The York University Drama continues

Toronto’s York University’s suspension of student Daniel Freeman-Maloy for his ‘crime of megaphone’ continues to provide comic relief for those who still believe in freedom of speech. The York University student paper provided some amusing graphics, since he was supposed to be their opinions editor, a position he will have difficulty accepting since he’s not allowed to set foot on campus. Graphics and letters of support can be found at the website established for this strange case. Naomi Klein wrote a very nice letter to York University’s Presidnt (most universities have a president, but york university has a presidnt — her email is about it, included below. The letters have actually been overwhelming — and coupled with the legal and political pressure being applied could result in York having to back off.

Below is the letter from Naomi.

Dear President Marsden (,

I realize you are receiving many letters and calls about the outrageous summary suspension of respected student journalist and activist Daniel Freeman-Maloy. Let me add a slightly different perspective. As you may recall, my last dealings with your office were when you initiated legal proceedings against me and my publisher on the publication of my book, No Logo. You took exception to a passage that alleged that York University had banned students from protesting against the DuMaurier Tennis Open. You denied this and claimed that the idea that York would ban students from protesting on their own campus badly damaged the good reputation of York of University.

So it is with a particularly keen sense of outrage that I have followed the controversy surrounding Freeman-Maloy’s suspension: you are doing exactly what you then claimed York University would never do, banning students from peacefully expressing their political views on campus. Particularly alarming is the way this has been done: without giving the student the slightest opportunity to plead his case. You would never know that York University was once a hotbed of the campus democratization movement.

There is another reason why I am following this issue closely: the Israeli state is acting with greater and greater brutality and impunity with each passing day. The conflict in the Middle East poses a deep moral challenge to all of us: what are we willing to do when deep injustices are being committed and the world community fails to stop them? Will we watch silently, or will we act in our sphere- our workplace, our school? For many Jews, this moral challenge is particularly wrenching because the escalating attacks on Palestinians are being carried in our name. Many of us feel like we must act, we must speak out, or else we are silently complicit.

By suspending Daniel Freeman-Maloy and preventing him from taking his post at the Excalibur, you are punishing a student for peacefully acting on his conscience in the face of tremendous suffering. This is profoundly shameful and will damage not just York University, but the spirit of bold dissent that is so badly needed in this country and the world.

Activism is disruptive. We do it because we believe that there are times when disruption is necessary for needed change to occur. I hope that you will make a decision that is not based on fear of disruption, but on hope in the change that can happen when people are free to speak, and even yell, their minds.


Naomi Klein

Mexican protesters sit in jail…

About a year ago I did an interview with Amina Sherazee, who is one of that rare group of activist/lawyers of tremendous integrity. In the interview, Amina pointed out something that a lot of folks forgot: that there had been escalating repression against movements in the Americas before 9/11, in North America particularly against ‘anti-globalization’ protesters. That repression continues, of course. A recent ‘anti-globalization’ protest in Guadalajara, Mexico, was repressed harshly, and several dozen Mexican activists still sit in jail, having been abused by authorities. They have initiated a hunger strike, with all the risks that that entails. I got this note in the mail from activist Jessica Pupovac, who compiled it.

June 7, 2004

information compiled by Jessica Pupovac,

May 26-29, the Latin American -European Union Summit convened in Guadalajara, Mexico to expand international cooperation advancing the goals of free-market capitalism. As they set about to do so with no space for democratic participation or transparency, the faithful opposition arrived from all corners of the Americas and Europe to share information, network, and let their leaders know that they do not intend to give them the last word. A week of forums, panels and music culminated in the march of four thousand activists through central Guadalajara and was met with violent repression. One week later, 33 activists remain imprisoned, and reports of violent psychological and physical torture are slowly making their way out of the jail cells and to their international community of supporters. Those involved are calling for immediate action on the part of the global anti-capitalist movement, as well as “democracy-lovers” everywhere, to ensure that such human rights abuses – and attempts to violently silence opponents of failing economic ideals – will not go unnoticed or unpunished.

Unprovoked police harassment was rampant from the onset of the events in Guadalajara. On May 28, as out-of-towners began setting up camp at the Parque Juarez, a camping site they were guaranteed by Municipal President Emilio Gonzalez Marquez, they were surrounded by anti-riot police and detained from 6pm Thursday night until 3 am the following morning. The activists were not allowed to leave the park to find food, water or restrooms.

The following day, a large march drew over 4,000 labor union leaders, farmers, students, teachers and other concerned parties and was met with tear gas, beatings and mass arrests. Later on that evening up until 1 pm, police continued to arbitrarily arrest activist “types” from local restaurants, streets and parks. Some were even arrested from the Red Cross, where they had fled to receive medical treatment for injuries incurred at the hands of police earlier that day. In the end, 95 people were arrested or disappeared.

The activists were taken to five different jails and 2 different hospitals. The authorities refused to release their names or allow them access to lawyers until Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon. Foreigners (from Australia, Italy, Spain, Canada and the US) were deported. However, Mexicans, particularly those from the capital, were not so lucky. For some, it was not until early Sunday morning that they were given food or water. Dehydration is becoming so severe that prisoners are reportedly removing buttons from their clothing and sucking on them to produce saliva. Many report severe beatings, humiliation (both men and women were forced to strip publicly and threatened with rape) and torture, including electric shocks to the genitals. Many were forced to sign false confessions incriminating themselves of offenses such as robbery, assault, property damage and inciting a riot. Many were shown police photos of movement leaders and threatened with more torture if they did not tell everything they know said individuals. Two prisoners who have refused to give any information or sign false confessions are covered with bruises and open wounds. Fourteen of the political prisoners have been denied bail. Others are expected to pay from 25,000 to 200,000 pesos to gain their freedom.

One woman, Liliana Galaviz Lopez, a photographer with the local Independent Media Center (or IMC, created to provide coverage of the Summit and counter-mobilizations), was taken to the hospital on Monday, May 29, due to injuries suffered during and after her arrest. She is currently being treated for “trauna craneocefalico,” or cranial trauma and brain damage. The Guadalajara IMC has been the target of continuing police harassment and was surrounded by ‘Preventitive Police’ forces for days following the march.

Despite multiple demonstrations in Guadalajara and Mexico City, as well as solidarity actions carried out Friday, June 4 in Barcelona, San Fransisco and Chicago, 33 of the detainees are still in jail and 10 of them have been on hunger strike since Friday, June 4. Local actions and letters of support are urgently needed. The Mexican government, as well as all governments that find it acceptable to silence dissent through brute force, must be made to know that the global network opposed to their policies of greed and exploitation is growing in size, momentum and coordination and such violent supression not only fails to deter us, it makes our convictions all the stronger.

**To donate to the legal defense fund, please go to

**To find more information, go to

**To tell the Mexican Consulate/Embassy nearest you that you are furious, please see below.

There will be a march today (Monday, June 7) in SAN FRANCISCO at 4pm beginning at the Convergence Center at 960 Howard St. (bet. 5th & 6th) and marching to the Mexican consulate at 535 Folsom St. (at 2nd St.). Please use the sample letter below, or write one of your own, and email, fax or call in your complaints to the Mexican embassy in DC as well as your local consulate (Chicago sample letter below – For all others, call the Embassy in DC at 202.728.1600 or go to

Mexican Consulate Information:
204 South Ashland Avenue
Chicago, IL
Phone: 312.738.2383 Fax: 312.491.8981
Consul: Ing. Carlos Manuel Sada Solana

Dear Ing. Carlos Manuel Solana,

We the undersigned are presenting this letter to the Mexican Consulate of Chicago to be forwarded to President Vincente Fox as well as the Governor of Jalisco out of great concern for the persons who were arrested in connection with the protests that took place in Guadalajara, Mexico at the EU/Latin American Summit this past week. We are outraged by reports of sexual and psychological torture inflicted on the detainees. This is unacceptable behavior for a civilized democratic country. Thousands of organizations and individuals throughout the world aware of these atrocities. We know that Mexico has a deep concern for the human rights of all people and expect immediate action to correct the situation.


FIRST- The immediate release of every prisoner and the halt of any legal procedure against them.

SECOND- That an investigation into the abuse of state power in Jalisco be initiated immediately so that the perpetrators of these grave violations of human rights do not go unpunished.

THIRD- The immediate end of all actions of intimidation that have been carried out against the prisoners, their families, and those who have already been released.

FOURTH- We demand that the physical integrity of all the prisoners is guaranteed and the immediate end of any type of torture that has been carried out against them.

FIFTH-The organizations hereby present, as well as the families of the prisoners, put direct responsibility on the President of the United States of Mexico, Vicente Fox Quesada and the Governor of Jalisco, Francisco Ramírez Acuña, in terms of the physical integrity of the prisoners and their families as part of a general repressive strategy used by the government apparatus.

SIXTH- That the participation of the defense lawyers is permitted.


A blog of blogs

If you look carefully, you will notice some new features in these blogs. First, there is a ‘blog of blogs’, a blog amalgamating all of the znet blogs in one place. Second, we (well, actually it’s Brian Dominick of the NewStandard and UTS) figured out how to allow ZNet Sustainers to post comments. We did this because when the blogs were first set up, they allowed comments, and quickly filled with hate and spam. It would be nice to allow all non-spammers to post comments, but no such spam filter exists… so this will have to do. Still, I hope to see some comments here, maybe we can have some dialogue and such. Email comments are still welcome too, of course, for non-sustainers who have something to say.

More Symmetries

I don’t have anything to say about Reagan. This is one of those things that is covered ad nauseam in the mainstream and as a result there will be ample coverage in the alternative media as well. Paul Street’s blog has a comparison of Reagan and Bush II, for example.

A couple days ago I blogged about the symmetry between Colombia and Venezuela — Venezuela’s elite attempting to halve Chavez’s term, Colombia’s elite attempting to double Uribe’s term.

Today’s symmetry is from Israel/Palestine.

Marwan Barghouti, one of the most respected Palestinian leaders and political prisoners, has been sentenced to life in prison (five life terms plus forty years) by an Israeli kangaroo court. The interesting part is that he was convicted not for any direct role in violence, but because — and this is a quote from the judges decision — “He did not have direct control over the militants, but did wield influence”.

Coupled with the fact that Israel doesn’t really have jurisdiction over Palestinians in a legal sense (a point raised by Barghouti himself and a Palestinian spokesperson — Barghouti said “The Israeli courts are a partner to the Israeli occupation … the judges are just like pilots who fly planes and drop bombs.”) this means that the Israelis should be rounding up, at the very least, the entire leadership of the United States, including Congress and much of the media — they don’t have direct control over US terrorism in Iraq and elsewhere, but they do wield influence.” They should also round up Sharon and his cabinet. There would be at least one difference between Barghouti and these arrests: they are much more demonstrably guilty than Barghouti was.

And now for the symmetry part. So, around the same time Barghouti’s sentence is coming down, Israelis were killing a 19-year old Palestinian, Omar Farah, in the West Bank, a 17-year old Palestinian, Mohammad Nabahan, in Gaza, and a man in a wheelchair at Qalandya, in the West Bank.

His name was Arafat Ibrahim Yakub, and he was in a wheelchair because he had been injured in the first intifada, in 1987.

An Israeli tank also ran over a man in a wheelchair in Jenin during the 2002 massacre there.

No one is serving a life sentence for any of these murders. Nor will the people who “influenced them” serve life sentences, any more than Reagan was punished for his crimes.


Yitzhak Laor wrote this article during the recent re-destruction of Rafah for the London Review of Books (published May 20). Laor is a novelist and poet who lives in Tel Aviv. I really like the last paragraph:

Hebron is hidden. Rafah is entirely cut off. The Israeli army didn’t kill the children in Rafah intentionally, it will be said. Who will remind us that for three months now, the army has been killing unarmed Palestinians demonstrating peacefully along the Wall that’s going up in the West Bank?

Israeli families of dead soldiers or dead civilians get a follow-up, even on foreign TV, for they had a future ahead of them before they died. Did the Palestinian children who died in Rafah have any future? No. So they are dead, and it will be over in a few days. Palestinians don’t get a follow-up, not even on foreign TV. Maybe there’ll be a documentary movie, followed by some public discussion about whether to allow the movie to be publicly screened, or whether it’s another sign of ‘the new anti-semitism’. Nothing will be followed up. The Israeli army is secure. It calls itself the Israel Defence Force.

The LRB seems to have published some good stuff lately (It published Paul Farmer’s important article, “Who Removed Aristide“). Laor’s article touches on a very important point about media, I think.

If you look at a site like ‘News Insider’, you realize that a dedicated person (in this case group of people) can learn a tremendous amount from reading the mainstream media. You have to read carefully and critically, you have to have a good memory, be able to compare one set of lies to another, and above all I think you have to know what you’re looking for. That is, you have to understand how the media works, what they are trying to present and what they are trying to obscure. In a way, you already have to know the story before you can interpret what the media provides.

The question is then, if the media provides so much of this information, why are we so misinformed? I spoke at a media conference once, presenting figures and analyses from groups like FAIR on media bias. Someone got up at the end and said: “I read the papers and know everything you said. So maybe the papers aren’t so bad, and you’re trying to make them sound bad because you have an agenda.”

I do have an agenda, it’s true. I have no desire to hide it. But my agenda doesn’t include distorting the facts. In a sense, the gentleman was right: the papers aren’t that bad. One reporter at the conference, from USA Today, said the problem was simply that no one reads. Her paper, the biggest in the country, has a circulation of a few million (in a country of a few hundred milion). The NYT has a circulation of about a million. Those of us who spew out thousands of words on the internet are in some cases trying to reach a subset of those who read.

But whether you read or watch TV or listen to the radio for information, the problem is not usually that things never come up. It is, as Laor identifies in his article, a question of ‘follow-up’. And for follow-up, it has to be the alternative media…

(links should be opening in a new window, thanks to the suggestion of a certain person who maintains, a very important site in case you haven’t seen it)

Colombia and Venezuela, again

In a state of preoccupation about the recall referendum trap that Venezuela has found itself in, I thought I would check Colombia’s national newspaper, El Tiempo, to see what they are saying about it. El Tiempo is actually a better paper, even on Venezuelan issues, than any of the Venezuelan papers. I saw something that is quite ironic. It seems that yesterday, the very day that the results of the signature drive for the recall referendum came out in Venezuela, the Colombian Congress narrowly passed legislation enabling Colombia’s current president Alvaro Uribe Velez to be re-elected.

So, while the oligarchy of one country conspires to cut the term of a decent president in half, the oligarchy of another conspires to double the term of a most indecent president (see ZNet Colombia Watch for a mountain of articles about Uribe, going back years, and for the most damning piece, see this interview with Javier Giraldo).

When Uribe tried to get his own re-election prepared in a referendum in October 2003, it failed. So he defied the will of the people, defied the constitutional court, defied the constitution itself, and has finally slipped his re-election through the cracks, with no one paying attention.

Imagine if Chavez had tried to pull the same thing? Imagine the appalled notes of concern about democracy and constitutional process and the will of the people, coming from not only the State Department but other equally hypocritical sources?

Imagine, in other words, if Venezuela was ruled by someone like Uribe instead of someone like Chavez?

The frightening thing is that you don’t need to imagine it. If the US and the Venezuelan elite have their way, that’s exactly what you are going to see. And when that happens, you’ll find parts of the ‘left’ supporting it, the kind of ‘left’ that supported the paramilitary killers to take over Haiti and are supporting the ongoing slaughter there by focusing — at a time when Aristide has been driven out, the will of the people torn to shreds — on supposed crimes committed by the very parties (Aristide, Lavalas) who are now being hunted down, hounded, and murdered. You can be sure these people will be back to claim that whatever the US is doing in Venezuela is for the best, and what the ‘left’ in Venezuela really wants.

On abuse

Thanks to the News Insider I saw this story about how Israel is ‘stunned’ by the abuse of Palestinians by its police. An example:

… three [police] confessed to ordering the 17-year-olds into their jeeps and driving them off to a nearby forest, where they were beaten with sticks, punched, had milk poured over them and were forced to kiss the policemen’s boots and chew sand and stones.

This is appalling. But to me, it is only a part of something much bigger and hence, more appalling. None of this ‘abuse’ (don’t say the word ‘torture’, it’s impolite) would take place if Israel wasn’t occupying Palestine. It wouldn’t take place if Israelis, Americans, and the rest of the world were not willing to accept the idea that entire peoples have to be subjugated, humiliated, starved, and killed so that other people can enjoy some notion of ‘security’ (when in fact even that ‘security’ is endangered by the occupation itself). It is similar to the way people were appalled by the photos at Abu Ghraib. Of course what happened there is appalling. But something the world seemed to have understood after WWII, that international aggression was the ultimate crime that made every other crime possible, seems to have been lost here. It is not just that American or Israeli soldiers shouldn’t have tortured Iraqis or Palestinians. It is that American or Israeli soldiers shouldn’t be there at all. It feels odd to even have to say this. This is always a problem in trying to relate things that should be obvious — sometimes obvious things are obvious to everyone. Other times they are not, so they have to be said, even at the risk of saying something that might be obvious.

Other West Asia news. Sharon has dumped some people from his cabinet so he can try to push through what I will continue to call the Gaza starvation plan.

Congo troubles

Rwanda invaded Congo again, it seems — with local backing. In Kinshasa, a protest against the UN and the government for failing to stop the invasion was suppressed, with UN troops firing on protesters and killing at least 2. I tried to write an introductory article on the Congo conflict a few months back to help readers begin to get a handle on one of the major mass murders of the past decade. That piece is damning of the role of Rwanda and Uganda in the Congo, following the credible sources I was able to find. The piece ended with a very precarious peace in place… that is what seems to be breaking down now.

The Venezuela Recall Trap

Looks like yet another country will be going to the polls before the United States, with Venezuela set on the course of a recall referendum for Chavez. The article linked is from, which is where I would recommend English-speakers go. ZNet Venezuela Watch is good too, there is much overlap.

The whole thing is troubling. Even though Chavez and many Chavistas believe that Chavez could handily win the referendum, the point is not and never has been to let Chavez win. This is a destabilization program, pure and simple. And the climate of a referendum offers innumerable opportunities for destabilization. A quote from the article is a good summary:

“We would win the recall referendum by a wide margin, and that would be an excellent opportunity to re-legitimize the [revolutionary] process,” said a pro-Chavez activist who wishes to remain anonymous after losing a debate during a meeting with other grassroots leaders who rejected the recall. “U.S. imperialism wants the CNE to declare that there were not enough signatures for the recall, so they can say that Chavez prevented the opposition from exercising their democratic rights. It’s a trap to label Chavez as a dictator, invoke the OAS Democratic Charter against Venezuela and isolate us,” he said.

Those who reject the recall, arguing that there was fraud, say that it will be hard to combat fraud during the recall vote. Another Chavez supporter said that “they have huge technological resources, the support of the U.S. government, and all the media at their disposal. We are the majority, but they can win with fraud. They did it now, and they can do it again.”

“They won’t get any more votes than the signatures they collected,” said another Chavez supporter.

Chavez loyalists coincide that winning the recall won’t cause Chavez enemies to stop their efforts to oust him. “We have won 7 electoral processes in five years, how many more do we need to win in order to be seen as legitimate?”, asked a pro Chavez activist during the meeting.

It is a horrible situation to be in: the Venezuelans have no choice but to walk into a trap set for them by the US and the local oligarchy — forces that have nothing but a demonstratedly murderous contempt for the people.