Thursday, December 20, 2007

After Annapolis: Press for real negotiations now

This statement was issued the Communist Party USA National Board on Dec. 6.

The vast majority of the people of Israel, Palestine, the United States and the world want something done to bring peace with justice to Israel and Palestine, and feel there is a chance the recently concluded Annapolis conference can accomplish something toward that aim.

That is why so many countries attended, including some of the world’s more progressive countries, putting their prestige on the line for the process and putting more pressure on the U.S. and Israel to do what is necessary for success.

Of course, many in our country and around the world are rightly skeptical. There is clearly good reason to question the motives of the Bush administration, which seeks to continue its militarist policies on behalf of the extreme right-wing sections of our ruling class. Its threats against Iran and support of reactionary regimes like Saudi Arabia serve those on the right who would use military force to impose control over the greater Middle East, with its vast energy resources and strategic geographical position. This was part of the context for the conference.

At the same time, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has moved backward from positions of some earlier governments on key issues, such as borders of a future Palestinian state. His center-right government is being pressed by the extreme right, whose backing he needs in coming elections and who reject a two-state solution.

Previous peace negotiations in the 1990s produced mixed results. But the installation of George W. Bush in the White House marked a sharp change for the worse.

For the past seven years, his administration has shown no interest in diplomacy to resolve this 60-year-old political and humanitarian crisis. Instead, despite lip service to a two-state solution, it gave a green light to the Israeli right’s drive to prevent formation of a truly independent Palestinian state. Bush gave active encouragement to moves to expand throughout the occupied territories a web of settlements, military installations, walls, watchtowers and checkpoints that make a two-state solution increasingly difficult.

The result has been highly damaging for all involved.

Palestinians, Israelis and Americans are all paying a price

The Palestinian people endure a humiliating military occupation that has shredded their communities, taken their land and livelihood, turned them into a captive workforce and market for Israeli capitalists, undermined their leadership, deprived them of national statehood, and promoted internal divisions. One result has been to turn Gaza into a vast prison camp enclosing 1.5 million Palestinian people. All this has fueled despair and plowed a fertile ground for acts of violence by a small minority.

At the same time, the Israeli right wing has used this volatile situation to fan a sense of fear and threat among the Israeli people and, under this cover, has imposed on Israeli working families Bush-style privatization, loss of pensions, and cuts in education and other social needs. As in the U.S. under Bush, poverty and inequality have risen sharply in Israel in recent years. Militarism, racism and religious fanaticism harm the Israeli social fabric.

Americans are also paying a price. This continuing flashpoint of conflict provides a cover for reactionary regimes to hold onto power and increases the threat of terrorism and war. Our government provides approximately $3 billion a year, the bulk of it military aid, to the Israeli government. If a just peace were achieved, these billions could be used for constructive aid to the people of the region and also fund some of our pressing human needs here at home.

Bush’s foreign policies have delivered a severe setback to the standing of the U.S. in the world, starting with the disastrous invasion and occupation of Iraq. For some time now, significant sections of the ruling class have been voicing concern, and calls for change are mounting. A year ago, the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, composed of influential political figures, identified solution of the Israel-Palestine conflict as a key priority, and called for “a renewed and sustained commitment by the United States for a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace.” More recently a similar bipartisan group including Zbigniew Brzezinski, Lee Hamilton and Brent Scowcroft sent a letter to Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice calling for “credible and sustained permanent status negotiations under international supervision and with a timetable for their completion,” to achieve a two-state solution based on the widely accepted Arab Peace Initiative.

Now Annapolis. Will anything come of it?

The Communist Party USA is convinced that a just Israeli-Palestinian peace is possible and necessary. There will never be a perfect set of circumstances for negotiations. Every delay, every day the present situation continues, only serves the playbook of the far right in Israel (along with right-wing forces in our own country), which has long used lack of a peace settlement to create “facts on the ground” to entrench its occupation of Palestinian land.

Overwhelmingly, as numerous polls have shown, both Israelis and Palestinians want a just solution based on two states, Israel and Palestine.

Principles for a real solution are widely accepted

The Arab Peace Initiative, approved by the Arab League in 2002 and reconfirmed this year, and the unofficial Geneva Initiative of 2003 are widely seen as offering a way forward.

The basic principles for a real, negotiated solution are already generally accepted:

• An end to Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, returning to the internationally recognized boundaries of June 4, 1967, with any minor modifications negotiated by mutual agreement, as a border between the two states of Israel and Palestine.

• East Jerusalem to be the capital of Palestine, West Jerusalem the capital of Israel. Public access to all Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites guaranteed.

• A negotiated solution addressing the needs and rights of Palestinian refugees.

• As part of the process, Israeli settlements on Palestinian land frozen and then dismantled, the “separation wall” taken down, and mutual security measures and prisoner release implemented.

Experience has shown that temporary and partial measures cannot substitute for resolving the fundamental “final status” issues. Right-wing forces will have to be compelled to drop their aim of imposing a subservient Palestinian state compliant with right-wing U.S./Israeli policy. Moreover, it is up to the Palestinian people to determine their leaders and negotiators, not the U.S. and Israel.

Our government holds the key

We join with others who see the Annapolis meeting as an opportunity and a challenge to organize as broadly as possible to demand that our government act to at long last end this tragic, destructive conflict.

A significant new informal coalition has emerged in the U.S. around this conference, that includes Jewish, Palestinian and church groups who support a two-state just solution. They played a big role in getting a letter signed by 135 members of Congress calling for aggressive U.S. diplomacy aimed at “resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, through the establishment of two states for two peoples,” calling the issue “too important not to seize the opportunities that have emerged over the past weeks.”

We urge all peace-loving Americans — Jewish, Palestinian and everyone else — to press the White House, Congress and presidential and congressional candidates to take a stand for real negotiations based on the above principles. Our government holds the key.

Our political leaders need to hear the message loud and clear: the time is now to move to a just and lasting peace. It is in the interest of the people of Israel, Palestine, the U.S. and the world.

For more information, contact cpusa

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Illinois teachers unions endorse HR 676

Chicago, Illinois - Rejecting a “band-aid approach” to healthcare, the University Professionals of Illinois, AFT Local 4100, endorsed HR 676, single payer healthcare legislation introduced by Congressman John Conyers (D-Mich).

“Beyond the fact that 46 or 47 million uninsured Americans are forced to play Texas Hold ‘Em with their health care, nearly a third of our health care dollars supports private insurance bureaucracy and paperwork. That’s not health care. That’s waste,” said Sue Kaufman, UPI Local 4100 president.

AFT local 4100 represents faculty and staff in 12 chapters at seven public universities in Illinois. It is affiliated with the Illinois Federation of Teachers, the American Federation of Teachers, and the AFL-CIO. The Executive Board of the 3,000 member local unanimously approved the endorsement on December 1.

Another AFT affiliated group, the Illinois Federation of Teachers Universities Council, also endorsed HR 676.

HR 676 would institute a single payer health care system in the U.S. by expanding a greatly improved Medicare system to every resident.

HR 676 would cover every person in the U. S. for all necessary medical care including prescription drugs, hospital, surgical, outpatient services, primary and preventive care, emergency services, dental, mental health, home health, physical therapy, rehabilitation (including for substance abuse), vision care, chiropractic and long term care. HR 676 ends deductibles and co-payments. HR 676 would save billions annually by eliminating the high overhead and profits of the private health insurance industry and HMOs.

HR 676 currently has 86 co-sponsors in addition to Conyers. Co-sponsors and bill text are here:

HR 676 has been endorsed by 345 union organizations in 48 states including
94 Central Labor Councils and Area Labor Federations and 29 state AFL-CIOs (KY, PA, CT, OH, DE, ND, WA, SC, WY, VT, FL, WI, WV, SD, NC, MO, MN, ME, AR, MD-DC, TX, IA, AZ, TN, OR, GA, OK, KS & CO).

For further information, a list of union endorsers, or a sample endorsement resolution, contact:

Kay Tillow
All Unions Committee For Single Payer Health Care--HR 676 c/o Nurses Professional Organization (NPO)
1169 Eastern Parkway, Suite 2218
Louisville, KY 40217
(502) 636 1551

Monday, December 10, 2007

Medical students rally for World AIDS Day

By Pepe Lozano
People's Weekly World

CHICAGO — Wearing white lab coats and red armbands, dozens of American Medical Student Association members from schools across the Midwest rallied here Nov. 30, urging presidential candidates to back expanded, comprehensive programs to fight AIDS and reject President Bush’s abstinence-only focus. The students also marched to the Illinois Republican Party offices. Nationwide rallies took place in San Francisco and Washington, D.C., on Dec. 1.

The medical students called for reform of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), now up for reauthorization. Kirsten Austad, 23, an AMSA intern, said, “As medical students we have an invested responsibility to advocate for AIDS relief, especially as future doctors.”

The student medical association is urging Congress to approve at least $50 billion over the next five years to fight global AIDS and $8 billion to train and retain health care workers. AMSA says Bush’s allocation of one-third of prevention funding to abstinence-until-marriage programs needs to be replaced with comprehensive, integrated and evidence-based HIV prevention programs.

A spokesperson for presidential candidate Barack Obama addressed the rally, commending the medical students for promoting public health and pledging Obama’s support for prevention education.

Jing Luo, a second-year medical student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said, “This virus knows no boundaries and recognizes no borders. You might think that it’s cold here in Chicago next to Lake Michigan, but I’m willing to bet that it’s much colder for those afflicted with AIDS in the sub-Saharan African country of Malawi.

“It’s much colder for married women in India or Tajikistan who can do nothing to protect themselves from HIV-positive husbands,” he said. “And it’s definitely a much colder world for those children born of HIV-positive mothers who find themselves alive in a village so far away from a paved road that no health care worker could possibly bring the life-saving medications that they desperately need.”

It is estimated that some 33 million people are living with AIDS worldwide and between 33 and 46 million have HIV. The Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS and the World Health Organization estimate that AIDS has killed more than 25 million people since it was first recognized in 1981, making it one of the most destructive epidemics in recorded history. The epidemic claimed an estimated 2.8 million lives in 2005 of which more than half a million were children. Despite recent improved access to treatment and care, access to medication is underfunded and extremely limited in many developing countries.

Joseph Tasosa, a University of Chicago medical student from Zimbabwe, said he has aunts, uncles and cousins back home who are living with the disease. “There isn’t anyone that doesn’t know anyone who hasn’t died from AIDS,” said Tasosa. “I’m lucky because none of my immediate family is infected.”

Cathy Christeller, executive director of the Chicago Women’s AIDS Project, said real prevention for girls, including access to education and anti-violence protection, is needed, not abstinence-only programs advocated by the Bush administration.

She said many women and girls around the world are harmed by the restrictions of the current PEPFAR and called Bush’s funding proposals inadequate.

Matt Sharp, a 20-year HIV survivor and director of education with Test Positive Aware Network in Chicago, said, “I am lucky to be alive, but as an AIDS activist I have fought hard for universal access to treatment. We know it’s successful where there is funding to support it, and well-funded treatment can turn the tide of death and despair.”

“The pandemic is not over on this World AIDS Day, and with PEPFAR, putting money where it’s needed really works,” Sharp said. “Congress needs to be committed, not just on paper. No more ignorance and blatant disregard. Now is not the time to sit back. We must demand an increase for everyone impacted by HIV/AIDS globally and here at home.”


New Chicago city budget robs working people, again!

By Bill Mackovich

Hold on to your wallets folks here comes the Mayor, hand outstretched asking for a little. A little what? Why money of course! And in front of whom is his hand outstretched? You can be sure it’s not in front of those who have the ability to pay.

All the “revenue enhancements” or to use the dreaded word “taxes” are targeting those with the least ability to pay. Whether they are up front taxes such as property, vehicle or durable good purchases, which cannot be avoided, or the taxes on purchases of choice not necessity, the burden will fall on working people.

Was there ever any thought given to any other source of revenue so as to ease the burden on working families? From what is known of the budget so far, it seems that the answer is no! One source of revenue that would not affect working people could come from a 0.5% tax on all stock and bond transactions but Daley’s financial backers would not be very happy.

So there he is posturing on TV. Emphatically protesting those who dare question his tax increases or the rational for another military academy by expressing his undying love for the people of Chicago.

Was Daley ever on the podium in any of the last four years as our sons and daughters came home in coffins? Was Daley ever on the podium as our Federal government squanders billions on an illegal, immoral and unwinnable war? You want money Mr. Mayor? There’s your money!

Not that you would have necessarily got it, but you could have organized other city mayors and congress people from across the state to show the people of Illinois that you really care for them and their problems. No such thing from you Mr. Mayor, just a lot of rhetoric.

Your actions speak louder than all those platitudes. Mayor Daley’s decision to close the budget shortfall of approximately 200 million dollars by laying it at the feet of working people shows exactly to whom he is beholden. To profess his undying love for the city and its people the mayor will mount the podium every time.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Anti-war students win victory

By Pepe Lozano
People's Weekly World

BERWYN, Ill. — All we wanted to do was send a message of peace and “bring an end to the conflict in Iraq,” student Matt Heffernan told reporters in front of Morton West High School here Nov. 6.

Heffernan is a junior at Morton West, just outside Chicago in the working-class suburb of Berwyn. About 20 parents and their children joined Heffernan in a press conference outside the school.

Heffernan, along with other classmates, led a Nov. 1 lunch period sit-in of about 70 students to protest the Iraq war. School officials suspended many of the protesters and threatened them with expulsions.

After heated outrage and pressure from parents, students, local peace groups, Rainbow/PUSH and free speech advocates from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, District 201 Supt. Ben Nowakowski issued a statement Nov. 13 saying that the 38 students suspended and those who faced expulsion will be cleared and could return to class.

Parents are now planning to talk with the school board to make sure the penalties don’t appear on the students’ records. Nowakowski and the local school board originally charged the students with “gross disobedience and mob activity,” saying they disrupted the educational process and potentially caused harm to other students during the peaceful protest.

The students told reporters that school officials said if they moved the protest to another location and out of the cafeteria, they would face only Saturday detention. The students complied, and when they moved, school officials cordoned off the protesters with yellow “caution” tape and barricaded the area with tables so others couldn’t join them. Many of the students left after being intimidated.

Heffernan said he and the 70 other students, mostly white and Latino, just wanted to raise awareness about the effects of the war. “People say it doesn’t affect them, but we say it does,” he said. “I’d like to go back to school,” Heffernan told the World before the expulsion threat was called off. “I didn’t do this to be disobedient, I just wanted to promote peace and to say ‘bring the troops home.’ That’s why I had to do this.”

Barbara Maniotis, a junior, also spoke to reporters, saying, “We have been in this war for five years now. The more support, the better our chances of getting out.”

On Nov. 7, hundreds of parents, students, college antiwar activists, Vietnam veterans and free speech advocates showed up at the school district’s board meeting calling on officials to reconsider their actions and not expel the students.

Many say school officials overreacted.

Most meeting attendees praised the students for speaking out and said their First Amendment rights should protect them.

Adam Szwarek, another student protester, said the sit-in was in part due to the increased presence of military recruiters who are on campus four times a week. “Everyday the military is trying to get us to do push-ups,” said Szwarek. “They are supporting death, mayhem and murder, and what we did was the opposite.”

“Expel the military recruiters, not the students,” one parent demanded, speaking for others, as well.

Jonathan Acevedo, 16, played guitar and sang “Kumbaya” and “Give Peace a Chance” during the lunchtime protest as students held hands and carried peace signs. “I think the war is unjust,” Acevedo told the World. “Too many people and children have died, and it’s just not right to me.”

Acevedo said he thought about joining the military at one point. “Recruiters come and try to say that war is cool,” he said. “But then I asked myself, ‘What is the point?’ It wouldn’t be worth wasting my life.” He added, “The war is affecting our economy. We shouldn’t be paying for something we don’t believe in. That money could be used for curing diseases.”

Acevedo’s mother, Alma Moran, supports her son and said the expulsion penalty was too harsh. “These kids don’t deserve to be expelled,” she told the World in a phone interview. Moran added, “They should not lose their future just because they speak out. It was a very peaceful protest.”

Mark Serpico, the father of one of the suspended students, agrees. “Our children are slowly losing their freedoms, and I’m not going to put up with it,” he said. “Why are we there anyway — for oil?” Serpico said his son’s involvement in the protest was “awesome.” “I’m behind him 100 percent,” he said.