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Friday, December 31, 2010

Global Article 9: Ecuador's Peace Constitution paves the way to historic defense of nature's rights

Via Global Article 9 Campaign to Abolish War Newsletter #35 on December 30, 2010:
Ecuador's Peace Constitution paves the way to historic defense of nature's rights

Two years after Ecuador adopted its new peace Constitution - the first to ever grant and legislate rights to nature - a group of defenders of the environment are invoking it to file a groundbreaking lawsuit against British Petroleum (BP).

Article 71 of the Ecuadorean constitution reads: "Nature or Pachamama [mother earth], where life is reproduced and exists, has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution. Every person, people, community or nationality, will be able to demand the recognition of rights for nature before the public bodies."

Using this unique clause, the plaintiffs accuse BP of having violated the rights of Nature by causing massive environmental damage, in particular in the context of the April 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The lawsuit was filed by Defenders of Nature's Rights - a coalition of environmentalists and indigenous leaders from India, Nigeria, Ecuador and Mexico in Ecuador's Constitutional Court by citing its Article 71 and invoking universal jurisdiction.

Traditionally used to prosecute human rights violations committed by nationals or foreigners in any part of the world, universal jurisdiction will for the first time be invoked to protect nature's rights as granted by Ecuador's constitution.

"We see this as a test case of the rights of nature enshrined in the constitution of Ecuador, which is why it's about universal jurisdiction, beyond the boundaries of Ecuador, because nature has rights everywhere, " says Indian scientist and environmental activist Vandana Shiva.

"Ecuador, by putting the rights of nature [in their constitution], created history, and now there's legal ground to file these cases rather than letting those lines in the Ecuadorian constitution lie inert," she added.

According to the plaintiffs' lawyer, Diana Murcia, "one of [the Defenders of Nature's Rights'] goals is to introduce Nature in the international debate as a rights-bearing entity."

"It is important we understand there's only one [mother earth (...) and that is why we have to join forces, to make the great changes that we want and make a new civilization (... ) that reclaims life itself, that reclaims collective responsibility, and that reclaims a new way of life in harmony with nature," stated Alberto Acosta, ex-president of the Constitutional Assembly in Ecuador.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Greenpeace: Tokyo finally takes action on whaling; please support Junichi Sato & Toru Suzuki

The overseas media has long used whaling to paint a negative stereotype of Japan, despite the fact that most Japanese people do not support whaling or eat whale meat. The modern whaling industry is not indigenous to Japan, but, instead, was introduced by the U.S. Occupation under MacArthur. This sham industry exists for the economic benefit of a few corrupt men with ties to organized crime. It survives only by government subsidies. The industry will die when Tokyo stops financially enabling these men to kill whales.

Last week's good news from Greenpeace which asks for your support to to bring justice to two brave Japanese Greenpeace members now unfairly imprisoned for exposing some of the corruption involved:
Japan finally starts taking action against their corrupt whaling industry

Feature story - December 23, 2010

TOYKO: After two and a half years of hard work in Japan to expose corruption at the heart of the whaling industry - we have a significant victory!

The Fisheries Agency of Japan (FAJ) has admitted that their officials have received free whale meat from the company contracted to perform the whaling. They conceded that this “kickback” was against their ethics code, apologised to the Japanese public and announced plans to take disciplinary action against five officials.

Such is the level of shame that one official even appeared on Japanese TV yesterday - bowing in front of the cameras before issuing a public apology.

The whale meat scandal



In 2008, Greenpeace activists, Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki (known as the "Tokyo Two"), exposed a scandal involving embezzlement entrenched within the taxpayer-funded whaling programme - a ‘scientific’ programme responsible for slaughtering hundreds of whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary every year. Following tip-offs from whistleblowers within the whaling programme and months of careful research, Junichi and Toru intercepted and handed to the authorities a box containing prime whale meat cuts. The contents of the box, which had been labelled “cardboard”, proved that whale meat was being embezzled by members of the whaling fleet. Greenpeace Japan also exposed evidence that FAJ officials were involved in this process.

A dying industry

There is little support for Antarctic whaling in Japan and what remains is being swiftly eroded by the broad, international media attention to Japan’s so called “scientific” whaling programme. Opinion polls show that the majority of Japanese people don´t support whaling in the Southern Ocean and nearly 87 percent are unaware that their taxes subsidise the hunt.

One of the keys to ending Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary is revealing the ongoing scandal and international shame that it brings to a largely unaware Japanese public. The work of Junichi and Toru and the huge personal price they have paid in terms of loss of liberty, stress related to their trial and wrongful conviction all in the name of the public interest and the protection of whales - is doing just that.

This news represents a major step forward for our campaign to end whaling in the Southern Ocean. The FAJ has been under intense pressure thanks to over half a million supporters who stood side by side with Junichi and Toru throughout their trial - demanding an end to their prosecution and a thorough investigation into the embezzlement case. And, our whales campaigners all over the world have ensured that this issue has come under close public scrutiny on an international scale.

Truth and justice still needed

We welcome the FAJ's decision to take disciplinary action, but, they are only punishing 5 officials while the institutionalised corruption in the whaling programme is much bigger than that. We’re demanding a third-party investigation into the whale meat scandal to reveal the whole truth.

Greenpeace Japan has been successful in cutting the demand for whale meat in the Japanese market by working with supermarkets and retailers. This has affected the financial health of the whaling programme already, but now the recognition of the corruption in the whaling programme by the FAJ will further damage the credibility of the programme.

“Now is the time for Japanese taxpayers to demand their government stop the tax-funded whaling programme completely," said Junichi Sato, one of the defendants of Tokyo Two trial, and now Executive and Programme Director of Greenpeace Japan.

The Tokyo Two trial

In 2008, the Tokyo District Prosecutor began an investigation into Junichi and Toru’s findings which included the embezzlement of whale meat but closed this investigation the same day that Junichi and Toru were arrested. The two were held for 26 days, 23 of them without charge - often tied to chairs while they were interrogated without a lawyer present. They went through a lengthy trial where the censoring of public information and Japan's adherence to international law also came under the spotlight. Their trial also raised concerns over freedom of speech and the right of individual protest. In September this year they were wrongly convicted and given a one year jail sentence - suspended for three years.

The Tokyo Two have appealed against their conviction and are awaiting a High Court hearing date. It is hard to believe that the admission of wrongdoing made by the FAJ would not have an impact on their appeal.
Read links, see photos and take action here to write to Japan's Foreign Minister to support Junichi and Toru's conviction appeal.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Korean churches challenge S. Korea, the U.S. & Japan to end provocative war games; urge prayers for peace

(In recent months, the United States and South Korea have conducted several massive joint sea and air war games in the waters east of the Korean peninsula.

Washington, Seoul, and Tokyo have ushered in the Christmas Season in the Asia-Pacific with massive war games. On top of this, the South Korean government erected a Christmas tree on the border of North Korea as a provocation instead of a symbol of festivity.

In counterpoint, Korean churches have been calling for prayers for peace:
Korea churches urge prayers for peace
CWMission.org/news
2 Dec 2010
Church leaders in Korea have put out a call to prayer in the wake of military violence which they have branded "all too reminiscent" of the pain inflicted by the Korean war more than 50 years ago.

The National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK) said it deplored the North Korean military for targeting the civilian community of Yeonpyeong Island and challenged government chiefs in South Korea, Japan and the USA for "provoking" North Korea with joint naval exercises off the coast and "war games" on the Peninsula.

"Yet again, only months after the sinking of a South Korean warship, Cheonan, the fragile peace along the dividing line between the two Koreas has been broken," NCCK general secretary Rev Kim Young Ju said in a statement.

"The fighting and the mass exodus of residents from the island that is home to a fishing community and military bases is all too reminiscent of the Korean War that inflicted pain on the Korean people that none can forget. The National Council of Churches in Korea mourns with the surviving victims and the families of those whose lives were so senselessly taken.

"It deplores the North Korean military for using powerful weapons against the civilian community in the most serious incident since the signing of the Armistice in 1953. Yet again the Peninsula and its people are gripped by the fear of an escalation of ideologically-inspired violence."

The NCCK has been part of a global ecumenical fellowship working towards building bridges with North Korea and establishing regular, productive contact with the Korean Christians Federation (KCF) in the North. It has shared common prayers for peace and reunification of the Korean peninsula with the global fellowship of Christian churches through the World Council of Churches.

On 15 August this year, the NCCK, the KCF and churches in other parts of the world simultaneously prayed for peace and the reunification of Korea. Now it is calling for Christians worldwide to pray for a peaceful end to the military conflict that threatens to jeopardise church peace-building efforts.

Mr Kim said: "As we have so often repeated in the past, these exercises of political and military brinksmanship serve no purpose other than to escalate tensions in Korea and to threaten the peace in the whole Northeast Asian region. The presence of a great number of nuclear weapons on land and on the surrounding seas makes Korea a tinderbox that threatens the peace of the whole world.

"We therefore call on the ecumenical family to pray for peace in our land and to urge all governments to exercise caution, to refrain from further inflaming the political atmosphere and to exercise the maximum restraint so that reason and diplomacy can prevail over narrow self-serving military, strategic or political interests. The fundamental interests of the people must prevail: mutual respect and peace with justice for all.

"We also appeal to all nations to reject any attempt to cheapen life by treating Korea as a pawn in diplomatic gamesmanship, while ignoring the welfare of the people."

Monday, December 20, 2010

Winter Solstice Lunar Eclipse Without Borders & Candle Night in Japan


From the Astronomers Without Borders website, links to live webcasts of the Dec. 21 lunar eclipse around the world. This special eclipse is the first to fall on the Winter Solstice in 456 years.

Via this great astronomy blog from the Philippines, the sky above.

People throughout North America will be able to view the entire eclipse, while people in Europe will be able to glimpse the beginning and people in Japan will be catching the ending.

The winter solstice occurs exactly at the time the Earth’s axial tilt is furthest from the sun. Though the winter solstice lasts only a moment in time, the term is also a turning point. Depending on the calendar, the winter solstice occurs on Dec. 21 or 22 each year in the Northern Hemisphere. It is the shortest day, and longest night of the year.

Traditional cultures see the Winter Solstice as a time of endings, renewal and beginnings. A celebration of light and life.



In Japan,check out Candle Night, a slow-life, solstice celebration group.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cornel West: "The essential thing is that we make love absolutely real."

(Cornel West's memoir: Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud)

Engaged scholar Cornel West on Twitter:
The essential thing is that we make love absolutely real. Love on our young people. They are our future!
More from earlier posts
#CollegeTaughtMe: Paideia - "deep education" -- learning how to die to live more intensely, critically, and abundantly. 3:08 PM Dec 14th via HootSuite

#CollegeTaughtMe: The aim of education should be to get people to shift from the surface to something substantive. 3:06 PM Dec 14th via HootSuite

#CollegeTaughtMe: You can have all the schooling in the world but if you're still on the surface you're not really educated...

Wall Street oligarchs and corporate plutocrats dominate our political, economic and cultural systems. 1:52 PM Dec 10th via HootSuite

And we have powerful, and often greedy, Wall Street oligarchs and corporate plutocrats. 1:52 PM Dec 10th via HootSuite...

“Love is or it ain't. Thin love ain't love at all.” -- Toni Morrison...

#LOVE can change the world 1:35 PM Dec 8th via HootSuite
More powerful words from Cornel West at his website and in this interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! about his memoir:
I just wanted to lay bare the truth of love in my life, the ways in which I’ve tried to bear witness to love, truth, justice...

And most importantly, for me, right now, I think we need stories of inspiration. These are very depressing times, very bleak times. Even the age of Obama looks like we’ve got profound disappointment. How do we try to galvanize our spirits and our minds and our hearts and souls?

...I am a bluesman in the life of the mind; I’m a jazzman in the world of ideas, which means I’ve got to forge my unique voice, tied to my vocation with a vision, and a unique style. And it’s a voice and style that doesn’t fit well within highly professionalized and specialized contexts.

A blues person is always one who keeps his funky and resists all forms of sterilization, sanitation and deodorizing of funky reality. And by sanitation, I don’t mean I’m against keeping things clean, but I don’t like those discourses that are so clean that they don’t allow the funk, like the squeegee men in New York, like the marginalized, like our gay brothers and lesbian sisters who are often dishonored and dehumanized even by some on the left, or forgetting of indigenous people.

I have a whole section here talking about I will never forget about my dear indigenous brothers and sisters, whose suffering is rendered invisible, and oftentimes, like the Zapatistas, they got to put on a mask in order to be seen at that level of invisibility, you see. That’s what a blues man’s about, telling the truth with a smile on his or her face. That’s Bessie. That’s Ma Rainey.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Gavan McCormack: "The World Turned Upside Down in East Asia and the Pacific"

Via Peace Philosophy Centre, Gavan McCormack's latest on Okinawa. McCormack describes Okinawa's stable, resilient, participatory democratic society as a beacon of reason and hope in East Asia—now unhinged by unstable political leadership in Japan and the Korean peninsula. War games with the U.S., aimed to intimidate China and provoke North Korea, has transformed the regional stability of fifty years into geopolitical volatility. McCormack concludes that for the region to avoid war, Okinawan spirit must spread to its neighbors:
The World Turned Upside Down in East Asia and the Pacific

By Gavan McCormack

As 2010 moves towards its end, it is impossible to refrain from thinking: how the world can change in a short span! A wave of militarism and chauvinism seems to be washing over East Asia, and the year ends with massive military exercises (war games) around the Korean peninsula and in the Sea of Japan. Watching these events, it is hard to remember the hope that filled the air just a few short years ago.

It is just three years since North and South Korean leaders met and signed an agreement to cooperate and work out a path to peaceful unification of their divided peninsula, and specifically to turn the contested West Sea area into a zone of peace and cooperation; two years since Barack Obama came to office in the United States promising a better world, progress toward nuclear disarmament, an end to war, dialogue with all “enemies,” and just over one year since Hatoyama Yukio became Prime Minister of Japan, also promising change, offering the vision of an East Asian Community, equi-distant diplomacy with China and the United States, and meeting amicably with the leader of China to propose turning the South China Sea into a “Sea of Fraternité” (Yuai no umi).

A new government in Korea in 2008 quickly swept aside the South-North Agreements, and new governments in the US and Japan in 2009 also turned away from the peaceful change they had promised. Obama continued, and intensified the two wars he inherited (while engaging in pressures and threats that suggested the possibility of a third and even a fourth, in Iran and North Korea), and continued with illegal detentions and assassinations; and Japan declared the US alliance its core, moving simultaneously towards participation in collective war-rehearsing exercises that are plainly unconstitutional, pressing for construction of a new base for the Marines in Henoko, and reinforcing the SDF military presence on the outlying islands.

Three major events punctuated the year about to end. In March, the South Korean warship, the Cheonan, sank in waters of the West Sea, with loss of 46 sailors. A South Korea-led international investigation team blamed North Korea for a deliberate and unprovoked attack. The investigation report was later shown to be full of holes and contradictions, but the US and its allied governments and the international media endorsed it and dismissed North Korean protest. On 7 September, a Chinese fishing trawler collided with a Japanese Coastguard vessel in the contested waters off the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, and again the US-led global coalition (and its media), without hesitation or qualification, blamed China for belligerence. Yet, by arresting the ship’s captain the Government of Japan was unilaterally abrogating the 1978 agreement with China’s Deng Xiaoping to shelve the dispute for a future generation, and by insisting there was no question of Japan’s incontestable sovereignty, it was insulting both China and Taiwan who also claimed sovereignty. Then, on 23 November, a North Korean artillery barrage killed four people on South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island and again South Korea, together with the US and Japan, blamed North Korea for “unprovoked aggression.” Yet this was the third day of huge South Korean war games (70,000 soldiers, 500 warplanes, 90 helicopters, 50 warships) conducted just a few kilometres off North Korean shores, in which they had fired over 3,000 rounds of artillery into surrounding, contested waters and ignored North Korean protests before North Korea retaliated. Shortly after the exchange of fire, the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier George Washington sailed into the Yellow Sea, to continue exercises that plainly were designed to step up the intimidation of North Korea, and provoke China as well by entering uninvited into the Yellow Sea.

A week later, the US and Japan chose to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Ampo by the largest war games they had ever conducted (44,000 soldiers, 40 warplanes, 60 warships, with again the George Washington in pride of place), rehearsing anti-missile warfare and the ‘re-capture” of islands taken by an “enemy. The latter were plainly predicated on a Chinese attack on either Senkaku/Diaoyu or an outlying Okinawan island.

As North Korea bashing and China intimidation escalated, North Korea’s overtures for negotiations in which it would trade its nuclear programs for guarantees of security and a peace treaty to end the 57-year long frozen standoff, were contemptuously dismissed. The US, Japan, and South Korea met the North Korean and Chinese call for negotiations with stepped-up military pressure. Hostility, fear, and hyper-nationalism (or what I call in the Japanese case zokkoku nationalism) spread. Military alliances were reconfirmed and reinforced, as on the eve of all recent wars. It is common for Japanese leaders to refer to the US as the stabilizer, the supplier of the oxygen of security, the bulwark of democracy and human rights, and to blame (in this region) China and North Korea for aggressive and destabilizing behaviour. Recent events in particular make clear that that is false and tendentious.

In this darkening climate of rising militarism and unreason, Okinawa constituted a tiny beacon of hope and resistance. From the Nago City mayoral election of January to the prefectural Governor election of November, the Okinawan people intervened decisively to insist on the constitutional principles of the sovereignty of the people (shuken zai min) and the centrality of peace.

Okinawa showed the power of citizen-led democracy and commitment to constitutional principle, and in the gathering gloom of irrational chauvinism pointed towards a better future, predicated on overcoming its position as “Keystone of the Pacific” for US military planners. Either that Okinawan spirit spreads to Okinawa’s neighbours, or else Okinawa will find itself once again engulfed in militarism and the catastrophe of war.
The Japanese version of this article was published at the Okinawan newspaper, the Ryukyu Shimpo on December 14.

Gavan McCormack is a coordinator of "The Asia-Pacific Journal", and author of many previous texts on Okinawa-related matters. His Client State: Japan in the American Embrace was published in English (New York: Verso) in 2007 and in expanded and revised Japanese, Korean, and Chinese versions in 2008.

Monday, December 13, 2010

"Where is Okinawa Going?" Forum at Okinawa University on Dec. 19, 2010


This forum will present and discuss Okinawan perspectives on the current situations surrounding the southernmost islands of Japan, amid the ongoing controversy over "Futenma relocation" issue, from three aspects:

1) environment and biodiversity, after the Convention of Biological Diversity (COP10) in Nagoya;

2) regional geopolitics in the wake of the Japan-China conflict over the ship collision near Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands ;

3) Okinawa-Japan-US relationship and the military base issue after the gubernatorial election.

Time and Date: 10 AM - 5 PM, Sunday, December 19

Location: Classroom 3-101, Okinawa University


*** Co-sponsored by Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus and The Institute of Regional Studies, Okinawa University

*** In collaboration with Okinawa Biodiversity Citizens' Network (Okinawa BD) and Peace Philosophy Centre

*** Conference organizers gratefully acknowledge the support received from the Australian Naitonal University.

*** Free admission. The forum will be primarily run in the Japanese language. Translation from and to English can be provided during the Q and A.

*** For inquiries: Okinawa University Regional Studies Institute (Phone 098-832-5599; emai: chiken@okinawa-u.ac.jp )

*** Inquiries in English can be made at: info@peacephilosophy.com

See the English translation of the program at the website of the Peace Philosophy Centre.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Human rights awardees inspire Tokyo audience in emotional ceremony

Kanda Kaori, Kitamura Toshiko, Tairah Firdous, interpreter (Motoyama Hisako, Director of the Asia-Japan Women's Resource Center)

“The one and only way to bring about positive change in the world is through love.”

Journalist and social activist Kitamura Toshiko, one of the honorees at the Woman Human Rights Activities Award (or Yayori Award) ceremony held in Tokyo this past Saturday afternoon, revealed that she was able to arrive at this seemingly simple understanding only after a period of profound soul-searching.

"At one point in my life, I was driven almost exclusively by anger. After reaching a point where my work was no longer sustainable, however, I turned to spiritual pursuits including meditation and yoga. Only then was I able to realize what was missing in my approach."

In her work with numerous social issues, including child abuse, homelessness, youth bullying and suicide, Kitamura has deeply probed corners of society where love is often painfully lacking.

Her selection as this year's Yayori Journalist awardee was in recognition of her tireless commitment to these issues—as well as her recognition of the interconnections therein. In fact, her understanding of the common thread between all forms of discrimination and suffering—and her ability to look past surface-level social categorizations in order to connect with the common humanity that we all share—has often led to uncomfortable moments with others who do not share her vision.


Kitamura Toshiko

"When some members of the women's movement heard that I was working with homeless people in Osaka's Kamagasaki district, they reacted by saying they couldn't understand why I would want to spend that much time with 'a bunch of lewd men'," she said. "Similarly, when I began a correspondence with a youth who was jailed after killing a homeless person—telling him that I believed in him and his capacity to change—I was harshly criticized by some of the other Kamagasaki volunteers as having betrayed the life-affirming work that we were trying to do there.

"In fact, violence is something that we are all capable of. Instead of immediately condemning someone for committing a violent act, then, we must seek to understand what particular constellation of factors caused that person to act in the way that they did," she emphasized to Saturday's attendees—most of whom (including myself) were in tears as her gentle and yet powerful words traveled straight into our heart-centers. "It is only when we calm our rage with love that we are able to have compassion for others and encourage them to change in positive ways."

Also speaking at Saturday's event was documentary filmmaker and human rights activist Tairah Firdous, who grew up in Kashmir amidst constant turmoil as India and Pakistan have continued a decades-long power struggle over the region. She received the Yayori Award in support of her forthcoming documentary, which will focus on Kashmiri survivors of rape and torture.

"The Indian government has declared Kashmir a 'disturbed area', and implemented an Armed Forces Special Powers Act that essentially gives state officials free license to do whatever they feel like," Firdous explained to Saturday's audience. "What this means in terms of actual experience are continuous human rights violations including forced migration, searches without warrants, arbitrary arrests and detention, torture, and rape.


Tairah Firdous

"My own work with these issues began when my family was forced to leave our home after my father was arrested and tortured on six different occasions, even though he had absolutely nothing to do with the conflict," Firdous told attendees. "Completely innocent peoples' lives are being shattered within this political climate, and so I intend to expose the killings and other unreported human rights violations so that the rest of the world will know what is really happening."

New to the 2010 awards lineup was a special prize given to Kanda Kaori, a kodan (traditional storytelling) performer whose work focuses on issues connected to war and other forms of institutionalized violence.

"After I finished the obligatory three-year period of apprenticeship and was able to start my own career as a professional performer, I went on vacation in Saipan to celebrate," she told Saturday's crowd. "I was completely unprepared, however, for what I saw: a sunken U.S. military ship and other lingering remnants of World War II, which seemed so completely out of place amidst an otherwise idyllic scene of beauty. After I got over my shock, it became clear to me that I must use my craft to communicate the personal suffering unleashed by wars."


Kanda Kaori

Kanda followed her acceptance speech with a brief kodan performance detailing the painful final hours of a Yokohama family after a U.S military jet crashed into their home in September 1977, badly burning their two toddlers, who died several hours later. Again, there were few dry eyes in the room at her emotional interpretation of the tragic event, memorialized in a bronze statue in a Yokohama seaside park titled Ai no boshizou ("An Image of a Mother's Love"). The statue represents the two small boys with their mother, who also died four years later from complications sustained in the crash.


Ai no boshizou ("An Image of a Mother's Love")

"I sometimes feel overwhelmed by pain while preparing my performances, which have focused on horrific issues such as the Hiroshima atomic bombing and the Chernobyl nuclear power accident," Kanda said. "However, I will continue to speak out against war and other injustices, and encourage my protegees to do the same—particularly as Japan continues to follow the United States in its misguided war escapades."

Saturday's event was held at a small chapel located on the same grounds as the Women's Active Museum on War and Peace (WAM), an institution founded by the Violence Against Women in War Network (VAWW-Net) that was spearheaded by the late Matsui Yayori (from whom the Yayori Awards have been bequeathed). The museum is presently housing an exhibition commemorating the tenth anniversary of the Women's International War Crimes Tribunal on Japan's Military Sexual Slavery that took place in 2000. Following the ceremony, a separate memorial was held in remembrance of the of the so-called "comfort women" who have died before having attained full justice for their suffering.

More information about the Yayori Award program may be read at this previous post. For full profiles of the 2010 (and past year) awardees, see the official website.

Text by Kimberly Hughes
Photos by Ando Makiko

Monday, December 6, 2010

Mr. Toyama Sakae, “mayor” of Henoko Tent Village, has passed away

The Tent Village “Mayor” Toyama Sakae explains the history of protest at Henoko. Toyama is pointing at the “V-shaped Runway Plan” in the 2006 agreement between Japan and U.S. officially described as a “replacement facility” of Futenma Air Station.

Mr. Toyama Sakae, “mayor” of Henoko Tent Village, died on December 5.

We join the rest of the members of the Network for Okinawa in extending heartfelt condolences to all Okinawans, especially the residents of Henoko.

Yumiko Kikuno’s essay, “Henoko, Okinawa: Inside the Sit-In,” published at The Asia-Pacific Journal on Feb. 22, 2010, describing her visit to the small coastal village in northern Okinawa with Satoko Norimatsu, pays tribute to Mr. Toyama and his legacy:
On the rainy and cold Christmas Day of 2009, we got lost several times driving down the winding narrow roads towards Henoko, a small fishing village on the North Eastern shore of Okinawa Island, about a two-hour drive north of the capital, Naha. We were looking for the “Tent Village,” where activists were sitting in to protest against the government’s plan to build a new US Marine Corps airbase as a “replacement facility” of Futenma Air Station. Yes, this issue has been at the centre of the news reports in Japan for the six months since the new coalition government took power, but do we really know what has happened for the last eight years in and around this tent, on and off this coral beach, and in the ocean where endangered marine mammal dugongs come by for feeding? The victory of Inamine Susumu, the anti-base candidate in the January 24 mayoral election of Nago, where Henoko is located, was anticipated but was not known yet when the 40-minute lesson on the history of Henoko activism was given inside the tent to two visitors from the mainland and from overseas. Thinking back, the protesters at Henoko were among the citizens of Nago and Okinawa who served as advocates of democracy during the thirteen years of chasm between the pro-base government of Nago and the popular will opposing the new base, expressed in the 1997 plebiscite. In the Western world, the sit-in by the workers of Gdansk shipyards is well-known as one of the longest in modern times, and one that launched the transition to democracy in Poland and helped end the Cold War. But the multi-year Henoko “sit-in” story is little known outside of Japan, if not outside of Okinawa. Here is the first short account from “inside” the movement by one of its stalwarts.

Okinawa used to be the independent Ryukyu Kingdom, blessed with a bountiful environment and friendly trade relations with many other Asian countries. In March 1609, Satsuma-han (now Southern Kyushu Island) invaded the Ryukyu Kingdom. In 1879, the Meiji Government forced the Kingdom to surrender Shuri Castle by means of the “ Ryukyu Disposition,” which brought down the curtain on the Ryukyu Kingdom. Ryukyuan culture was subsequently lost under the assimilation policy of the Japanese government. Towards the end of the Asia-Pacific War, war was forced upon Ryukyu Islanders in the Battle of Okinawa, in which 200,000 lives were lost, including over 90,000 local civilians who were killed or forced to commit suicide. Today, Okinawa is burdened with 75% of all U.S. military bases in Japan. It seems so unfair that the Ryukyu Islands have had to endure such a tragic history. I want to bring my heart closer to Okinawa and its people, especially in light of the “Futenma Base Transfer” controversy.

On December 25, 2009, I visited “Henoko Tent Village” in Okinawa, with Satoko Norimatsu, Director of the Peace Philosophy Centre, a peace education centre in Canada. The “village” has acted as a base for the 13-year long nonviolent anti-base movement. On the day we visited it was raining, which made Henoko beach look like it was crying. We were welcomed by Toyama Sakae, the “mayor” of Henoko Tent Village, and by other activists, including Nakazato Tomoharu, “Yasu-san,” and “Na-chan.” Mr. Toyama invited us to have a seat and proceeded to explain the history of the movement to save Henoko.
Read the rest of Ms. Kikuno’s beautiful essay here.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Japanese Churches appeal to U.S. Christians for Prayers to halt U.S. militarism to bring Peace to Okinawa

Earlier this year, Ecumenical News International (ENI), a Switzerland-based Christian media outlet, issued a press release on behalf of the National Christian Council in Japan (NCCJ) urging U.S. churches to gain awareness, pray and appeal to their government about the impact of a U.S. military base relocation in Okinawa, an archipelago south of Japan's main islands.



"The beautiful coral reef, which had provided a livelihood for the villages and which was the seabed home of the endangered dugong, would now be destroyed with landfill for the purpose of constructing a military base for waging war," said the moderator of the National Christian Council in Japan, the Rev. Isamu Koshiishi.
33 member and associate member churches and organizations participate in the NCCJ, which works in concert with local groups as well as international organizations, including the YMCA and the Fellowship of Reconciliation:
The networks to which NCCJ relates, including the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) and World Council of Churches (WCC), enable Christians in Japan to stand in solidarity with people and partner churches throughout Asia and other parts of the world. Consultations between the NCCJ and other councils of churches in other countries have emphasized issues of minority discrimination, human rights, peace, and justice.

NCCJ continues to work ecumenically as well as with NGOs, citizens' groups, and people of other faiths in the area of peace. One recent event was the inauguration of the Interfaith Network for Peace (made up of Buddhists, Christians, and Muslims) to unite to maintain Japan's Peace Constitution and oppose the "emergency" legislation that would allow Japan to participate in a war and to arm itself. The emerging nationalism in Japan is one of many concerns for NCCJ.
The NCCJ newsletters in English may be found at this page. The theme of its fall issue: "Love - the Law of Life."

Saturday, December 4, 2010

As the Christmas Season begins, the U.S. & Japan launch their biggest-ever joint war games amid growing tensions in the Korean Peninsula


I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men...

And in despair I bow'd my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men...

"I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day," American Civil War era poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1864
During the winter season when Christians worldwide traditionally express wishes of peace and goodwill towards all people, the U.S. and Japan have embarked on their biggest war games ever following a year of joint war games held by the U.S. and South Korea. During a war game in the spring, a South Korean ship, the Cheonan, mysteriously sank:
South Korean government allegations that a North Korean torpedo attacked the warship provoked tensions in the Asia-Pacific region, providing an excuse to convince Japan to keep the US military presence in Okinawa. However, two scholars have disputed the evidence that the ROK government has used for the allegation and the recent poll showed that 63% of S.Koreans do not trust the government's report.
And in a recent US-S. Korean war game bombardment of its border, North Korea retaliated, with fatal consequences.

PressTV reports, "Japan and the United States have launched their biggest-ever joint military exercises off Japan's southern islands near South Korea amid growing tensions in the Korean Peninsula,"
The drills---dubbed Keen Sword---will continue until December 10.

Washington has deployed more than 10,000 troops, 20 warships and 150 aircraft to take part in the maneuvers.

Tokyo recently invited South Korean military officials to observe the exercises.

The exercises come several days after an exchange of artillery fire between the two Koreas.

However, US and Japanese officials claim the drills were planned before the Korean clashes.

The developments come days after Japanese on the southern Island of Okinawa re-elected incumbent governor Hirokazu Nakaima, who wants an end to the American military presence in the island.
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Tessa Morris-Suzuki's just-released To the Diamond Mountains sheds much-needed light on the Korean peninsula's past & present

Released on November 16, Tessa Morris-Suzuki's To the Diamond Mountains: A Hundred-Year Journey through China and Korea could not be more timely.

Korea scholar Alexis Dudden gives this description:
Tessa Morris-Suzuki is the most important writer of Northeast Asia today.

Told through a historian's eyes and with a humanist's compassion, To the Diamond Mountains achieves an artful balance between the geopolitical concerns swirling around the region and the lives lived there now, particularly among North Koreans. The book lucidly blends together ancient pasts with present realities, presenting a subtly powerful case that those who would fail to understand the layers of Northeast Asia's deeply interwoven whole are playing with fire.

To sample this travelogue/history that creates an illuminating, multi-dimensional portrait of Korean peninsula, read an excerpt at The Asia-Pacific Journal.

(Diamond Mountain (Kŭmgangsan) is one of the best known mountains in North Korea. Its name means "a firm heart in the face of truth." Between 1998-2010, Pyongyang allowed South Korean tourists to visit (by ship and bus) the craggy, wild, relatively untouched scenic area. In 2002, North Korea separated Diamond Mountain from Kangwŏn Province and created a a separately-administered tourist region, allowing South Korean conglomerate, Hyundai, to operate hotels there. Over a million South Koreans visted the area, but in 2008, after a South Korean woman was shot, when she allegedly entered a military area, Seoul banned further travel there. In 2010, after South Korea blamed the North for the mysterious sinking of the Cheonan, Pyongyang seized the South Korean hotels.)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Martin Frid: "Okinawa Election Results"

Many thanks to Martin Frid for his excellent post on the Okinawa election results.
(Banner: "We do not need U.S. military bases in Okinawa." (Image: Kurashi)

Kurashi - The "Eco-Blog" - by Martin J Frid
Monday, November 29, 2010
Okinawa Election Results

The results of the election on Sunday in Okinawa are as follows, according to Ryukyu Shimpo, the local newspaper. NHK also notes that the LDP-backed candidate, Nakaima, 71 years old has won.

335708 仲井真弘多 Nakaima Hirokazu
297082 伊波 洋一 Iha Yoichi

Both said they want Futenma, the US military training base, moved out of Okinawa. Peace activists, however, doubt that Nakaima Hirokazu will follow up on this pledge. To NHK (video) he notes on Sunday night that the US military bases are not there just for the sake of Okinawa, but for the sake of the entire country. He also says, again, that the base should be relocated outside of the prefecture of Okinawa.

However...
While Iha Yoichi unequivocally opposes a new base in Okinawa, there has been some confusion by incumbent governor Nakaima's expression of his intent to call for relocation of MCAS Futenma "outside of Okinawa." However, throughout the campaign, he has avoided the question of whether he really opposed the government's plan to build a new base in Henoko. "It appears that Nakaima wants to gain Okinawans' support but wants to avoid confrontation with the Japanese government at the same time," the newspaper's editorial suspects. Iha, on the contrary, "will not accept any negotiation based on the current US-Japan plan and challenge the both governments to give up the plan."

(Quote and translation by Vancouver-based Satoko Norimatsu of Peace Philosophy Centre: To stop the Henoko base plan, IHA must win. 沖縄に基地を作らせないためには伊波候補が勝たなければいけない)
Read more about the peaceful protests at the Tent Village, Henoko, Okinawa at The Asia-Pacific Journal: "Henoko, Okinawa: Inside the Sit-In" by Yumiko Kikuno:
On December 25, 2009, I visited “Henoko Tent Village” in Okinawa, with Satoko Norimatsu, Director of the Peace Philosophy Centre, a peace education centre in Canada. The “village” has acted as a base for the 13-year long nonviolent anti-base movement. On the day we visited it was raining, which made Henoko beach look like it was crying. We were welcomed by Toyama Sakae, the “mayor” of Henoko Tent Village, and by other activists, including Nakazato Tomoharu, “Yasu-san,” and “Na-chan.” Mr. Toyama invited us to have a seat and proceeded to explain the history of the movement to save Henoko.
And Japanese bloggers of course are also covering this important election: Chura umi o maore (Protect our ocean) and Henokohama Tsushin (Reports from Henoko Beach) and Michisan (a blog to help you know what local Okinawan newspapers are saying) and Sumichi and Takae and News for the People of Japan...


(Above photo from Rimpeace, stating without a doubt that the Okinawan people do not want (a new mega-military base destroying the beautiful Henoko coast or) US Osprey aircraft on their soil.)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Peace Carnival Part II: NO BASE! MORE MUSIC! Friday 11/26 @ Chikyuya (Kunitachi, Tokyo)



Friday, November 26th
8:00 PM (Doors open at 7:30)


Please join the second installment of the Peace Carnival event series, which will feature a discussion on the U.S. military base situation in Okinawa led by Professor Satoshi Ukai from Hitotsubashi University, as well as several incredible (and activist-minded!) acts from the Tokyo music scene:

☆Jintara Brothers

Special unit featuring Wataru Oguma (powerful performer from the Tokyo underground chindon group Cixla Muta) together with solo artist Hiroshi Kawamura (previously of Soul Flower Union)

☆ Singer/guitarist Pak Poe together with Satchan (Hana and Phenomenon)

Anbassa (roots reggae unit)

Chikyuya Live House (Kunitachi, Tokyo)
1-16-13 B1 Kunitachi Higashi

(Head down Daigaku-dori (University road) from the North exit of Kunitachi station for about 5 minutes. Chikyuya is in the basement on the left side, just before a shop on the corner with a neon yellow sign.)

Entry: 2000 yen (plus one drink)
* 1500 yen entry is available by making advance reservations at Chikyuya 042-572-585 (between 7PM and 1AM).

Event organizer: Peace Carnival Committee (peacecarnival@gmail.com)
Additional support: Peace Not War Japan (info@pnwj.org)

For more information, see the event blog (Japanese only).

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Speakers contemplate Palestinian human rights, urge action at Tokyo event


May Shigenobu and Anna Baltzer

“Imagine, just for a moment, that in order to come to today’s lecture, you had to leave your house at 6AM instead of 1PM—and that you were stopped by authorities multiple times along the way in order to show identification and answer questions.”

“If you can envision what this might feel like, you will have had only the slightest glimpse of what life is like every single day for people living in the Palestinian Occupied Territories.”

And so began the lecture of Jewish-American human rights activist Anna Baltzer, who spoke to a group of around 100 people in a Tokyo university auditorium this past Saturday afternoon. Currently visiting six Japanese cities as part of her international speaking tour, titled "Life in Occupied Palestine: Eyewitness Stories & Photos", Anna was also joined on Saturday by journalist and Palestinian rights activist May Shigenobu.

Through Anna’s slideshow presentation and heartfelt commentary, audience members learned of the daily injustices suffered by a people who have been marginalized in their own homeland for decades. Many of her stories were heartbreaking, such as that of her friend’s six month old son, who died of a treatable asthma attack after Israeli soldiers refused to let the family pass through a checkpoint station to reach a local hospital—the type of incident that sadly occurs on a regular basis. She also pointed out the absurdity of the fact that as a Jewish American, she could easily go live in the home and farm the land of displaced Palestinians—and that the Israeli government would actually pay her a significant sum of money in order to do so.

“The media presents us with images of Palestinians as violent, but the fact is that they are practicing nonviolent resistance every single day just by virtue of going about their daily lives,” Anna pointed out. She then highlighted several types of creative civil disobedience acts, such as murals being painted on the separation Wall (which was erected by the Israeli government as a further means of control over Palestinians’ movements), as well as billboards bearing messages of resistance, and other artistic means of protest such as concerts and theater.


"Taste the Revolution" (from Anna Baltzer's website, Witness in Palestine)

“When children who refuse to allow their education to be disturbed wake up at 3:30 every morning to pass through the checkpoints and reach school on time, this is also a form of nonviolent resistance,” she emphasized.

Anna’s presentation was followed by a talk from May Shigenobu, a Palestinian-Japanese who was born in Beirut, Lebanon and is now a journalist, doctoral candidate and activist based in Japan.

“Within the political climate following September 11th, 2001, any and all resistance has tended to be characterized as terrorism—including even nonviolent means of protest that are completely within the law,” she noted. “While nonviolent resistance is obviously the ideal under any circumstance, there does come a point when the limits of human endurance are reached, and people tire of seeing their families exploited from generation to generation. And it is important to note here that international law actually provides a right of defense within its frameworks.

“For example, Article 51 of the United Nations Charter says that ‘a state which forcibly subjugates a people to colonial or alien domination is committing an unlawful act as defined by international law, and the subject people, in the exercise of its inherent right of self-defense, may fight to defend and attain its right to self-determination"—a perspective that is outlined further in this thought-provoking piece.

May went on to explain the different categories of Palestinians, who all face varying hardships depending upon their situation: those living within the occupied territories (West Bank and Gaza) who face an apartheid-like situation characterized by no legal rights; those living as refugees in neighboring countries such as Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Iraq, whose living conditions and rights are completely dependent upon the host country; and those living within Israel itself, where Palestinians comprise 20% of the population but are treated as third-class citizens. She also discussed the difficulty of being stateless as a Palestinian refugee (a situation that she herself faced prior to obtaining Japanese citizenship in 2001).

Both speakers emphasized that the present conflict is one of human rights and justice—and most certainly not one of Islam vs. Judaism. They also both encouraged everyone attending the event to take action on the issue, whether by joining an organization, visiting the region, or just sharing knowledge with others.

Personally speaking, I found the event to be extremely inspiring and healing insofar as both speakers were coming from different backgrounds and ideological perspectives in order to passionately embrace the same goal. Numerous attendees voiced similar comments during the lively Q&A session, where students, grassroots activists, and local community members thanked the speakers for their gracious presentations and shared their own anecdotes.

Anna finished the session by reminding the audience: “Israel today is afraid. By coming together and taking action, we can most definitely succeed in restoring rights to the Palestinians.” She urged attendees to become involved with Japan-based campaigns to help make this happen, such as the current effort by the Palestine Forum organization to hold a boycott of the popular MUJI home goods store if it proceeds with plans to build a store in Israel—part of the Global BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) initiative. The BDS movement is discussed at length in this fascinating interview with Jewish-Canadian journalist Naomi Klein, who devised a creative plan to publicize the Hebrew version of her best-selling book The Shock Doctrine using a grassroots-level anti-occupation Israeli publisher, and launched her book tour at a Palestinian-Israeli theater house.

For more inspirational stories of Jewish and Palestinian people coming together to launch joint projects for peace and social justice, see Anna Baltzer's website A Witness in Palestine, as well as The Parents Circle, Combatants for Peace, Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue Group, and the Seiichi no kodomo youth exchange project (last website in Japanese only).

Young, Jewish and Proud, affiliated with Jewish Voice for Peace, also has an inspiring video of their recent disruption of Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech at the Jewish General Assembly by broadcasting messages against the Palestinian occupation, and its website features a rousing message for a new generation of young activists.


Speakers together with event organizers and graduate students at Daito Bunka University.
 (Photo: Eric Baudelaire)


--Kimberly Hughes

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Peace and Human Rights in Palestine - the Occupation as witnessed by Anna Baltzer @ Kyoto, Tues, Nov 16

Palestinian peace activists
(Photo Courtesy of
Annainthemiddleeast.com)

Anna Baltzer serves as the voice of the voiceless. The granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor, and a Jewish-American human rights activist, she speaks on behalf of the Palestinians and Israelis alike searching for a peaceful solution to the war and aggression confronting the people living in Occupied Palestine and Israel. As part of a speaking tour throughout Japan, this Tuesday, November 16th, Anna will address an audience at Kyoto University about the occupation of Palestine and the search for peace and respect for human rights in the region.

Anna writes on her blog about how she first learned of the Palestinian Occupation:
Like many Americans and many Jews, I grew up with a positive view of Israel as a peace-seeking democracy. Israel symbolized to me the one protection that Jews had against the type of persecution that had plagued families like mine throughout history. I saw the Jewish state as a tiny and victimized country that simply wanted to live in peace but couldn’t because of its aggressive, Jew-hating Arab neighbors.

In 2003, during a backpacking trip through the Middle East, I began to meet Palestinian refugees from 1948. I didn’t know who the Palestinians were, or where Palestine was, and through my new acquaintances I began to hear a narrative about the history and present of Israel/Palestine that was entirely different from the one I had learned growing up in the United States.

My first reaction was disbelief, and anger. Families told me stories of past and present military attacks, house demolitions, land confiscation, imprisonment without trial, and torture. It seemed that these actions were not carried out for the protection of Jewish people, but rather for the creation and expansion of a Jewish state at the expense of the rights, lives, and dignity of the non-Jewish people living in the region. It was hard for me to believe that Israel could act so unjustly.

Not believing what I heard, I decided to do some research to prove myself right. Immediately, I was shocked to find how much I didn’t know about the situation on the ground. Not knowing who or what to believe anymore, I decided to go to see the situation with my own eyes. Since I returned, I’ve dedicated my life to informing fellow Americans and others about what I found, and what they can do to support a just peace for all peoples in Israel/Palestine.
After spending eight months as a volunteer with the International Women's Peace Service* in the West Bank, she has written countless articles about the Palestinian experience in Israel, and has detailed her experiences in her critically acclaimed photo reportage, Witness in Palestine (available for screening). She also supports the work of a the Palestinian group, Slingshot Hip Hop, who utilizes hip hop as a "tool to surmount divisions imposed by occupation and poverty."

Anna is not alone in her struggle for peace in Palestine. In fact, she is just one of many Palestinians, Israelis, Jews, Muslims, Christians, Americans, and other people from diverse backgrounds working for a peaceful solution. By working side-by-side with Palestinians and speaking out against the occupation, Anna gives us hope that there will one day arise a non-violent, peaceful solution that will allow the people in Israel and Palestine to live in peace with one another once again. She also gives us hope that the voices of the countless numbers of Jews and Christians and Muslims and peoples of all faiths working together to overcome the painful violence that characterizes the lives of people in Palestine and Israel, will be heard.


Event information--------------------------------------------------

[Date] Tuesday, November 16, 2010, from 18:30 to 21:30 (doors open at 18:00)
[Venue] Graduate School of Human and Environmental Studies,
Kyoto University, Yoshida Minami campus, Basement Lecture Hall (Map)

Registration - Advance registration is required at: anna.in.kyoto [at] gmail.com

★Please register in advance so handouts and brochures can be prepared
Brochure fee: 1000 yen

[Languages of event] English and Japanese (Japanese translation is provided)

For all enquiries, contact: anna.in.kyoto [at] gmail.com

ACCESS:

★ Yoshida Minami campus is the south campus, on the opposite side of the road from the main campus with the famous clock tower. The closest entry point to the site is from the west gate of Higashiooji Street. Enter the west gate, go straight and then turn right towards the venue: a modern five-storey building. The venue is in the eastern side with glass facade on the first storey. The building houses the Graduate School of Human and Environmental Studies. Please check the map before visiting. An image of the building can be found here and here (the photograph of the building is on the right).

*The International Women's Peace Service welcomes human rights volunteers. Click here for more info.

-Posted by Jen Teeter

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Special Premiere Screening of Hiroshima Nagasaki Download in NYC tomorrow, Nov. 14



Via Yumi Tanaka of the New York Peace Film Festival:
Greetings!

I'd proud to announce NY Premiere screening of "Hiroshima Nagasaki Download" directed by Shinpei Takeda. This film was screened at 1st Nagasaki International Peace Film Forum that spread out my New York Peace Film Festival. The film is to be released in nation-wide theaters next summer.

Mr. Takashi Thomas Tanemori, a Hiroshima survivor living in San Francisco, will be present at the screening to answer Q and A after the screening with the director.

Synopsis:

Upon the end of the World War II, some people who survived the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki immigrated to the USA, bearing both physical and psychological wounds. These survivors have lived quietly in a country formerly considered their "state enemy."

Sixty-four years later, two former high school friends journey to seek "Hiroshima" and "Nagasaki" as they are ingrained in the collective psyche of modern Japan. They drove down America's West Coast to visit eighteen other survivors who shared memories that changed the lives of the friends forever.

Director: Shinpei Takeda

The first feature film by Shinpei Takeda, a director based in Mexico who has followed the atomic bomb survivors in North and South America for the last 5 years.

When & Where:

■ Sunday, Nov. 14, 2010 at 2:30pm ~ (Door opens at 2:00pm)

■ Anthology Film Archives:32 Second Avenue (at 2nd St), New York, NY 10003

■ Q and A session after the screening with a director and one of the survivors who appeared in the film

■ Admission: $9

■ Advance Ticket: http://hndownload.eventbrite.com/

■ Website: www.hndownload.com

■ Follow us on twitter: http://twitter.com/HNDownload
In Japanese:
ドキュメンタリー映画『ヒロシマナガサキダウンロード』NYプレミア上映会のお知らせ

朝晩冷え込み紅葉も始まって来ましたが、皆様いかがお過ごしでしょうか?

この夏、主宰するニューヨーク平和映画祭から広がった第1回長崎国際平和映画フォーラムで上映されたドキュメンタリー映画『ヒロシマナガサキダウンロード』の特別上映会のお手伝いをしています。来夏ロードショーに先駆けたNYプレミア上映会を来る11月14日(日)午後2時半より開催します。等身大の青年たちが向き合う「自分」、そして「在米被爆者」、そして「継承」とは−。

上映会には本作品に出演されている胤森貴士(たねもりたかし)さんをサンフランシスコよりご招待予定です。
是非、ご家族、お友達とお誘い合わせの上、お越しください。

会場でお会いするのを楽しみにしています。

また、来年夏日本ロードショーに向けてのファンドレイザーパーティー、胤森貴士さんの証言トークも別途企画予定しています。詳細が決まり次第ご連絡します。


《あらすじ》
終戦後、かつての「敵国」アメリカに移住した被爆者たちがいた。原爆の記憶に苦しみ、後遺症への恐怖に怯えながらも、アメリカの大地で反省を過ごしてきた人々。あの日の出来事を、誰にも語ることなく時は過ぎようとしていた。

2009年、春。「自分」を模索し続ける青年2人が、日本人の記憶の奥底に刻まれているヒロシマ、ナガサキを巡る旅に出た。原爆を体験していない世代が、頭だけではなく心で感じることは、可能なのか。残された世代は、被爆者から何を受け継ぎ、継承していくべきなのか。アメリカ西海岸を南下しながら在米被爆者と共に笑い、共に泣いた彼等が、最終的に到達した答えとは−−。

過去5年間、南北米大陸へ渡った被爆者を収録し続けているメキシコ在住の竹田信平監督初の長編ドキュメンタリー映画。広大なアメリカ西海岸を背景に、在米被爆者の魂に迫るロードムービー。

■ ドキュメンタリー映画『ヒロシマナガサキダウンロード』(上映時間73分)

■ 11月14日(日)午後2時半〜4時半 (開場午後2時)

■ Anthology Film Archives: 32 Second Avenue (at 2nd St), New York, NY 10003 MAP

■ 上映後、竹田監督および出演の在米被爆者とのQ&Aセッション

■ 入場料: $9

■ 前売り:http://hndownload.eventbrite.com/

■ ウェブサイト www.hndownload.com

■ ツイッター http://twitter.com/HNDownload

監督:竹田信平(たけだしんぺい):1978年京都市生まれ。幼少時代は家族と共にドイツ、米国に滞在。2001年、米国デューク大学卒業後にサン・ディエゴで渡米難民の子供への絵画・写真技術を指導するNPOを立ち上げる。2004年、ロバート・リクター監督、キャサリーン・サリバン監督の「最後の原子爆弾(The Last Atomic Bomb)」の製作にアシスタントとして携わる。その後、北米・南米在住の被爆者の体験談の収録し始める。ブラジルやメキシコで展示会やメディアキャンペーン等を催すと同時に、国立長崎原爆死没者追悼平和祈念館に在外被爆者の体験談の映像を歴史的資料として寄贈する。2008年には、戦前にメキシコに移住した日本人写真家の一生を描いた「メキシコに最も近い日本(和訳)」を自主製作・監督。本作品で長編映像デビュー。

Friday, November 12, 2010

Vandana Shiva on industrial agriculture's use of war chemicals and food sovereignty versus the new colonialism



This is an excerpt of Vandana Shiva's talk about the role of war chemicals (pesticides, fertilizers) in industrial agriculture's new colonization in her talk on food and seed sovereignty at the International Meeting on Resisting Hegemony held 2-5 August 2010 in Penang, Malaysia.
I'm going to talk about the work I've been doing for the last 30 years on issues of biodiversity, food, and agriculture, largely because of the recognition this is the cutting edge of the new colonization and the new imperialism...

For me, 1984 was significant because of two major events, both very tragic. One was June 4, when the Sikh shrine, the Golden Temple, was invaded by the Indian Army, largely because of the unrest and the extremism that had built up in Punjab, and the extremists were hiding in the Golden Temple. And, later that year, we had the Bhopal tragedy where the pesticide plant leaked and killed 3,000 people in one night. 25,000 since then...

Bhopal is historically a watershed in terms of the structures. Part of it involves "shedding," First shedding hazards and then shedding liabilities related to hazards. Bhopal is a watershed where sacrificing the rights of people in the time of industrial genocide starts...

Someone mentioned Lawrence Summers who is currently Obama's chief economic advisor. But I first came across Lawrence Summers in 1992 when he was the chief economist of the World Bank because he wrote a memo saying it makes good economic sense to move pollution and hazards to developing countries. First because it's cheaper to find labor and therefore costs come down. And when people fall ill, it's cheaper. And when people die, it's cheaper, because their lives are worth less. So that's 3/5 of a human being on a scale issue. This continues in the contemporary calculus of what is a life worth.

Because of this series of violent episodes, I decided to start looking at what is really happening to agriculture....

Because of this series of these very violent episodes, I decided to start looking at what is really happening to agriculture. And in those days, I was associated with the peace and global transformation program that the CSDS that used to have...I decided to study what happened to Punjab...I was young, an innocent physicist with no idea of what was going on in agriculture...

A series of things I learned during that study. First, that agriculture had become the place to extend the war economy. Every input in agriculture is a war chemical. Every agrichemical is a war chemical. Herbicides were used in Vietnam. Pesticides were used to kill people which is why Bhopal killed people. Fertilizers came out of explosives factories...

The other day I was at some gathering and there was someone who is very close to the U.S. security establishment and they said Iraq was easy because the weapons were very evident. The weapons had been bought on global markets. Afghanistan is tough because the weapons are fertilizer bombs made from the fertilizer the U.S. distributed. So this is, in fact, the fertilizer coming back to its original purpose. And of course, it's not just that these are just war chemicals extending into agriculture.

But bringing them into agriculture is very much part of the new imperialism. The common narrative of the Green Revolution is India chose it. The reality of it is that the defense labs of the U.S. started to work in the '40's on how do you retool these chemicals for agriculture...So you had to change the plants to adapt to the chemicals...

Rather than calling them varieties bred for chemicals, they were now called "high-yielding" varieties. In fact, they were even called "miracle seeds." And the first 12 people they trained were called...the "wheat apostles" introducing these new seeds...

In the colonization through agriculture, land was emptied of its biodiversity...

This whole structure only worked because when these varieties were ready, the U.S. government was waiting for an opportunity to push them. And it was a drought that took place in 1965 that provided that opportunity because the need for additional imports became the time for imposing conditionalities: "We won't send you wheat unless you change our agriculture." Our prime minister at that time said "no." He died soon after, in Tashkent, under very mysterious conditions. And the conditions continued. The two foundations, the Rockefeller Foundation and Ford and the World Bank joined hands to create this package of conditionalities...

You couldn't borrow unless you proved you had taken money and subsidies for chemicals. You couldn't get any benefits from any government program unless you showed you were planting the new seeds. The Green Revolution didn't spread because of the choice farmers were making, but because of conditionalities...

A lot of my work in the Punjab study showed that actually food production went down. Rice and wheat production went up, but only because you displaced all the other crops. In an Indian diet, you need your pulses, your oil seeds, lots of vegetables. All of that disappeared. Now you had a monoculture...

We had a huge decline in pulses, the basic protein for a vegetarian diet. Quite clearly, the West never understood because they never had pulses in their diet...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Vandana Shiva urges "Time to End War on the Earth" in Sydney Peace Prize speech

Dr. Vandana Shiva, recipient of this year's Sydney Peace Prize, urged the cessation of war on the earth (in the form of unsustainable environmentally destructive genetically modified, pesticide-intensive industrial agriculture); the end to the commodification of every aspect of life; and the promotion of "Earth Democracy" in her Nov. 5 acceptance speech:


When we think of wars in our times, our minds turn to Iraq and Afghanistan. But the bigger war is the war against the planet. This war has its roots in an economy that fails to respect ecological and ethical limits - limits to inequality, limits to injustice, limits to greed and economic concentration.

A handful of corporations and of powerful countries seeks to control the earth's resources and transform the planet into a supermarket in which everything is for sale. They want to sell our water, genes, cells, organs, knowledge, cultures and future.

The continuing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and onwards are not only about "blood for oil."  As they unfold, we will see that they are about blood for food, blood for genes and biodiversity and blood for water.

The war mentality underlying military-industrial agriculture is evident from the names of Monsanto's herbicides - ''Round-Up'', ''Machete'', ''Lasso''. American Home Products, which has merged with Monsanto, gives its herbicides similarly aggressive names, including ''Pentagon'' and ''Squadron''. This is the language of war. Sustainability is based on peace with the earth.

The war against the earth begins in the mind. Violent thoughts shape violent actions. Violent categories construct violent tools. And nowhere is this more vivid than in the metaphors and methods on which industrial, agricultural and food production is based. Factories that produced poisons and explosives to kill people during wars were transformed into factories producing agri-chemicals after the wars.

The year 1984 woke me up to the fact that something was terribly wrong with the way food was produced. With the violence in Punjab and the disaster in Bhopal, agriculture looked like war. That is when I wrote The Violence of the Green Revolution and why I started Navdanya as a movement for an agriculture free of poisons and toxics.

Pesticides, which started as war chemicals, have failed to control pests. Genetic engineering was supposed to provide an alternative to toxic chemicals. Instead, it has led to increased use of pesticides and herbicides and unleashed a war against farmers...

Making peace with the earth was always an ethical and ecological imperative. It has now become a survival imperative for our species.

Violence to the soil, to biodiversity, to water, to atmosphere, to farms and farmers produces a warlike food system that is unable to feed people. One billion people are hungry. Two billion suffer food-related diseases - obesity, diabetes, hypertension and cancers.

There are three levels of violence involved in non-sustainable development. The first is the violence against the earth, which is expressed as the ecological crisis. The second is the violence against people, which is expressed as poverty, destitution and displacement. The third is the violence of war and conflict, as the powerful reach for the resources that lie in other communities and countries for their limitless appetites...

The elevation of the domain of the market, and money as man-made capital, to the position of the highest organising principle for societies and the only measure of our well-being has led to the undermining of the processes that maintain and sustain life in nature and society.

The richer we get, the poorer we become ecologically and culturally. The growth of affluence, measured in money, is leading to a growth in poverty at the material, cultural, ecological and spiritual levels.

The real currency of life is life itself and this view raises questions: how do we look at ourselves in this world? What are humans for? And are we merely a money-making and resource-guzzling machine? Or do we have a higher purpose, a higher end?

I believe that ''earth democracy'' enables us to envision and create living democracies based on the intrinsic worth of all species, all peoples, all cultures - a just and equal sharing of this earth's vital resources, and sharing the decisions about the use of the earth's resources...

We have to make a choice. Will we obey the market laws of corporate greed or Gaia's laws for maintenance of the earth's ecosystems and the diversity of its beings?

People's need for food and water can be met only if nature's capacity to provide food and water is protected. Dead soils and dead rivers cannot give food and water.

Defending the rights of Mother Earth is therefore the most important human rights and social justice struggle. It is the broadest peace movement of our times.
Find out more about Dr. Shiva's book, Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace here at South End Press.

In "The Corporate Killing Fields" published at Asian Age in July of this year, Dr. Shiva reveals that pesticides kill 220,000 people every year and shows that " ecologically organic agriculture produces more food and better food at lower cost than either chemical agriculture or GMOs."

Read more about Navdanya, a network of seed keepers and organic producers spread across 16 states in India, here.

See Sarah Ruth van Gelder's great 2002 interview with Dr. Shiva about the "earth democracy" at Yes! Magazine:
There is, I think, a spontaneous resurgence of thinking that centers on protection of life, celebrating life, enjoying life as both our highest duty and our most powerful form of resistance...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

How did Moscow come to claim the Ainu Kuriles? "Divine mission" & the fur trade • What fuels interest now? Fish, oil & gas, strategic location...

The volcanic island chain connecting Hokkaido with Kamchatka received their name from the Ainu, the islands' original inhabitants. "Kur" means "man" in Ainu. The latest manifestation of the 20th-century dispute between Japan and Russia over the Kuriles continues to obscure prior historical Ainu ownership of these tiny islands.

Tokyo's claim makes no sense within a contemporary indigenous rights framework that posits indigenous peoples as equals within a community of nations (not to mention historical rectification for historical wrongdoing against them). However, the Japanese claim may have made some sense in the past within an outdated "Age of Imperialism" territorial framework based on the idea of privilege over indigenous peoples and their lands—given proximity of the Kuriles to Japan. (Historian Leo Ching writes that Japanese colonialism needs to be viewed historically and spatially within the larger context of global colonialism by which European nations had seized 85% of the world's land mass by the turn of the 20th century).

In contrast, Russia's claim to the Kuriles is much more of a stretch, even within an imperialistic paradigm. How did Russia (ostensibly a European nation) come to control an empire over the vast breadth of Siberian Asia (first inhabited by indigenous peoples with rich cultures much older than Moscow's) beyond the Pacific to the Kuriles—even farther off the Asian mainland than Sakhalin)?

Revenge and a sense of divine mission (Russia's version of "Manifest Destiny") fueled its adventurers' and soldiers' violent predatory march across Asia, writes Scott Malcolmson in his 1994 history/travelogue, Borderlands: Nation and Empire:
The question of what Russians are doing in Asia has preoccupied Russians more or less since the birth of Russia itself...The traditional date for the founding of "Russia" is 862. By 882, Oleg had established a strong state with its capital at Kiev...

Kievan Russia broke up into principalities in 1054 and was destroyed in 1237 to 1240 by Mongols and Tatars. The latter proceeded to dominate the Russians until 1840...Russians know the 1240 to 1480 period as the "Tatar (or Mongol) yoke," and appear never to have forgiven Asians for humiliating them.

They also appear to have developed a strong sense of mission. Under Ivan III's successor, Basil III, some Russians came to imagine themselves as the army of God and Moscow as the Third Rome...Basil's successor, Ivan the Terrible, began Russia's conquest of Siberia, and Russians continued expanding their territory into Asia until Gorbachev withdrew Soviet troops from Afghanistan. That makes nearly five hundred years of steady imperialism...
Anna Reid provides an economic explanation for Russia's claim in her luminous history of the indigenous peoples of Siberia, The Shaman's Coat, in which she cites the fur trade (seal and sea otter in the Kuriles) as fueling Russia's march through Asia:
What drew them on, swiftly and surely as gold drew the conquistadores to Peru, was fur, especially that of the ferret-like sable. Blacker than night, softer than a snowfall, sable pelts had been the ultimate status symbol since history began...

In the 1500's European demand for fur expanded, thanks to the influx of New World buillion and rise of a showy new merchant class. Chief supplier to the growing market was Russia, whose European forests were soon hunted out...

There duly appeared in Siberia a hereogeneous breed of trapper-fighter-explorers, not unlike the French woodrunners who first penetrated Canada. In theory, they divided into two categories: commercial operators, self-financed or under hire to merchants, and 'servitors' — mostly the unruly soldiers known as Cossacks — in salaried government service. In practice, they behaved so similarly and worked together so often as to be virtually indistinguishable, giving rise to a continuing debate over whether Siberia's conquest was primarily the result of conscious government policy or of haphazard private enterprise. Both groups went armed...

Like their Canadian equivalents, they travelled as far as possible by river, dragging their boats from headwater to headwater and building wooden forts...at strategic confluences...From these they set off on fur-gathering expeditions, in the rouse of which they both trapped themselves and extracted pelts, by violence or by barter, from nearby native settlements. Seduced or subjugated, each tribe's duty regularly to produce furs in the future was made official by the imposition of an oath upon its leader...

Haphazard as it was, the conquest of Siberia transformed Muscovy, helping turn it from an obscure princedom on civilisation's fringes into a great European power. Until the end of the seventeenth century, one historian estimates, the fur trade contributed more to the country's economy than any other single activity save agriculture...In 1595 Boris Dogunov was embarassed by a request from the Holy Roman Emperor, Rudolf II, for military assistance from the Turks. Not wishing to jeopardise trade with Constantinople, he compromised by sending Rudolf the pelts of 337,235 squirrel, 40,360 sable, 20,760 marten, 3,000 beaver and 1,000 wolves...

In the meantime, Siberian furs had not only lured Russia into Asia, but helped poltically consolidate the Russia state...

(Stalin with the daughter of a Buryat Party chief. Two years after this once-popular propaganda photograph was taken, her father was shot and her mother sent to a labour camp. Image: Yury Artamonov's Photo Archive
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In Siberia the Russians had won themselves a continent, a land on which the sun never set, one of the biggest empires the world had even known... The indigenous people overcome by Moscow included the Khant; the Buryat (the largest indigenous group in Siberia, practitioners of shamanism and Tibetan-inspired Buddhism from the 1700's); the Tuvans (known for throat-singing and shamanism); the Sakha (Russia subjugated Sakha into forced labor long before sending political prisoners to Siberia. Stalin established Gulag forced labor camps on their land where many thousands of Sakha disappeared along with ethnic Russians); the Chukchi (their land was also a site of the Soviet Gulag. Traditionally a nomadic reindeer herders, Chukchi who resisted collectivization were sent to forced labor in mining and logging camps. Between 2-3 million Chukchi died from forced labor); the Ainu; and the Nivkh (banning the Nivkh language and culture, Soviet Russia showcased the Nivkh as a 'model' for a culture that transformed from the Neolithic age to a socialist industrial model).

From 1945-1948, Moscow forcibly deported many Nivkh, Ainu, along with half of the Sakhalin Oroks, and most Japanese to Hokkaido. Since January 2005, the descendants of the remaining Nivkh, and the Uilta, another indigenous people of Sakhalin have engaged in nonviolent protest, demanding an independent ethnological assessment of Shell's and Exxon's oil exploration off the coast of Sakhalin.

(Contemporary Buryat. Image: "A Pearl in the Forest - the movie")

Russia also deported Ainu from Kuriles to Japan (in a related attempt to undermine prior indigenous claims on the seized islands and to shift indigenous social and historical burdens to Japan). However Moscow's attempt to deny the reality of the historically-based indigenous rights of the Ainu and other indigenous people in the Kuriles and Sakhalin has not succeeded. In the past two decades, as a global indigenous rights and historical rectification movement has strengthened indigenous power, Ainu have reasserted their prior claim to the Kuriles.

The Independent reported on the Ainu claim to the Kuriles during the 1992 eruption of the Russian-Japanese dispute in "Ainu people lay ancient claim to Kurile Islands: The hunters and fishers who lost their land to the Russians and Japanese are gaining the confidence to demand their rights:"
Mr. Akibe is from the Ainu people, an ethnic minority who live mostly on Hokkaido and who have been fighting discrimination by the Tokyo government for years. 'The Kuriles are not Russian, and they are not Japanese either,' said Mr Akibe, who was wearing traditional Ainu robes and an embroidered headband. 'We were the first inhabitants of these islands, and lived there before this territorial problem even appeared.' Some Russians laughed nervously while Japanese listeners studied their shoe-laces.

Mr. Akibe produced a map of the Russian Far East, the Kurile Islands and northern Japan, showing the extent of Ainu settlements throughout the region up to the beginning of this century. Fishers and hunters, the Ainu had occupied the Kuriles for centuries before the Russians and the Japanese discovered them in the 19th century. 'You (Russians and Japanese) should both remember the historical rights of the Ainu when you conduct your negotiations,' he said.
In 2005, Ainu representatives again objected to Russian and Japanese claims of ownership:
Representatives of the Ainu nation, an indigenous group in northern Japan, issued a joint statement on November 14 to the Japanese Foreign Ministry and the Russian Embassy in Tokyo claiming territorial rights to the South Kurile Islands and demanding that Japan and Russia cease talks of governmental ownership....

The Ainu explained in their statement that "the four Kurile Islands belong neither to Japan nor to Russia," and that the Ainu have inhabited the territory "since time immemorial," according to Itar-Tass News Agency.

The Ainu have asked that they be granted free access to the islands, and hope to make them an autonomous area of the Ainu nation in the future.

Scientists believe that several thousand years ago the Ainu ethnic group inhabited the whole of Japan, the lower reaches of the Amur River, the Kamchatka Peninsula, the Sakhalin and Kurile Islands.
For more on the Ainu and the breadth of their original territory, see the online presentation of The Smithsonian's pioneering exhibition, "Ainu: The Spirit of a Northern People" that reveals the magnificence of their sea-faring, trans-continental culture (incomparably more sophisticated, prosperous, and creative than the diminished and impoverished far-flung Russian satellite colony that exists in the Kuriles today).

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, recognizing the individual and collective rights of the world's 370 million indigenous peoples (including the right to self-determination, and the right to give or withhold free, prior and informed consent when it comes to the exploitation of our lands, territories and resources) was adopted on September 13, 2007 following more than two decades of negotiations between governments and indigenous peoples' representatives. A majority of 143 states (including Japan, excluding Russia which abstained from voting) voted in favor of the Declaration. (Former British colonies Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States voted against the Declaration, but in the past three years, Australia and Canada reversed their position) In 2008, the Japanese government formally recognized the Ainu as "an indigenous people with a distinct language, religion and culture".

(For recent coverage on Russia's continuing conflict with the indigenous people of Sakahlin, see this 2009 AFP video report. "Sakhalin Energy Project Hampering the Nivkh's traditional lifestyle" that shows how Russian oil exploitation has been destroying what remains of the Nivkh landscape, people and culture.)

-JD

Follow-up: On November 12, Canada also reversed its position on the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.