Jewish anti-nazis against honouring French fascist dictator


The antifa group Jewish Antifascist Action vandalized a plaque in New York honoring Nazi collaborator Philippe Petain. Photo Jewish Antifascist Action

By Aiden Pink in the USA:

Members of a Jewish antifa group defaced a plaque on Monday in New York honoring a French leader who collaborated with the Nazis during World War II.

The plaque in the Canyon of Heroes in Lower Manhattan honored Philippe Pétain, a French general in World War I who later led the Vichy regime, which oversaw the deportation of more than 75,000 Jews to concentration camps, the vast majority of whom were killed.

The plaque commemorating Pétain’s 1931 parade in the “Canyon of Heroes” was splattered with red paint on Monday, the day after International Holocaust Remembrance Day, by the group Jewish Antifascist Action. They also covered the surrounding area with other antifa-related graffiti.

“With Monday’s actions, Jewish antifascists and allied forces have served notice that fascist apologism will not be tolerated in our city in 2019; that anti-Semitic ideology and violence will be confronted with Jewish solidarity and strength; and that the Holocaust will be remembered not only with sadness and grief but also with righteous anger and action: ‘We will never forget. We will never forgive’”,the group said in a statement.

The group added that its action was done in solidarity with the Outlive Them Network, an international antifascist group that has called for global actions over the next few months. The network previously inspired actions in 18 across seven countries last November on the anniversary of Kristallnacht.

Former New York state assemblyman Dov Hikind pushed for the plaque honoring Pétain to be removed in 2017. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced later that year that the plaque would be removed, but the removal has not yet occurred.

Human rights activism on Statue of Liberty, criminal?


This 27 September 2018 video from the USA says about itself:

Statue of Liberty Climber & Anti-Trump Activist Therese Patricia Okoumou Chats with Jezebel

Anti-Trump activist Therese Patricia Okoumou chats with Jezebel about her protests against the Trump Administration.

By Trévon Austin in the USA:

Woman convicted for climbing Statue of Liberty to protest Trump’s anti-immigrant policies

19 December 2018

A woman has been found guilty of several federal offenses after climbing onto the base of the Statue of Liberty on the Fourth of July this year to protest the Trump administration’s immigration policy, including the separation of families at the border and the jailing of migrant children.

Magistrate judge Gabriel Gorenstein convicted Therese Patricia Okoumou on Monday afternoon after a one-day bench trial, insisting that Okoumou’s political and moral motivations were not justifiable before the law.

Okoumou was found guilty of trumped-up

More specifically: Trumped-up?

charges, including trespassing, interfering with government agency functions, and disorderly conduct, carrying a sentence of up to 18 months in prison.

At the beginning of her trial, Okoumou said the treatment of children at the US-Mexico border prompted her to make an aggressive statement by climbing the Statue of Liberty.

“I wanted to send a strong statement that children do not belong in cages”, she said.

After convicting Okoumou, however, Judge Gorenstein claimed that he would be undermining the rule of law if he did not find Okoumou guilty, despite her political reasoning. According to Gorenstein, it would violate his oath as a judge if he considered Okoumou’s motivations for her alleged crime.

During the trial, the prosecution focused entirely on the supposed illegality of Okoumou’s actions.

“She knew that what she was doing was wrong and illegal”, the prosecution said in its opening statement. “Whether one sympathizes with the defendant politically and morally is not at issue in this case.”

The prosecution applauded the judge’s verdict, claiming Okoumou’s protest to be a “dangerous stunt … that endangered herself and the NYPD and US Park Police officers who rescued and apprehended her.”

In a press conference, US Attorney General Geoffrey S. Berman said, “The act of climbing the base of the Statue of Liberty went well beyond peaceable protest, a right we certainly respect. It was a crime that put people at grave risk. We commend Judge Gorenstein’s decision to hold Therese Okoumou accountable for her dangerous and reckless conduct.”

Dear Mr Berman, Dr Mr Gorenstein: what about what Donald Trump did to Lady Liberty and to the values she stands for; as depicted in this New York Daily News cartoon? Do you hold him accountable?

New York Daily News cartoon on Trump and Statue of Liberty?

Judge Gorenstein’s assertion that the law must be upheld is ludicrous. The laws set and made within the United States are interpreted for the benefit of the capitalist order and the ruling class. Okoumou was indeed exercising her First Amendment right to protest the inhumane treatment of migrants, but this was seen as inexcusable by the US government.

It is no accident that Okoumou was found guilty shortly after the death of 7-year-old Jackeline Caal in the custody of US Border Patrol. Okoumou’s conviction is a message meant to intimidate anyone who opposes the terror practices meted out by the government against migrant workers and their families at the border and across the country.

Although the Trump administration reversed its policy of separating children from their parents upon crossing the border, it reportedly continues to do so by various means, and is also detaining children who have crossed the border unaccompanied. Nearly 15,000 migrant children are currently being held in detention camps across the US.

Okoumou told reporters she was not discouraged by the verdict and would continue to fight for the rights of immigrants.

“Migrant children who simply came to this country, like our ancestors did, to seek happiness, freedom and liberation, instead of welcoming them like Lady Liberty symbolizes, instead of treating them with kindness, what we showed them is cages. So, if I go in a cage with them, I am on the right side of history.”

New York University links to UAE dictatorship


This 18 September 2017 Gulf Human Rights Committee video says about itself:

Short film about human rights abuses by the government of the UAE against democracy activists, foreign businessmen, and their families.

By Josh Varlin in the USA:

New York University faculty defends academic freedom against NYU’s ties to UAE

8 December 2018

Dozens of New York University faculty gathered December 3 in a forum to voice their concerns over the NYU administration’s response to the case of Matthew Hedges, a British academic who was imprisoned for months in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on trumped-up charges. Despite an open letter —presently signed by 224 faculty, staff and PhD students—demanding NYU President Andrew Hamilton condemn Hedges’s arrest and take measures to secure academic freedom, NYU continues to cover for the UAE government.

Given NYU’s role in the UAE, where it has a degree-granting campus in Abu Dhabi (NYUAD), the silence of the administration amounts to complicity. The UAE gave $50 million to the construction of the NYUAD campus, and a high-ranking member of the UAE government sits on the NYU Board of Trustees. His fellow board members are an ignominious group of New York City multimillionaires and billionaires, including several who sit on the boards of imperialist think tanks like the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

After an international outcry, including the NYU faculty letter, Hedges was hastily pardoned and allowed to the leave the UAE. He has since explained to the Telegraph that after he was sentenced, he was interrogated yet again, prompting suicidal ideation. While he was imprisoned, his captors administered both tranquilizers and stimulants to him without proper medical supervision, leaving Hedges suffering from withdrawal symptoms in the UK.

At the faculty forum, titled “NYU, UAE, & Academic Freedom”, three faculty members who had experience with NYUAD and the UAE government spoke, followed by contributions from the floor. The common theme was that academic freedom was anything but sacrosanct in both the UAE and at NYUAD, and that the NYU administration is fully aware yet continues to claim otherwise.

The first of the main speakers was Lauren Minsky, assistant professor of history, who taught at NYUAD from its opening in 2010 until this year. She was followed by Andrew Ross, professor of Social and Cultural Analysis and director of American Studies, who was barred from the UAE in 2015 due to his research on labor conditions in the country. Arang Keshavarzian, associate professor of Middle Eastern Studies, was the last of the main speakers. Keshavarzian was denied a security clearance by the UAE last year and was therefore unable to teach in the country.

While the arrest of Hedges was a nodal point in the attacks on academic freedom by the UAE, it was hardly the first time academics had been harassed for their work by the federation of sheikdoms. Minsky provided a timeline of the sordid NYU-UAE “partnership”, including how NYU walked back on promises of academic freedom shortly after the campus began operations by creating a facile distinction between academic freedom and freedom of speech.

Minsky described how, after her arrival in the UAE, she noticed how the boxes containing her research materials had been opened and everything was in disarray. “They had clearly gone through everything”, she noted. Some of her husband’s English- and Hebrew-language books were confiscated. She described extensive “direct harassment of faculty teaching at NYU Abu Dhabi”, Minsky noted that she was followed for hours in her car—with her infant on board—by an unmarked vehicle that she believes was associated with the regime’s security services.

Harassment has only escalated over the past couple of years, Minsky told the meeting, with the campus suddenly declared a “public space” by the government. All public events that people unaffiliated with NYU could attend had to be approved. “From my perspective, it’s almost like the [UAE] government is taking over the institution, and I don’t say that lightly”, she explained.

Ross emphasized that genuine academic freedom extends to speech that is critical of university administrations and extends beyond the walls of the university. “One of the duties or obligations of our profession’s members is to share our knowledge and opinions with the public”, he said.

The secrecy around the Memorandum of Understanding between NYU and the UAE—which has never been made public—was the “original sin” of NYUAD he said: “The ‘original sin’ of non-transparency determined the character of these operations from there on. … That original sin has made it all the more likely that something very, very bad will happen sooner rather than later at NYU Abu Dhabi. And in my mind that’s almost a certainty.”

Ross also noted that this was hardly exclusive to NYUAD, referencing how Israeli law now prohibits entry to members of pro-Palestinian groups, including groups with an organizational presence at NYU. Thus, it isn’t legally possible for all NYU students to study at NYU Tel Aviv, something also noted by a subsequent student speaker of Palestinian origin.

Keshavarzian stressed that the UAE was an absolutist monarchy from its founding in 1971 through to NYU’s decision to construct a liberal arts college in the country, and remains so today. However, the UAE’s authoritarianism made NYUAD possible, including the brutal exploitation of labor to construct the campus. “NYU entered into this arrangement because of the UAE’s illiberal system, not despite it”, Keshavarzian explained.

Regarding the denial of his security clearance in 2017, Keshavarzian asked: “Was I denied entry because I was born in Iran and I was asked to identify myself as a Shiite Muslim, or was I denied entry because of what I teach, research or write? I do not know, and allegedly the UAE government won’t tell NYU. … If it was the former, then it is a simple case of discrimination based on my ethnicity; if it is the later, it is a simple and gross violation of academic freedom.”

The general response of the NYU administration to faculty having their academic freedom and democratic rights restricted by the UAE was to sweep it under the rug. Keshavarzian noted that most of the communication with him regarding his security clearance denial came in the form of phone calls rather than e-mails, and that Hamilton “has never once picked up the telephone to talk to me, or Mohamad [Bazzi, another professor denied a security clearance by the UAE in 2017].”

The three speakers were followed by contributions from the floor. While the faculty had invited members of the administration, including Hamilton and Provost Katherine Fleming, they did not attend.

Toward the end of the discussion, John Archer, a professor of English and one of the organizers behind the open letter to Hamilton, proposed a motion that was amended and then supported overwhelmingly in a resolution that called on the NYU administration to “uphold the principles of academic freedom at NYU’s global sites and protect anyone who has experienced explicit threats to their academic freedom and personal safety” and to make public NYU’s Memorandum of Understanding with the UAE.

The resolution proposed a monitoring committee of faculty, staff and students. independent of the NYU administration, to oversee these demands and to create a secure whistleblowing website that would air “concerns about threats to or violations of academic freedom, violations of policies regarding labor, and the like” by the UAE government.

A representative of the International Youth and Students for Social Equality addressed the meeting at the end and stressed how the UAE is cracking down on academic freedom during its bloody intervention in Yemen and how attacks on democratic rights are taking place internationally—including the repression of the French “yellow vest” protests and the attacks on immigrants at the US-Mexico border. If democratic rights are to be defended at NYU and elsewhere, it must be based on an international strategy oriented to the working class, he stressed.

The IYSSE at NYU will discuss these issues at its next meeting, “NYU Administration Backs the UAE: The Way Forward to Defend Academic Freedom”, which will be on Tuesday, December 11 , at 6:30 p.m. in room 910 of the Kimmel Center at NYU. Faculty, students, staff and others seeking a socialist strategy to defend democratic rights are invited to attend.