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Commentary :: Alternative Media : Environment & Food : Gender & Sexuality : Globalization & Capitalism


Author Brian Martin details reasons to oppose all Olympic Games, applicable to the games in Greece in August 2004 and in the years to come. These include the way the games promote nationalism, commercialism, racism, violence, celebrity, male dominance, government repression (especially relevant in Greece now), a society of the spectacle and other negatives so valued by the present order of civilization. Strategies for changes & concrete actions are discussed. A classic article first published in Freedom (August 1996) and doubly worth reading today.

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News :: Alternative Media : Alternative Media : Animal Rights : Arts & Culture : Civil & Human Rights : Environment & Food : Gender & Sexuality : Globalization & Capitalism : Government & Elections : Health & Drugs : Labor & Economics : Peace & War : Police State : Police State : Poverty & Urban Development : Poverty & Urban Development : Resistance & Tactics

Israel's Merchants of Influence

Israel's merchants of influence
by Ben Duncan in Washington DC
Thursday 29 July 2004 4:00 PM GMT

The Jewish state has no dearth of friends in the US Congress

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, bills itself as not only a pro-Israel lobby, but as a group that is consistently ranked as the most influential foreign-policy lobbying organisation on Capitol Hill.

Many Middle East analysts in Washington seem to agree.

By almost all accounts, AIPAC is the vanguard of what is widely considered to be a well-oiled network of pro-Israel interest groups and thinktanks with enormous influence in Congress and electoral politics.

By comparison, Arab and Muslim American political groups are still in an "embryonic" stage of development, as one expert put it.

They have neither the financial resources, the congressional contacts nor the grassroots network in place to compete with the more established pro-Israel lobbies led by AIPAC, many experts say.

"In terms of influence, [Arab and Muslim lobbying] pales in comparison," says Samer Shehata, a professor of contemporary Arab studies at Georgetown University who specialises in US policy vis-a-vis the Middle East.

Political infancy

Few representatives from major Arab and Muslim advocacy groups would dispute this point.

"Obviously there is a disparity," says Rabiah Ahmed, a spokeswoman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). "The American Muslim community, in terms of its political status, is still in its infant stage."

Arab and Muslim activists are still
no match for the pro-Israel lobbyWhile many experts dismiss the notion that the Jewish American community is driving US foreign policy in the Middle East, specifically with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, they say the ability of AIPAC to coordinate fundraising activities and exert public pressure on members of Congress is substantial compared to Arab and Muslim organisations.

"They are one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington, period," said MJ Rosenberg, a former editor of AIPAC's Near East Report and now director of policy analysis for the Israel Policy Forum.

Significant voice

Israel Policy Forum is a pro-Israel Jewish organisation that supported the Oslo Accords and the Bill Clinton administration's policies of greater engagement in the peace process.

Rosenberg describes AIPAC as a group that advocates unfettered US support for the platform of the Sharon government.

An AIPAC spokesman did not return a phone call for this story.

"In terms of influence, [Arab and Muslim lobbying] pales in comparison"
Samer Shehata,
Professor of contemporary Arab studies, Georgetown UniversityAlthough AIPAC is not a political-action committee and does not officially endorse candidates, its ability to persuade other pro-Israel organisations and individuals to contribute money to political campaigns has given it a significant voice in Washington, according to people familiar with its activities.

From a fundraising standpoint, the pro-Israel lobby vastly outspends the competition.

Thus far in the 2004 election cycle, pro-Israel groups and individuals have donated more than $4.7m to various candidates and political parties, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a watchdog group in Washington that tracks campaign-finance figures.

More than $3m of that went to Democrats and $1.7m to Republicans. Comparatively speaking, Arab and Muslims donors are not even on the radar screen.

"There is far less money coming from Arab and Muslim interests," said Steven Weiss, a CRP spokesman.

Fight for influence

Not that the money is not there. "I think the resources are definitely there in the Muslim American community," CAIR's Ahmed says. "It's just a matter of convincing people that it's a good use of their money."

"Obviously there is a disparity. The American Muslim community, in terms of its political status, is still in
its infant stage
Rabiah Ahmed,
Council on American-Islamic Relations spokespersonFundraising, however, is only one aspect of the fight for influence in Washington.

Pro-Israel groups such as AIPAC who support a hardline, pro-Sharon approach to the US role in the peace process, have proved to be very effective at promulgating their message on Capitol Hill, many experts say.

So much so that a vote against legislation supported by AIPAC is viewed by some politicians as a potentially fatal career move, according to Rosenberg.

"I think that members of Congress don't want to get on the wrong side of a very powerful constituent group," he said.

Routine measures

Congressional resolutions expressing support for Israel on the peace process almost always pass with overwhelming support.

A recent Senate resolution co-sponsored by the Senate majority and minority leaders, Republican Bill Frist of Tennessee and Tom Daschle of South Dakota, endorsed the Bush administration's policy that said, among other things, "it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final-status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949".

After the resolution passed by a vote of 95-3, AIPAC released a statement applauding the measure. Its website boasts that "AIPAC activists help pass more than 100 pro-Israel legislative initiatives a year".

The ICJ ruling on Israel's barrier
was criticised by the US HouseWith the presidential election just over three months away, experts say both parties in Congress have introduced a slew of House and Senate resolutions in support of Israel.

One high-level Democratic staffer, who asked to remain anonymous, said some members have grown weary of what they view as political redundancy and election-year posturing.

Although a recent House resolution criticising the ruling by the International Court of Justice on the legality of the Israeli separation barrier passed decisively, 45 representatives voted against it and 13 voted "present", the congressional equivalent of an abstention. By conventional standards, the "no" votes were much higher than usual.

"The sort of overall feeling of some members is it's not in the US national interest, nor in Israel's interest, to keep pumping out these very one-sided resolutions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," the Democratic staffer said.

Closing the gap

The challenge, he said, lies in convincing voters and large donors that a "no" vote on legislation supporting Israel is not an anti-Israel vote.

"My boss believes very strongly that Israel has the right to build this security fence," he said. "They should just build it on the green line. I don't think it was an anti-Israel vote in any way, shape or form."

"The sort of overall feeling of some members is it's not in the US national interest, nor
in Israel's interest,
to keep pumping out these very one-sided resolutions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict"

a Democratic Party stafferWhile the staffer said AIPAC is "an excellent lobby group" in every way possible, Arab and Muslim organisations are beginning to close the gap "a little bit".

"Frankly on [the Israeli-Palestinian conflict], Arab-American constituents have a certain amount of influence," he said.

Ahmed of CAIR says Muslim-American groups are making headway as well. "Certain people in Congress have welcomed us and been receptive to our efforts," she said.

"Five or ten years from now, there will be a significant difference in terms of the amount of influence we have."

Until then, however, the pro-Israel interest groups can be expected to dominate the Washington lobbying scene.

By Ben Duncan in Washington DC

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News :: Arts & Culture

Marist priests leave Santa Cruz

July 28, 2004

Marist priests leave Santa Cruz
Sentinel correspondent

SANTA CRUZ - Church bells rang the final time for Marist priests at Star of the Sea Church in Santa Cruz on Sunday, saying goodbye to the order that has run this church for the past decade.

"It’s very difficult and sad to leave after 10 years," Marist Provincial Rev. Dennis Steik said.

Star of the Sea will now operate under the direction of Bishop Sylvester Ryan and be funded in full by the Diocese of Monterey, a district that stretches from Pismo Beach to Davenport and includes more than 50 churches.

Parishioners at Star of the Sea on Sunday responded tearfully to the popular Marists’ farewell and welcomed diocesan priest the Rev. Alberto Cabrera.

Star of the Sea has stood out in the Santa Cruz Catholic community for its commitment to integrating the Latino and Anglo communities, offering free Spanish and English classes, bilingual masses and a program named COPA involving small group discussions about social and spiritual matters.

Maria Nunez often drives from her Salinas home to Santa Cruz so her family can attend Mass.

"I feel happy and comfortable here. Not so many Masses are bilingual, and here there are a lot," Nunez said. "We know the fathers here and like them a lot. They don’t get angry, and they are a little funny."

The Marist order is an organization of religious and lay people within the Catholic church, whose members are devoted to education and missionary work and the glorification of the Virgin Mary.

The number of Marist priests has declined in the past 30 years, and they struggle to find priests to tend to their parishes, schools and communities.

It is a story that plays out in many Catholic communities. While church records estimate the Catholic Church worldwide has grown 30 percent in the past 30 years, the population of priests has declined 10 percent.

"As we continue to try and staff parishes and communities with fewer priests, we are having to look at different ways to provide sacramental ministries," said Tod Tamberg, spokesperson for the Los Angeles Archdiocese.

The Rev. Steik, a founding member of the Marist community at Star of the Sea, believes the church must look to new possibilities and possible restructuring of church order to recruit people to religious life and the priesthood.

"We need to be open to more of the questions of young people in the world today, discussing AIDS, the role of women in the church and gay and lesbian ministries," Steik said.

Despite the changes, many parishioners said the community of the church will stay the same.

"I’ve been at this church almost 30 years now. I’ve seen 22 priests come and go. I’m glad to see them come, tearful to say goodbye. But it’s still the same church," parishioner Ann Kreyche said.

Contact Laura Norton at

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Commentary :: Gender & Sexuality

Changing Sex, Changing Islam

In Iran, transsexuals, changing sex, have been changing Islam as well, under its still theocratic government.

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Commentary :: Peace & War : Resistance & Tactics

Why can't the left make a human chain along the Green Line?

Violence and scorn for human rights and human life are becoming typically Israeli traits. In Tali Lipkin-Shahak's dream, "my Israeli brothers and sisters are joined in an Israeli chain, from Dan to Eilat, holding hands … to outline the limited but sane borders of the State of Israel … woven into a human chain of protest, for a moment of solidarity against the shame … created by insensitive, aggressive Israeliness."

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Commentary :: Gender & Sexuality

"I Had an Abortion"

Barbara Ehrenreich argues that women should own up to our abortions in her New York Times column. We can begin doing so by wearing a beautiful "I Had an Abortion" T-shirt made available by Planned Parenthood -- the T-shirt denounced by anti-abortion right-wing groups. The designer of the T-shirt, Jennifer Baumgardner, is also "making a documentary called I Had an Abortion that features women who don't regret having abortions."

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Commentary :: Civil & Human Rights : Resistance & Tactics

Movimiento Cubano Libertario in Solidarity with the Cuban People

The M.C.L., a network of Cuban anarchists in exile across the world, offers here a detailed manifesto rooted in Cuban anarchism. It critiques Castroism and the blindness of many progressives who express 'critical solidarity' with the oppressive Castro regime.

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Commentary :: Alternative Media


If conservatives exaggerate liberalism of the corporate media beyond recognition, liberals, too, are hyping the power of the Fox News Channel far more than its actual total viewership warrants.

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