Celebrate 35 Years with the Middle East Crisis Committee March 3

by Stanley Heller, chairperson, MECC

The Middle East Crisis Committee (MECC) is in its 35th year. MECC invites you to “Struggle, Resistance and Resili-ence in Solidarity with the Palestinian People,” a fund-raising party on Saturday, March 3 at 6 p.m. at the First Unitarian Universalist Society of New Haven, 608 Whitney Ave. Learn about Mazin Qumsiyeh’s efforts in building the Palestinian Natural History Museum in Bethlehem. There will be food, music, and video; auctions and door prizes are planned. $25 suggested donation.

For the past dozen years or so our biggest efforts have involved media. We have a weekly TV show on over 30 cable stations stretching from Maine to New York City. One focus of late on TheStruggle.org is Saudi Arabia (KSA) and its war against Yemen. Another focus is of efforts around the world to remember Syria. It’s called “2nd Day of Rage for Syria.” MECC stands for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria and in support of Syrian civil society demands for ceasefire and honest elections.

By Our Presence, We Grieve Those Who Have Been Killed

By Allie Perry, Reclaiming the Prophetic Voice

If you happened to walk by New Haven’s 1905 Civil War memorial at the Broadway triangle New Year’s Day 2018 at 6 p.m., you might have wondered why, in freezing cold temperatures, a group of eleven was gathered around a cairn of field stones. They were there giving witness and calling attention to the on-going violence of the U.S. wars against Iraq and Afghanistan, by adding yet another stone to the cairn. Each stone is a memorial, inscribed with the number of U.S. service people who died in the previous month in Iraq and Afghanistan and with the approximate number of Iraqi and Afghan civilians killed. Each month the cairn gets higher and heavier, as the cumulative death tolls go up.

This monthly observance began in December 2007. Stephen Kobasa proposed the memorial and secured the New Haven Board of Park Commissioners’ permission to construct it. Reclaiming the Prophetic Voice provided the leadership, inviting local faith communities to lead the monthly rituals. Over the decade since, members of many New Haven area congregations have participated, including: St. Thomas More, First Presbyterian, Amistad Catholic Worker, Center Church, the University Church, Unitarian Society of New Haven, the Zen Center, Shalom UCC, Church of the Redeemer, Congregation Mishkan Israel, United Church on the Green, First Unitarian Universalist Society of New Haven, St. Paul and St. James, Ascension Catholic Church in Hamden, St. Thomas Episcopal.

At that first gathering, stones were placed, retroactively, documenting every month since the March 2003 start of the U.S. war against Iraq. Initially the inscribed numbers included deaths only in Iraq. As the hostilities in Afghanistan escalated, we started inscribing the stones with data for Afghanistan as well.

The permission granted in 2007 was for a temporary installation, to be dismantled when the wars end. Ten years later the violence continues, the wars persist, and, on every first Monday of the month, a group still gathers. By our presence, we grieve those who have been killed, we denounce the violence, and we renew our commitment to work fervently for the end of war and for justice and peace. Join us.

A Fund-Raising Party for MECC March 3

by Stanley Heller, chairperson, MECC

The Middle East Crisis Committee (MECC) invites you to “Struggle, Resistance and Resilience in Solidarity with the Palestinian People,” a fund-raising party on Saturday, March 3 at 6 p.m. at the First Unitarian Universalist Society of New Haven,  608 Whitney Ave., New Haven.

Learn about Mazin Qumsiyeh’s efforts in building the Palestinian Natural History Museum in Bethlehem. There will be food, music, and video; auctions and door prizes are planned. $25 suggested donation.

MECC is in its 35th year. For the past dozen years or so our biggest efforts have involved media. We have a weekly TV show on over 30 cable stations stretching from Maine to New York City. One focus of late is Saudi Arabia (KSA) and its war against Yemen, which has been completely supported by the Obama and Trump administrations. This past year saw an attempt to use the War Powers Act to completely cut off U.S. participation in the war via House Concurrent Resolution 81. However, it was sidestepped by leaders in Congress including powerful Democratic Party Whip Steny Hoyer. We did an interview with Malachy Kilbride who with six others were arrested inside Hoyer’s office demanding in vain a meeting with Hoyer or his staff. You can see the interview by going to TheStruggle.org and clicking on the black button for our YouTube channel “struggle-videomedia.” (Incidentally, while CT Sen. Chris Murphy is admirable on the Yemen issue, Sen. Richard Blumenthal has never spoken out against the atrocious war.) “Atrocious” is no exaggeration. Reuters had a video clip of destitute people in a Yemen garbage dump, eating and drinking in the garbage amid swarming insects.

Another video of note on TheStruggle.org is of efforts around the world to remember Syria. It’s called “2nd Day of Rage for Syria.” People mistakenly think the war is over. Hundreds of thousands are under Assad siege in Idlib and Eastern Ghouta. After its brutal obliteration of Raqaa, the U.S. is using a Kurdish force to establish a permanent presence in the northeast and Turkey has a chunk of the country in the north. MECC stands for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria and in support of Syrian civil society demands for a ceasefire and honest elections.

Join us for this fund-raising event on March 3!

Scores Rally in Bridgeport for Jerusalem

Stanley Heller, MECC

Despite near-freezing weather, 50 to 100 people rallied in McLevy Square in downtown Bridgeport Dec. 17, 2017, to stand with Palestinians who have denounced Trump’s public announcement that he’ll move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.

The rally was organized by CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) and the Bridgeport Islamic Community Center. Jerusalem was seized by Israeli forces in 1967, but no country in the world has its embassy there. One reason is that almost 40 percent of the city’s inhabitants do not have Israeli citizenship since they are Palestinians who have only been given residency status. Israeli soldiers have killed a number of people in the protests including a legless man named Ibrahim Abu Thuraya who was in his wheelchair behind the wall between Gaza and the rest of Palestine.

Sign Petition: New York Times: Suspend Thomas Friedman

Yale may have had New York Times columnist impart his “wisdom” to students in December, but the Coalition to End the U.S.-Saudi Alliance wants the NYT to suspend him.  Friedman wrote a long piece of flattery about the Crown Prince (and effective ruler) of Saudi Arabia, claiming he was bringing an “Arab Spring” to the country his family owns.  Abandoning journalistic and moral criteria, Friedman ignored the Saudi war on Yemen that has been so horrific. To sign the petition go online at http://www.SaudiUS.org.

MECC to Hold Fundraising Party

In February, the Middle East Crisis Committee (35 years old in 2017) will hold a fundraising party to keep its projects going in the new year. MECC produces “The Struggle” which is shown weekly on over 30 TV stations in the northeast and in South Bend, IN.

There will be food and music and auctions of items like autographed books by Wendy Pearlman and Timothy Snyder, and the graphic novel Palestine by Joe Sacco.  Date and location of the event has not been determined, probably in the afternoon in New Haven.

Details will be in the next PAR newsletter and posted on the website http://www.thestruggle.org, or call (203) 934-2761.

Mary Johnson, March 29, 1922-Aug. 13, 2017

It is with great sadness that the Progressive Action Roundtable Planning Committee informs our readers that Mary Johnson, a founding member of PAR and leader, strategist and active participant in most of PAR’s committees, has passed on.

We dedicate this issue of our newsletter to Mary. Without her guidance, ideas for informing the public and each other of rallies and events, optimism in the struggle for justice and her persistence in fighting for people’s rights throughout the years, there may not have even been a Progressive Action Roundtable. We all owe so much to her.

Frank Panzarella, “Mary was the den mother for most of the New Haven activist community.”

Mary was directly active in many of the organizations that are PAR-affiliated. She was also active in most of New Haven’s progressive organizations. She most likely was a founding member of many.
She was a great political and personal influence on many. PAR encourages our readers to send in their reminiscences of her. In the words of Frank Panzarella, “Mary was the den mother for most of the New Haven activist community.”

A memorial is being planned for her with details upcoming.

Barghouti and Nader Accept Gandhi Peace Award

by Stanley Heller, Promoting Enduring Peace

Hundreds gathered at Yale’s SSS building on April 23 to celebrate the Gandhi Peace Award being jointly given to Omar Barghouti and Ralph Nader. The award has been presented since 1960 by Promoting Enduring Peace (PEP).

Omar Barghouti

Omar Barghouti was introduced by Rebecca Vilkomerson, the Executive Director of Jewish Voice for Peace. She decried his Israeli arrest on March 19 as “politically motivated.” She called him a “charismatic speaker, a brilliant writer, savvy campaign strategist, and a principled thinker.”

Barghouti began his talk by noting Palestine “lingers on in colonial chains.” He dedicated his award to Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israel. He asked that his $2,500 prize money be given in equal shares to Black Lives Matter, Students for Justice in Palestine, Jewish Voice for Peace, US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, and Friends of Sabeel North America. He talked about the “striking similarities” between Israeli treatment of Palestinians and that of blacks in the days of apartheid South Africa. He noted the recent decision of Barcelona, Spain, which ended its complicity with Israeli settlements and explicitly defended boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS). He also listed many other BDS victories.

Ralph Nader was introduced by activist and mediator Charles Pillsbury, who said he was inspired to be a lawyer by Nader and wanted to be one of the activists dubbed “Nader’s Raiders.”

Ralph Nader said he was a student of Gandhi’s thinking that “open non-violent disobedience be active and not passive.” He said, “Peace is desirable not just on philosophical, religious or argumentative grounds, but a survival mechanism which transcends cultures.”

He talked about terrorism, and said the worst terrorism was “state terrorism” which “is always legitimized as in the ser-vice of national defense.”

At the end of his talk, he mentioned Palestinians and Israelis.

He denounced settlements as “illegal colonies.” He talked about breaking the grip of the lobby AIPAC on Congress and categorized some of the resolutions it advances as “bloody beyond belief.” He asked “Who has killed more than 400 times the number of innocent men, women, and children than the other side? The answer is the Israeli government.”

The talks were warmly received with standing ovations.

For more on this year’s awards, visit http://www.pepeace.org/gpa-2017-video-and-photos.

Calling on Senator Murphy to Oppose Senate Bill #170

by Stanley Heller, Middle East Crisis Committee

Imagine if your business or group supported Cesar Chavez grape boycott your state government put you on a blacklist, and you would be forbidden all state contracts and any pension fund investment. Or maybe state authorities punish you because you refused to buy Nestle products in the ’70s when it was dressing up saleswomen as nurses and pushing baby formula on women in the poorest countries in defiance of all good health sense. Imagine if when Macy’s and Woolworths boycotted Nazi German goods in the ’30s they would be sanctioned. What if the states did something similar to groups demanding action against Sudan because of what its government did in Darfur?

Senate Bill #170 proposes just that in regard to one boycott, the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement that works to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law. It was proposed by Florida Sen. Rubio and has 28 cosponsors including CT Senator Blumenthal. It goes beyond boycotts. It punishes any “entity” that advocates “sanctions” so it could be triggered if a group called for a cut-off of cluster bombs to Israel. If passed SB #170 would be an outrageous violation of free speech and a very bad precedent for trade unions who use the weapon of boycott to support striking workers. An effort is being made to persuade CT Senator Chris Murphy to oppose the bill. Labor lawyer John Fussell wrote a terrific letter to Murphy about #170 and 194 CT residents signed on to a similar letter opposing #170 that was hand-delivered to him at his town meeting in West Hartford. Email him through his website or even better call his office in DC at (202) 224-4041. For details see www.TheStruggle.org.

Far from punishing people for advocating BDS, state governments should support it. A few years ago Connecticut’s Treasurer reported that the state had $32 million invested in State of Israel Bonds or stocks in Israeli companies.

Jeremy Scahill Keynote Speaker in New Haven Oct. 8

Between the Lines Press Release

Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker of “Dirty Wars,” Jeremy Scahill will be the keynote speaker at Between The Lines/Squeaky Wheel Productions’ 25th anniversary event on Saturday, Oct. 8 at United Church on the Green, 270 Temple St., New Haven, from 2-4 p.m. He’ll address ongoing U.S. wars, drone warfare and other foreign policy issues facing the U.S. during this presidential election campaign and long after.

scahill-democracynowAdvance tickets are $10/ $15 at the door. Ticket outlet for main event: Best Video Film and Cultural Center, 1842 Whitney Ave., Hamden. Online tickets available at BrownPaperTickets.com: BetweenTheLines25thAnniversary.brownpapertickets.com.

Democracy in Action Awards will also be presented to Barbara Fair, New Haven community activist, to The Dragonfly Climate Collective and to Unidad Latina en Acción.

Scahill is an award-winning investigative journalist with The Nation magazine, correspondent for Democracy Now! and author of the bestselling book, “Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army,” about America’s outsourcing of its military. He is a two-time winner of the George Polk Award and producer and writer of the Academy Award-nominated documentary film “Dirty Wars,” based on his book. His latest book is “The Assassination Complex.”

After the talk, a reception and silent auction will be held in New Haven, $50/ticket. Please RSVP by Saturday, Oct. 1 by calling (203) 268-8446. We’ll give directions when you reserve and/or send check made payable to Squeaky Wheel Productions, P.O. Box 110176, Trumbull, CT 06611. Please include email and/or phone.

For more information see: http://Squeakywheel.net or call (203) 268-8446.

Co-sponsors include Progressive Action Roundtable at PAR-NewHaven.org, The Greater New Haven Peace Council chapter of USPeaceCouncil.org, Promoting Enduring Peace at www.pepeace.org and Middle East Crisis Committee at thestruggle.org.

Jeremy Scahill to Keynote Between The Lines’ 25th Anniversary Forum 2-4 p.m. Saturday Oct. 8 in New Haven

Award-winning investigative journalist and author, Democracy Now! correspondent, a founding editor of The Intercept and Oscar-nominated filmmaker for “Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield” Jeremy Scahill will be the keynote speaker at Between The Lines Radio Newsmagazine’s 25th Anniversary Celebration from 2-4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8, 270 Temple St., New Haven, CT.

scahill-democracynowScahill’s speech, “Drones, Terrorism and The President,” will address America’s endless wars, “targeted assassinations” and the critical policy decisions facing our next president, issues largely ignored by U.S. corporate media. Scahill will also be signing his latest book, “The Assassination Complex,” with a foreword by Edward Snowden and afterword by Glenn Greenwald.

Democracy in Action awards, public forum, Q&A and booksigning with Jeremy Scahill 2-4 p.m.
at the United Church on the Green, 270 Temple St., New Haven, CT (corner of Temple and Elm Streets).

Suggested contribution: ($10 advance, $15 at the door).

Call (203) 268-8446 or email info@squeakywheel.net.

Ticket outlet: Best Video Film and Cultural Center, 1842 Whitney Ave., Hamden.

Online tickets: BetweenTheLines25thanniversary.brownpapertickets.com.

A reception and silent auction will be held from 5-7 p.m. ($50 each).

Call 203-268-8446 for details or visit http://Squeakywheel.net.

Co-sponsors: Progressive Action Roundtable (PAR-newhaven.org) and The Greater New Haven Peace Council.

Seeking Your Help to Protect Next Gandhi Peace Award Winner

by Stanley Heller, Administrator, PEP

Promoting Enduring Peace has set up a “Freedom to Travel” committee to pressure the Israeli government to allow one of its Gandhi Peace Award winners to travel to the United States. At a telephone press conference the 64-year-old peace and environmental group announced the Gandhi Peace Award will be given jointly to Ralph Nader (pictured on the left) and Omar Barghouti (right) at a ceremony in New Haven in April 2017.


Ralph Nader is known for over five decades for his consumer and civic activism and for being among the first nationally known figures to criticize Israeli abuses and to speak up in support of the Israeli peace movement. Omar Barghouti is one of the best-known leaders of the BDS (Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions) movement which calls for economic pressure against Israel until it withdraws from the land it occupies, gives full civic equality to Palestinians citizens inside Israel and allows Palestinian refugee families their right to return to their homeland and homes.

Yousef Munayyer, Executive Director of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, talked about Omar Barghouti. He said the Palestinian was a “central player in the Palestinian campaign for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel.” And “Omar’s voice has been a crucial one in the past several years and one that should be increasingly amplified to all those asking about Palestinian non-violence.”
Rebecca Vilkomerson, Executive Director of Jewish Voice for Peace, said she first met Barghouti in 2009 and that’s when Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP) starting working on BDS issues. She hailed Barghouti’s leadership and “impeccable ethical framework” and his continued work “at great cost and risk to himself.”

The Israeli government has refused to renew Barghouti’s travel document and he is effectively banned from leaving Palestine/Israel. Vilkomerson said JVP would be working with PEP and other groups to restore Barghouti’s ability to travel and to come to the U.S. to accept the award.

Those interested in working on the “Freedom to Travel” committee should write to office@pepeace.org. A recent TSVN You Tube interview with Barghouti can be heard by going to http://www.pepeace.org.

Dr. Alice Rothchild discusses ‘historical and ethical challenges in Israel and Palestine’ in Storrs

by Julia Berger, Middle East Crisis Committee

On July 30, about 35 people convened at the Storrs Meeting House to enjoy a Middle Eastern potluck and a talk by Dr. Alice Rothchild: “A Personal Journey: Facing Historical and Ethical Challenges in Israel/Palestine.”

Alice Rothchild

Alice Rothchild

Dr. Rothchild has practiced ob/gyn for almost 40 years and served as Assistant Professor of Obstretics and Gynecology at Harvard Medical School. She is a first-generation American who grew up in a middle-class Jewish family in the Boston area. She grew up with the narrative of Israel as a haven for Jewish “victims,” as a democratic state in the Middle East surrounded by hostile Arabs and Palestinians. Only when she was in college did a friend cast doubts on this view. Dr. Rothchild was inspired by this friend to do some serious research—on colonialism, imperialism, and U.S. and Israeli history—especially about the 1948 Palestinian “Nakba” in which many Palestinians were killed by Israelis and many more became dispossessed refugees.

Eventually Dr. Rothchild joined Physicians for Human Rights on a journey to Israel and Palestine to see for herself the conditions there and to work in clinics, especially in Palestine. Since then she has gone annually to travel around, to work in clinics, and to speak with Palestinians and Israelis about the deteriorating physical situation in Palestine (the Wall, the increased Israeli settlements on Palestinian lands, the checkpoints, the housing demolitions, etc.). She emphasized she is not criticizing Jews as Jews but rather the policies of the Israeli government.

When she has attempted to speak about her experiences here in the U.S., she has frequently been harassed or her talks have been cancelled. But she remains optimistic because more and more Americans and Israelis are finally speaking out against Israeli government policies.

Dr. Rothchild also pointed out the affinity between Black Lives Matter and the Palestinian situation. Both are met with increasingly militarized/weaponized responses. The final irony: many of the U.S.’s police departments are even trained in Israel or here by the IDF.

She was also troubled that none of the current presidential candidates, except Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party, were even talking about Israel/Palestine.

Asked about BDS, she responded that the U.S. provides $3 billion a year to Israel—a population of 8.2 million—the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid. The American taxpayer has some responsibility for Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians. Moreover the non-violent BDS is supported by the Palestinians and seems to be having an impact on the Israeli government.

Dr. Rothchild has directed a documentary film “Voices Across the Divide,” and has written several books and articles on her experiences.

Revive the Peace Movement

Stan Heller, Administrator, Promoting Enduring Peace

Several Connecticut groups are in the forefront of a new network, RPM, Revive the Peace Movement Network. Promoting Enduring Peace and the Middle East Crisis Committee joined with CODEPINK and a number of other groups and individuals to form the group to serve as a pole of opinion and a network for discussion and suggestions. Its website is http://www.RPM.world and it is eager for groups to join it and for individuals to get on its mailing list. Its common “Statement” is as follows:

For a Renewed Anti-War Movement

At a time when wars engulf whole regions of the world we must revive the anti-war movement. The peace movement must put greater pressure on politicians and parties to end U.S. wars and to redirect military spending to meeting social needs at home and abroad.

Our primary tools are education and non-violent direct action, such as mass demonstrations, protest, civil disobedience, boycotts and divestment.

We resolutely oppose the wars of the U.S., its allies and clients, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and U.S. support for repressive regimes such as Honduras and Bahrain.

We call for an end to U.S. support for Israel and for justice for Palestinians, in all of historic Palestine and in their places of refuge.

We also recognize that there are other oppressors in the world, from ISIS to Russia, from Iran to China, from North Korea to the Assad regime. We won’t hesitate to oppose their wars, interventions and cruelties.

War and preparation for war are major contributors to catastrophic climate change. Climate change causes declining living conditions that also significantly contribute to war. We need to break this vicious cycle and work for a sustain-able economy based on social and environmental justice, full employment and one hundred percent non-nuclear renewable energy.

War and climate disruption tragically uproot millions from their home countries. We need to open the borders to refugees and meet their needs for health, safety and human dignity.

We challenge the racism and Islamophobia used to justify wars and occupations and the denial of human rights to refugees.

Seven decades after Hiroshima, the human race is still at risk of nuclear annihilation. Nuclear war is an ever present danger. We demand the abolition of all nuclear weaponry.

The militarism and authoritarianism that the U.S. promotes abroad is reflected in the militarism and attacks on civil liberties in our communities at home.

We stand in solidarity with those such as Black Lives Matter who are advocating the demilitarization of police forces.

We stand in solidarity with those who seek liberation, social and economic justice, and democracy in all countries, including the United States.

Another world is possible, free of militarism and war.

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