Sunday, December 27, 2009

One year later, still no accountability in Israel

One year ago today, Israel's bombing campaign and ground offensive into the Gaza strip—known as Operation Cast Lead—began. At least 762 innocent Palestinians who did not take part in the hostilities were killed, including over 350 child casualties, and vast damage was caused to houses, factories, and infrastructure in Gaza.
ولن ننسى    اننا لن نصمت

The atrocities against children are especially significant to me, since I ultimately quit my job for inaction in response to this humanitarian crisis. Here are some key statistics about child deaths reported by NGO organizations in the region:
  • At least 353 children were killed during and in the immediate aftermath of the operation; 116 were killed with precision missiles launched by unmanned aircraft and 66 died after Israeli forces obstructed medical access.
  • The number of Palestinian children confirmed killed during Operation Cast Lead represents more than a third of the total number of children killed in Gaza since the beginning of the Second Intifada on 28 September 2000.
  • At least seven children were used by Israeli troops as human shields; all seven were ill-treated while detained; one of them was detained for 10 days.
  • 18 schools were completely destroyed, 260 schools were damaged and 26 children were killed while in, near, or on their way to/from schools.
  • At least 3,600 homes were completely destroyed resulting in the displacement of approximately 10,500 children.

White phosphorus attack on UN school
in Beit Lahiya, 17 Jan. 2009.
Photo: Muhammad al-Baba

Israel has not yet instituted an independent apparatus to investigate the violations committed by the army during the operation, and nobody has been brought to justice.

Those of us concerned with justice will not forget, and we will not be silent. Please see the following statement issued today 27 December 2009 by the Human Rights watchdog group B'Tselem—
on the one year anniversary of the offensive.



One year since Operation Cast Lead, still no accountability
B'Tselem: The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories
27 December 2009

Between 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009, the Israeli military carried out an attack on the Gaza Strip named Operation Cast Lead. The magnitude of the harm to the population was unprecedented: 1,385 Palestinians were killed, 762 of whom did not take part in the hostilities. Of these, 318 were minors under age 18. More than 5,300 Palestinians were wounded, of them over 350 seriously so. Israel also caused enormous damage to residential dwellings, industrial buildings, agriculture and infrastructure for electricity, sanitation, water, and health, which was on the verge of collapse prior to the operation. According to UN figures, Israel destroyed more than 3,500 residential dwellings and 20,000 people were left homeless.

During the operation, Palestinians fired rockets and mortar shells at Israel, with the declared purpose of striking Israeli civilians. These attacks killed three Israeli civilians and one member of the Israeli security forces, and wounded dozens. Nine soldiers were killed within the Gaza Strip, four by friendly fire (i.e. by fellow Israeli military). More than 100 soldiers were wounded, one critically and 20 moderately to seriously.

As an Israeli organization, B'Tselem focuses on Israel's acts and its responsibility for human rights violations. However, it should be noted that Hamas also committed serious violations of international humanitarian law during the operation. Hamas's practice of operating within Palestinian civilian communities undoubtedly affects the legality of Israel's attacks that caused civilian casualties. This, however, does not legitimize every military action during the operation, nor does it prove that Hamas bears sole responsibility for all the harm to civilians.

One year after the operation began, extensive areas in the Gaza Strip have yet to be rebuilt. Israel's sweeping prohibition on the entry of construction materials prevents the rebuilding of houses that were destroyed and damaged, and more than 20,000 persons continue to live in overcrowded conditions in rented apartments, with relatives, or in tent camps. The prohibition also prevents rehabilitation of the infrastructure that was damaged: 90 percent of Gazans suffer electricity black-outs for four to eight hours a day, a result of the damage to infrastructure and of the severe shortage of industrial fuel. Some ten thousand Palestinians in the northern section of the Gaza Strip have no access to running water, and 80 million liters of raw and partially-treated sewage flows daily into open areas. The health system is unable to function properly due to the lack of medical equipment, and seriously ill patients have difficulty receiving necessary medical treatment.

The extensive harm to the civilian population and the enormous damage to property do not indicate, in and of themselves, that the military breached international humanitarian law. However, investigations B'Tselem made during and after the operation, and information from many other sources, raise doubts regarding the declarations of Israeli officials that the military acted lawfully. The suspicions regarding breach of international humanitarian law relate not only to the conduct of one soldier or another, but primarily to policy. In some cases, there is a well-founded suspicion that the harm to civilians resulted from breach of the principles of distinction and proportionality, which are intended to ensure that civilians remain outside the cycle of the hostilities.

Therefore, Israel is obligated to open an independent, credible investigation, and not rely on internal operational debriefings or isolated investigations that focus on a limited number of incidents and the responsibility of relatively low-ranking commanders. An independent and credible investigation is not only required by law, but is also vital in order to fulfill the public's right to know what the state did in its name in the Gaza Strip.

When the operation ended, human rights organizations, among them B'Tselem, wrote to the attorney general, demanding that an independent investigation be established to examine the military's conduct during the operation, but were refused. In March 2009, the organizations repeated their demand, and following publication of the Goldstone Report in September 2009, were refused yet again.

To date, no independent-investigation apparatus, which can also investigate the responsibility of the political and military decision-makers, has been established. As far as B'Tselem knows, 19 Military Police investigations have been opened into cases in which a suspicion arose that soldiers in the field violated army regulations. Only one soldier has been prosecuted regarding actions taken during Operation Cast Lead; he was convicted of stealing a credit card and was sentenced to seven months imprisonment.

The Military Police investigations currently under way do not meet Israel's obligations and are insufficient. Even if they lead to the filing of indictments, low-ranking soldiers alone will be prosecuted, while the persons responsible for formulating the policy will not be held accountable. Also, the investigations are being carried out by a body that is an integral part of the military and therefore, by definition, are not independent.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

It's the collective that makes us strong


 Your festival is an inspirational and insurrectional carnival of great style, sassiness and subversion—I was honored to be a part of it!

- Filmmaker John Greyson, Fig Trees

We're blushing. The 2009 NY Queer Experimental Film Festival had to be one of our best. We had a greater turn-out than in recent years. We screened films and exhibited installations by artists throughout NYC, the country, and the world. And even in these troubled financial times, our box office saw a little boost from years past.

But, did you know ticket sales cover less than 10% of MIX NYC's annual budget? Believe us, queer experimental film exhibition is not a lucrative business.

So how do we do it? With the help of our generous community, of course. MIX is not only made possible by the tireless collaborative efforts of our all-volunteer staff, it also depends upon the good will of numerous individual donors.

It may be hard to imagine that the costs of our annual festival are covered by pooling together small contributions of $20 here and $50 there. But it's true. We scrimp and save all year long, put aside spare change, and cut expenses left and right. Rumor has it, some people have even sold their own blood just to make sure MIX happens year after year.

Why? Because MIX is unlike anything else in New York. As filmmaker John Geyson puts it, we are insurrectional. We promote and support subversive art. We love to challenge the mainstream. And most of all because we are queers who love to experiment!

We hope you do too, and we'd like to ask for your support. Won't you please chip in too? Donations to MIX are 100% tax-deductible, and we need them to keep us going.

That's how we've done it for 22 years so far. Let's keep up the momentum and make MIX even more amazing next year.

Photos by JP Pullos

79 Pine Street #132
New York, NY 10005

MIX NYC promotes, produces and preserves experimental media that is rooted in the lives, politics, and experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and otherwise queer-identified people. MIX's work challenges mainstream notions of gender and sexuality while also upending traditional categories of form and content. To add or remove a subscription, email us at:

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Friday, December 18, 2009

End the criminalization of HIV infection

Do you know that HIV isn't spread by spitting, and that condoms are an effective HIV prevention tool?

Of course you do.

But this information seems to be outside the knowledge of many in the legal system across this country, where the criminal prosecution of people living with HIV often continues to ignore the facts.

It's bad enough that the criminalization of HIV wreaks havoc in the lives of those who are charged or jailed or labeled as bio-terrorists, like this case in Michigan.

But these cases are also spreading misinformation about HIV -- scaring people away from testing, treatment and care, and feeding into HIV stigma.

I have endorsed a letter that will be sent to the CDC by the Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project, Project UNSHACKLE, and the HIV Prevention Justice Alliance, urging the CDC to take meaningful action to end the criminalization of HIV/AIDS infection.

Full history, details and links for further information and adding your endorsement are available at :

Please join me in endorsing the letter to CDC  asking them to keep their own promises to address HIV criminalization.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Hold Your Noses and Celebrate Anyway

by David Corn, Mother Jones

Democrats have been trying to pass a universal healthcare plan for nearly a century. But Woodrow Wilson dropped the ball on the first attempt, FDR gave up on the second, Harry Truman ran smack into the AMA on the third, Richard Nixon collided with Teddy Kennedy on the fourth, and Bill Clinton fell to Harry and Louise (and Bob and Newt) on the fifth.

Now we're on our sixth try, and the fight so far hasn't been a pretty one. The Republican side has been dominated by howling over death panels and socialism, transparently fake attempts at bipartisanship, and promises to filibuster and obstruct endlessly. On the Democratic side, activists have turned abortion funding and the public option into hills to die for, Olympia Snowe and Ben Nelson have become de factor kingmakers, and even at best none of the bills on offer will cover more than about two-thirds of the uninsured.

But you know what? This is still the farthest we've ever gotten, and with Democrats coming out of this week's series of negotiating sessions seemingly united behind a compromise plan, it looks like Harry Reid might actually get something passed through the Senate before Christmas. If that happens, a conference committee will likely report out a final bill sometime in January. And that will be the first time ever that Congress has even gotten to the point of voting on national healthcare.

The first time. So yes: It's not single-payer. The subsidies are inadequate. The public option, if there is one, will be so weak as to be a joke. Every interest group from insurers to doctors to seniors to pharmaceutical companies has been openly bribed to go along. Lots of people will still be left outside the safety net. It's a mess.

But so was Social Security when it passed. It left out domestic workers (because they were mostly black and Southerners demanded it), it left out farmworkers, and its payouts were pathetically small. But what it did do was establish the principle that the elderly should be taken care of. And eventually they were. The healthcare bill we're about to get is exactly the same: It does too little and it leaves too many people out, but it establishes the principle that everyone deserves decent healthcare. And eventually everyone will.

So hold your noses and celebrate anyway. It's taken us a hundred years, but if this messy, inadequate, infuriating healthcare reform passes it will be a historic occasion. FDR will finally be smiling.

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Sunday, December 06, 2009

Pass ENDA Now - No More Delays!

Right now in this country, there is no federal legislation that protects lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers from job discrimination - and that puts people at higher risk of poverty, lack of health care, homelessness and other factors that can increase vulnerability to HIV or progression to AIDS.

But the bill that would end this discrimination - the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (H.R. 3017/S. 1584) - is being delayed in the House of Representatives!

22 national organizations just issued a joint release saying that this delay is unacceptable.

Tell Congress to end the delay!  Tell Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, now! Flood congressional offices with calls and emails!

Call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at: (202) 224-3121. Give the operator your zip code and ask to be connected to your Representative. Then, after leaving your message, hang up and call again to be connected to your two Senators.

Suggested voicemail message:
    My name is _____ and I live in (your city, state). I am calling in support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (H.R. 3017/S. 1584), to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from job discrimination. Job protections helps us fight HIV/AIDS so people have steady incomes and health care. Please pass ENDA immediately, without delay. I can be reached at _______ (provide your phone number and your street address). Thank you.

Or send an email to your Representative and Senators by clicking here.

It only takes a moment and your action can help shape the future!

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