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  • This Week in Haiti: Attacks on Police, International Delegations and the Very Idea of Justice

    In the last couple of weeks there have been reports of increasing activity by members of Haiti's former army and other armed groups in Haiti. At the same time, the Haitian judiciary is taking troubling steps further down the road of impunity and politicization.

    This week former soldiers--who were part of the armed uprising that led to Aristide's ouster in February--chased the police out of the southern town of Petit Goave and took the town over in an attempt to force the interim government to re-instate the army, which Aristide dissolved in 1995. (See this Reuters report for details.)

  • Poetry and Images from Palestine

    Many of us have read report backs and journals from friends, loved ones, acquaintances that travel or visit Palestine filled with first impressions, checkpoint stories and vivid descriptions of the brutality and impact of the Israeli Occupation on everyday life in Ramallah, Rafah, Jenin, Hebron etc...Never having been in Palestine myself, I have been craving for stories of hope, beauty and laughter intertwined with those of pain, resilience and despair. Suheir Hammad, who is one of my favorite poets and writers has been traveling in Palestine and the Middle East this summer and has been writing journal entries that to me, have satisfied those cravings in a very poetic way. (See two random excerpts below). Check out her Journal on Palestine on her website at http://www.suheirhammad.com/.

    As I write this some dear friends of mine are traveling throughout Palestine and connecting with Palestinian youth, artists, families and organizers along the way. Check out their beautiful picture log most of which were taken by photographer Justin McIntosh at http://capedmaskedandarmed.com/justin/. One of my favorites is the one of Abu Dis Youth posing with the Puerto Rican flag. Enjoy!

    "Wafa has picked up ca-ak and eggs. The bread is fragrant in the car. He's also picked a stem of jasmine and placed it in his car like a bouquet. The scents are of a peaceful morning. We drive into the mist that drapes the hills of this country. We drive by goats herders and sheperds drinking strong coffee under tents to prepare for the grueling physical work of tending. The sun is in the sky, a bright disk of white behind the mist. It looks like the moon."

    "Palestinian girls, in every area I have visited are drawn to bright colors and patterns. In town, there is more black and white, hijab and long...but in the country and in the camps...the colors of poppies and limes, sky and mint.Thank you, Dead Prez. It is indeed bigger than Hip Hop. There are many secrets in this earth. Hushed Stories of touchings and rapes. The Occupation has denied breathing room for critical gender analysis, and safe space. And it is the girls who suffer."

  • Notes from the Un-Convention

    The Democratic National Convention is coming to Boston. Plans are in place to dramatically restrict vehicle and pedestrian traffic in the center city. Just yesterday, a judge said that the space being prepared to keep protestors "under wraps" resembled an internment camp, but he refused to order the police to re-think this radical restriction of the right to assembly. Life is good in the Cradle of Liberty. The jury is still out on whether or not any of this could prevent the feared terrorist attack, but turning Boston into a police state will surely keep thousands of people from exercising their democratic rights...such as they are.

    Luckily, the DNC will not be the only political gathering in Boston during July's final days.

  • « The people, together, are like a pool of wisdom. When you share that wisdom, the pool gets deeper. »

    As they prepared for their workshops and panels at the Boston Social Forum, I had a chance to talk with Paulo de Marck of the Brazilian Landless Workers Movement (MST) and Ruba Eid from the Democratic Wokers Rights Center (DWRC) in Ramallah, Palestine.

    Paulo and Ruba have come to Boston to share stories from GRI's partner organizations, and to meet people engaged in similar struggles here in the States and around the world.

    Why come all this way for a conference?

    "The people, together, are like a pool of wisdom," Paulo said. "When you share that wisdom, the pool gets deeper."

  • One Billion Pledged…Don’t Hold Your Breath, Haiti

    The international donor conference on Haiti closed on July 20 with pledges of $1.037 billion from the international community, including $239 million from the United States. As the weeks and months pass, we will watch closely what becomes of these pledges.

    The World Bank sounds absolutely giddy in its post-conference press release.  One billion dollars sounds great, but it is worth noting that none of these pledges are on paper: They all come from press statements like the one made by Colin Powell. At Grassroots International, our auditor insists that a pledge must be very specific and in writing before it is considered real. The same standard should apply to these donor conferences. 

  • Haiti: The Not So Consultative Group

    On July 19 and 20, representatives of the world's major donor countries and institutions will gather in Washington to discuss aid to Haiti. Four prestigious and powerful actors-The United Nations, the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and the European Commission--will host the meeting and make a pitch for $924 million to help jumpstart an economy that is clearly on life support. One expects the four hosts will come up with something to sweeten the pot for the bilateral donors.

  • Haiti–Flood of Injustice

    While there's no doubt that drought-stricken Haiti needs rain, the water-poor nation did not need the flash floods that struck late in May, killing thousands and leaving thousands more without food, shelter or potable water. There's also no doubt that Haiti could use a helping hand from the international community, but to date, U.S. and French and now U.N. forces have done little to really help Haiti's most vulnerable citizens. Click here to read Grassroots' analysis of the situation.

  • Organizing for a New Reality

    By Nisrin Elamin

    CNN and BBC headlines about Israeli withdrawals from Gaza, Iraqi sovereignty and Israel dropping Sharon's bribery case have made me feel like some people are living a different reality than the rest of us. Never mind, that two brutal occupations persist and that plans for withdrawal, handing back power and restoring democracy and justice seem further away from reality than ever. Can we let what happened in Gaza and Abu Ghraib fall through the cracks and into oblivion so quickly? Can we allow flagrant U.S. and Israeli violations of international laws to continue without organizing internal opposition and dissent?

    Those were some of the questions I was thinking about on my way to the 3rd Annual National Organizer's Conference of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation that took place on June 4-7, 2004 in Washington D.C.

  • Water Poor Haiti Faces Floods

    After months of political turmoil, Haitians now face one more calamity. The Haiti Support Group today reports that hundreds of Haitians have died over the last few days in floods and landslides as torrential rains sweep the country.

    This news comes from a country where water shortage is a permanent way of life. The UK-based Center for Ecology and Hydrology places Haiti first on its list of the world's "Water Poor Countries." The list is based on a comparative statistical index of the population's access to clean water. Water is judged to be more scarce in Haiti than in Niger, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Malawi, the countries that follow Haiti on the list.

  • Rafah Nakba

    The following is a note from Heba Zayyan, the PR Officer at the Women's Affairs Center, one of GRI's partners in Gaza. For the fourth consecutive day, the Israeli Defense Forces have expanded their brutal military offensive in Rafah town and refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip.

    How can one's sanity accept what's happening now in Rafah? 120 houses at least were demolished whose habitants (200 families) are totally living in tents. It is another nakba in the Palestinians' life in the full meaning of the word. How far can one believe that people, secure in their homes at night are being called to leave without delay, not given time to collect some their belongings or even their ID cards? What's happening in Rafah carries the brutal barbarianism of the Israelis that's done in the name of protection of borders. How can we still believe in peace and democracy if people who demonstrate against the unexplainable Israeli violence, will get killed by heavy missiles? The first line of the demonstration was children who were enthusiastic and innocent enough to ahead the demonstration. Where are these children now? They are all uprooted from their dreams of a liberate state to be shattered into pieces.

  • Not the Peace we Dreamt of… a Message from Gaza

    The following is a note from Ahmed Sourani, director of External Relations for the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC). PARC is one of the most important players in the Palestinian agricultural sector focusing on rural development, environmental protection, and strengthening women's position in society in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In the aftermath of the Likud Party's rejection of Ariel Sharon's plan for Israel to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza, the IDF has stepped up its military actions in Gaza.

  • Haitian Youth Speak Out

    May 1st - International Workers Day was honored in many locations throughout Haiti. Thousands gathered in Port au Prince at the Champs de Mars, and almost a thousand gathered at the national training center of the Mouvman Peyizan Papay ( MPP) in Papay. All were present to celebrate but also to raise their voices and tell their transitional government, as well as the international community, about their hopes - about their needs - and what they are no longer willing to tolerate.

  • Another Countryside Is Possible

    Satellite internet on a mountainside in the heart of Haiti's Central Plateau - only one of the achievements, among many, of the Mouvman Peyizan Papay - The Peasant Movement of Papay (MPP). The oldest and best organized of Haiti's peasant organizations, the MPP, is celebrating International Worker's Day tomorrow with a large agricultural fair drawing peasants from various regional associations to celebrate and demonstrate what can be done when peasants put their heads together.

  • Pieces of the Puzzle

    Was the armed rebellion that helped drive President Aristide from office a ragtag group of poorly funded freelancers who couldn't get Washington to return their phone calls?

    While many (including some of our partners in Haiti and many of our friends in the U.S.) believe that Aristide's ouster was a carefully planned coup financed by the CIA, David Adams reports in the St. Petersburg Times that the rebel forces that swept the Haitian countryside and toppled the Lavalas government may have been "more Keystone Kops than White House-orchestrated covert operations."

  • Ni Rire, Ni Pleurer, Comprendre.

    During the brief day and a half since I arrived in Ayiti I have had 9 meetings with representatives of GRI partner organizations, journalists, and allied international development organizations.

    My head is spinning, but the richness of these exchanges with these tireless Haitian human rights and development activists is a necessary ingredient for understanding how progressive Haitians are living this difficult period of transition. While at the office of Institute Culturelle Karl Leveque, a member organization of POHDH ( The Platform of Haitian Human Rights Organizations) I happened to see the quotation that I used to entitle this journal entry - "ni rire, ni pleurer, comprendre" - loosely translated - "we must not celebrate, we must not cry , we must understand".

  • Signs of Hope for Human Rights in Haiti?

    The roots of impunity in Haiti stretch deep into the nation's past. If anything, the experience of the last ten years has shown just how difficult it is going to be to establish democratic principles and the rule of law there. That experience has clearly established that loosening the grip of impunity is going to take much more than the removal of one leader and the promotion of another.

    That said, we read today's news from Haiti with some sense of hope. Louis Jodel Chamblain, a convicted torturer and murderer and leader of the recent armed rebellion against Jean Bertrand Aristide has turned himself in to Haitian authorities. Of course it remains to be seen how long Chamblain will stay in jail for his crimes, but his surrender is a positive sign. Haiti's leading human rights organization has already put out a statement on this important development.

  • Terror and Counter-Terror

    After George Bush's press conference last night, terror and counter terror are on our minds. Those issues certainly came up a lot during Daniel and Jennifer's trip to Palestine. We thank you all for your many responses to their reflections on the trip. Keep your eye out for an upcoming photo essay on their trip, which will be announced here.

    We want to draw your attention to the release of a new report by the NGO trade association, Interaction. The report, entitled "Handbook on Counter-Terrorism Measures: What U.S. Nonprofits and Grantmakers Need to Know is a long overdue summary of the new legal restrictions on grantmaking and nonprofit activity, in general, since 9/11/01. Everyone involved in international grantmaking should certainly read it. We would certainly be happy to have your comments on the report.

    The Boston Globe published our own assessment of the political context of post-9/11 international grantmaking (especially in the Middle East). It gives more attention to the civil liberties issues surrounding the new regulatory environment. Both perspectives are important to keep in mind.

  • What Will be Left Behind If and When Israel Leaves Gaza?

    Jen and I have returned safely to the US. We apologize for the gap in keeping you posted on our travels. Experiences were simply too complex to quickly digest and days too exhausting to blog in the early hours of the morning. Thank you for all your comments and for accompanying us on our journey. We will continue with a few more entries this week, sent from the relatively calmer offices of Grassroots International.

  • Notes from a Program Visit to Palestine

    The following are some notes and stories from some of the places we saw and the people we met. These are just a few of the many scenes I go back to over and over again when I reflect on this trip.

    The Passion

    We were walking through the narrow streets of old city in Bethlehem with Fatima. She wanted to show us the cultural center that her uncle had opened just outside of Manger Square so we ducked into the building. Our friend pointed out the gardens, the galleries, the classrooms and finally the theater. The theater was offering nightly showings of The Passion of the Christ, the new, controversial film by Mel Gibson that details Jesus' final days. Although I have yet to see this film, I've heard from those that have seen it that it is incredibly bloody and gruesome, certainly not for the squeamish. Fatima, who had seen the film twice, confirmed this.