Saturday, September 13, 2008

Israeli security forces black performer to dance

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Israeli security forces black performer to dance
Alvin Ailey troupe member allegedly singled out because of Muslim name
The Associated Press
updated 11:38 a.m. PT, Tues., Sept. 9, 2008

JERUSALEM - A performer with the famed Alvin Ailey dance troupe on Tuesday said he was twice forced to perform steps for Israeli airport security officers to prove his identity before he was permitted to enter the country.

Abdur-Rahim Jackson, an eight-year veteran of the dance ensemble, said he was singled out by Israel’s renowned airport security because he has a Muslim name. He called the experience embarrassing and said at one point, one of the officers even suggested he change his name.

“To be greeted like this because of my name, it took me back a little bit,” said Jackson, who is black.

Israel is the first stop on a six-nation tour celebrating the New York-based dance company’s 50th anniversary. Earlier this year, Congress passed a resolution calling the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater a “vital American cultural ambassador to the world.”

Jackson said he was pulled aside from other members of the troupe when they arrived at Israel’s international airport on Sunday night. He said he was taken to a holding room, where he was asked about the origins of his name. When he explained he was part of the dance group, he was asked to perform.

“I stood up. I asked what type of dance?” he explained. “He said, “Just do anything.’ I just moved around.”

Minutes later, he said a female officer put him through a similar interrogation and asked him to dance again.

“The only time I’m really expected to dance is when I’m performing,” he said.

Jackson said he received his name because his father was a convert to Islam. Jackson said he was not raised a Muslim, does not consider himself religious and is engaged to a Jewish woman in the troupe who has relatives in Israel.

Jackson said he did not plan to press the matter further, saying the numerous apologies he has received from American dignitaries and his Israeli hosts is “enough for me.” The Israel Ports Authority said it had no comment because it did not receive a formal complaint.

The incident was reported in Israel’s largest newspaper and on an Israeli television news and interview program. “The security guards should be sent home or (the airport) will become a mental asylum,” said Motti Kirshenbaum, a veteran commentator and host of the Channel 10 TV program.

Israel is constantly on the alert for attack because of the Israel-Palestinian conflict and extremist Islamic rejection of the Jewish state’s existence. Security is strict at all entry points and inside the country.

Israel is famous for the effectiveness of its airport security. But a key element in its security checks is ethnic profiling. The practice has been criticized by Israeli human rights campaigners as racist because it singles out Arabs for tougher treatment.

Such profiling is illegal in the United States, but Jackson said that the only place he has had the similarly humiliating experience of being forced to dance in the past was at a U.S. airport when he returned from a vacation in the Dominican Republic. He did not say when or where that took place.

Jackson said that since the Israeli airport incident, the reception in Israel has been “amazing.”

“We’re only here to bring positive light to our lives and the people here,” he said, calling the group’s multicultural appeal “an amazing bind you can’t touch, you can only experience.”

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Jeremy Scalhill

Visit of Journalist Jeremy Scahill, October 30, 2008

This event will bring independent scholar and journalist Jeremy Scahill to speak to a
wide university audience on October 30, from 5-7. He is also scheduled to meet with two
grad/undergraduate seminars in Communications that day. Depending on how much money we
raise for this event, there will also be an opportunity to meet with one or two other
small groups of faculty and students.

Scahill is a nationally known and highly regarded journalist whose recent contributions
to understanding the political, social, international, legal, military, gender, and
business/economic implications of the war in Iraq have been receiving a great deal of
prominent attention both at home and around the world, Several of us have read his
prize-winning book, Blackwater: The Rise of the World?s Most Powerful Mercenary Army,
which is not narrowly about the meteoric rise of one particular private security firm,
but about the links of a vast number of conservative politicians in Congress and other
sectors of the Federal Government, including the Executive Branch, the CIA and the FBI,
to a variety of free-market mercenary corporate enterprises, of which Blackwater is
simply the best known exemplar. Those enterprises include the expansion of American
corporations?such as oil producers?abroad, as well as the concurrent expansion of the
business of providing private security to these corporations, not least because they
operate in areas of the globe where nation-state armies (including that of the US) cannot
easily be deployed, whether for practical or geopolitical reasons. This research has
been breathtakingly revelatory with respect to the hidden processes by which American
democracy can be undermined. There remains little public awareness of the threat such
privatized militaries pose to civil liberties at home and international law, since they
are removed from the kind of accountability and prosecution which the US military has to
observe. Furthermore, as Scahill demonstrates, when privatized firms make millions of
dollars from the capacity to fight wars, the incentives for taking peace seriously
diminish. Profits trump international law, while American taxpayers pick up the tab of
rising national deficits and shaky financial markets.

Professor Morantz-Sanchez recently had the pleasure of meeting Scahill and hearing him
give a talk: he is a dynamic and inspiring speaker and an entirely accessible and
engaging individual--generous, down to earth, but also charismatic. He has received
numerous awards for his reporting, including the prestigious George Polk Award, which he
won twice. In the past, he has written extensively from Yugoslavia (recently debating
Harvard Professor Samantha Powers on the issue of Serbia and Kosovo) and Nigeria. During
both the Clinton and Bush Administrations, his acute and perceptive reports from Iraq,
while a correspondent for Democracy Now! , have earned
him widespread praise. He is currently a Puffin Writing Fellow at The Nation Institute.
Blackwater: The Rise of the World?s Most Powerful Mercenary Army (2007), his first book,
has been widely reviewed, creating somewhat of a sensation among politicians, critics,
and general readers alike.

Sample reviews of Blackwater:

?A crackling exposé of the secretive military contractor Blackwater.?
New York Times

?[Scahill] is a one-man truth squad.?
Bill Moyers
?Scahill provided me with information which I have not been able to get from the U.S.
military?.I?ve read more from Mr. Scahill than I got from our own government.?
Representative Marcy Kaptur, Defense Appropriations Committee

?Fascinating and magnificently documented?.Jeremy Scahill?s new book is a brilliant
exposé and belongs on the reading list of any conscientious citizen.?
Scott Horton, International and Military Law Expert, Columbia University Law School

?Blackwater being rarely out of the news lately, this is a very useful survey of modern
mercenaries, or, as they prefer to be called, ?private security contractors? in the
?peace and stability industry?.Scahill is a sharp investigative writer?.?
The Guardian

?Scahill?s page-turning collection of intrigue and insight into the underworld of
privatized warfare is well researched, thoroughly documented, and as a result extremely
The Globe and Mail

?[T]his is no uninformed partisan screed?.Meticulously documented and encyclopedic in
scope? a comprehensive and authoritative guide?.this book serves as a provocative
primer for advancing the debate.?
Bill Sizemore, Pulitzer-prize nominated journalist, Virginian-Pilot 2007