Update: Israeli conscientious objectors

Atalia Ben-Abba is an imprisoned Israeli conscientious objector

After 115 days of imprisonment, Israeli conscientious objector Tamar Ze’evi has had her objection to military service recognised, and has been granted CO status as a political refuser. However, conscientious objectors Atalia Ben-Abba and Tamar Alon have been imprisoned again for their refusal to take part in the occupation and serve in the IDF. This is Atalia’s second, and Tamar’s sixth imprisonment, and each will spend 30 days more behind bars. Click here send a protest email to the Israeli authorities.

“Our present reality needs to be changed, and my refusal is my way to change it”

In her declaration, Atalia, who has already spent 20 days behind bars and is currently spending 30 more following the final court decision, states:

My social responsibility as a stakeholder in our society is important to me. The people living here are important to me, all of the people living here, and it’s my responsibility and the responsibility of all of us to act for a better life here. My refusal to be drafted doesn’t come out of a renunciation of this responsibility, but out of the understanding that our present reality needs to be changed, and that my refusal is my way to change it…

I spoke once to a Palestinian activist who described the first time he met Israelis. All he saw, as a kid, were foreign soldiers, speaking a language he doesn’t understand, entering his village and demolishing houses. He feared them and was angry. Only years later he met Israelis who showed him another side. Hearing him made me understand the endless cycle we’re in – violence begets violence, there’s no solution in this way. Cooperation with Palestinians enables us to create a relationship that paves the way to peace and proves that there is a chance for partnership between the two sides for a better future.

Along with Atalia, Tamar Ze’evi and Tamar Alon have also repeated their refusal and sentenced to 30 days each. This will add to 97 and 100 days each has already spent behind bars in total respectively.

Read Tamar Ze’evi’s declaration here.

Read Tamar Alon’s declaration here.

Solidarity

As well as filling in our email alert you can also send your emails of support to Atalia, Tamar and Tamar. Use this link to write them and your messages will be passed on.

You can also write to Israel’s embassies abroad. Find a list of these here.




When Muhammad Ali took the real heavy weight

A reposting for International Conscientious Objectors Day.

In an era defined by endless war, we should recognise a day in history that wasn’t celebrated on Capitol Hill or in the White House. On June 20, 1967, the great Muhammad Ali was convicted in Houston for refusing induction in the US armed forces. Ali saw the war in Vietnam as an exercise in genocide. He also used his platform as a boxing champion to connect the war abroad with the war at home, saying: “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs?” For these statements, as much as the act itself, Judge Joe Ingraham handed down the maximum sentence to Cassius Clay (as they insisted upon calling him in court): five-years in a Federal penitentary and a $10,000 fine. The next day, this was the top-flap story for the New York Times with the headline: “Clay Guilty in Draft Case; Gets Five Years in Prison.”

The sentence was unusually harsh, and deeply tied to a Beltway, bipartisan consensus to crush Ali and ensure that he not develop into a symbol of anti-war resistance. The day of Ali’s conviction the US Congress voted 337-29 to extend the draft for four more years. They also voted 385-19 to make it a federal crime to desecrate the flag. Their fears of a rising movement against the war were well-founded.

The summer of 1967 marked a tipping point for public support of the Vietnam “police action”. While the Tet Offensive, which exposed the lie that the United States was winning the war, was still six months away, the news out of south-east Asia was increasingly grim. At the time of Ali’s conviction, 1,000 Vietnamese noncombatants were being killed each week by US forces. One hundred US soldiers were dying each and every day, and the war was costing $2bn a month.

Anti-war sentiment was growing and it was thought that a stern rebuke of Ali would help put out the fire. In fact, the opposite took place. Ali’s brave stance fanned the flames. As Julian Bond said, “[It] reverberated through the whole society. … [Y]ou could hear people talking about it on street corners. It was on everyone’s lips. People who had never thought about the war before began to think it through because of Ali. The ripples were enormous.”

Ali himself vowed to appeal the conviction, saying: “I strongly object to the fact that so many newspapers have given the American public and the world the impression that I have only two alternatives in this stand – either I go to jail or go to the Army. There is another alternative, and that alternative is justice. If justice prevails, if my constitutional rights are upheld, I will be forced to go neither to the Army nor jail. In the end, I am confident that justice will come my way, for the truth must eventually prevail.”

Already by this point, Ali’s heavyweight title had been stripped, beginning a three-and-a-half-year exile. Already Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam had begun to distance themselves from their most famous member. Already, Ali had become a punching bag for almost every reporter with a working pen. But with his conviction came a new global constituency. In Guyana, protests against his sentence took place in front of the US embassy. In Karachi, Pakistan, a hunger strike began in front of the US consulate. In Cairo, demonstrators took to the streets. In Ghana, editorials decried his conviction. In London, an Irish boxing fan named Paddy Monaghan began a long and lonely picket of the US Embassy. Over the next three years, he would collect more than twenty thousand signatures on a petition calling for the restoration of Muhammad Ali’s heavyweight title.

Ali at this point was beginning to see himself as someone who had a greater responsibility to an international groundswell that saw him as more than an athlete. “Boxing is nothing, just satisfying to some bloodthirsty people. I’m no longer a Cassius Clay, a Negro from Kentucky. I belong to the world, the black world. I’ll always have a home in Pakistan, in Algeria, in Ethiopia. This is more than money.”

Eventually justice did prevail and the Supreme Court overturned Ali’s conviction in 1971. They did so only after the consensus on the war had changed profoundly. Ali had been proven right by history, although a generation of people in Asia and the United States paid a terrible price along the way.

Years later upon reflection, Ali said he had no regrets. “Some people thought I was a hero. Some people said that what I did was wrong. But everything I did was according to my conscience. I wasn’t trying to be a leader. I just wanted to be free. And I made a stand all people, not just black people, should have thought about making, because it wasn’t just black people being drafted. The government had a system where the rich man’s son went to college, and the poor man’s son went to war. Then, after the rich man’s son got out of college, he did other things to keep him out of the Army until he was too old to be drafted.”

As we remain mired in a period of permanent war, take a moment and consider the risk, sacrifice, and principle necessary to dismantle the war machine. We all can’t be boxing champions, but moving forward, all who oppose war can rightfully claim Ali’s brave history as our own

Dave Zirin




Remembering Gaza and Rachel on her 38th birthday, a message from Cindy Corrie

APRIL 10 – Remembering Gaza and Rachel – on her 38th birthday

Today is my daughter Rachel Corrie’s 38th birthday. In Olympia, Washington, where she grew up, we will mark the occasion with a gathering to inaugurate our Rachel Corrie Foundation (RCF) Gaza Committee. Rachel was killed in Rafah, Gaza, March 16, 2003, as she engaged in nonviolent direct action to challenge mass demolitions of Palestinian homes by the Israeli military. In the intervening years, our family, our community, and the Rachel Corrie Foundation have connected with Gaza in different ways. We have partnered with others throughout the U.S. and world who have made  those connections, as well.

There have been delegation trips to the Gaza Strip to meet with families Rachel  knew and organizations with which she worked. RCF programs have provided for a Gaza student to study at The Evergreen State College, for a recipient of our Leadership Studies Fellowship to learn and to teach in our community, and for speakers from Gaza to share their stories firsthand in the U.S. The Olympia-Rafah Solidarity  Mural Project in downtown Olympia has for many years been a visible reminder of our relationship, and at this month’s Olympia Arts Walk on April 28th will feature work from Gaza  artists and others who have contributed to creating the mural and making the connections. RCF Gaza projects have supported the grassroots efforts and imagination of Rachel’s Gaza friends and of Gaza youth who continue to find inspiration and hope in her story. The Gaza Sport Initiative, Remedial Education Project for Learning Disabled Children, and artistic and cultural youth performances through the Palestinian Cultural Palace are current efforts that keep the connections strong.

As we in the U.S. deal with our own challenges, and as terrible conflict continues and worsens in other parts of the Middle East and world, at the Rachel Corrie Foundation we feel a strong need to make sure Gaza is remembered. The people there continue to live with enormous hardship, under blockade and siege, with a failed economy, and with ever increasing threats to their health and safety.

Rachel wrote to me in 2003, “I do think that it’s important to recognize all the zillions of small things we can do for change…small revolutionary things.” Remembering her words, I thank those of you who have reached out to us this month with thoughtful messages and taken your own actions in support of the people of Gaza. Thank you, too, for the critical financial support you’ve sent for our RCF Gaza projects and efforts. We look forward to including you in the work of our new Gaza Committee. Our staff identified a fundraising goal of $15,000 for this period in order to support our current projects for youth and families in Gaza. Through your generosity, we are nearly 2/3 the way there! If you haven’t yet donated, and are able to do so, your support for Gaza on Rachel’s birthday will mean a great deal to all of us and to our colleagues in Gaza.

Many thanks,
Cindy Corrie

Rachel Corrie Foundation For Peace and Justice




Love Liberates

Happy Birthday, Sister.




Ishmael – An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit

In 1989 Ted Turner created a fellowship to be awarded to a work of fiction offering positive solutions to global problems. The winner, chosen from 2500 entries worldwide, was a work of startling clarity and depth: Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael, a Socratic journey that explores the most challenging problem humankind has ever faced: How to save the world from ourselves.

(Click on the cover image to open a PDF copy in another tab. Alternatively, right click/Ctrl click and Save As/Save Link As)