Letter from an Israeli Jail

http://english. pravda.ru/ world/americas/ 08-07-2009/ 108016-letterisr aelijail- 0

08.07.2009

Letter from an Israeli Jail

This is Cynthia McKinney and I’m speaking from an Israeli prison cellblock in Ramle. [I am one of] the Free Gaza 21, human rights activists currently imprisoned for trying to take medical supplies to Gaza, building supplies – and even crayons for children, I had a suitcase full of crayons for children. While we were on our way to Gaza the Israelis threatened to fire on our boat, but we did not turn around.

The Israelis high-jacked and arrested us because we wanted to give crayons to the children in Gaza. We have been detained, and we want the people of the world to see how we have been treated just because we wanted to deliver humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza.

At the outbreak of Israel’s Operation ‘Cast Lead’ [in December 2008], I boarded a Free Gaza boat with one day’s notice and tried, as the US representative in a multi-national delegation, to deliver 3 tons of medical supplies to an already besieged and ravaged Gaza.

During Operation Cast Lead, U.S.-supplied F-16’s rained hellfire on a trapped people. Ethnic cleansing became full scale outright genocide. U.S.-supplied white phosphorus, depleted uranium, robotic technology, DIME weapons, and cluster bombs – new weapons creating injuries never treated before by Jordanian and Norwegian doctors. I was later told by doctors who were there in Gaza during Israel’s onslaught that Gaza had become Israel’s veritable weapons testing laboratory, people used to test and improve the kill ratio of their weapons.

The world saw Israel’s despicable violence thanks to al-Jazeera Arabic and Press TV that broadcast in English. I saw those broadcasts live and around the clock, not from the USA but from Lebanon, where my first attempt to get into Gaza had ended because the Israeli military rammed the boat I was on in international water … It’s a miracle that I’m even here to write about my second encounter with the Israeli military, again a humanitarian mission aborted by the Israeli military.

The Israeli authorities have tried to get us to confess that we committed a crime … I am now known as Israeli prisoner number 88794. How can I be in prison for collecting crayons to kids?

Zionism has surely run out of its last legitimacy if this is what it does to people who believe so deeply in human rights for all that they put their own lives on the line for someone else’s children. Israel is the fullest expression of Zionism, but if Israel fears for its security because Gaza’s children have crayons then not only has Israel lost its last shred of legitimacy, but Israel must be declared a failed state.

I am facing deportation from the state that brought me here at gunpoint after commandeering our boat. I was brought to Israel against my will. I am being held in this prison because I had a dream that Gaza’s children could color & paint, that Gaza’s wounded could be healed, and that Gaza’s bombed-out houses could be rebuilt.

But I’ve learned an interesting thing by being inside this prison. First of all, it’s incredibly black: populated mostly by Ethiopians who also had a dream … like my cellmates, one who is pregnant. They are all are in their twenties. They thought they were coming to the Holy Land. They had a dream that their lives would be better … The once proud, never colonized Ethiopia [has been thrown into] the back pocket of the United States, and become a place of torture, rendition, and occupation. Ethiopians must free their country because superpower politics [have] become more important than human rights and self-determination.

My cellmates came to the Holy Land so they could be free from the exigencies of superpower politics. They committed no crime except to have a dream. They came to Israel because they thought that Israel held promise for them. Their journey to Israel through Sudan and Egypt was arduous. I can only imagine what it must have been like for them. And it wasn’t cheap. Many of them represent their family’s best collective efforts for self-fulfilment. They made their way to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. They got their yellow paper of identification. They got their certificate for police protection. They are refugees from tragedy, and they made it to Israel only after they arrived Israel told them “there is no UN in Israel.”

The police here have license to pick them up & suck them into the black hole of a farce for a justice system. These beautiful, industrious and proud women represent the hopes of entire families. The idea of Israel tricked them and the rest of us. In a widely propagandized slick marketing campaign, Israel represented itself as a place of refuge and safety for the world’s first Jews and Christian. I too believed that marketing and failed to look deeper.

The truth is that Israel lied to the world. Israel lied to the families of these young women. Israel lied to the women themselves who are now trapped in Ramle’s detention facility. And what are we to do? One of my cellmates cried today. She has been here for 6 months. As an American, crying with them is not enough. The policy of the United States must be better, and while we watch President Obama give 12.8 trillion dollars to the financial elite of the United States it ought now be clear that hope, change, and ‘yes we can’ were powerfully presented images of dignity and self-fulfilment, individually and nationally, that besieged people everywhere truly believed in.

It was a slick marketing campaign as slickly put to the world and to the voters of America as was Israel’s marketing to the world. It tricked all of us but, more tragically, these young women.

We must cast an informed vote about better candidates seeking to represent us. I have read and re-read Dr. Martin Luther King Junior’s letter from a Birmingham jail. Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever imagined that I too would one day have to do so. It is clear that taxpayers in Europe and the U.S. have a lot to atone for, for what they’ve done to others around the world.

What an irony! My son begins his law school program without me because I am in prison, in my own way trying to do my best, again, for other people’s children. Forgive me, my son. I guess I’m experiencing the harsh reality which is why people need dreams. [But] I’m lucky. I will leave this place. Has Israel become the place where dreams die?

Ask the people of Palestine. Ask the stream of black and Asian men whom I see being processed at Ramle. Ask the women on my cellblock. [Ask yourself:] what are you willing to do?

Let’s change the world together & reclaim what we all need as human beings: Dignity. I appeal to the United Nations to get these women of Ramle, who have done nothing wrong other than to believe in Israel as the guardian of the Holy Land, resettled in safe homes. I appeal to the United State’s Department of State to include the plight of detained UNHCR-certified refugees in the Israel country report in its annual human rights report. I appeal once again to President Obama to go to Gaza: send your special envoy, George Mitchell there, and to engage Hamas as the elected choice of the Palestinian people.

I dedicate this message to those who struggle to achieve a free Palestine, and to the women I’ve met at Ramle. This is Cynthia McKinney, July 2nd 2009, also known as Ramle prisoner number 88794

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Moslem in China: The Uighur say Beijing’s repression of their culture led to the outburst of violence [EPA]

Tuesday, July 07, 2009
12:36 Mecca time, 09:36 GMT
 
FOCUS: CHINA  
 
Uighurs blame ‘ethnic hatred’
 
 By Dinah Gardner in Beijing  
The Uighur say Beijing’s repression of their culture led to the outburst of violence [EPA]
 

The riots that rocked the city of Urumqi in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region are the area’s worst for more than a decade. 

In the 1990s, Uighur insurgent groups staged several deadly bomb attacks across the region; in 2008, attacks on police and government targets in Xinjiang ended with more than two dozen deaths.

What makes these riots different, however, is the high number of causalities. Exile groups say violence erupted after police moved in on Sunday to break up a peaceful demonstration protesting against the killing of two Uighur migrant workers in southern China last month.

Many Uighurs – the Turkic-speaking Muslim ethnic minority of the region – and overseas scholars say the recent violence is rooted in deep-seated and long-standing resentment between the Uighur people and the Han Chinese majority, who account for 92 per cent of the population.

Andrew James Nathan, a political science professor at Columbia University in the US, says deteriorating relations between the Uighur and the Han are to blame for the latest riots.

“I don’t know what triggered this specific event, but the underlying tension that broke out in this as well as previous events reflects the alienation of the Uighur residents from the kind of rule imposed by Beijing, which is insufficiently respectful of their culture, religion, identity, and interests,” he says.

Ethnic tensions persist

From her exile in the US, Kadeer denied any involvement in the unrest in Xinjiang [AFP] 

The government, though, is clear about who is to blame – outside forces, in particular Rebiya Kadeer, the leader of the US-based World Uighur Congress (WUC).

“The unrest was a pre-emptive, organised, [and a] violent crime. It was instigated and directed from abroad, and carried out by outlaws in the country,” a government spokesperson said.

Kadeer, a former political prisoner in China who now runs the WUC as a Uighur rights organisation, rejects the accusations.

“I did not organise any protests or call on the people to demonstrate, ” she says.

A young Uighur man, who has been living in Beijing for the past five years, agreed to an interview on the condition that he remain anonymous, saying he feared repercussions from the authorities.

He says Kadeer and the WUC could not have been behind the violence.

“Ever since I was born until now there has been this problem between Uighur and Han,” he says.

“Han people don’t treat us or our culture with any respect, and the key thing is that there are more and more Han coming to live in Xinjiang. And that means us Uighur people are losing our culture and we have less freedoms.”

Relations are so bad, he says, that Han taxi drivers will not even pick him up on the streets of Urumqi.

Uighur children, he says, are barred from learning their own language in schools – from middle school onward studies are solely in Chinese.

“They don’t allow us to teach our children about Islam in schools. They are not allowed to study religion until they are at least 18.”

“They have taken away our language and our culture. Han people treat us like dirt.”

Outside forces

Tensions had been reaching boiling point in the past week or so after the deaths of the two Uighur migrant workers. They were killed in a fight in a toy factory in Guangdong province following a rumour that six Uighur men had raped two Han Chinese women.

While Chinese media is acknowledging the link between the Urumqi riots and the tragic killings in Guangdong, it is insisting that outside forces used the incident “in the name of revenge” to “sow the seeds of racial and religious hatred in Xinjiang”.

Al Jazeera approached several Chinese scholars for comment on the riots in Xinjiang but they declined to be interviewed, saying they do not have permission to discuss the issue with journalists.

The killings were definitely the spark for this latest violence, says Dru Gladney, a professor of anthropology and Xinjiang specialist at Pomona College in California.

“I think it is connected [with the Guangdong killings] at least that’s what I’ve been told by Uighurs I have spoken to,” Gladney says, adding that this time because the violence took place in Urumqi it is likely the protest is rooted in anger at Han treatment rather than any religious-based fight for independence.

“I think it was significant that it took place in Urumqi because Uighurs there only make up about 10 per cent of the population,” he explains by phone.

“Most protests have historically been outside Urumqi, in rural areas in the south or in Yili in the north … There are more worker solidarity issues [in Urumqi] – a lot of the Uighur intellectuals and more secular nationalist Uighurs are based in urban areas like Urumqi whereas more religious activists are in the countryside and places like Kashgar.”

Blaming insurgent groups

Beijing says the insurgent groups are fighting for independence and may be connected to al-Qaeda, but for the average Uighur, independence seems an unattainable dream.

The young Uighur man in Beijing says his people are powerless and it is useless pursuing notions of independence.

“China has caught and suppressed our culture and religion. They have destroyed our history and our ancient buildings in Kashgar. And now it’s all gone.”

Meanwhile, in Urumqi, the city is under lock-down, according to western media. Curfews have been imposed and mobile phone and Internet links cut, much as authorities crushed anti-government riots in Tibet last year.

Despite the crackdown, the chances are, say scholars, that this is not the end of it.

“Protests in Xinjiang have been increasing slowly for many years and I think the prospect is that they will continue to occur, both this year and in future years,” says Nathan.

Anniversary celebrations

Some analysts hope the level of violence will convince Beijing to heal rifts with the Uighur

The government is particularly on edge this year because of celebrations for the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China on October 1.

While officially, the government insists this problem is caused by exile separatists and local “outlaws”, Gladney is hopeful that the scale of the violence will convince Beijing that the solution lies less in an authoritarian approach and more in trying to heal the rifts between the ethnic groups.

“I think some of us are hoping that it may cause them to rethink their strike hard tactics that they’ve used up until now, but certainly not until things settle down,” he says. “Clearly with this level of [violence] it should cause them to really rethink that.”

How do the local people see an eventual solution to the ethnic strife?

The Uighur man strokes his beard and laughs nervously.

“I don’t know how to solve this problem,” he says. “I wish I was in Xinjiang now but I’m not there. I feel helpless.”

 
 Source: Al Jazeera