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Abbas Dramatically Challenges Israel After 10 Cautious Years

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In this Dec. 28, 2004 file photo, Interim Palestinian leader and presidential front-runner Mahmoud Abbas raises his arms on the stage during a campaign rally in the West Bank town of Jericho. After a decade in power, Abbas is no closer to a deal on Palestinian statehood, has failed to reclaim the Gaza Strip from political rival Hamas and is being disparaged by some as a pliant guardian of Israeli security needs in the West Bank. He dramatically changed course in January 2015 by signing up to the International Criminal Court, a move that  could allow for war crimes complaints against Israel. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser, File)

In this Dec. 28, 2004 file photo, Interim Palestinian leader and presidential front-runner Mahmoud Abbas raises his arms on the stage during a campaign rally in the West Bank town of Jericho. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser, File)

KARIN LAUB, Associated Press
MOHAMMED DARAGHMEH, Associated Press

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — After a decade in power, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has little to show.

He is no closer to a deal on Palestinian statehood, has failed to reclaim the Gaza Strip from political rival Hamas and is being disparaged by some as a pliant guardian of Israeli security needs in the West Bank.

But the typically cautious 79-year-old dramatically changed course in the days before this week’s tenth anniversary in office by signing up to the International Criminal Court. That could allow for war crimes complaints against Israel in what many believe is his strategy of last resort.

The court bid is part of a wider strategy Palestinians hope will bring international pressure to bear on Israel and improve their leverage in future statehood talks. They say the approach stems from frustration with two decades of failed talks overseen by staunch Israeli ally America. Israel accuses Abbas of trying to replace negotiations with a campaign to delegitimize the Jewish state.

The move carries unprecedented risks, but Palestinian officials say Abbas had to act.

“We are weak and the only way before us is to bring the Palestinian cause back to the international community,” said one aide, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe Abbas’ private views.

Palestinians close to Abbas say he has been under intense domestic pressure to challenge Israel since the summer’s 50-day Gaza war between Israel and the Islamic militant Hamas group that killed more than 2,200 Palestinians, many of them civilians, along with 72 people on the Israeli side.

“He had a choice, whether he listens to the people and the leadership and the advisers, or he isolates himself further,” said Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestine Liberation Organization official often briefed by Abbas.

The Israeli response to the court bid was swift. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu froze the monthly transfer of $120 million in taxes that Israel collects for the Palestinians, forcing the Palestinian Authority — propped up by foreign aid and chronically short of funds — to immediately halt salary payments for 153,000 government employees.

Many civil servants live month to month and have mixed feelings about joining the court.

Government employee Mohammed Jadallah, 49, a father of five already falling behind on loan payments, said Abbas hadn’t done enough to explain his strategy to the suffering public.

In the long run, though, Abbas can count on public support as Palestinians “will never trade their national cause for salaries,” Jadallah said.

Abbas, sworn in as president on Jan. 15, 2005, will spend his tenth anniversary Thursday in Cairo, appealing to Arab League officials to keep promises to give $100 million a month to make up for the Israeli sanctions. Arab countries have broken such promises in the past.

Netanyahu has no immediate plans to resume tax transfers, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said. Withholding the money “is a way to express our deep displeasure at the kind of steps the Palestinians have been taking lately,” he said.

The Palestinian Authority was set up in interim peace agreements in the 1990s as a stepping stone to Palestinian independence. Negotiations on a final deal repeatedly broke down, leaving the Palestinian Authority in place. It still administers 38 percent of the West Bank, but lost Gaza to a Hamas takeover in 2007.

If the Palestinian Authority were to dissolve over its money woes, Israel, as military occupier, would be responsible again for providing services to Palestinians, a costly task. Israel also would lose out on coordination with Abbas’ security services, which has helped prevent militant attacks.

Nathan Thrall, an analyst at the International Crisis Group think tank, said he believes Israel wants the Palestinian Authority to survive and won’t retaliate against Abbas too harshly. In joining the international court, Abbas took this into consideration, Thrall said.

Abbas has given no indication that he plans to step aside.

He was initially elected for four years, but stayed in office because the formation of rival Palestinian governments after the Hamas takeover of Gaza prevented new elections. He has not groomed a successor and instead has tried to beat back potential challengers.

Thrall also noted Abbas hasn’t played his ultimate card against Netanyahu: ending security coordination. Such a move would bring down the Palestinian Authority, Thrall said, because almost every single Palestinian government action requires Israeli approval, from Abbas’ travel in and out of the West Bank to sending Palestinian police cruisers from one town to another.

Israel holds national elections March 17. Netanyahu, who is seeking a third consecutive term, has refused to accept the pre-1967 line as a starting point for border talks and continued to build Jewish settlements on occupied lands in six years in power.

If he is re-elected, Abbas is bound to step up the campaign for greater recognition of a state of Palestine in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, lands Israel captured in 1967. The U.N. General Assembly recognized such a state in 2012.

Israeli critics of Abbas say he shares responsibility for failed negotiations, particularly after not accepting a 2008 offer by then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for a state in Gaza, 95 percent of the West Bank and parts of Jerusalem. But Palestinians counter that there was no agreement on details at the time and that Olmert was a lame duck.

Since then, there have been no meaningful negotiations — and Palestinians say it is time for a change.

“We are willing to negotiate, but now in a different way, through an international conference or a collective process,” said Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian U.N. ambassador.

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Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.

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Follow Karin Laub on Twitter at www.twitter.com/karin_laub.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Bay Area

Sept. 11, 2001, 20 years later: ‘Remembrance’ held aboard the USS Hornet Sea, Space & Air Museum

The USS Hornet Sea, Space & Air Museum, moored at the City of Alameda, hosted a “Remembrance” ceremony of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, on board the ship on the 20th anniversary, Sept. 11, 2021.

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U.S. Marine Corps Honor Guard, 23rd Marine Regiment: Sgt. Tristan Garivay, Sgt. Michael Her, Cpl. Adrian Chavez and Cpl. Quentavious Leeks. Photo by Russell Moore, USS Hornet Sea, Air & Space Museum, Community Events & Outreach

Quintin Jones, Colonel, USMC, Commanding Officer, 23rd Marine Regiment. Photo by Russell Moore, USS Hornet Sea, Air & Space Museum, Community Events & Outreach

The USS Hornet Sea, Space & Air Museum, moored at the City of Alameda, hosted a “Remembrance” ceremony of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, on board the ship on the 20th anniversary, Sept. 11, 2021.

The ceremony recognized the impact and consequences of the series of airline hijackings and suicide attacks committed on 2001 by 19 militants associated with the Islamic extremist group al-Queda against targets in New York City and Wash., D.C. Nearly 3,000 people died that day and 6,000 were injured.  This was the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil in U.S. history. 

The ceremony aboard the USS Hornet began with the presentation of the colors by the U.S. Marine Corps Honor Guard, 23rd Marine Regiment. (Pictured above.)

Leon Watkins, co-founder of The Walking Ghosts of Black History, was the Master of Ceremonies. He spoke about the extensive death and destruction which triggered the enormous U.S. effort to combat terrorism.

Daniel Costin, a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, spoke of the lasting impact of 9/11 terrorists attack on first responders. He recounted incidents where first responders rushed into the scenes of the attacks, many at the sacrifice of their own lives. More than 400 police officers and firefighters were killed that day: 343 members of the New York City Fire Department and 71 members of their law enforcement agencies.

Quintin Jones, Colonel, USMC, commanding officer of the 23rd Marine Regiment, spoke about the recovery efforts at the Pentagon following the terrorists’ attack where 125 people perished. He reflected on the actions of three first responders who recovered the U.S. Marine Corps flag from the commandant of the Marine Corps’ office at the Pentagon. This flag was still standing after the attack. It was a symbol of America’s resolve.

At the end of the formal presentations, the Marine Corps Wreath Bearers went to the fantail of the Hornet. After the playing of ‘Taps,’ they tossed a wreath into the San Francisco Bay to give final honors.

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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Community

Many in Black Communities are Choosing Vaccination 

Inequities in health outcomes have always been with us. COVID-19 morbidity and mortality rates among African Americans rival or exceed those in heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses. Blacks sit atop most bad lists and at the bottom of most good lists. 

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Vaccination/Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock

The trail of illness and death left amid the spread of COVID-19 in Black and African American communities should come as no surprise.

Inequities in health outcomes have always been with us. COVID-19 morbidity and mortality rates among African Americans rival or exceed those in heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses. Blacks sit atop most bad lists and at the bottom of most good lists.

COVID-19 vaccinations offer us an opportunity to better balance the scale.

Unfortunately, even with widely available testing, highly effective vaccines, and extraordinary efforts by health departments to educate and encourage people of color to get vaccinated, many Black Californians remain skeptical.

We can only hope that the FDA’s full regulatory approval of the Pfizer vaccine on August 23 for those 16 and up convinces more to get the vaccine.  It’s worth noting that emergency-use authorization also remains in place for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson shots, as well as Pfizer’s for 12- to 15-year-olds – and that all of these vaccines are safe and effective in protecting against COVID-19 and its highly contagious variants.

Eddie Fairchild and Steph Sanders were skeptical about the COVID-19 vaccine but came to understand why vaccination benefits our entire community.

Fairchild, a Sacramento insurance agent, said he knew of research that found Black and white people are often treated differently for the same health conditions leading to poorer health outcomes.

“I was hesitant,” he said. “I was going to wait and see how it panned out with everyone else.

But when a Black friend in the health care field told him he’d opted to get vaccinated, Fairchild asked him why.

“He said, ‘Risk-reward, and the risk is death.’ At that point I didn’t have to ask him what the reward was.”

With a finance degree and a belief that numbers don’t lie, Fairchild looked at the data. He learned that until 2020 the average number of Americans who died each year was about 2.6 million, but in 2020 that figure was 3.4 million. There was only one possible explanation for the death rate surge, he said.

“COVID is absolutely real,” he said, adding that three of his cousins died from the virus. “Taking all that into consideration, I decided that it’s risky to engage in the world and not be vaccinated. It made sense for me to get it.”

Racial gaps in vaccination have thankfully narrowed in recent weeks. But as of September 1, while Black people account for 6% of the state’s population, they account for 6.6% of COVID-19 deaths, which is 11% higher than the statewide rate, according to state department of public health data. Only about 55% of Black people in California have had at least one dose of the vaccine.

Reasons for the discrepancies run the gamut, from conspiracy theories like Black people are getting a less effective vaccine than whites or that the vaccine will eventually be deadly, to challenges in health care access. 

Mostly, it’s based on a lack of trust in medical and scientific institutions, which have a long history of racism and mistreating Black people.

So even when it comes to good things like vaccines, which are scientifically proven to be good for the community, it always comes back to trust.

Sanders, a Vallejo school principal, was hesitant because of the Tuskegee syphilis studies in which Black men who had the disease were intentionally not treated with penicillin. And he was dubious that an effective vaccine could be developed so quickly. 

In fact, the science and technology enabling development of the COVID-19 vaccines was in development for a more than decade before the virus emerged in 2020. The FDA authorized three vaccines for emergency use after they underwent a rigorous process and were proven through trials to be safe and effective at preventing severe COVID-19, hospitalization, and death.

He decided to get vaccinated when his school board decided last spring to bring students back into classrooms.

Today, he’s a fervent vaccine advocate. He holds “lunch and learn” forums for educators, encouraging vaccination.

“I’m a leader and people are relying on my knowledge,” he said. “I tell them, ‘Don’t make this about you, but about the people you love and care about. It’s about protecting them.’”

There is still a long way to go before Blacks achieve true health equity, but vaccination against a virus that is taking a terrible toll on our communities is a critical step in the right direction.

 

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Humanitarian Organization in Vallejo Supports Developing Countries with Access to Water and Education

Founded in 2007, Water and Education International (WEI), devotes its time and resources to providing water and education to villages in developing countries like Haiti.

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Water and Education International Logo, Photo courtesy of Organization’s website.

Founded in 2007, Water and Education International (WEI), devotes its time and resources to providing water and education to villages in developing countries like Haiti. 

Based out of Vallejo, this global humanitarian organization rallies together volunteers to provide food, medical aid, and spiritual knowledge to communities in need. These projects include water well and shower installment, wall repair, and education expansion, development and improvement for schools in communities of Haiti. 

For the past 12 years WEI has made 20 volunteer trips to communities in Haiti, completed two projects that include construction of a water cistern and a toilet, and provided over 425 scholarships for these communities.

To support their mission of combating poverty by providing education and water to underdeveloped communities, WEI partners with indigenous organizations and asks for the help of people like you and businesses alike.

Moreover, they have begun numerous projects that benefit the overall health and education of themselves as well. WEI was founded by Ricky Nutt and is now under the direction of  President and CEO Renee Box.

For more information on programs and services, ways to donate, or how to get involved, you can contact their direct line at (707) 649-4154, e-mail them at info@weihumanitarian.org, or visit their website. For frequent updates, you may also follow their Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.

All information directly sourced from https://weihumanitarian.org/

The Vallejo Post’s coverage of local news in Solano County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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