Seattle Activists Aim To Put Israel Divestment on City’s Agenda

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By Rebecca Spence
Wed. May 21, 2008

Los Angeles – If a local activist group has its way, Seattle could soon become the first major American city to divest from companies that provide material support to Israel.

Seattle Divest From War and Occupation, a citizens group, is angling to get an initiative on the ballot that would mandate city pension funds to divest from businesses that profit from the Iraq War, as well as from Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories. Since late March, when initiative I-97 was approved for petition circulation by the City Attorney’s Office, local Seattle Jewish groups have coalesced to beat back the nascent effort.

The ballot initiative comes as Jewish groups and their supporters emerged victorious in recent weeks from a hard-fought Israel divestment battle with The United Methodist Church. Mainstream Jewish groups undertook a major lobbying effort – at both the grass-roots and leadership levels – to keep five anti-Israel divestment measures from passing at the Methodists’ plenum early this month. Previous efforts to stymie Israel divestment measures proposed by another mainline Protestant church, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), also proved successful.

This latest battle, dealing at the local level, could prove to be a different sort of testing ground. While passage of the Seattle ballot initiative would not have significant economic consequences for the Jewish state, Jewish groups fear that its repercussions could be far-reaching.

“Its symbolic impact would be fairly large, because it’s a public body of civic employees taking a stand on an unresolved issue,” said Rabbi Anson Laytner, executive director of the Greater Seattle Chapter of the American Jewish Committee. “It could snowball to other cities, to other institutions. That is why we pushed very hard when first the Presbyterian Church, and later The United Methodist Church, also considered similar divestment activities.”

Already, Seattle-area Jewish groups have met with some initial success. A lawsuit filed May 13 by the Washington Israel Business Council, a statewide group, and StandWithUs, a national pro-Israel activist group that has been active on college campuses, resulted in the initiative’s language being amended. The coalition of Jewish groups – which also includes the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle and the AJCommittee – raised concerns that the language of the initiative’s title and preliminary text did not adequately make clear that I-97 targeted Israel in addition to Iraq.

“They clearly put Iraq up first, with the recognition that the Iraq War was very unpopular,” said Robert Jacobs, regional director of StandWithUs Northwest. “And they downplayed the anti-Israel aspect because they would get fewer signatures if people knew they were signing a petition against Israel.”

But the initiative’s backers contend that their intent was not to mislead. A spokeswoman for the group, Judith Kolokoff, who is Jewish, said that the initiative’s aim is simply to divest Seattle pension funds from companies turning a profit from the Iraq War and from Israel’s occupation.

“It is a single issue,” Kolokoff said. “It is really an issue of stopping investing in companies that are directly involved in the wars and occupations in the Middle East that have not been authorized by the United Nations.”

The initiative specifically targets Halliburton, the military contractor that has reaped billions from its work in Iraq, and Caterpillar, which has famously provided Israel with bulldozers, some of which have been used in the destruction of Palestinian homes, Kolokoff added. The proposed measure also calls for the city to withdraw any investment in Israeli bonds in the event that the Jewish state attacks Iran.

The initiative’s backers have six months to collect 18,000 signatures in order for the initiative to appear on the ballot. If sufficient signatures are collected quickly enough, I-97 could potentially appear on the November general election ballot. Thus far, Kolokoff said, the group has collected “several thousand” signatures.

Local Jewish leaders say that if the initiative makes it to the ballot, they are prepared to launch a large-scale campaign to defeat it. Already, StandWithUs is collecting donations to go toward such a campaign. “We’re hoping that the initiative supporters are unable to get their 18,000 signatures and that Seattle residents, by not signing the petition, make a statement that the Seattle community supports Israel,” Jacobs said. “But if they do get their signatures, then the community here is fully prepared to respond to the challenge and will try to make a case in opposition to the ballot.”

Report: 121 Veterans Linked to Killings

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January 13, 2008

Report: 121 Veterans Linked to Killings

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Filed at 9:08 a.m. ET

NEW YORK (AP) — At least 121 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans have committed a killing or been charged in one in the United States after returning from combat, The New York Times reported Sunday.

The newspaper said it also logged 349 homicides involving all active-duty military personnel and new veterans in the six years since military action began in Afghanistan, and later Iraq. That represents an 89-percent increase over the previous six-year period, the newspaper said.

About three-quarters of those homicides involved Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, the newspaper said. The report did not illuminate the exact relationship between those cases and the 121 killings also mentioned in the report.

The newspaper said its research involved searching local news reports, examining police, court and military records and interviewing defendants, their lawyers and families, victims’ families and military and law enforcement officials.

Defense Department representatives did not immediately respond to a telephone message early Sunday. The Times said the military agency declined to comment, saying it could not reproduce the paper’s research.

A military spokesman, Lt. Col. Les Melnyk, questioned the report’s premise and research methods, the newspaper said. He said it aggregated crimes ranging from involuntary manslaughter to murder, and he suggested the apparent increase in homicides involving military personnel and veterans in the wartime period might reflect only ”an increase in awareness of military service by reporters since 9/11.”

Neither the Pentagon nor the federal Justice Department track such killings, generally prosecuted in state civilian courts, according to the Times.

The 121 killings ranged from shootings and stabbings to bathtub drownings and fatal car crashes resulting from drunken driving, the newspaper said. All but one of those implicated was male.

About a third of the victims were girlfriends or relatives, including a 2-year-old girl slain by her 20-year-old father while he was recovering from wounds sustained in Iraq.

A quarter of the victims were military personnel. One was stabbed and set afire by fellow soldiers a day after they all returned from Iraq.

If this is what they are doing to their own families and in their own country, what are they doing over in Iraq and Afghanistan? Both foreign countries in which they are sent to kill.

What atrocities are they committing over there and we have not even heard about? I fear knowing the depth and extent of this sickness.

And of course the US Army does not collect these types of statistics, because they are “statistical anomalies” that do not serve their interests. Just as they do not collect statistics on the number of Iraqis or Afghans killed by their occupation.

The Russian army has similar problems with its veterans returning from Chechnya, in what has been called the Chechen Syndrome. This an excerpt from an article in Time that reports on this Syndrome;

Since the Chechen conflict began nine years ago, similar cases have been reported all across Russia: depressed young vets return embittered and traumatized to their home towns and begin lashing out at those around them. Russian psychiatrists, law-enforcement officials and journalists have started calling the condition Chechen syndrome (CS), drawing a parallel with the post-traumatic stress disorders suffered by American soldiers who served in Vietnam and Soviet soldiers who fought in Afghanistan.

The symptoms are identical — chronic fatigue, nightmares, attention problems, anxiety, aggression and denial — but some see Chechen syndrome as worse because Chechnya vets fought a war inside their own country. “At least 70% of [the estimated 1.5 million] Chechnya vets suffer CS,” says Yuri Alexandrovsky, deputy director of the Serbsky National Center for Social and Forensic Psychiatry in Moscow. “Some readjust. Many don’t. All need help.” (Sunday, Sep. 28, 2003 By YURI ZARAKHOVICH | MOSCOW | Time Magazine)

The war in Chechnya is another example of another war started on false premises. The FSB was heavily implicated in blowing up its own buildings as a pretext to start a war in Chechnya.

Does the plot sound similar? A government blowing up its own buildings and blaming others to justify starting a war against a population they have been demonizing in the media?

Invade a foreign country and you get a boost to your poll ratings (for a while until people figure out the truth) as a bonus.

Maybe the underlying cause of this psychosis is the unjust nature of all these wars?

A troubled soul is hard to numb…