Archive for the 'Occupation' Category

The Resistance Themes of The Dark Knight Rises

Stellan Vinthagen September 26th, 2012

Author: Christopher Sims
Doctoral Candidate
Department of War Studies
King’s College London

If Occupy Wall Street had made a Hollywood blockbuster, it may have been remarkably similar to Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises. Purportedly the final instalment of a Nolan trilogy, this film serves as a sometimes explicit, sometimes allegorical critique of those responsible for the crisis of Western capitalism. As such, Nolan unashamedly taps into the zeitgeist, throwing in his lot with the 99% over the 1%: the former who make up the bulk of the trilogy’s fan-base; the latter its financial base. Indeed, in one scene, Gotham city traders are strapped to the backs of motorcycles to be used as human shields; transformed from peerless architects of self-aggrandising financial systems into helpless slaves of the West’s violent arbiter.

In the film, art imitates life. The plot of The Dark Knight Rises would have had little resonance were it not for Occupy Wall Street or the atrocities of 9/11. The grand theme of the film, that of a disenfranchised majority serving an über-wealthy minority and a masked terrorist mastermind detonating considerable portions of the city, has its roots firmly in actual events, where Gotham is a thinly disguised New York City. Even the villainous Bane’s entry to Gotham may seem familiar, taking control of a US government-operated plane, ultimately using it for his own ends as he controls its mid-air disintegration, leaving one of his group members onboard who is quite prepared to sacrifice himself in order to enable the operation to advance.

Bane we are informed has been the only inmate of a notorious prison somewhere in the Global South to have escaped its confines. Thus he is in possession of the strength, conviction and guile necessary to confront the West. Bane’s continual articulation of the philosophical reasoning behind his actions brings to mind the French philosopher Michel Foucault’s comment in his conversation with Gilles Deleuze: ‘And when the prisoners began to speak, they possessed an individual theory of prisons, the penal system, and justice. It is this form of discourse which ultimately matters, a discourse against power’. It is this discourse against the status quo which is so unsettling – articulate and yet seemingly bereft of compassion. The idea of incarceration is an important one in the analysis of East/West binaries, as seen for example in the geographer Derek Gregory’s writing on the global war prison.

Emancipated, Bane comes to control Gotham, achieved by using the West’s – specifically Wayne Enterprises – technology against itself, acquiring cutting-edge military hardware in order to quell dissent. This is a prominent theme in contemporary counter-terrorism fictions: in one episode of 24, day 4, when a stealth fighter is stolen, Chloe O’Brian observes that the terrorists are using our own technology against us. There is an ensuing pause laden with implication. This idea if not entirely rooted in the events of 9/11 then resonates on that level. At the same time, paralleling the Occupy protests, Bane arrives in Gotham to occupy a key installation in the financial district. He brutalizes the security staff before taking hostages. It’s Occupy Wall Street, but with a rather more kinetic character.

When the first confrontation between Batman and Bane takes place, Bane concludes that ‘victory has made you weak’. Such must be the verdict upon the West itself; from its peerless position at the end of the Cold War to a new era in which it appears plagued by popular self-doubt, afraid of what resistance movements may evolve in the Global South amid the consequences of a War on Terror waged across continents and systemic economic violence. Capitalism is at risk, democracy is evidently a volatile and malleable system of government; many analyses conclude that world inequality is increasing. Is The Dark Knight Rises escapism or self-reflective voyeurism?

Where is the West’s redemption? It is in his support of the bottom billion that we find the heroic in the character of billionaire Bruce Wayne. At one charity fundraiser the character reaches his philosophical apogee, considering the banquet laid out for the charity supporters as a great irony. It is a tedious, trite dialogue, well-worn, but necessary in order to resonate with the audience, articulated simply to appeal to the 99 percent watching from their cinema seats whilst drinking soda and eating candy purchased from multinational corporations. The film’s importance is in what is absent; the military and the political are relegated to obscure sideshows: this is instead visceral physical violence combating systemic economic abuse. The Masters of the Universe, to borrow Tom Wolfe’s phrase from his 1987 novel Bonfire of the Vanities, are usurped by those who have come from nothing and consequentially have nothing to lose. It is a compelling narrative: compelling because the narrative resonates.

Bane has been bankrolled by a member of Gotham’s financial elite. In one scene, the pair is together, with orders being given to Bane, before Bane turns and kills his former master. It is a fearful image, and evokes Karl Marx and Friederich Engel’s argument in The Communist Manifesto that modern capitalism, ‘a society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and exchange, is like the sorcerer who is no longer able to control the powers of the underworld that he has called up by his spells.’ In Gotham too, there is an underclass no longer provided for by the state, instead, they find their best chance of work, and thus of hope, is found by mysterious employment deep in the sewer system, now working for those very powers of the underworld.

The analysis of the interplay between life and art, between popular culture and politics, is a burgeoning discipline gaining mainstream momentum; consider Kelly DeVries’ and Charli Carpenter’s recent assessments of the political and historical relevance of Game of Thrones, in the prestigious journal Foreign Affairs. In The Dark Knight Rises, Nolan has fused violent anti-Western resistance narratives to the Occupy Wall Street agenda, under a powerful Hans Zimmer score. Bane attempts to catalyse societal rebellion, enabled by self-aggrandising elite figures. Art may be the translation of personal experience into a universally resonant form, but this film is clearly the translation of universal experience into an artistic form. Bane represents our greatest fear – that Western hubris has spawned an eloquent and omnipotent arbiter intent on bringing the West its day of reckoning.

In the West today the interface between rich and poor has not reached the physical carnage played out in The Dark Knight Rises, but a discernible friction exists; witnessed in sporadic bubbles of discontent at bankers’ bonuses, the Occupy protests, Anonymous hacktivism, recent demonstrations in Spain and Greece. In the Global South where social deprivation is stark, these interfaces are more pronounced: systemic violence removes all attempts at social dignity and hope for future prosperity, resulting in the protests of the Arab Spring. Inequality in the West is ever-increasing too; for the average wage-earners, real income has not increased since the 1970s, this despite a sizeable recent increase in income for the top one-percent. In Germany, praised as a fiscal model to emulate, there has emerged a new stratum termed ‘the working poor’. Perhaps after all it is life which imitates art. Perhaps a storm is coming.

Image: Lego Bane. Photo credit anonymous, via lego.wikia.com.

Portrait of Hitler Discovered in French Church Window

jj January 18th, 2011

From Der Spiegel On Line

A stained glass window in a small church has caused a sensation in France. Unveiled in 1941, it depicts Adolf Hitler executing a saint who symbolizes the Jewish people. Local priests have praised the work as a brave act of resistance against the Nazi occupiers.

In the popular imagination, the French Resistance against the Nazi occupation of France is associated with heroic acts of guerrilla warfare, such as blowing up bridges or derailing trains. But in one small town near Paris, two artist brothers also resisted the occupation in their own quiet way — with a politically charged stained-glass window.

Local historians in the town of Montgeron have rediscovered a stained-glass church window that criticizes the Nazi occupation by depicting Adolf Hitler as an executioner. The dictator is shown in the act of killing St. James, who was one of Jesus’ 12 apostles.

Although Hitler’s distinctive hairstyle can easily be recognized in the portrait, his trademark moustache has been left out. “The glassmakers hid it behind his arm, to avoid any trouble,” local priest Dominique Guérin told the French newspaper Le Parisien.

Political Message

The church’s stained-glass windows were unveiled in July 1941, during the Nazi occupation. Locals believe that the two artists, the Mauméjean brothers, deliberately depicted Hitler as the executioner of St. James, whom the church is named for, as an act of artistic and religious resistance.

Guérin’s predecessor Gabriel Ferone told Le Parisien that the saint represents the Jewish people, as his name in Hebrew has the same etymology as Jacob, the father of the 12 tribes of Israel. Stained-glass windows created by the brothers in other churches also mix political and religious messages, according to historian Renaud Arpin.

Authorities in the town are now hoping that the media attention will turn the church into a tourist attraction. Montgeron is only 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) from Paris and is easily reachable by train.

dgs/SPIEGEL

Easter Island land dispute clashes leave dozens injured

jj December 4th, 2010

From BBC

Local people said the police had fired on people at close range

At least 25 people have been injured during clashes between Chilean police and local people on Easter Island.

Witnesses say police fired pellets as they tried to evict several indigenous inhabitants from buildings they occupied earlier this year.

The Rapa Nui group say the buildings were illegally taken from their ancestors several generations ago.

Easter Island, which was annexed by Chile in 1888, is a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Chilean security forces began their operation in the early hours of the morning, says reports.

When the group refused to leave and others gathered at the scene, they opened fire with pellet guns.

Officials said 17 police officers and eight civilians had been injured. But the Rapa Nui put the number of injured locals at 19, and denied that any police had been hurt.

“ The land on this island has always been Rapa Nui. That’s why we’re asking for our land to be returned”

Maka Atan Rapa Nui lawyer

A number of people were also arrested and at least one person was air-lifted to the mainland for medical treatment.

A statement on the Save Rapa Nui website said several people had been shot at close range. It said police had used rubber bullets and tear gas.

“They injured at least 23 of our brothers and sisters, three of them seriously,” Edi Tuki, a relative of one of those injured, told the Efe news agency.

“One was shot in the eye with a buckshot pellet from just a metre away.”
‘Shooting to kill’

Maka Atan, a Rapa Nui lawyer, told the Associated Press police had been “shooting to kill”. He said he was shot in the back by pellets.

“It seems like this is going to end with them killing the Rapa Nui,” he said.

Rapa Nui is the official name for the remote Easter Island, which lies more than 3,200 km (2,000 miles) off the west coast of Chile.

The tiny island has a population of about 4,000 but is best known for its ancient giant carved stone heads, known as Moais.

Map

Map

The indigenous Rapa Nui people have been protesting for the past three months about what say are plans to develop the island, as immigration and tourism increase.

They are demanding the return of ancestral land they say was unlawfully seized from their grandparents.

“The land on this island has always been Rapa Nui. That’s why we’re asking for our land to be returned,” Mr Maka told AP.

“Nobody has said this is a normal situation,” said Raul Celis. “There was an eviction, and buildings had been occupied illegally for several months.”

Mr Celis said the evictions would continue.

Media reports said police reinforcements were travelling to the island from the mainland.

Destroying Palestinian Olive Trees

jj November 25th, 2010

By César Chelala in The Globalist

Olive trees have been mentioned in the Bible, the Qur’an and the Torah. Olive oil is a key product of the Palestinian national economy, making up 25% of the total agricultural production in the West Bank. César Chelala explores why the Israel Defense Forces have been accused of uprooting olive trees to facilitate the building of settlements.

Why do Israel Defense Forces and settlers destroy olive trees?

Why do Israel Defense Forces and settlers destroy olive trees?

During the last few years, Palestinian olive trees — a universal symbol of life and peace — have been systematically destroyed by Israeli settlers.

“It has reached a crescendo. What might look like ad hoc violence is actually a tool the settlers are using to push back Palestinian farmers from their own land,” stated a spokeswoman for Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights organization monitoring incidents in the West Bank.

The tree and its oil have a special significance throughout the Middle East. It is an essential aspect of Palestinian culture, heritage and identity, and has been mentioned in the Bible, the Qur’an and the Torah. Many families depend on the olive trees for their livelihood.

Olive oil is a key product of the Palestinian national economy, and olives are the main crop in terms of total agricultural production, making up 25% of the total agricultural production in the West Bank.

Palestinians plant around 10,000 new olive trees in the West Bank every year. Most of the new plants are of the oil-producing variety. Olive oil is the second major export item in Palestine.

For the last 40 years, over a million olive trees and hundreds of thousands of fruit trees have been destroyed in Palestinian lands. The Israel Defense Forces have been accused of uprooting olive trees to facilitate the building of settlements, expand roads and build infrastructure.

The uprooting of centuries-old olive trees has caused tremendous losses to farmers and their families. At the same time, restrictions to harvesting have come through curfews, security closures and attacks by settlers.

The uprooting of olive trees by the Israel Defense Forces and by settlers are done to protect the settlers, since they are supposedly used to hide gunmen or stone throwers. “The tree removals are for the safety of settlers…No one should tell me that an olive tree is more important than a human life,” declared IDF army commander, Colonel Eitan Abrahams.

As a result of the attacks on farmers by the IDF and by settlers, the farmers “can’t get to their lands and work them. The settlers chase the farmers, shoot in the air, threaten their lives, confiscate their ID cards and damage the crops,” declared B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization.

Yesh Din has declared that not even one of 69 complaints filed during the past four years on damage to Palestinians trees in the West Bank has resulted in an indictment. The toll includes thousands of trees from several areas, from Susya in the southern Hebron Hills to Salem in northern Samaria.

Rabbis for Human Rights has declared that, in recent weeks, the olives from about 600 trees near the settlement of Havat Gilad were stolen before their Palestinian owners could harvest them.

In a review he wrote on this issue, Atyaf Alwazir, a young Muslim American, stated that the uprooting of trees from Palestinian lands violates the Paris Protocols, The Hague and Geneva Conventions and the Covenant on Economics, Social and Cultural Rights.

According to Sonja Karkar, founder of Women for Palestine in Melbourne, Australia, uprooting olive trees is contrary to the Halakha (the collective body of Jewish religious law) principle whose origin is found in the Torah: “Even if you are at war with a city….you must not destroy its trees.”

What do settlers actually want? To destroy Palestinians’ livelihood with impunity? To create a barren land, unfit for trees and people? Perhaps they should be reminded of the A.E. Housman verses:

Give me a land of boughs in leaf,

A land of trees that stand;

Where trees are fallen there is grief;

I love no leafless land.

IDF soldier faces silent protest at ASU

jj November 19th, 2010

From Waging Nonviolence

When Nadav Weinberg, a soldier who had served with the Israeli Defense Forces, spoke at Arizona State University last week, the room was filled with protesters. Rather than disrupt his speech, which is often the tactic taken at such events, the demonstrators found a much more powerful way to voice their dissent: silence.

Here you can see a seven minutes video from the action

After taking their seats, the demonstrators took off their jackets to reveal red t-shirts with signs bearing the names, ages and dates that civilians were killed by Israeli troops. They then took red tape and covered their mouths with it.

Folks in the back of the room held a sign that read: “Giving Voice to Civilians Silenced by IDF Policy.” (I like the emphasis on policy rather than on the individuals within the military, which I think is always an important distinction for nonviolent activists to make.)

Part way through Weinberg’s speech, the group proceeded to stand up and slowly walk out of the room, leaving it close to empty.

A similar action took place at the University of Michigan recently, which is a hopeful sign that IDF soldiers will not be able to share their viewpoints on American campuses uncontested.

Britain And The Increasing Nonviolent Resistance

jj November 15th, 2010

Fadi Abu Sa’da – PNN Editor in Chief – It was vey strange that the British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, came to visit Israeli and the Palestinian Territories in the same day that marks the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.

Foreign Secretary, William Hague

Foreign Secretary, William Hague

It is known that most of British diplomatic work are meetings known in diplomatic terms as “ Black & White.” The other strange thing is the addition of a new “color” to the visit of the British Minister; which is very important to the British and their diplomacy, but as important to us as well and holds many meanings.

It came to my knowledge that British diplomats were in contact with a group of Palestinian leaders of the nonviolence resistance, they were informed of a secret meeting that will be held between them and a VIP person. They were not told who or any other details for security reasons. But for the misfortune of the British, Israel has to be informed of all the details of the diplomats’ visits; and Israel started its pressure on Britain to get the details of this secret meeting.

In some mysterious way Israel knew that Hague was in fact going to meet Palestinian nonviolence resistance leaders. The army started to try to know their names, something Britain refused to give up, as the case all the time Israel tried to say those leaders are terrorists and are convicted by the occupation, but in fact they are nonviolence resistance organizers; something that is legitimate in all international laws.

The activists were Ahmad Al Azeh from The Holy Land Trust, a Palestinian NGO that work in promoting nonviolence in Palestine, Mohamed Zawahrah, a leader of nonviolent resistance against the wall in Bethlehem area , and Hindi Musleh, an activist from the village of Ni’lin, where weekly nonviolent actions are organized against the Israeli wall.

Al Azeh being arrest by troops at protest in Bethlehem (Archive)

Al Azeh being arrest by troops at protest in Bethlehem (Archive)

I knew that Al Azeh and Zawahrah were transported from Bethlehem to Ramallah on the day of the meeting in a “special way” fearing that Israeli troops will stop them from attending the meeting.

The meeting was held at a neutral area, most importantly that it does not fall under the Israeli security control, the place was a hilltop overlooking the Israeli detention center of Offer near Ramallah city, in central West Bank. The car that was driving British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, arrived at the location and he met the activists for 25 minutes. The place and the setting of the meeting, was not classical according to diplomacy but it was of great importance.

The meeting with the British Minister tackled three issues; the increase in the nonviolence resistance and the importance of the international support to it, second the effects of the Israeli wall on the Palestinian farmers, and third the Israeli violence to counter such resistance and activities.

Hague told the activists “it’s very important to continue in this form of nonviolence resistance, and you have unlimited support to such work from our side.”

Israel did not allow any media to cover the meeting; fearing that the headlines will change from Hague visiting Israeli to him meeting Palestinian Nonviolence resistance leaders.

Indeed I want to thank those activists and their efforts for delivering our voice to the world and I have small gratitude for the British Diplomat for this nice gesture, but it should happen more often from them and other diplomats working in the Palestinian areas. We only ask for our right that is guaranteed by international law and we will get it one way or the other.

Indian completes 10 years on hunger strike, vows to continue

jj November 6th, 2010

GUWAHATI, India — A human rights activist in northeast India who is dubbed the “Iron Lady of Manipur” has completed 10 years on hunger strike and vowed to continue her protest, her supporters said Wednesday.

Irom Chanu Sharmila (C) is escorted by female police officers prior to a court appearance

Irom Chanu Sharmila (C) is escorted by female police officers prior to a court appearance

Irom Chanu Sharmila, from the remote state of Manipur, which borders Myanmar, began her fast on November 2, 2000 after witnessing the killing of 10 people by the army at a bus stop near her home.

Now 38, she was arrested shortly after beginning her protest — on charges of attempted suicide — and was sent to a prison hospital where she began a daily routine of being force-fed vitamins and nutrients via a nasal drip.

Sharmila is frequently set free by local courts, but once outside she resumes her hunger strike and is rearrested.

She is campaigning for the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) that enables security forces to shoot on sight and arrest anybody without a warrant in impoverished and heavily militarised Manipur.

“She decided to continue with her fast-unto-death mission until the draconian legislation is repealed by the government,” Babloo Loitongbam from local human rights group Human Rights Alert told AFP.

“She made her intentions pretty clear as she completed 10 years of hunger strike,” Babloo said after visiting Sharmila on the 10th anniversary of the start of the fast on Tuesday.

“Militancy is still thriving. In other words, the Special Powers Act has miserably failed.”

AFSPA was passed in 1990 to grant security forces special powers and immunity from prosecution to deal with raging insurgencies in the northeast of India and in Kashmir in the northwest.

The act is a target for local human rights groups and international campaigners such as Amnesty International, which says the law has been an excuse for extrajudicial killings.

Amnesty has campaigned vociferously against the legislation, which it sees as a stain on India’s democratic credentials and a violation of international human rights law.

Several rights groups held sit-in demonstrations in Imphal, the capital of Manipur, to express their solidarity with Sharmila on Tuesday.

“She is Manipur?s crusader for peace and rights violations by security forces,” said Anita Devi, a women’s rights activist.

She is currently being held in an isolated cabin at the Jawarharlal Nehru Hospital in Imphal.

Manipur is home to 2.4 million people and about 19 separatist groups which have demands ranging from autonomy to independence. An estimated 10,000 people have been killed during the past two decades of violence.

AFSPA is also deeply unpopular in Kashmir, where senior politicians have campaigned for it to be withdrawn.

It was seen as one of the factors that fuelled mass street protests in the Muslim-majority region over the summer in which more than 100 people died, most of them in shootings by security forces.

Hunger strikes were used effectively by India’s independence movement during the British rule, particularly by Mahatma Gandhi, whose use of the technique was an integral part of his non-violent resistance.

Exodus in protest of the pillage

jj November 1st, 2010

15.10 – 2010 03:01 Western Sahara Resource Watch

In protest of the ongoing exploitation of Western Sahara’s natural resources, and their dire socio-economic situation, hundreds of Saharawi in the occupied territories have left their homes in the cities to live in tents in the desert.

Since 4 days, over 1.000 Saharawi in the occupied territories of Western Sahara have left their homes in El Aaiún, Boujdour and Smara, to go and live in tents in the zone of Lemseyed (in Gdeim Izik). They say they’re doing this as a peaceful protest against the Moroccan occupation of their homeland and the ongoing exploitation of the territory’s’s natural resources.

Sources say that about 1.100 individuals are now living in approximately 150 tents. Other sources cite up to 400 tents. As a sign of support, the former phosphate workers, who lost their jobs in Fos Bou Craa when Morocco took over the company, have visited the camps.

This exodus has already elicited a response from the Moroccan authorities. Since 12 October, 15 armed trucks and 35 vehicles of the auxiliary forces have been sent in. Additionally, 2 army-helicopters take turns in surveillancing the protest-camps. See footage from the Moroccan police surrounding the camps here.

The Saharawi people in the occupied territories of Western Sahara have become a marginalised minority in their own country: they are outnumbered by Moroccan settlers who are provided jobs through the exploitation of Western Sahara’s abundant natural resources. Meanwhile the Saharawi see their most basic human rights continuously violated by the Moroccan occupying regime, in a climate of impunity.

Palestinians Sentenced for Civil Disobedience

jj October 24th, 2010

By ROBERT MACKEY in NYT

This month, as a new documentary about a successful campaign of nonviolent, civil disobedience by Palestinian villagers in the West Bank screens in New York and Los Angeles, Israeli military courts have handed out jail terms to two men who led similar protests against the path of Israel’s security barrier near their village.

The documentary now being shown, “Budrus,” is named for the village that succeeded in forcing a change to the path of the security barrier, which would have cut Palestinian olive farmers off from their trees. In July, my colleague Nicholas D. Kristof, an Opinion columnist, wrote that the film is, “a riveting window into what might be possible if Palestinians adopted civil disobedience on a huge scale.”

In the same column, Mr. Kristof described attending a protest at another West Bank village, Bilin, the home of the organizers recently sentenced in Israeli military courts. He wrote:

Most of the marchers were Palestinians, but some were also Israeli Jews and foreigners who support the Palestinian cause. They chanted slogans and waved placards as photographers snapped photos. At first the mood was festive and peaceful, and you could glimpse the potential of this approach.

But then a group of Palestinian youths began to throw rocks at Israeli troops. That’s the biggest challenge: many Palestinians define “nonviolence” to include stone-throwing.

Soon after, the Israeli forces fired volleys of tear gas at us, and then charged. The protesters fled, some throwing rocks backward as they ran. It’s a far cry from the heroism of Gandhi’s followers, who refused even to raise their arms to ward off blows as they were clubbed.

The arrests and military trials of two of the Bilin organizers drew criticism from human rights groups, Britain, the European Union and Desmond Tutu.

Abdullah Abu Rahma, a teacher in the village, was arrested last December. Last week, he was sentenced to one year in prison by an Israeli military court that found him guilty of “organizing and participating in an illegal demonstration” and “incitement.”

He was cleared of another charge of weapons possession after the prosecution failed to convince the court that collecting Israeli tear-gas shells and bullets fired at the demonstrators to prove that force had been used against them constituted a crime.

On Thursday, a military court extended the sentence of another Bilin organizer, Adeeb Abu Rahma, a taxi driver whose cousin had been killed at a protest by a direct hit from a tear-gas shell, one caught on a graphic video.

As my colleague Ethan Bronner reported last year, the campaign, with its weekly marches against the construction of the Israeli barrier near Bilin, has been going on since 2005, making it “one of the longest-running and best organized protest operations in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and it has turned this once anonymous farming village into a symbol of Palestinian civil disobedience, a model that many supporters of the Palestinian cause would like to see spread and prosper.” Mr. Bronner also noted:

Like every element of the conflict here, there is no agreement over the nature of what goes on here every Friday. Palestinians hail the protest as nonviolent. … But the Israelis complain that, along with protests at the nearby village of Nilin, things are more violent here than the Palestinians and their supporters acknowledge.

While the historian and blogger Joseph Dana is among those who support the Palestinian protests known as the “popular struggle” against the construction of Israel’s barrier on Palestinian land — he has compared the jailed Bilin protest organizers to Gandhi — Arutz Sheva, a news organization that represents the view of Israeli settlers in the West Bank, wrote last week:

The riots at Bilin — and nearby Nilin — are billed by the left as non-violent but are, in fact, extremely violent. Since they began in 2005, the weekly riots have caused the death of a Border Guard policeman who lost his step and fell to his death while trying to catch rock-throwers, as well as causing an IDF soldier to lose his eye and another Border Guard policemen to suffer a serious eye injury.

While the situation seems black and white to some settlers, other Israelis have suggested that Israel’s military has taken to imprisoning the protest organizers not because it sees stone-throwing as a grave crime, but because it perceives them as a serious threat. Last year, Amira Hass, a columnist for Israel’s left-leaning Haaretz newspaper wrote:

The purpose of the coordinated oppression: To wear down the activists and deter others from joining the popular struggle, which has proven its efficacy in other countries at other times. What is dangerous about a popular struggle is that it is impossible to label it as terror and then use that as an excuse to strengthen the regime of privileges, as Israel has done for the past 20 years.

The popular struggle, even if it is limited, shows that the Palestinian public is learning from its past mistakes and from the use of arms, and is offering alternatives.

After Adeeb Abu Rahma’s jail term was extended, his lawyer, Gaby Lasky, said on Thursday: “Today the court of appeals has shown that it is serving as one more instance of political repression not as an actual court where justice is served. The court admitted what we all knew –- that the entire system is trying to make an example of Adeeb in order to silence the entire Popular Struggle movement against Israel’s occupation.

While the activists remain in jail, their struggle to prevent the barrier from separating Bilin villagers from their farmland — which was supported by a ruling in their favor by Israel’s High Court three years ago that was not implemented — appears to be nearing an end. On Thursday, The Jerusalem Post reported: “The IDF plans to complete the construction of a new security barrier near the West Bank Palestinian town of Bilin in the coming weeks. Bilin has been the scene of weekly anti-fence demonstrations in recent years.”

The new barrier will comprise a tall concrete wall, and security cameras will be placed near the haredi settlement of Kiryat Sefer. About [160 acres] of agricultural land will be given back to Bilin. Nonetheless, according to attorneys representing the village, roughly [320 acres] of private farmland will remain on the Israeli side….

“A concrete wall means better protection, and at the same time, means we do not have to repair the barrier like we’ve had to do almost weekly following the demonstrations at Bilin — because currently, it is just a fence,” said a senior officer on Wednesday.

A Study in Middle East Nonviolence

jj October 11th, 2010

Movie Review of Budrus from NYT

American audiences watching the documentary “Budrus,” about a pioneering effort in nonviolent protest by Palestinians in the West Bank, will find many of the images familiar. The marching, the chanting, the nerve-racking encounters between protesters and jumpy, heavily armed young policemen and soldiers: it’s “Eyes on the Prize” with olive trees.

The writer and director Julia Bacha has fashioned an engrossing and sometimes inspiring account of the confrontations that took place in the village of Budrus in 2003 and 2004 over the building of the Israeli security fence, relying on footage shot at the time by more than a dozen people. At first she keeps the larger and more intractable issues in the background, focusing on the stark contrasts of unarmed Palestinian women jumping in front of bulldozers and being beaten and gassed by the Israeli police.

As the protests, led by the quiet, tough-minded mayor, Ayed Morrar, and his teenage daughter Iltezam, succeed in stalling construction of the fence (which threatens to destroy 3,000 of the villagers’ olive trees), the Israeli news media take notice, and the situation grows more complex. Mr. Morrar, having invited women to participate — an unusual step — goes further and welcomes Israeli peace activists. Soon both the Israeli army and Palestinian politicians are involved; neither is a welcome presence. The cycle of violence the Morrars sought to end seems inescapable.

Ms. Bacha doesn’t duck the dispiriting aspects of the story: she shows us how young Palestinians eventually began throwing stones, and Israeli troops began shooting. “Budrus” makes a convincing case for the courage of the protesters (while giving ample screen time to the commander of the Israeli border police unit they confronted, who happened to be a very attractive young woman). The ultimate value of nonviolent protest in the occupied territories, however, is beyond the film’s scope.

BUDRUS

Written and directed by Julia Bacha; directors of photography, Shai Pollack, Monalisa Sundbom, Jonathan Massey, Ms. Bacha, Riyad Deis and Mohammed Fawzi; edited by Geeta Gandbhir and Ms. Bacha; music by Kareem Roustom; produced by Ronit Avni, Ms. Bacha and Rula Salameh; released by Just Vision. At the Quad Cinema, 34 West 13th Street, Greenwich Village. In Arabic, Hebrew and English, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 21 minutes. This film is not rated.

Children’s Circus Tear Gassed in Al Ma’asara

jj October 2nd, 2010

From Palestine Solidarity Project

A children’s circus was tear gassed in Al Ma’asara today following the weekly demonstration against the annexation barrier. Like every week, protesters gathered in the center of the village after midday prayer. A crowd of about twenty demonstrators marched to the edge of the village carrying banners, waving flags and chanting against the occupation and the settlements. This week’s demonstration commemorated the anniversary of the second intifada, a popular uprising against the Israeli occupation which began in October of 2000. The demonstration also marked the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, an Indian activist famous for leading his people in a nonviolent revolution against the British occupation of India.

Soldiers fired tear gas and sound grenades on the demonstrators, who gave speeches against the occupation and in support of nonviolent resistance. While the demonstrators were barred from reaching the road, a settler from the illegal Efrat settlement was allow to drive past the soldiers into the village. The settler parked at near the demonstrators and began telling the village residents that they were on his land, despite having previously admitted that he was from San Francisco, California. While the settler was talking a demonstrator covertly tied a Palestinian flag to the back of a military jeep. The soldiers eventually drove away with the flag still flying from their jeep.

After the demonstration finished, the crowd gathered around two clowns, who had come to perform for the children of the village. Half way through their act the soldiers returned and barraged the crowd with tear gas and sound grenades. Both clowns and many children suffered tear gas inhalation as they were chased back to the village. Soldiers proceeded to fired tear gas into the residential area of the village, and many village residents suffered tear gas inhalation.

“I know haven’t rehearsed in a while, but that seems like a bit of an overreaction,” one of the clowns commented.

University of Gothenburg Resistance Seminars Fall Schedule 2010

Stellan Vinthagen September 5th, 2010

We invite you all to the new semester of Resistance Studies Seminars. For the seventh time we have a full and interesting number of seminars that explore critically the meaning of resistance and its various articulations. All seminars are this time on Swedish.
September 16 with Marcus Regnander and Mattias Ström, International Solidarity Movement – Researchers. Nonviolent Resistance and State Repression in Hebron. Seminar is in Swedish. September 16. Thursday 15:15-17.00 at the Annedalseminariet at Room 419.

October 13 with Tiina Rosenberg, Professor of Gender Studies. Från protest till motstånd: Utgaångspunkt Ulrike Meinhofs text Vom Protest zum Widerstand. Seminar is in Swedish. October 13. Wednesday 15:15-17.00 at the Annedalseminariet at Room 419.

October 28 with Salka Sanden, author. 1990-talet och den autonoma rörelsens framväxt i Sverige. Seminar is in Swedish. October 28. Thursday 15:15-17.00 at the Annedalseminariet at Room 419.

November 11 with Daniel Hjalmarsson, Akademikerförbundet SSR. På jobbet är väl alla hetero…?: Öppenhet och stängda dörrar på sveriges arbetsplatser. Seminar is in Swedish. November 11. Thursday 15:15-17.00 at the Annedalseminariet at Room 419.

November 25 with Mats Adolfsson, historian. Svenska uppror: bondeuppror och gatukravaller. Seminar is in Swedish. November 25. Thursday 15:15-17.00 at the Annedalseminariet at Room 419.

December 9 with Mattias Gardell (or another member of) Ship To Gaza. Seminar is in Swedish. December 9. Thursday 15:15-17.00 at the Annedalseminariet at Room 419.

After the seminar there is a post-seminar gathering at restaurant Gyllene Prag (Sveag. 25) from 17:00 and onwards. We eat, drink and continue the discussions from the seminar in a more informal way. You are welcome to attend even if you was not at the seminar!
Annedalsseminariet, Seminariegatan 1A, close to Linneplatsen. see description how to find at: http://www.globalstudies.gu.se/kontakt
Welcome!

Why Israel Criminalizes Nonviolence

jj August 31st, 2010

This text is copied from http://blog.thejerusalemfund.org/.

An Israeli military court convicted Abdallah Abu Rahmah, the coordinator of the Bil’in Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements, of incitement and holding illegal demonstrations. The eight-month long ordeal, during which the peaceful activist was imprisoned, also ended with his acquittal on two other charges: stone-throwing and possession of arms.

Abu Rahmah gained international attention for his leading role in the growing nonviolent protest movement in occupied Palestine. His central West Bank village is the site of weekly protests against the encroachment of Israel’s wall and other occupation policies. The wall was considered illegal under international law by the International Court of Justice in a 2004 advisory opinion.

Quite often, Israeli military forces use violence and coercion against unarmed protesters there. Last week, Israeli soldiers in riot gear injured several of them, as well as a journalist. They detained two activists, one Palestinian and one foreign.

Increasingly, Israel criminalizes Palestinian protest, thereby reaffirming its cause and giving way to only more nonviolent opposition.

His conviction through the machinery of the laws of occupation highlight the fact that he, and other Palestinian prisoners, are processed by an illegitimate court administering an occupation and apartheid structure that contravenes international law and norms of justice. Legal prohibitions and enforcement against nonviolent resistance illustrate the inherent criminality of the system, a point made by purveyors and practitioners of civil disobedience, from Thoreau to Gandhi and King Jr.

Civil disobedience, as suggested by the philosopher John Rawls, is a public, non-violent and conscientious breach of law undertaken with the aim of bringing about a change in laws or government policies. The organizers of protests in Bil’in, as well as in Nilin, Budrus and other Palestinian areas, are working in the spirit of this definition.

The severity of the case against him demonstrates Israel’s official fear of nonviolent resistance. Abu Rahmah, himself, believes that this illegitimate campaign against him and the Bil’in activists will only inspire further activism:

Israel’s military campaign to imprison the leadership of the Palestinian popular struggle shows that our non-violent struggle is effective….Whether we are confined in the open-air prison that Gaza has been transformed into, in military prisons in the West Bank, or in our own villages surrounded by the Apartheid Wall, arrests and persecution do not weaken us. They only strengthen our commitment to turning 2010 into a year of liberation through unarmed grassroots resistance to the occupation….This year, the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee will expand on the achievements of 2009, a year in which you amplified our popular demonstrations in Palestine with international boycott campaigns and international legal actions under universal jurisdiction…

Elements of the conviction indicate the political motivations behind his arrest. The indictment cited this as evidence of indictment: Abu Rahmah collected spent Israeli tear-gas projectiles and bullet cases from the sites of demonstrations to prove that the violence was being used against demonstrators.

Israel’s military authorities effectively prohibit the collection of evidence against their policies and practices.

Under military law, incitement is “The attempt, verbally or otherwise, to influence public opinion in the Area in a way that may disturb the public peace or public order” (section 7(a) of the Order Concerning Prohibition of Activities of Incitement and Hostile Propaganda (no.101), 1967), and carries a 10 year maximum sentence.

The sentencing of Abu Rahmah, which begins next month, will be premised on the absurd argument that documenting Israel’s use of force against unarmed demonstrators disturbs the public peace. Public order in the case means the security of the military occupation. The prosecution is expected to recommend a two-year imprisonment sentence.

Beyond the criminality of the charges, the evidence presented against him should raise eyebrows. The prosecution presented the testimonies of minors who were arrested in the middle of the night and questioned without access to legal counsel. Under fair judicial systems testimonies by children made under duress would be inadmissible as evidence. The trial itself is testimony to the police state nature of the occupation.

Abu Rahmah’s case harkens back to the intifada that began in late 1987. This prosecution was the first use of the organizing and illegal demonstrations regulations since then. Military ordinances define “illegal assembly” in a much stricter way than Israeli law does (another example of the apartheid-nature of the occupation). It forbids any assembly of more than 10 people without a permit from the military commander.

The hidden charge, the one not expressly conveyed, is that Abu Rahmah was gaining international visibility, and was rising as a powerful voice of conscience against the forty-three year-old Israeli occupation of the West Bank. Israel is well aware of what damage a Palestinian figure of international stature could cause to Israel’s status quo.

After all, how often have western commentators criticized the Palestinians for lacking a Gandhi? This question was more often a function of the questioner’s ignorance than a reflection of the state of Palestinian nonviolent resistance — which has always been ubiquitous. From circumventing checkpoints, to refusing to pay fees to Israel, to building without permits, Palestinians fundamentally disobey Israel’s overbearing authority on a nearly continuous basis.

It is when leaders emerge that Israel targets them. In 2008, exactly a year before the Israeli military arrested Abu Rahmah in the middle of the night, he received the Carl Von Ossietzky Medal for Outstanding Service in the Realization of Basic Human Rights, which was awarded by the International League for Human Rights in Berlin.

The delegation of international figures and statesmen known as The Elders — including Mary Robinson, Fernando Cardoso, Jimmy Carter, Desmond Tutu and others — visited the memorial of the fallen Bil’in organizer, Bassem Abu Rahmah, in August 2009. Abu Rahmah accompanied them, and is pictured with them in the photo to the left. After his arrest in December, 2009, the South African former archbishop and anti-Apartheid Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu called for his release.

As with other nonviolent political prisoners, such as Mohammad Othman and Jamal Juma’, Abu Rahmah is intended to be made an example. Mubarak Awad was when he was deported by Israel in 1988 for organizing nonviolent resistance campaigns. However, Abu Rahmah’s case is an example of the excesses and authoritarianism of an occupation regime, one that suffers declining political support and increasing international ostracism.

The occupation is so rooted in violence and coercion that its only answer in the face of nonviolence is more of the same repression that inspires the protests. Because Israel’s occupation runs on force, it cannot distinguish physical and ideational threats by criminalizing them both. Its legal system punishes both through detentions, stripping what few freedoms there are, and through programs of state-sanctioned violence. Knowing that nonviolence has a powerful potential to politically shatter the occupation, the authorities see a need to punish it ruthlessly.

The ideological aims of occupation and settler-colonialism are embedded in this legal administration, making the system morally bankrupt.

For more information on Abu Rahmah, see the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee’s website.

Full text.

Israeli actors boycott theater in settlement

jj August 28th, 2010

By: Robert Mackey, NY Times, August 26, 2010

West Bank settlement of Ariel

West Bank settlement of Ariel


Full text here.
Two Israeli actors have announced that they will not travel with the country’s national theater company to perform in a new cultural center nearing completion in the West Bank settlement of Ariel.

On Wednesday, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that the center was nearing completion, after two decades of delay, with construction “going on by night, to allow the Muslim construction workers to fast during the Ramadan month.” A slate of eight plays, to be performed by four theater companies starting in November, was also announced.

Yousef Sweid, an Arab Israeli who is in the cast of “A Railway to Damascus,” one of the plays Israel’s national theater said it would take to the settlement from Tel Aviv, told Israeli television on Wednesday night that he was surprised to hear of the plan and would refuse to take part. According to Haaretz, he said:

I would be glad to perform in settlements in several shows that have messages I’d like to deliver in many communities. But settlers and settlements are not something that entertains me, and I don’t want to entertain them.

On Thursday, Haaretz explained that another member of the company, Rami Heuberger, who is not in any of the plays currently scheduled to be performed in the center, said, “if I am asked, I believe I would have a problem with performing there.” Last year, Mr. Heuberger wrote in an open letter in the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth in support of Samieh Jabbbarin, an Arab Israeli actor who had been placed under house arrest after protesting against Israel’s Gaza offensive:

Samieh and I are both Israeli citizens. If the State of Israel maintains that an action by a theater person democratically demonstrating against wrong doings turns him into a security risk and makes it necessary to lock him up at home for almost a year under surveillance, than I, too, should wear an electronic shackle. A different theater person, like myself, a non-Arab, would not have been treated this way for taking political action.

Noam Sheizaf, an Israeli journalist and blogger, suggested that there is some “irony” about the fact that one of the first plays announced for the new theater is “The Caucasian Chalk Circle,” Bertolt Brecht’s reworking of an ancient parable about the claims of two competing groups to the same piece of land.

Brecht’s play, written near the end of the Second World War, begins with a prologue in which two groups of idealized Soviet peasants argue over which of them should be allowed to farm a valley recently liberated from the Nazis. One group of goat-herders presses the claim that “The valley has belonged to us for centuries,” while a second group, which moved there during the war and cultivates crops more suited to the land, lays out ambitious plans to grow fruit there.

After some debate, the prologue ends with general agreement that the newcomers, who will use the land better, should be allowed to live on it for the greater good, because, one of them says, “As the poet Mayakovsky said: ‘The home of the Soviet people shall also be the home of Reason!’”

The two groups then perform a version of the ancient parable of the chalk circle — itself very similar to a story about the wisdom of Solomon — which is about settling a dispute between two women over who is the real mother of a child: the one who gave birth to him but abandoned him, or another who fostered him but is not related by blood.

In Brecht’s version of the story, the child is placed in a circle drawn on the ground between the two women, and each is asked to take one of the boy’s arms and try to pull him out of the circle. The judge says that the true mother will have the strength to pull the child from the circle. When just one of the women refuses to pull — because she fears that the child will be torn in two — the judge announces that she is boy’s the real mother (despite not having given birth to him) because she cares the most for his well-being.

King Solomon’s test is quite similar. He tells the women that he will simply cut the child in two and give half to each of them — prompting one woman (in that case, also the biological mother) to say that she prefers to give the child away than to see it killed.

Quite what all this might mean to the competing claims of Israeli settlers and Palestinians to the Israeli-occupied West Bank is not clear, but it seems likely that Brecht’s idea — that land should go to the people who will make the best use of it, rather than to the people who have the most long-lasting or deeply emotional connection to it — might not fit well with the national narratives of either group.

Resistance to occupation in Afghanistan

jj August 19th, 2010

To resist a military occupation is a deadly business. Occupation forces have a tendency to focus on their own losses and do their best to hide the killing of civilians. There is no reliable overview of the civilians killed in Afghanistan, but it looks like this Wikipedia-page is doing their best to collect all different calculations: Civilian casualties of the War in Afghanistan (2001–present)

The conclusion from this counting is that direct & indirect deaths adds up to something between 14,643 and 34,240 since the last period of occupation started 2001.

Most probably a more careful study of the material from Wikileak will add to these figures.

And as a comparison:

Updates on the number of Americans killed in Afghanistan:

US Deaths in Afghanistan: Obama vs Bush. Click here to learn more.

Inspiration from Gandhi in present Palestine

jj March 31st, 2010

Everyone has the right to live in freedom. Through history people all around the world have struggled for independence and sovereignty. When the British Empire was forced to leave India in 1947 it was the result of many years of independent struggle led by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.

The strategy used by the Indian liberation movement had two main components: Noncooperation and Constructive Program. The Noncooperation included strikes, refusal to follow orders, civil disobedience, refusal to pay taxes, and many other forms of noncooperation with the Viceroy, his administration and supporters. The argument was that the British colonisers were dependent on many different kind of support from the Indian population. And noncooperation with them will weaken the occupiers control over the Indian people. One important campaign was to disobey the law that gave the Brits control over the salt production and distribution. When 80 000 was arrested for illegally picking salt at the beaches the Viceroy had to withdraw the law and let the salt be free for anyone to produce.

The other part of the strategy was Constructive Program. This is the twin-part of the struggle without which the noncooperation will be reduced to symbolic activities. The main idea behind the Constructive Program was to replace all services, products, and structures provided by the Brits. Most famous was the Khadi Campaign that asked all Indians to produce their own cotton textiles by spinning two hours a day. This way they could stop buying British textiles and hence reduce their dependence. This way they started to build the new independent India long before the colonisers left the country. The Constructive Program aimed at preparing the society for the day of Independence and at the same time was a crucial part of the struggle for freedom.

For Gandhi it was just as important to have a good and reliable alternative to replace the foreign rulers as to get rid of the occupiers. In his own evaluation he said that they should have put even more emphasis on the Constructive Program than on the noncooperation activities. Both of them were important but without being able to prove that you can run your own country the victory could be short lived. And he concluded that it was obviously easier to remove the old system than to create a good alternative.

In the present struggle for a free Palestine the Karama Fund has taken up the Gandhian strategy in their work to replace products and services from Settlements with Palestinian alternatives.

Al Karama Fund

The National Dignity & empowerment fund (Al Karama Fund) was established early in 2010 to support the Palestinian people in their struggle against settlement products and services, and lead an international campaign to raise public awareness about the political implications associated with accepting Israeli settlement products in international markets.

In the context of the Palestinian government’s plan for the coming two years, and the Palestinian Authority’s vision in building an Independent state, this National campaign comes as practical translation towards that end. It comes to translate what is mentioned in the government’s document: ‘Ending occupation and establishing a state’, and the government’s attempt to build national capacity, and empower Palestinian economy, and consolidate its steadfastness. All in a way that would encourage other countries to take a strong position against settlements, as Palestinian national policy is seeking. The Palestinian Authority gives special priority to Palestinian products in local markets. This is in addition to its attempts in replacing settlement products with Palestinian ones in international markets. Freeing local and international markets from settlement products is a collective responsibility which requires aligning all efforts at all levels, and the Palestinian Authority is of course the biggest catalyst for these efforts.
Many nations around the world have already imposed restrictions to end importing settlement products along with forbidding any investment in settlements. The Palestinian authority has taken this strict decision against settlement products out of these settlements’ illegality, therefore anything produced in them is illegal.

Regarding trade with Israel, the Palestinian Ministry of Economy confirms continuing its cooperation as it was agreed at the Paris summit, although it is aware of its unfairness since Israeli products stream into our markets while Israel forbids any of our products from reaching its markets. In addition, Israel places many obstacles that face Palestinian products waiting to be exported to foreign countries, thereby; Israel is even denying Palestinian rights which were agreed in the Paris agreement.

The Goals of Al-Karameh National Fund:

-To self empower : by building and consolidating individual capacity, and depending on national efforts and human resources in meeting local product requirements.

- Liberating Palestinian markets from Settlement products,

- Encouraging Palestinian production

- Providing job opportunities for those unemployed.

- Developing the national industry and alleviates it to stage where one is easily convinced that it is an alternative for settlement products, and that it in fact enjoys better quality than that produced in Israel and in Settlements.

To execute this idea the Ministry of National Economy held a launching ceremony, through which it gathered 2 million Dollars in donations made by public figures, private sector representatives, along with contributions from the president’s office and the Palestinian government.

The Palestinian council for consumer protection supervises this Fund, and it is directed by an executive council that functions in accordance with measures of accountability and transparency. This council is made up of representatives from both the private and public sectors, and will provide its regular reports on financial contributions and expenditure to its supporters and contributors, in addition to publishing financial and work reports on its website.

Financial contributions made to the Fund are allocated for marketing and media campaigns along with raising public awareness to combat settlement products and clean local markets from it. It will also fund regular field research on what the portion that settlement products occupy in local markets, and provide this information for Palestinian, Arab, and International consumers. Also, Al-Karameh  national Fund is building a coherent database of settlement products, and will be made available for people with information on the product, its ingredients, where it was produced, where it is marketed, and which Palestinian products it competes with.

Individuals assigned to clean out markets from settlement products are financed through Al-Karameh national Fund. It will provide incentives to merchants who voluntarily stop dealing with settlement products. Palestinian consumers will be encouraged to replace settlement products with Palestinian ones through the different consumer protection organizations that will be supported by the fund.

The Fund will also support activities that build Palestinian consumers’ trust in local products, and anything that contributes towards further improving the standards and quality of Palestinian products.

If you want to support please sign the pledge.

Urban Farming

Eleini Rau March 23rd, 2010

 “Urban Farming’s mission is to create an abundance of food for people in need by planting gardens on unused land and space while increasing diversity, educating youth, adults and seniors and providing an environmentally sustainable system to uplift communities.” [1]

 This declaration of purpose is the first thing you see when you go to www.urbanfarming.org . It is obvious that this movement has a wide range of activities, far beyond simply growing vegetables in someone’s back yard. It is not a “green” movement, it is a social movement.

I recently read an article in the Swedish magazine Ordfront about urban farming in Detroit, it was the first I had ever heard of it. However, this movement is old, and stretches around the world. In the book Cities Farming for the Future -Urban Agriculture for Green and Productive Cities (2006) , edited by René van Veenhuizen, case studies from Beijing, Montevideo, Porto Alegre as well as Vancouver are used.  The organization in Detroit is called Urban Farming and founded in 2005 by Taja Sevelle with the purpose if making the world a greener place and putting an end to hunger. In other words, the purpose of this movement is both ecological and structural, as well as personal and economical.  Research about urban farming during the last 20 years indicates that it serves several purposes, such as:

o     enhancing urban food security, nutrition and health;

o     creating urban job opportunities and generation of income especially for urban poverty groups and provision of a social safety net for these groups;

o     contributing to increased recycling of nutrients (turning urban organic wastes into a resource);

o     facilitating social inclusion of disadvantaged groups and community development; and,

o     urban greening and maintenance of green open spaces.[2]

These areas are all addresses in Urban Farming, through a number of projects, such as “Environmental Justice and Green Collar Jobs”, “Youth/Adult Entrepreneurship and Financial Literacy Program”,“The Urban Farming Health and Wellness” and “The Urban Farming Community Garden and Green Science Garden”.

Urban gardening has been more common in “developing” countries, which makes the movement in Detroit interesting. Especially considering that Detroit has been the capital of the car industry, the motor city of the world. However, as the car industry failed and was forced to fire people and reduce costs, the former motor city became more and more like a ghost city, with increasing poverty and abandoned houses. The population of Detroit has diminished by 50 % since the 1950’s and 46 % are unemployed.[3] And this combination of poverty and abandoned gardens made it possible to start growing food. Besides increasing poverty and access to land, there is another reason why the people of Detroit started growing in an urban environment. Detroit is called a “food desert”, the reason being that the large food chains have left Detroit. Without economically strong consumers, they see no possibility of profit in Detroit. There are also those who claim that if is a question of racism, as the population of Detroit is 90 % African-American.

This movement, and the act of urban farming, is a form of resistance. Resistance against poverty, class society, racism and capitalism. On the surface it might seem as though it is simply a part of a growing movement for a greener planet, but in reality it is mush more than that. It is of course a way of saying that the planet is in danger, that we need to be aware of the fact that the environment needs our attention and it demands a change if we want to continue to live on this planet. But, it is also I reaction to the logic of capitalism, a system which is concerned only about profit and surplus value. It is a reaction against the failure of the state, which seems unable or unwilling to address the injustice of society, regarding both race och class.  What started in Detroit as a necessity, a response to hunger, has developed in to a broad based movement, an organized form of resistance, a local reaction to national as well as global structures of inequality.


[1] http://www.urbanfarming.org/index.html (2010-03-01)

[2] Cities Farming for the Future -Urban Agriculture for Green and Productive Cities, René van Veenhuizen (red), (International Institute of Rural Reconstruction ; Ottawa [Ont.] : International Development Research Centre, 2006) , s x

[3] Mo(rot)town, Björn Forsborg, Ordfronf magasin, nr 1/2010

Palestinian resistance to the separation wall, and the repression

Stellan Vinthagen December 6th, 2009

A report with over 100 pages has been released, documenting the development of Palestinian (mainly nonviolent) resistance to the (illegal, according to the International Court of Justice) separation wall. The report document the resistance being done mainly by a number of Palestinian border villages (e.g. Nilin and Bilin) and the repression against the resistance.

The report was published in July 2009 and is now online on the website of the Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, with a summary and in full, possible to download.

Students occupy their universities in Europe

Stellan Vinthagen November 15th, 2009

There is an ongoing wave of student occupations and protest for a free and better university education, and against privatization policies at several European universities, mainly in Germany and Austria. (Not in France yet …).

The occupations started at Vienna University the 22 Oct, and has since then spread throughout Austria, and to other countries. See some reports at sites like these: site 1, site 2. It is interesting to note that the occupations are not mentioned as far as I can find in New York Times or BBC …

Last time we did see a wave of student occupations were in connection to the Gaza massacre in January, and then that happend mainly in the UK.

Historically radical student activism has played an important role in the creation of broader social movements, e.g. in the 1968 world rebellion.

There is a map of presently occupied universities, occupations that the police brooken up and other forms of protests by students. See here.

Clashes as Israel shuts off al-Aqsa

jj October 4th, 2009

Al Jazeera reports that the tension in Jerusalem is growing.

IOF against a sit-in

Israeli security forces have closed off the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jersualem as more than 200 Palestinians stage a sit-in at the site.

Sporadic clashes broke out on Sunday as military and police checkpoints were set up around the site, known as the Haram al-Sharif to Muslims and the Temple Mount to Jews.

At least seven people were wounded and seven arrested as clashes broke out at the Lion’s Gate entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem.

Al Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros, reporting from Jerusalem, said that the mosque was being protected by worshippers who wanted to stop Jewish hardliners from entering the compound.
“They are very keen that what happened in Hebron, where hardliners did in fact storm and take over a mosque there, doesn’t happen here in this very holy site,” she said.

She said that there was a lot of tension in the city because of the standoff.

“It could, of course, boil over if we hear of clashes between the police and those at the sit-in at the al-Aqsa compound,” she said.

Palestinian officials told Al Jazeera that Muslim worshippers entered the mosque late on Saturday to prevent a repeat of last Sunday’s clashes in the area.

In that incident, at least 13 Palestinians were injured and seven detained when fighting broke when Israeli Jews apparently attempted to enter the mosque.

Police fired tear gas and stun grenades at hundreds of Palestinians, while stones, chairs and other objects were reportedly thrown.

Israeli version

Describing the latest clashes, Shmuel Ben-Ruby, the Israeli police spokesman for Jerusalem, said that about 150 demonstrators were dispersed from one area near the al-Aqsa compound on Sunday, but unrest was continuing in nearby East Jerusalem.

He said some had thrown bottles and rocks.

Micky Rosenfeld, another Israeli police spokesman, confirmed that the compound had been “shut to visitors” this week.

He said that Israeli authorities had also detained Khatem Abdel Khader, an adviser to the Palestinian prime minister on Jerusalem affairs, on suspicion he was trying to incite protests at the site.

Israeli security forces have said that the restrictions will stay in place until the Palestinian protesters turn themselves to authorities.

Israel captured and annexed the Old City with its holy sites, along with the rest of Arab East Jerusalem and the West Bank, in the war of 1967.

Resistance against the Israeli blockade of Gaza?!

Stellan Vinthagen January 4th, 2009

Some people in the network have been discussing an idea of a “Ship to Gaza”: breaking the inhumane and criminal blockade of Gaza’s 1,5 million people by sailing a boat into Gaza. The idea is to create a “people-to-people” solidarity by involving a broad coalition of people movements (from various political and religious strands) and collect materials that are needed in Gaza (medicine, clothes, seeds, toys, etc.).

The boat would take off from Sweden and travel during several weeks through a number of harbors (Glasgow, Amsterdam, etc.) and collect supplies to the people in Gaza, as well as hold political and cultural events in these towns. In order to get more media attention and to create a necessary protection against aggressive attacks from Israel there is a need to have a number of international VIP on board. If we would succeed to have e.g. Desmond Tutu on board the last part of the trip from Cyprus to Gaza it would be very, very difficult for the Israeli Navy to sink the ship. The broad civil society involvement created by various groups and the media attention created would hopefully help to create a pressure on the politicians in Europe. We have contacts in Gaza and Palestine and will collaborate with them in the work. Still, the Ship to Gaza is not an act of solidarity with Hamas. It is an act of solidarity with the people in Gaza. It is thought of as a political people-to-people solidarity act, against the inhumane and criminal acts of Israel as shown in several UN resolutions and by e.g. the UN Human Rights officer for Palestine, Richard Falk.

The “Free Gaza Movement” has already brought six smaller boats on such missions the last months. Five have reached Gaza despite threats from the Israeli Navy. The last one, “rammed a Israeli Navy ship which was damaged”, according to the spokes-woman from Israel…, i.e. the small Free Gaza boat was so badly damaged by the aggressive Navy attack that it started to leak water and had to turn to Lebanon. Now the Free Gaza Movement is asking for more international participants for coming boats in the near future.

Our idea of a larger boat with several containers with supplies to Gaza will take time, money, and a lot of organising.  We don’t know if we will find the needed interest and resources to make it happen. But in these days of the war crimes in Gaza it feels even more compelling to act.

At this initial stage we welcome suggestions, criticism, contacts, information, or volunteers who would like to join us. Please feel free to comment here or send an email directly to stellan.vinthagen[at]resistancestudies.org

There will be first meetings in Stockholm (11 25 Jan) and Gothenburg (18 25 Jan 8 Feb) in which it will become clear if enough people are willing to organise this needed resistance.

International Encyclopedia of Revolution and Protest, 1500 to the Present

jj December 9th, 2008

A new impressive Encyclopedia is soon out. In eight volumes the editor Immanuel Ness has collected articles on Revolutions and Protests the last 500 years. This work is a must for all institutions and researchers with focus on resistance, history, social movements, and/or democracy. The books will be presented and discussed at one of the Resistance Studies Seminars in 2009.

If you want to check it out take a look here: http://www.revolutionprotestencyclopedia.com/

Olympic Games – The next arena for global protests?

jj April 20th, 2008

In the nineties we saw an interesting move from parts of global civil society; they used the Top Level Summits to empower themselves, protest, and reach the media headlines. This year we have seen a number of actors within civil society using the opportunity of the visits of the Olympic Torch to make their voice heard. Tibet is only one of the issues we have seen on these occasions and much more is expected until and during the games begin on August 8th. While Joseph Goebbels used the 1936 Games for promoting Nazism and Black Panther made the 1968 games in Mexico worth remembering we now see huge masses of people taking to the streets with a wide range of agendas.
Torch Protest in Dharamsala
Torch Protest in Dharamsala
Tens of thousands of police and military troops to guard the “symbol of peace and cooperation” is difficult to explain without trying to understand why these people are on the streets. When the actual Games begin we can expect even more demonstrations; and probably not only in Beijing. With other words: En excellent time and arena for anyone who wants be visible in international media.

Interesting enough we have in recent days seen demonstrations from supporters of the Chinese politics protesting against the demonstrations in Paris, Buenos Aires, London, Delhi and elsewhere. These dynamics of en emerging Chinese nationalism, maybe due to protests against the regime would be a fascinating filed to research. As China grows economically and militarily and open up to the rest of the world the role of an emerging civil society within China should be followed by people interested in Resistance studies and Civil Societies.

The future Olympics Games will have several opportunities for a number of groups to take the opportunity. In 2010 the Olympic Games will take place in Canada. And already have aboriginal leaders in Canada´s First Nation started planning to disrupt the Games over poverty and land claims. Several North American Indian bands in westernmost British Columbia province are threatening bridge blockades, airport disruptions and other protests if no progress is made to curb extreme poverty in native communities and to resolve their outstanding land claims. “I wouldn’t rule out blockades, I wouldn’t rule out demonstrations,” David Dennis, vice president of the United Native Nations, told the daily Globe and Mail.

He said the protests could kick off as early as next February, one year before the start of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver on Canada’s Pacific Coast.

“The situation here is compelling enough to convince Canadians that while it is okay and right for them to express outrage with the Chinese government’s position against Tibet and the Tibetans, they should be just as outraged, if not more so, about our situation here,” Phil Fontaine, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said Thursday at a press conference.

For the Olympic Games in London in 2012 we can expect protests from a number of former and present colonies. The British war on Argentine in the Falklands war, engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan etc can easily be focus for protests. Olympic Games in 2014 takes place in Sochi in Russia. With the autonomous Abkhazia as closest territory and South Ossetia who both struggles for independence from Georgia there will for sure be demonstrations and protests. Not far away is Chechnya, Dagestan, and other areas with people who want to cut their links to Moscow. The Russian empire have a long history of atrocities and the growing authoritarian tendencies with censorship and surveillance creates new conflicts regularly.

It is not a spectacular prophecy that the Olympic Games for some decades to come will be a platform for resistance. A lot of documentation and case studies to be done by researchers!

Over 100 organizations call for boycott of “Israel at 60″ celebrations

jj April 5th, 2008

The “Boycott-Divest-Sanctions” National Committee has called for a boycott of celebrations planned by the state of Israel to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Israel’s creation in 1948. 104 organizations have signed on to the appeal, including civil society groups, non-governmental organizations, trade unions, popular committees and political organizations.

Will Resistance Studies Network support this appeal?

Boycott Israel

The appeal challenges the celebration of the creation of the state of Israel, saying that the project of Israel is a colonial project that completely disenfranchised the indigenous Palestinian population.

In addition, the appeal urges “international civil society in all its components, particularly institutions and individuals working in the arts, academia, sport, trade unions, and communities of faith” to boycott any events associated with the “Israel at 60” celebrations. The appeal states that support of these events undermines the Palestinian resistance, while strengthening the Israeli Occupation’s hold on Palestine.

The following is the text of the appeal, and the list of signatories:

Palestinian Appeal to International Civil Society

Sixty Years of Dispossession and Ethnic Cleansing

Boycott the “Israel at 60″ Celebrations!

30 March 2008

How can you celebrate? The establishment of the State of Israel sixty years ago was a settler-colonial project that systematically and violently uprooted more than 750 thousand Palestinian Arabs from their lands and homes. Sixty years ago, Zionist militias and gangs ransacked Palestinian properties and destroyed hundreds of Palestinian villages. How can people of conscience celebrate this catastrophe.

Israel at 60 is a state that continues to deny Palestinian refugees their UN-sanctioned right to return to their homes and receive compensation, simply because they are “non-Jews.” It still illegally occupies Palestinian and other Arab lands, in violation of numerous UN resolutions. It persists in its blatant denial of fundamental Palestinian human rights, in contravention of international humanitarian law and human rights conventions. It still subjects its own Palestinian citizens to a system of institutionalized discrimination, strongly reminiscent of the defunct apartheid regime in South Africa. And Israel gets away with all this, thanks to the unprecedented immunity granted to it by the unlimited and munificent US and European economic, diplomatic, political, and academic support.

In view of this multi-faceted oppression that is the reality of Israel today, we regard any Arab or international participation, whether individual or institutional, in any activity that contributes, either directly or indirectly, to the “celebrations” of Israel’s establishment, as collusion in the perpetuation of the dispossession and uprooting of refugees, the prolongation of the occupation, and the deepening of Israeli apartheid. Inviting Israel as a “guest of honor” to the Turin and Paris book fairs, for example, is not only a deliberate betrayal of basic principles of human rights, including those enshrined in the laws of the European Union itself, but is also a deliberate attempt to cover up Israel’s crimes against the Arab people, especially its successive war crimes in Lebanon and Palestine, and its acts of slow genocide against a million and a half Palestinians in the besieged and collectively punished Gaza Strip. In short, celebrating “Israel at 60″ is tantamount to dancing on Palestinian graves.

We urge international civil society in all its components, particularly institutions and individuals working in the arts, academia, sport, trade unions, and communities of faith to boycott the “Israel at 60″ celebrations wherever they are held in the world.

These celebrations, by definition, insult our history, violate our rights, and deepen our oppression. They also render the path to justice, freedom, equality, and sustainable peace based on international law longer than ever before.

Institutional Endorsers:

Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)
Department of Refugee Affairs – PLO
Jerusalem-The Arab Cultural Capital Project, Jerusalem
Higher National Committee for the Defense of the Right to Return
The General Union of Palestinian Women
Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions, PGFTU
Palestinian Farmers’ Union
Popular Committee Against the Siege (PCAS), Gaza
Federation of Palestinian Refugee Camp Youth Centers
Higher National Committee for the Commemoration of the Nakba, Palestine
Refugee Affairs Department, Mobilization and Organization, Fatah Movement
Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO)
Ittijah-Union of the Arab Community Based Organizations, Haifa
Palestinian Lawyers’ Syndicate
Palestinian Journalists’ Association, Jerusalem
Palestinian Engineers’ Syndicate, Jerusalem
Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees, UPWC, Ramallah
Stop the Wall-the Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign
Union of Employees at Private Schools-West Bank
Association of Residents of Depopulated Villages and Cities, Ramallah
General Federation of Cultural Centers, Gaza
Jerusalem Center for Social & Economic Rights JCSER, Jerusalem
Federation of Independent Workers Committees, Gaza
League of Palestinian Refugees in Europe
BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, Bethlehem
Occupied Palestine Golan heights Advocacy Initiative (OPGAI)
Al-Aswar Organization for Cultural and Social Development, Acre
University Teachers Association, Gaza
Joint Advocacy Initiative of the YMCA-YWCA (JAI), Jerusalem
General Union of Health Service Workers, Gaza
Aida Refugee Camp Social Center, Aida Refugee Camp
A’idoun Group, Syria
Palestinian Community in Scandinavia
Canadian Arab Federation
Palestinian Counseling Center, Jerusalem
Land Research Center, Palestine, Jerusalem
Muwatin the Palestinian Institute for the Study of Democracy
Palestinian Association of Brantford–Canada
Center for the Defense of Freedoms and Civil Rights (Hurriyat)
Wihdah Democratic Action Institute (Wa’ad)–Bethlehem
Federation of Agricultural Action Committees
Canada Palestine Association, Vancouver
Addameer, Ramallah
Ma’an Development Center, Ramallah
Gaza Center for Culture and Arts
Voice of Palestine, Canada
Canadian Palestinian Association, Ontario, Canada
Taghrid Association for Culture, Development and Reconstruction, Gaza
Jabalya-al-Nazaleh Cultural Center, Jabalya Camp, Gaza
Federation of Agricultural Work Committees, Gaza
Turathuna Charitable Society, Gaza
The Popular Committee at al-Burayj Camp, Gaza
El-Funoun Palestinian Popular Dance Troupe, Al-Bireh
Adalah-NY: The Coalition for Justice in the Middle East, New York
General Union of Services and Trade Workers, Gaza Governorates
The National Council of Arab Americans – Metropolitan New York Chapter, NY
The Arab Muslim American Federation
The Palestinian American Congress, New York
Dramatists’ Federation
Society for the Development of Women, al-Burayj Camp, Gaza
Yanbou’ Cultural Forum, al-Reina
Palestinian Human Rights Monitor (Rassid), Gaza
Yabous Productions, Jerusalem
The Arab Student Observatory of Victims of Occupation and Blockade of the General Union of Arab Students (GUAS)
Arab Culture Society
Al-Siwar-Arab Feminist Movement to Support Victims of Sexual Assault, Haifa
Popular Art Centre, Al-Bireh
Federation of Working Women’s Committees
Palestinian Federation of Women’s Action Committees
Al-Najda Association for the Development of Palestinian Women
Teacher Creativity Center, Ramallah
Palestinian Association for Contemporary Art (PACA)
Al-Quds Information Bank, Gaza
Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counseling, Ramallah
The Palestinian Working Women’s Society for Development
Jimzo Charitable Society
Al-Lidd (Lydda) Charitable Society, Ramallah-Al-Bireh Governorate
Al-Lidd (Lydda) Social Association, Beitunia
Lifta Charitable Society, Palestine
Committee of Residents of Greater Masmiyya, Ramallah-Al-Bireh Governorate
Falsteen Al Gaad association – Deheisha refugee camp
Meethaq Center for Development, Alkahder
Women Development Center, Addoha, Bethlehem
Al Feeneeq Center, Duheisheh Refugee Camp
Palestinian Progressive Youth Union, Gaza
Palestinian Women’s Information and Media Center, Gaza
Said Mishal Foundation for Culture and Science, Gaza
Assala Association for Heritage and Development, Gaza
Jerusalem Center for Arabic Music, Jerusalem
International Academy of Art Palestine, Ramallah
Juthourr Cultural Society, Gaza
Women’s Research and Legal Counseling Center, Gaza
Media Forum for Women Affairs Advocacy, Gaza
Palestinian Cultural Center, Gaza
Refugees Popular Committee, Gaza
Workers Resource Center, Gaza
Progressive Union Work Society, Gaza
Friends of An-Nour Center Society, Gaza
Al-Aqsa Charitable Youth Welfare Society, Gaza
The One Democratic State Group, Gaza
Arab Cultural Forum, Gaza
Palestinian Democratic Union-Fida

Moqtada al-Sadr and Civil Disobedience

jj March 26th, 2008

According to several press reports in the last 24 hours there are obviously a huge offensive going on against supporters of Moqtada al-Sadr in Basra and Sadr city. The six-months ceasefire was extended last month and it looked like there were some negotiating going on between the Sadrist movement and US/al-Maliki. Now it suddenly looks like the government and the occupiers are doing their best to crush Sadr and his people.

Moqtada al-Sadr

According to Agence France-Presse Sadr called for “all Iraqis to launch protests across all provinces. If the government does not respect these demands, the second step will be general civil disobedience in Baghdad and the Iraqi provinces.”

I wonder if any Arabic-skilled reader of this blog could check if this is an accurate translation? The ceasefire Moqtada al-Sadr announced was a surprise in itself, but if he does not lift it after this powerful military attack and ask his followers to use civil disobedience it is an amazing new strategy from his side. Something for a researcher of resistance strategies to look into!

Facebooked organization of protests

Christopher Kullenberg January 23rd, 2008

One aspect of Resistance studies is to look into the infrastructure of the social organization of practice. In 2007 Facebook became one of the largest Internet communities in the world, and now has more than 30 million users. One of the interesting features of this new “social utility” is the function of creating “events”. Demonstrations and protests are naturally events, and this function can thus be used very instrumentally. For example, on Saturday there is in Gothenburg a demonstration against the Israeli occupation of Gaza. A screenshot will say more than words:

bild-1.png

This of course makes it easier to bring your friends and it is both cheaper and more convenient than posters, flyers and even text messages. It is also the perfect utility for an authoritarian State to know the names of every person taking to the streets…

The Ungdomshuset movement: squatting in Denmark.

Tommy October 19th, 2007

The eviction of the Ungdomshuset, “house of the young”, on the first of March 2007 in Copenhagen was dramatic and was even aided by the military who flew the helicopter that deployed special police forces on the rooftop. The police breaks into the house and starts attacking the people inside and shoot teargas, the response by the around 30 people inside being to defend themselves and their.
In the same moment as the eviction starts, many hundreds or thousands of sms are sent to people in Denmark, but also people in Germany, Sweden and Norway and the game is on. The following three days see demonstrations with thousands of people in the streets, massive rioting to try to retake the house. After three days the house was destroyed and the rioting ceased.
Since March, there have been numerous occupations of houses but all of them have been evicted. The struggle has continued with different actions (during two months one every day), occasionally interrupted by eruptions of more intense fighting. Saturday the first of September marked six months since the eviction and Copenhagen saw once again widespread rioting and demonstrations with around 1000-2000 persons. Almost a year before the eviction there were protests as well as riots which started to build a tension, to make a ground for a massive and militant mobilisation.
So what was Ungdomshuset? It was a social center located centrally in the Danish capital Copenhagen, and it existed there for during 24 years. It is a kind of legal squat that was created in 1982 and that grew out of the radical squatters movement in Denmark, “the BZ”: It came into existence after several occupations in the city, after which this particular house could be kept. The house was self-organised by the squatters movement, and later on and in some cases even by the children of the original squatters.
The house used to be used by the workers movement since a long time back and it has been visited by both Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg. The international women’s day, the 8th of March, was created in the house in 1910 during the second international women’s congress, which the German socialist Clara Zetkin took part in. The date of 8th of March was the day that the worker women of Russia went on strike in 1917 for bread and freedom, and helped to displace the tsar. So it has a long and “grand” history even internationally.
The house was sold to a Christian sect, which decided to tear down the house.

What is it about, according to the movement?
The formal demand is for a new house (without paying for it, of course) that is equal to the old one both in location and in size, and for this, thousands of people are willing to fight. The cost caused by the struggle is calculated to be no less than 15 million Euros, that´s ten times the cost of giving a new house. More than half of the population of Copenhagen supported at one point a political solution: that a new house should be given by the city (the support from people in the city may be less today).
The conflict is portrayed by the movement as being between the multitude of people in the city, and their needs, against the power of the state, against the incapacity of this society to fulfil what is desired by them.
Who participates?
From what I saw from the demonstrations the age and background of people taking part is mixed, especially on the big and mainly peaceful ones. Of course you have the punk-a-chien/punk-with-dog who seems to be about as common in the movement in Denmark as they are in Germany. Young people, a part of them immigrants, participated in the rioting (hard to know what generation).
The union of the construction workers managed to delay the tearing down of the house by claiming that it was not safe. This turned out to be true in a specific way when some company that helped tear down the house got some of their cars burned later on. The firms that worked on the building site concealed the plates and names on their equipment and cars in a vain attempt to prevent this from happening, and the workers at the site wore black masks to conceal their identity…
The people from Christiania are also very much present with their own big, visible demonstrations, and quite a lot of people have been crossing the borders to join in rioting and protest.
To say something of the size of the movement: One month after the eviction, a demonstration with 10 000 participants was held, in support of Christiania and Ungdomshuset. During the first three days just after the eviction, somewhere between 2000 and 6000 were on the streets each day.

What is Christiania?
It was a squatted area in the early seventies located centrally in Copenhagen. The area was created by the “flower children” of the sixties. It has a history of militancy but has also been criticized for harbouring a lot of middle class people that just want to live in this “cosy” part of town. During riots after the eviction Christiania was barricaded and cars were burned in the area, and there have also been riots as well as peaceful protests against the tearing down of an old house in Christiania where homeless people live. It gives a taste of the militancy that existed recently in Copenhagen. The solidarity between the Ungdomshuset and Christiania goes a long way back. We might see struggle in Christiania in response to the governments efforts to “normalise” the area, a process which may take years. On the other hand, Christiania seems to be a lot more integrated in the state than Ungdomshuset: it is involved in a legal contract with the state and it does not seem to facilitate the same population… If a struggle is to erupt over Christiania is is certain that it will be supported by the same people that have been taking active part in the Ungdomshuset movement.

What about the politicians?
Support has been coming from socialist politicians, by means of using their position to speak in favour of the demand. At present, Copenhagen is run by a social democratic mayor who refuses, together with more right wing parties, to give a new house to the young.
In the course of the struggle criticism has been directed not only towards the Christian sect that bought and tore down the old house, but also and especially especially against the politicians. Parties to the left have given some support but they are not the movement in the streets: by judging of it´s actions, it seems to be controlled by a more radical and street smart crew.

What about repression?
The police started to use teargas even before the eviction and the normal is now to use it. During the first three days after the eviction 850 people were arrested and many are facing jail time. In connection to the non-violent action day for a new house the police used an offensive strategy, which included a lot of teargas and clubs against non-violent protestors, and arrested over 400 people, the greatest number persons arrested at one time in Danish history.
Very young people have been kept in jail for exceptionally long periods of time. The state have also used other tactics such as using the schools in Copenhagen as places where they spread propaganda and try to warn the young not to participate in demonstrations. On Norrebro, where Ungdomshuset once existed, the police are doing preventive searches on people, and all the fighting in the area have been enough reason for some people to call it a war zone. The Danish police use of force has in fact been criticized by the UN.
This development is accompanied by an escalation in the use of force against the police, and by an increased tendency towards attacking private property. Molotov cocktails have been used on several occasions, something which was practically non-existent in Denmark before this, and stores have been looted on occasion.

What are the limits of this particular movement, and what are its strengths?
One major problem has to do with the demands: The formal demand is for a new house, and this seems reasonable in itself, but not by itself; that this is the only demand. What happens if they will get a new house, will the movement stop?
The concrete demand, in this case for a new house is important for uniting different groups, and one can only hope that all these people can continue their activity in a different way when or if a house is won; that is something that depends on their ability to overcome this very modest demand. How exactly this could materialise is hard for me to say though…
A great number of experienced activists from the Danish squatters’ movement has certainly helped the movement, and so have the activity of all kinds of people who participate in their own ways: There have been numerous groups of feminists, parents, punks, the people living in Christiania, who contribute to the struggle. The ones who cannot go out in the streets can, for example, fight repression.
The struggle seems to be, all in all, not relying on the support of politicians; the strength of the movement is sustained through autonomous activity. Of course there are the demand sent to the politicians to give away a house, but the movement is not afraid of simply trying to take what they want, something that is shown, for example, by the many (failed) squats made in the previous six months.
The fact that Ungdomshuset existed for so long in the middle of the city has rooted it in the minds of many people: it has been a real meeting place for many young who went there for concerts and other activities, and it has been a place where political activity has been planned.
On the other hand, some of the people taking part the fight seem not to have any real connection to the house. Ties can hopefully be made between groups of people that usually do not meet so frequently.
Internationally, this fight has received a lot of attention in the media and has also received a lot of support from other countries, especially Germany and the Nordic countries. All over Europe squatting is a phenomenon that is under threat and the squatters scene does not look the same as it used to: many houses have been evicted over the years.
A movement against the squatters have been coming to life in the area of Norrebro during the summer. They had months to organise, and they seem to protest against the violence and disturbances in the area caused by the protestors.
The bigger picture is that the Danish economy is experiencing a boom. There have been a number of successful strikes about wages and struggles against worsened conditions in the childcare system. In this context, it may seem strange that the city of Copenhagen could not give even an empty house to the young. The eviction issue has been very present in the media and in the minds of many Danes. It has become highly symbolic. It is not only a struggle over a house more or less, this struggle determines the perceived possibility of other struggles: It is certainly of importance for the people in power to not give in to the demands, because this could open the eyes of many others.

What now?
The negotiations between the movement and the local politicians seem to have started taking more serious and concrete form, after a day of mass non-violent action 6th of October where a thousand or two thousands of people tried to take a new house (inspired tactically by the recent G8-actions in Germany). It may be that the local politicians feel that they could get into negotiations with their pride intact (they do not negotiate with “violent troublemakers”).

To see videos of the struggle, go to youtube.com and search for Ungdomshuset. For English updates directly from the movement, see: www.ungdomshuset.dk

Another Wall, another protest

Christopher Kullenberg September 14th, 2007

The last few days there have been protests in Bagdad against a wall built by the US military forces intended to separate shia and sunni muslims, while Bush announces a strategy for long term plans in Iraq. Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter reports that Bagdad used to be a very heterogenous city. However, during the US occupation, it has become more and more divided because of the conflicts emerging from the unrest. The wall is, according to the US military, deployed in order to protect the Bagdad citizens from terrorist attacks and other dangerous activities. The protesters, on the other hand, argue that building walls only makes secterism, divisions and difference more possible, and a counter-productive strategy in making peace possible in Iraq.

I am very interested in walls, as they have popped up in for example Israel for basically the same purpose, and have severe conseqences for dividing cities in more than just one way. Muqtada al Sadr have urged the people of Bagdad to paint the wall in a fashion showing the world “The ugly face of the US-occupiers”, so in one way there is even semi-organized resistance taking place.

Walls, wars and territorialities fuel resistance movements. Yesterday the first Resistance Seminar took place in Gothenburg (see Seminar page) and I had a very interesting discussion with Jörgen on the complicated structure of resistance the Middle Eastern regions, especially since the military forces very often have to withdraw because the guerilla warfare is too hard to combat.

As walls are interesting I would like to ask if this hypothesis is reasonable: “Wherever there is a wall, there will be resistance”. Examples: Berlin, Jerusalem, Bagdad………..

To Resist the US Empire

jj September 8th, 2007

A number of actors around the world dislike the American Empire. The numbers of demonstrations, protests, articles and speeches against their dominance are probably higher than what any other empire in history have been confronted with. In addition there are wars on many fronts. Iraq and Afghanistan being the most intense once for the moment, but the real picture is better described by the fact that US have soldiers in 130 states around the world. The costs of these deployments are obviously regarded as necessary to protect their interests.

The military strengths of US are challenged on the battlefield these days. They are loosing in both Iraq and Afghanistan as well as in the so called “War on Terrorism”. In these extreme asymmetric wars their military capacities proves to be unfit.
The most vulnerable side of the empire is probably their economy. With a deficit of 2 billion dollars a day they don’t have a sustainable future. The value of their dollar is falling dramatically and will probably do so for the time to come. The market is pricing the dollar mainly based on how many are using it. When Saddam Hussein changed from selling oil in dollar to do it in Euro he probably made more damage to the empire than his army ever could do. And many argue that this was the main reason for the US occupation in 2003.

This week Iran took their decision to sell oil to Nippon Oil in yen and not dollar. This will probably escalate the conflict between US and Iran. The picture drawn by main stream media of Iran is to a large degree a product of propaganda. And this will be more intense in the months to come. Dick Cheney’s office has recently issued “instructions” to conservative think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute to start a drumbeat for attacking Iran.

How would an actual war be launched, given the expected opposition of the Democratic-controlled Congress? To that end, President Bush’s decision to declare Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist group provides an opportunity. If the IRGC, Iran’s alternate military, is a terrorist group, Bush could claim authority under the September 18, 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force in Afghanistan to take action against Iran without Congressional approval, citing the AUMF’s broad provision that “the President has authority under the Constitution to take action to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States.”

Everyone using dollars should be aware that to pay in US$ is a way of supporting the empire. A way to resist the empire is to trade in other currencies.

The Anti-Oil Law Front Stages a Massiv Nonviolent Demonstration in Baghdad

jj September 6th, 2007

The US Forces Tried To Provoke the Demonstrators
The US Forces Tried To Provoke the Demonstrators

The Anti-oil Law Front staged a demonstration in the center of Baghdad (Liberation Square) under Liberty Monument. The demonstrators raised slogans in English and Arabic denouncing the oil Law and chanted against the US administration and its appointed government. The US forces surrounded the rally for half an hour and took pictures of the demonstrators who carried the banners. They also blocked the traffic to prevent people joining the demonstration in an attempt to spread terror among whoever intends to join the rally. The area was filled with hundreds of police and National Guard of whom dozens sympathized with the demonstrators and the cause.

Also dozens of Arab, foreign and domestic media broadcasted the event live and conducted interviews with the leaders of the demonstration. The event has involved many speeches by Subhi Al-Badri president of the front and Chairman of IFC executive bureau, Sami Hassan, Political Bureau member of the Worker Communist Party of Iraq and Faleh Mactof secretary of Federation of workers councils and unions in Iraq.

The demonstrators raised banners with slogans saying “Down with the oil law, the oil law is the law of occupation; 26 million people reject the law of occupation, etc. . .”

This demonstration comes as part of the campaign launched by the Anti-oil Law Front, which comprised of sit-ins, strikes, conferences and gatherings.

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