mobilize on issues of concern to the local community, all with our local, national, and international partners.
Consider the opening phrase, "Based on Jewish values." While there is no explanation of Jewish values on The Federation's website, traditional Jewish values conflict directly with Geller's racism, extremism and distortion of facts. Take a look at the most recent 2012 survey of Jewish values by the Public Religion Research Institute:
Core Qualities of Jewish Identity. When asked which qualities are most important to their Jewish identity, nearly half (46%) of American Jews cite a commitment to social equality... Regarding Attitudes toward American Muslims. Two-thirds (66%) of American Jews agree that American Muslims are an important part of the religious community in the United States, compared to 32% who disagree. Similarly, only about 1-in-5 (22%) American Jews believe that American Muslims ultimately want to establish Shari’a or Islamic law as the law of the land in the United States, compared to 76% who disagree.
While there is a small, non-majority percent of American Jews who may agree with Geller on certain issues, her presentation is so hate-filled and vulgar, she diminishes her opportunity for coalition and allegiance. Who knows. Perhaps it was The Federation's Jewish values mission that caused Sanderson to send Geller away. Of course, now Geller and her cohorts want retribution against Sanderson and The Jewish Fed for booting her. They set up a protest outside the Federation building. They bought poster board and Sharpies to make signs. They placed the materials in the public area and asked those who were there to create their own messages. Here are photos of the protest signs posted on Geller's website. Notice how many speak of free speech. I joined in on the protest. I used their materials to create my own two-sided sign:
Sign I created at Pamela Geller's Jewish Federation Protest
Sign I made at Jewish Federation of Los Angeles
The Geller folks were unhappy with my messages and confiscated my sign. Quite contradictory behavior considering their own signs were touting "free speech." I offered to pay for the materials I used, but they angrily dismissed me. Oh well... In truth, this breach in communication bothers me greatly. Discussions between Jews, particularly relative to Israel, have broken up friendships - even families. As long as haters like Geller have venues to preach, the gap will grow even wider. There's an amazing documentary titled "Between Two Worlds," produced and directed by Jewish husband and wife filmmakers Alan Snitow and Deborah Kaufman. The film meticulously explores the challenge of discussing Israel between Jews with opposing views; Jews who support all Israel does and Jews who are critics of Israel. It's a remarkable piece of work. Please see it if you can.
Jose Antonio Vargas Speaks
"Jose Antonio Vargas Speaks" Photo by Campus Progress
On Monday night, January 23rd, NBC will host the 18th candidate debate of this Republican primary season. It will be moderated by NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, and include panelists Adam C. Smith of the Tampa Bay Times and Beth Reinhard of National Journal. Presumably these panelists have the journalistic skills to interrogate convincingly, even entertainingly, considering Williams' comic flair. But while they promise to be well-prepared after ferreting through ample campaign notes and candidate bios, once all is said and done, they will still lack key elements to do the best job; key elements here being the right demographics. To put it bluntly, just like the candidates they are questioning, these panelists represent the privileged white majority. And for this American, after all the insensitivity and prejudices these candidates have shown - that demographic - my own demographic - just doesn't work. Throughout much of this already tawdry campaign, these candidates have insulted each other. But no matter how many insults they land, these men of privilege are never the victims. The true victims are those Americans who are not physically onstage at debates; those fitting the demographics these candidates have belittled and assailed from the start. Blacks, lesbians, gays, immigrants and women. The poor, the hungry, the ill, the working class and the middle class are who these candidates seek to criminalize and deprive - which is why a representative panel is needed. In last Monday's South Carolina Fox News/Wall Street Journal debate (#16 for those who are counting), Fox News panelist Juan Williams, a black man, took what many consider a racial flogging from Newt Gingrich, which upset civil rights proponents, but thrilled the white audience in attendance. The time has come for another black panelist to step up where Juan Williams left off. Though panelists aren't present as debaters, they're not present as whipping "boys" either. Egregiously, Newt Gingrich isn't the only Republican candidate of the remaining four (Gingrich, Romney, Santorum, Paul) who's been racially insensitive. Ron Paul has been criticized for numerous racist statements published in his earlier newsletters, outlined here by the Christian Science Monitor. On the stump through South Carolina, touting the praises of segregationist Strom Thurman, Rick Santorum insinuated that a President Romney would be a "paler shade" of President Obama. And in an act some perceived as condescending, Mitt Romney gave fifty dollars to an unemployed black woman at a South Carolina campaign stop. With actions ranging from blatant disdain for black Americans to perceived condescension, all four current GOP candidates have proved themselves unacceptable as President to black Americans - nearly 13% of the population. Black Americans aren't the only demographic under attack by these privileged white men. Immigrants, primarily hispanics, and their American children, are being assailed as criminals or lesser Americans. Lesbian and gay citizens are being vilified for seeking full equality, including military service and the right to marry. Women are being patronized by men who claim the right to legislate women's bodies. After seventeen debates, all led by journalists, who for the most part don't represent the populations at-risk if any of these four are elected, isn't it time to have a representative panel do the grilling? I realize that in our "democratic" electoral process candidates aren't mandated to appear at debates, and there is no guarantee they'll appear if asked to face a field they perceive as unfriendly. But it's still worth a try. I also realize there is no guarantee that the more representative panel will be more capable than the less representative panel, but again, it's worth a try. Thus, NBC, I would like to offer substitutes for Mr. Williams, Mr. Smith and Ms. Reinhard for Monday's Florida debate. For the sake of consistency, I'll make them all journalists. And for greater ease, I'll make two your own employees. To begin with, I suggest Melissa Harris Perry, contributor to The Nation and soon to be host on MSNBC to represent the black American demographic. I suggest either of MSNBC's hosts Rachel Maddow or Thomas Roberts to represent the gay and lesbian community. Finally I suggest Filipino born Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Jose Antonio Vargas, who's come out publicly as a gay man who's written extensively on HIV, and an illegal immigrant who advocates for The DREAM Act. Vargas would make an excellent debate panelist. In fact, serendipitously, he was recently kicked out of a Mitt Romney campaign event for holding a sign that read "I Am An American W/O Papers." These are my choices for panelists. There are those who will counter my call for representative panelists claiming fair questioning should take place regardless of the panelists' race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. I agree. It should. But this creates the opportunity to personalize the issues. It's one thing to attack a group in its absence. It's quite another to attack that same group in its presence. Believe me, I have no delusions that any of these four candidates will suddenly become humane, but at least they'll need to change pronouns. Instead of "they," they'll use "you." And in this case, the "you" sitting on the panel is more invested in the truth. There are those who will say my suggested panelists are ideological. Yes they are. And so are the candidates. So why not have a REAL go at it, rather than the theatrical badminton witnessed in the last debate (#17, again for those who are counting), hosted by CNN's John King. How can anyone forget King's opening salvo to Gingrich - the question on ex-wife Mary Ann's accusations of open marriage - facilely tagged with "Would you like to take some time to respond to that?" Let's get real. Anyone who'd seen Gingrich knew he'd salivate over that question. Red meat for the predator. King wasn't delivering journalism. King was delivering the gripping opening scene designed to capture his audience. This was CNN theatre. And it was absurd. I do respect Brian Williams, and while Williams, Adams and Reinhard are well-regarded, their demographic isn't needed in this debate. What's needed in this debate are journalists who represent the very demographics these candidates have been assailing; journalists who understand the damage these candidates are doing; journalists willing to confront these candidates about the hurt and divisiveness they are causing. And what's truly needed in this debate are the images of a diverse blended America - not more monochromatic mirror images of the candidates themselves.
Ever since I learned Just Imagine was the chosen theme for this year's Tournament of Roses Parade, I kept thinking about John Lennon. For so many of us, millions, perhaps even billions worldwide, the word "imagine" evokes an instant image of the pop-culture icon. His face, his round specs and his musical masterpiece permeate our minds. The melody and lyrics are transformational:
Imagine there's no heaven It's easy if you try No hell below us Above us only sky Imagine all the people living for today Imagine there's no countries It isn't hard to do Nothing to kill or die for And no religion too Imagine all the people living life in peace You, you may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one I hope some day you'll join us And the world will be as one Imagine no possessions I wonder if you can No need for greed or hunger A brotherhood of man Imagine all the people sharing all the world You, you may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one I hope some day you'll join us And the world will live as one
But for some, these lyrics seem meaningless, even absurd. Perhaps because the very same vagaries the lyrics decry are inherent to their personas. Perhaps they're consumed by greed or owned by possessions. Perhaps they subjugate through religion or can't bear to share. Perhaps they choose division over unity or war over peace. That's them. Not me. For me and others like me, John Lennon's Imagine imagines our world. This year, the Just Imagine themed 123rd Rose Parade falls on Monday, January 2nd to honor an obscure 1893 tradition. Also this year, in what defines another Rose Parade tradition, in addition to the standard fare of high school and university bands, prancing horses, law enforcement groups, local government and civic organizations, the Just Imagine Rose Parade will be satiated with the ubiquitous (and seemingly mandatory) military and corporations. The Parade's Grand Marshal is Iraq war vet, actor and Dancing With the Stars champ JR Martinez. The Air Force's B-2 Spirit will perform its ceremonial flyover and the Marine Corps band will entertain. The corporations, ranging from major banks (Wells Fargo, US Bank), credit card (Discover), food (Dole), insurance (Farmers), airline (China), drug (Bayer), auto (Honda) and more, will be well represented by more than a dozen lavishly decorated floats. Undeniably, military might and corporate cachet will be front and center in the Just Imagine Rose Parade. But don't despair you lovers of John Lennon. The spirit of your Imagine will not be forsaken. Immediately following the might & money march comes the occupiers' march - the people's march - replete with their own mighty float, Occupus, the greedy corporate octopus whose tentacles pierce homes, workplaces and pockets to terrorize victims.
Occupus rehearsal from video by Owen Driggs
Taken from video by Owen Driggs The People come bearing the People's Constitution which grants We The People our rights.
Prepping to carry the Constitution
Photo by Linda Milazzo
And they come with the Supreme Court's most recent perversion of the Constitution that grants "We The Corporations" We The People's rights.
We The Corporations
Photo by Linda Milazzo
Clifford Tasner of The Billionaires
Photo by Linda Milazzo: Clifford Tasner of The Billionaires
On January 2nd, thanks to the hard work and determination of members of the Occupy Movement, in particular organizer Peter Thottam, the 123rd Rose Parade is permitting viewers to Just Imagine how spectacular our country could be if greed and war disappeared. Lets re-Imagine the missions of the Parade's "main stage" performers: Just Imagine that universities were free, or at minimum affordable, and that high schools and all schools were sufficiently staffed, funded and maintained to provide the best education possible. Just Imagine that local governments had sufficient funding and compassionate un-purchased electeds who legislated to provide the best services, best infrastructure and best practices to the people. Just Imagine that law enforcement weren't so militarized and desensitized. Just Imagine they stopped delegitimizing dissent and criminalizing participatory democracy. Just Imagine that Wells Fargo Bank and all banks stopped foreclosing on homes. Just Imagine that Wells Fargo Bank and all banks made righteous and fair financial arrangements with homeowners so they needn't go homeless. Just Imagine that credit card companies charged appropriate interest and stopped ambushing cardholders with inflated unreasonable fees. Just Imagine that drug companies cared more for health and less for profit. Just Imagine that recycled plastic bags like those comprising Occupus weren't strangling our planet and that the vibrant flowers adorning the floats replaced their strangulation with oxygenation. Just Imagine that Rose Parade Grand Marshal JR Martinez (who was wounded in war), joins with Occupy The Rose Parade's Cindy Sheehan (whose son was killed in war), at Pasadena City Hall for the Occupy post parade press conference and concert. Just Imagine that together they call for an end to war and an end to the military industrial complex. Just Imagine that JR's future child and Cindy grandchildren - let's make that ALL children - never face the prospect of fighting in war. I understand these imaginings are ambitious. Some will say unattainable. But they're goals. Necessary goals. Across this nation growing numbers of people are coming together with these same goals in mind. They're occupying banks, foreclosed homes, universities, courts, offices of electeds, corporate headquarters, public squares and even globally televised parades. They're working to level the playing field. It's not about politics. It's about fairness. Perhaps you might join them...
You, you may say I'm a dreamer But I'm not the only one I hope some day you'll join us And the world will live as one
Just Imagine a happy, peaceful (and equitable) new year!
As the Occupy Wall Street movement pushes forward, evolving daily in mission and meaning, its cinematic companion has arrived on the scene. Heist: Who Stole The American Dream? is the latest socially and politically relevant documentary executive produced by Earl Katz, President of Public Interest Pictures. Heist will soon premiere as the fundamental primer on the historical and present-day inequities which gave rise to the Occupy Movement. From its 1930s depiction of Depression Era breadlines to Wisconsin Governor Walker's current assault on Collective Bargaining, Heist tells the story of America in decline due to the excessive greed of corporate executives and politicians bent on destroying the middle class. From beginning to end, producers/directors Donald Goldmacher and Frances Causey focus on explaining how powerful special interests have worked feverishly since the implementation of Roosevelt's New Deal to derail the protections and rights afforded workers. Via the steady voice of narrator Thom Hartmann and the astute observations of featured experts including Media Matters for America's David Brock, American Airlines former President and Chair Robert Crandall, Maryland Congresswoman Donna Edwards, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist David Cay Johnston, Rebuild the Dream's Van Jones, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and more, Heist meticulously details the myriad assaults perpetrated on America's workers. It is a crash course told in accessible language on the manner in which media, economics and politics have been used by the ruling "one percent" to oppress and devalue the more vulnerable "ninety-nine". Indeed, after just one screening of Heist, 99% of Americans on all sides of the political spectrum should be pushed into action to wrestle their rights and democracy away from those who have collectively robbed them. Goldmacher and Causey are obvious in their efforts to mobilize the audience to action. Heist isn't merely a recounting of history and atrocity. It's a call to action to rise up against those who've used deregulation, like the repeal of Glass-Steagall and rollbacks on protections, to victimize the masses. It sounds the alarm on the need to restore the Fairness Doctrine, repealed by Ronald Reagan, which led to the current spate of airwave liars and hatemongers. Heist moves us to want to end the media consolidation that allows for predators like Comcast and Rupert Murdoch to monopolize markets, control news and distort truth. It pushes us to safeguard and strengthen unions and workers' rights as Koch funded Governors like Wisconsin's Scott Walker and Ohio's John Kasich work to systematically dismantle them. It enrages us as we watch a panel of Human Resources professionals provide training on bypassing American workers in favor of lower wage foreign workers. It enrages us even further when Bill Gates testifies unopposed before Congress on the merits of H1B legislation to import foreign workers under the guise that not enough American workers have the skill to do the jobs. The film pointedly asks "Who will control the future of the USA? Organized money or organized people?" The filmmakers are pushing for an organized people's movement to reclaim government control. They tell us "if we work together we can create a national strategy to revive our democracy and save our economy." And they tell us "the next steps are up to us." Now in the final stages of production, as the filmmakers proceed with the arduous but necessary fundraising to bring the film to completion, they have devised a generous plan to offer the film to activists, and they're enthusiastically spreading the word. This past Sunday Executive Producer Earl Katz talked up the film and the activist plan at the innaugural Los Angeles Green Festival. The filmmakers' plan is to provide a twenty or thirty minute motivational version of the film to activists at no charge. A week earlier, Earl shared with me his rationale for distributing the activist short, along with his personal angst over the corporate abuse of our nation:
"I hope that our film enables and organizes and brings independents and the middle class and tea party people into the Occupy Wall Street movement. We are taught historically the United States economy is predicated on consumer spending. 70% of our economy is driven on consumer spending but the corporations don't do that anymore. They don't believe it anymore. They don't have to do it. They don't need consumer spending in the United States anymore because they now have over 600 million middle class in China and India and more in other exploding third world countries so they don't have to sell to us anymore. We are not needed. They want to make us expendible. Well it's our country. And these multinational corporations do not have any allegiance to our country - none whatsoever. They have allegiance to their bottom line. Period."
On November 5th, director Donald Goldmacher will screen Heist at a teach-in at Occupy Los Angeles.
Photo by Linda Milazzo
In an hour plus time, Occupiers will witness in cinematic form the clear articulation of the Occupy Movement where the ills of American society are made irrevocably clear and the corporate and political monsters are indisputably revealed. For those in America still asking what fueled the Occupy Movement and what wrongs it wants to right - well, those questions are easily answered once you've seen the movie Heist.
When will we change the course of corporate media? When will sane Americans take media to task? Can't we end this media madness before the fabric of our society irreversibly tears? Across America people suffer end-of-life illness. They agonize in pain. They agonize in fear. They're in drug induced stupors. Modest people soil themselves in front of friends and family. They avert their eyes in shame. They lose and regain consciousness. They welcome the unconscious moments that shield them from feelings of helplessness and burdening those they love. This is no way to live. This is no way to die. Throughout the recent debate on the health care bill, the media - in particular cable TV and talk radio - inflamed the rhetoric on the bill; on the bill's size, its number of pages, its fiscal impact, its social impact, excluding abortion, surviving death panels... DEATH PANELS?! The bill had no death panels. There was simply a plan to consult a doctor every five years for end-of-life planning. That was it. Sensitive, helpful, humane, necessary, professional end-of-life planning to comfort and protect the dying and guide their families through a difficult time. But corporate media perverted the plan. It afforded Sarah Palin, media's most caustic creation, round the clock amplification of her death panel misnomer. Rather than quell Palin's toxic distortions and present the plan factually by name and content, corporate media appropriated Palin's death panel fabrication and amplified it even more, spending weeks misrepresenting the plan and rendering it unrecognizable from its original form. Eventually, corporate media's constant drumming of death panel lies resulted in Section 1233 (which allowed Medicare to provide advance planning doctor visits every five years) being eliminated from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that passed in 2010. On Christmas Day, the New York Times reported that President Obama would issue a Medicare regulation January 1st, which provides that "the government will pay doctors who advise patients on options for end-of-life care, which may include advance directives to forgo aggressive life-sustaining treatment." Sadly, but not surprisingly, corporate media didn't hesitate to jump on this report and revive the death panel deception. Witness CNN reporter Randi Kaye, sitting in for Anderson Cooper, ignite the death panel rhetoric between Democrat Maria Cardona and Conservative Nancy Pfotenhauer:
(Video by Linda Milazzo)
Enough, CNN! Enough! Stop trivializing and dramatizing critical issues and pitting one hack against another. These women speak for no one. Report the news. Report the truth and stop whoring your twisted wares in the name of journalism. This isn't journalism. This is media destruction, fact distortion and public denigration. Americans don't need this. Our nation's sliding into ruins and you ruin it even more. This is my Network moment. I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore from CNN, MSNBC, Fox, NBC, ABC, CBS and talk radio. We-the-people deserve better. This wretched corporate media cheered us into Iraq. It's made downtown Manhattan the flash point for xenophobia and racism over the building of a community center intended to unify neighbors. It's given a platform to birthers. It's undermined global warming. It's created the monster Sarah Palin and it craves creating more. It's desecrating the living and it's desecrating the dying. Enough!! My mother died in 1977. She had cancer. Before she died, I flew to her hospital bed in New York. When I arrived at the hospital, I ran down the hall and charged into her room. I hadn't seen her in months. She was surrounded by family. My knees buckled the instant I saw her. A relative caught me and carried me into the hall. I shook from head to toe. My mother was a skeleton. We took her home from the hospital. Her sister flew in to help care for her. The last months of her life were living hell. She was robbed of her dignity. She was ashamed of being helpless, of needing to be fed and bathed, of being seen naked. She couldn't look us in the eye. After a while, the weak pain killers the doctor prescribed couldn't stop her pain. I drove to her doctor's office in the snow and demanded a stronger medication. He prescribed injectable morphine. I took the prescription and had it filled. Later that day a visiting nurse came to teach me to inject my mother. We rehearsed on the skin of an orange. That night my mother cried in pain. I went to her with the syringe and told her to relax; that it would be okay. She was semi-conscious. I filled the syringe and positioned myself to inject her. I was shaking. My tears clouded my eyes. I held the syringe to her skin and I MISSED. At that moment my mother came to. She looked at me and said, "it's okay." I was never able to inject her. Her suffering went on... My family's story is not unique. This happens every day to families across our nation. Millions have similar stories, and yet our media, our whoring media, for ad revenue and ratings, trivializes and falsifies the truth. About death. About war. About our planet. About what Americans want. It's time to stop this madness!
Registered Nurse Estella Chavez Registered Nurse Estella Chavez (Photo by Linda Milazzo) With support from California Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield and California State Senator Fran Pavley, along with an enthusiastic nod from Governor-elect Jerry Brown and sanctioning from LA Federation of Labor, Central Labor Council of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties, registered nurses from Riverside Community Hospital (Riverside) and West Hills Hospital (San Fernando Valley) took to the streets at 5:30AM on December 23rd to begin a five day permitted strike against the world's largest for profit hospital chain and billion dollar felon, Hospital Corporation of America (HCA). At issue are HCA's abandonment of negotiations with nurses' Union SEIU 121RN and HCA's failure to respond to the matters (listed below) that the Union contends are critical to the needs of nurses and patients:
Staffing by Acuity: Our Union is proposing language that addresses issues with the system that reviews a patient's acuity. The sicker our patients, the fewer we should have under one RN's care. This is needed to protect our patients, allow them to heal, get well and go home to their families. Rest and Meals: We want to ensure that rest and meal breaks are guaranteed and enforceable by our contract. RNs work very long hours; if a nurse cannot rest and recharge, patients are at risk. Clinical Ladder: Our Clinical Ladder proposal would encourage RNs to attain additional education and training and receive small, usually temporary pay increases for doing so. Our Clinical Ladder proposal is achievable and is a win for the hospital, patients and RNs. Call-Off: Nurses in some areas of the hospital are reporting significant loss of pay because of call-offs. Our Union is proposing that the hospitals establish a bank of time to compensate nurses for involuntary call-off. RNs need a stable pay check just like everyone else. (Call-off refers to times nurses are sent home from their jobs when patient loads are low).
The strike is scheduled to go from December 23rd through December 27th (no strike on Christmas), beginning each day at 5:30AM at both hospital locations. By sanctioning this strike, LA Federation of Labor and Central Labor Council of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties authorize their affiliate members (delivery drivers, electricians, etc.) not to cross the nurses' picket lines to do hospital business. State Senator Pavley endorsed the nurses concerns in her letter to Edward Battista, Vice President of Human Resources at West Hills Hospital:
“The nurses who have come into my office have been concerned primarily with improvements to patient care, staffing, and pay and benefits. … I encourage West Hills Hospital & Medical Center to offer benefits that will recruit and retain the best employees and will ensure that West Hills Medical Center continues to provide quality care to our community.”
Assemblyman Blumenfield similarly endorsed the nurses concerns in his letter to Vice President Battista:
“On behalf of the Registered Nurses and the community of West Hills, I’m asking your hospital to bargain in good faith with SEIU Local 121RN; to make sure that workers are treated fairly and equitably; to insure that changes in staffing or working conditions do not put patients and caregivers at risk; and, finally, to agree on a contract with strong protections for patients and workers.”
At the West Hills strike site, two nurses, Estella Chavez who has worked at West Hills Hospital for nearly twenty years, and Elley Langsam who has worked there for thirty years, informed me that patient services, patient products and hospital effectiveness have declined radically since the hospital was purchased ten years earlier by Hospital Corporation of America. Prior to that, West Hills Hospital had been owned and operated by Humana, another for-profit mega corporation that both women praised highly. Nurses Estella Chavez and Elley Langsam (video by Linda Milazzo) Although Humana has been the focus of multiple lawsuits and used in Michael Moore's film Sicko to spotlight the downside of managed care, the breadth of Humana's settled and alleged crimes pale in comparison to the proven crimes of HCA, the mega-corporation founded by the family of former Republican Senate Majority Leader, Bill Frist. Interesting how several current and former politicians have connections in some way to HCA. Bill Frist through his vast profits from his family's ownership, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney through his former company, Bain Capital, the current owner of HCA, Florida Governor-elect Rick Scott, who was forced to resign his post as HCA'a Chief Executive amid the scandal of the company's Medicare fraud. HCA ultimately admitted to fourteen felonies and agreed to pay the federal government over 600 million dollars. According to the Department of Justice, "HCA settled the largest health care fraud case in the history of the United States, netting the government a record $1.7 billion in damages." Despite his involvement with HCA, Rick Scott was still elected Governor of Florida in November, 2010. The nurses striking West Hills Hospital and Riverside Community Hospital this holiday season are defiant in their stance against massively wealthy HCA, which placed private security officers along the perimeter and grounds of West Hills Hospital to respond to the strikers. Nurses Chavez and Langsam shared their bemusement at the stepped up security, explaining how their requests to HCA for adequate hospital and grounds security have long gone unanswered. I attempted to meet with West Hills Hospital's Chief Executive Officer Beverly Gilmore, but she was unavailable for an interview. I did meet briefly in the hospital lobby with Zachary McVicker, a well dressed young man toying with his iPad, from Mustang Marketing, West Hills Hospital's private public relations representative. McVicker shed little light on the hospital's position on the issues or the strike, except to assure me the hospital had the situation well under control, using nurses who didn't strike along with temporary nurses to cover for the strikers. McVicker did not know how many hospital nurses did not strike, but the striking nurses told me the non-strikers comprised about 20% of the nursing staff. In lieu of meeting with CEO Gilmore, McVicker provided me the phone number of Dr. Lee Weiss, Medical Director of West Hills Hospital's Emergency Department, whom he said would answer my questions. In my subsequent phone call with Dr. Weiss, the doctor stated categorically he had nothing to do with the strike and knew absolutely nothing about it. Weiss was amiable in our short talk but wanted no part of the fray. I had observed some doctors out striking with the nurses, and the nurses let me know they had many doctors' support. It appears McVicker had placed Dr. Weiss in an uncomfortable position. So much for the contracted PR skills of Mustang Marketing. Whatever the outcome of this strike, these nurses are standing up to their felon corporate employer and fighting valiantly for their rights and the rights of their patients. Their strike leaflet reads, "When we fight, we gain respect." After listening to their stories and hearing their dedication to their patients and their jobs, they've surely gained my respect. I wish them the best in this endeavor.