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Together We Can Make a Difference

Noam Chomsky

December 2011

Dear Friends,

Noam Chomksy speaks at Occupy Boston, 2011  

It is 20 years since a small group of activists founded what is now the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN), and I have been supporting it since the beginning. I am writing to you today to urge you to join me in that support.

Twenty years ago, on November 12, Indonesian troops marched up and opened fire on a peaceful pro-independence demonstration at the Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili, the capital of what was then known as East Timor. More than 270 young Timorese were murdered in the most publicized of a great many shocking atrocities during the Indonesian invasion and annexation. The eyewitness accounts of western journalists broke through the silence and hypocrisy of the media, bringing the first news of the occupation to many.

Among those inspired to act were the founders of the East Timor Action Network. A small group of activists began to meet, and in the first of many demonstrations, a few dozen concerned people picketed in front of the Indonesian Mission to the United Nations in New York City on December 10, 1991, International Human Rights Day. Outraged by the U.S. governmentís complicity in the oppression of the East Timorese, they created an impressive national organization committed to supporting East Timorís right to self-determination. Quickly, grassroots pressure persuaded the U.S. Congress to terminate taxpayer-funded training for Indonesian soldiers in the United States, the first of many legislative victories which eventually moved Washington from supporting to opposing the illegal occupation.

ETAN protests Indonesian dictator Suharto's visit to New York, October 1995. Photo by Charles Scheiner/ETAN.

I have long supported East Timorís self-determination. Even before Indonesiaís 1975 invasion, I called for the right of the East Timorese to control their own destiny. I welcomed ETANís founding and admired its effective grassroots organizing. I am told that I was the organizationís first donor. That contribution was one of the best investments I have ever made for political and social change. Without ETANís efforts, East Timor might not yet be free.

Since then I have continued to support ETAN. I hope you will too. Please help ETAN celebrate 20 years of dedicated and effective activism and continue its important work.

Throughout the 1990s, ETAN kept up the pressure. In 1999, when the East Timorese finally were able to vote on their political future, the crimes were escalating once again. ETAN had a significant role in pressing President Clinton to inform the Indonesian generals in September that the game was over, at which point they quickly withdrew.


East Timor is now the independent Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, but ETAN remains tenacious in the pursuit of justice for the victims of the Santa Cruz massacre and the entire Indonesian occupation. It remains active in highlighting the complicity of U.S. government officials in the oppression of the people of East Timor, West Papua and elsewhere in the Indonesian archipelago including the still-active Henry Kissinger, who gave a green light to the invasion of East Timor. ETAN understands that there cannot be peace without justice.

While East Timor is now an independent nation, it still struggles for genuine self-determination under the pressures of the global economic system. ETAN is currently coordinating a campaign with Timor-Lesteís Movement against Debt opposing the taking out of onerous loans by currently debt-free Timor. A statement signed by 137 organizations worldwide argued, ďRather than repeat the mistakes of other developing countries that have struggled with debt during recent decades, Timor-Leste should learn from their experiences, which often inflicted great hardships on their people." Nearly a thousand people have signed ETAN's petition expressing similar concerns.

In 2005, ETAN changed its name to the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network to emphasize its ongoing work for human rights and democracy in Indonesia as well as East Timor. In the past, U.S. engagement with Indonesiaís security forces has encouraged those forcesí most abusive behavior. ETAN is opposing the Obama administrationís efforts to re-engage with the Indonesian militaryís notorious Kopassus special forces. It continues to be a voice of reason, criticizing the administration's reluctance to address ongoing human rights violations and escalating oppression in West Papua and against religious minorities. ETAN also holds corporations responsible for their role in human rights abuses and recently joined Occupy Phoenix and union activists in picketing at the mining giant Freeport MacMoRanís headquarters, supporting striking mineworkers in West Papua.

If it can find the resources, ETAN plans to coordinate an observer mission for next year's presidential and parliamentary elections in East Timor, as they did in 1999, 2001 and 2007. Experienced, nonpartisan international observers will help consolidate democracy at this critical moment for the still young country.

ETANís work remains essential, but it can only do its work with the active and generous support of people like you, who believe in human rights and in the right to self-determination, justice and accountability, and in social and economic justice for the people of East Timor and Indonesia.

I can think of few groups that have done so much with such limited resources. For most of its 20 years, ETAN has worked with an extremely limited budget. In recent years, ETAN's annual budget has been less than $55,000. With your help, we can put ETAN on a firmer footing for the future. Please give generously in this anniversary year. In doing so, you can help strengthen ETAN to meet the challenges of the coming years.

Thank you for joining me in supporting ETAN and its invaluable work.



Noam Chomsky

How to Donate to ETAN 

To support ETANís advocacy work, please make your check out to
"East Timor Action
NetworkĒ and mail it to
ETAN, PO Box 21873, Brooklyn, NY 11202-1873

Donate by credit card (not tax-deductible) via PayPal :

Make a one-time U.S. tax-deductible donation by credit card to support ETAN's educational work: 

Make a U.S. tax-deductible donation to ETAN

Questions? Comments Email or call 718-596-7668

Make a recurring donation by credit card via Paypal

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Make a recurring montly U.S. tax-deductible donation by credit card to support ETAN's educational work: 

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Donations of any size for ETAN's political and advocacy work should be made out to ETAN and are not tax-deductible. Tax-deductible checks for more than $50 can also be made out to "AJ Muste Memorial Institute/ETAN" and  will only be used to support our educational work.

Please mail your donation to:
PO Box 21873
Brooklyn, NY 11202-1873 USA

Thank you for your support!


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