Saturday, February 26, 2005

YWCA Refuses to Condemn anti-Semitic Report

The Jewish News of Greater Phoenix reports

The YWCA of the USA's National Coordinating Board (NCB), which met in Phoenix from Feb. 11-13, failed to pass a statement condemning the 2004 Witness Report, a four-page account of a visit that 14 members of the World YWCA made to the Middle East last spring.

That report detailed a visit to Yasser Arafat at his compound in Ramallah and concluded that Israelis were trying to "rid the land of Palestinians" just as "Hitler tried to exterminate the Jews."

Arafat, who died Nov. 11, was the leader of the Palestinian Authority.

The YWCA of the USA is a member of the World YWCA. The YWCA of the USA is made up of local associations that are organized into regions, such as the Southwest Delta Region, to which the Maricopa County YWCA belongs.

The statement condemning the report had been adopted and put forward to the NCB by the Pacific Region of the YWCA, which includes Tucson.

Janet Marcotte, executive director of the Tucson YWCA, said the Witness Report "has been a concern to our organization for a long time. I'm surprised it hasn't come up sooner."

Sharon Bettinelli, executive director of the YWCA Berkeley, in California, echoed Marcotte's concerns. "I'm on the executive committee, so we had been dealing with this for a while," she told Jewish News by phone the day after the NCB voted against the Pacific Region's statement.

In anticipation of the NCB meeting in Phoenix on Feb. 13, Bettinelli sent the 30 members of her board copies of the Pacific Region's statement as well as the Witness Report.

"I wanted to make sure our board members knew about it," she said, "because it was very important for us to separate ourselves from what was going on. ... We have quite a number of Jewish people involved here, and we don't want them to think in any way that we support this. 'They' are 'we.' That's why it was so important for so many of us out here to try to make sure that this resolution was passed at the meetings in Phoenix."

Five members of the NCB voted for the statement, and 11 voted against. There was one abstaining vote.
According to the Arizona Republic
On a weekend when the YWCA's national coordinating board is meeting in Phoenix, it has refused to meet with the Jewish Community Relations Council. Michelle Steinberg, who leads the council, said her efforts to meet with local board members also have been ignored.
Make no mistake, comparing Israel to Nazi Germany and spreading the calumny that Israel is tyring "rid the land of Palestinians" just as "Hitler tried to exterminate the Jews" is not criticism of Israeli policies. It is anti-Semitism and should be condemned as such.

Shame on the YWCA for refusing to see this.

If Phil Kline was serious

Phil Kline, the right-wing, psueodo-Christian Attorney General of Kansas has

demanded the medical records of nearly 90 woman and girls who had late-term abortions, saying he needs the material to investigate crimes.

The two abortion clinics involved in the case say the state has no right to such personal information and are fighting the request in the Kansas Supreme Court.

But Attorney General Phill Kline insisted Thursday he needs the records because he has "the duty to investigate and prosecute child rape and other crimes in order to protect Kansas children."

This is not merely a fishing expedition. It is a fishing expedition that is not aimed at getting evidence of a crime. It is a fishing expedition that is aimed at getting votes for Kline. That much is obvious to most observers. But there are two other angles to this.

First, if Kline was serious about investigating possible child sexual abuse or statuatory rape, he would alos be going after the confidential records of the "alternative pregnacy" centers.

Second, if Kline is serious in his opposition abortion, doesn't this case make it seem that he is against abortion even in cases of rape and child abuse.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Two Histories of Social Change

Then I'll Be Free to Travel Home currently airing on public radio stations.

This series of 13 hour radio programs traces the historical arc of the long African-American battle against northern slavery and for full, first-class citizenship. It chronicles the contributions the original Africans who founded the New York African Burial Ground - and their descendants - made to the survival and development of New York and the nation from the 1600s to the New York City Draft Riots of 1863. It is also a history of larger-than-life "freedom fighters" on many levels and of many races, who challenged slavery to change the course of this nation from it's earliest Colonial days. It's historical arc will be capped with a modern "coda" (1992 2003) that illustrates and highlights the parallels of those historical contributions, issues and battles, with their modern echoes and counterparts in the present struggle to preserve and honor the site where those early Africans were and are buried.

There are some MP3 excerpts in the summaries section of the website linked above.

Radicals in the Bronx: Exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York through March 20

In the 1920s, four left-wing organizations launched a daring experiment in the Bronx. Seeking to create a better life for working people, they mobilized the resources of their members and proceeded to build their own versions of utopia. The communities that they founded were designed to foster political activism, artistic engagement, and collective values. This exhibition explores four Bronx cooperatives ? the Amalgamated Houses, the Farband Houses, the Sholem Aleichem Cooperative, the United Workers? Cooperative Colony (?the Coops?) ? that were built by groups of primarily secular Jewish immigrants who wanted both to improve living conditions and to create a basis for transforming society.

The website has some interesting historical photos like this one that looks like a May Day demonstration by youth from the Bronx Workmen?s Circle shul #2, 1934

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

On the Iraqi elections

Marc Cooper, Nation and Los Angeles Weekly columnist and translator for Chilean President Salvador Allende

The Iraqi elections were surreal but on the whole heartening and downright inspiring. I cannot imagine many Americans voting under such horrific conditions, frankly. There are many reasons why the Bush administration insisted on having this vote take place in the midst of a bloody war—and few of them have anything to do with the advancement of democracy. And please remmeber that the Bush administration orginally opposed this type of direct voting having orginally pushed for a cockamamie caucus system. The direct one man-one vote polling was won by the Iraqis, and specifically by the struggle of Ayatollah Sistani.

All in all, I don't think it was fair to force people out into the current atmopshere to vote and that the elections should have been preceeded by enhanced security conditions.

That said, millions of Iraqis disagreed and were willing to brave the risk of car bombs and mortar fire because they hope and want a better future-- something they are absolutely entitled to.

I don’t believe that the invasion of Iraq and the ensuing occupation were justified by the arguments presented by the Bush administration. Nor do I believe for a moment that this administration knew or currently knows what it is doing and is dangerously lost in a fog of dogma.

But the political opening in Iraq, no matter its limited size and the grotesque distortions imposed by the war, is a felicitous by-product of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the U.S. occupation.

Those of who opposed this war and who want to see the U.S. troops withdrawn as soon as possible should unequivocally encourage the tenuous political process now underway in Iraq. We should stand for more and better elections, not fewer. We should be encouraging the writing of a fair constitution, an inclusion of the Sunnis into the process in order to reduce the violence, and a bolstering of civil society (as a safeguard against fundamentalism). If we merely write off yesterday's vote as only potemkin or charade elections we take ourselves out of any serious debate and we degrade the legitimate aspirations of the Iraqi people. Indeed, the more one opposes the war and its pretexts, the more we should support the stabilization of a successful, pluralistic Iraqi state.

There is no “other side” to support. The Bush administration’s cartoonish characterization of the armed opposition is just that -- cartoonish. The insurgency is, indeed, rife with religious fundamentalists, revengeful Ba’athists and a certain foreign terrorist element. We can also be sure that there are other less politically defined “nationalist” strains who are just plain angry and humiliated by the dire economic conditions and by the presence of foreign troops. But taken together, this insurgency offers no evidence of supporting a political process that is somehow more open than the limited process imposed by the U.S.

Fred Kaplan in SLATE

along many avenues of Iraq's journey to democracy (or wherever it's headed), there are many, many miles to go.

And yet, is it too romantic to see signs of real hope in today's election? One thing is clear: The day marked a terrible defeat for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who had declared democracy to be an "infidel" belief. He and his goons passed out leaflets threatening to kill anyone and everyone who dared to vote; they dramatized their threat by killing dozens of police and poll workers in the days leading up to the election. And yet millions of Iraqis—including a fairly large number of Sunnis who live in Shiite areas—defied their fears and voted. Whatever mayhem they inflict in the coming days, it will be hard for anyone to interpret their actions as reflecting the beliefs of "the street."

In the week before the election, several Sunni leaders said they want to participate in the constitutional process in any case. Do these leaders now regret their calls for a boycott of the election? Seeing how badly Zarqawi failed in his effort to halt or disrupt the election, will they now work more vigilantly to pursue their cause peacefully and to separate their nationalist followers from the foreign terrorists in their midst?