Sunday, December 21, 2008

O Little Town of Bethlehem: Beyond the Wall


Saturday, Dec. 20 at 5 p.m. Woodstock Public Library 5 Library Ln. Woodstock, NY 12498

Talk and media presentation by Jane Toby, a "Jewish American woman concerned about our lack of knowledge of the Palestinian people in Israel and in the Occupied Territories."

About 25 people came out despite the snow to hear about Jane's trip to Palestine. A lively discussion followed the pictures and video clips.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Rotron acticle in Woodstock Times

Bombs, banks, and buildings
Ethical issues at forefront of Woodstock board meeting

by George Pattison
Woodstock's image as an emblem of peace and idealism surfaced in sharp relief at the December 9 meeting of the Town Board, as a citizens group deplored the local manufacture of military weapons components, board members weighed the morality of the town's ties with a local bank, and a fair, consistent policy on the use of public buildings remained elusive.

In a presentation to the board, five residents - Dee Dee Halleck, Tarak Kauff, Laurie Kirby, Joel Kovel, and Ellen Povill - expressed concern over the Woodstock company Ametek Rotron's production of devices for military applications that include, according to the group, a missile launch system that is sometimes used to deliver cluster bombs, attack helicopters, tanks, and armored personnel carriers.

A statement to the Town Board, signed by 14 members of the citizens group, Middle East Crisis Response, read, in part, "We are surprised and dismayed to learn that Woodstock's largest manufacturing facility - according to its own promotional materials - makes components for many weapons systems. Some of these systems are being used to commit major violations of international law. . .We believe that the people of Woodstock can and should work together with local businesspeople and the town government to create a local economy that is sustainable and ethical."

The group emphasized that its goal was to persuade Ametek Rotron to convert its operations to the manufacture of "peaceful and environmentally positive products" and that it did not wish to jeopardize employees' jobs. The company reportedly employs more than 375 people at its Hasbrouck Lane facility.

In a subsequent interview, Kauff reported that he, Halleck, and another member of the group, Dutchess County resident Fred Nagel, met on December 8 with Ametek Rotron officials Charles Lohwasser, who is vice president and general manager in the parent company, Ametek's aerospace and defense division, and Larry Bruck to discuss their concerns.

Kauff described the meeting as cordial. "Both Charlie and Larry were very gracious and made no attempt to rush us. They take a lot of justifiable pride in the company's technical skills," he said. Kauff added, however, that the officials, who favored the term "defense" over that of "military," defended the company's activities as legal and legitimate and declined to dwell on the "ultimate result of their work." The meeting concluded with an agreement to continue the dialogue, said Kauff, who is a 17-year Woodstock resident and a member of the antiwar organization Veterans for Peace. Lohwasser could not be reached for comment on December 10.

Woodstock ponders kinder, gentler manufacturing

By WILLIAM J. KEMBLE
Correspondent Kingston Freeman

WOODSTOCK — The Town Board is considering acting locally while thinking globally. Specifically, members are discussing whether to try to prohibit the local manufacture of parts used for military equipment.

The concern arises from the fact that Ametek Rotron Inc. has a manufacturing operation on Hasbrouck Lane in Woodstock, and a letter submitted to the Town Board by 14 local residents notes the company makes parts for helicopters, rocket launchers, tanks and armored personnel carriers.

Rotron’s Web site confirms the company manufactures those parts, but it does not say which, if any, are made at its Woodstock plant. Company officials could not be reached for comment.

Councilwoman Liz Simonson, agreeing with the residents’ letter, suggested town officials ask the company for a list of items it manufactures in Woodstock.

“For a town that prides itself on trying to create a zoning law that protects the environment, I can sort of see that the environment has a global scale,” Simonson said. “We’re protecting our own little hub of livelihood here, but it doesn’t speak well of us to say we’ll protect our own resources from degradation but we’ll manufacturer things that we can ship to other parts of the world (that will) destroy other parts of the world.

“I like the idea of trying to start a dialogue,” Simonson added. “I don’t want to be the person who says, ‘No, we don’t want you here because you’re making this,’ but to make them understand that perhaps people of Woodstock don’t want to be shipping these things to the rest of the world so we can destroy their environment while we sit in a nice little tidy place and protect our own.”

The letter signed by the 14 town residents said: “We’d like to know exactly what weapons systems have components that are made in Woodstock. We believe that the people of Woodstock can and should work together with local business people and the town government to create a local economy that is sustainable and ethical.”

The letter said studies conducted by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts show “conversion from military to peaceful production can be done without jeopardizing jobs.”

Woodstock ponders kinder, gentler manufacturing

Thursday, December 11, 2008 3:05 AM EST

WOODSTOCK — The Town Board is considering acting locally while thinking globally. Specifically, members are discussing whether to try to prohibit the local manufacture of parts used for military equipment.

The concern arises from the fact that Ametek Rotron Inc. has a manufacturing operation on Hasbrouck Lane in Woodstock, and a letter submitted to the Town Board by 14 local residents notes the company makes parts for helicopters, rocket launchers, tanks and armored personnel carriers.

Rotron’s Web site confirms the company manufactures those parts, but it does not say which, if any, are made at its Woodstock plant. Company officials could not be reached for comment.

Councilwoman Liz Simonson, agreeing with the residents’ letter, suggested town officials ask the company for a list of items it manufactures in Woodstock.

“For a town that prides itself on trying to create a zoning law that protects the environment, I can sort of see that the environment has a global scale,” Simonson said. “We’re protecting our own little hub of livelihood here, but it doesn’t speak well of us to say we’ll protect our own resources from degradation but we’ll manufacturer things that we can ship to other parts of the world (that will) destroy other parts of the world.

“I like the idea of trying to start a dialogue,” Simonson added. “I don’t want to be the person who says, ‘No, we don’t want you here because you’re making this,’ but to make them understand that perhaps people of Woodstock don’t want to be shipping these things to the rest of the world so we can destroy their environment while we sit in a nice little tidy place and protect our own.”

The letter signed by the 14 town residents said: “We’d like to know exactly what weapons systems have components that are made in Woodstock. We believe that the people of Woodstock can and should work together with local business people and the town government to create a local economy that is sustainable and ethical.”

The letter said studies conducted by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts show “conversion from military to peaceful production can be done without jeopardizing jobs.”


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Muslim Student Association at SUNY New Paltz

This film screening and discussion was very well attended by both students and members of MECR. There was a good question and answer session after the film as well. The Muslim Student Association has much support on campus and the event was cosponsored by several groups. There was also a number of African Americans in the audience who made comparisons between the Civil Rights movement in the US and the anti-aparthied struggle in Palestine.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Philip Weiss on Anna Baltzer's talk


October 19, 2008

http://www.philipweiss.org/mondoweiss/2008/10/ive-been-hearing-about-anna-baltzer-for-a-while-anna-in-the-middle-east-a-big-activist-in-kansas-city-andy-whitmore-told.html

Finally Meeting the It-Girl of Anti-Zionism: 'Anna in the Middle East'

I first heard about "Anna in the Middle East" in July from my friend Andrea Whitmore, a Christian activist in Kansas City. "You have to meet Anna, she's glorious and beautiful," Whitmore said. I looked up her website: Anna Baltzer is a 29-year-old Jew who has utterly thrown herself into The Issue. She's lived in Palestine, written a book bearing witness, and now travels the country giving talks on how Israel gobbles land and destroys Palestinian human rights. I missed a big event with Baltzer in September, then two weeks ago Whitmore wrote me again with a link to Baltzer's speaking schedule.

"Please go hear my dear Anna at one of the events below...Finally you'll have a chance to meet her. She's warm and kind and you'll find her entirely engaging."

If that wasn't enough, that tentacle of the Israel lobby, CAMERA, then published an attack on the new generation of Jewish non-Zionists--happily, these attacks are becoming a form of lobby-shtik--and called Baltzer "Chomsky Lite." Who wouldn't want to be Chomsky Lite? So Friday night I drove an hour and change to Kingston, N.Y., to see Baltzer at a Unitarian Universalist congregation.

I got there early and chatted with Bard professor Joel Kovel, a leader of the group hosting Baltzer, the Middle East Crisis Response. Like Whitmore's group in Kansas City, this is one of scores of groups around the country that are engaged on The Issue. Kovel wrote the book Overcoming Zionism, and I asked him when he got into the issue--this leftwing psychoanalyst who's authored ten books. He got a tortured look and said it took the Second Intifadah, that he finally said, I'm not going to restrain myself any more and defer to family and community on this issue. I nodded, having gone thru a very similar process, post 9-11. Then Kovel said what everyone says, that the climate is changing. We used to be completely marginalized. Now we're only partially marginalized. (And Obama's about to reframe everything, dude!)

A thin woman in black shot past us and Kovel grabbed her, introduced me. Anna Baltzer was bringing in her equipment, moving stuff around. In a room full of old lefties it was hard not to focus on her. It was a little like when you're visiting old friends and there's a new black cat, running over the curtains and the countertops and tables. The air changes, everyone's watching the cat. Baltzer has that lithe, kinetic air. And her presentation had a professional air to it. There's a table with kaffiyahs on it, her book and DVDs, a computerized set of slides.

I got out of the way and sat down to read, and then Baltzer sat down in order to "introduce myself properly."

I asked her how her talk had gone the night before, at her alma mater, Columbia U. She mentioned that an Israeli Jew she had known as an undergrad, when she was a different person, had come with his parents. He was upset by the talk and needed to express himself a lot, and Baltzer gave him the space. He was in a little shock. Her talk can serve that function. He's at that point in his journey, Baltzer said, where he can't really accept this stuff... She had passed that "hump" a long time ago. I thought to myself, I haven't really passed it yet; I'm still strung out about being pro-Palestinian--in part because I've only spent 10 days over there and don't like taking people's word for something. Well this girl has spent months and months over there. She's very clear.

Whitmore's description was accurate. Baltzer is great-looking. She has an angular face, a lovely smile, glossy shoulder-length hair. She's the girl that Jewish parents dream their son might bring home. And there's "a lot going on," as we say of people who have an active interior life: I got the impression that Baltzer is high-strung, intelligent, unwavering.

There were about 70 people in the room, mostly old lefties. Some churchgoers, not many. Kovel opened it up, telling told about Baltzer's amazing commitment to "this priceless cause," doing 100s of talks per year, around the country. Then he spoke about how Zionists control the media, Hollywood, the Congress, the government, but "they don't control what's most important, and that's the people and civil society--patient, passionate, and enduring efforts to speak out at the base of society." The grass roots.

I want to interject here that this is something I love about Joel Kovel. Journalists like me will run away from the word "control" because of the predictable bugaboos; and we're going to parse Zionist influence, in this very Talmudic fashion (consider my post on Jews in the media), but Kovel comes out and calls a spade a spade. Because we truly are living in an age of blunt orthodoxy and blacklists on this question; the history books will be emphatic.

The presentation that followed was staggeringly effective. Maybe it's because she's done so many, but Baltzer never really left the human scale of any of this. She avoided hot-button words. She skirted talk of violence or solutions or politics, she made the occupation real and human. She has a gift of speaking simply, and talking about people as people and making it feel like they're your neighbor. And then she would click on little maps to show the enormity. Like a map of all the checkpoints. Or a map showing the Jewish colonization from the beginning of the last century to today. Or she would say, "Almost all the water in historic Palestine" is controlled by Israel.

The audience followed her every word, in part because she spoke so transparently of who she is. In her book she says the only point of view she has is her own, a great line. A California girl, she didn't care about this stuff at all in college, then she went on the free birthright trip to Israel and bought the whole birthright program. She didn't start to wake up till she went on a Fulbright to Turkey and began backpacking through the Middle East and met Palestinians, in Lebanon and Syria, and for the first time she heard the other narrative and it upset her. "It seemed unbelievable to me, when I discovered these things." She had to look into it. Well before long she threw herself into it. In this great clear way, she understood the issue was hers, and she signed up with a feminist group to go to the West Bank.

She showed us where she had lived in the West Bank, eight miles from Nablus, then asked us how long it takes us to drive the 8 miles to Woodstock. Fifteen minutes, people said. Well it takes an hour and a half to get to Nablus, and sometimes it takes four hours or even six. This means that no one can really have a job in Palestine, and no one can get an education. She showed us pictures of Palestinian women in cars stopped at checkpoints. Or stopped by a soldier. They get an education, but it's only by overcoming these extreme obstacles, getting up at 4:30 in the morning, etc.

I always find this stuff heartbreaking. I don't need more information, but it's like a passion play, and I do get more. Or like the gospels, trying over and over to find the simple story that will best communicate the matter. The emotional climax of Baltzer's talk was when she showed us photographs taken by Palestinian children who have been taken on visits into Israel to see the sea and their ancestral villages. It's an undertaking called Birthright Replugged, to take Palestinian kids who are under 15, before they're issued a card that serves to control their movements, to bring them into Israel. The villages are unrecognizable, covered in trees that Baltzer and Kovel and I all paid for when we were younger, in little cans, collecting coins, from Jews, for Jews, and inevitably these kids call their grandparents on their cell phones and the grandparents direct them how to find their old house, or the pomegranate orchard, or that kind of thing. The grandparents aren't 50 miles away.

"I can farm their land," Baltzer said. "I can live in their house, on their land. They can't even visit. Because they're not Jewish."

One of those moments when you just want to go outside and puke.

She riffed about what it's like for these kids who have only seen the sea from their rooftops to actually go down to the sea and feel it, smell it, bathe in it. "How thrilling it is to go to the sea for the first time." We all know that feeling, she said. They run into it in their clothes. "Then they go back to their camps..."

The politics of the talk were anti-Zionist. Baltzer began in a very didactic but helpful fashion by laying out the categories of Jewish, Israeli, and Zionist, and explaining how they do and don't overlap. And as for 1948, she presented simply as a motion of colonialist ethnic cleansing to obtain a majority Jewish state--"not an organic majority, an artificial majority." She did not honor the idea of Palestine as a refuge, and even the first Arab war she treated as a predictable response to the expulsion in early '48 of 250,000 Arabs into neighboring lands. She noted that when she came out of Grand Central Terminal the other day for the first time in years, what did she see-- 43d Street renamed David Ben-Gurion Place, after the architect of ethnic cleansing.

I'm trying to convey that she was very straightforward and untortured, but sophisticated, in black pants and a fine gray jacket, skinny, a little breathless, crossing the stage with a cordless mike.

There was one slide she presented that I need to get on this blog, it was so striking. It was the cover of Newsweek International that a friend picked up on a plane in 2004, she said, and there was a sell-line across the top, PLIGHT OF THE PALESTINIANS. Baltzer had the identical cover of Newsweek from the U.S., with the same cover story, "The Race to Unearth the Bible," but that line was replaced by another line. And the story wasn't in the magazine. "This is a pattern," Baltzer said, and I wanted to shout Amen. I loved this slide because it shows what any journalist who cares about The Issue has had to deal with. Acceptable speech elsewhere in the world puts you "in the tank" here--the latest term of art for a biased headcase.

Baltzer kept her focus on real-world detail, and kept the ideology at a minimum. She didn't get into the on-the-one-hand-on-the-other-hand stuff, no two state solution and Barak offered X at Camp David type of argument. It was all human and personal, a girl in her 20s, using everything she's got on behalf of, as Kovel put it, the Voiceless. "Is this a symbol of inclusiveness?" she said, with a slide of the Israeli flag. "What does it really mean?" How would we feel about separate roads? putting up photographs that juxtaposed the two systesm. The presentation ended with Baltzer playing an Arabic folk tune sung by two girls she knows as she showed images of non-violent protesters. A lot of slides or Arab life and humanity. It ended with a guy carrying a placard saying "Palestinians and Jews Refuse to Be Enemies."

Then there was Q-and-A. A guy named Jim Mathes, from Rhinebeck, saaid, Jews have been on the left forever, at the vanguard-- well they are the people who have to deal with this. "They're asleep on their feet or dead in the head on this issue." That's where the work has to happen, in order for American policy to change. Baltzer rejected this. She said it's all Americans' issue and not just Jews. I think Mathes is right. Jews care, and Jews are powerful. Few other Americans care. When Harvard faculty and students began a South-Africa-style movement to divest, it was crushed by Lawrence Summers, the Jewish president of the school, when he said it was antisemitic. We have to change that idea of caring. Baltzer and Kovel and I are all engaged in that work.

Hundreds of talks; but Baltzer said she has been invited to only one synagogue. In Albuquerque. The west, of course. Not out here. Usually she's the guest of Arab students or feminists, Women of a Certain Age. The SDS hosted her at Columbia. No synagogues. This will all be taught in history books some day. How a young Jewish woman of complete and pure commitment, of star quality, from the finest institutions, would devote herself to human rights and be shunned by her own, minority, community, which has licensed pogroms against a minority in a land far away.That really happened, once upon a time in America.

After the Q-and-A, Baltzer said, "I will answer as many questions as you have and I'll hang around as long as you want." I went off to the hummus table. The presentation here was beautiful. There were dried figs, and oven-toasted pita bread pieces, and an orange and red petal-like formation in the middle of the big bowl of hummus. And dishes of Palestinian olive oil. Very pro-Palestinian. Very Woodstock. No Zionists to be seen, in miles.

Then I looked around for Baltzer and didn't see her. Finally I saw her in a chair, in a corner, with a line of people going up to her. She was meeting one person after another, talking to them intensely. This older guy, goodlooking, whitebearded, late 70s, was talking to her and he walked away with a beatific look on his face. I introduced myself. His name is Amos Sunshine, from New Paltz.

Sunshine left Vienna, Austria, as a child on January 11, 1939, two months after Kristallnacht. His brother went to Palestine. Much of his family was blown and burned to the heavens. He told me that he's never opened the curtain really on the Israel Palestine business. He noticed once on a visit, in 1952, that someone was living in an Arab's house in Jaffa, near his brother, and that didn't seem fair. "Why wasn't that person paid? Or allowed to return to their house?" There were no reparations. (There still aren't, 60 years after those atrocities, in that place where the Arabs were forced into the sea.)

Sunshine says he knows a lot of Jews who close their minds when people talk about the Palestinians. "They have a sense of identification with Israel. Some of their relatives, when they left the concentration camps, it was the only place they could go. There's a sense of redemption about it, also a little bit of religion to it." He knows faculty at SUNY New Paltz, "set in their minds, it's impossible to break down the emotional attachment. And I was guilty of that as well." Well tonight that guilt was shaken.

Watching the presentation by someone he could "respect," Sunshine was "struck by the unfairness and the blind spot of the people who have such a strong attachment to Israel.

"How can I walk out of here tonight and not know, that this is wrong. And it's goddamn wrong."

I wondered what Anna in the Middle East had been able to do that so many other arguments and protests had not. Well it was that she made it so human and real, Sunshine said. He thought she was on the verge of tears once; and Sunshine started to cry.

I think it goes without saying that there's a strong Jewish/tribal component in this type of communication: when you see the future reflected in the face of a young woman from your tribe. But so be it. And I would add that if the upheaval-narrative of my parents' Jewish generation, and mine, was bringing home a gentile, a source of endless jokes and misery--that story is over. When my uncles did it, they were among 13 percent of American Jewry, I am among 62 percent and counting. And today the upheaval narrative is: bringing home a Palestinian.

I bought a bottle of Palestinian olive oil and Baltzer's book and said goodnight. Then I couldn't help myself but grabbed her arm. She'd taken off her jacket, it was skinny and white. Honey, I hate to sound the Jewish mother, but you have to eat something. I know, she said, there's going to be nothing left of me.

I close this report with a solemn appeal. The hummus was prepared by someone named Pia. I didn't get to meet her. The hummus was spectacular. I want the recipe. I will put it on this site. Help me!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Anna Baltzer - Woodstock Times letter

WITNESS
I'm so pleased that Anna Baltzer will be coming to the Mid-Hudson community next week on her northeastern tour. Anna is a 29 year-old Jewish American woman, a Columbia graduate and Fulbright scholar who has lived and worked for peace in Israel/Palestine and has also dedicated herself to writing a book that describes her experiences: Witness in Palestine: Journal of A Jewish American Woman in the Occupied Territories. In her time here, Anna will be sharing her observations on nonviolence and the hope for peace in the Middle East. Anna has a great gift: she speaks in the most open, non-violent way and really enables listening. I hope that many of you will be able to talk with her while she is here. Anna will be giving a presentation on Friday, October 17, 7:30 p.m. at the UUCC (Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Catskills), Sawkill Road, Kingston. Since this is the first night of Sabbath, Anna would also very much appreciate being invited to Jewish congregations in our community to share with them at other times. If individuals, families, groups, schools, congregations, synagogues, mosques, churches are interested in hosting Anna or just learning more about her, please e-mail me: Jane.toby7@gmail.com.
Jane Toby
Catskill

Sunday, July 20, 2008


"What Do I Know About War"
Featuring Margo Lee Sherman

Sunday, July 20 at 7:00 pm
Kleinert/James Art Center, 34 Tinker St.
Woodstock, NY 12498

"What Do I Know About War?" is an internationally acclaimed one-woman show by theater artist, Margo Lee Sherman, which tells actual stories about our men and women stationed in Iraq. This unflinching look at the human cost of war was described by "The New York Times" as: "Brilliant…surreal…the experience is like eavesdropping on a small sorrowful town."

Cost: $10
Performance co-sponsored by:
Arts for Peace
International Women's Peace Service
Kingston Women In Black
Middle East Crisis Response
New Paltz Women in Black
Peace Action Network
Woodstock Veterans for Peace
Woodstock Women in Black

Friday, July 11, 2008

Freeman letter to the editor on lawsuit

Police saved them

Dear Editor:

Those anti-Israel demonstrators are lucky the Kingston Police Department moved them so nicely to another location. They were rude, loud and boisterous during a lovely celebration of Israel's freedom.

Remember, Israel is American's only true friend and democracy in that God forsaken region of the earth. We celebrated its independence while these detractors only wanted to disrupt our legal celebration. The mayor, assemblyman, congressman, rabbis and many other fine folks came and spoke in favor of a free and independent Israel. Bravo to them.

The demonstrators are also lucky that the police moved them because I and a few others would not have been so nice as KPD was to them.

Boos to those idiots who spout the lies of terrorists and murderers just because they were unloved by their parents, or whatever drives them. They will lose in the court of law because they are wrong. They are wrong in their views and wrong in their charges against Kingston. Never again!

BUTCH DENER, New Paltz
bubbaband@aol.com

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Editorial Kingston Freeman (on lawsuit)

First and foremost 07/09/2008

We who cherish the First Amendment know it can be tricky thing. Advertisement

Some people, for instance, don't fully understand it. They cite free speech and First Amendment rights when the circumstances don't apply.

Others believe the First Amendment applies only to them, particularly if they'd rather not be exposed to a contrary point of view.

Which brings us a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Albany by a group called Middle East Crisis Response. Its members say their First Amendment rights were violated when Kingston police escorted them away from a recent Downtown celebration of Israel's 60th anniversary.

We suppose it's germane here to point out that we support Israel as an ally and beacon of democracy in the Middle East.

That duly noted, those who believe otherwise are entitled to say so in a public place without fear of government interference.

"The bedrock principle of American constitutional law is that public parks and sidewalks are free-speech zones," said attorney Stephen Bergstein, who is representing the protesters. "The government can not pick and choose which advocacy groups may use the areas and which cannot."

"I believe the police officers (acted as they did) for public safety purposes," said Mayor James Sottile. "But they (the protesters) were certainly heard (from the nearby parking lot to which they were moved). Their message was heard loud and clear."

Again, we said the First Amendment can be tricky.

Protesters claim they were denied their rights because they were told to move. The city claims their rights weren't denied just because they were moved.

"There was ample room for the (protesters) to peacefully assemble at Gallo Park, and the city had no right to expel them," said Bergstein.

However, had they stayed, police would say, might hotter heads have prevailed?

We say the city was appropriately attentive to the possibility of conflict, but didn't need to step in unless it actually occurred.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Israel/Palestine: Up close and personal

A talk by Paul Rehm, member of Christian Peacekeepers

Tuesday, July 8 at 7:00 pm
Saugerties Senior Center
207 Market Street
Saugerties, NY 12477


"They come in the middle of the night, some with blackened faces, all with automatic weapons....Who are they, these men and women who steal food and clothing meant for students, orphans and needy families in Hebron, who raid and destroy bakeries that make the bread for the orphans' breakfast? They're Israeli soldiers..."

Recently returned from his third period of service with Christian Peacemaker Teams, Paul Rehm will share some of the experiences that shaped his days and nights in the West Bank.

Sponsored by the Middle East Crisis Response
http://www.mideastcrisis.org
Cost: free
-----------
Over 40 people attended this event, with many new faces.


Thursday, July 3, 2008

Demonstrators sue Kingston over park expulsion

By Paul Kirby, Freeman staff
07/02/2008
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KINGSTON - A group has filed a lawsuit against the city of Kingston, saying its right to protest in a city park was violated when police kicked demonstrators out during a local celebration of Israel's 60th anniversary.

Attorney Stephen Bergstein, representing the group Middle East Crisis Response, said on Tuesday that the suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Albany, alleges the group was denied its First Amendment rights to assembly and free speech when members of the Kingston Police Department on May 4 ordered the demonstrators out of T.R. Gallo Park, where the celebration was being held.

The group, comprising about eight people, was protesting policies of Israel and the United States.

"The bedrock principle of American constitutional law is that public parks and sidewalks are free-speech zones," Bergstein said in a prepared statement. "The government can not pick and choose which advocacy groups may use the areas and which cannot."

City Police Chief Gerald Keller said it is the policy of the department not to comment on pending lawsuits. He referred questions about the legal action to the city attorney's office.

Mayor James Sottile said he supported the police department's decision to separate the Middle East Crisis Response protesters from people participating in the Israel celebration. Sottile said the action was taken in the interest of public safety.

"I believe the police officers (acted as they did) for public safety purposes," Sottile said. "But they (the protesters) were certainly heard. Their message was heard loud and clear."

The protesters were allowed to continue their demonstration in a parking area near the Rondout Creek waterfront, not far from the Israel festival, after being ordered out of the park.

Bergstein said the parking area was "ill-suited" to engage "the public in meaningful dialogue about this important matter of public concern."

The lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages, Bergstein said. But he said the group is more interested in having Kingston change its first-come, first-served policy regarding the use of city parks.

"There was ample room for the (protesters) to peacefully assemble at Gallo Park, and the city had no right to expel them," the attorney said.

©Daily Freeman 2008

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

LifeMaker's Center in Gaza

Hi Everyone,

Some time ago we sent a contribution from MECR to Fida Qishta for her
LifeMaker's Center in Gaza. Here's a report on Al-Jazeera English
about her plan to build a playground in Rafah.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OiTGv6Vsc_M

Gail

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Thursday, May 8, 2008

We got great publicity May 4

Click on the pictures to make them bigger:

From the Kingston Freeman:

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Israeli Day Celebration in Kingston








Members of the Middle East Crisis Response are shown holding signs condemning Israel's siege of Gaza. They are on a public sidewalk near an Israeli Day Celebration at Waterfront Park in Kingston, NY. Soon, the Kingston Police forced the group to move to a "designated" protest area behind a nearby building. Several in the group asserted their right to stand on a pubic sidewalk in front of the park with their signs. Threatened with arrest, the group finally moved. The police also stated that anyone from the group handing out flyers in an area not designated for protest would also be arrested.

Maurice Hinchey, a speaker at the celebration was asked about this violation of First Amendment rights, but he deferred to the local authorities.

The newly named street signs are an indication of the political power of the pro Israeli lobby, even in a small city like Kingston, NY.

14 members of the Middle East Crisis Response attended the demonstration.


For a great video by DeeDee, click here.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Talk by author Ghada Karmi


Wednesday, April 23
7:00 pm
Woodstock Community Center
56 Rock City Road, Woodstock

Ghada Karmi is Research Fellow at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies. Her most recent book, "Married to Another Man: Israel's Dilemma in Palestine," was published by Pluto Press in 2007.

About 35 people gathered to listen and ask questions on Wednesday night. Her stories and analysis of the Palestinian plight were both moving and thought provoking.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Discussion Addresses Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

The New Paltz Oracle Volume 15 Issue 79 Thursday, March 6, 2008

By Andrew Lipkowitz, News Editor

Almost 70 local activists and residents packed into New Paltz Village Hall Sunday night for a discussion about the Israel-Palestine conflict, which organizers said was created to present a view of the situation not typically seen in the U.S. media.

The discussion, which was titled, “Speaking Out against the Occupation of Palestine,” presented the Palestinian perspective on the conflict and was critical of the Israeli government, as well as American support for Israel. A short film titled “Jerusalem in Exile,” and two speakers, Joel Kovel and Jane Toby, explored the subject of Palestinian oppression in the Gaza strip and the West bank.

“The purpose in organizing this meeting was to look at the perspective of the Palestinians, to balance out what has been a totally one sided area,” said Jack Smith, editor of the Hudson Valley Activist Newsletter, and an organizer of the event.

The main speaker at the event was Joel Kovel, a professor at Bard College and author of the book “Overcoming Zionism: Creating a Single Democratic State in Israel/Palestine.” Kovel’s speech criticized Israel for violating the human rights of the Palestinians by cutting off water, reducing electricity and limiting their movement throughout the country.

“There is no moment when they are not engaged in trying to eliminate the remaining Palestinians by taking away the things that make them human,” Kovel said.

Matthew Averbach, a senior graphic design major, said that Israel usually cuts off water or reduces electricity in response to attacks from Palestinian militants. He also said that checkpoints in Israel are for safety precautions.

“If you go into a mall in Israel, it doesn’t matter who you are, you will be stopped,” Averbach said.

Averbach founded the group Hawks for Israel on campus last year, which seeks to educate students about Israel.

Kovel’s presentation took a strong stance against Zionism, which is the doctrine that supports the creation of a nation-state for the Jewish people.

“I thought a lot of it was valid, but I can understand why you might walk out of one of his presentations, especially if you are Jewish,” said senior communication and media major Ian Taylor, who attended the event.

The conflict in the Middle East took renewed importance this week, as violence between Israel and Palestine in the Gaza strip and West bank left approximately 116 Palestinians and three Israelis dead. The violence started Feb. 27 when Hamas militants launched rockets from the Gaza strip, killing an Israeli civilian. Israeli air strikes before the attack killed several Hamas members. Palestinian officials claim many of the dead are civilians.

“I think we are verging on genocide in Gaza and the West bank,” said Fred Nagel, an organizer of the event and member of the Middle East Crisis Response Group, which supplied the speakers for the event.

The Middle East Crisis Response Group is based in Woodstock, N.Y. and formed after the 2006 conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, to oppose “the Israeli occupation of Palestine,” their Web site says.

“Before people jump to conclusions and begin hating one side,” Averbach said, they need to realize, “the future of Palestinian and Israeli children are at stake.”

Monday, February 25, 2008

Nakba Vigil in Rhinebeck




We had a good turnout (15 people) for the Nakba Vigil in Rhinebeck on Saturday, February 23. This was the first time we tried a Nakba vigil outside of Woodstock, and we are hoping to organize vigils in other surrounding towns. Contact us if you would like to organize one.

In 1947 and 1948, more than 700,000 Palestinians became refugees in a widespread campaign of ethnic cleansing. Today, they and their descendants number over four million. Their right to return to their homes has been affirmed by international law.

Can peace come without justice for the Palestinians?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Planet Waves covers Nakba Vigil



Harriet Malinowitz of Kingston, NY and Fred Nagel of Rhinebeck, NY, on Woodstock's Village Green on Saturday afternoon, Feb. 2. They and others, members of the mid-Hudson Valley activist group Middle East Crisis Response (MECR), were conducting a vigil commemorating the Nakba. The Nakba ("catastrophe" in Arabic) is what Palestinians call the ethnic cleansing of their population circa 1948 via a series of massacres, murders, rapes, looting, burnings, and expulsions by Zionist militias (Haganah and Irgun). Israel calls it the "War of Independence." Over 700,000 refugees were created by the Nakba; today, they and their descendants number four million. They still seek the right of return to their homeland granted to them by U.N. Resolution 194, but this right is refused by Israel. Photo by Eric Francis. Prior cover: Anya from the Book of Blue.
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I've finally tracked down the cover of Planet Waves from February 5, which featured a photo (with caption) of our most recent Nakba vigil on its cover. The link is http://planetwaves.net:80/previouscovers/20080205.html. The editor/publisher, Eric Francis, had stopped and read our signs on the sidewalk, talked to Fred and me a bit, then took the picture. It's a rather unusual publication to feature us (horoscopes and such--and this week's cover features the headline, "Cunnilinigus and Clover"--not only racy, but misspelled! well, whatever...), but it's nice for our message (very nicely captured by the camera) to reach a fresh audience, isn't it?! Plus, absolutely no shrinking from the true grit in the caption--much appreciated.
-Harriet

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Our Saturday Vigil: Feb. 2






Thanks to Jane for the pictures, as well as to Harriet, Tarak, Diane and Elaine for the great posters.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

End the Blockade of Gaza




Twenty people came to the Woodstock Village Green to protest the blockade of Gaza. Handouts were given out explaining the US and Israeli involvement in this humanitarian crisis.