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The pictures were the centerpiece: Photos of Palestinian journalists beaten, arrested, bleeding and screaming, journalists subjected to horror simply for practicing their craft. For doing their jobs.
The pictures hung on a metal structure created for the demonstration. West Bank journalists gathered in central Ramallah in support of a global call to action to end impunity for people who attack journalists.
The International Freedom of Expression Exchange, a global network of advocacy groups working for greater press freedom internationally, called for 23 actions across the globe in 23 days, leading up to the International Day to End Impunity on Nov. 23.
On each of the 23 days, the Day to End Impunity website highlighted a different person who has been attacked, tortured or arrested for sharing information. Nov. 8, was dedicated to Jaffar Ishtayeh, a Palestinian photojournalist who suffered frequent repression from the Israeli military. According to IFEX, Ishtayeh has been arrested, beaten with batons and hit in the back with a tear gas canister while covering demonstrations in Palestine. Reporters Without Borders ranks the Palestinian Territories as 153 in press freedom out of 179 countries measured. (America is No. 47.)
The demonstration in Ramallah was organized by the Palestinian Media Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA, for its acronym in Arabic), a group dedicated to greater press freedom in the Occupied Territories. Riham Abu Aita, the spokesperson for MADA, said the demonstration's goal was "to let the world know about Israeli violations against Palestinian journalists."
"For example, in the past 10 years, (the Israeli military) killed at least 20 journalists, in addition to other forms of violation, like gas bombs, pellets, beatings," she said.
Palestinian security forces are also guilty of human-rights violations against journalists, Aita said, although these violations are usually not as destructive, and Palestinian security forces are less likely to kill journalists. She said the severity of violations committed by Palestinian forces increased after the 2007 split between Gaza's elected government of Hamas and the West Bank's ruling Fatah party.
Clearly, one demonstration in Ramallah will not end attacks against journalists in the West Bank. And as the Day to End Impunity website makes clear, this is a global problem.
But the demonstration was one small step toward a world with true freedom of the press globally. And the pictures MADA hung in Ramallah made certain that, for one day at least, the sacrifices so many people have made in the cause of spreading information were not forgotten.
Andrew Beale, an Alibi contributor and native New Mexican, works as a freelance journalist in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Look for more of his work in the print edition on stands Dec. 6.
Columnist Andrew Beale just moved to the Palestinian territories, but that didn’t stop him from penning a piece about the movement in Albuquerque he passionately supports.
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Dara’a, the central city in the Syrian protests, was the focus of a crackdown by President Bashar al-Assad. "They are arresting all males above 15 years," said a Syrian lawyer from Dara’a. Seventy people have been killed since Friday, according to human rights organizations, and thousands have been arrested. The government is gearing up for another round of protests with extra buses to carry those who may be arrested. Demonstrations are likely on Friday, May 6, the Islamic day of general peace,
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This Friday marks the 65th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, with the anniversary of Nagasaki's bombing on Monday. To protest the continued procurement of nuclear weapons, Think Outside the Bomb are camping near Los Alamos. Their website, thinkoutsidethebomb.org has directions to the camp if anyone out there is looking to make their weekend in the woods more politically active.
If you're not real outdoorsy, check out John Hersey's Hiroshima. It's an amazing book, which appeared as an article in the New Yorker's August 31, 1946 issue. In fact, it was such a powerful story, editors dedicated the entire issue to it, forgoing their cartoons or any other articles.
Another of my faves about the aftermath of World War II is John W. Dower's Embracing Defeat. It's not an uplifting book but it creates a vivid post-war world in your mind.
Of course, 65 is often cited as retirement age (though that's not exactly true these days), which gives Think Outside the Bomb's protest a little more of a "Happy Retirement Fat Man and Little Boy" feel.
I am all for protesting and other forms of expressing disagreement. Shout it from the rooftop, I always say. Well, I may not actually say that, but I pretty much agree with it. Sometimes, though, a line is crossed.
Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church thrives on crossing that line.
Living in Kansas City, I had an awareness of Phelps long before he began picketing the funerals of fallen soldiers. For those of us who resided within driving distance of his hate-spewing, self-righteous pulpit, Phelps was an occasional topic of conservation, a local oddity, a crazy who was a predictable result of living too long on the Kansas side of the state line. Then his “church’s” protest of Matthew Shepard’s funeral fetched the nation’s attention and added brimstone to the fire of Phelps’s preaching, changing my view of his being just a proximate weirdo to that of a horrific figure. Suddenly, he was more than a backwoods idiosyncrasy, he was a national asshole.
I had one run-in with Phelps around this time. On my day off from the Midtown diner I worked at I headed to a local independent theater to see a film about gay people living in Lawrence, Kan. At least I think that’s what it was about—I never got in. The box office girl looked at me like I was an idiot for trying to buy a ticket, and that’s when I noticed the large shouting crowd three feet from me.
On the theater side of the street were hundreds of angry people who should have been making their way to their seats. Instead they arrived for the movie and found Phelps and his gang of goons waiting to tell them they were going to burn in hell. Carrying posterboard signs bearing clever slogans like “Save the Gerbils” and “God Hates Fags” they yelled insults and generally behaved like schoolyard bullies. Phelps gave an interview to Kansas City’s local gay personality, a drag queen named Flo. Phelps seemed unaware that he was talking to such an unrepentant sinner and the movie-goers cheered and laughed at Flo’s antics.
Phelps is now protesting outside the Obama children’s respective schools. The group’s website, godhatesfags.com, explains why they’re protesting schools: “Littles, run from liars, NOW! ...More for the little nasty God-hating Quakers. You will NOT be able to get away from these words by that bloody-handed Antichrist Obama.”
Also on the protest schedule is Ft. Hood. But why subject people to such ugliness when they are mourning tremendous losses? Because, “Who else is going to tell you these words of truth at your time of extreme trauma? Only your friends at WBC: God Sent the Shooter. Thank God for the Killer, and repent of your evil.”
The Obama family and our troops are only some of the people Phelps has targeted. Catholics, Jews and the entire Swedish people irk the hell out of Phelps. Visit his websites to see if he hates you: