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Looking Back, Moving Forward: Making Contact’s 2009 Year in Review


Making Contact covered health care reform, Iraq war veterans, and food crises in U.S. breadbaskets.

Making Contact covered health care reform, Iraq war veterans, and food crises in U.S. breadbaskets.

Two wars continued, the economy remained in freefall, and as hardship ensued, people crafted creative solutions.  On this edition, we look back at some of the most compelling stories we brought you during 2009, and find out where things are headed for 2010.

Featuring portions of the following shows:

Many Voices for a Single-Payer System

Voices: Single-payer protestors at Senate Finance Committee meetings; U.S. Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.).

The War Comes Home: Washington’s Battle Against America’s Veterans

Voices: Zollie Goodman, former Naval petty officer

How We Survive: The Deepening Homeless Crisis

Voices: Max Rameau, Take Back The Land founder; Marie Nadine Pierre, Take Back the Land participant.

How We Survive: Sprouting Up in Empty Breadbaskets

Voices: Rachel Klein, Fresno Community Food Bank Worker; Evangelina Zaragoza, Needs Food Aid; Nayamin Martinez, Binational Center for the Development of Oaxacan Indigenous Communities Health Coordinator.

The Greening of America: A New Deal for Everyone?

Voices: Lawrence Martinez, Randy Mason, Keith Rose and Antoine Sawyer, Richmond Build trainees; Zoey Burrows, Solar Richmond Development & Communications staff member; Samuel Charles, Richmond Build lead instructor.

Also featuring: Russ Choma, Investigative journalist with the Investigative Reporting workshop at the American University School of Communication.

For More Information:

Many Voices for a Single-Payer System:

California Nurses Association (CNA)
Oakland, CA

Physicians for a National Health Program
Chicago, IL

Health Care-NOW! New York, NY

Labor Campaign for Single Payer Health Care

Single Payer Action Washington, DC

U.S. Congressman John Conyers

U.S. Senator Max Baucus

The War Comes Home: Washington’s Battle Against America’s Veterans

Aaron Glantz, Author
 of “The War Comes Home: Washington’s Battle Against America’s Veterans

National Veterans Foundation
Los Angeles, CA

New Directions Los Angeles, CA

Sierra College Veteran Student Alliance

Swords to Plowshares
San Francisco, CA

Veterans for Common Sense
Washington, DC

How We Survive: The Deepening Homeless Crisis

Take Back the Land
Miami, FL

US Human Rights Network

Picture the Homeless

How We Survive: Sprouting Up in Empty Breadbaskets:

Binational Center for the Development of Oaxacan Indigenous Communities
Fresno, CA

California Institute for Rural Studies
Davis, CA

California Conservation Corps Foundation
Benecia, CA

California Food and Justice Coalition
Berkeley, CA

Fresno Community Food Bank
Fresno, CA

Fresno Metro Ministry
Fresno, CA

The Greening of America: A New Deal for Everyone?

Ella Baker Center Green Jobs campaign
Oakland, CA

Richmond Build
Richmond, CA

Solar Richmond
Richmond, CA

“Overseas firms collecting most green energy money”

Russ Choma, Investigative Reporting Workshop
Russ Choma

Green Equity Toolkit: Advancing Race, Gender and Economic Equity in the Green Economy

Author: Kwan

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1 Comment

  1. My Friends at Making Contact,

    I heard your program for the first time on 1/1/10 on WUMD, Datmouth, Mass. It was your 2009 year end summary program, and I found your left wing perspective refreshing. It is a point of view that is rarely heard in the media, even on Public Radio.

    I am as enthusiastic a proponent of left, liberal philosophy as you, though I don’t get the chance to forward leftist goals and causes as you do.

    I seriously believe that if Lenin had not become ill and then died in 1924, but instead had the chance to guide the revolution through those difficult first years and decades, then the world would have seen a true socialist state, and it would now be a better place by its example. But he did die, and in the power vacuum left behind the psychopathic Stalin was able to come to power, and the rest, of course, is history.

    So as you reported the news of 2009 through a leftist lens and revealed how the rich and powerful exercised their control over our country in manipulating our government to write economic recovery, health care, and warfare legislation that favored themselves, rather than the rest of us, I listened with great interest.

    But when your program summarized the plight of the Palestinian people in 2009, I felt let down. Instead of a broad-minded, complete assessment of the situation, I heard a narrow, superficial report.

    I am going to ask you, in the best tradition of leftist tolerance and open minded-ness, to read and consider what I am about to write, and then feel free to criticize and disagree if you choose.

    It is a fact that the Palestinian people are suffering greatly. I apologize that I did not accurately catch his name, but the journalist you interviewed gave a grave and accurate assessment of their plight.

    Your story fell short, however, in its assessment of the causes of their suffering. To simply blame Israel for the plight of the Palestinians is a gross oversimplification of the situation; something I would expect from Rush Limbaugh when he is trying to make a point, but not from real journalists. Again, please bear with me and hear me out.

    Both the Palestinian people and the Jewish people have a claim to the land; the Jews have an ancient one that is well documented historically and archeologically. There has been a continuous Jewish presence there, though small, all along, in Jerusalem and in several other communities. The Palestinians have lived in the land for generations in current times.

    The early Jewish settlers recognized this joint claim, and were willing to live side by side with their Arab neighbors. There were about one and a half million Arabs living in Palestine in 1880 according to Ottoman records at the time. There are about 7 million people living in Israel now. There would have been plenty of room for both peoples to live there together, had the Arabs simply been willing to acknowledge Jewish claims and rights.

    Beginning back in the 1880’s, when European Jews first started to return to Israel, they bought the land they settled from Arab landowners. The vast majority of those early settlements were begun on reclaimed land; land that had been fertile farmland in biblical times, but had been abandoned and allowed to revert to swamp and desert. While prime farmland in the US was selling for 100 dollars an acre, Jews paid up to 1000 dollars for an acre of this land in Israel.

    Up until 1948, every square inch of land that Jews lived on was bought or rented from Arab landlords. The Ottoman authorities would not have tolerated Jews stealing land from Arabs, and neither would the British after 1918, when they took over.

    Between 1880 and 1947, the Arab population increased, and their standard of living increased.

    Did the average Arab really hate the Jews that much, or did the Arab leadership at the time use the Jews as a distraction from their own greed and incompetence, and so encouraged the organized violence against the Jews? Maybe it was a little of both, but the result was that the Israeli settlers who had escaped the ghettos of Europe to establish a new, peaceful, socialist society in Israel found they had to defend themselves against attacks. And so the modern dynamic of the relationship between Arabs and Jews was begun back in those early days.

    When the United Nations recognized the State of Israel in 1947, the partition plan they proposed put vast areas of the traditional land of Israel into Arab hands.

    Look at the proposed maps from the times.

    Most of the areas that Palestinians claim were stolen from them would have been recognized as their own under the plan from the beginning. The Arabs that lived within the borders of the State of Israel would have had their land ownership rights respected.

    The Jews would have been willing to live with this compromise, but the Arab world was not. In the months and weeks preceding Statehood, the governments of the neighboring Arab countries told the Palestinians to leave their land for the short time it would take to ‘Push the Jews into the Sea’. This is well documented. In a 1/22/09 NYT editorial, Muamar Kaddafi, never known to be a friend of Israel, acknowledged the same. At the end of the ’48 war those Palestinians who remained on their land became Israeli citizens, and those that had fled became refugees.

    Should the Israelis have allowed the Palestinian refugees to return to their homes after the 1948 war? The simple answer is; yes. But since the Arab position was that the Israelis had no right to be there in the first place, and even after the war, the Arab goal was not reconciliation, but only Israel’s destruction, it was a matter of survival that Israel did not allow them back.

    The 1948 war was a brutal war, with many well-documented atrocities against Israeli civilians. Israel’s borders at war’s end left the country less than 10 miles wide in its center, leaving the Israelis to live in constant fear of the country being cut in half in the event of another attack. When that attack was imminent in 1967, with Arab armies massing on all of Israel’s borders, Israel took the initiative and attacked first. They pushed the Arab armies back making more defensible borders against the constant threat of annihilation by overwhelming Arab forces.

    It is true that during this war, Palestinian civilians were pushed off their land.

    Though justified for some by the threat of war, and the reality of war, and the resentment of mistreatment during war, there is no moral justification for harming civilians in war. There are large numbers of Israelis who recognize this, and have formed political parties to protest against mistreatment of Palestinians, and to protect Palestinian rights.

    How many Palestinians voice regret over Israeli civilian casualties?

    I only ask you to consider how the Arabs would have treated Israeli civilians if their armies had won the war. Really, think about it.

    The Israelis are criticized for their military strength, and accused of use of ‘disproportionate force’. People who level these accusations either ignore, or are unaware of the realities.

    What does not make it into the Western Press is the reality of the depth of the Arab anti-Israeli culture. Even if they were told, as Americans, we could not believe that such things actually happen. But they do. Under Arafat, Anti-Israeli propaganda rose to new heights. Palestinian children learned, and continue to learn, in school to hate Israelis. Children’s TV programs, analogous to our Sesame Street, glorify suicide bombers. Summer camps for Palestinian children that were funded with UN money put the kids in military uniforms, gave them guns, and taught them to hate and kill Israelis.

    At the Oslo, Wye River, and Camp David peace talks, the only two concessions the PLO was asked to make was to change the PLO charter to recognize the right of Israel to exist, and to stop violence. In exchange, the Palestinians would get Statehood, billions in international aid, in addition to the billions they had already received, hospitals, schools, an airport, a seaport, and the infrastructure necessary to build a viable, safe, country for their people. At Camp David in 2000, Clinton and Barak offered Arafat East Jerusalem as capitol of the new Palestinian State.

    We know what Arafat’s response was. Were the Palestinians better off after the second Intifada, or would they have benefited from Peace?

    Now the Palestinian Leadership is using the Israeli settlements on the West Bank as an excuse to refuse to talk of Peace.

    Do you know what percentage of the West Bank is ‘occupied’ by Israeli settlements? 4. Four percent.

    If the Palestinians had been fair negotiating partners all along, then the Israelis would not feel that they have to build settlements on the West Bank. The security wall, that has virtually stopped suicide bombers in the North of the country, would not be necessary either. But the fact is that Israelis are living with a constant threat, and at present, they have no one that they can trust to negotiate with.

    Go to to see translations from the current Arab press. There you will read the actual Arab attitude towards Peace negotiations with Israel, and will see why the Israelis must have a strong military, and take seemingly offensive postures on issues like West Bank settlements.

    Remember that the Israelis left Gaza in the hopes that it would be taken as an act of good faith on the road to Peace. Farms, buildings, houses were all left intact. Instead of using the Israeli infrastructure to improve the lives of Palestinians, Hamas used Gaza as a military base from which to attack Israel. The dogma of extremists like those in Hamas is that any concessions given by Israel are to be taken as signs of Israeli weakness, and are to be exploited.

    The fact is that the Israeli army takes greater measures to prevent civilian casualties than any other army in the world. Remember Janin in 2000. After conducting a wave of suicide bombings deliberately targeted at Israeli civilians, the group of Palestinian terrorists that were responsible for supporting the suicide bombers had hidden amongst the Palestinian civilian population of Janin. The Israeli Airforce could have leveled the town, killing the terrorists without a single Israeli casualty. But instead they chose to try to keep Palestinian civilian losses to a minimum, to go in to the town with ground troops. While Arafat cried of a massacre of 5000 civilian casualties while the battle raged, unsubstantiated claims that the world press, including Public Radio were willing to broadcast, at battle’s end, the UN verified that 75 Arabs had been killed, most of whom were the terrorists that the Israelis sought, and 35 Israeli soldiers were killed.

    During the Gaza war of January 2009, Palestinian ‘militants’ routinely set up bases in civilian structures to use civilians as human shields. Their headquarters were in the basement of the main hospital. Though it would have been a strategic target, the Israelis chose to not attack it. The much publicized incident of the UN school that the Israelis hit with mortar fire; after the conflict the facts came out; the Israelis never fired on the school, but were targeting ‘militants’ on the adjacent street who were firing at them.

    No one denies that the plight of Palestinian refugees is horrible. But the blame for their condition must be put squarely on the shoulders of the Arab leadership who have contrived the current conditions.

    The dictatorship governments of the Arab states need the Israeli scapegoat to distract their own people from their own corruption. If they cared about their Arab brothers and sisters, instead of supporting Arafat and his party, and now the extremists in Hamas and the other terrorist Palestinian organizations, they could have supported moderate Palestinian leaders who cared for the well being of their people, and steered them not to Intifada, but into accepting the many offers of Peace that Israel has proposed in the last 50 years.

    All the petro wealth of the Arab world could buy each Palestinian who is living in a refugee camp his own luxurious home. The Arabs choose to leave the Palestinians in dire straights for their own political reasons.

    Arab money has been completely effective in demonizing Israel in the Arab world, and then in the Western media by journalists who parrot the Arab propaganda. As I heard your guest refute the LA Times opinion that the US press is sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, and resorts to emotional airing of the Palestinian position, I was very disappointed. The US press, commercial and Public, constantly reports the news of the MiddleEast with an Anti-Israeli bias. One example, given above, is the misreporting of the UN school shelling during the Gaza war. Another was the allegation that Israel used white phosphorus bombs against civilian targets during that war. The unsubstantiated accusations were aired over and over again. When the war was over, UN observers acknowledged that the accusations were false.

    If I grew up in a refugee camp, and all I was told by my elders, and saw in the media, was that the Israelis stole my land and were causing the suffering of my relatives and friends, there is no doubt that I would feel unmeasurable rage.

    The average Palestinian cannot be blamed for the current circumstances. Their leaders, supported by dictators in other Arab lands who care nothing about them but only use them, are to blame. That is the story.

    The only way for there to be peace in the Middle East is to get the truth out. The world must be informed about the corruption of Palestinian leadership by Saudi and Iranian money, so that the anger will not be incorrectly aimed at Israel, but that focus will be put on Iran and the other Arab countries that fund the exploitation and deliberate misdirection of the Palestinian people. If the Western Media audience was accurately informed, then they could have called on their elected leaders to seek out and support moderate Palestinian leaders who would bring peace and prosperity to their people. It could have happened in 1999. How many Palestinians and Israelis have died since then?

    Now, of course, the Palestinian people have been hearing the same lies about Israel for so many years that the hatred and resentment runs very deep. It will be very difficult to reverse the damage caused by policies begun by Arafat and continued now by his followers. But the truth is the only way that peace will ever be achieved for these two peoples.

    It is your job to inform your audience accurately and objectively, so that they can arrive at their own informed opinions.

    Lee Trachtenberg
    Fairhaven, Mass

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