Archive | December 11, 2016

Love in a Time of Lack*

Love in a Time of Lack*

By Sara Haile-Mariam

Years ago, in a time of personal and profound darkness and confusion, I chose to listen to the whisper of my heart. I trusted it when my world was seemingly falling apart. That quiet compass has yet to steer me wrong and when I say it’s brought me unbelievable amounts of love and magic, I say so with surprise and wonderment. In this time of collective darkness and confusion, just as it feels like our world is falling apart, I have no doubt that this same compass is available to each of us. I also have no doubt that if we each listen to, and follow, our hearts whispers we’ll uncover love and magic — surprise and wonderment.

In this time of collective darkness and confusion, just as it feels like our world is falling apart, I have no doubt that this same compass is available to each of us. I also have no doubt that if we each listen to, and follow, our hearts whispers we’ll uncover love and magic — surprise and wonderment.

We can heal through this — individually and collectively — if we choose to.

Earlier this week I listened to a meditation that said “the opposite of love is not hate but indifference,” which rings true to me and is a sentiment that was first shared by Elie Weisel. To those who commented to say that I was racist or wrong; thanks for caring enough to comment! I hope you find healing.

I know that people teach “love your neighbor as you love yourself” as an instruction, but I see it as an indication. How someone treats their neighbours is a telling sign of where they are in their own relationship to themselves. Impatience and judgement — cruelty and anger — blame and distrust; when you see it, see it for what it really is. Hurt people, hurt people.

There is pain and power in each of us.

Deciding to work through our pain frees up how we’re able to use our power. When we are generous with ourselves we are able to be generous with others. When we listen to ourselves we are able to listen to others, and to advocate for ourselves in the presence of others with the intention of love and understanding.

It’s easy to look to the people who are the most harmful and assure ourselves that we are different. But the truth is that the capacity to be the best of humanity, and the worst of humanity, is alive in each of us. We point to those who harm bodies and say — look, we’re different! And then we go through the world, armed with our pain, harming hearts and souls with our carelessness and our indifference.

I can appreciate that many of the people who voted for Donald Trump saw in him, someone who loved them. He addressed their fears, concerns and anxieties without judgement or shame. And yet, the love that he campaigned on is one that’s based in lack, in the assumption that to receive love and acknowledgement, to receive safety and goodness, someone else must lose.

We can never be at ease when love is rooted in lack. We can try to destroy the competition, or to starve our perceived opponents, and yet when they are no longer a threat — there will always be someone else. When there isn’t a racial minority, there’s a religion, when there isn’t a religion, there’s an economic status, a sexual orientation, a gender identity, a country of origin, or a tribe.

There will always be difference and therefore we will never run out of ways to justify other-ing a group of people to make ourselves feel better. We leverage these perceived differences to enforce our superiority by any means necessary.

Look at Ethiopia, the country I was born in — where the Oromo people are being violently oppressed to instill this same faux superiority, to facilitate this same dance with scarcity where love is rooted in lack. Ethiopia is a proud and beautiful country, full of proud and beautiful people, and yet even so — difference is used to justify other-ing and withholding love from entire communities. Mutual respect and mutual belief in our shared ability to succeed succumbs to lack — to the insecure voices in our heads that insist that loving you takes from me. Dances with scarcity become routine — we refuse to see each other as we go through the motions, and then we teach innocent children those motions to ensure the dance continues.

Yet the truth remains that dances with scarcity can be interrupted by brave symphonies of love.

Symphonies like the one launched by Ethiopian Olympian Feyisa Lilesa’s silent protest. At 26 years old, he is a poetic reminder of the fact that this journey to love is a marathon, not a sprint — a fierce reminder that the choice between love and fear is one that we each get to make. What will you choose?

Across the globe, in trying to protect ourselves, to protect what’s “ours”, too many of us choose to destroy each other in the search for love. We refuse to see ourselves in each other because if we did we would see our own pain reflected back at us.

Across the globe, policies are being championed that institutionalize fear and erasure, that scapegoat and target and destroy entire groups of people. This is nothing new but technology and recent electoral outcomes makes it feel everywhere and inescapable.

Choices have been made.

There is cause for deep concern but fear doesn’t need to cloud our judgement. We don’t need to feel isolated and disempowered. We don’t need to focus on what we’re against — we can choose to say who we are for. In standing for love, we stand to say that we all deserve love, that loving myself need not take from my ability to love you, too. This world is abundant — what we lack in resources we have access to through our creativity, through our care, and through our capacity for collaboration.

Root yourselves in this fact.

We deserve to dream bigger than this moment. We deserve to thrive. You deserve to thrive. I deserve to thrive. Root yourselves in these affirmations.

Choose love.

In doing so you choose to be gentle and patient with yourselves — to be nice to yourselves. In choosing love you choose to give yourselves the space to grieve, to process your anger, your doubt, your guilt, your pain, and your fear. Don’t suppress your emotions — feel them — and stay present. When you are ready, in choosing love, you commit to giving yourselves the understanding and encouragement that you need to keep going.

Keep going.

Violence, oppression, and judgement are all forms of connection — they are where we reach first. And yet understanding, compassion, self-care, and generosity, are there for us too if we choose. It will take practice to unlearn the ways we’ve learned to be. If we mess up, we must be gentle with ourselves, and simply start again.

We are each being called to go deeper and get braver. To remember, in a time of darkness and confusion that LOVE is still the greatest force in the Universe and the greatest power any of us could hope to possess. Real love knows nothing of lack — it is self-generating and endlessly available to each of us.

We must deal with what’s in front of us while keeping our hearts fixed on where we are ultimately going. We must move with intention and vision. It’s certainly easier to hold dreams of healing when the sky is blue and the world is peaceful and yet it’s just as important, if not more so, to dream of healing in times like this. Thoughts are powerful — we can choose to let the world around us dictate what we think, what we anticipate, and what we believe is possible. Yet we can also determine what we think, what we activate, and what we make possible. This isn’t a suggestion of ignorance or carelessness or idle action— it’s an invitation to place our trust in the power of love.

Take the time to dream of, envision, and believe in healing.

Write down what it looks like to find healing in yourself, in your family, in your community, and in our world. What does uninterrupted joy really look like? You don’t need to know how to get there —simply take the time to dream up the absolute best case scenario. Be specific. Keep these thoughts close, and revisit them often. Ask yourself; what does it look like, what does it feel like, when we all win? With those loving intentions and hopes in mind, and with faith in our ability to get there— listen to your heart when it whispers and act on it’s wisdom.

Do not underestimate the power that comes with loving yourself the way you wished the world loved you. You have the power to be who you need right now — to help determine where we go from here and to make this work easier for the generations to come. Just as our predecessors have blazed the paths that have brought us us here, we must blaze our own. There’s no instruction manual but their courage is a reminder of what we are capable of — if we are to create what comes next then let us do so with love as our compass.

As we have recently passed Christmas and Thanksgiving, a holiday that celebrates a shared meal without acknowledging the genocide that followed it — we are reminded that doing this work requires our honesty and our awareness. We must ask ourselves; how do I perpetuate in love that’s rooted in lack?

Awareness allows us to make new choices — to love ourselves with eyes wide open, so we can love our neighbors with hearts that match. I believe in us, because I believe in love.

I see in us the potential to be better. I don’t say that as a silver lining but as a call to action. It’s only there as potential unless we harness it, unless we act on it. Our shared promise has always been there — whether or not this moment is any different, is entirely reliant on us.


Related Topics:

The Igbo’s Traditional View on the Sanctity of Life*

Mother’s Love brings Life back to her Son Two-Hours after Pronounced Dead!*

The Charity of Love

Einstein’s Letter to His Daughter about the Universal Force of Love*

Giving Birth to Unconditional Love

Love’s In Need Of Love Today

As I Began to Love Myself…*

Do You Know What It Means to Love New Orleans?

Love Even Affects the Size of a Child’s Brain*

A Ruling that Highlights Indigenous Love of the Land and Canada’s Destruction of It*

True Love is a ‘Verb’*

Those Who Love Peace…

Love Misplaced By Capitalism*

Russian Air Force Purges ISIS Forces near Palmyra*

Russian Air Force Purges ISIS Forces near Palmyra*

Russian attack helicopters play an important role in the ongoing battle near Palmyra

Russian combat aircraft delivered 64 airstrikes on ISIS terrorists near Palmyra during the night, the Russian Ministry of Defense said Sunday morning.

The statement added that as result the Syrian Army repelled all ISIS attempts to seize Palmyra.

“During the night, Syrian government forces, actively supported by the Russian Aerospace Forces, repelled all attacks by terrorists on Palmyra. The attacking side actively used car bombs, armor and rocket artillery systems.”

“Eleven battle tanks and infantry fighting vehicles, 31 cars with heavy machineguns, and over 300 militants were destroyed.”

Syrian government forces are in full control of the city

Earlier unconfirmed reports appeared that the Russian Aerospace Forces used Tu-22M3 strategic bombers against terrorists in the area. This is possible – Russia uses strategic bombers to target terrorists in central Syria on a constant basis.

Other reports in some Arab and pro-government media aruged that the Russian military also used Kalibr missiles. This is hardly possible because cruise missile are not the tool that is useful in a battle against a manoeuvrable enemy like ISIS.

Earlier in December, pro-government sources speculated that Russia was set to deliver cruise missile strikes against targets in the Eastern Ghouta region near Damascus.

As anybody can see missile strikes on targets in Eastern Ghouta have not been delivered.

Today morning, ISIS has launched a fresh attempt to advance against the Syrian army in Palmyra outskirts. Heavy clashes and airstrikes are reported north and east of the city.

Syrian government forces, supported by the Russian Aerospace Forces, liberated Palmyra in March, 2016, about a year after it was captured by ISIS.


Related Topics:

Putin Congratulates Assad on Liberating Palmyra*

What’s Left of Palmyra*

Mayor of London Unveils Replica of Palmyra’s Arch of Triumph in Central London*

Looted Palmyra Treasures Discovered in Geneva Warehouse*

In Aleppo 4 Al-Qaeda Chiefs arrested; 1,000 Terrorists Surrender, and 50,000 Civilians Freed*

Syrian Army Takes Control of 93% of Aleppo’s Territory*

Standing Rock Protestors Use Mirrors to Inspire Humility among Police Officers*

Standing Rock Protestors Use Mirrors to Inspire Humility among Police Officers*

By Amanda Froelich

Credit: Detroit Free Press

In case you missed it, over 20,000 people gathered at the Standing Rock camp near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, last weekend to protest the development of the four-state Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Sunday, especially, was a monumental day for numerous reasons: first, over 2,000 veterans from all around the country offered their support and services to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe who are fighting to protect the Missouri river and burial ground deemed to be sacred. Second, the US Army Corps of Engineers denied an easement to Energy Transfer Partners, the parent company responsible for the construction of the DAPL. When the news was announced, cheers erupted in the camp. However, a statement by the company later revealed that construction will continue, regardless.

Now, “water protectors” remain camped out in below-zero temperatures on the plains and are insistent that they will not leave until the DAPL is re-routed or halted completely. One of the tactics used last weekend to inspire humility among the police officers who face off against the protestors involved using mirrors.

Though the art project isn’t new and has been used before in other protests, it was powerful nonetheless. According to TheArtNewspaper, Cannupa Hanska Luger transported the mirrors to Standing Rock to “empower demonstrators and create a connection with police.”

Luger, who is of mixed Native American and European descent, was born on the Standing Rock reservation. Having been raised on the Fort Berthold reservation where Energy Transfer Partners has installed pipelines and drilled for oil using fracking, the artist knows first-hand how detrimental hydraulic fracturing can be to the environment. He explained:

“I’ve already watched this company tear through sacred sites and geological landforms, some that are bound to our creation stories. It happened so quickly and completely devastated the landscape. The well at my grandparents’ house contained water that turned a silver and orange colour—you can’t drink it.”

Reportedly, Luger has been teaching students at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe, New Mexico, how to create the mirrors which also serve as shields. In the video below, in which he teaches others how to construct their own, he says:

“Art can be an incredible tool when you’re fighting aggression since it’s a language that transcends barriers”.

Luger transported a number of mirror/shields to the camp which have been used several times. In one instance, activists were seen walking around camp with the mirrors above their heads, reportedly sending a message to those who were viewing footage captured from a helicopter.

Credit: Aaron Judd



Related Topics:

Lakota Sioux “water protectors” Inspire the Nation*

Mirrors Brought to Protests to Force Police to Look at What They’ve Become*

Artist Melts 1,527 Guns and Turns Them into Shovels for Planting Trees*

Oil Company States They Will Defy Army Corps Order in Standing Rock*

Pipeline Shut Down In North Dakota after Leaking into Little Mississippi River*

BP Deepwater Horizon Spill and the Rise in Flesh-Eating Bacteria*

U.S. Military Veterans Asked Lakota Elders for Forgiveness*

U.K. Financiers Bankrolling Dakota Access Pipeline Builder*

Gov’t Cancels Oil and Gas Leases On Native Land in Montana, Stays Silent On Dakota Access*

DAPL’s Energy Transfer Partners Restructures to Avoid Junk Rating*


Toy Dolls are Recording Your Conversations and Uploading them to Police*

Toy Dolls are Recording Your Conversations and Uploading them to Police*

Cayla and I-Que

Cayla and I-Que

By Claire Bernish

When giving gifts this holiday season, be strongly advised certain toys will upload your child’s unique voice and personal information — to the same military and law enforcement database which helps authorities identify criminals.

Indeed, these toys — which could record any conversation occurring nearby, and also fish for specific information from unwitting children — constitute the latest in surveillance by home appliances and gadgets known collectively as the Internet of Things. And this insidious, extraneous spying has several watchdog groups sounding alarm bells in a complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission.

Genesis Toys’ My Friend Cayla doll and i-Que robot — Internet-connected toys using voice recognition technology to interact with children — can answer questions by converting speech to text and retrieving information from Google, Wikipedia, and Weather Underground, CNN reports.

But what has the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, the Center for Digital Democracy, and the Consumers Union on edge is that the “toys subject young children to ongoing surveillance,” in violation of privacy and consumer protection laws — and, worse, the nature of the company Genesis Toys employs for that purpose.

“Nuance Communications,” the aforementioned groups state in a complaint to the FTC, “represents itself as a leader in voice technology, including speech recognition software and voice biometric solutions that allow a search of the company’s 60 million enrolled voiceprints for a voice match from recorded conversations to be performed within minutes. Nuance markets its technology to private and public entities and delivers its voice biometric technology to military, intelligence, and law enforcement agencies.”

“Both Genesis Toys and Nuance Communications unfairly and deceptively collect, use, and disclose audio files of children’s voices without providing adequate notice or obtaining verified parental consent,” the complaint continues.

Cayla and i-Que have slightly differing companion applications, but Genesis collects users’ IP addresses and both require downloading and connection to the user’s mobile device via Bluetooth technology. As the complaint explains:

“The companion application for My Friend Cayla requests permission to access the hardware, storage, microphone, Wi-Fi connections, and Bluetooth on users’ devices, but fails to disclose to the user the significance of obtaining this permission. The i-Que companion application also requests access to the device camera, which is not necessary to the toy’s functions and is not explained or justified.”

That Richard Mack, Nuance vice president of corporate marketing and communications, reassured the public the uploaded information is not sold or used for advertising or marketing purposes should be of little comfort to consumers wary of the perfidious surveillance state. Even so, Cayla comes equipped with pro-Disney marketing propaganda in references to Disney movies and Disney theme parks — the doll says her favorite movie is Disney’s The Little Mermaid, for example — which children cannot distinguish as advertising.

Perhaps most notably, not to mention nefariously, CNN reports, “The Cayla doll also has a mobile phone app that asks children to provide personal information, like their name and their parents’ names, their favorite TV show, their favorite meal, where they go to school, their favorite toy and where they live.”

EPIC and the other watchdogs have requested an investigation into Genesis Toys and Nuance Communications by the FTC and to have Cayla and i-Que pulled from store shelves.

“The FTC should issue a recall on the dolls and halt further sales pending the resolution of the privacy and safety risks identified in the complaint,” asserted Claire Gartland, director of EPIC’s Consumer Privacy Project. “This is already happening in the European Union, where Dutch stores have pulled the toys from their shelves.”

EPIC also notes this complaint is one facet of a concerted effort to ban such privacy-invasive and surveillance-laden toys from the marketplace. Last year, Senator Edward Markey and Rep. Joe Barton were joined by Rep. Mark Kirk and Sen. Bobby Rush in introducing the Do Not Track Kids Act of 2015 (H.R. 2734) to update existing children’s online privacy law to include greater protections for kids.

Markey penned letters to Genesis and Nuance demanding immediate compliance with strictures delineated in the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

The Internet of Things has long been a cause for concern for privacy advocates and delight for surveillance hawks, as predictions the surveillance state will be willingly welcomed into people’s homes through the convenience of interconnectedness prove true time and again.

However, while it might be one thing for hapless adults to dismissively toss privacy concerns to the wayside, to have the voiceprints and information of children as young as three-years-old uploaded and likely stored by a company with military and law enforcement ties is a whole other animal.


Related Topics:

Barbie: From Sexualizing Children to Spy*

Harnessing the Power of Radio Frequency to Track Our Children

Making Radioactive Micro-Chips Child Friendly*

$17k per Month for Journalists Could Have Spent on the NHS was used for Fake News on Syria*

 $17k per Month for Journalists Could Have Spent on the NHS was used for Fake News on Syria*

The Revolutionary Forces of Syria (RFS) media office, a major Syrian opposition media outfit and frequent source of information for Western media, is funded by the British government and is managed by Westerners operating out of Turkey, according to emails provided to AlterNet by a Middle East reporter RFS tried to recruit.

The outlet stirred controversy this November when it released a video at the height of the Mannequin Challenge, a pop culture craze in which people compete for how long they can freeze in place on video.

The RFS video depicted a staged rescue by the White Helmets, the Western-funded rescue group that operates exclusively in rebel-held territory. RFS quickly removed the video and issued an apology out of apparent concern that the staged rescue could raise questions about the authenticity of other videos by the White Helmets.

Over the summer, the Middle East reporter, who asked not to be named, was contacted by an American acquaintance and former colleague about working for RFS.

“I’m currently in Istanbul, working on a media project for the HMG [the British government],” wrote the acquaintance in an email time-stamped June 23.

“We’re working on media surrounding the Syrian conflict, as one of their three partners.”

The email included links to RFS Media’s English website and SMO Media, an Arabic website that covers the Southern Front, a Western-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) group.

“[W]e’re looking for a managing editor/production manager to head up our team here in Istanbul, and I thought you’d be a great fit. I was wondering if you had any interest, or knew of anyone looking to move out to Istanbul for an opportunity,” the acquaintance added.

In a follow-up phone conversation, the acquaintance explained to the reporter what the job would entail.

“I would have been talking to opposition people on the ground and writing news pieces based on statements from media activists who are affiliated with the armed groups in places like Aleppo,” the reporter later explained.

The salary offered for this task was an eye-popping $17,000 a month.

The reporter ultimately decided not to pursue the RFS position because he felt it would be journalistically unethical.

“The idea that I would work for the government of a country that’s intimately involved in the Syrian conflict is one that’s incomprehensible for me as a journalist,” he told AlterNet.

“This was far beyond working for state-owned media in my opinion. It was to actually be a mouthpiece for specific armed groups that are backed by a Western regime with a long history of disastrous interference in this region. That doesn’t mean I don’t have sympathy for people who are against the Syrian government. I am not pro-regime. At the same time, I am a journalist and would like to maintain my integrity at that level.”

The reporter declined to recommend others for the job, saying,

“I’m not going to facilitate some dubious relationship between a reporter and what is obviously a propaganda outlet,” he said.

RFS did not respond to a request for comment.

Go-to source for information-starved Western media

Western media often relies on self-described “media activists” in areas controlled by Western- and Gulf-backed militant groups, like Jabhat al-Nusra (until recently Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria), Ahrar al-Sham, Jaish al-Islam and Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki. These groups are explicitly anti-democratic and have been implicated in human rights violations from mass execution to using caged religious minorities as human shields. Most recently, civilians fleeing rebel-held eastern Aleppo have described being fired on by militants seeking to prevent them from escaping to the safety of government-controlled territory.

Two months ago, I spoke over the phone to a frequently quoted media activist living in East Aleppo. He told me that if he publicly criticizes the armed opposition groups, he risks being tortured, or worse. Indeed, a largely ignored report by Amnesty International published in June revealed that civilians in opposition-controlled Aleppo and Idlib have been subjected to abduction, torture and summary execution simply for criticizing armed groups on social media.

RFS’s videos and hashtags are regularly picked up by major Western media outlets. One of its videos has even been cited by human rights groups as evidence of Russian war crimes. Among its most viral campaigns is #AvengersInAleppo, which featured photos of children living in East Aleppo holding up signs calling on Marvel comic book superheroes to save them. (East Aleppo is controlled by a number of extremist groups led by Al Qaeda’s renamed offshoot, Jabhat Fatah al-Sham.)

Prior to that, RFS capitalized on the popularity of Pokémon Go to sell a pro-interventionist message to Western audiences with photos of children in opposition-controlled areas of Syria holding up photos of Pokémon characters with messages calling for intervention. The campaign garnered favorable media coverage from major outlets, including the Guardian, the Washington PostCNN, the IndependentReuters, and the BBC, none of which have bothered to question the origins of RFS or similar pro-opposition outlets.

A $3 million British government propaganda campaign for Syria’s rebels

RFS Media is just one of several different propaganda outlets financed by the U.K. Foreign Office. A recent investigation by the Guardian revealed that the British Foreign Office Conflict and Stability Fund has secretly pumped at least £2.4 million (over $3 million U.S.) into pro-rebel propaganda outfits based out of Istanbul.

The money began flowing after the British parliament voted against bombing the Syrian government in late 2013. (RFS Media launched in December 2013 in both English and Arabic.) The vote against war was attributed in large part to public pressure, as citizens on both sides of the Atlantic, reluctant to overthrow yet another Middle Eastern government after the disasters in Iraq and Libya, mobilized against another campaign for Western regime change in Syria.

After the political defeat, the U.K. Foreign Office embarked on a clandestine propaganda campaign to suppress the public’s anti-war sensibility, hiring private contractors to “produce videos, photos, military reports, radio broadcasts, print products and social media posts branded with the logos of fighting groups, and effectively run a press office for opposition fighters,” according to the Guardian.

The purpose of the propaganda, euphemistically referred to as “strategic communications” by the Foreign Office, is to clandestinely “influence the course of the war by shaping perceptions of opposition fighters” and provide “strategic communications and media operations support to the Syrian moderate armed opposition.”

Sanitizing the armed opposition as “moderate” has been a difficult task to be sure. While Western officials were well aware of the extremist and violently sectarian ideology that dominated the opposition early in the conflict, they deliberately chose to whitewash their atrocities in favour of weakening the Syrian government. RSF Media has stayed true to that goal, portraying armed groups as liberators and protectors adored by the people living under them, a narrative Western media outlets have enthusiastically echoed even as their own reporters were kidnapped, ransomed and even shot by Western-backed rebels.

This has presented a puzzling contradiction in Syria coverage. On the one hand, foreign reporters do not dare enter opposition areas for fear of being abducted. Yet the same media outlets that refrain from sending their reporters to opposition areas are comfortable amplifying propaganda that comes out of these areas with almost zero scrutiny, despite the fact that such information almost certainly requires the approval of the armed groups they fear may kidnap their reporters.

The warped picture of Syria that has been provided to Western media consumers is not the fault of the Syrian opposition, which is merely advancing its own most immediate public relations needs without regard for the objective truth, as combatants in war often do. It is, however, a damning indictment of a media establishment that has failed to scrutinize convenient pro-war narratives that serve their own governments’ geopolitical interests.


Related Topics:

Britain Expert Facilitators in Sectarian Violence*

Britain Joins Australia Admitting Involvement in Airstrikes Which Hit Syrian Govt Troops*

U.K. – U.S. Responds to Aleppo Siege with More Sanctions against Syrian Civilians*

Assad Says The Boy In The Ambulance Is Fake and We Show Why*

U.K. Gov to Invest an Extra £1.2bn in Syria*

British Parliament Confirms Libya War Was Based On Lies …*

British SAS Special Forces “Dressed Up as ISIS Rebels” Fighting Assad in Syria*

U.K. Special Forces Fighting alongside Terrorists on Jordanian Border*


Church in California Bans HP Products*

Church in California Bans HP Products*

By Nora Barrows-Friedman

A California church voted on Tuesday to boycott all Hewlett Packard products because of the company’s role in Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights.

The Peace United Church of Christ in Santa Cruz will not purchase HP equipment including printers, computers and ink cartridges. It says it is the first US congregation to take up a consumer boycott of HP products.

“As we did with allies in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and the grape boycott in California, we act now to show that churches can and do make a difference when we step out of our safe routines and onto the path of courage and justice,” Dave Grishaw-Jones, a senior pastor at the church, stated in a press release.

“This is where we belong, on that path,” he added.

HP boasts of a “massive presence” in Israel, with more than 5,700 employees there, and has been one of the Israeli military’s main information technology suppliers.

The company has long been deeply invested in Israel’s military and security infrastructure, supplying the IT systems for Israel’s defense ministry, supplying and managing the computer servers for the army and administering IT infrastructure for the navy.

EDS Israel, now known as HP Enterprise Services Israel, developed, installed and services the Basel System, a biometric identification system operating at more than 20 Israeli checkpoints throughout the occupied West Bank and around Gaza.

In addition to limiting Palestinian movement and enforcing a regime of segregation, the system collects biometric data as well as personal information on Palestinians.

HP has also provided printers and IT systems for the Israel Prison Service.

The church’s vote signals steady growth in the global campaign to pressure HP and other multinational corporations to end their complicity in Israel’s occupation and colonization of Palestinian land.

In early December, G4S, the world’s largest private security firm, announced it was dumping most of its businesses in Israel following the loss of millions of dollars in contracts amidst expanding boycott pressure.

Ending complicity

The vote to boycott HP products at the Peace United church was part of a recent global week of action against the company.

Campaigners in dozens of cities across six continents participated in actions targeting the company and bringing attention to HP’s role in enabling Israel’s rights violations.

HP split into two companies last year – HP Inc. and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) – and more spinoffs are expected. The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) notes that

“the various HP companies share certain logistical infrastructure, governance, supply chains and technologies with one another, and they all draw on the HP brand’s long history of close connections with the Israeli military and occupation.”

The Presbyterian Church USA, the Unitarian Universalists, the United Church of Christ, the Mennonite Central Committee, the Quaker Friends Fiduciary Corporation and the Alliance of Baptists have all taken decisions in recent years to divest their pension or investment funds from HP and other U.S. corporations complicit in Israel’s military occupation and other abuses.

“These organizations represent over 15,000 U.S. congregations and the potential for millions of dollars in buying power,” said Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA), a Christian ecumenical group working for Palestinian rights.

“We are inspired by Peace United and hope churches across the country will take the simple action to become HP-free and end their complicity in apartheid,” Rochelle Gause, a national organizer with FOSNA, told The Electronic Intifada.

The group is coordinating with other churches around the country to follow Peace United’s lead.

“So many denominations have divested from HP. This is a powerful opportunity to bring that important stand for justice into our congregations,” Gause added.


Related Topics:

Christians Decry Israeli Restrictions on Holy Sites*

Zionism = Satanism: ‘To My Fellow Israelis’*

New Israeli Crackdown Aims to Root Out, expel BDS Activists*

Activists Defeat anti-BDS Legislation in Massachusetts*

French Court Overturns “illegal” Ban on BDS Event*

Dutch Reject Calls to Cease Funding Palestinian Groups*

Israel’s Lobby Lawsuits Aim to Slow Boycott in Spain*

Iceland’s Capital Votes to Boycott All Israeli Products*

U.S. Labor Board Affirms Union’s Right to Boycott Israel*

Israeli Minister: “Brussels Wouldn’t Be Attacked If E.U. Didn’t Boycott Israeli Products.”*

Sex Crimes and Israeli Leadership*

Sex Crimes and Israeli Leadership*

By David Sheen

A protest against violence against women in Tel Aviv, March 2014. -nYotam Ronen ActiveStills


The Israeli army officially inaugurated its new chief rabbi at the beginning of this month – but not before he issued a sworn statement apologizing for past religious rulings that have been roundly criticized as sexist.

Eyal Krim, who has served as the army’s second-highest-ranking religious official for the last four years, was elevated to the rank of brigadier general after Israel’s high court ruled that the appointment could be allowed.

Krim was to have taken up his post a week previous, but his inauguration was delayed by the court. The order to delay was made after parliamentarians from Meretz, a left-leaning Zionist party, petitioned the high court against his appointment. The petition focused on how Krim had sanctioned the rape of non-Jewish women by Jewish soldiers in 2002.

“Every rabbi, educator or public figure is required to have the ability to retract and to admit a mistake. I do not hesitate to say I erred,” Krim wrote in his affidavit.

Krim made the controversial religious rulings when he was a civilian, publishing them on, a Hebrew-language web forum popular with Orthodox Jews.

Yair Ettinger, religion reporter for Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz, wrote recently that although he was not in active service at the time,

“Krim became in civilian clothes the leading address to turn to for religious soldiers, especially ones in combat units, with questions and dilemmas regarding halakha, or Jewish religious law. His popularity among religious soldiers overshadowed that of the rabbis of the military rabbinate and annoyed them very much.”

“Evil urge”

Krim’s most misogynistic ruling was in response to the following question by an anonymous man: “Is it allowed nowadays for an IDF [Israeli army] soldier, for example, to rape girls during battle, or is such a thing forbidden?”

In response, Krim ruled:

“Even though fraternizing with a gentile woman is a very serious matter, it was permitted during wartime … the Torah permitted the individual to satisfy the evil urge.”

In the days that followed the November court decision to delay Krim’s appointment, many of Israel’s political and religious leaders issued statements of support for Krim, urging him not to retract his earlier religious rulings. Hundreds of rabbis on the government payroll publicly expressed their support for Krim, including more than 150 military rabbis and Israel’s national chief rabbi Yitzhak Yosef.

Even Tzohar, a group of ostensibly liberal Orthodox rabbis, spoke out in Krim’s defence, as did several ministers, including justice minister Ayelet Shaked and religious services minister David Azoulay.

Last month, Haaretz reported that sexual harassment complaints in the military nearly doubled between 2010 and 2015.

Ironically, the army official to sound the alarm over the steady increase in sex crime complaints, its head of human resources, Major General Hagai Topolanski, is also the very official to have approved Krim for the position of chief rabbi, despite his previously reported comments about raping non-Jewish women.

In recent days, it has emerged that a retired Israeli army brigadier general charged with 16 sex crimes, including three counts of rape, would likely receive a suspended sentence and avoid any prison time. The officer, Ofek Buchris, is expected to draw his entire pension, since he resigned from the army immediately after the rape indictments and before his guilt was established.

Light sentencing

Israel’s aversion to aggressively prosecuting soldiers for rape also extends to crimes committed before they are inducted into the army.

In August, the news website Walla reported that a 24-year-old man who had just been charged with rape, had also been charged with attempted rape four years earlier.

In that 2012 incident, however, the presiding judge chose not to jail him for the crime, instead putting him on probation and only fining him the equivalent of $1,300, so that his police record would not be tarred by a felony conviction, as this could have torpedoed his then-impending army enlistment.

Many more disturbing cases of sex crimes, and institutional efforts to downplay them, have come to the fore in Israel over the past few months.

On 4 December, a retired Israeli judge confessed to sexually harassing a female employee. Yitzhak Cohen, who served as the president of a Nazareth district court, is likely to duck a criminal conviction, and receive only a light sentence of community service and a $650 fine.

In September, Nissim Mor was convicted on charges of sexual harassment, committed while he was Israel’s deputy police chief. Although the former top cop has confessed to the crimes, his punishment may amount to only a few months of community service, and the presiding judge may yet decide to annul the guilty conviction altogether, according to Haaretz.

Mor’s abuse of his police powers to commit sex attacks on a woman who had come to him asking for aid would seem to be symptomatic of a wider phenomenon. In August, Walla reported on a perceptible pattern of women approaching the Israeli police to complain about crimes, including sexual harassment, and being in turn sexually harassed by those very policemen.

Since he was sworn in as Israel’s police chief a year ago, Roni Alsheikh has done little to assuage concerns that the force does not take sex crimes seriously. A report released last month revealed that 87% of alleged sex crimes are not prosecuted by the police.

At an event marking International Women’s Day in March, Alsheikh announced that the police would no longer investigate anonymous allegations of sex crimes.

The announcement was made even though Israeli law compels all employers to investigate any suspicion of sex crimes, even if the allegations are made anonymously. Alsheikh had previously said that he regarded allegations made anonymously to be as bad as sexual harassment itself.

In August, Haaretz reported that Alsheikh and his direct boss, public security minister Gilad Erdan, had ordered police spokespersons to refrain from speaking to the media about rape and other sex crimes in order to improve the public image of the force. Instead, they were instructed to focus media attention on crimes allegedly committed by Palestinians – both those who have, and those who do not have, Israeli citizenship.

The following month, Haaretz reported that Alsheikh formed a committee to consider setting up a legal aid fund for police officers accused of sex crimes and other infractions.


Outside of the army, rape culture continues to plague Israeli society.

Last month, it emerged that Israel’s biggest bank, Bank Hapoalim, paid $1.6 million to an employee who accused the bank’s CEO, Zion Kenan, of sexually assaulting her. Hapoalim is currently under investigation by the Bank of Israel for not reporting the incident.

Also last month, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev decided not to suspend or levy any fine against David Newman, dean of the faculty of humanities and social sciences, for sexually harassing a female student in his department. The university tried to prevent news of the decision from reaching the public.

In the past few days, a court convicted David Yosef of 11 sex crimes, including indecent acts, sexual harassment and sexual assault, all committed while he served as mayor of the Tel Aviv suburb of Or Yehuda. During Israel’s large-scale attack on Gaza in the summer of 2014, the Or Yehuda municipality hung a large banner in public urging Israeli soldiers to strike Palestinians forcefully, using a Hebrew-language double entendre that alluded to raping Palestinian mothers. Yosef was mayor at the time.

A popular religious leader accused of raping and sexually assaulting women and minors was convicted of lesser crimes recently. Eliezer Berland, the rabbi in question, was sentenced to just a year and a half in jail and a $6,500 fine. When Berland was first arraigned in July, after evading arrest for three years, a thousand of his followers protested outside the Israeli court, holding signs bearing the slogan: “The people are with the saint.”

Of late, there has been a string of sex crime allegations against lawmakers from Israel’s national religious camp and its political party, the far-right Habayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home).

In September, it emerged that Davidi Perl, the regional council chair of a cluster of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, agreed to pay a large sum of money (reportedly more than $50,000) to a young woman who accused him of sexual assault. The council voted to retain Perl as its chair. Perl resigned two week later for, in his words, the “good of my family.”

An unnamed elected representative with Habayit Hayehudi has been accused by a party member of numerous sex attacks.

Meanwhile, Yinon Magal, a former Habayit Hayehudi lawmaker who resigned from Israel’s parliament a year ago after numerous women accused him of sex crimes, was hired by Israel Channel 10 last month to co-host a popular late-night television show.

Natasha Roth, a blogger with +972 Magazine, observed that Magal’s fate contrasted with that of Billy Bush.

Bush, a cousin of George W. Bush, the former U.S. president, was ousted in October from his job as host of the NBC television show Today after a video of him entertaining Donald Trump’s boasts about sexually assaulting women was made public during the U.S. presidential election campaign.

While Trump’s misogynistic comments were widely condemned, Tzvika Brot, his election campaign manager in Israel, tried to whitewash his violent sexism. Brot noted – somewhat ironically in light of the controversy surrounding Krim’s appointment – that Trump “isn’t running for chief rabbi.”

Prime minister’s office

Israel’s highest political office also appears to be no safe space for women.

In April, David Keyes, spokesperson to Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was accused of sexually assaulting a woman in 2013.

In a separate case, last month, after a woman working in the prime minister’s office complained to her direct boss that another office employee had sexually harassed her, the boss fired her on the spot.

Netanyahu’s close friend and former chief of staff, diplomat Gil Sheffer, was this month placed under house arrest after a woman accused him of confining and sexually assaulting her. Sheffer has faced similar accusations from other women in the recent past.

Another previous chief of staff to Netanyahu, Natan Eshel, also quit his post after a colleague accused him of sex crimes.

In September, Netanyahu’s former chauffeur, Ilan Shmuel, was convicted of raping six girls between the ages of nine and 16 over the course of a decade.

When the head of Israel’s government fails to adequately protect women from sex criminals even in his own inner circle, it is sad but not surprising when Israeli children, even pre-pubescent ones, fall victim to sexual predators, such as in the Shmuel case.

That liberal Zionist lawmakers successfully forced the army’s chief rabbi to express contrition for his past sanctioning of rape can be counted as a narrow victory for feminist activists. But Krim’s elevation to such a powerful post to begin with, and the strong support he continues to receive from Israeli leaders, are testaments to the power of patriarchy in Israeli society.


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