SECTION SIX

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COLUMN NINETY-EIGHT, OCTOBER 1, 2003
(Copyright 2003 The Blacklisted Journalist)

1.  Report on LaMP Palestine Delegation

Thanks to everyone who responded to our requests for protest letters re: the threatened demolition of the new Beit Arabia peace center and mural in Anata, East Jerusalem the building and mural memorializing Rachel Corrie remain whole and stand defiantly in the face of the Israeli interrogation center going up on the opposite hill. 

The dedication ceremony on Aug. 21 drew around 100 people and heard greetings from the mayor of Anata, the PLO, a former member of the Hadash faction of the Knesset, the muktar of the neighboring Bedouin compound, the muralist Mike Alewitz, and a number of Israeli peace activists. The head of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions moved the crowd with his declaration that the Israeli authorities, who have destroyed houses on the site four times, can go ahead and destroy the new center 100 times, but that it will be rebuilt each time as an act of resistance to the occupation.  ICAHD is making posters of the mural, and in the eventuality that the center and mural are demolished, plans to sell pieces of the mural as a fundraiser for their projects.

The labor delegation, consisting of Ed Hunt of SEIU at U. of Washington, Sam Goldberger of the SEIU at the four C's in CT, Becky Wasserman of the US Student Association and Board member of Jobs with Justice, Paul Karolczyk---a CT student and construction worker, and Dan Levine---a labor reporter from CT, was able to meet with official union representatives, union dissidents, and labor advocates on both sides of the Green Line.  As a result we developed a highly nuanced appreciation of the intersection of the politics of Israel's neoliberal austerity plan and the occupation, as well as of the challenges facing labor in each of the distinct sectors of the economy in both the territories and Israel proper.

On the evening of our arrival, we drove to Kfar Qara, an Arab village in the northern triangle of Israel, to join the dedication rally for a mural painted by Alewitz and local construction workers on one wall of the municipal stadium there.  Sam Goldberger delivered greetings from our group and the unions who had contributed to the solidarity mural project and recalled the struggle to integrate the U.S. labor movement. The Palestinian workers, in response, concluded the rally by singing the Internationale in Arabic, astounding some of our delegates who had come to believe that the secular left had vanished in the region.  We then retired to the patio of one of the local leaders for coffee, tea, and an exchange of messages of solidarity.  The workers, active in Ma'an, or the Workers' Advice Centers, a broad formation led by activists from the ODA, or Party for Democratic Action, invited our delegation to a day of meetings to discuss a call for an international labor delegation to investigate the discrimination against Palestinian Israelis in hiring and the concurrent exploitation of the Romanian, Thai, and Chinese workers that Israeli employers have brought in to replace them and to drive down wages and to extend the hours of work.  We will circulate this call and report on our discussions around it in a later report back.

In Tel Aviv, we were able to meet with groups that attempt to aid the "guest" workers brought to Israel in the most superexploitative manner.  Kav LaOved and the Workers' Hotline together attempt to respond to the needs of the most distressed members of this group.  There are over 250,000 "foreign" workers in Israel.  The vast majority are brought in legally by the employers after they have "proven" to the Ministry of Labor that Palestininan workers have "refused" work. 

The system of recruitment, fees to coyotes in both the country of origin and the country of entry, and kickbacks to the employers who originally called for the workers is said to amount to a $3billion per year industry.  It is said that workers from Romania pay about $2000 for entry and that workers from China need to come up with around $10,000. These workers are very often deprived of their passports by Israeli border guards, who then hand them over to the employers.  Often the employer has entered into the scheme only for the kickback and quickly fires the worker.  This worker is, in this way, deprived of any legal status and is subject to deportation. Those who actually go to work, are forced to work 12 and 14 hours a day, to sleep at the work site, and to accept subminimum wages.  If a worker is fired, yet escapes immediate deportation, he can often do a bit better in wages as a free agent in the underground economy, but must suffer the consequences of being criminalized for having lost his job.

While waiting for a meeting in the office of the Workers Hotline, we met a Filippino woman whose case was typical. She had been in Israel for four days.  She had once been a schoolteacher, but had sought to improve her economic status by doing domestic contract work abroad.  She had paid $5000 to an agent to come to Israel and another $2000 to an agency here. She was sent on a job as a home care staffer for an infirm woman.  By the second day, the extended family was demanding that she clean the whole house.  She complied but the family fired her anyway, telling the agency she was a bad worker.  The agency refused to place her on another job and she was stranded in Israel with her 10 year old son, without a passport or any means to travel or to live.

The Workers Hotline was in discussions with Ma'an, trying to come up with a joint declaration about the plight of Palestinian workers thrown into unemployment and the superexploited guest workers brought in to replace them. Still in dispute is one demand of Ma'an which calls on the Israeli state to "close the skies", i.e. to stop colluding with the employers in the trafficking of workers.  Dr. Roy Wagner of KavLaOved objected to any demand that might encourage chauvinism against the foreign workers. The discussion continues.  I have included as an attachment a report on the situation of these workers in Israel being circulated by Ma'an.  One important development is the recent organzing effort of Turkish "guest" workers inside Israel.

The plight of both "guest" workers and Palestinian workers who live inside Israel was part of our discussions with labor advocates inside the Green Line as well.  Hassan Barghouti, the director of the Democracy and Workers' Rights Center in Ramallah, said that he hopes the development of a new and vibrantly democratic workers' movement in the territories will be the inspiration for a radicalization of the labor movement inside Israel. Barghouti's optimism about the possibility of stimulating a mass workers movement in the face of the obstacles posed by the occupation surprised many on our delegation, buthis vision was backed up by the anecdotal evidence he provided about successful organizing efforts. 

According to Barghouti, only about 22% of Palestinians in the territories support Islamic factions and about 30% support Fatah.  In the current situation only about 3% support the old "left" factions in the PLO.  Around 48% of the Palestinians in the territories view themselves as political independents and are looking for a voice to defend their rights as part of civil society and as workers.  The traditional Palestinian trade union leadership comes out of the national struggle and their salaries are paid by the Palestine Authority, which is burdened with all the compromises of Oslo. At this moment, when those compromises  weigh so heavily on the working people of the territories and when the Palestine Legislative Assembly is composed primarily of longtime militants, professionals, or Palestinian employers, the great majority of Palestinian workers have no representatives to fight around basic class issues. Political fights inside the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions and fledging efforts at electing work site workers' councils independent of the structures of the PGFTU suggest that the status quo will not hold for long.

In our meetings with the PGFTU, we learned of the obstacles to organizing posed by the occupation and the continued closures, checkpoints, and curfews.  U.S. trade unionists will be able to learn more about their perspectives first hand, as a U.S. tour of several PGFTU members will kick off at the Labor Notes Conference in Detroit on Sept. 12.  For more information on this tour, go to www.palestinelabor.com .

In all cases, we asked activists about their assessment of the spring strikes and demonstrations of the Histadrut. Did this increased display of opposition to Netanyahu's austerity budget suggest that the ranks of Israeli Jewish labor might be pushed into protest against the costs of the occupation? If the question was interpreted to mean would the Histadrut ever be moved to publicly oppose the occupation, the answer was always "no."  But if the question was interpreted more broadly, avoiding the question of the organizational fate of the Histadrut and addressing the social forces in motion in Israel, the answers were more cautiously optimistic.  Jihad Akel, a Palestinian on the Executive Board of the Tel Aviv Histadrut, hoped that the spring mobilizations signaled the beginning of a new labor activism.  For two months, single mothers, mostly Mizrahi or Arab Jews, have been camped in a  tent city outside the Knesset to protest the cuts in social benefits.  Dr. Bahar of the Alternative Information Center looked to this development as a sign that the Mizrahi working class may yet return to the militancy  of the 70's.  Dr. Bahar is one of a number of Mizrahi academics who are writing revisionist histories of the Arab Jewish working class in Israel.

Overall, our solidarity mission generated a great deal of publicity.  Labor muralist Mike Alewitz was featured in a full page article in Ha'aretz and in a small Tel Aviv weekly.  Israeli TV Channel One carried an interview with Alewitz that was broadcast in prime time and in which Alewitz's murals in Palestine/Israel were contextualized as part of his other international projects.  Alewitz was able to speak about the growing opposition to war among U.S. labor activists and to denounce the U.S. backed Israeli occupation of Palestine.  Local activists were thrilled by the attention that he brought to their work.

Our delegation will be producing a more formal and comprehensive report on our experiences, which will eventually be available at www.palestinelabor.com .  We will also be participating in an interest meeting and tabling at the Labor Notes Conference, in an effort to begin to share our new insights about the struggle to develop real ties of solidarity with Palestinian working people and anti-occupation Israelis.  Thank you for your support.

Chris Gauvreau, Labor Art and Mural Project, Aug. 27, 2003  ##

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2.  Five in the Morning 

Film on Arab construction workers
8/21/2003

Sana Cinematheque in Nazareth has recently hosted an initial show for a new documentary film about the Arab construction workers in Israel and their daily sufferings in the past few years.

The film carries the title Five in the Morning and it is the second film in the Video 48 Group. The film documents the changes that took place on the construction sector in the last decade and talks about the efforts Ma'an Society has held in an attempt to return some construction workers to their organized work.

The film documents the conditions of the Arab construction workers, whose number reaches 35,000 workers in Israel. It also talks about those workers, who have lost their working places since 1995, when Israel started imposing the policy of closure on the occupied territories, preventing the Palestinian Arab workers from entering Israel and bringing foreign workers instead.

The film highlights the issue of these workers in the globalization era that got them out of the cycle of production to unemployment, which was deemed a basic factor in the Al Aqsa Intifada. The film lasts 55 minutes and was produced by Nir Nader and directed by Sheri Filla.

asafadiv@netvision.net.il  ##

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3.  The Grinch That Stole Labor Day

Friday, 29 August, 2003

In celebration of the working person's holiday, Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao has announced the Bush Administration's plan to end the 60-year-old law which requires employers to pay time-and-a-half for overtime.

I'm sure you already knew that---if you happened to have run across page 15,576 of the Federal Register.

According to the Register, where the Bush Administration likes to place it's little gifts to major campaign donors, 2.7 million workers will lose their overtime pay---for a "benefit" of $1.53 billion. I put "benefit" in quotes because, in the official cost-benefit analysis issued by Bush's Labor Department, the amount employers will now be able to slice out of workers' pockets is tallied on the plus side of the rules change.

Nevertheless, workers getting their pay snipped shouldn't complain, because they will all be receiving promotions. These employees will be re-classified as managers exempt from the law. The change is promoted by the National Council of Chain Restaurants. You've met these 'managers'---they're the ones in the beanies and aprons whose management decisions are, "Hold the lettuce on that."

My favorite of Chao's little amendments would re-classify as "exempt professionals" anyone who learned their skill in the military. In other words, thousands of veterans will now lose overtime pay. I just can't understand why Bush didn't announce that one when he landed on the aircraft carrier.

by Greg Palast

(excerpts)

http://www.gregpalast.com/contact.cfm  ##

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4.  Wild Night

An old man was sitting on a bench at the mall. A young man walked up and sat down. He had spiked hair in all different colors: green, red, orange, blue, yellow. The old man just stared. Every time the young man looked, the old man was staring.

The young man finally said sarcastically, "What's the matter old timer, never done anything wild in your life?"

Without batting an eye, the old man replied, "Got drunk once and had sex with a parrot. I was just wondering if you were my son."

Todd@ccsu.edu  ##

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5.  Growth Industry

Thirty Percent Of Black Men In Us Will Go To Jail

Black men born in the United States in 2001 will have a one in three chance of going to prison during their lifetime if current trends continue, according to a report by the US Justice Department.

More than 5.6 million Americans are either in prison or have served time there---and that number will continue to rise, the report shows.

By the end of 2001 one in every 37 Americans had some experience of prison, compared with one in 53 in 1974. Continuing at that rate, the proportion will increase to one in every 15 of those born in 2001.

In 2001 a sixth of African-American men were current or former prisoners, compared with one in 13 Latinos and one in 38 whites. The incarceration of women remains lower than of men but has increased at twice the rate since 1980 and shows similar racial disparities.

"Prison had become the social policy of choice for low income people of colour," says Marc Mauer, assistant director of the Sentencing Project, a group which promotes reduced reliance on imprisonment. "Nobody's stated it that way but we have inner-city areas starved of investment but no shortage of funds to build and fill prisons."

by Gary Younge in New York - August 19, 2003 " The Guardian

http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,1021430,00.html  ##

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6.  True Tech Stories

True Tech Support Stories:

Compaq is considering changing the command "Press Any Key" to "Press Return Key" because of the flood of calls asking where the Any Key is.

SAT technical support had a caller complaining that her mouse was hard to control with the dust cover on. The cover turned out to be the plastic bag the mouse was packaged in.

Another SAT customer was asked to send a copy of her defective diskettes. A few days later a letter arrived from the customer along with photocopies of  the floppies.

Another Dell customer called to say he couldn't get his computer to fax anything. After 40 minutes of troubleshooting, the technician discovered the man was trying to fax a piece of paper by holding it in front of the monitor screen and hitting the "send" key.

A confused caller to IBM was having troubles printing documents. He told the technician that the computer had said it "couldn't find printer." The user  had also tried turning the computer screen to face the printer but that his  computer still couldn't "see" the printer."

Another IBM customer had trouble installing software and rang for support. "I put in the first disk, and that was OK. It said to put in the second disk, and I had some problems with the disk. When it said to put in the third disk, I couldn't even fit it in...." The user hadn't realized that "Insert Disk 2" meant to remove Disk 1 first.

A woman called the Canon help desk with a problem with her printer. The tech asked her if she was running it under "Windows." The woman responded, "No, my desk is next to the door. But that is a good point. The man sitting in the cubicle next to me is under a window and his printer is working fine."  ##

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7.  Drawing Support 3: Murals and Transition in the North of Ireland

Drawing Support 3: Murals and Transition in the North of Ireland by Bill Rolston

During the past three decades of political conflict in the North of Ireland, murals have been a highly visible part of the political scene. Having charted their development in two best-selling books---Drawing Support: Murals in the North of Ireland  (1992) and Drawing Support 2: Murals of War and Peace  (1996) - Bill Rolston now brings the story up to date.

The 114 photographs and ten pages of text in this latest book cover the developments in mural painting between 1996 and the present. The period has been one of a live, if at times precarious, peace process. Republican murals responded in a number of ways: dropping paramilitary references except in memorial murals, and frequently commenting on progress---or the lack of it---in the peace process. They have also continued to represent themes that were their hallmark since the 1980s: electoral campaigns, opposition to state repression, Irish history and mythology, and references to political struggles against colonialism and repression elsewhere in the world.

Loyalist murals, on the contrary, became for some years increasingly dominated by paramilitary imagery and made few direct comments to current political events and issues. There has been some change in welcome years with the appearance of a  number of murals on historical themes---including World War 1---and murals on the theme of Ulster Scots language, culture and history.

Finally, the book contains a number of photographs of murals  painted by loyalist and republican prisoners inside Long Kesh.  With the release of these prisoners by July 2000, the murals were painted out.

Details: 60 pages, with 114 photographs, paperback. ISBN 1- 900960-23-0. Price: $11.99. Free postage for sales to Europe  and surface mail for the rest of the world. Airmail option for rest  of the world.

Order direct from the publisher, Beyond the Pale Publications:  { HYPERLINK: http://www.btpale.com )

wj.rolston@ulst.ac.uk   ##

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8.  Cradle Will Rock

Frank Theatre will mount its first full-scale musical production, Mark Blitzstein's 1937 THE CRADLE WILL ROCK at the former Sears building on Lake Street and 10th Avenue in south Minneapolis. The production will run October 3-26, 2003. Performances are Thursday-Saturday at 8:00, and Sundays at 2:00. There will be one Monday night performance on Oct. 20. Tickets are $16-20. For reservations and information, please call FrankTheatre at (612) 724 3760.

http://www.franktheatre.org/   ##

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9.  Art at Work

Here are some projects I've been working on that may be of interest.  

1. "At Work: The Art of California Labor," two San Francisco exhibits and a companion book that
trace the rich history and recent trends of California labor art.
http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/~lcushing/addpages/AtWork.html
 

2. Eighteenth Annual Western Workers Labor Heritage Festival January 16-18, 2004
San Francisco Bay Area, location yet to be determined
A weekend of inspiration, solidarity, and workers culture! for more information, contact: David
Winters, (831) 426-4940 or Lincoln Cushing (510) 642-1056.
Endorsers include AFL-CIO Central Labor Councils of the greater Bay Area,
California Arts Council, Labor Heritage Foundation, and others
http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/~lcushing/WWLHF/WWLHF04.html
 

3. Union Women's Alliance to Gain Equality - Union WAGE (1971-1982)
Exhibit of photographs by Cathy Cade, UC Berkeley Institute of Industrial
Relations, 2521 Channing Way, Berkeley, CA (near Telegraph).  Call for hours (510) 643-8140.
August 20, 2003 - January 16, 2004
Reception Thursday, October 2, 5:30-7
On-line exhibit http://www.iir.berkeley.edu/exhibit/
includes archived previous shows

4. One Struggle, Two Communities: Late 20th Century Political Posters of  Havana, Cuba and the San Francisco Bay Area
September 28th - December 13, 2003, Berkeley Art Center
Curated by Lincoln Cushing, author of Revolucion! Cuban Poster Art, Chronicle Books, 2003.

http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/~lcushing/CubaGen.html

The poster was the popular art form in Cuba following the Cuban Revolution, when the government sponsored some 10,000 public posters on a fascinating range of cultural, social, and political themes. From the mid-1960s through the early 1980s, posters rallied the Cuban people to the huge task of  building a new society, promoting massive sugar harvests and national literacy campaigns; opposing the U.S. war in Vietnam; celebrating films, music, dance, and sports with a unique graphic wit and exuberant colorful style. During the same period, graphic artists in the San Francisco Bay Area were actively engaged in a cultural renaissance of their own. Politically engaged art became vital currency in fueling the various domestic movements. Communities of color were struggling for self-determination, women were challenging the patriarchy, and there was massive opposition to our government's war in Viet Nam, all which were dynamically coupled with insurgence overseas.

Missing from a retrospective assessment of this history is the role of artistic solidarity. Artists, as cultural agents, played a significant role in establishing links that deepened and enhanced the artistic and political impact of both communities. This exhibit explores the connections between Bay Area graphic artists and their counterparts in Havana, Cuba.  

Lincoln Cushing
Electronic Outreach Librarian
Institute of Industrial Relations, UC Berkeley

from rahl@mailman.depaul.edu  ##

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10.  Darwin Awards

Darwin Awards commemorate those who improve our gene pool by removing themselves from it. This honor is usually awarded posthumously.

Here are a few:

BOOBY TRAPS TRAP BOOB

The Netherlands---A retired engineer booby-trapped his home with twenty deadly devices, with the intention of killing his estranged family. Anyone with common sense could predict the inevitable outcome. He inadvertently triggered one of his own hidden traps, and removed himself from the planet.   ##

WRONG AND WRONGER

Ukraine--A man was walking his dog, when a Police Academy cadet pointed out that dogs on a public street must be leashed and muzzled. The men began to argue, until the dog owner pulled out a military hand grenade and threw it to the cadet's feet. His well-trained dog immediately fetched it back, and man and dog met the same messy fate.   ##

ELECTRIFIED WORMS

Norway---If you need worms for fishing, just put a 12-volt electric current through ground, and up they come. A 23-year-old man withdrew his genes from the pool when he tried to speed up the process by using 220V household current. Alas, he did so squatting on a steel bucket, holding an electrode in one hand while pushing the other in the ground.   ##

FOOLISH COURAGE

Brazil---On New Year's Eve, some friends were befogged by Pinga, a traditional Brazilian liquor, when they began competing to see who could hold a lit firework in his mouth the longest. Antonio was the winner, biting a firework a bit  too long, and thereby earning praise for his "courage" at his funeral. ##

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11.  New Website

I recently put together a website about my work that might be of interest. It can be found at: http://www.artic.edu/~gshole/

gregory g. sholette gsholette@artic.edu  ##

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12.  Quote

"I think all foreigners should stop interfering in the internal affairs of  Iraq."  -- Paul Wolfowitz

There's no trick to being a humorist when you have the whole government working for you. -- Will Rogers   ##

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13.  Feedback

Dear Mike,

I might ask, if the Israeli's are as oppressive as you present them, how come they allowed your art on their land critical of their policies? I would suggest it is because they are an open democratic society...so open and democratic that I'm sure you found many Israeli sympathizers and supporters of your work. Israelis don't hate Palestinians or want to see them suffer. They do, however, want to live securely, not afraid for their lives, hence the reason for the wall. I wonder if there would have been the same sympathy or permission to put up a mural in an Arab/Palestinian area that was denouncing Arab Terrorism on innocent Jewish lives and destruction of property? I have a feeling rather then finding sympathizers and being granted a space, you would have been stoned.

Sincerely,

Carol Buchman

A good article in Honest Reporting to read regarding Israeli and Palestinian views of each other and how they are distorted by the media

http://www.honestreporting.com/articles/critiques/Day_In_The_Life.asp

carolbuchman@att.net  ##

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as glad i am to know what you are doing, i simply can't accept such large files, so i will regretfully be leaving your list; most of those images are not necessary, in my opinion. post em on a website!

sincerely

martha rosler

navva@earthlink.net  ##

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Date: Sat, 9 Aug 2003 13:26:52 -0500
From: Roy Tamboli roy@tamboli.com
Subject: Palestine Snapshots

Dear Mike,

Thanks for sharing your snapshots. I kept wondering how your project was coming along while I was relaxing on the beach in Brazil.

Roy  ##

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Mike Alewitz  

LaBOR aRT & MuRAL PRoJECT
Art Department/ Central CT State University
1615 Stanley Street
New Britain, CT 06050
 

860.832.2359/ Office
860.518.4046/ Mobile  ##

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