Friday, February 28, 2014

Poem: twinned

A b u

little Lynndie England

flaunting her body

John Chivington

Corporal Charles Graner

stacking Iraqis

Governor John Evans ordered


Don Rumsfeld

corpse in the bag

sand in the mouth

Mt. Evans

Bush Library

tiny skulls

litter the field

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Come hear Palestinian rank and file nonviolent activists, this Saturday, 6 pm, Sie 150, University of Denver


The Dorothy Cotton Institute organized the civil rights delegation to the Occupied Territories that I went on in October, 2012. See here and here. It is sponsoring Fadi Quran, whom I met, and Irene Nasser to come tell the startling truth about a) nonviolent resistance in the Occupied Territories, an important form of struggle and b) the bizarre calculation of the Israeli Occupation and attempt at a second "transfer" or ethnic cleansing. They are only here Saturday and this is a unique opportunity to hear about this struggle which deserves - and does not here obtain, given the stranglehold of corrupt American arming and joint training of police and military with Israel - widespread knowledge and democratic support from below.


"Disrupting the Status Quo:
A Means to Liberation
presentations by
Palestinian Non-violent Resistance leaders:
Irene Nasser and Fadi Quran

Come learn about the:

• Historical context and situation on the ground in Israel and the Palestinian Territories
• Nonviolent resistance movement (including the historic and current role of women)
• Legal background from the perspective of Palestinians
• Role of the US, and the relevance of US citizens in shaping what is possible
• Ways that you can support full human rights for Palestinians

Date and time: Saturday, March 1, 6 pm
Location: Sie Center 150 (at Cherrington Hall, Korbel School of International Studies, DU)
Sponsored by: Dorothy Cotton Institute, Students for Justice in Palestine (DU) and the Center for Middle East Studies (DU)

Irene Nasser is an activist and community strategist based in Jerusalem who has organized and participated in unarmed resistance and direct action for almost a decade. Irene was one of the organizers of Bab Al-Shams protest village, has aided in strategizing direct action in Hebron and across the West Bank, and participated in protests and direct action in villages and cities across Palestine. Irene received an MA in International Service from American University, Washington, DC in 2007. Irene has also worked with journalists and international influencers to bring to light the stories of Palestinian community organizers working locally. Irene created an Arabic Graphic Novel, Budrus (based on Just Vision’s film directed by Julia Bacha). She is the co-producer of a series of short films, "Home Front," Aspen ShortFest Official Selection 2012 as well as "My Neighbourhood," Winner of the 2012 Peabody Award, the 2012 Al Jazeera Documentary Film Festival Award, and Official Selection of the Tribeca Film Festival 2012, among many.

Fadi Quran is a community organizer in Palestine and works as Advocacy Officer at Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq, the West Bank affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists. He is an entrepreneur in the alternative energy field, and has founded Tayara energy, a company that is developing high altitude wind energy generators. He is a leading partner and Chief Business Development Officer at Independent Wind, an alternative energy company that is bringing the first large-scale wind farms to Palestine and will provide more than 8% of the population's energy demand in the West Bank and Gaza. Mr. Quran completed an MA in Human Rights and Democracy at Birzeit University; his research focuses on constitutional law, collective actions, social contract theory and revolutions. He believes that it is his generation's responsibility to achieve freedom, justice, and dignity for the people of the Middle East, and knows from his experience on the ground throughout the region that they have the potential to achieve these goals, in their lifetime."

Monday, February 24, 2014

Bishop Elaine Stanovsky's Sand Creek Massacre blog

Since 1996, the United Methodist Church has repudiated the Pope's - Romanus Pontifex (1454) and Inter Caetera (1493) - and American Chief Justice John Marshall's "doctrine of discovery" - an astonishing line of patter for massive theft: "my people 'discovered' the land you are on and it is mine" - as well as condemning Colonel John Chivington, a leading Methodist in Colorado, for carrying out the massacre at Sand Creek (some years ago, my friend and former student Tisa Anders had celebrated with others, a special ceremony for their Ph.D. graduation from Iliff, organizing it by themselves at the school; they refused to go to the official Graduation at the Trinity Methodist Church which still honored Chivington...). History is hard to acknowledge, let alone, shake...

I was honored to meet Elaine at a gathering at the Iliff School of Theology to begin to deal further with overcoming the heritage of the book wrapped in human skin (see here and here). That Bishop Stanovsky, like Chancellor Bob Coombe at the University of Denver, are seeking healing, not only for the Methodist Church and the University, but for Denver and Colorado and the United States, and have taken the lead on this against a "Founding Amnesia" ("no one was on the land when settlers came for the gold"; "if anyone was here, they were 'savages,' not people defending their homes against aggressors") is a wonderful thing. Elaine blogs on this matter as I, an Evans professor and a citizen of what I now fully recognize - I have long known it, but the meaning of this has now, for me, come into focus - to be an ethnically cleansed Colorado (why are there no Arapahoes in "Arapahoe County"?), feel obligated to...


My friend Vincent Harding founded the Veterans of Hope to keep the spirit of the civil rights of movement alive, that is, to stop crimes through mass nonviolent movements and also respect the souls of others, seek healing where possible (seeking the beloved community in the words of Martin Luther King). To name the past and make a start toward healing, Bishop Stanovsky, too, summons the word hope...

"Embarking on a Journey of Healing - Post #1

For the photograph, see here.

Mountain Sky Outlook
January 15, 2014
Embarking on a Journey of Healing Blog
Post #1
Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

January 12, 2014

Come walk with me on a Journey of Healing.

At the beginning of each new year people look for hope, prosperity and healing during the year ahead. The TREE OF LIFE symbolizes God’s promise that the whole creation and all God’s children and creatures will one day live full and fulfilled lives. This year the Rocky Mountain and Yellowstone Annual Conferences of the UMC will focus on healing relationships within God’s TREE OF ABUNDANT LIFE.

The 150th anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre falls in 2014. On November 29, 1864 Methodist leaders, committed to living in faithful obedience to Jesus Christ, wielding government and military power, planned and led the slaughter of nearly 200 Cheyenne and Arapaho people peacefully encamped where they were promised they would be safe. Many of the victims were women, children and the elderly. For some descendants of the massacre the word “Methodist” means only massacre of innocents. This year we have an opportunity to change that and to enter into a relationship of honor and respect with people who know us only as the source of their scars.

This is a history of atrocity; a history that has been hotly debated for 150 years, despite definitive findings by congressional and military investigations; a history that has been largely untaught in our schools, lost from the consciousness of the church, and distorted in its telling. It is a history in which respected Christian leaders failed utterly to uphold God’s love for creation and Jesus’ promise of abundant life. It is a history that casts a long shadow of doubt that people who bear the name “Christian” or “Methodist” can be trusted to cherish and protect life at all.

So where’s the hope?

Hope resides in the possibility of forming new relationships between United Methodists and the descendants of the Sand Creek Massacre. As your bishop, I’m convinced that God has set me on my own Sand Creek journey of healing that began in 2009 and has led me along a way of awakening, listening, acknowledging, repenting and honoring. During 2014 I invite you to join me on this Journey of Healing. We begin in earnest with this letter and the blog that will follow, where I will share an account of my personal journey of healing suggest ways for you to begin your own journey of healing explain the context for this journey in the history of the Christian Church and of our nation, and offer ways you and your church can make this important healing work your own.

Each time I post a new entry on the blog, you will receive a link to the post. There will also be opportunity for you to post comments and questions.

The journey will intensify in June 2014 when both Annual Conferences will commemorate the anniversary of the Massacre. In the Rocky Mountain Conference on Friday, June 20 members, guests and friends will take a spiritual pilgrimage to the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site near Eads Colorado in the company of Cheyenne and Arapaho descendants. I hope you will prepare yourself for this sacred journey to holy ground by learning about the history so that you are ready to hear the voices of descendants. I am committed to ensuring that the Methodists who travel to this site in 2014 will bring a healing presence.

The 150th anniversary is November 29, 2014. During the week prior I invite you to join me at the 16th annual Spiritual Healing Run from the Massacre Site to the Colorado State Capitol. Plan now to dedicate your Thanksgiving week to this powerful part of the journey. You don’t have to run to promote healing during this event. More details will follow.

I know in the core of my being that God is inviting us to participate in this healing work, to develop new relationships with descendants of the Massacre, and to cultivate abundant life where it was cut down.

I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live.
-Deuteronomy 30: 19b

Working for Healing,
Elaine JWS



Paul Kottke 01/15/2014 3:51pm
Bishop Elaine - a powerful statement. I fully support your approach through the use of this blog. Paul Kottke

Paul Kottke 01/20/2014 12:32pm
Bishop - Well done. Thank you for helping to address this issue in a way that is life-giving for all concerned. Paul Kottke

Bessie G. Collins 01/23/2014 4:31pm
Very thought provoking! Makes me proud to call myself United Methodist, not for the egregious deeds of the past but for the hope for the future.


Embarking on a Journey of Healing - Post #2
02/05/20143 Comments

Bishop’s Sand Creek Massacre Blog
Entry #2
February 5, 2014

My Dawning Awareness.

I first heard of the Sand Creek Massacre in Denver in 1996 when the General Conference adopted an “apology” for atrocities committed (more on that later). But I only heard, I didn’t learn. I became bishop of the Denver Area on September 1, 2008. Until then my entire ministry had been in the Pacific Northwest. When I arrived several preaching invitations awaited me for local church anniversary celebrations. I agreed to preach in four churches celebrating their 150th anniversaries – sesquicentennials – during the second half of 2009: St. James UMC in Central City, Golden First UMC, Boulder FUMC and Trinity in Denver.

Since I was new to the area I researched each church and its community’s history. I discovered that these four churches traced their histories to the first year Methodists sent missionaries to the gold country of Colorado. These anniversaries celebrated the arrival of Methodism in Colorado. I was surprised by how young the state was. Migration by ship to the northwest had been easier and earlier than migration to the interior of the continent by land.

In the next few posts I will lead you through some of the highlights of my first years in the Denver Area (Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Utah) and my dawning awareness of the interwoven histories of the Methodist Church and the Native Peoples in this region.

April 19, 2009 – Riverton, Wyoming

I flew to Casper, Wyoming where David Burt, of the Yellowstone Conference picked me up and drove me to preach at Riverton UMC. On that drive I saw for the first time Sand Creek Massacre Trail signs along the road from Casper to Riverton.

For the photograph, see here.


Don G. Sperber 02/05/2014 8:54pm
Thank you... Let us continue to bring healing, though the wounds are very deep and the scars will never disappear. We must know how much we are still a part of the "Soldier Blue" Event..

Kim James 02/06/2014 9:56am
Even though I have visited the Sand Creek Massacre historical site, I had no idea that there was a marked trail all the way north in Wyoming. Thank you, Bishop Elaine, for sharing this telling photo and description of where you found it.

Galan Burnett 02/17/2014 11:50am
I am glad that you did research on those four United Methodist Churches and their communities in 2009. Please do more research from some different sources on Col. Chivington, and the Sand Creek Massacre. Both sides have guilt and responsibility for the massacre. The battle was a military operation not a Methodist operation. Chivington was a Methodist but his soldiers were from a wide variety of denominations. May your "Dawning Awareness" continue to grow and become more historically accurate.

[Mr. Burton is right that the City of Denver, stoked on racism, told fairy tales to itself about the massacre, but the Cheyennes and Arapahoes were determinedly peace-seeking and "in the power of the military." That he believes the fairy tales - though there is deep evidence about what happened - three federal commissions collected testimony and condemned Evans and Chivington, inter alia; 5 heroic officers at Fort Lyon testified to Chivington's depravity... - is still somewhat common in Colorado but sad. In addition, John Evans and William Newton Byers were, respectively, initiators and advocates of the Massacre, served, with John Chivington, on the initial Board of the Colorado Seminary which became the University of Dener and the Iliff School of Theology, and were important and active Methodists...]


Bishop's Sand Creek Massacre Blog
Entry #3
February 19, 2014

Your Questions and Comments

Q: You mention only Methodists. The UMC "united" Methodists and Evangelical United Brethren. Do EUBs have a role in this history?

A: Only Methodists from the Methodist Episcopal Church of the time came to Colorado in 1859, sent by the Methodist Conference. German-speaking "Methodists" from the EUB branches came later. The Sand Creek Massacre involved leaders in the Methodist Episcopal Church. But we all inherit the history of both branches of Methodism. And we can all contribute to the healing.

Q: You say the Sand Creek Massacre sign is in Wyoming, but wasn't the Massacre was in southeastern Colorado?

A: The Massacre occurred on the plains east of Pueblo in southeastern Colorado, but it largely accomplished its goal of expelling Native Peoples from eastern Colorado. Survivors fled north and east. Today, four descendant tribes are recognized: Northern Cheyenne in southeastern Montana, Northern Arapaho on the Wind River Reservation of Wyoming and the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes (southern) located in Oklahoma. The State of Wyoming posted signs along highways marking the trail survivors took as they fled.

Methodists Arrive in Colorado

Summer 2009. Sesquicentennials.

In the whirlwind of my first year as bishop of the Denver Area, I preached in many places, and celebrated a number of church anniversaries. In the summer of 2009 I was scheduled to preach at St. James UMC in Central City, Colorado, for the sesquicentennial (150 year) anniversary of the church's founding. Also I was aware that later in the year I would be present to help celebrate 150 years at FUMC Golden, Boulder and Trinity UMC in Denver.

As I prepared for the celebration at Central City, I researched the history of the town and the church. For the first time I realized that this event not only celebrated this congregation, it marked the entrance of Methodism into Colorado. In those sermons I celebrated the faithfulness and resilience of those early pioneers. In the summer of 2009 I did not yet realize how the arrival of Methodism was related to the departure of Native Peoples.

St. James UMC, Central City, Colorado
Sesquicentennial Sermon (excerpts)
July 12, 2009
Bishop Elaine J. W. Stanovsky

Well, here we are. In Central City, Colorado, trying to imagine and remember what it was like 150 years ago, when Methodist churches were organized in communities sprouting up following the discovery of gold.

In July 1858 gold was discovered near the mouth of Little Dry Creek, in what is now Englewood, Colorado, not far from where I live.

November 1858 the Larimer Party from eastern Kansas staked a claim at the confluence of the South Platte River and Cherry Creek in what would develop into Denver.

In January of 1859 in Idaho Springs.

In May between what is now Central City and Black Hawk.

What was this place like 150 years ago? The people who "rushed" here in 1859 were not settlers. They were adventurers. Men who set out with a pickaxe and a mule in search of treasure. The only thing that drew them to this land was the lure of gold. If the land had proved poor, they would have moved on. They were followed by wave upon wave of opportunity seekers. People flooding in to seek their fortune, and others to take advantage of the fortune seekers. These were times when the frontier was a place from which men extracted wealth: trappers, loggers, miners. When the resources were depleted, the people moved on.

And life was hard. There were no farms, no cattle, no local source of sustenance, no transportation systems. No schools. No library, no health care, no funeral home, no newspaper. No law enforcement or criminal justice system.

Miners died, leaving widows and orphans. Fires broke out, leaving the community devastated. Vice of every kind followed the opportunity seekers and left individuals and communities ravaged by disease, drunkenness, violence, corruption.

And yet, among those who came were people on another path. People of faith, who pursued treasure not of this earth, and brought faith and community with them.

In 1858, as part of the Larimer Party in 1858, came George Fisher, a carpenter and wagon-maker entered this land. He was also a Methodist lay preacher. And he followed the wave of claims to the mountains and new gold discoveries that led him to Central City.

Within four months of the discovery of gold in Idaho Springs, the Methodist Episcopal Conference of Nebraska and Kansas authorized a mission to "gold country" in Colorado. Can you imagine? Two years before Colorado was established as a territory; 17 years before Colorado became a state, people gathered in Central City for church and class meeting and Sunday school.

People of faith knew the urgent needs of people in these new communities. And they came in on horseback with the others, ready to provide an alternative to the lawlessness and violence and self-destruction that was so much a part of the early days in every one of these communities.

The church gathered for prayer, and for Sunday School - before there were other schools - and for worship. It hosted the first circulating library in Colorado.

This sesquicentennial year is shared with sister churches: Trinity in Denver, First UMC in Golden and First UMC in Boulder, all organized out of the gold rush of 1859.

We remember the names of the some of the pioneers of the faith in this community:

George Fisher

Bishop Levi Scott

William Goode

Jacob Adriance

Presiding elder, John Chivington, who like all of us had his light side and his dark, being largely responsible for the Sand Creek Massacre of Native Americans five years later.

Aunt Clara Brown, a former slave known as "the colored pioneer" who hosted the organizing meeting of the new church.

Mr. Hugh Lawry, lay pastor during a lean time

Mrs. C. O. Richards, who kept the Sunday School going during a time without a pastor

Charles Auger, who collected memories for the centennial celebration in 1959.

53 pastors in first 100 years and more since.

We will never know the fullness of the struggles of their lives, the struggles of their faith, the trials and hardships they endured. We only receive the inheritance of their faith and their faithfulness.

As I learned more, I would come to tell the story differently. More later.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Poem: nature

Plato says of his best student Dion

the sea that comes

that he was swept away

is sometimes

in Syracuse

stronger than the navigator

John Evans plotted

to escape his massacre

dreamed Evanston, Mt…Evans

of children at Sand

but he, too,

condemned in Washington

no Senator or President

a cold and bitter man

was swept away

Monday, February 17, 2014

the interwoven threads of lacrosse: the Medicine Game

The front page story in the Denver Clarion, the student newspaper at the University of Denver, usefully records the showing of the "Medicine Game," a film about the Thompson family of Onondaga lacrosse players before some three hundred and fifty people on a freezing Denver night. Organized by the Native American Students, this is the first of many activities which will explore the University's historical relationship with indigenous people and incorporate the dark story of Sand Creek in our understanding of what will move the University forward, as a multicultural, international community into the 21st century.


The story neglects, however, that Jeremy Thompson, who eventually starred in lacrosse at Syracuse, did not start to learn English till he was in 4th grade. Having learning disabilities as well, Jeremy had a fierce struggle to get through high school and try to go to nearby Syracuse. Finally, after three years a community college, he realized his dream.


There is a steep climb for indigenous people to "make it" in American education.


Even without a desire to deform the game as an elite white sport - many teams, as in baseball and football, have a desire to make the best effort and the old bigotries make no sense to any one now, are repulsive - we need to achieve a new insight into what ethnic cleansing meant and make a new start.


For indigenous people who invented lacrosse, the medicine game is played as hard as can be, with a clear mind and heart, for the creator. This is also how indigenous people participate in the great play of life, draw strength from spirit in the world in contrast to middle class whites who often look at what a sport gives them, suggested Liza Kelly, the woman's lacrosse coach. Sid Jamieson told an indian myth of a game of the animals against the birds, and how the birds cooperated to win.


Jamieson, an outstanding lacrosse player and coach for thirty-eight years at Bucknell, was asked by a student about lacrosse as an upper middle class white sport. He responded that about the turn of the twentieth century, indigenous people were barred from participating. It has thus taken a long time for the spiritual roots of lacrosse to reemerge, the interweaving of cultures to occur.


Jamieson's point was embodied in the presence on the stage of Zach Miller, an indigenous freshman lacrosse player at DU, and in the large audience including the entire lacrosse community at DU (coaches Tierney and Kell had brought them all out). In the composition of the audience and the quality of the discussion, one could sense thrillingly what the University of Denver might become, a school benefiting from and celebrating diversity, in the 21st century.


Jamieson later showed me his beautiful Mohawk passport. The treaties with the 6 nations of the Iroquois Confederacy with the United States at least resulted in this, He spoke of how Benjamin Francklin and others in 1744 learned about federation (federalism) from an Oneida representative. He does not (indigenous people often don't) identify with electoral politics in the United States...


In a discussion the next day of the University committee on Governor Evans and Sand Creek, Tink Tinker pointed out that among the Muscogee in Oklahoma, the game also has a conflict resolution aspect. Tribes who do not know each other, are suspicious of one other, play hard (it is a violent but not lethal sport) and achieve respectful interaction. The game is healing...


In a broader perspective, DU and Denver were born in the 1864 slaughter of Cheyennes and Arapahos at Sand Creek. As Nancy Wadsworth, the chair of the University Committee, aptly said in her introduction, Governor John Evans, founder of DU and Northwestern, presided over the Massacre. Colonel John Chivington, who carried it out, served on the initial board of trustees with Evans and Walter Newton Byers, publisher of the Rocky Mountain News, of the Colorado Seminary which would become the University of Denver and the Iliff School of Theology.


So, on the 150th anniversary of the founding of DU, this cross-cultural, interwoven gathering marks a new start. The Clarion article speaks of Native Amrican journeys. But the journey to an anti-racist, mutually respecting society and world is a journey most for white Americans to recognize and move away from the past, a journey we all must make together.

"Film highlights Native American journey

Last week, DU’s Native Student Alliance (NSA) and Political Science Associate Professor Nancy Wadsworth hosted a free public screening of the Lukas Korver documentary film “The Medicine Game,” followed by a panel discussion with members of the Denver Lacrosse community.

The event, hosted on Wednesday, Feb. 5, was a part of DU’s Sesquicentennial events series; over 300 people were in attendance.

The film followed the journeys of Jeremy and Jerome “Haina” Thompson, two brothers of the Onondaga nation in rural New York who had ambitions to play Lacrosse at Syracuse University, but initially struggled academically and socially throughout high school and community college.

Eventually, Jeremy was able to transfer and play with the Orange, and currently plays for Major League Lacrosse’s Hamilton Nationals. Haina later reached semi-professional Lacrosse.

NSA President Amanda Williams, who was pleased with the amount of people who came, believed the event served an important part of remembering the Sand Creek Massacre, which also has its 150th anniversary in November.

“The people who came [Wednesday night] took the time to learn about Native American culture,” said Williams."


"Introduction to Medicine Game Event
February 5, 2014

Hello. My name is Nancy Wadsworth. I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science here at DU, and one of the organizers of this event.

On behalf of the DU Native Students Alliance, the Pioneers Lacrosse Program, the DU Sesquicentennial Series, and John Evans Study Committee, which I will explain in a second, I am delighted to welcome you to this screening and panel discussion of The Medicine Game. Thank you so much for joining us on a cold, cold Wednesday evening.

I want to take a few short minutes to fill you in on the larger context behind this event.

As many of you know, a hundred and fifty years ago the University of Denver (which in 1864 was called the Colorado Seminary) was founded on the plains east of the Rocky Mountains, to serve the community of pioneers and prospectors settling an area that Native peoples had also called home for many generations. For a time, these very different communities found ways to coexist, though it wasn’t easy. But what some of you may not know is that November of this year marks a second sesquicentennial:

In an episode now known as the Sand Creek Massacre, over 150 Cheyenne and Arapahoe people—including several renowned peace chiefs and scores of women and children, camped under an official peace agreement—were slaughtered in one of the most gruesome unilateral attacks on record, by Colorado Cavalry. DU’s founder, John Evans, presided over this atrocity—albeit from a seeming distance at the time—when he was serving as the Territorial Governor. Several other men on the original founding Board were directly involved. This event, which generated a serious rebuke from the U.S. Congress in 1865, changed a lot of things between Native peoples and new Americans settling the west.

Now, this is not the place to detail the circumstances or subsequent interpretations of the Sand Creek massacre. But as many of us have learned from the chancellor’s talks at our annual first-year dinners, the anniversary of this event is relevant to our university’s story. Such episodes, while uncomfortable to remember, are part of our history, and indeed they are embedded in the cultural memories of Indian Nations, on whose ancestral lands this campus sits.

I bring this up not to begin from a negative place, but to let you know that from across lots of different corners of our campus, our community has begun to grapple with how to responsibly remember, in specific terms, the hurtful side of our history in the same year that we celebrate our achievements. Out of this grappling, a faculty-led committee has taken on the task of delving into the historical archives and reporting back to our administration about what exactly we know--and need to know—about our founders’ roles in this historical event. This committee is also building relationships with direct descendants of the four Nations impacted by the massacre. Northwestern University, also founded by John Evans, has a similar committee in action, though having been founded thirteen years earlier, their relationship to these memories is different.

What we are quickly learning is that to “own” a long-silenced, dark side of our history is not just to write reports, but perhaps more importantly to find thoughtful, creative ways to foster meaningful conversations about who our predecessors have been, who we are now, and who we as a community have the capacity to become. And out of that thinking on the John Evans Study Committee emerged the idea of a conversation about lacrosse—an area in which Native American history, our university, and the larger Denver community come together in positive ways. When we found Lukas Korver’s new documentary The Medicine Game, we knew we’d lucked out on an ideal vehicle for opening a series of dialogues, events, and exhibits that will be taking place on and beyond campus in the coming months commemorating this second sesquicentennial. This includes a special Pow Wow oriented focused on healing the wounds of Sand Creek in the Spring, hosted by our own Native Student Alliance.

So tonight is just about opening a conversation that will surely deepen and evolve, and we are beginning with something so many of us love and can relate to: sports, and in particular, a sport in which different histories intersect in powerful, beautiful ways.

We are most grateful to the Pioneers Lacrosse head coaches, Bill Tierney and Liza Kelley, for being not only willing but enthusiastic, participants in this event—and to everyone on the panel that will follow the film (who I’ll introduce after the film). Zach Miller, DU’s first Native American player on the men’s team, will be joining us, as well as both coaches, and Rod Allison from City Lax, another important member of the broader Denver lacrosse community.

We encourage you to bring your full hearts, minds, and spirits to the conversation, and we can’t wait to hear your thoughts and questions.


We have one more preliminary step to take before we begin the film, and that is to offer some background—to supplement the little bit of information provided in the film—about the cultural and spiritual relationship between the sport of lacrosse and Indian nations across the continent. For that we turn to one of our special guests, a true expert on these topics, Sid Jamieson, who thanks to Coach Tierney’s suggestion, we were able to bring tonight.

Sid Jamieson is himself Native American, a member of the Eel Clan of the Mohawk Nation, who belong to the Six Nations Confederacy in the northeastern region of the U.S. and Canada. Jamieson was also one of the true coaching legends in collegiate lacrosse, having coached for 38 seasons for the Bucknell University Bisons. When he retired in 2005 he ranked 10th in NCAA lacrosse history on the all-time list for coaching wins. He has won numerous prestigious awards in lacrosse and coached scores of All-American players.

Sid has been deeply involved in the Iroquois National Team, including taking the team to the World Lacrosse Championships in Perth, Australia in 1990. He is the spearhead of the boys’ lacrosse program of Native Visions, which uses sports as a vehicle to talk about education, health, wellness, nutrition, and making sound decisions in Native American communities, and was awarded that group’s “Spirit Award” in 2013, as a leading athlete-mentor. He has given numerous lectures and spoken in classrooms on Native American issues, and was inducted into the Native American Athletic Hall of Fame just last year. We are fortunate to have him with us."

Thursday, February 13, 2014

February 17 Paul Robeson celebration Chambers Center, Colorado Women's College noon


Celebrating His Life & Legacy: All-American Athlete, World Class Singer, Celebrated Actor, International Freedom Fighter

Monday, Feb 17, 2014, 12:00 – 1:30 pm Chambers Center, Garden Room, Colorado Women's College, 1901 E. Asbury Ave.

Join us for this public forum, featuring short presentations by Professors Arthur Jones (CWC), Haider Khan (Korbel), and Alan Gilbert (Korbel), including video clips, personal reflections, and song samples, followed by Q & A. Please RSVP by February 14th to or (continue to rsvp but also: please come).


Paul Robeson was a fabulous singer, famous in Bangla Desh where a mountain is carved out to him, and in Russia. He was a leading American cultural figure through the mid-20th century (possibly as famous as Louis Armstrong). He was also a fine actor though his roles in America were limited through discrimination. He joined the Communist Party to fight the rise of Nazism in Europe. He sang on picket lines. He knew more than 10 languages and sang at Carnegie Hall and around the world in many.

But when Robeson as leader of the American Committee on Africa to fight against colonialism said in in 1947 that blacks would never fight against the Soviet Union, the US government blacklisted him, revoked his passport thus forbidding him to sign in London, and in the corporate media, forced him out of sight. Though his memory lives on among artists and in the black community, the blacklist is such that his enormous presence was, for a period, whited out.

Of course, as a great football player at Princeton (his home town), Robeson is sometimes recalled at halftime in a football game with the thought that he really should be in the college football hall of fame.

And there is now a stamp to him as a great Afro-American (one should say here American or democratic figure) but that is perhaps beyond the reach, so far, of the US postal service.

Arthur Jones and Haider Khan are distinguished singers. This event will celebrate Paul straight up.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Heather Roff on drones and emerging despotism

Heather Roff, my colleague at the Korbel School of International Studies, has written a fine article on the slide from drones to despotism. Here is Obama on "Terror Tuesday" afternoons pursuing a "disposition matrix" to murder individuals with drones in countries the US is not at war with. These acts combine aggression and frequently assassination of civilians, even children. See here and here.


As Heather writes, there is no judicial process here. Obama can, on secret testimony and shady advice from former National Security advisor, now CIA director John Brennan, even off Americans. This is the definition of tyranny.

In addition, Brennan mandated that any male child near a terrorist (a son bringing a glass of water to his father) counts as a terrorist if drones kill him. Stare into that example, and one might fairly conclude that both Brennan and Obama are evil.


Obama does show some remaining decency in trying to scale back drones, particularly in Pakistan this past month. See here. In the State of the Union speech, however, he said the citizens of other countries want to know that the US government is careful about whom it kills with drones on their soil. Listen carefully to that statement. First, the US government murders people, often civilians, in other countries - the international crime of aggression and, simply, murder (the circumlocutions about this even by many opponents of the use of drones are frightening). Second, one cannot be "careful" with drones fired off, often on weak information, from half a world away...


John Mearsheimer rightly refers to drone-aggression as "terror-inducing activity." For if China, for example, shot missile into the US and took out people (including many civilians), the American people and the US government state, would respond fiercely. Place yourself in John Rawls'"original position" and imagine that your family or even acquaintances are the victims of drone...


Obama and his listeners did not hear the plain meaning of his words...


Some State Department officials in Pakistan staged a revolt against CIA aggression by drone. Even Guardian article this week does not quite identify the cause of the split in English, speaking of "foreign policy goals," but not spelling out that ordinary Pakistanis are repelled by drone murder - think the Navi against Company drones in Avatar, and you will get the point:

"US diplomats have at times had major rows with their CIA colleagues over the havoc drone strikes can play with US foreign policy objectives.

Cameron Munter, the previous US ambassador in Pakistan, left his post in Islamabad early after furious disagreements with the CIA, which was exclusively focused on counter-terrorism rather than broader US foreign policy goals.

Many observers in Pakistan have noted the recent downturn in drone strikes, which US officials quoted in the Washington Post confirmed was a deliberate response to requests by prime minister Nawaz Sharif's government."


Heather's second post below focuses on the thoughtless of Eichmann, on Hannah Arendt's description, in carrying out crimes against humanity. Such bureaucratic thoughtlessness is multiplied by the substitution of drones and computer screens for responsibility, the "targeting" increasingly by machine and separate from human agency.


The US took out Abdulrahman Al Awlaki the 16 year old son of Anwar Al-Awlaki, an American citizen, his cousin, also a 16 year old American, and 10 other innocent people at a rural food stand in Yemen with drones. Abdulrahman was looking for his "drone-dispensed" Dad.


Neither the White House nor Brennan is bragging about these "kills," but the story is, at last, out, a paradigm of what this policy creates, a move toward despotism and even the use of drones to kill young and innocent Americans without a shade of evidence, let alone, judicial authorization...


Barack Obama taught constitutional law. If this is "law," what is lawlessness?


If this were Putin, would Americans have trouble with the word tyranny?


The "White House" and CIA preserve much secrecy about drone strikes, asserting the authority to kill Americans like Anwar Al-Awlaki, echoeed by the press as if evidence had been made available to scrutinize...

In most cases, there is silence, and thus, no reporting, even falsely alleging the possession of evidence.


If one adds to this tyrannical approach only the Joint Special Operations Command which sends some 66,000 forces to do operations in a 100 countries - it did not just take out Bin Laden, something commendable but does many other things (see Jeremy Scahill, Dirty Wars) - the President begins to look like a George III on steroids. For the JSOC is a private army of the President subject to no public review, including no military review. Admiral McRaven's forces are outside of, secret from the normal chain of military command.

That this is not consistent with democracy, that Barack does horrors and that other likely leaders are not Obamas, is clear.


And then there is the NSA's spying on Americans...

At least in that case, Edward Snowden released the papers, told the truth, shined a light, revealed the criminality, and has suffered Obama chasing him across the globe, CIA officials threatening to "off him" (it is, after all, along with torture under Bush, what the CIA has become accustomed to...).


Heather's first article adds important detail the Justice Department's bizarre notion of "imminence."

But I should note that the Egypt of Arab Spring and the America of Madison and Occupy, along with the courage of Edward Snowden, exemplify the kinds of response that the democracy needs to offer to an increasingly authoritarian elite...


"Heather Roff

The Short Slide From Drones to Despotism
Huffington Post
Posted: 02/11/2013

This past week a secret white paper outlining legal justifications for the targeted killing of a U.S. citizen came to light. The brief, titled "Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S. Citizen who is a Senior Operational Leader of Al Qaida or an Associated Force" discusses how the Obama administration might find legal support for what appears on first glance as a patently illegal act.

The paper argues that the extrajudicial killing of US citizens does not violate citizens' 5th Amendment rights to due process, nor does it violate 4th Amendment rights to unreasonable searches and seizures. What's more, the paper even goes so far as to claim that the policy of targeted assassination of suspected members of Al-Qa'ida (AQ) does not violate US federal bans on unlawful killings in Title 18 or Executive Order 12333, which bans assassinations. In other words, the policy denies that government does any sort of wrong by acting outside of a body of constitutional and federal law that states the contrary.

Yet how does this happen? The magic bullet in the Department of Justice's argument is its definition of "imminence." Because most law states that in cases where the state's interest is in tension with the individual rights holder's interest, a "balancing" test should occur. This balancing ought to weigh things like national interest, defense, public welfare, etc., against the individual's claims to freedom, protection under the rule of law, and justice. In the case of extrajudicial killing of American citizens identified as "senior operational leaders of Al Qa'ida or an associated force", the government argues that the state's interest outweighs that of the individual because the state is in a publicly declared state of war with the group and its affiliates. Therefore, the US is acting in self-defense, and under commonsense and legal reasoning, if one is facing an imminent threat, one may act in self-defense pre-emptively to thwart that attack.

This all seems like a tidy legal argument to make. However, upon closer examination it is at best a legal farce and at worst detrimental to the rule of law in the US (and possibly elsewhere). The government's definition of "imminence" in this instance is not the normal usage, where we typically mean something temporally impending. The DoJ actually denies that the temporal element should even be part of the definition of "imminence' in this matter.

Rather, the DoJ argues that "imminent "is a matter of three features: continually planning to attack the US, the feasibility of capture, and the value of deterrence. That a US citizen abroad is determined to be part of AQ and its affiliates means, therefore, that he automatically satisfies the first condition, for the argument runs that AQ has declared war on the US. This might hold some (though little) traction, but the two other features are bizarre additions.

The "feasibility" of capture means that it is impractical to enter into a foreign country and extract the person for legal trial. This is for two reasons. The first is that the foreign country denies its consent to allow US troops into its sovereign territory to engage in a capture operation. The second is that such an operation, even if consented to, might be too risky to the operatives. How then might the US kill such a person if it is unfeasible to capture him (assuming all of the legal arguments are sound)? Enter the drones.

While the DoJ's white paper does not explicitly claim that unmanned aerial vehicles are the weapons of choice to assassinate these targets, it does state that it is not "impermissible" to use them. In other words, when a foreign state, like Pakistan or Yemen, harbors "senior operational leaders" of AQ, the US reserves a right to act in self-defense by killing those individuals because those individuals, at some point, plan to attack the US. If the foreign country denies access to US forces, the US believes it can send drones into the country's air space (and thus sovereign territory), and carry out a kill operation. Which is somewhat odd, as if the foreign state denies consent to put boots on its ground, then how would it feel about violations of air space? Moreover, by continually engaging such threats with lethal force, the "imminence" argument goes, there will be a deterrent effect (but for whom is left unclear).

But who determines whether an individual is a senior operational leader of AQ or its affiliates? Who decides whether a caption mission is unfeasible? Who decides to send in the drones? Again, the paper is rather vague, using only the language of "an informed high level official of the US government." This "high level official" is able to act outside of judicial review, as involving the courts would be onerous and threaten to encroach upon the Executive's power and judgment in performing his tasks as the Commander in Chief.

But such an argument tears away the very bedrock of US constitutional law. This "high level official" acts as judge, jury and executioner of US citizens. The rule of law becomes nothing more than something convenient to justify such acts, but when the law contradicts executing individuals without trial, evidentiary procedures or protections, then the law is overridden with a justification of "state's interests." What's more, if this white paper is any indication of the Obama administration's viewpoint on the legal justification of a targeted killing program, then it views its actions as fully congruent with US legal principles. Because the government is a "public authority" it can, basically, do no wrong. Anyone it decides to target automatically becomes the subject of a lawful killing.

What does all this ultimately mean? It means that if you find yourself in the unfortunate position to be deemed a "senior operational leader", you have no recourse through the rule of law, no protection from execution, and even your status as an "enemy force" offers you no protection (for belligerents in conflict also have rights). Moreover, the US saddles up its moral high horse and claims that its actions do not threaten the bedrock of individual rights and freedoms, but are done for the greater good.

If constitutional law can be stretched to such an extreme, if the executive can amass even more power into its hands, then there is a risk that such power can be used in the future to further erode the rights of US citizens -- perhaps not abroad but at home -- if the "high level official" deems it so. The result? This "high level official" starts more and more to look like an authoritarian monarch rather than a person representing one function in a system designed to guard against such despotism.

The drafters of the US constitution constructed a federated system with checks and balances to guard against this result. It seems now, with an increase in executive power and a new technology that attempts to sanitize war (on our side), such constructions might no longer be sufficient to guard rights."


"Heather Roff Visiting Associate Professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver

"How Automated Wars Rob Us Of Humanity
Posted: 04/30/2013 12:03 pm

Hannah Arendt once used the phrase "the banality of evil" to describe the character of Adolph Eichmann's acquiescence in committing atrocities for the Nazi regime. What this phrase means, in Eichmann's case, is that it was his "sheer thoughtlessness -- something by no means identical with stupidity -- that predisposed him to become one of the greatest criminals of that period." Indeed, it is "that such remoteness from reality and such thoughtlessness can wreak more havoc than all the evil instincts taken together," that evil is in this sense banal, means that there is no thought -- no decision -- to be (or to act) evil. It is so commonplace, and it is a lack of thinking that results in the most horrific of actions. Thus Eichmann's most dangerous element was that he threw away what it meant to be human -- he threw away his capacity for rational thought and reflection on right and wrong, good and evil.

We are at a similar juncture with regards to a "lack of thinking." In our case, however, it is in regards to the delegation of thinking to a machine, and a lethal machine in particular. What I mean here is that militaries, and the U.S. military in particular, envisions a future where weapons do the thinking -- that is, planning, target selection and engagement. Already the U.S. military services have capabilities that enable weapons to seek out and queue targets, such as the F-35 joint fighter and some targeting software platforms on tanks, like the M1 Abrams, as well as seeking out targets and automatically engaging them, like Phalanx or Counter Rocket, Artillery and Mortar (CRAM) systems.

The U.S.' decision to rely on unmanned aerial vehicles, or "drones," admits to the appeal of fighting at a distance with the use of automated technology. The current drones in combat operations, such as the Predator and Reaper, show the ease with which killing by remote can be accomplished. While drones are certainly problematic, from a legal and moral standpoint in regards to targeted killings, human beings still ultimately control this type of technology. Human pilots are in the "cockpit," and for better (or worse) there are human beings making targeting decisions.

The worry, however, is that militaries are planning to push autonomy further than the F-35 joint striker (which is far more autonomous than the Predator or Reaper) to "fully autonomous" weapons. Moreover, while we might try to push this worry aside and claim that it is a long way off, or too futuristic, we cannot deny the middle term between now and "fully autonomous" weapons. In this middle term, the warfighter will become increasingly dependent upon such technologies to fight. Indeed, we already see this in "automation bias" (or the over-reliance on information generated by an automated process as a replacement for vigilant information seeking and processing). With increased dependence on the technology, this automation bias will only increase and thus will lead to a degeneration of not only strategic thinking in the services, but like the case of Eichmann, a lack of thinking more generally.

The evil here is that through the banality of autonomy, we risk not only creating a class of unthinking warfighters, but that the entire business of making war becomes so removed from human judgment and critical thinking that it too becomes commonplace. In fact, it might become so banal, so removed from human agency, that even the word "war" starts to lose meaning. For what would we call a conflict where one side, or both, hands over the "thinking" to a machine, doesn't risk its soldiers' lives, and perhaps doesn't even place human beings outside of its own borders to fight? "War" does not really seem to capture what is going on here.

The danger, of course, is that conflicts of this type might not only perpetuate asymmetric violence, but that it further erodes the very foundations of humanity. In other words, if we are not careful about the increasing push towards autonomous weapons, we risk vitiating the thinking, judging and thus rational capacity of humanity. What was once merely automation bias becomes the banality of autonomy, and in an ironic twist, humans lose their own ability to be "autonomous."

The human warfighter is now the drone."

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Poem: flight

for Pete Seeger

If a friend asks to talk

you must turn

else the hawk fly away


when a friend asks

beating wings

not step on a train upstate

soaring currents


or the claws of the body


will bury themselves

for what you might have spoken

still bloody


in the sea of the heart

for forty years

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Phil Ochs and Pete Seeger: a friendship and a sorrow

Even fading and whispery, Pete Seeger's voice still inspired the flourishing of folk song and singing along, as he had especially in the 1950s and '60s (Bob Dylan, Bernice Johnson Reagan, Joan Baez, Phil Ochs...). Pete had sung against war (and for World War II), for strikers, for the civil rights movement, for the earth. He was persecuted by the viciously anti-radical - anti-decent, anti-freedom of song American Cold War regime, and rose to become an icon whose words live with us day by day. And Pete lived to the great age - it was for Pete plainly a great age - of 94.


Pete had a troubadour spirit of nonviolence. There was no one sunk in such darkness that Pete would not reach out to them, even when testifying before the House Unamerican Activities Committee:

"Wherever he went, he never stopped trying to win people over. In 1955, he was compelled to testify about his Communist affiliations before the House Un-American Activities Committee. 'I am proud that I have sung for Americans of every political persuasion, and I have never refused to sing for anybody because I disagreed with their political opinion,' he told his bewildered inquisitor. 'I am proud of the fact that my songs seem to cut across and find perhaps a unifying thing, basic humanity, and that is why I would love to be able to tell you about these songs, because I feel that you would agree with me more, sir.'


"Where have all the flowers gone..." - here - rings now for the legions of the dead in Afghanistan and Iraq, in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia...


And LBJ and the American elite drown in the Big Muddy here....


One of my favorite singers who learned from Pete and was, at least in a broad sense, spiritually mentored by him - was Phil Ochs. Many of Phil's songs, "Love me love me love me I'm a liberal" here or "I ain't marchin anymore" here are dazzling politically - little about the defects, perhaps even dementia (the losing of every aspect of integrity and acting on the desire to cancel or deny the existence of those who speak out - "and that's why I'm turning you in") of the Democratic Party and some rich "liberals" remains to be said if you know the words - and Phil could also, for instance, in "Changes" here, write with sadness, love and power.


But the sorrow of life, and a sense that it was, for him, nearly over (that he would take his own life), lived with Phil. One powerful song suggests: "and you won't hear me singing on this song when I'm gone, so I guess I better do it while I'm here." See here. "When I'm gone" lingers, his sense as much in the other world as here...


Phil led events in New York and Los Angeles in which he sang "The War is Over" here. And in 1975 as the Vietnamese regained Saigon (what should have resulted from the defeat of French colonialism, armed by the U.S., at Dienbienphu in 1954 and the Geneva Accords in 1956; President Eisenhower tossed out the Accords: "if there is an election in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh will get 80% of the vote..." - Phil sang to a 100,000 people in New York the truth - "I declare the war is over, it's ooover..."


There is the incident in Africa where he was robbed, beaten and his vocal chords harmed (he lost the upper range of his voice). I can't remember another incident of robbery or even violence where the victim's voice was harmed, this victim a singer. So the inference that American "intelligence" had something to do with this is not far (consider the odds of its happening randomly).


Phil was a friend of Victor Jara, the great Chilean artist, whose hands were cut off by Pinochet (Henry Kissinger engineered the coup and the murders, under the smiling aegis of President Richard Nixon) in a stadium of torture and then he, along with many others, was murdered. See here.

Here is Victor's last poem, Estadio Chile. And the Chilean people have now renamed this place Victor Jara Stadium...


Phil lost his way...


An aura of suicide long surrounded him. So when Phil asked Pete Seeger one night to talk with him, and Pete felt he had to go home, to take a train upstate, Pete probably knew that talking might have made some difference but not that this was the night. According to Neil Young, Pete lived with the bitter taste of his decision - one should not turn away from a friend in need even if one cannot save her (or oneself) - for forty years.


Pete could probably not have saved Phil from killing himself - Phil was meditating on it, singing about it. Each of us lives these things for herself, makes the decision in a lonely, terrifying and embittered moment.

But he could have done something that Phil asked him to, could have reached back to him at that moment...


Pema Chodoren tells a story of a conversation of an American psychologist, wondering about guilt (Americans are consumed with guilt compared to Tibetans; suffering genocide as well as coming from a Buddhist traditions gives the latter a different view) questioning the Dalai Lama about whether there were things he regretted.

An old monk had come to him and asked about whether he should do a physically intense form of yoga (one imagined for a teenager with great suppleness, flexibility). The Dalai Lama advised him against it.

The monk accepted the advice. But he then went home and killed himself, hoping to be reincarnated in a younger body.


The psychologist exclaimed to the Dalai Lama: "How did you ever get rid of that feeling [of being, in some way, responsible]?"

The Dalai Lama sat there silently for a few minutes, and then responded "I didn't. It's still there."


But the Dalai Lama was not guilt-ridden. He could touch but let go of the sorrow - of all that we cannot mend, bear some responsibility for - and act to heal the world, For he has had great responsibility, and nurtured in Dharmasala and around the world a nonviolent community of exiles.

He did not forget his conversation with the monk - the pain of what he had not done was still there - but he did not carry the monk with him...


One may hope that it was, at last, the same for Pete, singing...

Only the small in heart can miss the gifts he brought us.


"The Opinion Pages, New York Times

Pete Seeger, Neil Young and the Importance of Letting Go
JAN. 28, 2014

Editorial Observer by Jesse Wegman

Four decades later, Pete Seeger couldn’t let it go.

It was a cool night in September, the rain was coming down in sheets, and Pete was holed up in his dressing room at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, in upstate New York, minutes before a surprise appearance at the annual Farm Aid benefit concert. (For the occasion, he’d added a new, anti-fracking verse to the end of “This Land Is Your Land.”) It would turn out to be one of his last major public performances.

Outside on the lawn, I waited with tens of thousands of fans who were about to get a lesson in four-part harmony from a 94-year-old man with only a banjo and the warbly vestige of a voice. Backstage, Pete stood by a wall, strapped to his banjo, thin and tall as a birch tree. Neil Young, one of the show’s longtime headliners, had stopped in to pay his respects, and the conversation soon turned to the night in 1976 when Phil Ochs hanged himself.

On Tuesday morning, the day after Pete Seeger died, Mr. Young told me the story that Pete had told to him: Pete had been in New York City and was late for the train home to Beacon, an hour up the Hudson River. Ochs, a good friend and fellow folk singer, was in trouble. He’d been depressed and drinking for a long time, and he reached out to Pete.

“Phil really wanted to talk,” Mr. Young recalled. Pete had to choose between staying in the city another night or getting home. He chose the train.

“Pete remembered shaking hands with him, and when he said goodbye to him for the last time,” Mr. Young said. “He regretted not talking to him.”

For 37 years, the decision to leave that night ate at Pete. “ ‘I wish I’d done something more to stop that from happening,’ ” Mr. Young recalled him saying shortly before he took the stage.

Pete Seeger used to own audiences like that one. He knew their rhythms and needs; he believed in the power of a thousand voices singing in unison. The world could be changed, and it all started with five strings and a melody.

Wherever he went, he never stopped trying to win people over. In 1955, he was compelled to testify about his Communist affiliations before the House Un-American Activities Committee. “I am proud that I have sung for Americans of every political persuasion, and I have never refused to sing for anybody because I disagreed with their political opinion,” he told his bewildered inquisitor. “I am proud of the fact that my songs seem to cut across and find perhaps a unifying thing, basic humanity, and that is why I would love to be able to tell you about these songs, because I feel that you would agree with me more, sir.”

Perhaps that insistent optimism was why, standing backstage on a rainy September night, he still couldn’t accept that he had been powerless to save one man’s life.

Mr. Young understood. He had been in a similar situation 20 years ago. Kurt Cobain, the lead singer for Nirvana, had reached out in the days before he took his own life. “We were trying to connect, and we didn’t,” Mr. Young said. “I’d read some things he said, and I wanted to give him some relief.”

Mr. Young recounted his advice to Pete that evening. “Don’t try to take it with you. Leave it where it happened. I felt similar to how Pete felt for a while. But there’s nothing — you can’t carry it with you.” Mr. Young paused. “Pete carried it for a long time.”

Correction: January 31, 2014
An earlier version of this article incorrectly described Pete Seeger’s appearance at the Farm Aid benefit in September as his last major public performance. He appeared at Carnegie Hall with Arlo Guthrie on Nov. 30."


Using His Voice to Bring Out a Nation’s
By JON PARELES JAN. 28, 2014
Launch media viewer here
The singer and champion of progressive causes died on Monday at 94. via Reuters

Pete Seeger sang until his voice wore out, and then he kept on singing, decade upon decade. Mr. Seeger, who died on Monday at 94, sang for children, folk-music devotees, union members, civil-rights marchers, antiwar protesters, environmentalists and everyone else drawn to a repertoire that extended from ancient ballads to brand-new songs about every cause that moved him. But it wasn’t his own voice he wanted to hear. He wanted everyone to sing along.

Although Mr. Seeger summed up Vietnam-era frustration [a weal word: fury...] when he wrote “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy” and created a lasting antiwar parable with “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?,” he wasn’t simply a protest singer or propagandist. Like his father, the musicologist Charles Seeger, and his colleague the ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax, Pete Seeger was devoted to songs that had been passed on through generations of people singing and playing together. He was determined — in an era when recording was rarer and broadcasting limited — to get those songs heard and sung anew, lest they disappear.

VIDEO|1:33Richard Leacock‘To Hear Your Banjo Play’ Pete Seeger plays at a square dance in an edited clip of the 1946 film, “To Hear Your Banjo Play.” here

That put him at the center of the folk revival of the 1950s and 1960s, in all its idealism, earnestness and contradictions. Collectors found songs that had archetypal resonance, sung in unpretty voices and played with regional quirks, and transcribed them to be learned from sheet music. The folk revival prized authenticity — the work song recorded in prison, the fiddle tune recorded on a back porch — and then diluted it as the making of amateur collegiate strum-alongs. Mr. Seeger and his fellow folk revivalists freely adapted old songs to new occasions, using durable old tunes to carry topical thoughts, speaking of a “folk tradition” of communal authorship and inevitable change. They would warp a song to preserve it. (In succeeding years, copyright problems could and did ensue.)

It was an era of purists generating the impure, and, sloppy or saccharine as it could be, it turned out well. Folk-revival ditties pointed their more dedicated listeners — particularly musicians — back to original versions, extending the reach of regional styles. The hootenanny movement spurred people to play music instead of passively consume it, and the noncommercial, do-it-yourself spirit — though not the sound of banjos and acoustic guitars — would resound in punk-rock, which had its own kind of protest songs.

Launch media viewer
Mr. Seeger in 1967, when the folk revival was developing into an antiwar movement. D.Steinberg/Associated Press here

Even more important, the folk revival, with Mr. Seeger as one of its prime movers, introduced American pop to a different America: the one outside Tin Pan Alley and Hollywood, where a volunteer gospel choir could sing with more gumption than a studio chorus, and where a decades-old song about hard times could speak directly to the present. The folk revival reminded the pop world that songs could be about something more than romance — a notion that the revival’s greatest student and transformer, Bob Dylan, would run with. Mr. Seeger also learned and performed songs from abroad; there were folks there, too.

Mr. Seeger’s discography runs to dozens of albums: topical songs, Mother Goose rhymes, banjo instruction, African songs, lullabies, blues, Civil War songs, Spanish Civil War songs and far more. His canon was selective but not exclusive; he wanted all those songs to get more chances. His cultural mission was democratic.

Launch media viewer
In 2011, Pete Seeger, 92, joining Occupy Wall Street by marching from a concert at Symphony Space to Columbus Circle. Marcus Yam for The New York Times

His mission was political too, of course. In 2012, Mr. Seeger told an interviewer on WNYC how he would like to be remembered: “He made up songs to try and persuade people to do something,” not just say something. As the 1940s began, he recorded songs reflecting the Communist party line; accusations of Communist Party affiliations got him questioned by the House Un-American Activities Committee and blacklisted during the McCarthy era. More felicitously, Mr. Seeger recast traditional songs to rally unions, civil-rights groups, Vietnam War protesters and environmentalists. Mr. Seeger was a longtime mentor for topical songwriters. The best of his own songs, like the biblical “Turn! Turn! Turn!” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” reach for cycles and archetypes, not ephemeral complaints.

Pop tastes quickly turned away from the folk revival; the Beatles were more fun. In the 21st century, folky protest and topical songs have generally been shunted to the far sidelines. Although Bruce Springsteen has taken songs from Mr. Seeger’s repertory to arenas, social consciousness is now disseminated more widely through metal and hip-hop. Yet the plink of acoustic instruments is still a token of sincerity. The banjo has resurfaced in groups like Mumford & Sons, while fascination with the folk-revival era animates the Coen brothers film “Inside Llewyn Davis.”

Yet Mr. Seeger wasn’t aiming for pop celebrity anyway. He had all the audiences he needed: at Carnegie Hall or at Barack Obama’s inauguration or at a local coffeehouse, in a high-school classroom or at a union meeting. He had the kindly demeanor of a favorite uncle and the encouraging tone of a secular preacher as he picked his banjo and taught another chorus to yet another audience, beaming as the singalong grew louder and more confident, turning one more group of folks into a community."

Saturday, February 1, 2014

A SuperBowl thought: has Scarlett been to a checkpoint?

In response to Scarlett Soda Stream Occupation Superbowl here, David Marquand wrote to me from Oxford, invoking the resolve of many Israelis to oppose the horrors of the Occupation:

"Dear Alan

What a terrifying picture you paint. Judith and I have visited the West Bank – only some time ago now – with a group of elderly peacenik Israeli ladies who do their best to patrol the Wall, and intervene when (as frequently happens) they notice Israeli soldiers behaving particularly badly. When we were there a coach of Palestinians on their way to a wedding had been stopped for no reason whatever. In the end, because of the intervention of the Israeli ladies, the coach was allowed through. But they were not going to be allowed back!

Anyhow, all best


Palestinians have requested Scarlett Johannson drop supporting Soda Stream and recover herself. Ilene Cohen in the first sentence of a valuable post cuts to the core of the issue:

"With the hubris that comes with unbridled paternalism, Massa Danny boasts about how well he treats his house slaves (he's doing it for them) and Scarlett thinks it's all just swell ("a bridge of peace" and all).

But colonial occupation is wrong, just as slavery is wrong. Unfortunately, the majority of twenty-first-century Jews in 'the only democracy in the Middle East' don't get it."


Scarlett will go from doctor to vamp for the "environmentally friendly" soda in a four million dollar viral purchase by SodaStream in the fourth quarter. I like Manning and company (and admire Seattle), but the game is, actually, far less significant than the Occupation and Johansson's shilling for it.

In addition, there is a general war-promoting, even militarist aura to American professional football - I remember four jets flying in formation over a Broncos-Cleveland playoff game in the 1990s and it is a ritual of Superbowl announcers to flash to people on military bases "in 177 countries" - usually, split screens go to troops at 4 bases - who are all watching "THE GAME."

The subtext here is life-threatening, the text comparatively...fizzy.


The Financial Times says in an editorial what the world (i.e led by the Boycott and Divestment Movement) needs to make Israeli leaders heed - an end to the Occupation and the settlements (the FT, an English business paper, is highly regarded - daily circulation roughly 2 million - but not, however, widely influential in America).


January 31, 2014 7:29 pm
A star stumbles in the settlements

Scarlett Johansson’s defence of her sponsor is naive

The decision by actress Scarlett Johansson to stop being an ambassador for Oxfam, the social justice charity, and continue as brand ambassador to SodaStream, an Israeli company that makes home-carbonated drink dispensers at a plant in the occupied West Bank, might be dismissed as a storm in a fizzy cup. It should not be.

The Lost in Translation star has accidentally turned a searchlight on an important issue – whether it is right or lawful to do business with companies that operate in illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land – as well as inadvertently sprinkling stardust on the campaign to boycott Israel until it withdraws from the occupied West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem – a separate issue, at least so far.

SodaStream makes some dispensers in Maale Adumim, the biggest of Israel’s West Bank settlements, illegal under international law. It employs about 500 Palestinians and claims to promote jobs and peaceful coexistence between Arabs and Jews. Ms Johansson says the company is “building a bridge to peace between Israel and Palestine”. That is naive, as is her conflation of this controversy with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement advocating the isolation of Israel.

The status of the settlements is clear in international law even if Israel chooses to ignore this and expand its colonisation of Palestinian land, while ostensibly negotiating on the creation of a Palestinian state. Last year the EU adopted rules prohibiting grants to entities operating in illegal settlements. Yet the EU still let Israel into Horizon 2020 – the only non-member state in this €80bn research and development programme – making Israeli tech high flyers eligible for European public money provided it is not spent in the settlements.

That is not a boycott. It is the application of the law. Yet if Israel maintains its occupation, and spurns the peace terms being negotiated by US secretary of state John Kerry, such distinctions will erode. European pension funds are already starting to pull their investments in Israeli banks with branches in the settlements.

Israeli leaders, from former prime ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert to Tzipi Livni and Yair Lapid, justice and finance ministers in the present rightwing government of Benjamin Netanyahu, have warned that Israel faces ostracism unless it makes a deal on Palestine. Now it is the settlements that are being targeted. But that could easily morph into a general boycott.

It is disingenuous to romanticise settlement enterprises. The occupation imprisons thousands of the Palestinians’ young men, gives their land and water to settlers, demolishes their houses and partitions the remaining territory with scores of checkpoints and segregated roads. There are almost no basic foundations for an economy. The way to create Palestinian jobs is to end the occupation and let Palestinians build those foundations – not to build “bridges to peace” on other people’s land without their permission."


Omar Barghouti, an eloquent philosophical defender of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, underlines why the Israeli government, with its brutality in the Occupied Territories and treatment of Arab Israelis as second class citizens, fears an increasing boycott and isolation if it refuses to move now toward a two-state solution.


New York Times
SundayReview|Op-Ed Contributor
February 2, 2014

"Why Israel Fears the Boycott

JERUSALEM — IF Secretary of State John Kerry’s attempts to revive talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority fail because of Israel’s continuing construction of illegal settlements, the Israeli government is likely to face an international boycott “on steroids,” as Mr. Kerry warned last August.

These days, Israel seems as terrified by the “exponential” growth of the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (or B.D.S.) movement as it is by Iran’s rising clout in the region. Last June, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu effectively declared B.D.S. a strategic threat. Calling it the “delegitimization” movement, he assigned the overall responsibility for fighting it to his Strategic Affairs Ministry. But B.D.S. doesn’t pose an existential threat to Israel; it poses a serious challenge to Israel’s system of oppression of the Palestinian people, which is the root cause of its growing worldwide isolation.

The Israeli government’s view of B.D.S. as a strategic threat reveals its heightened anxiety at the movement’s recent spread into the mainstream. It also reflects the failure of the Foreign Affairs Ministry’s well-endowed “Brand Israel” campaign, which reduces B.D.S. to an image problem and employs culture as a propaganda tool, sending well-known Israeli figures around the world to show Israel’s prettier face.

Begun in 2005 by the largest trade union federations and organizations in Palestinian society, B.D.S. calls for ending Israel’s 1967 occupation, “recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality,” and the right of Palestinian refugees to return to the homes and lands from which they were forcibly displaced and dispossessed in 1948.

Why should Israel, a nuclear power with a strong economy, feel so vulnerable to a nonviolent human rights movement?

Israel is deeply apprehensive about the increasing number of American Jews who vocally oppose its policies — especially those who are joining or leading B.D.S. campaigns. It also perceives as a profound threat the rising dissent among prominent Jewish figures who reject its tendency to speak on their behalf, challenge its claim to be the “national home” of all Jews, or raise the inherent conflict between its ethno-religious self-definition and its claim to democracy. What I. F. Stone prophetically wrote about Israel back in 1967, that it was “creating a kind of moral schizophrenia in world Jewry” because of its “racial and exclusionist” ideal, is no longer beyond the pale.

Israel is also threatened by the effectiveness of the nonviolent strategies used by the B.D.S. movement, including its Israeli component, and by the negative impact they have had on Israel’s standing in world public opinion. As one Israeli military commander said in the context of suppressing Palestinian popular resistance to the occupation, “We don’t do Gandhi very well.”

The landslide vote by the American Studies Association in December to endorse an academic boycott of Israel, coming on the heels of a similar decision by the Association for Asian-American Studies, among others, as well as divestment votes by several university student councils, proves that B.D.S. is no longer a taboo in the United States.

The movement’s economic impact is also becoming evident. The recent decision by the $200 billion Dutch pension fund PGGM to divest from the five largest Israeli banks because of their involvement in occupied Palestinian territory has sent shock waves through the Israeli establishment.

To underscore the “existential” danger that B.D.S. poses, Israel and its lobby groups often invoke the smear of anti-Semitism, despite the unequivocal, consistent position of the movement against all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism. This unfounded allegation is intended to intimidate into silence those who criticize Israel and to conflate such criticism with anti-Jewish racism.

Arguing that boycotting Israel is intrinsically anti-Semitic is not only false, but it also presumes that Israel and “the Jews” are one and the same. This is as absurd and bigoted as claiming that a boycott of a self-defined Islamic state like Saudi Arabia, say, because of its horrific human rights record, would of necessity be Islamophobic.

The B.D.S. movement’s call for full equality in law and policies for the Palestinian citizens of Israel is particularly troubling for Israel because it raises questions about its self-definition as an exclusionary Jewish state. Israel considers any challenge to what even the Department of State has criticized as its system of “institutional, legal and societal discrimination” against its Palestinian citizens as an “existential threat,” partially because of the apartheid image that this challenge evokes.

Tellingly, the Supreme Court recently rejected an attempt by Israeli liberals to have their nationality or ethnicity listed simply as “Israeli” in the national population registry (which has categories like Jew, Arab, Druse, etc.). The court found that doing so would be a serious threat to Israel’s founding identity as a Jewish state for the Jewish people.

Israel remains the only country on earth that does not recognize its own nationality, as that would theoretically avail equal rights to all its citizens, undermining its “ethnocratic” identity. The claim that B.D.S., a nonviolent movement anchored in universal principles of human rights, aims to “destroy” Israel must be understood in this context.

Would justice and equal rights for all really destroy Israel? Did equality destroy the American South? Or South Africa? Certainly, it destroyed the discriminatory racial order that had prevailed in both places, but it did not destroy the people or the country.

Likewise, only Israel’s unjust order is threatened by boycotts, divestment and sanctions.

Omar Barghouti is a Palestinian human rights activist and the author of 'Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights.”'"


Here is the rest of Ilene Cohen's post:

"January 30, 2014

With the hubris that comes with unbridled paternalism, Massa Danny boasts about how well he treats his house slaves (he's doing it for them) and Scarlett thinks it's all just swell ("a bridge of peace" and all).

But colonial occupation is wrong, just as slavery is wrong. Unfortunately, the majority of twenty-first-century Jews in "the only democracy in the Middle East" don't get it.

And the settlement/occupation/SodaStream/BDS/Johansson/ saga has moved to a new level. The denouement: Scarlett has chosen SodaStream and dumped Oxfam (which considers the settlements illegal).

Robert Mackey at The Lede at the New York Times has his third posting on the imbroglio, first following, with a full update. It is amazing, the freedom with which Mackey operates on I/P issues, a freedom absent from the news pages. The format at his blog is not subject to the usual constraints, though he often dutifully cites his "colleagues" Isabel Kershner and Jodi Rudoren.

The story is everywhere else as well, including, of course, throughout the Israeli press. Much of the coverage has been rich in background on the occupation, though just this morning, alas, Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations [mainly a conduit for American imperialism, former State Department official] and Israel panderer par excellence, praised Johansson on Morning Joe for her decision to dump Oxfam. But here's AP and here. All Things Considered on NPR ran the story this evening here. These stories are chock full of information. And now Kershner's joined in, writing about "the fuss" (no surprise that her piece is the weakest). But with everything out there, maybe even Richard Haass will learn a thing or two about the occupation.

I guess you could say that Scarlett's new contract with SodaStream opened a Pandora's box.

Second following is a piece from Haaretz, "It's Complicated," by Judy Maltz. The author checks out the industrial zone in the settlement of Ma'ale Adumim, where SodaStream is located. She weighs the pros and cons for Palestinians. There's a subtext here that I reject—that somehow if a balance sheet ends up with more in the "better" column, it justifies the occupation. It does not. Let me be clear about what I'm saying, of course, I'd rather an employer treat employees better rather than worse. But better to be free than to live under colonial rule.[!] "Benign occupation" is an old Israeli talking point that mostly fell into disuse with the first intifada. But it seems to be back, courtesy of SodaStream. Danny Birnbaum's paternalism toward his Palestinian workers does not obviate the fact that he operates in an illegal settlement built on stolen land. As he says in the NPR piece linked above: "I don't like the settlements." Really?

So what is his message—that Palestinians should be grateful to be living under Israeli occupation and working at SodaStream? That the occupiers get to determine for the occupied people what is good for them?

See the third item following, at Mondoweiss, about organized Palestinian responses to SodaStream and Johansson. People need to understand that Palestinians are agents with something to say and that the paternalistic CEO of SodaStream is not empowered to speak for them.

Meanwhile, the Israeli government is caught in the netherworld between denying that BDS matters at all and strategizing about how to counter the threat it poses, last following.

This is beginning to feel like South Africa in the 1980s redux, when whites were "rebranding" the regime to give apartheid a prettier face and Ronald Reagan stood with Pretoria



"January 30, 2014, 5:07 pm
Scarlett Johansson Chooses SodaStream Over Oxfam After Dispute About West Bank Factory

Updated, 5:49 p.m. | Forced to choose between two endorsement deals, the actress Scarlett Johansson decided Wednesday to end her charitable work on behalf of Oxfam, an antipoverty group that opposes trade with Israeli settlements, and continue as a paid “brand ambassador” for SodaStream, a company that manufactures products in the occupied West Bank.

The break with Oxfam comes a week after the charity said that it was engaged in “a dialogue” with the actress, who had helped raise funds for nearly a decade, and days before the broadcast of Ms. Johansson’s Super Bowl commercial for SodaStream’s home carbonation machines.

A version of Scarlett Johansson’s Super Bowl ad for SodaStream posted on YouTube by the company has been viewed more than five million times since Monday.

Oxfam’s stated position is that “trade from Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law,” should be discouraged because companies profiting from the continued occupation “further the ongoing poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we work to support.” Last week, however, Ms. Johansson expressed her outspoken support for the SodaStream factory in the Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim, echoing the company’s chief executive in calling the plant “a bridge to peace between Israel and Palestine.”

While the content of the talks between the actress and the charity were not made public, a statement released on her behalf contained a significant error about Oxfam’s policy regarding Israel. According to the statement, Ms. Johansson and Oxfam parted ways because of “a fundamental difference of opinion in regards to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.”

But Oxfam does not support the Palestinian-led campaign known as B.D.S., which seeks to isolate Israel economically until it ends the military occupation of territories seized during the Six-Day War in 1967 and allows Arab refugees to return to their former homes in what is now the Jewish state. The charity objects to the import of goods produced in Israeli settlements but is not opposed to trade with Israel, an Oxfam representative told The Lede on Thursday.

Despite that fact, supporters and critics of Israel read the end of Ms. Johansson’s relationship with Oxfam through the lens of the B.D.S. campaign.

Omar Barghouti, a Palestinian activist and the author of “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights,” hailed the success of B.D.S. supporters in drawing attention to the ethical issues involved in the location of SodaStream’s factory.

“Without doubt,” Mr. Barghouti said in a statement released by the Institute for Middle East Understanding, “the biggest loser in this well publicized B.D.S. campaign was SodaStream, which was exposed to the whole world as an occupation profiteer. Prior to this, most SodaStream customers had no idea that it is involved in grave violations of human rights by producing in an illegal settlement in the occupied Palestinian territory.”

As the Israeli blogger Mairav Zonszein notes, Oxfam’s stance seems identical to that of Peter Beinart, author of “The Crisis of Zionism,” who, in a 2012 New York Times Op-Ed article, called on American Jews to initiate “a counteroffensive” to the B.D.S. campaign by lobbying for a total boycott of the settlements. Mr. Beinart criticized Ms. Johansson last week and reminded his Twitter followers that prominent Israeli actors and writers had refused to perform in the settlements for years.

As The Lede explained last week, SodaStream made ethics a part of the conversation by marketing its domestic carbonation systems as an ethical alternative for consumers concerned with the environmental impact of bottled sodas, including Coke and Pepsi.

In an illustration of how the association with Ms. Johansson was becoming an impediment to the charity’s work, Oxfam’s social-media team found itself besieged by questions about SodaStream just as it was trying to draw attention to ethical questions about one of the Israeli company’s rivals, Pepsi [!]. In the run-up to the Super Bowl, Oxfam has asked its Twitter followers to complain to Pepsi about its poor treatment of farmers in Brazil and Cambodia.

The charity’s current online campaign against Pepsi, to protest the beverage company’s practice of buying sugar produced on land Oxfam says was unfairly taken from farmers without proper compensation, is the latest wave in a series the antipoverty group calls “Behind the Brands.”

The debate over Ms. Johansson’s endorsement of SodaStream unfolded as reporters began looking more closely at the company’s manufacturing plant in the Mishor Adumim industrial park, part of the Maale Adumim settlement. As The Jewish Daily Forward in New York reported, although many Israelis expect that settlement to become a part of Israel after the land swaps Israeli governments have insisted on in any future peace deal, “Maale Adumim is nevertheless a settlement especially loathed by Israeli peace activists. It was made possible in the 1970s by one of the largest expropriations of Palestinian land implemented by the Israel during its 46-year occupation of the West Bank.”

As the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem explained in 1999, the settlement, including the SodaStream factory, was built on land taken from five Palestinian towns and two Bedouin tribes evicted by Israeli forces.

Perhaps more important, as the Israeli columnist Larry Derfner explained in 2012, this settlement is already “a stake in the heart of a prospective Palestinian state,” because it nearly bisects the West Bank and further construction there threatens to cut off “Palestinians’ access to East Jerusalem, their hoped-for capital.” That appears to be less by accident than by design. Mr. Derfner noted that Benny Kashriel, the settlement’s longtime mayor, told The Jerusalem Report in 2004, “Maale Adumim was established to break Palestinian contiguity.” The settlement, he added, “is Jerusalem’s connection to the Dead Sea and the Jordan valley; if we weren’t here, Palestinians could connect their villages and close off the roads. Maale Adumim necessarily cuts the West Bank in two.”

While opponents of settlement trade, like Oxfam, argue that the relatively small number of jobs generated by factories there do not outweigh the crippling effect of Israel’s military occupation on the Palestinian economy as a whole, SodaStream’s defenders contend that the plant is a boon to hundreds of local workers. The company’s chief executive, Daniel Birnbaum, told The Forward this week that although the location was “a pain,” and that SodaStream could move all of its manufacturing to a factory inside Israeli’s internationally recognized borders, he would not do so out of concern for the Palestinians who would lose their jobs. “We will not throw our employees under the bus to promote anyone’s political agenda,” he said.

The newspaper also reported that during its correspondent’s visit, Mr. Birnbaum was applauded by Palestinian workers in the plant’s employee cafeteria when he reassured them that their jobs were safe.

Mr. Birnbaum also told a Reuters reporter who visited the factory the next day that the SodaStream factory was “a dream for activists and politicians on both sides of this dilemma, because it’s a model for peace and is proving every day that there can and will be peace between our peoples.”

The reporter, Noah Browning, noted however that a “mid-level Palestinian employee who spoke to Reuters outside the plant, away from the bosses, painted a far less perfect picture.”

“There’s a lot of racism here,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Most of the managers are Israeli, and West Bank employees feel they can’t ask for pay rises or more benefits because they can be fired and easily replaced.”

Robert Mackey also remixes the news on Twitter @robertmackey.


"It's complicated: An Arab factory in a Jewish settlement

A visit to the West Bank's Mishor Adumim industrial zone, which was thrust into the limelight this week due to its best-known factory, SodaStream, and actress Scarlett Johansson.

By Judy Maltz | Jan. 30, 2014 | 1:58 PM

{my blog program does not reproduce photographs]
Palestinian workers on a prayer break in Mishor Adumim, an industrial park in the West Bank. Photo by Michal Fattal

Mishor Adumim industrial zone in the West Bank, outside the settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim. Photo by Michal Fattal

For Palestinians, working at Mishor Adumim is very convenient. Photo by Michal Fattal

MISHOR ADUMIM, West Bank – The Shweiki glass factory, with its sleek outer façade and interior, stands out among the mostly shabby-looking low-tech plants, carpentries, workshops and garages that populate this industrial zone just outside the Jewish settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim.

But there’s something even more fundamental that sets it apart: Shweiki is an Arab-owned enterprise.

Its ultra-modern glass factory is just a few hundred meters down the road from SodaStream, the company that recently thrust this small industrial park into the international limelight when it hired American celebrity Scarlett Johansson to serve as the global ambassador for its soda machines – at a time when the movement to boycott goods made in the occupied territories is gathering momentum abroad.

A boycotted Palestinian firm

But the managers at Shweiki, established in 1936 by an East Jerusalem family, insists that they get an even worse rap than their Jewish counterparts. On the one hand, the Israeli Ministry of Defense refuses to give its seal of approval to the company’s shatterproof glass, while on the other, the Palestinian Authority boycotts its products.

“The Palestinians in Ramallah say we’re no better than the settlers,” explains Amran Shaloud, production manager at the plant, which moved to Mishor Adumim seven years ago.

Things tend to get complicated here, as stories like his would suggest. Sprawled over nearly 400 acres in the middle of the Judean Desert, a 15-minute drive from Jerusalem, Mishor Adumim is home today to close to 300 factories and small enterprises, including a bowling alley, two huge supermarkets, a small art museum, the huge Extal aluminum company and several kosher wineries. These businesses, including a very few owned by Arabs, are entitled to special tax breaks, as Mishor Adumim is an area designated for preferential treatment under Israeli law.

SodaStream is among the biggest operations, both physically and in terms of turnover, ine/2014/01/29/us/ap-us-people-scarlett-johansson.html?emc=eta1. And another AP: http://in this industrial zone. Surrounded by an ugly concrete wall topped with barbed wire, its manufacturing plant is situated just at the edge of Mishor Adumim, in clear view of local Palestinian children from nearby villages riding around on donkeys. SodaStream headquarters rejected a request from Haaretz earlier this week to pay a visit to its Mishor Adumim factory, saying: “We are not hosting such tours at this time.”

But other factories in the industrial zone were quick to open their doors and make their case for operating in this particular location. Most of these businesses, like SodaStream, rely heavily on Palestinian labor – in some cases, almost exclusively.

In defending her decision to represent an Israeli company based in occupied territory, Johansson this week cited the livelihood and welfare of these Palestinian workers. This claim echoed in numerous conversations with Jewish managers here this week.

“We can move our factories elsewhere, so it’s not a big problem for us, but they’ll lose their jobs,” notes Ami Cohen, the chief financial officer at Emesh, an upscale wood-furnishings manufacturer.

“Where else do they get paid like this, and where else do they have conditions like this? I give them time to pray every day and even provide them with water to wash their feet. Trust me, if you weren’t a journalist, my workers here would tell you that they’d rather that there not be any Palestinian state at all.”

But most of the local Jewish factory owners and operators acknowledge that it was not deep concern for the plight of local Palestinians that prompted them to set up shop in Mishor Adumim. Aside from the special tax benefits and the lower municipal taxes, there were also very basic geographic considerations.

“Because of the location, Palestinians can get to work here easily,” explains Akiva (who requested that his surname not be published), a manager at a local winery. “If they were working in Atarot [another industrial zone outside Jerusalem], they’d have to get up at 4 in the morning to make sure they could be at work by 7, because they’d have to go through checkpoints then. Here they don’t have to do that. Depending upon where they come from, it can take them less than a half hour to get to work, and that’s a big plus for people here.”

'No problems with location'

Seated at Miro’s, a popular local eatery known for its home-style cooking, are Yoram and Gilad, two brothers who run a large electronic appliances outlet store here. There was nothing ideological about their decision to set up a business over the Green Line, they insist. “We’re from Jerusalem, but there’s no available storage space in Jerusalem for an operation like this, and that’s why we had to come here,” says Gilad.
The managers of Emesh describe their factory as a model of Jewish-Arab coexistence. “About two-thirds of our workers are Palestinians,” says Eli Gelman, the production manager, who lives in the nearby settlement of Kfar Adumim. “They come from all over the place. We’ve got workers here from Ramallah, from Bethlehem and even from Hebron. Trust me, if they had better options in Hebron, they wouldn’t trek all the way here.”
A team of Palestinian workers from the factory, he volunteers, is now in England, doing some carpentry work for clients there.

So nobody’s threatening to boycott you overseas?

“Not at all. Most of our clients abroad are wealthy Jews, and they have no problems whatsoever with our location.”

Gelman circulates among the workers on the production floor, giving instructions in Hebrew and in English for those who don’t speak Hebrew. He motions to Ashraf, a curly-haired man in his forties, to join him and tells him to feel free to answer a reporter’s questions.

Does Ashraf have any reservations about working in a Jewish-owned factory in occupied territory? “I could care less,” he responds. “The one thing I care about is being able to put some food on the table for my kids.”

But couldn’t he find work closer to home in Ramallah? “Yes, but the bosses there aren’t as good as the bosses here,” he responds, as Gelman smiles on encouragingly.

Osama, a 24-year-old from Bethlehem, says it was the salary that brought him to Mishor Adumim. “I couldn’t find a job that pays as well near where I live,” he says.

Not far down the road, at the huge Rami Levy supermarket, a group of Arab workers congregates outside the back of the building, where they hold their midday prayers.

About half a dozen others sit down around a picnic table near the parking lot and share a communal lunch of cooked lentils, served in a huge aluminum pot. Issa, their self-appointed spokesman, runs the fresh produce department of the supermarket.

“I’m happy to talk about anything but politics,” says the 36-year-old, who hails from the nearby village of Azzariyeh and describes his marital status as “four kids, but only one wife.”

Relations between the Jewish and Arab workers at Rami Levy are “excellent,” he says.

“We’re all friends with each other on Facebook and sometimes we even eat together.”
Does he have a problem working for a Jewish-owned establishment in the occupied territories? “It’s my livelihood,” he responds and quickly changes the subject.

A few blocks down, at Miro’s, the regular lunch crowd has settled in – with no exceptions, all Jewish.

“I tried to get Arabs to come here and even offered them a special deal, but they prefer to buy their lunch at the local supermarkets,” explains the proprietor, Miro Mizrahi, as he takes orders from his longtime assistant, Mohammed.

The apparently self-imposed segregation at lunchtime is also reflected, though in a more subtle form, in factory premises around the industrial zone. Although Jews and Arabs do spend many hours each day together here in common spaces, it is by-and-large the Arabs who are down on the production floor working the machinery and the Jews upstairs in the posh offices, at large desks behind computer screens.

The rare exception would be factories like Schweiki, where not a Jew is in sight. “It’s hard for us to hire Jews here because we’re closed on Fridays, but open on Saturday, and that wouldn’t be comfortable for them,” explains Shaloud, whose factory is right next door to Jewish-run Emesh.

Shaloud is taking a late-afternoon break, talking to a friend, Samih Owweida, who runs an aluminum factory down the road.

“As Arabs, we get it from both ends,” gripes Owweida. “I want to sell my stuff in the West Bank, and nobody will buy from me there.”

And then, with a big sigh, he throws up his hands in despair and utters a small prayer: “Let there just be peace already, so we can finish with this whole mess.”


"Palestinians living near West Bank SodaStream factory urge Scarlett Johansson to end role with occupation profiteer

Annie Robbins on January 30, 2014

A network of Palestinians living near the SodaStream factory in the illegal settlement of Ma’ale Adumim in Occupied Palestine, as well as Israeli and international grassroots activists who work with them, have issued a press release today calling on Scarlett Johansson to step down as SodaStream spokesperson.

Press Release:

Bab al Shams Village Council (in coalition with The Jahalin Association) joins the growing chorus of human rights advocates, Palestinian civil society organizations such as the Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network (PNGO), the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) and other conscientious citizens of the world, calling on actress Scarlett Johansson to terminate her endorsement deal with SodaStream, whose factory in the illegal Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumim is on Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank.

Ma’ale Adumim, like all other Israeli settlements built on occupied land, is illegal and constitutes a war crime under international law. All companies operating in settlements directly support Israel’s illegal occupation and colonization of Palestinian land by paying taxes to municipal settlement governments, employing local settlers, and providing the economic infrastructure for Israel’s settlement expansion.

The settlements have always been labelled a problem for peace by successive U.S. administrations, the United Nations and peace negotiators. Recent European Union guidelines state that no settlements should benefit from European Union taxpayers’ money; President Obama has repeated that Ma’ale Adumim’s “E1 Development Plan” is a red line for his Administration.

While Johansson and company officials claim to be advancing the cause of peace and to support the two-state solution, they are in fact supporting a nearly half-century old Israeli military regime that brutally represses Palestinian rights, illegally exploits Palestinian resources, and denies millions of people the most fundamental of freedoms. Palestinian families, in particular Bedouins, are being forcibly displaced so settlements like Ma’ale Adumim can grow. Currently, some 3,000 Bedouin face expulsion from Palestinian lands, so that the massive colony of Ma’ale Adumim can expand further.

For Palestinians to enjoy genuine and lasting economic prosperity, they require freedom from Israeli domination, and an end to occupation and colonization of their land as supported by SodaStream. If Ms. Johansson truly wants to contribute to a more peaceful future for Israelis and Palestinians, she should begin by ending her endorsement of a company that profits from Israeli human rights abuses.

“Israel has been saying it’s serious about peace for over 20 years. Those words have proved empty when you see how settlements have massively expanded in that time. Or when you see how indigenous Palestinians have been displaced as a result of settlement expansionism,” said Bab al Shams village mayor, Jamil Barghouti. “How can you be talking peace when war crimes and colonialism are being committed under the guise of that talk? And how can someone like Scarlett Johansson be part of that deception? She should now withdraw for the sake of her own integrity.”


Bab al Shams Village Council (in coalition with The Jahalin Association) is a network of Palestinian popular committees, international and Israeli grassroots activists, working non-violently together to protect Palestinian rights to Jerusalem as a shared capital, with especial focus on preventing the eastern entry (the E1 area) to Jerusalem from being colonized by Ma’ale Adumim expansion."


"Ministers split on strategic plan over how to counter boycott threats

Yuval Steinitz advocates PR counteroffensive, but Avigdor Lieberman says this would play into activists' hands.

By Barak Ravid | Jan. 31, 2014 | 1:11 AM

Minister of Intelligence Yuval Steinitz (L), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) and Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mandelblit (R) at government meeting January 26, 2014. Photo by Emil Salman

Government ministries are sharply divided on how to handle the increasing threat of international boycotts and sanctions against Israel over the West Bank occupation and settlements. The Strategic and Intelligence Affairs Ministry, headed by Yuval Steinitz, advocates a public relations counter-offensive, but the Foreign Ministry, led by Avigdor Lieberman, argues that this would play into the hands of boycott activists.

Meanwhile, Norway’s Ministry of Finance announced yesterday that it will exclude Israeli firms Africa Israel Investments and Danya Cebus from its Government Pension Fund - Global, a vast fund that invests the country’s oil and gas wealth in foreign stocks and bonds.

According to the announcement, the Norwegian ministry received a recommendation on November 1 from the nation’s Council of Ethics to exclude the two companies from the fund “due to contribution to serious violations of individual rights in war or conflict through the construction of settlements in East Jerusalem.”

A discussion on how to deal with the boycott challenge had been scheduled for Wednesday in the Prime Minister’s Office. But due to the crisis between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, it was put off to next week. The discussion is also meant to set anti-boycott strategy and policy for the government as a whole.

However, senior officials said the ministries are divided over how to handle the threat and even about its severity. Other obstacles to setting strategy are the lack of coordination within the cabinet, turf wars, insufficient information about the boycott organizers and a shortage of funds.

On June 23 of last year, Netanyahu said at the weekly cabinet session that he had put the Strategic and Intelligence Affairs Ministry in charge of dealing with the boycott threat, including “the coordination of efforts with the organizations in Israel and the world to deal with the phenomenon directed against Israel and the Jewish people.”
Netanyahu had said the ministry would get all the 
authority and means required for the campaign.

But that meant transferring authority from Lieberman’s office to Steinitz’s, and at the time there was no full-time foreign minister as Lieberman was still embroiled in the criminal proceedings against him, of which he was ultimately acquitted.

A senior Foreign Ministry official said Netanyahu’s decision at the time grew out of a scheme by Steinitz, his ministry’s director-general Yossi Kuperwasser and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who had appointed Kuperwasser during his, Ya’alon’s, term as strategic affairs minister in the previous government.

Steinitz and Kuperwasser contend that what they call Israel’s “delegitimization” is a grave, widespread trend, and they are in favor of an aggressive public campaign against the boycott organizers. The two maintain that the campaign requires considerable resources.

In recent weeks Steinitz and Kuperwasser have drafted a plan for the campaign, which they intend to submit for approval at the discussion Netanyahu plans to hold next week.
Steinitz is demanding 100 million shekels (about $28.5 million) to implement the plan, which consists mainly of public diplomacy as well as legal measures against the groups encouraging the boycotts.

Steinitz’s aides said that in keeping with the prime minister’s instructions, “the minister is putting together an overall plan to fight the delegitimization. He has no intention of commenting on the figures since the plan is still being drafted.”

Diplomats in the Foreign Ministry, however, have a completely different approach. They believe Steinitz and Kuperwasser have overblown the threat and branded as “delegitimization” the legitimate criticism from foreign governments and NGOs of Israel’s policy in the territories, especially settlement construction.

Regarding the Norwegian decision, the government’s pension fund had excluded the Israeli companies from August 2010 to August 2013 for settlement-related similar reasons. “The Ministry of Finance has decided to follow the Council’s recommendation,” the ministry stated.

The pension fund holds more than 1 percent of all global stocks. It owned shares worth 7.2 million Norwegian kroner (‏$1.16 million) in Africa Israel Investments as of the end of 2009.

Netanyahu told Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg during a meeting with her in Davos last week that the Oslo government had become more balanced in its relations with Israel since the latest election.

Last month The Netherlands’ largest pension fund management company decided to withdraw all its investments from Israel’s five largest banks because they have branches in the West Bank, or are involved in financing construction in the settlements.