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Statement from Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu on US anti-BDS legislation

[This statement is now posted on the website of the Maryland coalition, "Keep Free Speech in the Free State." A direct link is here. A press release is here.]

Statement from Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu on 2 April 2014

US EFFORTS TO CURB FREEDOM OF SPEECH ON ISRAEL AND PALESTINE, OF GRAVE CONCERN

I am writing today to express grave concern about a wave of legislative measures in the United States aimed at punishing and intimidating those who speak their conscience and challenge the human rights violations endured by the Palestinian people. In legislatures in Maryland, New York, Illinois, Florida, and even the United States Congress, bills have been proposed that would either bar funding to academic associations or seek to malign those who have taken a stand against the Israeli Occupation of Palestine.

These legislative efforts are in response to a growing international initiative, the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, of which I have long been a supporter. The BDS movement emanates from a call for justice put out by the Palestinian people themselves. It is a Palestinian-led, international non-violent movement that seeks to force the Israeli government to comply with international law in respect to its treatment of the Palestinian people.

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Call Your Rep TODAY To Stop US From Blocking Medicines For Iranians

A few weeks ago, we sent out an action alert about a letter being circulated by Rep. Jim Moran in the House calling on the White House to take necessary steps to ensure that medicine imports are not impeded by US sanctions. Despite trade in medicines being protect by both US and international law, and the granting of exemptions and licenses for medicines and other humanitarian goods, US sanctions are still contributing to a medicine shortage in Iran.

The letter closes at the end of the day Wednesday, so call your Rep today!

Call your Rep at 1-855-686-6927 and say

I urge you to sign Rep. Jim Moran's letter urging the White House to take necessary action to ensure U.S. sanctions do not block medicine, food, and licensed humanitarian goods from reaching the Iranian people.

Here are some additional talking points:

- Tens of thousands of Iranian civilians with treatable illnesses have suffered unnecessarily and unjustly because of medicine shortages created in part by US sanctions even though trade is medicines is supposed to be protected by both US and international law.
- Congress has exempted medicine, food, and humanitarian goods from sanctions, and the Administration has issued licenses for these goods. However, there are few non-sanctioned financial channels available and many banks have been unwilling to facilitate humanitarian transactions due to sanctions.

Report your call using the form below.

Illinois ACLU statement against SJR 59, Illinois anti-boycott resolution

The following statement was issued by the Illinois ACLU against SJR 59, State Sen. Silverstein's resolution condemning academic boycotts.

Update: the statement is now posted on the Illinois ACLU website here.

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To: Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee
Re: Senate Joint Resolution 59
Date: 3/25/14

The ACLU of Illinois opposes Senate Joint Resolution 59, a resolution that calls upon all Illinois college and university presidents to publicly condemn academic boycotts.

A boycott is an important and powerful form of protected expressive association protected by the First Amendment. Speech and nonviolent picketing in support of a boycott encompasses the practice of people sharing common views banding together to achieve a common end, a practice deeply embedded in the American political process. By this collective effort, individuals can make their views known when, individually, their voices would be faint or lost. In emphasizing the importance of the freedom of association in guaranteeing the right of people to make their voices heard on public issues, the U.S. Supreme Court has noted that effective advocacy of both public and private points of view, particularly controversial ones, is undeniably enhanced by group association, NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co., 458 U.S. 886 (1982).

There is no basis in law or policy to exempt academic institutions from boycotts. Would Illinois support a resolution guarding Bob Jones University from a boycott when, in the 1970’s because of its interpretation of Biblical principles regarding interracial dating, Bob Jones University completely excluded black applicants? We expect not.

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CPC CO-CHAIRS CALL FOR CONSTRUCTIVE ENGAGEMENT ON DRONES: HUMAN RIGHTS MUST BE A PRIORITY

The following is a press release from the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 28, 2014
Press Contacts:
Adam Sarvana (Grijalva) – (202) 225-2435
Mike Casca (Ellison) – (202) 225-4755

CPC CO-CHAIRS CALL FOR CONSTRUCTIVE ENGAGEMENT ON DRONES: HUMAN RIGHTS MUST BE A PRIORITY

WASHINGTON — Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) released the following statement after a vote by the United Nations Human Rights Council on the use of drones:

“Today’s vote at the United Nations reinforces the need for greater oversight of the U.S. drone program. Instead of working closely with the international community to help strengthen current international standards on the use of drones, the U.S. government decided to boycott a discussion of the draft resolution. We are troubled by the ease with which dialogue and diplomacy—values at the center of the president’s foreign policy—were cast aside in this debate.

“Our national security would be stronger with international standards regarding the use of drones. No country has a monopoly on armed drone technology. As of 2011, 76 nations had drone technology of some kind. It is clearly in our interest to help establish the norms and rules that will govern the use of drones by all nations in the future.

“Similarly, it’s important to ensure that the American people and our allies understand the legal justification and on-the-ground impact of our drone policy. The current lack of transparency harms our relationships with other countries and erodes our ability to collaborate on key global security issues.

Boycott & Sanction John "Vladimir" Brennan for Violations of International Law

The Obama Administration has established a new precedent by implementing sanctions against Russian officials for violations of international law in the wake of Russia’s occupation and annexation of Crimea. So we thought: let's get civil society organizations in the United States and around the world to invoke this precedent in calling U.S. officials to account for the U.S.'s own violations of international law!

John Brennan, head of the Central Intelligence Agency, is playing a central role in shielding the agency from accountability to international law on three key issues: the CIA's use of torture during the Bush Administration; the CIA’s use of drone strikes; and the CIA’s arming of Syria rebels, which the Obama Administration has acknowledged is a violation of Syria’s sovereignty under international law, [1] just as Russia’s actions in Crimea violate Ukraine’s sovereignty under international law.

Join us in calling for boycott and sanctions on John Brennan until the CIA takes concrete steps to comply with international law by signing our petition at MoveOn:

http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/boycott-brennan

Here is the petition text:

John Brennan, head of the Central Intelligence Agency, should be subject to boycott and sanctions for the CIA's failure to comply with U.S. and international law. John Brennan should not receive any award, honor, or recognition until the CIA takes concrete, minimal steps to transparently comply with U.S. and international law, including:

- supporting declassification of the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on the CIA's use of torture and the CIA's internal “Panetta review” on the CIA's use of torture;

QR codes for Illinois, New York, Maryland petitions against anti-boycott free speech legislation

Note: this memo is primarily aimed at tech-savvy kids, not at old fogie technophobe Luddites. If you are a technophobe, move along, nothing to see here.

Background: the world has changed, right? We do online petitions now. It's more efficient on both sides of the interaction - easier to pass, easier to sign; you don't have to mess around with re-copying or trying to read people's illegible handwriting (speaking as a top offender of illegible handwriting); if you sign on your own device, you probably have your own information already saved in your browser, which makes signing go tschik-tschok, as they say in Hebrew.

OK, but we still want to pass petitions at events. Does that mean we have to go back to pen and paper?

You know how when you ride the Amtrak, and sometimes on planes, they use QR codes, so you don't need a paper ticket. You just hold up your smart phone showing your electronic ticket with the QR code on it and the conductor/airline employee uses a QR reader to capture the information from your electronic ticket's QR code.

We can use this technology for online petitions too. You generate a QR code for the website that has the petition on it, you point a smart phone (or laptop's) camera at it, and after the image is captured, the smartphone jumps to the URL of the petition site, where you can sign the petition on your smartphone.

The smartphone or laptop has to have a QR reader installed. But you can easily download QR readers for free. Just go to the app store on your device, search for "QR reader", and choose one of many free options. On my iPhone, I have installed the free QRReader app.

So, with that background concluded, here is the ask. I'm going to try to get signers on the Illinois anti-anti-boycott petition at Rabbi Brant Rosen's talk tonight at UIUC, using a QR code that Just Foreign Policy has generated for the petition's website.

Two ways you can help me test:

Don't Let AIPAC Dictate Iran Terms—Call your Senators Today!

Sen. Menendez has lent his pen to AIPAC yet again by drafting a new letter that reintroduces the old zero enrichment demand by calling on President Obama to insist that Iran has no right to enrichment and that any final deal must dismantle Iran's inaccurately-referred-to “nuclear weapons program.” And if that's not bad enough: Sen. Lindsey Graham co-wrote the letter.

During their annual conference, thousands of AIPAC activists were on the Hill telling your Senators to sign the Menendez-Graham letter. Now they need to hear from you.

Call your Senators at 1-855-686-6927 and say

I urge Sen. ____ not to sign the Menendez-Graham letter that could scuttle President Obama's Iran diplomacy by imposing unreasonable terms on a final deal.

After you make your call, tell us how it went below.

Keep Your Promise: A Left-Right Coalition to Help Veterans and Cut the Debt

 There is wide political agreement that we need to do more to support our veterans and their families. A recent spectacular demonstration was the 326-90 vote in the House and 95-3 vote in the Senate to repeal the military pension cuts to veterans and active service members that were in the Ryan-Murray budget deal. A key question in the current federal budget environment is how we are going to pay for increased veterans' benefits, given broad Republican resistance to raising revenue or increasing the deficit.

An obvious answer is this: Cut unnecessary Pentagon spending and split the savings between helping veterans and reducing government debt. This should appeal to Democrats and Republicans who want to help veterans and to Democrats and Republicans who are willing to cut unnecessary Pentagon spending to reduce government debt. It should also appeal to organizations representing veterans.

Some people are under the impression that cutting unnecessary Pentagon spending is a non-starter with all Republicans, or almost all of them. But in the recent past, there has been a substantial group of Republicans in the House who were willing to vote to cut the Pentagon budget.

letter to Sonya Michel on her ASA BDS vote misrepresentation claim in the NYT

Sonya Michel

Professor of history, women’s studies and American studies
University of Maryland
College Park, Md.
 
 

Dear Ms. Michel,

Extend Unemployment Assistance by Cutting the War Budget

 Just over a week ago, the Senate fell one vote short of overcoming a Republican filibuster to pass a three-month extension of assistance for the long-term unemployed.

The New York Times reported: