Monday, February 20, 2012

George Takei on the Japanese internment camps during WWII


Prisoner Citizens: The Story of Japanese Internment Camps

japanese internment camps

Conflicts between the United States and other nations not only hurt diplomatic ties, they can also erode the rights of naturalized U.S. citizens, established aliens and visitors viewed as the enemy.

A neighbor becomes a nemesis and friends become foes. Below are four instances in U.S. history when citizens, guests and foreign residents all became alien enemies.

In 1798, the U.S. legislators and citizens were philosophically divided over the French Revolution.

While some people saw Britain as the country’s nemesis and felt France’s political changes were a direct result of the American Revolution, others feared that France’s rebellious behavior might lead to a conflict with the U.S.

The situation became so tense that John Quincy Adams informed his father, President John Adams, that France had plans in the works to invade the U.S. western frontier. Worried that a conflict with France might stir up French sympathizers and divide the nation, Congress enacted the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798.

The Alien and Sedition Act

Four separate laws comprised the Alien and Sedition Act: The Naturalization Act upped the residency requirement from five to fourteen years, the Alien Act allowed for the deportation of any resident alien considered “dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States.”

The Alien Enemies Act allowed alien residents from countries at war with the U.S. to be deported, and the Sedition Act which made it a high misdemeanor for any alien or U.S. citizen to “make any defamatory statement about the federal government or the president.”

Once the legislation passed, lists of possible deportees were created. But so many people feared deportation, they fled on their own.

The Alien and Sedition Act of 1798 resulted in eighteen indictments, fourteen prosecutions and ten convictions. Upon taking office in 1801, President Thomas Jefferson pardoned everyone convicted under the Act.

Although the Alien Enemies Act was never utilized when tensions were high with the French, The War of 1812 saw enemy aliens being forced to notify U.S. marshals of their presence, obtaining special passports and living at a distance from the Tidewater if they were merchants.

German-American Internment During World War I

Fears about “alien enemies” and individuals with “enemy ancestry” once again emerged during World War I.

By 1917, more than 250,000 German-Americans and Germans living in the U.S. who had declared citizenship in other countries were required register at their local post office and carry a special identification card at all time.

During World War I, more than 6,000 individuals were arrested and sent to one of the internment camps in Fort Douglas, Utah or Fort Ogelthorpe in Georgia.

japanese internment camps

Keeping an eye on the U.S. German-American and Italian-American population during World War II was difficult.

The country’s citizenship had swelled so greatly that no internment camp could hold them all. Instead, officials decided to send more than 11,000 German and Italian-born non-citizen immigrants who were men, women and children to internment camps throughout the country.

Since German and Italian naturalized U.S. citizens could not be sent to internment camps, a process of exclusion was enforced that prohibited entrance to certain geographic areas and events. While reparations have been made to Japanese-Americans who were sent to internment camps, little is discussed today regarding the internment itself, and the exclusion of Germans and German-Americans.

Japanese-American Internment

One of the worst injustices suffered by Japanese-Americans was the relocation and internment of more than 120,000 individuals in ten U.S. concentration camps scattered across the United States.

Executive Order 9066 signed by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1942 required that Americans of Japanese descent, visitors and legal and illegal aliens be forced to move from their homes, abandon their businesses and live as prisoners in their own country.

Most were given 48 hours to get their affairs in order prior to being shipped off. Although the war ended in 1945, the last Japanese-American internment camp didn’t close until the following year.

Ironically, only 10 Americans were accused of spying for Japan – and all of them were Caucasian.

More than forty years later, President Ronald Reagan issued a formal apology to Japanese-Americans who’d been forced to live in the camps. He also signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which provided every living former internee with $20,000.

President George Bush allocated additional compensation and also issued an apology. The camps are now preserved as historical landmarks.

References & Image Credits:
(1) Digital History
(3) Quest Garden

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A view of the crowded streets in Balata Refugee Camp

A walk in Balata Refugee Camp from Giorgio Al on Vimeo.

A video-portrait of Balata Refugee Camp, created by Giorgio Algeri – January 30, 2012

By Giorgio Algeri

According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), Balata Rufegee Camp, near Nablus, has the highest ratio of population per square meter in the West Bank. At least 20,000 people live in less than one square kilometer. More than sixty years since its establishment, and the camp continues to grow.

As: “Lack of privacy, and no closed doors create a lot of social problems,” said Mahmoud Subuh, Director of International Relations at Yafa Cultural Centre. The high density is matched with a high unemployment rate. Residents of the camp are uncertain about their future, contributing to social and psychological problems among the population.

When The Palestine Monitor visited the camp on 21-23 January, it was evident how its inhabitants suffer from litte private space. As an example, we were told how residents have built “their walls” to refrain other people from passing through the alleyways.

Open spaces for socio-cultural activities are inadequate. However, some residents decorated the designated public spaces with colorful graffiti. A significant number of refugees come fromJaffa, so many painted their images of theMediterranean Sea.

Others decided to assert the importance of their own culture and identity, painting traditional ceramic jars, the olive tree, an oud and the Haram Ash-Sharif inJerusalem.

Balata Refugee Camp was established to be a “temporary solution” after the 1948 War, after which the State of Israel was established. Eventually, it became a “permanent temporary solution.”

Over time, its population has become increasingly demanding. In particular, the younger generation of refugees has been exposed to the influence of new technologies and lifestyles. As Subuh remarked, this is why “young generations feel more frustrated today.”

Photo by Giorgio Ageri

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Susan Abulhawa PennBDS Opening

Susan Abulhawa PennBDS Opening from PennBDS on Vimeo.

• Section of 5 in the Law of Political Parties and section 7A of the Basic Law: Stipulates that any party platform that calls for full and complete equality between Jews and non-Jews, can be disqualified from any political post. The law demands that Palestinian Arab citizens may not challenge the state's Zionist identity.

• Law of Return: “Every Jew has the right to become a citizen no matter where they come from” while the indigenous non-Jewish inhabitants who were expelled in 1948 are expressly barred from returning to their homes

• Nakba Law: Penalizes any institution that commemorates or publicly mourns the expulsion of the native Palestinian population

• Anti-boycott law: Provides anyone calling for the boycott of Israel, or it’s illegal settlements, can be sued by the boycott's targets without having to prove that they sustained damage. The court will then decide how much compensation is to be paid.

• Admission Committees Law formally allows neighborhood screening committees to prevent non-Jewish citizens from living in Jewish communities that control 81 percent of the territory in Israel. In March 2011 Israel passed a law to allow residents of Jewish towns to refuse non Jews from living in their communities.

• Amendment to the Citizenship Law: Stipulates that an Israeli citizen who marries a Palestinian cannot live as a couple in Israel with his or her spouse. A Palestinian spouse can neither gain citizenship nor residency.

• 93% of the land, the vast majority of which was confiscated from Palestinian owners after 1948, can only be owned by Jewish agencies for the benefit of Jews only. One of these agencies is the Jewish National Fund, which, in its charter forbids sale or lease to non-Jews.

• Specified Goods Tax and Luxury Tax Law [art 26, Laws of the State of Israel, vol. 6, p. 150 (1952)] Authorizes lower import taxes for Jewish citizens of Israel compared with non-Jewish citizens of Israel.

• National Planning and Building Law (1965) Through various zoning laws freezes the growth of existing Arab villages while providing for the expansion Jewish settlements and creation of new ones. The law also re-classifies a large portion of established Arab villages as "unrecognized” and therefore nonexistent, allowing the state to cut off water and electricity as well as to simply appropriate that property.

• Appropriations are carried out under The Requisitions Law which allows a “competent authority” to requisition the land – called “land requisition order” – so that only he may “use and exploit the land” as he sees fit. This applies to “home requisition orders” as well, whereby another “competent authority” who can “order the occupier of a house to surrender the house to the control of a person specified in the order, for residential purposes or for any other use, as may be prescribed in the order. “

• In the education sector within Israel, as an example, the state spends $192 per year per non-Jewish student compared to $1,100 per Jewish student.

• There is a planned Mosque Law that will prohibit the broadcasting of the Muslim call to prayer, which has been sounding over that land since the beginning of Islam.

• Non-Jews living in the West Bank are denied access to the holy places of Jerusalem, which are only a few kilometers away from them.

• ALSO, for the first time in the history of Islam and the history of Christianity, Palestinian Muslims and Christians in the West Bank and Gaza are denied access to their holy Places of Jerusalem, even on the high holy days of Eid, Christmas, and Easter Sunday.

• Since Israel took the West Bank, the Christian population has declined from 20,000 in 1967 to less than 7500 today.

• Military Order 1229: authorizes Israel to hold Palestinians in administrative detention for up to six months without charge or trial. Six-month detentions can be renewed indefinitely, without charge or trial.

• Military Order 329 and 1650 effectively prevents Palestinians from being anywhere in the West Bank without a specific permit to be there, making it a criminal offense to go from one Palestinian town to another.

• Military Oder #92 and #158: gives the Israeli military control of all water resources in the West Bank, which belongs to Palestinians.

• Israel then allows the Palestinians access to only a fraction of the shared water resources, while unlawful Israeli settlements there receive virtually unlimited supplies creating a reality of green lawns and swimming pools for Jewish settlers and a parched life for Palestinians, whose access to water, according to the World Health Organization does not meet the minimum requirements for basic human water needs.

• Furthermore, that fraction of confiscated Palestinian water is sold to Palestinians at 300% more than what it costs Jewish settlers in the same area. ($1.20/cubic meter vs $.40/cubic meter).

• Military Orders #811 and #847: Allows Jews to purchase land from unwilling Palestinian sellers by using “power of attorney”.

• Military Order #25: forbids public inspection of land transactions.

• Militar Order #998: requires Palestinians to get Israeli military permission to make a withdrawal from their bank account.

• Military Order #128: gives the Israeli military the right to take over any Palestinian business which is not open during regular business hours.

• Military Order #138 & #134: forbids Palestinians from operating tractors or other heavy farm machinery on their land.

• Military Order #93: gives all Palestinian insurance businesses to the Israeli Insurance Syndicate.

• Military Order # 1015: requires Palestinians to get Israeli military permission to plant and grow fruit trees. This permit expires every year.

• Through various military orders, according to the WHO, Israel has uprooted 2.5 million trees belonging to Palestinians, and which often represent their only means of sustenance.

And here are the numbers that scare me and break my heart the most. These are the cold prose of statistics pertaining to Palestinian children, that reflect the systematic destruction of Palestinian society:

• (UNICEF): “Conditions have rarely been worse for Palestinian children.” One in 10 Palestinian children now suffer from stunted growth due to compromised health, poor diet and nutrition and 50% of Palestinian children are anemic, and 75% of those under 5 suffer from vitamin A deficiency.

• Palestinian children are routinely imprisoned for months and years for throwing stones at Israeli jeeps, tanks, and soldiers. Many of them, as young as 12 years old, are tortured and held in solitary confinement.

• Meanwhile, for bludgeoning a 10 year old Palestinian boy (Hilmi Shusha) to death with the butt of his riffle, an Israeli settler received community service and a fine.

• A Palestinian man was convicted of rape and sentenced to 1.5 years in prison for having consensual sex with a Jewish woman, because he did not disabuse her of her assumption that he was Jewish.