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Tuesday, May 28, 2024


Control the Future: Palestine native urges Beaver County to speak up for a Gaza ceasefire

By Andrew Stepke

Special to The Times

May 22, 2024, BEAVER - The conflict between Israel and Palestine has been ongoing for nearly 76 years and boiled over last year after an Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack in Israel, leading to an armed response in Palestine. But even though the resulting destruction and death has been in the news for months, it still likely feels distant for many Beaver Countians.

That is why Beaver County Peace Links recently sponsored a talk by Ahmed Arafat, a Palestinian native who now resides in Pittsburgh, and others at Beaver Area Memorial Library about the suffering that is going on in Gaza.

Palestine native Ahmed Arafat speaking May 18, 2024, at the Beaver Area Memorial Library urging a ceasefire in the Gaza conflict.

Speaking to those gathered at the Beaver library, Arafat said he wants to tell stories that help people understand what is happening in Gaza and why a ceasefire is so important for every party involved. A second Palestinian speaker, Arafat's wife, Eman, shared the medical status of Gaza residents, which is grim.

Israel-Hamas War:Israel pounds Gaza as top official gives Netanyahu ultimatum for postwar plan

Arafat talked about his childhood and familial roots in Gaza which extend far beyond his lifetime, as his family goes back generations. He said his grandparents, aunts, uncles and all family members have felt the war's effects.

Arafat spent most of his young life there, but went to school overseas. His father urged him to study when he was young because “as a refugee, the only thing you can do is get a good education.”

People gathered May 18, 2024, at the Beaver Area Memorial Library to hear Palestine native Ahmed Arafat talk about Gaza.

While the recent Gaza War is new, Arafat is no stranger to conflict. He said, “We didn’t have snow days [growing up], we had tank days.” When tanks would roll through his neighborhood, school was not an option for young Arafat.

Something important Arafat said he wanted to disprove is regular misconceptions about Palestinean people. Part of this talk was to help eradicate stereotypes. He said Palestinean education is not one that “teaches terrorism” or any other harmful practices.

“All the people of Gaza are family,”Arafat said, “the majority of Palestinean people have zero hate in their hearts.”

Other stereotypes would suggest women and children being used as human shields and that is the reason for high death numbers, but Arafat said that isn’t the case. He has four sisters living in Gaza and 14 nieces and nephews. One of his sisters has moved her family seven different times to escape the Israeli bombings.

Arafat said, “[I] hear a story every single day of civil servants dying tragically … Loss of life should not happen.”

In the end, Arafat said he wanted to point out some facts. “Since 2014, 17,000 children have died, [and] 25,000 are left orphaned with no family,” he said.

Arafat added, “It’s simple. If you get a ceasefire today, 50 kids will not die tomorrow.”

Putting an end to continual death and suffering is what Arafat pleads for, not just because they are his people but because they are human beings.

“If eight months later we’re looking for who’s to blame, we’re in the wrong place, talking to the wrong people … We need to be the voice to the voiceless, for the children [who have died]”

Commending the crowd gathered for the event, Arafat urged folks to speak up for a ceasefire.

“Just by being here, you are on the right side of history," he said. "While we can’t change the past, we have full control of the future.”

Also sponsoring the event were Beaver County Blue, Peace Action, United Electrical Workers Eastern Region and Pittsburgh Palestine Coalition.



Thursday, April 4, 2024

A Revolution in American Foreign Policy

Replacing Greed, Militarism, and Hypocrisy With Solidarity, Diplomacy, and Human Rights

By Bernie Sanders

Foreign Policy

March 18, 2024 - ad fact about the politics of Washington is that some of the most important issues facing the United States and the world are rarely debated in a serious manner. Nowhere is that more true than in the area of foreign policy. For many decades, there has been a “bipartisan consensus” on foreign affairs. Tragically, that consensus has almost always been wrong. Whether it has been the wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, the overthrow of democratic governments throughout the world, or disastrous moves on trade, such as entering the North American Free Trade Agreement and establishing permanent normal trade relations with China, the results have often damaged the United States’ standing in the world, undermined the country’s professed values, and been disastrous for the American working class.

This pattern continues today. After spending billions of dollars to support the Israeli military, the United States, virtually alone in the world, is defending Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing extremist government, which is waging a campaign of total war and destruction against the Palestinian people, resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands—including thousands of children—and the starvation of hundreds of thousands more in the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, in fear-mongering around the threat posed by China and in the continued growth of the military industrial complex, it’s easy to see that the rhetoric and decisions of leaders in both major parties are frequently guided not by respect for democracy or human rights but militarism, groupthink, and the greed and power of corporate interests. As a result, the United States is increasingly isolated not just from poorer countries in the developing world but from many of its long-standing allies in the industrialized world, as well.

Given these failures, it is long past time to fundamentally reorient American foreign policy. Doing so starts with acknowledging the failures of the post–World War II bipartisan consensus and charting a new vision that centers human rights, multilateralism, and global solidarity.

A SHAMEFUL TRACK RECORD

Dating back to the Cold War, politicians in both major parties have used fear and outright lies to entangle the United States in disastrous and unwinnable foreign military conflicts. Presidents Johnson and Nixon sent nearly three million Americans to Vietnam to prop up an anticommunist dictator in a Vietnamese civil war under the so-called domino theory—the idea that if one country fell to communism the surrounding countries would fall as well. The theory was wrong, and the war was an abject failure. Up to three million Vietnamese were killed, as were 58,000 American troops.

The destruction of Vietnam was not quite enough for Nixon and his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. They expanded the war into Cambodia with an immense bombing campaign that killed hundreds of thousands more people and fueled the rise of the dictator Pol Pot, whose subsequent genocide killed up to two million Cambodians. In the end, despite suffering enormous casualties and spending huge amounts of money, the United States lost a war that never should have been fought. In the process, the country severely damaged its credibility abroad and at home.

Washington’s record in the rest of the world was not much better during this era. In the name of combating communism and the Soviet Union, the U.S. government supported military coups in Iran, Guatemala, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Chile, and other countries. These interventions were often in support of authoritarian regimes that brutally repressed their own people and exacerbated corruption, violence, and poverty. Washington is still dealing with the fallout from such meddling today, confronting deep suspicion and hostility in many of these countries, which complicates U.S. foreign policy and undermines American interests.

A generation later, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, Washington repeated many of these same mistakes. President George W. Bush committed nearly two million U.S. troops and over $8 trillion to a “global war on terror” and catastrophic wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Iraq war, much like Vietnam, was built on an outright lie. “We cannot wait for the final proof—the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud,” Bush infamously warned. But there was no mushroom cloud and there was no smoking gun, because the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein didn’t have any weapons of mass destruction. The war was opposed by many U.S. allies, and the Bush administration’s unilateral, go-it-alone approach in the run-up to the war severely undermined American credibility and eroded trust in Washington around the world. Despite this, supermajorities in both chambers of Congress voted to authorize the 2003 invasion.

The Iraq war was not an aberration. In the name of the global war on terror, the United States carried out torture, illegal detention, and “extraordinary renditions,” snatching suspects around the world and holding them for long periods at the Guantánamo Bay prison in Cuba and CIA “black sites” around the world. The U.S. government implemented the Patriot Act, which resulted in mass surveillance domestically and internationally. The two decades of fighting in Afghanistan left thousands of U.S. troops dead or wounded and caused many hundreds of thousands of Afghan civilian casualties. Today, despite all that suffering and expenditure, the Taliban is back in power. Continue..,

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

BCPL Activists Visit Congressman Deluzio's Office Demanding Gaza Ceasefire

 

From left to right: Carl Davidson, Peter Deutsch, Jerry DeSena, Marcia Lehmann, Linda Stanley, Randy Shannon. Seated: Tina Shannon.

Beaver County Peace Links visited the local office of our Congressman March 5 to deliver a letter expressing our views of a immediate ceasefire in Gaza, and self-determination for Palestine, among other points. See the full text below. We also vigiled for a while along the highway outside the Center township shopping center where it is located. We plan regular vigils in the months to come outside the Courthouse in Beaver, PA.


Here's text text of our letter:

Dear Rep. Deluzio:

We are Beaver County Peace Links bcpeacelinks.net/, a local peace/anti-war citizens group that formed in 1972. As your constituents, we write this letter with heavy hearts, knowing that our US taxpayer dollars are going to support Israel in its war of revenge that has broadened to genocide against the Palestinian people in Gaza. 

We must also speak out and oppose Israeli policies of 75 years of land-grabs, destruction of homes, unjust incarceration and killings of innocents by Jewish settlers and the IDF in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

We acknowledge the horrific attack on Israel by Hamas on October 7th and the suffering of the Israeli people. We support all the inhabitants, Israeli and Palestinian, to live in peace with a just outcome. However, this vicious cycle of 75 years of cruel dispossession and fierce oppression against the Palestinians must cease! Americans are now awake to these atrocities.

We ask you to speak out and call on the Biden Administration to IMMEDIATELY enact the following:

1. A permanent CEASEFIRE NOW!
2. Stop US weapons to Israel - follow US arms-transfer laws, treaties & policies
3. Immediately restore UNRWA humanitarian aide to all Palestinians at prewar quantities
4. Self-Determination for Palestinian governance

Also, it is preposterous and contradictory that on one hand the US weapons reap horrific death, maiming and destruction upon the Palestinians, but with the other hand the US air
drops inadequate MRE’s to those same starving people. It will be even more difficult for the US to continue the rhetoric of establishing itself as a beacon of democracy in the world after these hypocritical acts of defying our own arms-transfer laws and policies, while being party to this level of intentionally-inflicted suffering of civilians.

We call on you to provide leadership in the Congressional Progressive Caucus, use the UN Resolutions on the conflict as a guide, and take a stand with the four points above, as other progressive House Members have done.

Sincerely for real peace,
Beaver County Peace Links Steering Committee

Carl Davidson, acting President
Linda Stanley, Vice President
Peter Deutsch, Secretary
Marcia Lehman, Treasurer
Jerry DeSena
Sr. Kari Pohl
Nancy O’Leary
Rev. Todd Davis (Ret.)

 

Saturday, February 24, 2024

'Hands off Rafah!' protest in East Liberty

 

Hundreds of people participated in the "Hands off Rafah" protest organized by Students for Justice in Palestine from the University of Pittsburgh outside of Target in East Liberty on Feb. 16, 2024. Protesters marched down Penn Ave. demanding justice and calling for a ceasefire in Rafah, a city in Gaza.

 By   

Pittsburgh City Paper 


On Friday, February 16, hundreds of people participated in the “Hands off Rafah” protest organized by Students for Justice in Palestine from the University of Pittsburgh outside of Target in East Liberty. Protesters marched down Penn Ave. demanding justice and calling for a ceasefire in Rafah, a city in Gaza. 

Go Here for Slideshow of Pictures

 



Monday, February 5, 2024

Scores Of Gaza War Protestors Detained At PA Capitol














Police detain more than 100 people protesting at Pa. Capitol Monday who want Pennsylvania to divest from Israeli bonds

By Zack Hoopes

Pennlive.com

More than 100 people protesting the war in Gaza were detained at the Pennsylvania Capitol on Monday.

The protestors were handcuffed with zip ties by Capitol police and state troopers and taken into custody of the Capitol police after refusing to leave the Rotunda, the main hall of the Capitol, police said.

Those who were detained were released after being held for less than an hour. They were issued citations by Capitol police for $40.

The protestors organized a rally outside the East Wing of the Capitol Monday morning to call on the state to divest millions held in Israeli government bonds.

They moved inside the Capitol around noon holding banners reading “30,000 Killed in Gaza,” “Fund PA Schools and “Fund PA Transit.” The protestors were led away to a holding area in the Capitol about 1:30 p.m. and released around 2:20 p.m.

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Carpet Bombing Is Not ‘Self-Defense’

Photo: Fire and smoke rise following Israeli airstrikes in northern Gaza Strip, Monday, Oct. 30, 2023.




By Sofia Uriagereka-Herburger 

The Pitt News Senior Staff Columnist

OCTOBER 31, 2023 - When white phosphorus comes in contact with human skin, it can burn all the way down to the bone. Even if one is able to extinguish it, it can continue burning. The person it is burning through will feel completely alone, even if there are others risking the same agony to help them. It burns the respiratory tract and damages eyesight. It is not even considered a chemical weapon by the international community anymore — it’s an incendiary one. The use of it against civilians is widely classified and understood as a war crime. Israel has launched white phosphorus into Gaza since Oct. 10, with even earlier yet unconfirmed reports. 

Israel has killed over 8,000 Palestinians in the last three weeks in response to the Hamas attack on Oct. 7 on Israel, which killed approximately 1,400 Israelis. 

Before anything else, I feel that some things must be stated, if only for the sake of not straying from the argument at hand. Targeting civilians is unacceptable. All civilian deaths are horrific, and the pain felt by those in mourning is impossible to ignore. I sincerely hope that the Israeli state engages in negotiations and that Hamas safely returns the Israeli hostages to their families soon. 

Neither this article nor any expression of a desire to see Palestinians live in peace is a cheapening or a disparaging of the loss felt by Palestinians and Israelis alike. I understand that for many, the deaths of Israeli civilians are the first deaths they have heard of in this “conflict” and that for many, this is their first time attempting to recognize the depth of violence that has besieged Palestine for the better part of the last century. I understand that the sudden visibility of violence makes grief complex and that the level of propaganda enforced in the U.S. makes it genuinely difficult for people to even recognize it. All that said, there is nothing in the world that justifies the actions of the Israeli state towards Palestinian civilians. Nothing. 

There does not exist an excuse for the killing of 8,000 people. I will not entertain any justification for it, and neither should anyone interested in emerging from this period of hideous violence — an end which will hopefully not signal the total destruction of Gaza — with any semblance of a conscience intact. Please, for your own sake, listen to the thousands of Palestinian voices urging you to recognize their humanity and the thousands of Jewish voices urging an end to the weaponization of their grief and profound faith as justification for genocide. 

There will never be a justification for a military this powerful to exercise such a brutal hegemony on a civilian population with no military, and no bomb shelters, even. Under this apartheid, Palestinians do not even have the right to leave behind their homes, to escape  –  Israel sends airstrikes to where it directs Palestinians to flee. In Gaza, they do not have tanks. They do not have missiles, or white phosphorus, or over $260 billion in aid from the U.S.

As of Oct. 25, Israel has dropped 12,000 tons of bombs on the Gaza Strip, a site commonly referred to as an “open-air prison,” roughly the size of Detroit, with approximately 2 million inhabitants, more than half of which are children. If you cannot comprehend the repugnancy of dropping 12,000 tons of bombs on a civilian population, if those figures are not enough for you, perhaps contextualization will help. That is an estimated equivalence to the tonnage of the nuclear bomb the American government dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

NEEDED: A Stronger United Nations to Achieve World Peace



The Ukraine War is the latest sign that all nations should recognize to indicate the necessity to move beyond national isolation toward cooperation and unity.

BY LAWRENCE S. WITTNER

LA PROGRESSIVE, SEP 27, 2023

Addressing the UN Security Council on September 20th, 2023, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky delivered a heartfelt plea “to update the existing security architecture in the world, in particular, to restore the real power of the UN Charter.”


This call for strengthening international security under the aegis of the United Nations makes sense not only for Ukraine―a country suffering from brutal military invasion, occupation, and annexation by its much larger, more powerful neighbor, the Russian Federation―but for the nations of the world.


For thousands of years, competing territories, nations, and empires have spilled rivers of blood and laid waste to much of the world through wars and plunder. Hundreds of millions of people have died, while many more have been horribly injured or forced to flee their shattered homelands in a desperate search for safety. World Wars I and II, capped off by the use of nuclear weapons to annihilate the populations of entire cities, brought massive suffering to people around the globe.


In 1945, this mad slaughter and devastation convinced far-sighted thinkers, as well as many government leaders, that human survival was dependent upon developing a framework for international security: the United Nations. The UN Charter, adopted in a conference in the spring of that year in San Francisco by 50 Allied nations, declared that a key purpose of the new organization was “to maintain international peace and security.”


The UN Charter, which constitutes international law, included provisions detailing how nations were to treat one another in the battered world emerging from the Second World War. Among its major provisions was Article 2, Section 4, which declared that “all members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.” Furthermore, Article 51 declared that “nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a member of the United Nations.”


Although the UN Charter provided for a General Assembly in which all member nations were represented, action to maintain international peace and security was delegated primarily to a UN Security Council with 15 members, five of whom (the United States, the Soviet Union, China, Britain, and France) were to be permanent members with the right to veto Security Council resolutions or action.


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Not surprisingly, the right of any of these five nations to block Security Council peace efforts, a right they had insisted upon as the price of their participation in the United Nations, hamstrung the world organization from enforcing peace and international security on numerous occasions. The most recent instance has occurred in the case of the Ukraine War, a conflict in which, as Zelensky lamented, “all [Security Council] efforts are vetoed by the aggressor.” As a result, the United Nations has all too often lacked the power to enforce the principles of international law confirmed by its members and enshrined in its Charter.


Some people are perfectly content with the weakness of the United Nations. Fierce nationalists, as exemplified by Donald Trump and his Republican followers, are contemptuous of this or any international security organization, and many would prefer its abolition. Others have little use for the United Nations but, instead, place their hopes for the maintenance of international peace and stability upon public and governmental acceptance of great power spheres of influence. Meanwhile, a segment of the international Left ignores the United Nations and insists that world peace will only be secured by smashing “U.S. imperialism.”


Sadly, those forces opposing international organization and action fail to recognize that their proposals represent not only a return to thousands of years of international strife and mass slaughter among nations, but, in today’s world, an open door to a nuclear holocaust that will end virtually all life on earth.


Compared to this descent into international chaos and destruction, proposals to strengthen the United Nations are remarkably practical and potentially effective. Zelensky has suggested empowering the UN General Assembly to overcome a Security Council veto by a vote of two-thirds or more of the Assembly’s nations. In addition, he has proposed expanding the representation of nations in the Security Council, temporarily suspending membership of a Security Council member when it “resorts to aggression against another nation in violation of the UN Charter,” and creating a deterrent to international aggression by agreeing on the response to it before it occurs.


Of course, there are numerous other ways to strengthen the United Nations as a force for peace and to help ensure that it works as an effective international agency for battling the onrushing climate catastrophe, combating disease pandemics, and cracking down on the exploitative practices of multinational corporations. Its member nations could also rally behind the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (still unsigned by the nuclear powers), agree on a UN program to handle the burgeoning international refugee crisis, and provide the world organization with substantially greater financial resources to reduce global poverty and mass misery than it currently receives.


Indeed, the horrific Ukraine War is but the latest canary in the coal mine―the danger signal that people of all nations should recognize as indicating the necessity for moving beyond national isolation and beginning a new era of global responsibility, cooperation, and unity.


The opinions expressed here are solely the author's and do not reflect the opinions or beliefs of the LA Progressive.


ARMED CONFLICTUNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCILEUROPE/RUSSIAUKRAINEUNITED NATIONS

Lawrence S. Wittner

BY LAWRENCE S. WITTNER

Lawrence Wittner is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany. His latest book is a satirical novel about university corporatization and rebellion, What’s Going On at Aardvark?