JFP 9/13: Kabul embassy attack; Turkey urges yes on UN Palestine vote
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September 13, 2011
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Chomsky: "If the Palestinians do bring the issue to the Security Council and the U.S. vetoes it, it will be just another indication of the real unwillingness to permit a settlement of this issue, in terms of what has been for a long time an overwhelming international consensus."
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1) Insurgents attacked the U.S. embassy and nearby NATO headquarters in Kabul in a five-hour siege, the New York Times reports. The attacks confirmed the ability of the Taliban to overshadow the West's assertions that the Afghan government and security forces will soon be able to handle the insurgency on their own, the Times says. The attack suggested the involvement of many people who allowed heavily armed men to enter the city and get through the cordon that surrounds the capital's center, the Times says.
2) Turkey's prime minister Erdogan ramped up pressure on Israel and the U.S. Tuesday, telling the Arab League ministers they must vote for Palestinian statehood at the UN this month, the New York Times reports. The U.S. position on the Palestinian statehood question threatens to leave the U.S. increasingly isolated, the Times says. "Israel is the West's spoiled child," Erdogan said, "to this day it has never executed a decision by the international community."
Even before the recent flare-up with Israel, Erdogan was already lionized across the region for his commitment to Islamist politics, pluralistic constitutional democracy and energetic economic development, the Times notes. In Egypt, aspiring Islamist politicians often try to sell themselves as "the Egyptian Erdogan."
3) Nabil el Araby, secretary general of the Arab League, said Tuesday the Palestinians were leaning strongly toward seeking UN recognition as a state from the General Assembly and avoiding forcing a U.S. veto in the Security Council, the New York Times reports. The General Assembly option would still pave the way for the Palestinians to join dozens of UN bodies and conventions, and it could strengthen their ability to pursue cases against Israel at the International Criminal Court.
Araby said the UN vote "will change the Israel-Palestinian conflict: it will turn from a conflict about existence to a conflict about borders." He called the vote an important step toward a two-state solution to the conflict.
4) The Pentagon is planning to slash U.S. assistance to Afghanistan's army and police by more than half over the next three years, the Los Angeles Times reports. The cutbacks, along with already planned reductions, would shrink annual U.S. expenditures on Afghan security forces from nearly $13 billion to well below $6 billion in 2014, officials said. Even Defense Department officials who oppose deep spending cuts or troop withdrawals acknowledge that Congress is unlikely to indefinitely support current funding levels for Afghan troops, the LAT notes.
5) During the GOP debate Monday night, Rick Perry echoed Jon Huntsman's call for bringing U.S. troops home from Afghanistan, the Huffington Post reports. "I agree with Gov. Huntsman when we talk about it's time to bring our young men and women home as soon -- and obviously as safely -- as we can," Perry said. "But it's really important for us to continue to have a presence there. I think the entire conversation about how do we deliver our aid to those countries -- and is it best spent with 100,000 military who have the target on their back in Afghanistan? I don't think so at this particular point in time."
6) US UN Ambassador Susan Rice sharply criticized Brazil, India and South Africa for not acting on the UN Security Council consistently "with their own democratic institutions and stated values" in opposing U.S. moves in the Security Council to sanction Syria, Bloomberg reports. But that criticism is simplistic, said Fabienne Hara, the vice president of multilateral affairs at the International Crisis Group. Hara said the three were "quite surprised" that Libya "turned into a NATO-led operation with a bombing campaign, with a variety of targets including Tripoli," Hara said. "The reason why there is no resolution on Syria now is because of Libya," Hara said. "They were extremely reluctant to authorize any kind of resolution that could be the first step to" another Western military intervention, Hara said.
7) Human Rights Watch says local police forces trained and financed by the United States have killed and raped civilians, stolen land and carried out other abuses in Afghanistan, the New York Times reports. The accusations raise new questions about whether the local police and government-supported militias are undermining security, the Times says. HRW said failure to punish abuses was building local support for the Taliban.
8) Israel's Foreign Minister Lieberman has proposed to "punish" Turkey by urging Israelis not to travel there, cooperating with the U.S. Armenian lobby [presumably to support a Congressional declaration on the Armenian genocide, something "pro-Israel" groups have vigorously opposed in the past - JFP], and arming the Kurdish rebel group PKK, Ynet reports. [The PKK is on the State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations - JFP.]
9) Amnesty International said rebels fighting to topple Gadhafi committed unlawful killings and torture, AP reports. Amnesty said both sides stirred up racism and xenophobia, causing sub-Saharan Africans to be increasingly attacked, robbed and abused by ordinary Libyans. "In February, there was this rumor about Gadhafi using black people as mercenaries; that's wrong," Amnesty said. "But the NTC has not done a lot to curb that rumor and now there is a lot of retaliation against sub-Saharan Africans. Whether they were or they weren't involved with the Gadhafi forces, they are at real risk of being taken from their work or their homes or the street to be tortured or killed."
10) Oakland's Children's Museum of Art has canceled an exhibit of children's artwork from Gaza after pressure from Jewish groups, Jewish Voice for Peace reports. The show featured drawings by children about the December 2008-January 2009 military assault on Gaza. As the San Francisco Chronicle pointed out, in the past the museum has shown the artwork of children living under war without incident. These images apparently aren't substantively different.
1) Militants Launch Attack on U.S. Embassy in Kabul
Alissa J. Rubin, Ray Rivera and Jack Healy, New York Times, September 13, 2011
Kabul, Afghanistan - In the most direct assault since the American Embassy opened here nine years ago, heavily armed insurgents wearing suicide vests put the embassy and the nearby NATO headquarters in their cross hairs, showing the Taliban's ability to enter even the most heavily fortified districts in the country.
The nearly five-hour siege was one of several attacks that hit the capital on Tuesday afternoon. American civilians fled to their bunkers - a rocket penetrated the embassy compound - and Afghan government offices and the capital's center emptied as the insurgents fired rocket-propelled grenades and NATO and Afghan troops returned fire.
The attacks confirmed the ability of the Taliban, with a small number of men, to use guerrilla tactics to terrify the population, dominate the media and overshadow the West's assertions that the Afghan government and security forces will soon be able to handle the insurgency on their own.
As the gunfire pounded, loudspeakers at nearby embassies kept repeating: "This is not a drill, this is not a drill. If you are in a secure location, do not move."
While the numbers killed were low- as has been the case in similar complex attacks staged by the Taliban in Kandahar and Kabul - its purpose appeared to be to cast doubt about the government's ability to protect its people.
At least six people were killed, including four policemen, according to the Kabul Provincial Police and the Ministry of the Interior. There were also 19 people wounded, including four Afghans who were struck at the American Embassy. Late in the evening, the Interior Ministry was still counting the number of dead insurgents, but it appeared that at least seven had entered the city and five had taken positions in a 14-story building that was under construction and had clear sight lines to its targets.
The assault from the building was all the more dismaying because it suggested the involvement of many people who allowed heavily armed men to enter the city and get through the cordon that surrounds the capital's center.
Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying the Taliban had sent an unspecified number of assailants to attack two of the most prominent symbols of the American military and diplomatic presence here. He said the assailants were also firing at Afghan government targets.
2) Turkish Leader Urges Vote for Palestinian Statehood
David D. Kirkpatrick and Rick Gladstone, New York Times, September 13, 2011
Cairo - Capitalizing on Turkey's growing stature and influence across the Middle East at a time of regional upheaval, its prime minister ramped up the pressure on Israel and the United States on Tuesday, telling the Arab League ministers they must vote for Palestinian statehood at the United Nations this month.
"Recognition of the Palestinian state is the only correct way," the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said in a speech to members of the Arab League in Cairo on the second day of his so-called "Arab Spring" tour. "It is not a choice but an obligation."
Mr. Erdogan's support of Palestinian statehood was certainly no surprise. But the commanding tone of his message, coupled with his increasingly hostile attitude toward Israel - which once considered Turkey its close friend - underscored how Turkey has now cast itself as a leader in the region.
His remarks also constituted a new challenge to both Israel and the United States, which has promised to oppose any move at the United Nations General Assembly to grant statehood to the Palestinians on Israeli-occupied lands. The American position on the Palestinian statehood question threatens to leave the United States increasingly isolated.
"Let's raise the Palestinian flag and let that flag be the symbol of peace and justice in the Middle East," Mr. Erdogan said. "Let's contribute to the establishment of peace and stability n the Middle East that it deserves."
Mr. Erdogan also repeated his contention that Israel is the aggressor in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and said Turkey-Israel relations would not be normalized unless the Israelis apologized and paid financial compensation to relatives of the victims killed in the May 2010 Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound Turkish flotilla, which had been trying to circumvent the Israeli blockade of that territory.
Turkey accelerated its growing stature in the Arab world - and further upended the regional order - when it downgraded diplomatic relations with Israel and expelled its ambassador early this month after Israel refused to issue an apology over the Gaza flotilla incident. But even before the recent flare-up with Israel, Mr. Erdogan was already lionized across the region for his commitment to Islamist politics, pluralistic constitutional democracy and energetic economic development. In Egypt, aspiring Islamist politicians often try to sell themselves as "the Egyptian Erdogan."
Mr. Erdogan seemed to present himself as a spokesman for the backlash against Israel unleashed by the revolts across the region. "Israel is the West's spoiled child," he said, "to this day it has never executed a decision by the international community."
Mr. Erdogan also sought to sign on to the attempts, in anticipation of a statehood bid, to broker a reconciliation between the secular Palestinian Authority, which controls the West Bank and the Islamist militant faction Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip. Some reports had suggested that Mr. Erdogan planned to visit Gaza on his tour in a symbolic snub to the Israelis and a boost for Hamas. But in the television interview Mr. Erdogan said he preferred to visit together with Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian Authority, and his Hamas counterpart, Ismail Haniya.
"I told Abbas to come with me so that we can all go together, Mahmoud Abbas, Erdogan and Ismail Haniya," Mr. Erdogan said. "You know what he said? He said, yes I will come with you. I have hope and I am waiting for this visit."
3) Palestinians Said to Favor General Assembly Vote
David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times, September 13, 2011
Cairo - The secretary general of the Arab League said Tuesday that the Palestinians were leaning strongly toward seeking United Nations recognition as a state from its General Assembly and not the Security Council, the clearest signal yet of the Palestinian strategy toward that milestone.
Turning to the General Assembly would all but assure the Palestinians a victory in the vote and an embarrassment for Israel, but it would also provide only a limited United Nations recognition, as a non-voting state. Only the Security Council can provide full membership with voting rights, but turning to the Security Council would also put the United States in the uncomfortable position of vetoing the Palestinian effort, setting back American diplomacy in the Arab world as well.
The General Assembly option, however limited, would still pave the way for the Palestinians to join dozens of United Nations bodies and conventions, and it could strengthen their ability to pursue cases against Israel at the International Criminal Court.
Although the Arab League secretary general, Nabil el Araby, said Mr. Abbas would announce the final decision on the United Nations strategy within two days, the statement from Mr. Araby carried weight because he spoke a day after meeting with the Palestinian leaders to discuss their strategy.
Mr. Araby has close relations with the Palestinians dating back to his advocacy of their cause in the early years of his career as an Egyptian diplomat, and in a brief tenure earlier this year as Egypt's foreign minister Mr. Araby turned swiftly to the Palestinian cause. He helped upgrade Egyptian relations with the Palestinian militant group Hamas, brokered a reconciliation between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority in preparation for the United Nations bid, and loosened Egypt's restrictions on traffic across its border with Gaza, which is governed by Hamas. He called Egypt's previous support for Israel's blockade of Gaza "shameful."
In a news conference to close the 136th session of the Arab League, Mr. Araby said that the United Nations vote "will change the Israel-Palestinian conflict: it will turn from a conflict about existence to a conflict about borders." He called the vote an important step toward a two-state solution to the conflict.
4) Pentagon to drastically cut spending on Afghan forces
Under pressure from the White House for steep reductions, the Pentagon agrees to a no-frills approach for Afghanistan's army and police. Expenditures will be cut by more than half by 2014.
David S. Cloud, Los Angeles Times, 9:02 PM PDT, September 12, 2011
Washington - The Pentagon is planning to slash U.S. assistance to Afghanistan's army and police by more than half over the next three years, settling for a no-frills Afghan security force to battle the Taliban-led insurgency after American forces pull out.
Training and equipping Afghans to take over security has been key to the Obama administration strategy to withdraw all U.S. combat troops by the end of 2014. But the White House increasingly views high spending on the beleaguered Afghan military as unsustainable and has pressured the Pentagon for steeper cuts than previously planned.
The new approach, including reduced spending on such equipment as air conditioning and car radios, would provide for a "good enough" Afghan force to combat an entrenched insurgency that has survived nearly a decade of U.S.-led firepower, White House officials privately say.
The cutbacks, along with already planned reductions, would shrink annual U.S. expenditures on Afghan security forces from nearly $13 billion to well below $6 billion in 2014, the officials said. The Pentagon has spent more than $39 billion to build up the fledgling forces over the last six years.
The U.S. pays almost all the costs for Afghanistan's military and police and probably will continue to do so in the near future because the government in Kabul takes in only about $2 billion a year from taxes and other domestic revenue.
The Obama administration requested $12.8 billion from Congress this year after U.S. and Afghan officials decided to increase the national security force to 352,000 troops, up from 305,000. Internal Pentagon projections had called for spending levels to drop after 2014, as trucks, helicopters and other equipment now being purchased go into use. Finding billions in spending cuts will be difficult without scaling back plans to increase the size of the force, several officials said.
The push to cut expenses is the latest point of tension between the White House and some in the military over Afghan policy. The split emerged this year when President Obama ordered the withdrawal of 100,000 troops at a faster rate than commanders had recommended.
By all accounts, Obama appears more comfortable with a military strategy that relies heavily on drone aircraft strikes in neighboring Pakistan and nightly raids by special operations forces against Afghan militants, while trimming the American military presence and budget to politically acceptable levels.
Some in the military see the Afghanistan conflict, which began weeks after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, as a test of U.S. resolve, while some in the administration view it as a military stalemate and are seeking a way to cut further losses. But even Defense Department officials who oppose deep spending cuts or troop withdrawals acknowledge that Congress is unlikely to indefinitely support current funding levels for Afghan troops.
Douglas Ollivant, a former National Security Council aide under Obama and President George W. Bush, said the administration has recognized that "they've got to get to budget reality and that Afghanistan is unlikely to collapse before the 2012 election" even if spending is cut.
5) Rick Perry Calls For Afghanistan Withdrawal At GOP Tea Party Debate
Amanda Terkel, Huffington Post, 9/13/11
Rick Perry has been relatively silent on foreign policy, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
During the GOP debate Monday night, he said he believed that the U.S. should continue to have a "presence" in Afghanistan, but that it was time to start transitioning responsibility over to the Afghans.
"I agree with Gov. Huntsman when we talk about it's time to bring our young men and women home as soon -- and obviously as safely -- as we can," Perry said. "But it's really important for us to continue to have a presence there. I think the entire conversation about how do we deliver our aid to those countries -- and is it best spent with 100,000 military who have the target on their back in Afghanistan? I don't think so at this particular point in time."
"I think the best way for us to be able to impact that country is to make a transition to where that country's military is going to be taking care of their people," Perry continued. "Bring our young men and women home. And continue to help them build the infrastructure that we need, whether it's schools for young women like yourself or otherwise."
At last week's GOP debate in California, former Utah governor Jon Huntsman suggested it's time the country bring the remaining United States troops stationed in Afghanistan home.
"I think we've lost our confidence as a country," he explained. "I think we have had our innocence shattered. I think, ten years later, we look at the situation and we say, we have 100,000 troops in Afghanistan. This is not about nation-building in Afghanistan. This is about nation-building at home."
Huntsman continued, "Our core is broken. We are weak. We have got to strengthen ourselves. I say we've got to bring those troops home."
6) U.S. 'Not Encouraged' by India, South Africa, Brazil at UN
Nicole Gaouette, Bloomberg, September 13, 2011, 1:26 AM EDT
The U.S. has not been encouraged by the performance of India, Brazil and South Africa during their temporary tenure on the UN Security Council, Ambassador Susan Rice said yesterday.
Splits between the so-called IBSA group of countries and the U.S. arose as protest movements swept the Middle East. India and Brazil, along with Russia, China and Germany, abstained from a UN resolution that formed the legal basis for military intervention in Libya.
As Syria sent troops out to suppress protesters, Brazil, India and South Africa blocked UN moves to pressure the Assad regime and sent diplomats to Damascus last month to engage leaders there. All three countries are serving two-year temporary terms on the Security Council and aspire to permanent seats, a goal the U.S. may block.
"It's been a very interesting opportunity to see how they respond to the issues of the day, how they relate to us and others, how they do or don't act consistent with their own democratic institutions and stated values," Rice said at a briefing with reporters. "Let me just say, we've learned a lot and, frankly, not all of it encouraging."
That criticism is simplistic, said Fabienne Hara, the vice president of multilateral affairs at the International Crisis Group. Hara, who recently returned from meetings in Brazil and consults widely with other diplomats, said the IBSA countries approached the Libya situation with their own set of concerns.
"They were all quite surprised that this turned into a NATO-led operation with a bombing campaign, with a variety of targets including Tripoli," Hara said.
For countries with colonial histories that now champion non-interference, as India and Brazil do, the NATO action had ugly historical echoes, said Mark Quarterman, director of the program on Crisis, Conflict and Cooperation at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
"There's almost a third-world sense, a post-colonial sense, that they were meddled in, in ways that didn't redound to their benefit, and now the same countries are claiming humanitarian reasons for meddling," Quarterman said.
The IBSA countries have pointed out that while there was an arms embargo and a call for a cease-fire, it applied to Qaddafi's forces, while France sent arms to the Libyan rebels.
An oil embargo was put in place against Qaddafi and his officials, while Qatar helped the rebels sell oil with the NATO- led coalition's awareness.
All this led to concern about what the UN would do when Syrians began taking to the streets. "The reason why there is no resolution on Syria now is because of Libya," Hara said, "the aftermath of this very bitter debate that members of the Security Council had after the Libya bombing.
"They were extremely reluctant to authorize any kind of resolution that could be the first step to" another Western intervention, Hara said.
7) Brutality By Afghan Local Police Is Reported
Jack Healy, New York Times, September 12, 2011
Kabul, Afghanistan - Local police forces trained and financed by the United States have killed and raped civilians, stolen land and carried out other abuses against the Afghan villagers they are charged with protecting, according to a report released on Monday by Human Rights Watch.
The accusations of violence, theft and impunity raise new questions about whether the local police and government-supported militias in Afghanistan, which are meant to play a major role in defending small villages against the Taliban, are instead undermining security at a critical moment for the country and the NATO-led war effort.
The rights group's report said the Afghan government's failure to punish abusive local police officers or the militias known as arbakai was causing harm in several ways: seeding the ground for further abuses, building local support for the Taliban and eroding people's faith in the government to crack down on corruption, lawlessness and powerful local warlords.
With most of the Western forces in Afghanistan preparing to depart by the end of 2014, the Afghan Local Police initiative has been trumpeted as an important stopgap to secure remote corners of Afghanistan until the growing Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police can take control. It follows years of largely failed efforts by Western and Afghan officials to build an effective community-level defense corps.
The paramilitary local police forces number about 7,500 officers in 46 districts, and officials hope to expand them to 30,000 officers. They are trained for three weeks by American Special Forces units and then armed with automatic rifles; they are paid about 60 percent of the salaries that national police officers get.
Although the local forces are credited with improving security in some corners of the country, aid workers, Afghan civilians and local officials have complained that some of the police units do the bidding of local warlords and are not held accountable for their abuses of power.
According to the report issued on Monday, Afghan leaders from some communities said that they had been pressed by the government to accept the local police in their villages, and that the American Special Forces had enrolled militia members as local police officers over the objections of elders.
Opponents of the program, like Hajji Janan, a member of the provincial council in Wardak, just west of the capital, said that the local police were militias by another name, and that they had killed five civilians in the past six weeks and regularly extorted money from residents.
8) Israel to 'punish' Turkey
Jerusalem fights back: Foreign Minister Lieberman formulates series of tough moves in response to Turkish steps; Israel to cooperate with Armenian lobby in US, may offer military aid to Kurdish rebels
Shimon Shiffer, Ynet, 09.09.11
Jerusalem to punish Erdogan: Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has decided to adopt a series of harsh measures in response to Turkey's latest anti-Israeli moves, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Friday.
Senior Foreign Ministry officials convened Thursday to prepare for a meeting to be held Saturday with Lieberman on the matter. Saturday's session will be dedicated to discussing Israel's response to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's recent threats and his decision to downgrade Ankara's diplomatic ties with Jerusalem.
The Foreign Ministry has now decided to proceed with the formulation of a diplomatic and security "toolbox" to be used against the Turks. The first move would be to issue a travel warning urging all Israeli military veterans to refrain from traveling to Turkey. The advisory will be especially harsh as it will also urge Israelis to refrain from boarding connections in Turkey.
Another planned Israeli move is the facilitation of cooperation with Turkey's historic rivals, the Armenians. During Lieberman's visit to the United States this month, the foreign minister is expected to meet with leaders of the Armenian lobby and propose anti-Turkish cooperation in Congress.
The implication of this move could be Israeli assistance in promoting international recognition of the Armenian holocaust, a measure that would gravely harm Turkey. Israel may also back Armenia in its dispute vis-à-vis Turkey over control of Mount Ararat.
Lieberman is also planning to set meetings with the heads of Kurdish rebel group PKK in Europe in order to "cooperate with them and boost them in every possible area." In these meetings, the Kurds may ask Israel for military aid in the form of training and arms supplies, a move that would constitute a major anti-Turkish position should it materialize.
[Many of these threats may be bluster, but it should nonetheless be noted that the PKK is on the State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations, so if Israel gets caught arming the PKK, that could potentially be a big deal. It will also be interesting to see if "pro-Israel" groups who have opposed recognition of the Armenian genocide in deference to Israel's alliance with Turkey now switch their position - JFP.]
9) Amnesty International says Libyan rebels, as well as Gadhafi forces, committed war crimes
Associated Press, September 13, 12:23 AM
Brussels - Rebels fighting to topple Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi committed unlawful killings and torture, Amnesty International said in a report released on Tuesday.
The 100-plus page report, based on three months of investigation in Libya, draws no equivalency between the crimes of Gadhafi loyalists and those of the former rebels, who now hold power in Tripoli: The Gadhafi forces' crimes were greater, the list of them is longer, and they may have amounted to crimes against humanity, the report said.
But it said the crimes of the rebels were not insignificant.
"Members and supporters of the opposition, loosely structured under the leadership of the National Transitional Council (NTC) ... have also committed human rights abuses, in some cases amounting to war crimes, albeit on a smaller scale," the Amnesty report said.
It said opposition supporters "unlawfully killed" more than a dozen Gadhafi loyalists and security officials between April and early July. And just after the rebels took control of eastern Libya, the report said, angry groups of rebel supporters "shot, hanged and otherwise killed through lynching" dozens of captured soldiers and suspected mercenaries, with impunity.
In addition, the report said both sides stirred up racism and xenophobia, causing sub-Saharan Africans to be increasingly attacked, robbed and abused by ordinary Libyans.
"In February, there was this rumor about Gadhafi using black people as mercenaries; that's wrong," Nicolas Beger, director of the Amnesty International European Institutions office, told Associated Press Television News in Brussels on Monday. "But the NTC has not done a lot to curb that rumor and now there is a lot of retaliation against sub-Saharan Africans. Whether they were or they weren't involved with the Gadhafi forces, they are at real risk of being taken from their work or their homes or the street to be tortured or killed."
Beger also said abuses were continuing under the new government. "We have even spoken to guards who admit that they use force," he said. "They say, 'Yeah we use force in order to get confessions, in order to force people to hand in their weapons.' So this really needs to be controlled. This is one of the priorities that the new authorities have to really get a clear act on."
10) Oakland Children's Museum Cancels Palestinian Children's Art Exhibit Under Pressure from Local Jewish Groups
Cecilie Surasky, Jewish Voice for Peace, September 10 2011
Berkeley, CA's Middle East Children's Alliance broke the news yesterday that the exhibit of children's artwork from Gaza that they had worked on for months with Oakland's Children's Museum of Art was suddenly canceled by the board before the planned September 24 opening reception. The show featured drawings by children about Israel's infamous Operation Cast Lead, the military assault of December 2008-January 2009 that led to the deaths of some 1,400 Palestinians, over 300 of them children.
Recognizing that the San Francisco Jewish Community Relations Council has an established track record of targeting Palestinian cultural expression, I wrote directly to JCRC Executive Director Doug Kahn to find out if they were involved in the board's sudden decision to cancel the show. Indeed it seems they were, though perhaps not alone. This was his response in full:
"East Bay JCRC, working closely with the Jewish Federation of the East Bay, shared with the leadership of MOCHA our concerns about the inappropriateness of this exhibit given the fact that MOCHA – an important and valued community institution – serves very young children."
(MOCHA has only stated that they received complaints "from Jewish groups as well as others in the community.")
However, it doesn't seem likely that this is about concerns for children's sensitivities to war imagery. As the San Francisco Chronicle pointed out in its coverage of the incident today, MOCHA has a significant track record of showing the artwork of children living under war, including WWII, without incident. These images apparently aren't substantively different.
This is, however, about giving voice to Palestinians-in this case children- who endured a simply extraordinary attack on an illegally captive population of 1.5 million people otherwise known as Operation Cast Lead.
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