News Release Archive - 2008

Pressing Obama on Peace

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ANN WRIGHT,
Reuters reports: “A small group of placard-waving pro-Palestinian
demonstrators gathered near U.S. President-elect Barack Obama’s vacation
retreat in Hawaii on Tuesday to protest against the Israeli airstrikes
in Gaza. … Obama has made no public comment on the strikes, which
Israel launched on Saturday.”

Wright is a former State Department diplomat and retired Army
colonel who is currently in Hawaii and was at those protests. She said
today: “The president-elect should put as a priority to press for a halt
to Israel’s indiscriminate bombing of Gaza, and of course for Hamas to
stop their rockets. When he was in Sderot in Israel several months ago,
Obama referred to how he would feel if rockets were coming to where his
daughters lived. What about the little girls in Gaza?”

Among her numerous assignments, Wright helped re-open the U.S.
embassy in Afghanistan in 2001. She resigned from the State Department
in protest of the Iraq invasion in March of 2003.

KATHY KELLY,
Kelly is co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence. The
group is organizing with other secular and faith-based groups “Camp
Hope: Countdown to Change” in Chicago, four blocks from Obama’s
residence there. The camp begins on New Year’s Day and continues to Dr.
Martin Luther King Day.

She said today: “Large lobbying groups, including some of the large
corporations, are pushing Obama around the clock to preserve the status
quo, wage war and provide for unbridled greed. What we’re asking is that
the money spent on the military be spent instead on soluble problems
such as lack of healthcare.”

Information about events, speakers and community forums is posted
at: http://camphope2009.org

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Israel Rams Gaza Relief Boat

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CNN reports: “An Israeli patrol boat struck a boat carrying medical volunteers and supplies to Gaza early Tuesday as it attempted to intercept the vessel in the Mediterranean Sea, witnesses and Israeli officials said.

“CNN correspondent Karl Penhaul was aboard the 60-foot, Gibraltar-registered pleasure boat Dignity when the contact occurred. When the boat later docked in the Lebanese port city of Tyre, severe damage was visible to the forward port side of the boat, and the front left window and part of the roof had collapsed.

“The Dignity was carrying crew and 16 passengers — physicians from Britain, Germany and Cyprus and human rights activists, including former U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney — who were trying to reach Gaza through an Israeli blockade of the territory.

“The captain of the Dignity said the Israelis broadcast a radio message accusing the vessel of being involved in terrorist activity. But Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor denied that and said the radio message simply warned the vessel not to proceed to Gaza because it is a closed military area.”

The following representatives of the Free Gaza Movement are available for interviews:

EWA JASIEWICZ
LUBNA MASARWA
CAOIMHE BUTTERLEY
RAMZI KYSIA
GRETA BERLIN

Up-to-date information is available at the Free Gaza web page.

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Israeli Military Refuseniks

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OMER GOLDMAN
JESSE BACON
Goldman is one of the “Shministim” — high school seniors who refuse to
enter the Israeli military process. She said today: “I’m proud to
refuse to serve in an army that claims to be for humanity and defense
but hurts people on a daily basis.”

She recently wrote: “I first went to prison on September 23 and
served 35 days. … By the time you read this, many of my friends will
be in prison too: in for three weeks, out for one, and then back in,
over and over, until they are 21. The reason? We refuse to do military
service for the Israeli army because of the occupation.

“I grew up with the army. My father was deputy head of Mossad and
I saw my sister, who is eight years older than me, do her military service.
As a young girl, I wanted to be a soldier. The military was such a part of
my life that I never even questioned it.” She has been profiled in the British
press. See: “Conscience of the Israeli Spymaster’s Daughter”

Also: “Father, forgive me, I will not fight for your Israel: Omer
Goldman, daughter of a former Mossad chief, tells why she prefers jail
to the military draft”

Bacon is a board member of the group Jewish Voice for Peace, which,
among other things, is launching a campaign to support the Shministim.

MICHEL WEKSLER,
Weksler said today: “I was a tank commander in the Israeli military.
I spent a month in jail because I refused to deploy to Gaza in 2002. I
felt it was my duty to refuse ‘clearly illegal’ orders (an Israeli
judicial term) and I think Israeli occupation practices are clearly
illegal. It’s noteworthy that the Israeli Supreme Court has continuously
avoided hearing a refusenik case.

“The rocket attacks from Gaza are wrong, but it’s ridiculous for
Israel to pretend as if it is the victim in this vicious cycle. Israel
has been violating international as well as Israeli law in how it is
dealing with the Palestinians in the occupied territories. These people
are in total legal limbo. They are not Israeli citizens, they don’t have
an independent state, and Israel is denying them their rights as
occupied people under the Geneva Conventions. Olmert has been trying to
cover this up recently by referring to the ‘citizens of Gaza.’ The
people being bombed in Gaza are not citizens of anything and that’s the
crux of the problem: they are stateless people and that needs to end.”

YONATAN SHAPIRA
A former captain in the Israeli Air Force Reserves, in 2003 Shapira
initiated the group of Israeli Air Force pilots who refused to
participate in attack missions on Palestinian territories. He is a
co-founder of Combatants for Peace.

He said today: “The big media is completely biased in not giving a
true picture of the situation. People need to listen, watch and read
alternative media sources. If you look at the number of people that were
killed in the last few days the numbers for the Palestinians are
enormous — over 375 people in Gaza! This is an open air prison
controlled from all sides. People in Gaza cannot go out, can’t get the
food, medicine, clean water, electricity they need and the Israeli Air
Force is bombing them and killing innocent children in this crazy
operation. The media are simply not telling this story.

“Hamas fires rockets on Israeli towns and yes, four Israelis have
been killed and these rockets can kill me and my family. But Israel’s
retaliation and collective punishment will not bring us more security,
just the opposite. The root cause of the conflict is the ongoing
occupation and the refusal of the Israeli government to negotiate with
Hamas and to agree to a complete withdrawal to 1967 borders. There’s no
real intention to solve the problem by my government unfortunately.

“I want to shout as loud as I can and ask everyone to join us in
this struggle, Palestinians and Israelis who want to stop the bloodshed.
The massacre will not stop unless people from all over the world will
wake up, join us and call for boycott, divestment and sanctions on the
Israeli government. I am saying these things as a Jew and as an Israeli
who wants to continue to live in this beautiful and sad piece of land.”

STEVEN FEUERSTEIN,
Feuerstein works with the group Refuser Solidarity Network.

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Bombing of Gaza

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Oxfam International has released a list of partner organizations and allies in the occupied Gaza Strip who can be media contacts for journalists.

EWA JASIEWICZ
LUBNA MASARWA
RAMZI KYSIA
GRETA BERLIN
Jasiewicz, Masarwa, Kysia and Berlin work with the Free Gaza Movement, which is sending a ship, the Dignity, from Cyprus today to Gaza. The group states: “The ship is on an emergency mission carrying in physicians, human rights workers and over three tons of desperately needed medical supplies donated by the people of Cyprus. Coordinating with the Gaza Ministry of Health, the doctors will be immediately posted to overburdened hospitals and clinics upon their arrival.

“The Free Gaza Movement sent two boats to Gaza in August 2008. These were the first international boats to land in the port in 41 years. Since August, four more voyages were successful, taking parliamentarians, human rights workers, physicians, and other dignitaries to witness the effects of Israel’s draconian policies on the civilians of Gaza.”

The group’s web page features up-to-date information and contacts with others in Gaza.

ALI ABUNIMAH
RAMI ALMEGHARI
Abunimah is author of the piece “We Have No Words Left,” just published by the Guardian in Britain.

He is co-founder of the Electronic Intifada web page and is author of the book One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse.

Almeghari is a contributor to the Electronic Intifada writing from Gaza.

NORA BARROWS-FRIEDMAN
Barrows-Friedman is with Flashpoints Radio and has done extensive reporting on the Israeli-occupied territories. She was last in Gaza in June. She said today: “I’ve been on the phone much of the weekend doing interviews with people in Gaza. The people there are filled with panic and terror — and this comes after a prolonged siege that deprives them of needed food, medicine, clean water, electricity — the basics of life.”

LAILA EL-HADDAD
A freelance journalist currently in the U.S., El-Haddad writes the “A Mother From Gaza” blog.

JUSTIN ALEXANDER
Alexander is a Middle East analyst for the Economist Intelligence Unit. He just wrote the piece “The Assault on Gaza Will Not Stop Rockets, but Could Influence the Israeli Elections,” which states: “Israel’s past military responses to the rocket threat, although massively disproportionate, have … been largely ineffective. It demolished buildings and leveled large areas of farm land in the northern part of Gaza to reduce the cover available for rocket crews. It fired over 14,000 artillery shells in 2006, killing 59 Palestinian civilians in the process, in what was framed as a preventive tactic to make it more difficult for rocket crews to operate. It launched major and prolonged incursions such as Operation Summer Rains in June 2006, devastating infrastructure such as the Gaza power station and killing hundreds. But still rocket fire continued, and in fact intensified in response to any increases in Israeli hostilities.

“Instead, the only effective way of preventing rocket fire has been ceasefires, such as the one Hamas (but not other factions such as Islamic Jihad) observed from November 26th 2006 to April 24th 2007.”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

From Gaza

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Reuters reports: “Israeli warplanes and combat helicopters pounded the
Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Saturday, killing at least 155 people in the
bloodiest day for Palestinians in more than 20 years of conflict.”

AFP reports: “Christmas lights will be shut off around Bethlehem,
including those on the city’s giant Christmas tree, to protest Israel’s
deadly attacks in Gaza, its mayor said on Saturday.”

The Free Gaza Movement, a group of human rights activists, has put out a
news release that provides contact information for various individuals
in and out of Gaza who are available for interviews:

The group’s general web page is http://www.freegaza.org

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Pardons and Accountability

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ROBERT PARRY
Parry, editor of ConsortiumNews.com, a reader-supported investigative webpage, has written a number of pieces about accountability for White House officials. He wrote: “During George W. Bush’s presidency alone, language has been routinely twisted to justify everything from aggressive war to torture. Those two international crimes were turned into ‘preventive war’ and ‘alternative interrogation techniques.'”

He has also written: “On Christmas Eve 1992 … then-President George H.W. Bush pardoned former State Department official Elliott Abrams and five other Iran-Contra defendants, effectively killing the criminal prosecutions that had resulted from the scandal. The congressional Democrats … shrank from a confrontation. … In picking key White House advisers, Bush and Cheney turned to veterans of the long march back from the Nixon debacle. Abrams, Addington and Wolfowitz were among the senior aides helping to shape foreign policy and legal strategies.”

Parry’s books include Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat. Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek.

MARJORIE COHN
Cohn is the president of the National Lawyers Guild, a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and the author of Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law. She recently wrote the piece “Cheney Throws Down Gauntlet, Defies Prosecution for War Crimes,” which states: “Dick Cheney has publicly confessed to ordering war crimes. Asked about waterboarding in an ABC News interview, Cheney replied, ‘I was aware of the program, certainly, and involved in helping get the process cleared.’ He also said he still believes waterboarding was an appropriate method to use on terrorism suspects. CIA Director Michael Hayden confirmed that the agency waterboarded three Al Qaeda suspects in 2002 and 2003. …

“Lt. Gen. Antonio Taguba, who investigated the Abu Ghraib scandal, said, ‘There is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.'”
More Information

BRUCE FEIN
Author of the book Constitutional Peril: The Life and Death Struggle for Our Constitution and Democracy, Fein recently wrote the piece “Bush the Pardoner’s Tale” published in the Washington Times. He wrote: “The Founding Fathers expected that pardon abuses would be deterred by presidential impeachments. During the Constitutional Convention, George Mason worried that a president might use the pardon power to evade rather than achieve justice by ‘pardon[ing] crimes which were advised by himself,’ or before formal accusation ‘to stop inquiry and prevent detection.’ But James Madison, father of the Constitution, answered that the constitutional deterrent or remedy would be impeachment by the House and conviction by the Senate: ‘If the president be connected, in any suspicious manner, with any person, and there be grounds [to] believe he will shelter him, the House of Representatives can impeach him; they can remove him if found guilty.'”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Racism at Browner’s EPA?

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AP reports “Carol Browner … will lead a White House council on energy and climate. Browner, the longest-serving EPA administrator in history, headed the agency during the Clinton administration’s two terms.”

Time magazine, in its section of “Quotes About Browner,” features this:
“She wasn’t at all sympathetic to complaints about civil rights abuses. We were treated like Negroes, to use a polite term. We were put in our place.”
— Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, a former EPA employee whose complaints of a “racially toxic” environment there led to the signing of the Notification and Federal Employee Anti-Discrimination and Retaliation Act of 2001. (Time, Feb. 23, 2001)

MARSHA COLEMAN-ADEBAYO
Coleman-Adebayo said today: “It is very disturbing to me on the heels of my being illegally fired, not fired for cause, not fired for performance issues, but because of health concerns — that the very woman I prevailed against in court is being elevated to a White House decision-level position — what message does this send to others in the federal government who are considering exposing corruption or discrimination? Should government managers take comfort in the fact that employees can prevail against them in federal court, Congress can unanimously condemn their leadership and pass a law to stop them, and they still may be tapped for a high-level position? How tragic.”

For further background, see:

News coverage:
Time magazine, “How the EPA Was Made to Clean Up Its Own Stain — Racism

News release:
EPA Whistleblower Illegally Fired While Carol Browner Energy Czar Soars Through Transition

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

UN Investigator Expelled by Israel

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Reuters reports: “UN human rights chief Navi Pillay accused Israel on Tuesday of ‘unprecedented and deeply regrettable’ treatment of a U.N. investigator it deported after barring him from crossing Israel to get to Palestinian areas. Richard Falk, UN special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, was stopped at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv on Sunday and denied entry to Israel and held separately from two accompanying U.N. staff.”

RICHARD FALK
Falk is professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University and currently visiting professor at Chapman Law School. He is the author of dozens of books including The Costs of War: International Law, the UN, and World Order after Iraq. He said today: “My detention and denial of entry is part of a broader pattern (‘politics of opaqueness’) designed to obscure the realities of the occupation by keeping qualified observers from getting out (e.g. Raji Sourani) and from getting in (e.g. Archbishop Tutu, journalists).

“Israel has been playing a mind game with respect to me (and others), shifting attention as much as possible to the observer, and away from what is observed; the same is true more generally in relation to the UN; the main point is not ‘balance’ but ‘truth’; it is the rendering what is true in Gaza that gives the appearance of ‘imbalance’; to play this mind game Israel has distorted my views: I have consistently condemned Hamas’ use of rockets against civilian targets; I never compared the crimes against humanity in Gaza to the Nazi atrocities; I never asserted that the holocaust waiting to happen in Gaza was comparable or similar to the Nazi Holocaust, but only that reliance on collective punishment on such a scale had a disturbing resemblance to Nazi practices.

“Finally, it shouldn’t be about me, it should be on the one side about reporting on the massive and persisting collective punishment inflicted on the whole of Gazan society with no genuine link to Israeli security, and on the other side, about respect for the authority and responsibility of the UN in relation to a people undergoing a humanitarian catastrophe.”

Last week, Falk wrote in the piece “Gaza: Silence is not an Option“: “In recent days the desperate plight of the civilian population of Gaza has been acknowledged by such respected international figures as the Secretary General of the United Nations, the President of the General Assembly, and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. …

“And still Israel maintains its Gaza siege in its full fury, allowing only barely enough food and fuel to enter to stave off mass famine and disease. Such a policy of collective punishment, initiated by Israel to punish Gazans for political developments within the Gaza strip, constitutes a continuing flagrant and massive violation of international humanitarian law as laid down in Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. …

“Protective action must be taken immediately to offset the persisting and wide-ranging violations of the fundamental human right to life, and in view of the emergency situation that is producing a humanitarian catastrophe that is unfolding day by day. However difficult politically, it is time to act. At the very least, an urgent effort should be made at the United Nations to implement the agreed norm of a ‘responsibility to protect’ a civilian population being collectively punished by policies that amount to a crime against humanity. …

“The recent upsurge of violence occurred after an Israeli incursion that killed several alleged Palestinian militants within Gaza. It is a criminal violation of international law for elements of Hamas or anyone else to fire rockets at Israeli towns regardless of provocation, but such Palestinian behavior does not legalize Israel’s imposition of a collective punishment of a life- and health-threatening character on the people of Gaza, and should not distract the UN or international society from discharging their fundamental moral and legal duty to render protection to the Palestinian people.”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Obama Nominees: * Education * Agriculture

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President-elect Obama is nominating Chicago public school CEO Arne Duncan to be secretary of education and Tom Vilsack, a former governor of Iowa, to be secretary of agriculture.

KEVIN KUMASHIRO
Chair of the department of educational policy studies at the University of Illinois-Chicago, Kumashiro said today: “Under Duncan’s leadership, public education in Chicago is being dismantled. Chicago Public Schools are not a model for the nation, and Duncan is the wrong choice to reverse the problems of NCLB [No Child Left Behind] and to improve education for all of our nation’s youth.” Kumashiro’s books include The Seduction of Common Sense: How the Right Has Framed the Debate on America’s Schools.
More Information

PAULINE LIPMAN
Lipman is professor of policy studies at the College of Education at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Her books include High Stakes Education: Inequality, Globalization, and Urban School Reform.

RACHEL SMOLKER
Research biologist at the Global Justice Ecology Project, Smolker said today: “Vilsack’s appointment is tremendously disappointing to those of us working to oppose ‘agrofuels.’ He has been a staunch proponent of corn and soy based fuels even as over a billion people are starving and mountains of evidence have demonstrated that turning plant matter, (edible or not) into fuel contributes to climate change and ecosystem degradation. Vilsack, darling of Monsanto and the biotechnology industry’s ‘governor of the year,’ will attempt to pave the way for a massive upscale of industrial agriculture and biotechnology under the guise of ‘renewable energy.'”

See for background:

From the Institute for Public Accuracy: “Food Crisis and Biofuels

From the British Guardian: “Nearly a billion people worldwide are starving, UN agency warns

From the Organic Consumers Association: “Six Reasons Why Obama Appointing Monsanto’s Buddy, Former Iowa Governor Vilsack, for USDA Head Would be a Terrible Idea

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Significance of Shoes Thrown

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AP is reporting: “On a whirlwind trip shrouded in secrecy and marred by dissent, President George W. Bush on Sunday hailed progress in the wars that define his presidency and got a size-10 reminder of his unpopularity when a man hurled two shoes at him during a news conference in Iraq. ‘This is your farewell kiss, you dog!’ shouted the protester in Arabic, later identified as Muntadar al-Zeidi, a correspondent for Al-Baghdadia television, an Iraqi-owned station based in Cairo, Egypt. ‘This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq.'”

AS’AD ABUKHALIL
AbuKhalil is author of several books on the Mideast including The Battle for Saudi Arabia: Royalty, Fundamentalism, and Global Power. He said today: “The level of Arab media interest (especially in the Arab blogosphere) is like nothing I have seen. It is being treated as a vindication for the Arab peoples who opposed the war — the president who arrogantly believed that his occupation troops would be greeted by Iraqis with ‘sweets and flowers’ was himself greeted with shoes.

“This is significant and indicates how Arab public opinion feels about Bush. Al-Jazeera (Arabic) is reporting that up to 100 Arab lawyers have volunteered to defend Zaydi. [The Lebanon-based newspaper] As-Safir is reporting that he is a leftist, and not some Muslim fundamentalist as some speculated. Before the media rush to draw associations between shoes and Arab or Muslim cultures, we can assert that the fellow would have preferred rotten eggs and tomatoes if they were as easy to sneak through the tight security checks as … shoes.”

AbuKhalil is a professor in the department of politics at California State University, Stanislaus. He edits the “Angry Arab News Service” blog.

RAED JARRAR
An Iraqi blogger and activist now living in Washington, D.C., Jarrar said today: “Sources in Iraq are telling me Mr. Al-Zeidi was heavily beaten, then he was put under arrest. His family does not know where he is being detained. Mr. Al-Zeidi will join other tens of thousands of Iraqi prisoners who have been detained for months or years with no charges, no trial, and no access to lawyers. In the few hours following his arrest, dozens of prominent Iraqi political and tribal leaders called Al-Baghdadia TV station where Mr. Al-Zeidi works and expressed their support and compassion. Al-Baghdadia has issued a statement asking for the release of Mr. Al-Zeidi.

“I have started an online petition to ask for the immediate release of Mr. Al-Zeidi. Journalists Without Boarders did issue a statement last year condemning the kidnapping of the same Mr. Al-Zeidi. He was apparently kidnapped for three days before being released.” Jarrar also writes the blog Raed in the Middle.

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167