Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Why Did the BBC Censor a Cry to Help Gaza Victims?

The Huffington Post, 1-28-09


Gaza is recovering from Israel's latest assault, which ended in a cease-fire earlier this month. In the UK, the British Broadcasting Corporation has let down its worldwide viewership by refusing to broadcast a charity appeal to help Palestinian victims of the violence.

The appeal was produced by the Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC), a consortium of charities including the Red Cross, Oxfam and Save the Children. What is so inflammatory about this humanitarian plea, which doesn't blame Israel or any other party for the plight of Gaza?

Why did the BBC hide behind a statement that "the debate about who is responsible for causing (suffering and distress in Gaza) and what should be done about contentious?"

The Corporation joined Rupert Murdoch's Sky News as the only two major UK broadcasters not to air the charity appeal, a decision which has caused a huge uproar in the UK.

Demonstrators march to BBC Headquarters in London

In years past, the BBC regularly aired similar charity appeals:
The BBC broadcast DEC appeals after the 1999 Kosovo war and 1990 Gulf conflict. In 1968 it broadcast an appeal for victims of the Vietnam war. Over the last two years it has broadcast appeals for aid for crises in Burma, Bangladesh, Sudan, Chad and the Congo. Neither has it previously shunned humanitarian appeals in the Middle East. The second DEC appeal ever to be broadcast on the BBC, in June 1967, was a film seeking help for Palestinian and Syrian refugees displaced by the Six Day War. In 1982, the BBC helped raise £1m by broadcasting a DEC appeal for victims of Israel's invasion of Lebanon.

But now, things have changed. Blame is being laid at the feet of the BBC's Director General, Mark Thompson.

Since his arrival at the BBC in 2004, according to senior sources within DEC charities, the BBC has grown cautious and worried about compromising its impartiality. In 2006, the BBC similarly rejected a DEC appeal for victims of Israel's month-long war against Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon.

This episode is revealing interesting things about the factors that guide the BBC's coverage of the endless Israeli-Palestinian conflict, coverage which helps shape worldwide opinion. These include a set of reporting rules that BBC journalists must follow in their dispatches:

"The 24 words and phrases from the reporting rules the BBC has agreed to make public appear innocuous enough, but even here some might discern a sense of paranoia. Journalists are instructed to avoid using 'assassination' in favour of 'killing' and in discussing Gaza, the word "occupation" is to be avoided in favour of 'permanent military presence'."

Palestinian children in Gaza

Ironically, the resulting controversy over the BBC's censorship has resulted in a doubling of donations to the DEC’s emergency fund for Gaza, with over one million pounds raised since the appeal was aired by other UK broadcasters on Monday night. Shame on Mark Thompson, and shame on the BBC. It's a sad day if this once-venerable news organization can't be counted on to honestly and accurately inform the public.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

An Entirely Different Inauguration Day

The Huffington Post, 1-20-09


Earlier today, as President Obama was sworn in, everything about the event heralded change. From Aretha Franklin singing My Country, 'Tis of Thee, to the Rev. Joseph Lowery using his benediction to invoke a coming day when "black will not be asked to give back, when brown can stick around, when yellow will be mellow, when the red man can get ahead, man, and when white will embrace what is right."

Instead of the Supreme Court selecting the President, Chief Justice John Roberts was reduced to mischief-making as he tried to trip Obama up with a bungled, mis-worded oath of office. Or perhaps Roberts was simply displaying his arrogance by attempting to administer the oath sans notes.

President Obama used his inaugural address to draw a line separating the past eight years and what the nation should expect to come next. In an obvious rebuke to George W. Bush's decision to institutionalize torture of U.S. detainees, he made it clear "we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals." He renounced Bush's orgy of deregulation and giveaways to the rich by reminding us that "without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control - and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous."

Eight years ago, the country was experiencing an entirely different sort of Inauguration Day. On January 20, 2001, people were outraged that George W. Bush had stolen the 2000 election. The largest number of protesters since the Nixon era came to Washington, D.C. and staged a counter-Inaugural, vowing to resist the fraudulent Bush Administration.

My friends and I were among them. The three of us were too worked up over Bush’s electoral shenanigans to let the day pass within raising a ruckus. It was a bitterly cold morning, and we got up early to walk a few miles from where we were staying to the Capitol. Our plan was a simple one – get as close as we could to the swearing-in ceremony and make as much noise as possible denouncing it.

To these ends, I borrowed a bullhorn for the occasion, the biggest, most powerful one I could find. I was carrying it in a large black messenger's bag. Security seemed tight, with cops and security personnel everywhere, although nowhere near post-9/11 levels.

It was 11:45 am as we walked down Independence Avenue, past the Capitol steps where the reviewing stands were set up. The first entrance we came to for VIP ticketholders was on the corner of 1st Street S.W. and Independence, next to the U.S. Botanic Garden. I walked right through the security line, blending in with the stream of well-heeled GOP donors and activists, despite toting a bulky black bag nearly capable of holding a suitcase nuclear bomb.

My friends weren't as lucky. What made them stand out in the otherwise lily-white crowd was their skin color – both were black. Somehow, even to the incompetent Republican party functionaries doubling as ticket takers, they didn't look like George W. Bush supporters.

So we retreated across the street, and made our stand at the entrance to Bartholdi Park. At the stroke of 12 noon, we whipped out the bullhorn and began delivering our own counter-Inaugural address. Enraged GOP attendees rushed over, trying to intimidate us into shutting up. But just as quickly, other protesters carrying banners and signs swarmed to our streetcorner, yelling their own slogans, and swelling our numbers to more than 100.

The three of us took turns leading chants of anti-Bush, pro-democracy slogans for the next half-hour, like WHAT IF THEY HELD AN ELECTION...AND NOBODY COUNTED THE VOTES?, BUSH WAS SELECTED, NOT ELECTED, and YOUR VOTE ONLY COUNTS...IF YOUR CANDIDATE'S DADDY ALREADY PACKED THE SUPREME COURT.

That bullhorn was loud, and it's safe to say audible to most of the VIP guests gathered to watch their illegitimate hero take the oath of office. FBI agents hovered around us, videotaping our activities. But we didn't stop until we felt we'd made our point. Then we packed up and moved on down the street to the Justice Department to protest John Ashcroft's impending confirmation as Attorney General.

What a difference eight years made. Today, on January 20, 2009, a sea of Americans of all colors stretched for two miles from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial. Far from being out of place, revelers who look like my friends were well represented among the 240,000 who received tickets to view the ceremonies from designated viewing areas near the front of the Mall.

Only the weather remained the same. It was a frigid, cold day, but millions braved the elements to be there, their hearts warm and full of joy, witness to a proud day in our nation's history. And there was nary a protester in sight.


George W. Bush's Legacy of Shame


This look back at the long national nightmare we endured during George W. Bush's presidency comes courtesy of Omid Malekan at Visual Stories.

#georgewbush #dubya #bush #bushadministration #GOP #stolenelection #iraqwar #taxcutsforthe1% #karlrove #donaldrumsfeld #dickcheney #condirice #9/11 #weaponsofmassdistraction #notmyhero #katrina #socialsecurityprivatization #missionnotaccomplished #nomorebushes

Thursday, January 15, 2009

MLK’s Words Changed Our World

NewsOne, 1-14-09



(Editor's note - Today, January 15, would have MLK's 80th birthday.)

Martin Luther King, Jr. might be the greatest orator in American history. His words and speeches changed America forever. Not only did his speeches address integration, but King also gave powerful calls to action on poverty and the war in Vietnam. Here are MLK's Top 5 Speeches.

1. I Have A Dream.

This is one of the most well known and referred to speeches in modern American history.

2. Why I Am Opposed To The War In Vietnam.

Many people forget about King's strong anti-war stance. Many of the reasons he opposed the war in Vietnam relate to the current conflicts in Gaza and Iraq.

3. I Have Been To The Mountain Top.

King's last speech was prophetic. He would die the next day but his words would live on and inspire people forever.

4. The Urgency of Now.

In a theme later used by Barack Obama, King showed why integration couldn't wait.

5. A Time to Break Silence.

In this speech, Martin Luther King again outlined his opposition to the war in Vietnam.

(Casey Gane-McCalla is a writer, rapper, producer and actor, and the assistant editor for NewsOne.)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Israel vs. Gaza: 985 to 13 and Counting

NewsOne, 1-12-09



As Israel continues its re-invasion of Gaza, all this talk of a proportionate response and Israel defending itself seems to be off the mark, judging by the numbers. If a man hits you and you beat up his whole family, is that a proportionate response? Is shooting a man for throwing a rock at your window defending yourself?

The Associated Press reports that as of January 14th, more than 985 Palestinians have been killed, including more than 400 civilians. This is in comparison to 13 Israelis who have been killed, including three civilians. It is estimated that 40% of all the Gaza casualties have been civilians.

Last weekend, Barack Obama was on ABC's This Week and reiterated his statement, "If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that. I would expect Israelis to do the same thing."

Palestinians are seeing bombs dropped on their houses at a much more frequent rate than Israelis have had rockets shot at them, so shouldn't they have the right to defend themselves, too? Far more Palestinian daughters have died because of this conflict than Israelis.

We've all heard the saying that an eye for an eye leaves us all blind. What about 200 eyes for an eye?

Does Israel expect to be greeted as liberators in Gaza? Every Palestinian family member they kill just fuels the desperation and hatred of Israel that creates the rocket launchers and the suicide bombers that they are trying to stop.

From 2005 through 2007 in Israel and the Palestinian territories, there were 86 Israelis killed, eight of which were civilians, meaning less than 10% of all Israelis killed during that time were civilians. There were 1290 Palestinian casualties during that same period, of which 222 were civilians.

So in the last two and a half weeks, Israel has killed as many Palestinians as they have during the past four years.

An unequal death toll has marked this conflict for years. From 1987 through 2005, there were 3196 Palestinian casualties, including 620 civilians; and 946 Israeli casualties, including 112 civilians.

In the face of the murder, terror and dead children, U.S. politicians are not condemning the violence or the war, but defending Israel's right to defend themselves. N.Y. Gov. David Paterson said, "I believe the Israeli people, under constant attack from the Palestinian territories, have a right to protect themselves and I stand with them as they fight to defend the basic rights of humanity."

Is Hamas not under attack by Israel as well? Given the disproportionate amount of casualties, isn't it the Palestinians who have more of a need to defend their basic human rights?

New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg said there is no measured response to terrorism, essentially saying that Israel has carte blanche to use what ever force it wants, regardless of civilian casualties.

I worked for many years as a teacher and had to break up several fights. If a 100 pound kid kicks a 300 pound kid in the shins, and the 300 pound kid begins pummeling the 100 pound kid, I wouldn't say that the 300 kid had a right to defend himself. I would tell them both to stop fighting and try and break it up.

Maybe one of the reasons the US has been slow to criticize Israel is the Iraq war. 100,000 Iraqi civilians (some have estimated it in the millions) have been killed vs. 4,000 U.S. soldiers.

If the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were a boxing match it would have been declared a TKO a long time ago. If it were a football game, Israel would have put in their second string. Without a referee, the game has gotten far out of hand.

In war there is rarely a right side and wrong side. If Hamas was wrong for breaking the previous ceasefire, that does not mean Israel is right for killing more than 400 civilians.

The current war on Gaza is doing very little to improve Israel's relations with both the Palestinians and their Middle East neighbors. It is only fueling hatred for Israel in the Arab world.

While I've heard several good arguments justifying Israel's actions, I've always been told that number and pictures don't lie. Given the lopsided score on the casualty count and gruesome pictures of the casualties, it is very clear that Israel is in the wrong along with Hamas.

For more evidence of Israel's brutality in Gaza check out this gallery of Palestinian casualties.

(Casey Gane-McCalla is a writer, rapper, producer and actor, and the assistant editor for NewsOne.)

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