Michael Riordon

the view from where I live


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Québec recognizes Palestine

On Tuesday December 4, the National Assembly of Quebec adopted a motion to recognize the right of Palestinians to self-determination and statehood.

Palestine, QuebecMarch for Palestine, Montreal

The motion originated with Québec Solidaire, a new political party that won two seats in the 2012 provincial election, on a platform of social justice and independence.  Last weekend the party’s national council passed a motion to support the Palestinian people and their right to self-determination, and asking its elected members to convince the Assembly to greet Palestine’s accession last week to the status of an observer state in the United Nations.

[MR:  Québec’s initiative contrasts sharply with the current Canadian regime’s shameful performance at the UN, as one of only 9 countries in the world to vote No to Palestine.]

Jointly with Amir Khadir, member of the National Assembly for Mercier, Minister of International Affairs Jean-François Lisée presented the following motion: “That the National Assembly calls on the Government of Canada to take note of the decision of the United Nations recognizing the status of observer for Palestine and the continuation of the valuable Canadian aid given to build a State within the rule of law in the Palestinian territories; that it reaffirms the unwavering support of Québec to a negotiated solution that embodies both the need for Israel to live in peace within secure and recognized borders and the right of Palestinians to self-determination and to the creation of a State.”

The motion passed with no opposition.


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The United Nations welcomes Palestine

How the world voted:
Yes: 138       No: 9      Abstain: 41

UN vote on PalestineYesterday, Thursday November 29, 2012, the United Nations General Assembly voted to approve Palestine’s bid to become a non-member observer state.  The final vote stood at 138 in favor, 9 against and 41 abstentions.

The United States voted against the measure along with Israel, Canada, Czech Republic, Panama, Palau, Marshall Islands, Nauru, and Micronesia. Each of these is a colony or an ally of the US; some are both.  The abstentions follow a similar pattern.

After fighting tooth and nail to block a positive vote, the United States and Israel immediately claimed that it meant nothing.  It’s not a real state, they said in one voice.  Subtext: In the Security Council, the US will continue to veto the admission of Palestine to full equality in the UN.

The wall still stands, the Israeli occupation continues, so does the siege of Gaza.  The US government will continue to fund these crimes.  The governments of Canada, Britain, Australia – each of which, like Israel, is built on land and resources stolen from indigenous peoples – and some other regimes in the US corral will continue to justify these crimes.  So will the vast majority of the mainstream media.

Even so, this is a new day.  138 countries defied relentless bullying from Israel and the US, to assert the inalienable right of Palestinians to equality, justice and peace.

November 29:  Another step on a very long road to freedom for the people of Palestine.

We are still needed.  Stay connected.  Stay involved.


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Palestine at the United Nations, today

This message & video link just arrived from Jewish Voice for Peace, in Washington DC:

Hours from now, Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority, will speak to the United Nations General Assembly and ask 193 countries to vote for non-member observer status for Palestine.

With support expected from as many as 150 countries, the bid will likely pass easily.

This vote will not create an independent Palestinian state.  [MR: Only the Security Council can grant statehood; the US vetoed a Palestinian bid last year.]  But despite its limitations, Jewish Voice for Peace supports this initiative in the General Assembly.

A successful bid will demonstrate that the majority of the world’s countries support Palestinian political and social rights.  It could give Palestinians the ability to hold Israel accountable, for the first time ever, in the International Criminal Court.

Israel and the United States are lobbying furiously against the bid [MR: So is Canada].  Both countries claim they support Palestinian independence, but have worked non-stop against a just and lasting peace for both peoples.  Should this bid succeed, Israel and the US have threatened retribution against the Palestinians and the UN.  Powerful members of the U.S. Congress have already introduced an amendment to a budget bill that would pull U.S. funding from countries that support the bid, and to punish the U.N. itself.

Today represents a critical opportunity for the rest of us.

Today people will read, see, hear about Palestine/Israel in blogs, newspapers, Facebook, everywhere.  They may wonder: why are Palestinians stateless? Why are they fighting?  Why are Israel and the United States opposing most of the world?

At Jewish Voice for Peace we’ve put together a 6-minute animation that explains why Israelis and Palestinians are fighting.   It’s not meant to be comprehensive, but a simple tool about the conflict as a struggle for equal rights.

Let’s help people to understand why this UN vote matters, why so-called ‘peace talks’ have failed, and how we can make a difference, now, in our homes and schools and workplaces.

Voices for a just peace will not be heard through the mainstream media.  By posting and forwarding this video any way you can, you’ll help ensure that such voices get a hearing.

The video is here.


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Gaza: back to normal

If the truce holds, life in Gaza goes back to normal.  (For the 104 civilians killed, one third of them children, it’s too late.)

In Gaza, for the survivors a return to normal means:

Israel continues to impose its suffocating, illegal siege on 1.6 million Palestinians in what UN officials have called “the world’s largest prison.”  For a compact, stark account of the siege, read Sara Roy in The Boston Globe, ‘Where’s our humanity for Gaza?’  Sara Roy is senior research scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University.  

Israel continues to shoot at Palestinian farmers trying to work their land, and at Palestinian fishers trying to fish in Palestinian waters.

Fresh water in Gaza continues to disappear, and becomes increasingly undrinkable because Israel prevents access to the materials needed to repair and operate the water purification plant which it bombed.

Reconstruction after each Israeli assault depends on materials which Israel blocks from entry through the checkpoints, the prison gates.  Similarly the medical supplies to repair human damages.

And so on, in every sphere of life.

Meanwhile, the United States continues to prop up Israel unconditionally with billions of taxpayer dollars, while the US economy fails most of its own population.  Current regimes in Canada, Britain, Australia and most of Europe continue to grant Israel carte blanche to do as it wishes.

At the same time, BDS – the international movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions – continues to grow, as the most effective way for the rest of us to challenge these crimes.


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Six ways to stand with the people of Gaza

Gaza City, today.  Photo: The Guardian, UK

1.  Due to the long Israeli siege, Gaza’s medical system was already badly damaged before this latest assault.  Now it has to deal with a wave of traumatic injuries.  Medical Aid for Palestine (Canada) gets vital support to grassroots health-care organizations in Gaza.  Medical Aid for Palestinians (UK) does the same.

Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions:

Israel will continue to wage war on the Palestinians until the cost becomes prohibitive.

The boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement is an effective way for people of conscience around the world to show solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and hold Israel – and all complicit institutions — accountable for occupation and apartheid.  The BDS movement has already made significant gains, causing economic damage to companies that support Israel’s crimes, persuading artists not to perform in Israel, winning support from major churches, trade unions and social movements, as well as pressuring governments to take action.

So, five more ways to express solidarity with the Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank:

2.  Boycott Israel.  Don’t buy Israeli goods.

Profits from exports from Israel help to fund the Israeli government and its crimes against the Palestinian people.  Refuse to buy Israeli goods and tell retailers that you are doing it.  Persuade friends and family to stop buying any Israeli products too.

Brands to avoid include Ahava, Jaffa oranges, Sabra and Tribe hummus and SodaStream.

3.  Join an active BDS campaign or start a new one.

Initiate action in your institution, union, group, etc., against the companies and organisations that support and profit from Israel’s system of oppression over the Palestinian people.

For example, in the US, campaigners have pressured major pension funds to divest from Caterpillar, a company that provides bulldozers used to destroy Palestinian homes.

Public bodies across the world have been successfully pressured to stop awarding contracts for public services to Veolia, a company that provides infrastructure to illegal Israeli settlements.  Veolia has lost contracts worth more than $14bn following BDS campaigns.

Campaigners recently persuaded a major bank to divest from G4S, a private security firm involved in Israel’s crimes against Palestinian prisoners, including children.

You can find out more about campaigns taking place in your area by contacting your local Palestine solidarity organisation.  There’s a great online database of Palestine solidarity groups here.

4.  Organise a BDS protest action.

Demonstrations, banner drops and flashmobs are great ways to raise awareness of the boycott of Israel.  Some actions target particular products, like the actions against Israeli cosmetics company Ahava, while others take place in supermarkets and remind shoppers not to buy Israeli goods or to target complicit companies.

There’s a useful guide to planning a BDS action here. The guide is written specifically for the Ahava campaign, but it’s full of useful ideas for similar campaigns too.

5. Urge organisations that you are a member of to divest from Israel.

Trade unions, student unions, faith groups and other organisations all over the world have passed BDS-related resolutions calling for divesting from companies profiting from Israel’s occupation.

The US Quakers’ investment entity recently sold its shares in Hewlett Packard and Veolia, two companies supporting and profiting from Israeli violations of international law, after having divested from Caterpillar a few months ago for the same reasons.

Student unions around the world have voted to support divestment and have successfully campaigned to have companies like Sabra Hummus and Eden Springs removed from their campuses.

Trade unions can participate in BDS campaigns and sell any investments they may hold in Israeli companies or raise rank-and-file awareness about Israeli products to boycott.

Ask organisations that you’re a member of to hold a meeting to discuss education about and support for the BDS campaign, and find out if it’s possible to pass a resolution to support BDS when the time is right.

6.  Pressure elected officials to impose a military embargo on Israel.

Military ties with Israel feed and encourage further Israeli violence.  Israel wouldn’t be able to maintain its occupation and apartheid system over the Palestinian people if it wasn’t for the military aid it receives from the US or the military trade it conducts with countries around the world.  Urge your government and elected representatives to support a military embargo on Israel.

Please, stand with the people of Gaza now.  They need us.


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Gaza, now.

Tal el Hawa neighborhood, Gaza city, Nov 16, after Israeli air attack.  Photo: Activestills.org

From The Real News Network, 16 November 2012: UN Holds Urgent Security Council Meeting, US Stands With Israel.

No surprise there.  Of 79 United Nations resolutions the US has killed with its veto power at the Security Council, 42 have been critical of Israel.  The United States remains Israel’s most faithful supporter and most lavish funder, even as the US economy fails the vast majority of its inhabitants.

In Canada, the government and the opposition parties either egg the bully on or remain shamefully silent.  Same in Britain, Australia, France, and so on.

Here too, no surprises.  For the 1% who control state power in the so-called western democracies, Israel’s aggression is comfortably familiar; it seeks to emulate precisely the violent grand theft of the Americas and other continents by European invaders.

Which is to say, Palestinians in Gaza face the most powerful and by far the most aggressive military state in the Middle East, backed by the most powerful and aggressive military state on the planet.

In a compelling eye-witness report, human rights advocate Adie Mormech writes from Gaza today, under Israeli bombardment.  And ends with an urgent plea to the rest of us who are not comfortable with crimes against humanity currently being committed in our name.


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Gaza.

The latest Israeli assault on Gaza is impossible to comprehend if one relies on the mainstream media.  Once again they obscure and distort what’s actually happening on the ground, and why.

On the ground, Gaza, Nov 14, 2012.

By contrast, I trust implicitly reports coming out of Gaza via the well-connected Mondoweiss website, run by American journalists Philip Weiss and Adam Horowitz.  Here is a small selection of the most recent:

No safe haven: Civilians under attack in the Gaza Strip.  Sent by a team of international eyewitnesses in Gaza, November 16, 2012.

Day Three of Israeli Attack on Gaza.  Nov 16, 2012.

Two new resources: Timeline of Israeli escalation in Gaza and Israel’s history of breaking ceasefires.  by Adam Horowitz, November 14, 2012.  A close look at the real motives behind Israel’s assaults on Gaza.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and helpless in the face of these crimes, committed with Israel’s unique impunity, don’t count on our governments or the UN to stop the carnage.  They will not.  But there is something that the rest of us can do.  It may seem small, distant, even pointless, but just remember, in the 1980s ending apartheid in South Africa also seemed impossible.  Something we can do:

BDS Movement: Stop a new Israeli massacre in Gaza — boycott Israel now!