Sunday, October 30, 2005

Still got it

I've just been reading Noam Chomsky's latest published work, Imperial Ambitions, a collection of interviews with David Barsamian on the post 11 September 2001 world. Here's an excerpt:

At the talks you give to American audiences, you often are asked the question, "What should I do?"

Only by American audiences. I'm never asked this in the third world. When you go to Turkey or Colombia or Brazil, they don't ask you, "What should I do?" They tell you what they're doing... It's only in highly privileged cultures like ours that people ask this question. We have every option open to us, and have none of the problems that are faced by intellectuals in Turkey or campesinos in Brazil. We can do anything. But people here are trained to believe that there are easy answers, and it doesn’t work that way. If you want to do something, you have to be dedicated and committed to it day after day… You want a magic key, so you can go back to watching television tomorrow? It doesn’t exist.

And just like that Chomsky unlocks a great truth, something I’ve always known at some implicit level. I’ve visited a few front line locations now, and it goes without saying that there is an inverse relationship between activism and privilege. In Palestine, for example, it’s impossible not to be political. Every checkpoint, every ID-card, every Israeli jet heard from above is a reminder of a fundamentally political, military presence which maintains a stranglehold on the Palestinians’ daily life. When women in rural Pakistan choose an education over immediate marriage, their actions are both an act of necessity and an act opposition to oppression. In so doing, they risk assault or murder.

In comparison, it’s quite difficult to mobilize the general public on a political issue in a place like Australia. On this situation I can best speak from personal experience. For years I have bemoaned the lack of opportunities for a career based on social justice, activism, and social change… and a decent pay packet.Yet such concerns are relatively absurd as recent personal activities can attest.

Imperial Ambitions is an excellent, concise summary of the Bush regime's domestic and global ambitions. It also keeps faithful to Chomsky's standard sense of understated optimism. To put it crudely; things are pretty fucked, but far from terminal, and there's something we can do about it. Educate yourself, then get involved. But don't expect any easy solutions. The world doesn't work that way.

A big thank you to Matt Godzieba from Metropolitan Books for donating the book. Metropolitan Books is presently publishing a series of books called The American Empire Project. As that name suggests, the purpose of this series is to disseminate information and opinion from respected American progressives on the present cache of American Empire builders.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Free Manal and Nour

Whilst in Palestine, I met lawyers from Addameer, an excellent organisation that represents political prisoners. During my meeting I was told of one particular campaign Addameer is running.

Manal Ghanem, a 29 year old mother of four children, is serving a 50 month sentence for conspiracy in an attempt to kill. The details of her case show that she had attempted to carry weapons from one site to another. The attempt failed and she did not try to do it again. Manal has no previous criminal record. The Israeli Military Judge who ruled in her case said in his judgment:

“Her role was very minor and insignificant in the planning and she did not know any previous information about the attempt… she joined at a very late stage of planning… we have to [show mercy towards] her son who was born in a very tough situation and who will spend his first years at prison… Manal did not participate in planning… she is not a member of or a supporter of any organization… she is not affiliated to any political faction, she had never been part of or accused of any violation in the past”

At the time of her sentencing, Manal was pregnant with her forth child, Nour. She gave birth to him whilst in prison.

Manal (who suffers from thalassemia) and her son Nour needs special medical treatment which are not provided by the Israeli Prison Services. While she was pregnant, Manal received no special medical treatment during her arrest and interrogation. After delivering Nour, both were sent immediately to the prison and in that instant Nour became the youngest prisoner being held inside Israeli prisons.

Nour, a baby, receives the same level of services and treatment as every other, adult prisoner. His outside breaks are not extended, and his family has not been allowed to send him toys and other children's items. Manal says, “I worry for the life of Nour because the prison guards sometimes use gas or water against the female prisoners. He needs the sunlight and fresh air, toys, etc, and none of this allowed. When he is provided with diapers, they are always too small and upset Nour."

According to Israeli prison laws, a mother is allowed to keep her child up to 2 years in the prison after which time the child will be released to his family away from the mother who remains imprisoned.

In addition to Nour, Manal and her husband, Naji, have 3 other children. Since Manal is not able to take care of them and Naji works long hours everyday, the children are forced to live at their grandparent’s home in the Tulkarm refugee camp.

Please take a moment to read more about Manal and Nour's stoy. I would strongly urge you to send a letter to the Israeli Government seeking her release. Address details and a suggested letter are available here.