Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Long history of non-violent resistance by Palestinians

Were Gandhi alive today he would be in Palestine. I know because I had the privilege and honor of meeting him and talking with him. I had gone to scoff but ultimately stayed on to admire. I attended his prayer meetings and public addresses, studied his views on many subjects, read his writings, listened to his radio talks and ultimately became his disciple. About Palestine he was very clear. Gandhi's position was that Palestine was Arab territory and if Jews settled there they should not expect the protection of a colonial power. He was completely against the creation of an Israeli state in Palestine .Supporters of Israel tried very hard to make him change his view, but he remained firm.

Gandhi is now dead. He cannot be in Palestine physically. However, he is there in spirit. And there are literally hundreds of “Gandhis” in the Occupied Territories, carrying on non-violent resistance in the finest tradition of Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

Yet, people bemoan the lack of a Gandhi in Palestine! Even those who should know better plead for a Palestinian Gandhi. And responsible leaders, including President Obama, claim that if only Palestinians renounced violence, peace would come. This ignores the non-violent résistance that goes on daily in the Occupied Territories.

While in Australia I attended a forum, organized by Students for Palestine, on the history of nonviolent struggle in Palestine. One of the speakers at the forum was Samha Sabawi, a Palestinian writer and poet. Her presentation was later published in the form of an article under the title” Truth, Non-violence and the Palestinian Hills”. It gives valuable insights and brings out the fact that the problem is not that there are no “Gandhis” in Palestine but that the media has made them invisible. It is reproduced here by special permission from the author

Gulamhusein Abba.


Truth, Non-Violence and the Palestinian Hills
Samah Sabawi

Based on a presentation given at Melbourne University Australia on April 30, 2010. The event was sponsored by Students for Palestine.

Where is the Palestinian Gandhi? I get this question at the end of almost every presentation I’ve given on Palestine. This fascination with finding a Palestinian Gandhi has been reflected time and again in newspapers commentary, and political discourse. Obama has promised in his Cairo speech[1] that should Palestinians renounce violence peace will find its way. Singer Bono wished with all his heart for Palestinians to find their Gandhi or their King[2]. A slew of bleeding hearts said it, wrote it, preached it and insisted on it.

The search for the Palestinian Gandhi even manifested itself in well-intentioned projects that end up being incredibly patronizing and condescending to the Palestinians.Take the Gandhi Project[3] for example; an initiative by the Skoll foundation that aims to teach Palestinians non-violence by translating the movie Gandhi and projecting it in cities camps and villages throughout the West Bank.This project - as well meaning as it appears to be - reflects an almost insulting level of ignorance of the existing Palestinian culture of non-violence and the challenges Palestinians face when protesting non-violently against the brutal apartheid State.

For generations, Palestinians have adopted in their daily lives a culture of non-violent “Sumud”, an Arabic word that means to be "steadfast" and to "persevere”. Through Sumud, Palestinians have been able to protect their identity and to refuse not to exist. After all, since its inception, the Zionist project denied Palestinians their existence. Who can forget the false claim that Palestine was “a land without a people”?

Although Sumud was always part of the Palestinian story, it came to a full bloom as a distinct feature of Palestinian life during and in the aftermath of the six-day war in 1967. Having learned from their 1948 experience, more Palestinians were urged to show Sumud and chose to be steadfast remaining on their land regardless of Israel’s war and occupation. Many believe that Palestinian steadfastness and Sumud and their refusal to leave in huge numbers during and after the 1967 war contributed to the reason why Israel wasn’t able to annex the West Bank and the Gaza strip as they had a very high Arab Palestinian population[4] which could have undermined the purity of the Jewish state.

Palestinians exhibit Sumud in their daily lives as they perform what would amount to normal everyday tasks in other places. Palestinian children resist succumbing to the will of their Occupiers non-violently as they make their daily journey to school despite the long waits at the checkpoints and the harassment by Israeli illegal settlers[5].

Palestinian men and women non-violently challenge their occupiers when they continue to go to work even if it means riding a donkey using back mud roads because they are denied access to the main streets in their villages as well as denied access to the Jewish only roads[6] which Israel has built illegally to connect the settlements. It is worth mentioning here that to build these Jewish only roads Israel has confiscated and carved up pieces of Palestinian land fragmenting and isolating hundreds of communities.

Palestinian families non-violently resist the imposed isolation by the occupiers when they insist on doing their family visits, even though what should be a 10 minute walk at times can take an entire afternoon of waiting for permits, submitting to body searches, waving IDs and waiting and waiting and waiting…. [7]

Even when Palestinians get married and have babies under occupation they are challenging their oppressors in a place where birth registration, family reunification, marriage certificates and building permits are controlled by a state that has one thing in mind – reducing the number of Arabs and paving the way for Jews to colonize their land.

But Palestinians still persevere not only as individuals, or families but also as organized communities! Palestinian NGOs today play a big role in helping the people deal with these issues. Through the method known as Reverse Strike – a non-violent method of resistance that focuses on community building - Palestinian civil society has created alternatives for the people to help lessen their dependency on their oppressors. Palestinian civil society has also successfully built an infrastructure of resistance. Inside the Occupied Territories, non-violent resistance shines through as villages and various Communities take on direct action to protests Israel’s continued assault on their rights, their freedom and their dignity. The protests of the communities of Jayyous, Budrus, Bil’in, Ni’lin and Umm Salamonah have now become known as the white intifada. The organization of these protests reflects a healthy and determined Palestinian Civil Society.

Palestinian Civil Society initiated the calls for the BDS campaign and is also working closely with international organizations and individuals to support the Free Gaza campaign. Both campaigns aim at engaging international solidarity groups giving them an important role to play in the liberation struggle. This month, the latest BDS victory was Elvis Costello’s refusal to play in Israel. This happened while the Freedom Flotilla’s three cargo ships and five passenger ships set sail to Gaza. The ships are carrying 5,000 tons of construction materials, medical equipment, and school supplies, as well as around 600 people from 40 countries. They will once more challenge Israel’s illegal hold over Gaza’s borders, air and sea. We are seeing a fantastic rise in a people to people movement that is inspiring hope for a better future.

In Diaspora as well as inside the OT, Palestinian academia, artists and human rights activists do their part in Palestinian Sumud as they document Israel’s atrocities, write about the injustices, paint pictures, publish articles, sing traditional songs, write books and recite poetry that keeps the Palestinian narrative alive. People like Sari Nussiebeh, Ramzy Baroud, Ismael Shamout, Rima Bana, Mazin Qumsiyeh, Sam Bahour, Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, Dr. Sari Makdisi, Ali Abunimah and thousands of others who are hard at work non-violently protecting the Palestinian narrative. They have built the pillars of resistance that have kept the Palestinian identity and culture alive.

As I have shown so far, Palestinian culture of Sumud and non-violent resistance has encompassed direct action, reverse strike and civil disobedience over decades of oppression. There is so much evidence to show that the Palestinian non-violent resistance is and has always been central to the Palestinian struggle. But if that was the case, then where is that Palestinian Gandhi? The answer to that is simple: You are asking the wrong question.

There is no shortage of Palestinian Gandhis in Israel’s jails, at checkpoints, and in refugee camps. There are even Gandhis as young as five years old walking to school, holding on to their backpacks, to their pride and to their dignity while they get stoned and showered with settler garbage. There are scores of Gandhis in Palestine, young, old, men and women. The problem is how to make these Gandhis visible to a world blinded by ignorance and by prejudice. The correct questions to ask are how do we make the work of the Palestinian Gandhis effective and visible? Can non-violent Sumud ever fulfill its goals of liberation and justice? What are the challenges facing the Palestinian non-violent movement and how can we help overcome these challenges?

There are two major challenges to Palestinian non-violence; the first is Israel’s reaction to peaceful protest. Israel is a country that views itself as being above international universal laws rights and jurisdictions. It often reacts violently to non-violent protests, spraying protesters with chemicals, rubber bullets and tear gas, at times claiming their lives. Israel crushes political dissent by arresting political activists, even those who hold Israeli citizenship. Israel holds activists on administrative detention without a fair trial for indefinite periods of time. In short, Israel doesn’t respond and is not phased by non-violent protests simply because it views all Palestinians, peaceful or not, as a threat. The minute a Palestinian baby is born, it is automatically a dangerous threat to the nature of a state that defines itself by its Jewishness. All Palestinians are seen as demographic bombs, they are enemies of the state and therefore no matter what methods Palestinians use - violent or non-violent - Israel will not change its course. It will still view them as enemies that must be fought, crushed and ethnically cleansed.

The other challenge to the Palestinian non-violent movement is that it remains invisible to the international community. Palestinian daily hardships in going to school or work or visiting relatives are all daily acts of non-violent resistance that go by completely unnoticed by Israelis and by the International community. The media is hungry for blood…a peaceful protest that occurs on a weekly basis with civilians sprayed with sewerage water or injured or even killed doesn’t make the news. A child’s journey to school, head held high as Jewish settlers' children throw garbage and stones at him, never makes the headlines.

This pattern of Palestinian invisibility feeds into Israel’s impunity. Soldiers and settlers are not held accountable for their actions and rarely, if ever, has any soldier been punished for degrading, humiliating, or taking the life of an innocent Palestinian. Even when Israel’s impunity reaches extreme levels, as it did when they attacked Gaza, committing a long list of war crimes and human rights violations, there was not enough international outcry to hold it accountable and to change the course of its actions.

So, where do we go from here? It is clear that the Gandhis of Palestine cannot succeed in their liberation struggle without the help of the international community. Palestinian civil society has called on people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel. This idea was inspired by the South African struggle against apartheid. BDS has been endorsed by over 170 Palestinian parties, organizations, trade unions and movements representing the Palestinian people in the 1967 and 1948 territories and in the Diaspora. I urge you to visit the Global BDS website for ideas on how any one of you can help.

Finally, I’d like to say that it is a fallacy to assume that non-violent resistance is not a natural human reaction to oppression, especially when you’re dealing with unarmed civilians, families and communities. Non-violence is not a doctrine that has to be taught, preached, projected on large screens and stuffed down the throats of an indigenous people trying to survive and to have normal lives. Gandhi himself has refused to be seen as an inventor of the methods of non-violence, saying [8]. “I have nothing new to teach the world. Truth and Non-violence are as old as the hills.” If Gandhi was to visit the West Bank and Gaza Strip today, I am sure he would agree that truth and non-violence in Palestine are indeed as old as the Palestinian hills.

Thank you.

NOTE: Samah Sabawi is a Human Rights and Social Justice advocate. She was born in Gaza and shortly after her birth her family was displaced as a result of Israel's occupation of the Gaza Strip in 1967. She has lived and worked in many countries around the world and is currently residing in Melbourne, Australia. In addition to numerous articles and poems (published in as many publications and web-sites), she has also co-authored with her father, Abdel-Karim Sabawi, a play “Cries from the Land” which was sponsored and produced by Friends of Sabeel and She has also produced the play “Three Wishes” based on her adaptation of Deborah Ellis's book "Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israelis Speak Out". Samah Sabawi is also former Executive Director and Media Spokesperson for the National Council on Canada Arab Relations.



[2] Ten for the Next Ten by Bono Guest Oped

[3] “As part of its vision to empower people to create a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world, the Skoll Foundation has partnered with the Global Catalyst Foundation to sponsor the Gandhi Project in the Palestinian Territories.”

[4] Waleed Mustafa, Former Dean of Arts Talking About the Concept of Sumud to Palestine-Family Bethlehem University

[5] AT-TUWANI: Settler youth harass Palestinians and international human rights workers CPTnet 23 April 2010

[6] B’tselem The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights: Restrictions on Movement

[7] Palestine Monitor: Exposing Life Under Occupation.

[8] Brief outline of Ghandhi’s Philosophy - by Stephen Murphy

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Homeless, Thanks to Israel

Are people still angry? Are you still outraged? Yeah, here I come to ruin your Sunday World Cup Final party. As you go out into your kitchen, and pull open the fridge door for a nice cold drink, remember this:

But lets have a dose of reality by remembering that 24,145 Palestinian homes have been demolished by Israel. How many Israeli homes have Palestinians demolished? Answer=Zero!

Now let's look at this in the context of other Israeli aggression, shall we? Like the endless bombings in Gaza, more homes destroyed, along with Hospitals, schools and places of worship. Not to mention all those dead civilians and children. How about all the businesses that have had to close, thanks to the evil rogue state? How about all the people who have died needlessly because they can't get out for medical treatment that could easily save their lives? What about the children being born sick due to the chemicals Israel showered down upon the entire population? What about the disfigured and burnt people, or those now confined to life in a wheelchair because their legs are missing, thanks to Israel.

This is one big massive ethnic cleansing project, be it removal of homes, death or disfigurement. It's all meant to take land off of Palestinians and reduce their population. Ethnic cleansing by removal or murder. Remember these statistics below, never forget, never stop caring, never stop fighting for justice, never stop working for a free free Palestine!!

link 0 Israeli homes have been demolished by Palestinians and 24,145 Palestinian homes have been demolished by Israel since 1967.

In addition to the homes demolished by Israel, thousands of Palestinian homes have been destroyed or significantly damaged by Israeli bombing and shelling. On the flip side, while Palestinians have not demolished any Israeli homes, there is one known case of a Palestinian destroying an Israeli home in an explosion.

"Any humanitarian looking at the sheer number of innocent civilians who have lost their homes can only condemn Israel’s house demolition policy as a hugely disproportionate military response by an occupation army... It is a policy that creates only hardship and bitterness, and in the end can only undermine hope for future reconciliation and peace."

– Peter Hansen, Commissioner General of UNRWA

Statistics Source: The Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions estimates that 24,145 houses have been demolished in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza since 1967 (as of July 4, 2009). (Read ICAHD's latest analysis of demolished homes (pdf format).

Summary of Israel’s Home Demolition Policy
Excerpts from "Through No Fault of Their Own,"
Nov 15, 2004.
(Read the Synopsis and Full Report.)

Watch B’Tselem Video on Home Demolitions

"During the course of the al-Aqsa intifada, which began in September 2000, Israel has implemented a policy of mass demolition of Palestinian houses in the Occupied Territories. In that period, Israel has destroyed some 4,170 Palestinian homes.

"The IDF carries out three types of house demolitions. Most are carried out in the framework of what Israel calls 'clearing operations,’ which are intended to meet what Israel defines as 'military needs.’ These operations take place primarily in the Gaza Strip: along the Egyptian border, which passes through Rafah and its refugee camps; around settlements and army posts; alongside roads used by settlers and IDF forces; and in the northern part of the Gaza Strip [...]

"The second type of demolition are administrative demolitions of houses built without a permit. These demolitions take place in Area C in the West Bank, where Israel retains authority over planning and building even after the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, and in East Jerusalem. [...]

"The third kind of house demolitions are those intended to punish the relatives and neighbors of Palestinians who carried out or are suspected of involvement in attacks against Israeli civilians or soldiers. These punitive demolitions are intended for the homes in which these suspects lived. However, in many cases, adjacent homes are also destroyed."


India's "Hearts of Darkness"

by Stephen Lendman

An earlier article about the National Labor Committee's (NLC) work explained what's repeated below, relevant to this article.

NLC puts "a human face on the global economy," saying in its mission statement that:

"Transnational corporations (TNCs) now roam the world to find the cheapest and most vulnerable workers." They're mostly young women in poor countries like China, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Indonesia, Nicaragua, Haiti, and many others working up to 14 or more hours a day for sub-poverty wages under horrific conditions.

Because TNCs are unaccountable, a dehumanized global workforce is ruthlessly exploited, denied their civil liberties, a living wage, and the right to work in dignity in healthy safe environments. NLC conducts "popular campaigns based on (its) original research to promote worker rights and pressure companies to end human and labor abuses. (It) views worker rights in the global economy as indivisible and inalienable human rights and (believes) now is the time to secure them for all on the planet."

Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:

"(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.

(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.

(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.

(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests."

Article 24 states:

"Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay."

Definition of a Sweatshop

This writer's earlier article defined them, a term that's been around since the 19th century. Definitions vary but essentially refer to workplaces where employees work for poor pay, few or no benefits, in unsafe, unfavorable, harsh, and/or hazardous environments, are treated inhumanely by employers, and are prevented from organizing for redress.

The term itself refers to the technique of "sweating" the maximum profit from each worker, a practice that thrived in the late 19th century.

Webster calls them "A shop or factory in which workers are employed for long hours at low wages under unhealthy conditions."

According to the group Sweatshop Watch:

"A sweatshop is a workplace that violates the law and where workers are subject to:

-- extreme exploitation, including the absence of a living wage or long hours;

-- poor working conditions, such as health and safety hazards;

-- arbitrary discipline, such as verbal or physical abuse, or

-- fear and intimidation when they speak out, organize, or attempt to form a union."

According to the US Department of Labor, a sweatshop is a place of employment that violates two or more federal or state labor laws governing wage and overtime, child labor, industrial homework, occupational safety and health, workers' compensation or industry regulation.

It's mainly a women's rights issue as 90% of the workforce is female, aged 15 - 25, but men and children are also affected, besides the enormous environmental toll through air pollution, ozone layer depletion, acid rain, ocean and fresh water contamination, and an overtaxed ecosystem producing unhealthy, unsafe living conditions globally.

Horrific Working Conditions in India

In February, NLC published a report titled, "Hearts of Darkness," saying "Workers in India, including children, will die young grinding gemstones for Valentine's Day," explaining that:

-- since record-keeping began in 1988, over 2,000 men, women and children died from silicosis (by breathing silica dust), from polishing gemstones for export to the West; yet operations began in the early 1960s when rural villages first got electricity, making motor driven grinding possible, so in all likelihood, the death count is multiples higher; earlier, silicosis victims were diagnosed to have TB, not thought connected to agate grinding; even today, radiology equipment needed to diagnose and monitor workers with silicosis is lacking;

-- all workers inhale it on the job and experience other occupational hazards, including toxic chemicals exposure, ergonomic dangers, and high noise levels;

-- items made include semi-precious gemstone hearts, beads, pendants, earrings, bracelets, ornaments, rosary beads, and the Star of David;

-- workers are paid 17.5 - 33.5 cents an hour "to do one of the most dangerous jobs in the world," exposing themselves to deadly silica dust;

-- they begin as young as 12 or 13 (some younger), paid from 11 to 13.5 cents an hour;

-- 30 - 38% of them die from silicosis;

-- up to 13% of non-working family members and neighbors, living near grinding units, also die from exposure to airborne silica dust;

-- "scores of others are reduced to skin and bones, unable to walk and struggling to breathe;"

-- workers become "bonded labor" by borrowing money from "traders" who supply raw stones, and arrange for manufacture and export; wives are asked to continue their husbands' work if they die; then their children if they're incapacitated;

-- with proper safeguards (including wet grinding and exhaust ventilation), silicosis is up to "100 percent preventable;" without it, grinding gemstones is a death or disability sentence; and

-- the Indian government has done nothing to enforce its labor laws, in deference to its monied interests.

Making Gemstones

Six processes are involved:

(1) Heating, by drying stones in the sun for several days, then "firing" (heating) them in pits in the ground.

(2) Size reduction, by workers called "chippers" (without safety goggles or other protections), using small ox horn hammers to break stones in small pieces.

They're then "tumbled" for 48 - 72 hours in wooden drums, a noisy, dust producing process, escaping into surrounding neighborhoods.

(3) Workers grind and polish stones by pressing them against revolving emery wheels, by far the most dangerous operation, during which workers and others in nearby communities inhale deadly dust.

Aluminum oxide, other chemicals, emery gravel, and water in rotating metal drums give stones luster.

Traders control everything, profiting on death by defining agate grinding as a cottage (not an organized) industry, stripping workers of legal protections under Indian law.

No labor laws in India protect them - no minimum wage, compensation for injuries, healthcare, pensions or retirement benefits, nothing. India's Factories Act excludes them, the principal law covering health, safety, welfare, minimum wage, and other worker rights, if enforced.

Indian Agate - "An Industry of Death"

The Vadodara People's Training and Research Centre (specializing in occupational health and safety standards) estimates well over 2,000 grinder deaths since 1988, processing gemstones in India's two centers - Khambhat in Gujarat state and Jaipur in Rajastan state, the latter by far the biggest.

NLC researched Khambhat, employing an estimated 15,000 - 20,000 workers in hundreds of small grinding units. Jaipur has many more.

"Valentine's Day Massacre"

In the report's preface, NLC's executive director, Charles Kernaghan, headlined it, asking:

"How could something as beautiful as a gemstone cause so much suffering and death," without a word or explanation in America where most of them go? Yet gemstone grinding in India involves exploitation, misery, deprivation, disability or a painful death for thousands of the country's poor, Naran Dhula Bhil one of many victims.

In February 2009, he was hospitalized at Dharmaj, in Gujarat state, coughing, very weak, struggling to walk, and unable to lift anything heavier than five pounds. Since mid-2008, he lost almost half his body weight, dropping from 132 to 70 pounds of skin and bones. On April 14, he died of silicosis, the result of greed, indifference, and consumer ignorance about buying "gemstones of death."

Bhil was 11 when he began working as a grinder, shaper, and polisher, making gemstones into hearts, pendants, rings, beads, and various type ornaments.

For a day's work, he produced 100 - 150 for 15.5 cents an hour, $1.08 daily, or less than a penny for each stone produced, each giving off silica dust that killed him. By age 20, he knew it, stayed on the job, borrowed money to buy gemstones, and became "bonded," meaning he couldn't quit until out of debt, what few grinders ever do.

Bihl said his shop employed 35. Only four or five are left, the others sick or dead. "So many have died," he said, and when he expired "he did not have a single penny to his name," as true for most others.

Haresh Mafatbhai Parmar was another grinder turned to skin and bones by February 2009. He couldn't walk and struggled to breathe even lying down motionless. He began at age 13 or 14, less than 20 years later he was sick and dying, told he had tuberculosis. His mother and father both died seven years earlier, victims of gemstone grinding.

On June 11, Parmar died, not of TB, of silicosis after silica dust destroyed his lungs.

Rama Lallubhai Vaghela began at age 12 or 13, earning $1.19 a day, for 20 years until he died. At the end, he was ill, eyes bloodshot, too weak to work, always short of breath, could barely walk, and was thin as a rail. By the time symptoms emerged, it was too late. Silicosis is incurable.

"Everyone knows about the dangers," he said, "but we're helpless. There are no other jobs." He was an artist, creating beautiful gems and images for his parents' home. He was also one of the first to rally for worker rights, including exhaust systems to control the dust. Before he died, he said his trader never once stopped by to see how he was doing. He only wanted his output.

In another village, children as young as 10 grind gemstones, one 10-year old looking more like 8, meaning he started years earlier and already showed the effects.

Watching him and others grind, dust flew everywhere, and fell on his hair, eyebrows, ears, nose, hands, arms and clothing. He earned 13.5 cents an hour for four hours daily, or 54 cents.

Another very young boy and girl had swollen, cracked hands and calloused finger tips. The grinding wheel wobbles as it spins. To shape items, workers use their fingers to press them against the wheel, creating friction, heat, sparks, and constant vibration, taking its toll on hands, fingers, and lungs.

Their father worked 15 feet away, knowing the risks. "But what can I do," he said. "We are landless peasants with no money." He was trapped in poverty and misery with no way out - either work or starve, even if it kills him and his children.

Throughout the shops visited, researchers heard stories of illness, disability or death, about themselves, their families and others they knew, an epidemic of poverty-induced misery.

An old man said his son died in 2006 after being sick for four or five years. Another man said 15 in his village succumbed after years of grinding, leaving widows and children behind, and others are declining fast. One man worried what would happen to his wife and children "when I die." Their turn comes next.

In 2009, in Khambhat, 29 gemstone grinders died, the report listing them by name, age, date and cause of death. Most were in their 40s, victimized for a dollar or so a day, less than a penny per item produced.

Shakapur village has about 200 grinders, yet up to two-thirds of its 7,000 population is exposed to silica dust. As many as 900 will die from exposure, besides the high percent of workers.

Merchants of Death

Throughout the West, gemstones are widely distributed, in over 600 US bead stores alone, much supplied from India, consumers unaware of the human toll for their trinkets.

Also, more than a dozen US and Canadian bead societies hold monthly meetings, and 27 websites sell or supply product information.

Novica, in association with National Geographic, sells "Treasures of the world, living treasures" in the form of gemstone earrings, bracelets, necklaces, rings and pendants, made from Indian agate, onyx, amethyst and lapis - retailing at $57.95 for heart-shaped earrings, certified by The Global Compact and Green America "Approved for people and planet," featuring the artistry of Wayan Rendah, saying "It gives me great pleasure when one of my statues inspires somebody," mindless that gemstones kill.

For Valentine's Day, the Phoenix Orion Gift Emporium sells Indian heart-shaped stones, its Chevron Amethyst one for $39.95, "beautifully hand cut and polished....foster(ing) integration of the emotions, enhancing creativity....reinforc(ing) decisiveness and enhanc(ing) leadership qualities (and also a) well-known healing stone," by killing its maker.

Star of David pendants come from Indian agate as do Anglican and Catholic rosaries, the former selling for $34.95, its maker earning pennies.

The New York Metropolitan Museum of Art sells deco marcasite and black agate drop earrings for $150, capped onyx necklaces for $175, and amethyst stone necklaces for $110 - no country of origin listed.

The Rainforest Site ( sells Indian agate necklaces for $29.95.

Indian-made agate and other semi-precious gemstones are everywhere, readers likely having some in their homes, unaware how much misery and death produced them.

India's Bureau of Mines reported 686 tons of agate exported from 1998 - 2002, the latest figures available. Most went to America, then Germany, Italy, Thailand, and Britain.

A "Dusty Death"

As little as seven microns of silica dust can cause silicosis, by inducing fibrosis, scarring lungs with non-functional fibrous tissue, eventually becoming pulmonary massive fibrosis (PMF, characterized by large conglomerate masses of dense fibrosis) after enough exposure.

At this stage, grinders become weak, can't walk, suffer extreme weight loss, struggle to breathe, experience chest pain, followed by a slow, painful death.

People's Training and Research Centre (PTRC) and Agate Worker Demands

PTRC's director, Jagdish Patel, lists them:

-- cover agate and gemstone industry workers under India's Factories Act;

-- make traders legally accountable for their workers;

-- let them organize and be able to form large cooperatives to negotiate wages, benefits, and working conditions, including health and safety protections;

-- mandate India's National Institute of Occupational Health develop safe grinding methods;

-- provide medical care, compensation and family stipends for silicosis victims; and

-- make traders pay for their decades of profiting from death.

Add another - inform consumers about the real gemstones cost, the thousands who died painfully producing them, for a dollar or so a day.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Also visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.


Israel's PIETA

by Dom Martin

Michaelangelo's PIETA

Israel's PIETA

If a single picture is worth a thousand words, the picture above is worth incalculably more!

In this scene, a Palestinian woman -- ongoing victim of Israel’s oppressive occupation -- comes to the humane aid of a Jew, Emily Henochowicz, who lost an eye after being hit in the face by a tear gas canister fired by a fellow Jew.

Emily was standing peacefully during a demonstration in West Bank at the Qalandiya checkpoint on that black Monday, May 31, 2010 -- to protest the Gaza Flotilla massacre -- when Israeli Border Police fired a large number of tear gas canisters directly at the heads of Emily and another International Solidarity Movement activist.

In addition to losing her left eye, the bones surrounding her eye socket, cheekbone and jawbone are all fractured. Three metal plates have been inserted into her head/face, and her jaw is wired shut.
— Dom Martin

Source: (


An eye
For an eye
No one knew
It’s a thousand eyes
For an eye
By a million lies!

It’s Truth
Impounded with brute!

It’s democracy
Founded on the theocracy
Of hypocrisy!

When the Palestinian was slain
No disdain
From the Global community
Just a handshake
Another veto
And sacrosanct immunity!

In humanity’s landscape
Life is life
Fair is fair:
Where’s Blair?

A thousand eyes
For an eye:
It’s a tie
Between evil
And the devil!

Around yesterday
Change was promised
Today, it’s Emily
Another selfless member
Of the human family:

The present is tarnished
The future orphaned:
Shame on fame!

A thousand eyes
A million lies
A Flotilla of Hope
Ambushed by the dope
Of elected zealots
Bigots and despots !

Hell or Heil
Whither Israel?

— Dom Martin

Saturday, July 3, 2010


by Gulamhusein A. Abba

Palestinian Children Confront IDF soldiers in Nabi Salih (July 2, 2010)

The bloody and dastardly attack, by Israeli forces, in international waters, under cover of darkness, on a peaceful and unarmed flotilla, carrying nothing but humanitarian aid to a besieged people experiencing a humanitarian crisis, was strongly denounced by people and governments from all over the world. Deservedly so.

Israel, instead of apologizing, or at least being contrite, immediately launched a brazen and aggressive campaign to justify its actions and paint the aid-bearers as the villains of the piece!

It spewed out the standard propaganda. It tried to demonize the aid-bearers by alleging, in the face of evidence to the contrary, that some of them had ties to terrorists; “accidentally” released a video mocking those attacked; widely circulated heavily edited and doctored photos and videos showing those on the flotilla “attacking” the Israeli commandos (but did not make public video images of the commandos just prior to or during the attack); claimed that those under attack had snatched two guns from the heavily armed and well trained commandos and fired the “snatched” guns at the commandos, who then fired back in self defense (!); and made several other ridiculous claims and allegations. It even alleged that there was no humanitarian crisis in Gaza!

Anticipating that there would be criticism of not only the disproportionate force used and the killing of nine passengers but of the blockade itself, Israel resorted to its old and tried “justification” – “What else can Israel do? It is surrounded by hostile Arab nations. Gaza is under the control of Hamas which has the elimination of Israel written in its charter and which has fired thousands of mortars into Israel. If Israel does not impose a blockade, arms will flow into Gaza and will be used to try and destroy Israel”.

All these claims are baseless and can be refuted through incontrovertible facts. But doing so here would be playing into an Israeli trap. Such controversies, arguments and debates are exactly what Israel wants. They serve to distract the readers and divert attention from the real issues.

When the criticism and denunciations kept growing, Israel damage control experts at last played their trump card to defuse the international backlash. Israel announced that it would be “easing” Gaza’s blockade. Details were skimpy and the “easing” applied only to the land blockade. The high seas remained off limits. Nevertheless, Israel’s announcement had the desired effect. There was immediate applause and Israel was praised for “taking a step in the right direction”.

Israel has perfected this technique. It thrusts a nine inch blade into the body of its victim. There is an international hue and cry. Israel defends its action. There is a debate in the international community and in the media. While the controversy and debate continues, the blade remains firmly embedded in the body for months, its victim bleeding the whole time. Then Israel withdraws three inches of the blade. The world applauds its action, ignoring the six inches of the blade that still remains buried deep in the body of Israel’s victim..

When the dust and the din has settled, Israel delivers another nine inch stab, only to repeat the whole process.

That is exactly what is happening here. The occupied territories are pockmarked with Israel’s stab wounds!

Though the belated awakening to Israel’s perfidious acts, as evidenced by the initial worldwide denunciation, is welcome, it ignored the real issues and continues to do so.

The crippling blockade imposed by Israel on Gaza – which is more for political than security reasons and which constitutes collective punishment on all – is unwarranted, unjustifiable and illegal and must be brought to an end.

Even more important is the fact that Israel, in spite of various UN resolutions, refuses to vacate its illegal and brutal 43-years-old occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. Not to mention the fact that it has been for more than 60 years now dispossessing Palestinians of their homes and lands and turning them into refugees barred forever from returning to their homes!

Not only is Israel continuing this occupation but it is also making life a hell for the Palestinians living in the occupied territories. It has been setting up dozens of checkpoints; bulldozing homes; stealing land; uprooting olive and fruit orchards; throttling villages and towns by encircling them with a hideous wall; preventing relatives from visiting each other, students from going to schools, the sick from going to hospitals and clinics, farmers from attending to their farms, businessmen from going to their businesses; imposing curfews and closures; arresting (read “kidnapping”) people indiscriminately; shooting down innocent people; brutally repressing non-violent protests; crisscrossing the land with “for Israelis only” highways; assassinating at will through missile attacks and other means; bombing whole towns and refugee camps; holding thousands of Palestinians in Israeli jails and torturing them.

It acts with impunity, not only in the occupied territories but worldwide; stealing and forging passports issued by friendly countries and using them to clandestinely send its operatives to other friendly, sovereign countries to carry out secret assassinations; knocking out reactors in foreign countries it suspects to be attempting to produce nuclear arsenal; provoking other countries to attack it and then invading and occupying territories it has no right to, bombing the ship of a friendly country anchored in waters off its coast, and on and on. Israel is an out-of-control loose cannon ball and it is time for the world community to muzzle it, hold it accountable, and compel it to behave like a law abiding civilized member of the international community. If Israel refuses to do so, the international community must treat it as the pariah nation that it has become and sever all connections with it and impose sanctions on it.

Perhaps this is expecting too much from the UN, divided and riddled with politics as it is. If the UN cannot or will not act, all nations that believe in justice, in the rule of law, in the inalienable right of a people to have their own government – all such nations must unilaterally impose sanctions on Israel, divest form it and boycott it totally.

But it is not only governments that can act. Each one of us, whether an individual or a corporation or a business, can and must do our part. Boycott Israel, its goods and its services; divest funds invested in Israeli stocks, bonds and ventures.

Israelis themselves must join in efforts to leash power drunk Israeli leaders at the helm of affairs in Israel. They are driving Israel to ruin, economically, politically and morally. Israelis need to save Israel from the currant Israeli government and those who constitute it.

The first step: The world community, which took prompt and decisive action to vacate Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait, must now focus, not on promoting unending proximity talks or peace negotiations, but on making Israel vacate its illegal occupation of Palestinian lands.