July 22, 2016

America's sixty five your support for the Palestinian genocide

GUEST: Ben Ehrenreich, author of "The Way to the Spring," based on his three years in the West Bank traveling and living with Palestinian families, talks about the extremes of oppression suffered by an occupied people.

Ben Ehrenreich took a risk telling stories about non-people. To consider a Palestinian a person at all, especially in US politics, is to come under relentless assault as an antiSemite. And if presidential candidates reflect the national mood, both Hillary and Trump are the most rabid Zionists who have ever sought that office. 

Both candidates, however, may be out of step with what most Americans think. Close to 90% of voters express frustration at the choices they have for president. Hillary is terrible on the environment, on wars in the Middle East, on the new Cold War, and on Wall Street dominance of our system. Hillary's only substantive difference to Trump may be the fact that he is worse than she is.

Trump has the high ground, however, when it comes to anger at the "system." Hillary is so much a part of the system, that any populist expressions come out like everything else she does, looking like another lie.

But what about the brutal occupation of millions in Palestine? What about their destroyed lives and imprisoned children? Their story is a the heart of our neoliberal empire, and their suffering is a crime our leaders are not likely to acknowledge. 

"The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine" is one of those important books that will someday effect our national conscience. We can see the change coming in candidates like Jill Stein and Bernie Sanders. America's sixty five your support for the Palestinian genocide may be coming to an end. We can't all spend years living in Palestine, but we can read Ben Ehrenreich book, and start demanding that apartheid no longer be practiced in our name.

July 20, 2016

Shame on us all

GUEST: David Cobb, American political activist, former Green Party presidential candidate and co-founder of Move to Amend, talks about the national campaign to restore Constitutional rights to the people rather than the corporations.

David is very persuasive. Not only is he a forceful speaker, but he has history on his side. The problem of corporate rule can be seen back in the 1890's, a festering cancer that has just gotten worse. 

A big part of the problem is that both parties support corporate rule, mainly because they have long ago sold out for the millions in campaign contributions to be had as part of the deal. "End Citizens United" is a good example of how corporations rule us through deception. You think you are working for change, but somehow it never really happens.

Obama ran on the slogan "99% spring" because he is a master at public relations, not because he believed in a people's rebellion. In fact, he had just crippled the Occupy Movement with heavy handed police tactics. But Obama does what modern Democrats do best: talk about progressive reforms before each election, and then sell out the people once in office. It worked for both Clinton and Obama, two of the most shameful grifters we have had in the White House. Maybe it will work with Bernie. Yes, he said many of the right things. The bait and switch comes with Hillary, the corporate candidate voted in as president. Fool me twice, shame on us all.

July 7, 2016

His rightful place in that chain gang

GUEST: Jay Wenk, local World War II veteran, and author of Study War No More: A Jewish Kid from Brooklyn Fights the Nazis, talks about his work on the Woodstock Town Board defending freedom of speech from Governor Cuomo's executive order outlawing boycotts of Israeli occupation.

Both Eli and I know Jay well. I filmed him getting arrested at the White House. So it was no surprise that Jay enthusiastically endorsed the idea of challenging Governor's executive order against the boycott of Israel. And since Jay is on the Woodstock Town Board, that is where we decided to start with the Woodstock Free Speech Campaign.

For the next several months, we will be holding movies, panels, and community meetings on Cuomo's challenge to our First Amendment rights. The plus side is that through our meetings and letters to the editor, most people in Woodstock will learn about Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, the non-violent response to Israel's illegal and immoral occupation of Palestinian lands.

Vassar College went through a similar battle last year. The student union passed a resolution supporting BDS on the Vassar College campus. Then came the phone calls to the president from wealth alums threatening to withhold donations. There were some strong Zionists on the Vassar Board of Directors as well, and the president of the college did what many college presidents do these days, she chose money over freedom of speech on campus. She threatened to defund any campus activity that tried to boycott Israeli products, producing a strong backlash among students. She also attacked some professors that came to speak on campus, insinuating that they were antiSemitic. Thankfully, the president resigned this year.

Cuomo's executive order is all about money as well. Rather than fulfilling his duties to the citizens of NY State, he has climbed aboard the Israeli gravy train. He is more than willing to sell out our First Amendment to make points with rich, Zionist donors. 

How is this not treason? At some point, US politicians will go to jail for betraying their country for money. We fervently hope that Governor Cuomo takes his rightful place in that chain gang. 

July 1, 2016

Ayman's story

Rapper tells it like it is in Gaza

Telling a story was Scheherazade's way of avoiding death at the hands of the oppressive king, but Ayman Mghamis’ way—unusual for a conservative society like Gaza—is rap.  Through this art form--part poetry, part music, all feeling—he tackles even the most difficult of subjects, from endless war, to political corruption, to the male domination of society.

Ayman Mghamis, now 31, started rapping his frustration and hopes in the aftermath of the Second Intifada--becoming cofounder of Palestinian Rapperz. "I was too young to die while throwing stones at Israeli forces, but then I discovered rap, a non-violent way of resistance."

Although inspired by DAM, the first Palestinian rappers in Israel, the group’s rap was more fierce, inspired as it was by daily clashes with soldiers and home destructions.

The Palestinian Rapperz are now are scattered, each in a different country. Ayman is the only one who ultimately chose to return to Gaza after their tours abroad. Why? He says it is first due to the fact that he is the eldest in his family and must provide for his siblings after the murder of their father, and second because his rap wouldn't be as genuine coming from abroad, disconnected from the fear and pain of his people. Ayman believes that if the borders were open, Gaza would be known throughout the world not for its victimization but for its many talented residents.

"Rap to me is no longer a way of resistance, although it was for the 18-year-old Ayman; today, it's my way to avoid abuse of drugs like Tramadol to dull the pain of a never-ending oppression," he says.

From death comes inspiration

During the 2008-2009 Israeli assault on Gaza, the struggle for freedom became personal when Ayman’s father was killed in his home, when the house was hit by four missiles. He says this made his rap more exquisite. (In the video, Ayman talks about the death of hs father.)

A new inspiration: fatherhood

Once Ayman married and had a daughter, his rap transitioned to focus on how to protect her from the patriarchal Gazan society.

Ayman dedicated one of his most recent songs, “Bedtime Story,” to 3-year-old Joury (see the video at the top).

One verse says:
My girl, be yourself … don’t be afraid Don’t stop and look back .. keep challenging. Don’t hide behind anyone’s shade or wing, Be the daughter of Al-Quds, the hope for tomorrow.

And the chorus:
Come closer, my baby. It’s bedtime I will now tell you your bedtime story. Once upon a long time ago, A cute girl like you had many dreams.

Ayman would like Joury to grow up to become an independent woman, responsible for her own decisions: "Women in Gaza aren’t actually aware of their rights. Those who are informed find it too difficult to oppose the patriarchal society," he says.

Fighting obstacles

Mon'im Awad, one of his rapper friends, says he couldn't sleep for days after three children from the El-Hindi family burned to death because they were forced to rely on candles for light when the power was out. As a release for his grief, he wrote and produced a video honoring their memory and the role all of the different parties played.

"They [the government] want us to talk about hope and love, but we have neither," comments Mon'im, who views rap as the “fourth authority” since it exposes truth in the face of the corrupt media. Mon'im, who uses YouTube as his platform, says he doesn't care about the number of views his videos get, but rather what the general public thinks. He often asks random taxi drivers to listen to his songs. "Their reaction, seeing them moving their heads in pleasure, is what I'm truly interested in."

Ayman observes, "Gaza is a land of contradictions and creativity.” He believes all art in Gaza is marginalized, rap not more than any other form. The Ministry of Culture has no tangible role in the advancement of art. "If you want support, you either support yourself or find a foreign agency to help you."

In fact, he and Mon’em believe it is the government that is the biggest obstacle to the nourishment of rap music in Gaza. Mon'em laughs while recalling the first time he performed in the streets; his friend urged him to run away once they finished. Mon'em didn't ask why until they were hundreds of meters and his friend told him Hamas would imprison or at least torture them.

People in Gaza who oppose rap think it is all about drugs, women and booze because that's what they see on TV. But if they listen to Ayman’s and Mon'em’s songs, their view will differ because they are just like those of the first African-Americans: They express the anger and e frustration every Gazan suffers.

Ayman is about to finish his first album, consisting of 10 songs—each dealing with a different topic. For instance, Safar [Travel] is about a guy who is having an internal conflict in which he lives in a refugee camp abroad with his beloved, but he also longs for Palestine. Bin Elshawai [Between Streets] deals with child labor, and another song titled El'alm Lithnin [The World is for Two] is about women's rights.

Ayman's story doesn't only prove the fact that art is universal, but also that it is a powerful form of empowerment for youth, especially those who come of age in a war zone. With more than 30 professional rappers in Gaza today, rap is thriving.

Note: Jackie Salloum directed a documentary that followed five years of rap's development in both Gaza and the West Bank. Titled "Slingshot Hip Hop," it is available on YouTube.

Posted on June 18, 2016

- See more at: http://wearenotnumbers.org/home/Story/Rapper_tells_it_like_it_is_in_Gaza