Saturday, December 31, 2011

Here is to freedom, human rights and social justice to all in 2012!

On this day we celebrate no matter who we are and what we believe in. We celebrate life. Having made it through another year. Some have lived and survived yet another year in an ongoing revolution in Egypt or other places such as Bahrain or Syria in the Middle East. Some have survived another year living in Occupied Palestine. Some have just survived. Tonight it to relax. To be together. To just be.

To whomever you are; May 2012 be a year where freedom & human rights are accessible to all!  May you live, laugh and be least a little but until the struggles are over. Until the fight is won. Because you will win. Revolutionaries, the opressed, the occupied - and those of us supporting you...we will win! It can be no other way!

So I wish all of you a very happy 2012. Here is to freedom, human rights and social justice to all!

~ Sofia Smith

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Video testimony of a Palmach fighter who expelled Palestinians during the Nakba

The Israeli group Zochrot has posted a video testimony from Amnon Neumann, a man who fought with the Palmach during the Nakba of 1948. According to their web site, “Zochrot (‘Remembering’) seeks to raise public awareness of the Palestinian Nakba, especially among Jews in Israel, who bear a special responsibility to remember and amend the legacy of 1948.”
Public hearing at Zochrot, Tel-Aviv, June 17, 2010. The audience consisted of about twenty people. Initiated and organized by Amir Hallel. The testimony was video-recorded by Lia Tarachansky. Miri Barak prepared the transcription. Eitan Bronstein edited, summarized, and added footnotes. Translated to English by Asaf Kedar. Video editing by Zohar Kfir
Omar Barghouti adds:
Despite some moments of remorse, the former member of this terror group tells the interviewer that he refuses to talk about the massacres, in particular, because he participated in them. He also tries to portray Palestinian villages as all made of straw and mud houses! Perhaps the selective amnesia that has afflicted almost all Jewish Israelis has not spared Neumann.
Warning to Palestinian refugees watching this: it can be really difficult to listen to parts of this testimony. I had to stop the video twice – the nonchalance with which Neumann describes (in clearly sanitized language) the forced expulsion, the killings of farmers tending their grapevines – is overwhelming.

~ reposted by Sofia Smith

Aussie Dave Exposed ~ by Richard Silverstein (including update)

originally posted BY OCCUPIEDPALESTINE at

Dec 28, 2011 | Richard Silverstein | Tikun Olam-תיקון עולם: Make the World a Better Place
For those who have a long memory here, one of my earliest prolonged blogging battles was with a far-right wing Islamophobic Australian-Israeli blogger who used the pseudonym, Aussie Dave and wrote an especially putrid blog, Israellycool. Originally, I went head to head with him over his Jewish blogging contest which he organized under the sponsorship of the Jerusalem Post. In taking him to task for the far right wing nature of the vast majority of the blogs nominated, I earned his eternal enmity. He’s now organizing a new version of the contest, the Pro-Israel Blog-Off, for only the farthest right of pro-Israel blogs.  To ensure the Zionist ideological kashrut of the project, the judges include the CEO of the pro-Israel media advocacy group, Honest Reporting (“Honest” should be in square quotes) and “the Embassy of Israel in Dublin.”  Don’t ask how an entire embassy can judge a blogging contest.  The nominees are a very veritable hate-fest of the right-wing Anglo-Israeli blog world including CIF Watch, Elders of Ziyon, My Right Word, etc.
Ever since the days of his first contest, he’s taken every chance he could to attempt (invariably unsuccessfully) to shame, embarrass, humiliate or insult me. I won’t go into the specifics since they’re so puerile and sophomoric.  Davey has threatened to sue me and warned me that he was a lawyer. But somehow, being the bully he is, he talked a good game never following through. I’ve always wondered why he refused to reveal his real identity, especially since he’d published my home address, phone number and my wife’s employer name and work phone at his blog. It seemed especially hypocritical under the circumstances.
david loeb facebook profile
David Loeb’s Facebook profile
david loeb aussie dave
David “Aussie” Loeb at the blackjack table
Now, due to a sloppy error on his part (thanks to an Israeli who finds him as repellant as I, who caught it), Aussie Dave has exposed his real identity. And since I believe that hypocrites deserve their comeuppance and that their dark secrets deserve to see the light, I’m exposing him for what and who he is: David Loeb, 23 Rashi Street Beit-Shemesh, Israel. In his Facebook profile he notes some sort of affiliation with Virgin Megastores, which may mean he works there. If anyone knows, I’d like to find out. Loeb’s FB photo indicates he likes to gamble as it shows him at what appears to be a casino blackjack table.
The last straw that determined my decision to expose him was his feeble attempt to link me to a couple from my home city sharing my last name, who were charged with welfare fraud. Loeb hoped at the very least that the cheat might be my brother or some other close relative. It’s bad enough when they implicate me personally in their scummy revenge fantasies. But when they attempt to ensnare innocent family members, that goes too far.
So Dave, I’m throwing you the coming out party you so richly deserve. Enjoy your moment the sun. Now that you’ve been outed you won’t have any more protection than the rest of us, who blog under our own name, have. I daren’t believe it will make you any more responsible or any less bilious. You and leopards, after all, cannot change your spots.
NOTE ABOUT CHANGES TO COMMENTING: I’ve been innundated by spam lately and disappointed that the Akismet anti-spam plugin, which had been doing a great job, began to perform so shoddily.  I’ve implemented a new system that requires commenters to check boxes before their comment is sent to the queue.  I didn’t want to implement a Captcha plugin because I thought that was too intrusive.  I hope this is a reasonable compromise.

Dec 29, 2011 | Richard Silverstein | Tikun Olam-תיקון עולם: Make the World a Better Place

The Sad Case of Aussie Dave

Yesterday, I reported in a post that I believed I had exposed the real identity of Aussie Dave, author of the Israellycool blog.  It appears that he invented a fake identity in order to perpetrate a hoax on me.  It boggles the mind that he went to the immense amount of trouble he did to perpetrate this hoax.  It tells you how much free time he has on his hands to engage in all the subterfuge that was necessary to fool me.  It tells you precious little about me, but quite a lot about him.
Dave thinks he’s a genius because I fooled me.  What he doesn’t realize is that in his blog post, he proudly admits that he created a hoax Facebook account for a non-existent person using the photo of a real person, a clear violation of Facebook rules.  Here’s how he bragged about it:
David Loeb is a fake name. The photo in the Facebook profile I set up is of basketballer Jordan Farmar…I used his photo deliberately…
I included in the profile my supposed address (Beit Shemesh)…as well as the URL of this blog to connect David Loeb to it.
I’ve reported him to Facebook for doing this.  I hope there will be repercussions and that he doesn’t have a real Facebook account.  If he does, perhaps Facebook will express its displeasure with idiots like him exploiting company for his own tomfoolish purposes.
Dave moans in his post that I not only violated his privacy by posting what he wanted me to believe was his home address, but that I potentially endangered him.  Which is funny because he doesn’t mention that he not only published my home address and phone number, but my wife’s employer and her work phone.
He and his allies are trying to embarrass Jillian York, a staffer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who correctly warned me that his Facebook account appeared to be fake.  They’re claiming that I exposed the private details of an individual in violation of EFF guidelines and that York is somehow guilty of violating her employer’s mission statement in protecting the privacy of bloggers.  This is yet more nonsense since Aussie Dave created a publicly accessible Facebook account to which anyone had access and which displayed his alleged address for anyone to see.  Not only that, but the account is fake as is virtually all the information in it.
Dave of course doesn’t mention the recent incident when he hoaxed himself, seeking to believe that my brother had been arrested for being a welfare cheat.  The only truth to his fantasy was that someone with my extremely common last name had been arrested for such a crime.  He created an entire post in which he gleefully and hopefully speculated that the perpetrator might be my brother.  He even searched through my online photo galleries finding a photo of my brother-in-law and speculating that because he had the same first name as the welfare cheat that he might be the same person.  He wasn’t.  Not a word from Dave about this violation of the privacy of my brother-in-law, a totally innocent party in his charade.
There’s a larger point here as far as I’m concerned.  It’s that doing what I do is complicated because I have to trust my sources and go with my gut about their credibility.  Yes, I can do some elementary research to determine their credibility.  But in the end, you have to decide whether or not to take a jump.  Usually, the times when I’ve been hoaxed are when I decide to trust people I’ve never dealt with before and whose bona fides aren’t clear.  That’s what happened in this case.
I’ve said before that I’ve made mistakes in trusting a few hoaxsters (luckily only two as far as I know).  Luckily those mistakes have been few.  Now we can add this one to the previous ones.  When you report stories that I do, there is always the chance that you will make mistakes.  Some will involve discrete points in an overall story.  Others will be larger and more serious errors.  I’ve never claimed to be perfect.  In fact, I think conceding mistakes shows readers that you are human and have nothing to hide.
Dave wrote in his post that he believed I would take down my earlier post exposing him.  I certainly won’t.  Both because I want readers to know that I’m transparent; and because I want people to see what he has done and judge him for it.  I want people to understand the pains that the pro-Israel Islamophobic blog world takes to smear its opponents.  And the nastiness of their methods and outcomes.

~ reposted with permission by Sofia Smith

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Tunisian convoy en route to Gaza

Originally posted by the Ma'an News Agency at

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- A Tunisian medical aid convoy began its journey to Gaza on Thursday from Tunis, Palestinian officials said.
     Activists have also sought to break the blockade by boat.

The convoy carrying four tons of medical aid left Tunis-Carthage International Airport earlier in the day, medical officials told Ma'an.

The coordinator of the medical services in the Gaza Strip said the convoy was organized by a Tunisian scout group and will arrive in Cairo and depart for Gaza shortly thereafter.

Some 11 scout leaders are part of the delegation, which is to visit Gaza’s hospitals and civil society groups before checking up on local scouts.

~ reposted by Sofia Smith

In Memory of Vittorio Arrigoni, Onadekom (Calling You)

Originally posted by dargmcz at

~ reposted by Sofia Smith

The risks faced by children in Gaza

Originally posted by SOS Children's Village at

By Laurinda Luffman 

In 2011, 14 children in Gaza have been killed as a result of military attacks or gunfire.
And between March 2010 and October 2011, 28 children have been shot at along the border fence between Israel and the Gaza strip while gathering building materials or working by the fence. These are the findings of the Palestine Section of Defence for Children International (DCI), a non-governmental child rights organisation and member of the International General Assembly of DCI. DCI-Palestine was established in 1992 and works towards the vision of creating “a Palestinian community fit for all children”.
The organisation’s latest report – ‘Children of Gravel’ – is designed to highlight the risks faced by children as they work along the border fence. Along this defensive strip, it is common for Israeli soldiers to fire warning shots at workers and children are among those shot at. Most are sent to the border to work in order to support their families. Many go to gather building materials such as gravel. Israeli restrictions limit the amount of construction material which enters Gaza. Therefore children can earn up to 14 dollars a day by collecting gravel and selling it to builders for use in concrete.
A 2011 report by UNRWA (the UN agency for Palestinian refugees) concluded that  during the first half of the year, there had been some positive developments in job creation, employment, private-sector growth and wages. However, despite these developments, Gaza’s economy remained “dismal” and the region continued to have one of the world’s highest unemployment rates. Poverty rates among the population therefore remain high. According to Oxfam, 1.1 million of Gaza’s 1.5 million residents receive food aid. In the border area of the North Gaza governorate, food insecurity is at its highest among the occupied Palestinian territories, with nearly two-fifths of Gazans here unemployed. While employment opportunities in the area remain so low, youngsters will therefore continue to brave the dangers of working along the border area to earn vital extra money for their families.
With tensions continuing to run high in the region, young Palestinians also frequently engage in acts of defiance which bring them into conflict with the Israeli military. DCI monitors the number of Palestinian child detainees within the Israeli Prison Service (IPS). As a result of the recent prisoner exchange, 55 children between the ages of 14 and 17 years were released this month by the IPS. However, according to DCI figures, this leaves 106 Palestinian children in custody. The organisation continues to express its concerns about the treatment of children during their arrest and within Israeli prisons. And it continues to lobby for an end to child prosecutions by military courts (which are not used for Israeli children). In a recent Parliamentary debate in the UK, the British MP Richard Burden, who had witnessed “14-year old boys...wearing leg-irons and handcuffs for their court hearings” also called on the ending of practices such as shackling children and interrogations without a parent or lawyer present, saying “it is against the UN convention on the rights of the child and it is inhuman”.

~ reposted by Sofia Smith

Illustrating the Revolution

By Erin Biel and originally posted by The Yale Globalist on December 22, 2011 at
From amidst the tear gas, a man emerges on the television screen, brandishing a weapon. Sitting atop another’s shoulders and yelling in defiant Arabic, he begins to shake the object vigorously back and forth. It is not a Molotov cocktail or a Kalashnikov. It is a placard, and on it, a cartoon of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s face about to be stomped on by a shoe.
(All images courtesy Carlos Latuff)
To most around the world who watched the events of the Jan. 25 Revolution in Egypt unfold, the images of Tahrir Square protesters fleeing flanks of riot police, tear gas, and armored tanks served as vivid depictions of the egregious violence experienced directly by those on the ground. However, for those on the ground, other vivid images began to illustrate the Revolution: cartoons. These cartoons came to serve as veritable weapons as they took their place on banners and t-shirts all throughout Tahrir. The hero responsible for this cartoon arsenal doesn’t live in Cairo, or any other Egyptian city for that matter. He lives in Rio di Janeiro, Brazil, over 6,000 miles away.
“I remember that, one day, I was watching the news on television just shortly after the Revolution began. I then saw images of people waving posters with my work appear on the screen, just days after I had made those particular cartoons. That was when I began to realize the popularity of my cartoons,” Carlos Latuff said. Latuff, a Brazilian cartoonist and self-proclaimed “artivist,” uses cartoons to expose some of the most serious instances of corruption, imperialism, and capitalist exploitation in the world today. The Jan. 25 Revolution and its aftermath have consumed Latuff’s attention and portfolio recently, and it is those pieces that have taken Latuff to a new level of international fame.
“I have long had a passion for international affairs, specifically human rights, the cowardice of states, and repression through censorship,” Latuff explained. Latuff, now in his 40s, started drawing cartoons professionally in the 1990s for Brazilian leftist trade-union newspapers, which he still works for today. In 1996, when Latuff first gained Internet access, he realized this new medium could make his work freely available to people all over the world. Stirred by a documentary he saw that year on the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, a primarily non-violent, libertarian socialist group based in southern Mexico, he decided to fax a number of his cartoons to the Zapatista political arm in Mexico City. He then drew and uploaded all of his subsequent cartoons onto the Zapatista website and permitted free dissemination of his work. Ever since, the Internet, Latuff’s “theater for virtual guerilla tactics,” has served as his gallery to the world.
He doesn’t believe in copyright, preferring “copyleft”, in keeping with his staunchly leftist leanings. Although he does not maintain a personal website, he does have a Twitpic page, and he encourages visitors to reproduce his cartoons and post them on their Facebook accounts.
Perhaps it comes as no surprise, then, that Latuff’s work garnered so much attention from the Egyptian people during the Jan. 25 Revolution, now commonly called the “Facebook Revolution.” The Egyptian youth who fomented and orchestrated the Revolution relied heavily on Facebook and Twitter to organize protests, coordinate platforms, and spread ideas. It was through Twitter that Latuff first came across the demands of the Egyptian Revolution, and most of the information inspiring his cartoons comes from that social media platform. “After all, the information on Twitter is coming from actual Egyptians who are tweeting right from Cairo or Alexandria, so they are in the eye of the storm,” Latuff explained.
Latuff views his cartoons as yet another weapon in a protester’s arsenal—and a more peaceful one at that. Protests continue to take place throughout Egypt to varying degrees, even nine months after the ouster of Mubarak. Men sit atop the lampposts surrounding Tahrir; women, too, amass in the square and chant in unison. All together, they voice their concerns about the incompetence of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), the ongoing trials of civilians in military courts, and increased media censorship, among myriad other issues. To complement these demands, protesters wave Latuff’s cartoons, such as Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, top officer of the SCAF, smashing an Al Jazeera video camera, or Osama Heikal, SCAF’s Minister of Information, spilling poisonous lies all over a map of Egypt. Many of Latuff’s cartoons even possess the flourish of pointed statements in Arabic, thereby evoking the true voice of the Egyptian people.
“Of course I put my own opinions into the pieces as well, but, as a human rights activist, I seek to give a voice to the voiceless, to activists in countries where they cannot speak out. For instance in Egypt, it was widely thought that after the fall of Mubarak, people would have a voice, but… we must remember that SCAF generals are the same generals that took part in the Mubarak regime,” Latuff expounded. As such, Latuff has no intention of slowing his production of Egypt-focused cartoons, which stands now at about three per week.
Latuff’s work continues to enjoy an incredible level of admiration and support among Egyptians. Over ten Facebook pages are devoted to his work. The most “liked” page boasts over 22,000 supporters, and the next two most popular pages have over 17,000 followers each. Most of these Facebook pages were started by Egyptians or others in the Middle East-North Africa region.
Two of the Facebook groups go so far as to advocate awarding Latuff with Egyptian nationality. Samar Sultan, a second-year undergraduate at the American University in Cairo, is a supporter of one of these Facebook groups. She pores over the photo albums of Latuff’s work and excitedly points out all of the nuances in his cartoons. “We don’t feel like he’s foreign, because he knows all of the Egyptian jokes. He knows all of the small details and everything,” she exclaimed, as she pauses over a caricature of Tawfiq Okasha, former member of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party. Okasha, owner of the Egyptian TV channel Al-Faraeen (“The Pharoahs”) and presidential candidate, now uses his own talk show to spout widely disdained Mubarak-era policies, and Latuff’s cartoon lampoons his personality perfectly.
Latuff’s pieces have also become well-recognized visual representations of multiple prominent human rights movements in Egypt, perhaps the most notable of which is the “We Are All Khaled Said” movement. The movement began after the eponym, a 28-year-old Egyptian from the coastal city of Alexandria, was beaten and tortured to death at the hands of two police officers on June 26, 2010. Said has since become a symbol for many Egyptians who aspire to live in a country free of brutality, torture, and ill treatment. His memory and the values that he stood for were immortalized in a prominent Facebook group, now with over 1,700,000 followers, that was started by Wael Ghonim, Head of Marketing for Google Middle East and North Africa and one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in 2011. Before Jan. 25, Ghonim contacted Latuff and asked him to produce some cartoons in support of the cause. Latuff responded with five cartoons, the most recognizable of which is a resolute and imposing Said holding a diminutive Mubarak by the lapel. Almost immediately after the cartoon’s release, poster upon poster of the image flooded Tahrir.
However, perhaps the most notable media endorsement in Egypt of Latuff’s work came more recently, at the end of August 2011, when Al-Masry Al-Youm, one of the most reputable newspapers in Egypt, published Latuff’s cartoon of “The Amazing Flagman” on its front page. The cartoon was created after Israeli gunfire killed five Egyptian policemen in Egypt’s Sinai. The incident served as an identifiable reason for the Egyptian people to express their disdain for the Israeli government’s policies, feelings that had been muted during the Mubarak era. At a demonstration in Cairo, 23 year-old Ahmed al-Shahat scaled the building that houses the Israeli embassy and tore down the Israeli flag, replacing it with an Egyptian one. Al-Shahat thereafter was hailed in popular media as “Flagman,” and Latuff, in keeping with his characteristically vigilant and prompt nature, provided his own creative rendition of the event within hours. “The Amazing Flagman” essentially depicted Spider Man, with the Egyptian flag’s eagle emblazoned on his uniform, descending from a building, a burning Israeli flag in hand. A day after posting the cartoon to his TwitPic page, Latuff’s site received 1.5 million views, according to Aya Batrawy of the Associated Press.
Since the Flagman episode, there have been a number of other protests at the Israeli embassy and the relationship between Egypt and Israel grows increasingly tenuous. Latuff’s marked and unabashed support of Palestinian sovereignty and his scathing critiques of the Israeli government, as depicted in endless cartoons, have won him even more popularity in Egypt. Nevertheless, as much as he would like to visit his Egyptian fans in person and set his own two feet in Tahrir, the Israeli embassy, or any of the other places he has captured in his Revolution cartoons, he doubts that he will ever get the opportunity because of his controversial opinions.
Latuff is not a moderate. As an ardent “artivist,” he realizes that taking a public stance on highly contentious issues won’t make everyone happy. He readily admits that although he has received an overwhelming amount of support from the Egyptian people, the occasional criticisms he hears “are to be expected.” He discerns, “The Egyptians are very nationalistic and some of them believe that someone who is not Egyptian and is drawing about Egyptian affairs could be an interference. But this… also happens when I make cartoons about Bahrain or Palestine or Iraq. My duty is not to interfere in internal affairs but to make sure a particular point of view is seen.”
Nevertheless, this strain of criticism elucidates a marked irony surrounding Latuff’s work. Latuff, in illustrating issues that span the entire globe, provides commentary on behalf of or against groups that he has personally never met. To critics, he is just penning pieces from a desk that is an ocean away from the action. In the case of Egypt specifically, he is depicting a revolution: a revolution in which heated words are exchanged, bullets fly, and lives are lost. He is providing visual images that are to speak for an entire population, or at least much of the population, and he has to demonstrate somehow a solidarity with and a keen understanding of the people on the ground without falsely representing their platform or co-opting it. That is no easy task.
And that is what underlies the great victory of social media. Latuff has been able to draw a remarkable connection with the Egyptian people—a connection through great visual imagery and culturally apposite wit—thanks to his two primary sources of information: Twitter and Facebook. Not only do these two social platforms feed him his information, but he also uses them as a dissemination tool. Moreover, news obtained from social media sites has made it possible for someone with a singular talent, like Latuff, to bolster the efforts of activists abroad. Although he is not Egyptian, and will not likely be on Egyptian soil any time soon, he is still able to follow and interact with thousands of Egyptians online, providing him with perhaps even more insight than if he were on the ground.
And yet another reason why Latuff does not fall into the role of detached artist is because Latuff is not just an artist. He is an artivist. He knows what it is like to raise issues that are obscured by one’s government and to risk one’s life in an effort to bring about a greater sense of humanity. “I have been arrested three times in Brazil for making cartoons against state and police brutality, homelessness, education, and workers’ strikes. I believe in making art for a change,” Latuff stated passionately. And that is perhaps what binds him so closely to other activists throughout the world, all waging their own battles on the human rights front, whether the battlefield is Tahrir Square in Egypt, Pearl Square in Bahrain, or Martyrs’ Square in Libya.
For right now, though, Latuff must be content with confining his own personal reach to the “public square” of the Internet. However, with close to 50,000 followers on Twitter, well over that number through various Facebook groups, and an ever-increasing fan base, his public square evades the limitations imposed by cordoned-off streets, flanks of police, and armored personnel carriers. Rather, his gallery to the world seems to be only expanding with time. The Jan. 25 Revolution—the Facebook Revolution—in Egypt is far from over, and Latuff is prepared to chronicle the Revolution in vivid color every step of the way.
Erin Biel ’13 is a Global Affairs and Ethnicity, Race, & Migration double major in Ezra Stiles College. Contact her at