Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, July 2009, pages 44-45

Northern California Chronicle

Activists Demand UC Berkeley Fire “Torture Memos” Author John Yoo

By Elaine Pasquini

  • A poster by FireJohnYoo.org protests his tenure at UC Berkeley (Staff photo E. Pasquini).

AS U.S. SUPREME Court Justice Stephen Breyer and University of California Dean of Law Christopher Edley spoke inside Chevron Auditorium on the University of California’s Berkeley campus April 10, members of the World Can’t Wait and FireJohnYoo.org protested outside the hall the continued employment of law professor John Yoo. Human rights activists handed some 400 attendees literature urging Edley to take a stand against torture, indefinite detention and other crimes against humanity by dismissing the professor, who was granted tenure in 1999. As former deputy assistant attorney general for the Bush administration from 2001 to 2003, Yoo drafted memoranda justifying torture during interrogation of detainees.

Ignoring laws and legal precedents, Yoo’s “torture memos” justified torture and illegal detention and claimed the Geneva Conventions on humane treatment of prisoners did not apply to suspects classified as so-called “enemy combatants.” His writings stated that in time of war the president as commander-in-chief could ignore international and domestic laws against torture. In a 2001 memo, Yoo wrote that U.S. military forces could use “any means necessary” to seize and hold terror suspects in the U.S. without constitutional restrictions.

Dean Edley is not protecting academic freedom by refusing to fire Yoo, activists claim, but is sanctioning war crimes committed by the former Bush administration official. The National Lawyers Guild called for Yoo’s dismissal, arguing that his complicity in establishing a policy that led to the torture of prisoners violates the U.S. War Crimes Act.

Activists also protested April 25 outside the Hyatt Hotel on San Francisco’s Fishermen’s Wharf, where Yoo was the keynote speaker at the California College Republicans (CCR) Conference. CCR is an umbrella organization representing campus-based, student-run college Republican clubs throughout California.

Palestinian-American’s “Lift” Displayed at Exploratorium

  • At San Francisco’s Fort Mason Center, Maz Kattuah inspects his wind-powered “Lift” creation (Staff photo P. Pasquini).

The San Francisco Exploratorium’s new permanent outdoor exhibition at the Fort Mason Center includes a work by Palestinian-American Maz Kattuah. As one of the Exploratorium’s exhibit developers, Kattuah conceived, designed and built the wind-powered “Lift.” Merging art, design and science, “Lift” is a series of 117 white airfoils which rise and fall to graph the flow of moving air from the strong prevailing winds of the Golden Gate Strait. Along with the Exploratorium’s other designers, Kattuah also worked on the additional 18 installations situated on the waterfront site. The National Science Foundation funded the unique outdoor project.

The son of parents from Ramallah and Jerusalem, the California-born Kattuah studied industrial design at San Jose State University and City College of San Francisco prior to joining the Exploratorium’s exhibit development team five years ago.

The Voices Behind “Mosaic: World News From the Middle East”

  • “Mosaic” team members include (l-r) Jalal Ghazi, Jamal Dajani, Shima Nishimuta, Farah El Abed, Zack Hayden, Ian Anderson, David Michaelis, Linda Khoury and Manfred Lee (Staff photos P. Pasquini).

For the past eight years, LinkTV’s Peabody Award-winning news program, “Mosaic: World News From the Middle East,” has been broadcasting out of its San Francisco studio English translations of news programs from the Arab world. Under the direction of Palestinian-American producer Jamal Dajani, an energetic team of associate producers, editors and translators contribute to the half-hour daily show’s success and popularity.

Palestinian-American Jalal Ghazi, associate producer of “Mosaic” since 2003 and author of the “Eye on Arab Media” column for New America Media, culls unfiltered satellite broadcasts from 37 stations regularly watched by 280 million people in 22 countries throughout the Middle East.

Interns—bi-lingual in Arabic and English—assist in the editing, translation and voice-overs of the selected broadcasts, honing their skills for future journalistic or broadcasting careers. “This is an exciting opportunity,” UCLA graduate Linda Khoury said of her five-month internship with the network as an editor and translator prior to continuing her graduate studies in international affairs and journalism at UC Santa Barbara.

Editor Farah El Abed emphasized the necessity of accurate translation, noting that she does not change words or meaning, but only translates the original Arabic broadcasts into English and corrects grammar. “We don’t editorialize,” she stressed. “I make it make sense in English without losing the meaning of what was said.”

For the program’s online edition, El Abed posts the written transcript, in addition to the video, for journalists, students, the hearing-impaired, or others who might want the information in written form. She also summarizes the reports of stations broadcasting in English, such as IBA, the Arabic channel of the Israel Broadcast Authority, or Al Jazeera English.

Video editor Zack Hayden puts together the entire program, which is broadcast Monday through Friday on the Dish network and DirecTV. For complete program scheduling and Internet streaming, visit <http://www.linktv.org>.

“Mosaic Intelligence Report”

In addition to the grueling schedule of generating a daily news program, Dajani co-produces, along with David Michaelis, LinkTV’s Israeli-born director of current affairs, “The Mosaic Intelligence Report” (MIR), which airs at the end of the Friday “Mosaic” broadcast. In stark contrast to “Mosaic’s” uneditorialized rebroadcast of Arab news, MIR is strictly commentary and analysis by Dajani on the week’s hottest issues. The Middle East expert’s April 17 commentary was titled “Netanyahu: Let’s Make a Deal.”

LinkTV interns, including aspiring filmmaker Ian Anderson, Shima Nishimuta—armed with a broadcasting degree from San Francisco State University—and Manfred Lee, set up cameras, lights and other technical equipment to spin out the four-minute spot. Veteran video editor Chikara Motomura then creates the final product for the evening broadcast. Farah El Abed ensures broad Internet distribution of the report by posting it on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, New America Media, and Muslim Channels.tv. Dajani’s weekly report is also posted on his blog on the Huffington Post at <www.huffingtonpost.com/jamal-dajani>. MIR is available online at <www.linktv.org/mosaic/mir>

“Why Islam?” Advertisements a Huge Success

  • Advertisements on a San Francisco cable car encourage the public to learn more about American Muslims (Staff photo P. Pasquini).

San Francisco residents and tourists have recently glimpsed “Islam, You deserve to know!” on public buses and cable cars. The Bay Area chapter of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) launched the campaign Feb. 9 to encourage the curious to search for unbiased information on Islam, dispel commonly perceived misconceptions about the religion, and foster dialogue. The ads on more than 170 municipal buses, light rail and cable cars featured the Web site <http://www.whyislam.org> and the toll-free hotline 1-877-WhyIslam to answer questions. Initially planned to last only four weeks, the campaign was extended through April due to the unexpectedly enormous interest from the general public in learning about the religion practiced by some seven million Americans.

“The campaign gave people an opportunity to clear up any misconceptions and stereotypes about Islam so as to better understand Muslims, who now comprise a sizeable population of the country,” ICNA representative Junaid Shaikh told the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs,. “We received more than 600 calls in the first few weeks on our toll-free number, and thousands of hits on the Web site, from people in and around San Francisco who wanted to get first-hand information on Islam.”

One student’s comment read: “This Web site is so crucial for Americans who need an accurate representation of Islam. Thanks for helping to break down Islamophobia—proper education is the only way.” 

Elaine Pasquini is a free-lance journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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