this cutie was taken by Crazyegg95 in 2005 and is from flickr

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Wednesday, 17 March 2010

ain't no Sun-City in Israel - Pixies

Pixies are playing Israel.

Here is a Ha'aretz article detailing Israeli human rights groups asking them not to play. I know that Leonard Cohen should have some idea of what goes on in the Occupied Territories. I am hoping that the Pixies do not know, otherwise it is another favourite band struck from the list. I figure that if Naomi Klein and Noam Chomsky can know, the Pixies and Haruki Murakami can know. If Angelina Jolie and Dustin Hoffman can know, then surely it's not too hard for other people to get a bit of awareness.

I will include the first few paragraphs of the Ha'aretz article: Israeli rights group to The Pixies: Don't perform in Israel
An Israeli human rights group is urging the American alternative rock band the Pixies to cancel their June 9 concert in Israel.

"As much as some of us are huge fans and would love to hear your show, we won't cross the international picket line that is growing in numbers steadily nowadays to come and see you," the group Boycott! wrote Monday.

The organization urges academics and artists to shun Israeli institutions in protest of the government's policies in the West Bank. "The picket line might not always be visible; yet it is there."

Last month, a group of British academics unsuccessfully called on singer Elton John to cancel his scheduled performance in Israel this June.

I feel that if you stand for human rights for your group, whether it be equal recognition for same sex partners, or due to ethnicity, or just because you feel that all humans should receive fair treatment, then there are times when you need to examine your actions and see if they are not upholding the stifling actions of other. I would love to see the Pixies, too. I think I might have to take references to them down from my other blog. *Sigh* Jews sans Frontieres has this article on Elton John. Worth reading. Ooh, and there is now a facebook page urging him to reconsider playing.

Carlos Santana

However, Carlos Santana made the conscious, conscientious and abiding by his conscience choice to stay away. Cohen and McCartney played. Cohen might need the money, seeing as his manager swindled him out of his life savings, but McCartney? I only hope that ignorance is at the base of their actions.

Artists Against Apartheid have thanked Carlos Santana here:
Artists Against Apartheid and the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel would like to extend our thanks to Carlos Santana for honoring the call for the Cultural Boycott of Israel, by electing not to perform in the apartheid state. The call for cultural boycott was successful in creating international accountability for human rights violations in apartheid South Africa, and is now being applied in the case of Israel...

Cultural figures like Roger Waters, Arundhati Roy, Brian Eno, John Berger, and Ken Loach have expanded their advocacy to publicly hold Israel accountable for its human rights violations and war crimes. We hope that Santana, as an advocate of human rights, will join Archbishop Desmond Tutu and others engaged in the nonviolent struggle for equal rights and justice for the Palestinian people in endorsing the cultural boycott of Israel.
Here is a link to the bds movement, boycott, divestments and sanctions. A peaceful way to help end the apartheid, restrictions and human rights abuses that Israel imposes on the people of Palestine

The open letter to the Pixies which is referenced in the Ha'aretz article is available in full here. Will you cross the picket line?

Here is a contact form for 4AD, the Pixies' record label. Why not write them an email, if you feel bds is a viable campaign to peacefully end injustice.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Jewish Voice for Peace, Rachel Corrie's Mother and Mamdouh Habib

According to ISM Palestine, "The Ramallah municipality dedicated a street to Rachel Corrie on 16 March 2010.".

Rachel Corrie

Cindy Corrie

I received the letter below in my inbox from Jewish Voice for Peace and the mother of Rachel Corrie, a former native of Seattle who was runover by a bulldozer, and killed, as it attempted to demolish a Palestinian house. Also, I think it is worth remembering Tom Hurdnall who was actually shot dead by Israeli soldiers as he rescued two Palestinian children who were in the line of their fire (warning shots or something - the soldiers are notorious for firing their rifles for little or no reason). He also died at age 23. Brave people. The big difference in Hurdnall's case, was that, as the website dedicated to him says, ". . .[justice was achieved for]Tom through the unprecedented conviction of [an Israeli] soldier for killing a civilian."

Tom Hurdnall

The letter is as below. The governments of the States and the U.K. it seems have not followed up much on the murders of their citizens. Though there are some interesting questions from Joe Biden here, and this newspaper article in the Israeli newspaper, Ha'aretz, entitled: Corrie’s sister to Haaretz: U.S. encouraged family to sue Israel. In the States a play was made of Rachel Corrie's emails, which are in my sidebar. There were, of course, many protests about the play. The letters are very eloquent, worth reading. Cindy Corrie's letter is as follows:
This month, a civil lawsuit in Israel in the case of our daughter Rachel Corrie will converge with the seven-year anniversary of her killing in Gaza. A human rights observer and activist, Rachel, 23, was crushed to death by an Israel Defense Force (IDF) Caterpillar D9R bulldozer as she tried nonviolently to offer protection for a Palestinian family whose home was threatened with demolition. This lawsuit is one piece of our family's seven-year effort to pursue accountability for Rachel while, also, challenging the Occupation that claimed her life.

On this day, when Rachel's presence is powerful for many of us, we're asking all of our friends to support Rachel's vision of freedom for Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip by participating in what we are calling the International Day of Conscience. Please join her struggle by calling the White House today - this link has all the information you need.

Seven years later, Rachel's memory is still vibrant. I'm writing to you from Israel where we are plaintiffs in a civil case against the state of Israel for its responsibility in her death. In addition to seeking accountability through the Israeli court system, we're asking all of our friends to support Rachel's vision of freedom for Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip by participating in a national call-in day to the White House.

I hope I can count on you to:

Call the White House at 202-456-1111
Urge Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell to visit Gaza and demand that the United States break the blockade of Gaza by providing immediate humanitarian aid and building materials.
Tell us about your call. Tracking your calls makes a difference.

You can also make the call tomorrow. Please forward this email to help spread the word.

Thank you,

Cindy Corrie

P.S. Click here to view the trial updates page on the Rachel Corrie Foundation website.
I am not in the States, but I urge anyone who is and who believes in human rights to at least think about complying with Cindy Corrie's requests.

In other news, Mamdouh Habib, an Australian resident who was imprisoned in Guantanamo for five years, but never charged,has been granted permission to sue the Australian government, and also won a defamation case against the Daily Telegraph. Habib claims the Australian government were complicit with his arrest and consequential torture. I saw Habib speak in Perth in 2008 and I am glad that he has pushed to speak despite the government trying to silence him. His wife, dressed in the open faced abaya, also spoke and was possibly the more articulate of the two, but both were determined that justice be done. If that link above times-out, please leave me a comment. I have printed the article, and can provide the text.

David Hicks has been too scared to be sent back to Guantanamo, or imprisonment, I guess, and has complied with the order from the U.S. and the Australian government that he not talk about his experience in the prison, even though I think he is now free to. His American military attorney, Lieutenant colonel Michael Mori, is a great man, I feel, and did far more for David Hicks than any Australian government representative ever did.
On November 10, 2006 Mori attended the signing of the Fremantle Declaration by the attorneys-general of the states and territories of Australia. Federal Attorney General Philip Ruddock refused to attend. The declaration urges judicial fairness be applied in Hicks' case to protect the legal rights of Australians at home and abroad. Mori said "It's disheartening that federal ministers won't fight for an Australian citizen to have the same rights as an American."[5] (my emphasis).
Let's hope that Habib's attempts continue to come to something so that there might be some transparency and some accountability for the main players, in Australia, at least, during the Bush and Howard years where torture was promoted as a governmental right and a justified practice.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Howard Govt. Rudd Govt. Where's the Difference?

I know that I voted for Rudd because I wanted us to live up to our humanitarian obligations. We are a signatory to the United Nations Declaration that people have a right to seek asylum. I wanted asylum seekers not to be imprisoned, not to be treated as prisoners. I wanted us to stick up for Australian citizens imprisoned by other governments for political reasons, such as David Hicks was. I wanted us not to send back people who had spent all of their lives, bar a few years in Australia, to other countries out of convenience. We claim to be a multi-cultural society. We need to take the good and the bad with that.

Many asylum seekers work very hard to start afresh in a new country, and many are highly educated. We lack skilled workers in Australia, in all fields. Abbott (opposition leader) and others are using asylum seekers and immigration as a political hot potato. Yet, I do not believe that I was alone in voting for Rudd with the idea that he would be less draconian in his policies than Howard. He is an opportunist, but which politician isn't? And some things have changed in policy, but the opposition party claims that the prior governments policy of dealing with asylum seekers (lock em up, deny them legal access, send em back) was working and the would revert to it. Apparently Christmas Island detention centre is almost at capacity, and there is still a boat waiting in Indonesian waters. According to mainstream media surveys, the general public doesn't seem to have much sympathy towards asylum seekers, but neither does the mainstream media.

Why are people who have lived almost their whole lives being locked up, though? It is reminiscent of the Australian citizens (originally from Germany and the Philippines) who were locked up in detention centres and deported, under Howard, despite holding Australian passports.

As an aside, according to the UNCHR site, Iraqis, Afghanis and Somalis top the list of asylum seekers in the industrialized world (Oct 2009). Who, until recently, had troops in Iraq, and who still has them in Afghanistan? If we are going to contribute to destabilising the world, then we need to realise that there will be humanitarian consequences. We are a party to the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, and have been since 1951, also known as the Geneva Convention. We have global obligations, unless we want to become a rogue state and go alone. There is more information here, but that UNCHR site is the best source.

So the news story below shows that nothing has changed. The scary thing is, that this man has been held in a detention centre for 3 years, yet he has lived in Australia for 27 years and went through the Australian school system and so on. If he had become naturalised, I assume that his civil rights (I know we have no bill of rights in Australia) would be greatly abused by him being kept in detention for so long. The policy is misguided. If he has done wrong, try him by the Australian judicial system, which is the system that he has lived under for the majority of his life, anyway. The other thing, he is not alone. There are another five people in similar situations of prolonged detention - one for seven years. This policy of one rule for us, one rule for them - which I know has always been a policy towards immigrants and asylum seekers, and to a degree, some form of screening is necessary - will ultimately backfire. Whether your point of view be humanitarian, religiously humanitarian, in favour of democracy, or you just ascribe to decency, these policies fail those points of view without a doubt.
Man to be deported after 27 years in Oz

14:59 AEST Wed Mar 10 2010

By Karlis Salna

Authorities are seeking to deport a Cambodian-born man, raised and educated in Australia since arriving as a nine-year-old some 27 years ago.

The unidentified man does not want to return to Cambodia where six of his eight siblings are reported to have been killed.

He says he no longer has any family or other contacts in Cambodia.

A report by the Commonwealth and Immigration Ombudsman, tabled in the federal parliament on Wednesday, reveals his tragic past.

It includes time spent in jail, where he had a history of self-harm that continued after being placed in immigration detention.

In May 2009, a noose was discovered in his room at the Villawood Detention Centre where he has been for almost three years.

"He is recorded as having attempted self-harm a number of times when previously in gaol, including at least one attempt at hanging," according to the Ombudsman's assessment.

While the report concedes the man has not responded well to attempts at rehabilitation, it points out that having been in Australia for the majority of his life, he is basically a member of the community.

"It nevertheless remains relevant that Mr X came to Australia as a child of nine, was raised and educated here, and, despite his poor record as a member of the community, has been part of the Australian community for almost 27 years."

But despite having been here for much of his life, he is considered a non-citizen, and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship wants to "remove Mr X to Cambodia".

The ombudsman has recommended the man be considered for a suitable visa until a decision is made about his long-term immigration status.

He is one of seven individuals the Ombudsman has reported on.

Five of those included in the document have been in detention for more than three years, including one for almost seven years and another for five years and nine months.

Four of the detainees are being held at Villawood while the other three are in community detention.

News alerts: Get breaking news first. Download free ninemsn news alerts now.
© AAP 2010
The news stories often disappear from Ninemsn, hence my duplicating it in full. A link has been provided.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

the little things we can do

What inspires us is everything, especially the things that happen to us back home in Israel — I mean, not the political things,” Monotonix’s singer Ami Shalev said. “… It’s a different culture from here. … So, we got a different vibe, and we try to put it into our shows. That’s what inspires us the most in our shows. Not in the politics or in an angry way about things in Israel; we don’t deal with politics or anything like that. All it is is a vibe about a simple or common people in Israel.” Monotonix, featured in The Badger Herald, February 11, 2009
RTRfm, my favourite radio station, has been featuring this band lately, Israeli duo Monotonix. Here is the Wikipedia report on them. It seems, they have got quite an Indy rep, and I don't know their politics.

I do know, however, that the Palestinian people have requested that BDS be adopted in the hopes that it can eventually end their suffering. The situation in Israel and Palestine is not equal. It is not the Israelis who are being contained behind a huge wall, denied return to their land, denied access to water, who have their lands forcibly settled, who are evicted from their houses and also have their houses demolished. All that one needs to do is to look at the deaths of Palestinians, especially children, compared to the death of Israelis across the years to see that something is seriously wrong. The Israeli human rights site, B'Tselem can easily give you these figures, as can Medicin sans frontieres, or Physicians for Human Rights.

BDS encourages Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. It is non-violent in aim and method, and similar methods were very effective and influential in helping stop apartheid in South Africa. Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu have both said that the Palestinians suffer worse apartheid than they ever did. Jimmy Carter also calls the system apartheid. Malcom Fraser encourages dialogue with the democratically elected Hamas, in Gaza, as they have often asked, rather than the Israeli policy of no contact and military action.

Influential Jewish intellectuals such as Naomi Klein, Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein and Antony Lowenstein are also shocked by the human rights situation in Palestine (inflicted by Israel) and writers/performers such as Alice Walker, Michael Palin and Haruki Murakami (in a Japanese only essay, I think) have all spoken out against the apartheid that exists there.

Our media in Australia does not cover the injustice that exists in the area. American media doesn't either, so it's not really surprising. Just recently, Stephen Smith, our foreign affairs minister, was saying he would not discuss further development on the use of forged Australian Passport in an Israeli assassination of a senior Hamas member (on foreign soil) as it would interfere with the process. It will get swept under the carpet.

So, the only way that things in that area can change without violence is by the people on the street through support of such movements such as BDS. For example, the Church of England no longer invests in Caterpillar as their bulldozers are used (and some say specifically designed) for demolishing Palestinian houses.

Chomsky has spoken out against BDS. Of course, there are many many many Israelis who are against the human rights abuses that go on in the Occupied Territories, such as ex Knesset member, Uri Avnery, B'Tselem, Active Stills (also on flickr), Israeli Committee Against Housing Demolitons and so on. It seems that BDS might also affect those who do not support the occupation as much as those who do. However, the Palestinian people have asked that this method be employed to bring attention to their plight and to hopefully alleviate it, and eventually solve it in a positive way.

Monotonix, according to Wikipedia, left Israel after being banned from venues for their stage show, but they have since returned to sellout shows. I opposed Leonard Cohen playing Israel, too (though, after his collapse, he may not have). It is not like they have made a stand against their state's policies. I know, however, that it is hard to make it in the arts, whatever they be, and it is hard to survive as a community radio station. I appreciate RTRfm for its very existence, and admire both it and Monotonix for striving to get their particular vision out to the world. I am not greatly political, and Monotonix speak for the common people of Israel, but the common people of Israel's way of life is based on the suppression of another people.

RTRfm is a great radio station. It has featured great articles in the past on the injustice in the Occupied Territories, especially on Morning Magazine, though it remained silent on that programme during the incursion into Gaza, or so it seemed (I can't listen to it all the time!). Indy Media, too, features the issue a lot. Morning Magazine has also featured the Israeli point of view; soon after, the Palestinian features seemed to dry up, but that just might be my view of it! I think my favourite Morning Magazine announcer left. To my point of view, though, injustice is injustice, and it doesn't take a degree in rocket science to figure out that basic human rights are seriously being flouted in Palestine, by the Israelis, and in Israel, against the Palestinians, as documented by the United Nations, Amnesty International and other human rights organisations. Though we are lead to believe otherwise, there is not evenhandedness of inflict and conflict in this situation. For example, I am flabbergasted that we supported the demolition of the Berlin Wall, yet are silent on the one snaking its way through the West Bank.

Therefore, why not write a letter to the station, just telling them that you support BDS. Considering the American government provides over 30 billion dollars in foreign aid to Israel, a lot of it in military aid, and that the country has a sophisticated nuclear programme, it is highly unlikely that the western governments will ever seriously address the imbalance that occurs there. You can read through my blog to see the current Australian government's attitude towards it all (and the previous, for that matter).

All we can do are the small things that we can do (except for the extraordinary people, who seem to be able to do so much more). I know this blog is not read by too many, but for the few who do read it, especially Australians, and even more especially, Western Australians, the address is , or the general manager's address is: When I get the studio email address, it is wrong in my contacts, I will try to post it too (* - this address is correct). Not because I feel that the station should not play the music that they wish to play - I have the greatest respect for the station, and it is an integral part of my day (I listen to it over here in Japan, often) - but because I feel that maybe many of the announcers do not know the seriousness of the situation in Palestine. Looking at Banksy's paintings, it isn't the Palestinians holding the guns.

This was Graeme Watson's (RTRfm's general manager) response to my email:
Thanks for the feedback, Israeli garage band Monotonix’s debut album “Where were you when it happened” is our feature album on ‘Drivetime’ this week. Thanks for the feedback, it’s always great to hear what our listeners think of our music selections.

At RTRfm our aim is to play a wide variety of independent music and provide an opportunity for our listeners to hear music that is not usually heard. As far as I’m aware Monotonix are not a political band and the station has a strong policy of non-censorship.

At RTRfm we regularly cover both sides of the Palestinian and Israeli conflict on programs like ‘Morning Magazine’ and ‘Indymedia’ and endeavor to bring insight into conditions in this part of the world to our audience.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

common sense

There are talks, as always, how more exercise and eating well will address the obesity levels in Australia, which might be the highest in the world.

I read a radio report on radio national the other day (I will link it later) about the very successful Life Be in It campaign. It was very popular. Everyone remembers Norm who did all of his exercise from the armchair. It urged the general public to 'Put down the tinnie, switch off the tinne, and go outside for half an hour', or something similar. Again, I'll get the exact quote later. The campaign encouraged everyone to get off their butts for at least half an hour a day and exercise.

The latest reports say that if Australians ate better and exercised more our obesity rates and associated costs would be addressed. Not rocket science.

Apparently there have not been any campaigns like the 'Life Be in It' for a long time. One of the reasons it was so successful was that it was, ironically, on the television, a lot. High rotation, because the government allocated the campaign a large budget. Now a large percentage of the sport and health budget gets channelled into elite sports. It means we have a great swim team and we do very well at the Olympics. This policy came into being after Australia took only one gold medal at the Winter Olympics in Montreal in the seventies. Again, I'll confirm the place later - might not be Montreal. For all of their efforts, we took two gold medals in the Winter Olympics this year. Of course that is an improvement, but is the respect of the world for your international sports team worth sacrificing the general health of your nation? Both could exist, of course, - a public awareness campaign, and the elite sports programme. There is no denying the boost that the prowess of the Australian sports team gives to the Australian psyche, but I wonder about the benefits if our diabetes, blood pressure and heart disease rates are spiralling.

Another thing too, of course, is that I think that GST knocked off a lot of prices of cheap, unhealthy things that you can buy in bulk, and it tended to put cost onto healthy things like vegetables. I might be remiss in that statement, but when I go to the supermarket, it seems cheaper to buy a loaf of sliced whited bread full of nothingness, and a 24 pack of coke where the cans work out to less than fifty Australian cents each. It is tempting. And if you are on a budget, and more so, not that aware of nutrition, even more tempting. There used to be a luxury tax on such things as soft drinks, and there probably still is. Individually, they are very expensive, but in bulk, the supermarkets make them one of the cheapest things on the shelves.

Also, the major chains have a monopoly on the supply of fresh vegetables and the dictate how and what the farmers should grow. Great Irish Potato Famine anyone? Aside from that, the supermarkets therefore control the prices. A lot of people who do not have access to farmers' markets and so on are now growing their own vegetables. We used to have some of the cheapest fruit and vegetables in the world, I felt. Remember, I live in Japan. In the developed world, I will clarify that statement. Now the price of fresh vegetables is ridiculous. Of course, droughts and so on do not help, but if you seek out the smaller markets, the fruit and vegetables supplied are a lot cheaper.

The concern for avoiding litigation, perhaps, if that is what it is, the safety campaigns, I think have also encouraged a lack of interest in exercise. It is great that everyone wears their stack hats when riding their bicycles, but they are also a hassle, especially in our very hot climate, so people, rather than wearing them, just give up riding their bicycles.

Bicycles are not allowed on footpaths and the roads are not that great for them. In Japan, the bicycle riding habits of people can be summed up as dangerous - we ride on the wrong side, on the footpath, down narrow roads - but nearly everyone has a bicycle they can ride, and a lot of people, particularly the elderly and young, use them to get around. Japan is regulating and enforcing its road rules more so now, so I wonder in the future. However, I think that if you make it difficult to exercise, people won't exercise. They'd rather hop in their car to go to the supermarket than take their car (if they live close to a supermarket).

The baby capsules save babies lives in accidents, no doubt. I also wonder, though, about the baby screaming its head off who would benefit from a cuddle from mum or dad, and I wonder whether, especially if a parent is by, generally, herself, she just doesn't bother getting out of the house because of the hassle of strapping the baby into the car then getting her out again. You've seen it in the carparks. It's clumsy, cumbersome and takes forever. So, maybe mum and dad just stay at home rather than going out due to this regulation. I know it is a sensible regulation, but I wonder if the zealousness in which we enforce it damages us ultimately in an oblique way.

In playgrounds nowadays, everything is safe and padded. I cannot remember the last time I saw a see-saw in Australia. The old ones were dangerous, but fun. I remember jumping off and letting my sister crash to the ground, and the same has happened to me. It's not nice. Spinning around on the tractor wheel of the dizzy-wizzy was a blast, but I guess there were maybe too many smashed teeth, and too many suits against the local council. So, play becomes safe, computer play more appealing.

Lessen up on the regulations that are meant to make our lives healthier from a safety point of view, and I believe that our obesity levels would drop due to more people finding it easier to go out and be healthier. It's a spurious claim and can be countered in many ways, I think. But we get so precious with life, sometimes, that we forget to live it, and when our governments and local councils have an investment in this safety at all costs, and at the other end of the spectrum, success at all cost at the high end at the expense of the vast majority in the middle, then I am not surprised that we have become a people akin to a sack of potatoes. Too much monopoly from big business. Too few public awareness campaigns. Too many restrictions, though I do not endorse a complete laissez-faire policy towards general health and associated policies. Life Be In It. Update it. Bring it back. Encourage people to think, and make healthy food affordable.
this cutie was taken by Crazyegg95 in 2005 and is from flickr