Archive for July, 2009

Guidelines for Applying the International Cultural Boycott of Israel

Posted in Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions on July 28, 2009 by Marcy Newman

PACBI | 20 July 2009

Since April 2004, PACBI has called upon intellectuals and academics worldwide to “comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeli academic and cultural institutions as a contribution to the struggle to end Israel’s occupation, colonization and system of apartheid.” [1]

In 2006, a decisive majority of Palestinian cultural workers, including most filmmakers and artists, supported by hundreds of international cultural workers, appealed to all international artists and filmmakers of good conscience to join the institutional cultural boycott against Israel. [2] In response, the renowned British artist and writer, John Berger, issued a statement that was backed by dozens of prominent international artists, writers and filmmakers calling on their colleagues everywhere to endorse the Palestinian cultural boycott call. [3]

In the spirit of this cultural boycott and consistent with its logic, on 8 May 2008, in a half-page advertisement in the International Herald Tribune under the banner “No Reason to Celebrate,” tens of leading international cultural figures — including Mahmoud Darwish, Augusto Boal, Ken Loach, Andre Brink, Ella Shohat, Judith Butler, Vincenzo Consolo, Ilan Pappe, David Toscana and Aharon Shabtai — signed a statement responding to worldwide celebrations of Israel’s “60th anniversary” saying [4]:

“There is no reason to celebrate! Israel at 60 is a state that is still denying Palestinian refugees their UN-sanctioned rights, simply because they are ‘non-Jews.’ It is still illegally occupying Palestinian and other Arab lands, in violation of numerous UN resolutions. It is still persistently and grossly breaching international law and infringing fundamental human rights with impunity afforded to it through munificent US and European economic, diplomatic and political support. It is still treating its own Palestinian citizens with institutionalized discrimination.”

The cultural boycott campaign against apartheid South Africa has been a major source of inspiration in formulating the Palestinian boycott calls and their criteria. In that context, the key argument put forth by the South African regime and its apologists around the world against the anti-apartheid cultural and sports boycott — that boycotts violate the freedom of expression and cultural exchange — was resolutely refuted by the director of the United Nations Centre Against Apartheid, Enuga S. Reddy, who in 1984 wrote [5]: “It is rather strange, to say the least, that the South African regime which denies all freedoms … to the African majority … should become a defender of the freedom of artists and sportsmen of the world. We have a list of people who have performed in South Africa because of ignorance of the situation or the lure of money or unconcern over racism. They need to be persuaded to stop entertaining apartheid, to stop profiting from apartheid money and to stop serving the propaganda purposes of the apartheid regime.” Similarly, the Palestinian boycott call targets cultural institutions, projects and events that continue to serve the purposes of the Israeli colonial and apartheid regime.

During five years of intense work with partners in several countries to promote the cultural boycott against Israel, PACBI has thoroughly scrutinized tens of cultural projects and events, assessing the applicability of the boycott criteria to them and, accordingly, has issued open letters, statements or advisory opinions on them. The two most important conclusions reached in this respect were: (a) many of these events and projects fall into an uncertain, grey area that is challenging to appraise, and (b) the boycott must target not only the complicit institutions but also the inherent and organic links between them which reproduce the machinery of colonial subjugation and apartheid. Based on this experience and in response to the burgeoning demand for PACBI’s specific guidelines on applying the cultural boycott to diverse projects, from film festivals to art exhibits to musical and dance performances to conferences, the Campaign lays out below unambiguous, consistent and coherent criteria and guidelines that specifically address the nuances and particularities of the field of culture.

These criteria are mainly intended to help guide cultural workers and organizers around the world in adhering to the Palestinian call for boycott, as a contribution towards establishing a just peace in our region.

Cultural Boycott Criteria

In all the following, “product” refers to cultural products such as films and other art forms; “event” refers to film festivals, conferences, art exhibits, dance and musical performances, tours by artists and writers, among other activities.

Before discussing the various categories of cultural products and events and as a general overriding rule, virtually all Israeli cultural institutions, unless proven otherwise, are complicit in maintaining the Israeli occupation and denial of basic Palestinian rights, whether through their silence or actual involvement in justifying, whitewashing or otherwise deliberately diverting attention from Israel’s violations of international law and human rights. Accordingly, these institutions, all their products, and all the events they sponsor or support must be boycotted. Events and projects involving individuals explicitly representing these complicit institutions should be boycotted, by the same token.

The following criteria may not be completely exhaustive and certainly do not preempt, replace or void other, common-sense rationales for boycott, particularly when a cultural product or event is shown to be explicitly justifying, advocating or promoting war crimes, racial discrimination, apartheid, suppression of fundamental human rights and serious violations of international law.

Based on the above, the Palestinian cultural boycott against Israel applies in the following situations:

(1) Cultural product is commissioned by an official Israeli body

All cultural products commissioned by an official Israeli body (e.g., government ministry, municipality, embassy, consulate, state or other public film fund, etc.) deserve to be boycotted on institutional grounds, as they are commissioned and thus funded by the Israeli state — or any of its complicit institutions — specifically to help the state’s propaganda or “rebranding” efforts aimed at diluting, justifying, whitewashing or otherwise diverting attention from the Israeli occupation and other violations of Palestinian rights and international law. However, this level of explicit complicity is difficult to ascertain quite often, as information on such direct commissioning may not be readily available or may even be intentionally concealed.

(2) Product is funded by an official Israeli body, but not commissioned (no political strings)

The term “political strings” here specifically refers to those conditions that obligate a fund recipient to directly or indirectly serve the Israeli government’s “rebranding” or propaganda efforts. Products funded by official Israeli bodies — as defined in category (1) above — but not commissioned, therefore not attached to any political strings, are not per se subject to boycott. Individual cultural products that receive state funding as part of the individual cultural worker’s entitlement as a tax-paying citizen, without her/him being bound to serve the state’s political and PR interests, are not boycottable, according to the PACBI criteria. Accepting such political strings, on the other hand, would clearly turn the cultural product or event into a form of complicity, by contributing to Israel’s efforts to whitewash or obscure its colonial and apartheid reality, and would render it boycottable, as a result.

While an individual’s freedom of expression, particularly artistic expression, should be fully and consistently respected in this context, an individual artist, filmmaker, writer, etc., Israeli or not, cannot be exempt from being subject to boycotts that conscientious citizens around the world (beyond the scope of the PACBI boycott criteria) may call for in response to what is widely perceived as a particularly offensive act or statement by the cultural worker in question (such as direct or indirect incitement to violence; justification — an indirect form of advocacy — of war crimes and other grave violations of international law; racial slurs; actual participation in human rights violations; etc.). At this level, Israeli cultural workers should not be automatically exempted from due criticism or any lawful form of protest, including boycott; they should be treated like all other offenders in the same category, not better or worse.

(3) Event is partially or fully sponsored or funded by an official Israeli body

The general principle is that an event or project carried out under the sponsorship/aegis of or in affiliation with an official Israeli body constitutes complicity and therefore is deserving of boycott. It is also well documented now that Israeli artists, writers and other cultural workers applying for state funding to cover the cost of their — or their cultural products’ — participation in international events must accept to contribute to Israel’s official propaganda efforts. To that end, the cultural worker must sign a contract with the Israeli Foreign Ministry binding her/him to “undertake to act faithfully, responsibly and tirelessly to provide the Ministry with the highest professional services. The service provider is aware that the purpose of ordering services from him is to promote the policy interests of the State of Israel via culture and art, including contributing to creating a positive image for Israel.” [6]

(4) Product is not funded or sponsored by an official Israeli body

Unless violating any of the above criteria, in the absence of official Israeli sponsorship, the individual product of an Israeli cultural worker per se is not boycottable, regardless of its content or merit.

(5) Event or project promotes false symmetry or “balance”

Cultural events and projects involving Palestinians and/or Arabs and Israelis that promote “balance” between the “two sides” in presenting their respective narratives, as if on par, or are otherwise based on the false premise that the colonizers and the colonized, the oppressors and the oppressed, are equally responsible for the “conflict,” are intentionally deceptive, intellectually dishonest and morally reprehensible. Such events and projects, often seeking to encourage dialogue or “reconciliation between the two sides” without addressing the requirements of justice, promote the normalization of oppression and injustice. All such events and projects that bring Palestinians and/or Arabs and Israelis together, unless framed within the explicit context of opposition to occupation and other forms of Israeli oppression of the Palestinians, are strong candidates for boycott. Other factors that PACBI takes into consideration in evaluating such events and projects are the sources of funding, the design of the program, the objectives of the sponsoring organization(s), the participants, and similar relevant factors.



Deshelving Israeli Goods at Trader Joe’s

Posted in International BDS Actions on July 28, 2009 by Marcy Newman

Over 30 activists in Oakland and San Francisco participated in National Don’t Buy Into Apartheid Day on June 20, 2009.

Israeli Cosmetic Company Is About to Learn It Can’t Cover Up Its Role in the Occupation

Posted in International BDS Actions on July 28, 2009 by Marcy Newman

By Nancy Kricorian, AlterNet. Posted July 22, 2009.

Ahava is an Israeli profiteer exploiting the natural resources of occupied Palestine to sell its exotic beauty products.

CodePink protests AHAVA in Tel Aviv.

As the dust settled on the destroyed homes, schools and lives in the aftermath of Israel’s assault on Gaza earlier this year, mainstream human rights groups from Amnesty International to Physicians for Human Rights/Israel issued reports condemning Israel’s attack and alleging that the Israeli government and the Israeli Defense Forces had committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. The staff of CODEPINK Women for Peace re-opened a discussion of what we could do about Israel’s flagrant flouting of international law and the brutality of the ongoing blockade of Gaza, the occupation of the West Bank and the home demolitions in East Jerusalem. We decided to revisit the idea of a boycott against Israeli products—a boycott that was having more difficulty gaining traction here in the United States than in Europe. But the best way to end an occupation is to make it unprofitable, and one of the best peaceful ways to make something unprofitable is to organize a boycott.

While doing research on the Global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement for Palestine, I came across the web site Who Profits, a project of the Israeli Coalition of Women for Peace. On that site I found a list of Israeli and international companies that are directly involved in and profit from the occupation of the Palestinian West Bank. It seemed strategically and morally important to select for our campaign a corporation whose practices were clearly in contravention to international law. Many of the corporations on the Who Profits list were either unfamiliar to me, discouragingly huge, or didn’t seem like obvious targets for a women’s peace group. But I saw one name that I recognized: Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories. In fact, I knew there was a plastic bottle of Ahava Eucalyptus Mineral Bath Salts sitting on the windowsill next to the tub in my bathroom.

If you take a look at Ahava’s web site, you can read about the company’s environmentally responsible practices: “Our manufacturing processes are non-polluting and environmentally conscious. No animals are involved in testing phases and all of our products are encased in recyclable tubes, bottles and jars.” Ahava’s spokeswoman is fresh-faced Sex & The City actress Kristin Davis, whose commitment to doing good is evidenced by her status as an Oxfam Goodwill Ambassador and her position on the advisory board of The Masai Wilderness Conservation Fund. On the Ahava site, Davis is quoted as saying, “My personal beliefs, which include treating both animals and the environment with respect, are equally important to AHAVA.”

If you navigate around the web site you will see pristine images of the Dead Sea, enticing products with beautifully designed labels, and a photo of a water lily leaf with the caption, “This leaf has nothing to hide.” But, unfortunately, Ahava does have something to hide—an ugly secret about its relationship to a brutal occupation. The Hebrew word “Ahava” means love, but there is nothing loving about what the company is doing in the Palestinian territory of the West Bank. Ahava is an Israeli profiteer exploiting the natural resources of occupied Palestine.

AHAVA Dead Sea Laboratories, an Israeli cosmetics company, has situated its main manufacturing plant and showroom at the Israeli Jewish settlement Mitzpe Shalem in the Occupied Palestinian West Bank near the shores of the Dead Sea. Mitzpe Shalem, built on occupied land in 1970, is an illegal settlement, as are all Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Ahava’s capture of Palestinian natural resources from the Dead Sea is, according to the Fourth Geneva Convention, a patently illegal use by an occupying power of stolen resources for its own profit. To add insult to injury, Ahava’s labels claim that the country of origin of its products is “The Dead Sea, Israel”—this type of labeling has been decried by Oxfam, among other human rights groups, as blatantly misleading.

While we were working on putting together the new AHAVA boycott campaign we called STOLEN BEAUTY, CODEPINK led several delegations to Gaza, one of which never made it into the Strip because the Israeli government wouldn’t let them through the Erez crossing. Several CODEPINK activists decided to take a fact-finding mission to the Ahava plant in the West Bank, corroborating what we had read about the plant’s location and its practices. The women decided to seize the opportunity and—with the avid encouragement of the Israeli Jewish and Palestinian peace activists that they had met—they went to the Ahava store at the Hilton Hotel in Tel Aviv to stage a protest action. Some put on bikinis, wrote on their bodies with mud NO AHAVA/NO LOVE, while others carried signs with slogans such as “There is no love in occupation.” They chanted, sang and made the Israeli evening news.

About a week later, we heard that Kristin Davis was going to be at Lord & Taylor on Fifth Avenue promoting Ahava products and signing autographs. Two of us went to the store to deliver a letter to Davis, requesting she stop letting Ahava use her beautiful face and good name to cover up their crimes. She was less than receptive, and we were escorted out of the store. A week later, the CODEPINK bikini brigade showed up at the “Tel Aviv Beach Party”—part of the Israeli government’s multi-million dollar “Re-brand Israel” campaign—in New York’s Central Park. The bikinis and our anti-occupation message made Fox News.

We recently sent letters to Ahava’s headquarters in Holon, Israel, as well as to Ahava USA and Kristen Davis, giving them notice of our boycott. We sent copies of these letters to Shamrock Holdings, the investment company of the Roy E. Disney family, which owns 19% of Ahava’s shares. On Monday of this week, CODEPINK women showed up in bikinis and mud at the Cosmoprof North America Trade Show in Las Vegas to let Ahava representatives know we were launching our STOLEN BEAUTY campaign.

We have sent letters to over 100 retailers requesting that they stop stocking Ahava products because Ahava helps finance the destruction of hope for a peaceful and just future for both Israelis and Palestinians. In August we’ll be outside a drugstore, department store or mall near you, exposing Ahava’s dirty secrets and showing that real beauty is more than skin deep. You can go to to find out how to join our campaign. And you don’t have to wear a bikini to do it.

Check out photos from CodePink’s protests in New York, Las Vegas and Tel Aviv.

Protesters stroll through Brooklyn’s Prospect Park singing for boycott of Motorola

Posted in International BDS Actions on July 28, 2009 by Marcy Newman

Brooklyn, NY, July 25 – Fifteen New York human rights advocates strolled through Prospect Park in Brooklyn on Saturday for two and a half hours, singing songs calling on park-goers to boycott communications giant Motorola until it stops providing technology that aids Israel’s army and settlement movement in committing human rights abuses. The protesters carried a 13-foot-wide banner that was seen by thousands of park-goers saying “Boycott Motorola”, “Free Palestine,” “Goodbye Motorola, Goodbye Apartheid.” The protest is part of a growing worldwide movement to boycott Israel that has gained momentum since Israel’s recent attack on Gaza killing 1400 Palestinians.

With Prospect Park crowded on a sunny Saturday afternoon, the group walked through grassy fields packed with thousands of barbequers and frisbee-players. Many park-goers paused to read the banner and signs and listen to the songs. Hundreds took flyers calling for a boycott of Motorola, many asking questions. Some said they knew of the Motorola boycott, while others sang along with the groups’ catchy boycott tunes.

As one protester walked while strumming a guitar, the group serenaded park-goers with “Mama Said (Don’t Build Settlements)” to the tune of the song by the Shirelles, “Don’t Buy Israeli Goods” to the tune of “Hava Nagila,” and with adapted versions of the civil rights classics “Which Side Are You On?” and “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round.” In a updated version of “Down by the Riverside,” protesters sang, “We’re gonna boycott Israel, ‘Til Palestine is Free, ‘Til Palestine is Free, ‘Til Palestine is Free,” and finished with, “We’re gonna boycott Moto too, Won’t let them rest until, They profit from war no more.”

The Brooklyn protest, organized by the New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel (NYCBI), was the third of five summer actions to educate New Yorkers about Motorola’s complicity in Israeli human rights abuses and violations of international law. The New York Motorola protests were the subject of a Friday news article in the influential Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz Daily.

Motorola has supplied the Israeli military with a Wide Area Surveillance System (WASS), radar devices and thermal cameras installed around Israel’s rapidly expanding settlement/colonies on Palestinian land in the West Bank. According to the website “Who Profits,” a project of Israel’s Coalition of Women for Peace, a follow-on system, MotoEagle Surveillance, is now in use in 16 settlements. All Israeli settlements violate international law. Motorola also provides an encrypted cellular network to the Israeli army, whose routine and severe violations of Palestinian human rights are well-documented by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, among others. According to Who Profits, MIRS, a subsidiary of Motorola, is the Israeli army’s cellular services provider, and MIRS has an extensive infrastructure network in the West Bank. Additionally, in April, 2009 Motorola stated that by June it would sell a controversial unit that manufactured bomb fuses for Israeli bombs dropped on Palestinians and Lebanese, but there has been no confirmation that the sale has occurred. Human Rights Watch found Motorola parts at a site Israel bombed in Gaza this winter.

In 2005 over 170 Palestinian civil society organizations called on the world to implement Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns against Israeli institutions and businesses. Because of its business activities supporting the Israel’s settlements and army, Motorola has been targeted for boycott by the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, NYCBI and groups nationwide.

Ken Loach withdraws from the Melbourne International Film Festival over Israeli funding

Posted in Cultural Boycott on July 28, 2009 by Marcy Newman

Philippa Hawker, The Age, July 18, 2009 – ENGLISH filmmaker Ken Loach has withdrawn his film Looking for Eric from the Melbourne International Film Festival because the festival receives funding from the Israeli Government.

Loach told the festival if it did not reconsider the sponsorship, he would not allow the festival to screen his film.

In a letter to festival executive director Richard Moore, he said that “Palestinians, including artists and academics, have called for a boycott of events supported by Israel”. He cited “illegal occupation of Palestinian land, destruction of homes and livelihoods” and “the massacres in Gaza” as reasons for the boycott. It was, he said, aimed “not at independent Israeli films or filmmakers”, but at “the Israeli state”.

Mr Moore said he would not accede to the request: “I wouldn’t do it. The festival wouldn’t. It’s like submitting to blackmail.”

He said the Israeli Government had supported the festival in previous years and that it sponsored many cultural events in Australia. This year the initial sponsorship arrangement involved an airfare for a festival guest, filmmaker Tatia Rosenthal. Her animation, $9.99, is the first Israeli-Australian co-production feature.

Many films directed by Loach, 73, have screened at the festival. His 2006 work The Wind that Shakes the Barley won the Palme d’Or at Cannes.

Looking for Eric is the tale of a Manchester postal worker who gets advice on life from Manchester United’s French soccer star Eric Cantona.

Earlier this year, Loach asked the Edinburgh Film Festival to reconsider Israeli Government sponsorship.

The festival decided not to accept funding from the Israeli Government that was to be used to bring filmmaker Tali Shalow Ezer to Edinburgh with her short film.

The festival begins on July 24.

Toronto Palestine Solidarity Activists Protest Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibit

Posted in International BDS Actions on July 28, 2009 by Marcy Newman

The Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid and Women in Solidarity with Palestine have launched a protest against the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), for their exhibition of the looted Dead Sea Scrolls. For past two weeks, they have conduced successful protests (see video, pictures and media coverage below). Friday pickets are ongoing to keep up the pressure on the ROM and to continue to inform the public about the theft of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The demands of the protest are:

– Demanding the ROM recognize the Scrolls are looted Palestinian artifacts.
– Demanding the ROM dissociate itself from the Israeli Antiquities Authority
which has systematically looted millions of Palestinian artifacts.

The pickets were called after activists tried every avenue to avoid a protest – representatives from the Palestinian community and other organizations have attempted dialogue with the ROM – but none of the concerns have been addressed. They were left no choice but to publicly protest, as the ROM has refused to make public the documents it claims prove the legality of the exhibit. It has also refused to seek a UNESCO opinion on the matter.

For more information please contact Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid at endapartheid[at] or Women in Solidarity with Palestine at wsp.toronto[at]

Video from ROM picket:

Pictures from Last week ROM picket:

Media Coverage:
Robert Fisk (Independent): You won’t find any lessons in unity in the Dead Sea Scrolls

Lea Kaplan (Jerusalem Post): Toronto Jews rally around museum taking flak over Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit…


Since Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967, millions of artifacts have been systematically removed, looted and excavated from Palestinian territory, endangering Palestinian cultural and archaeological heritage.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are one of the most significant archaeological discoveries of the 20th century. The bulk of the artifacts were excavated from Qumran in the West Bank, between 1947 and 1956 by the Palestine Archaeological Museum in a joint expedition with the Department of Antiquities of Jordan and the Ecole Biblique Française. The Scrolls were displayed at the Palestine Archaeological Museum (the Rockefeller Museum) in East Jerusalem until 1967.

In 1967, the Scrolls were confiscated and illegally removed by Israel when the Israeli military occupied East Jerusalem. Since 1967, additional excavations and findings by the Israel Antiquities Authority took place in Qumran and the surrounding area. Those artifacts have also been illegally removed from Palestinian territory. Today the ROM, in cooperation with the Israel Antiquities Authority, is importing and exhibiting artifacts illegally removed from the occupied Palestinian territory.

Under international law and in accordance with Israel’s obligations as a signatory to the 1954 UNESCO convention and protocol for the “Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict”, Israel is not entitled to these artifacts. The repatriation of the Scrolls and millions of other artifacts to Palestine remains a key issue for those seeking peace and justice in the Middle East.

In 2005, Canada signed on to several UNESCO conventions and protocols aimed at preventing the removal and the exhibition of illegally removed artifacts from occupied territories. It adopted its international obligations as part of domestic Canadian legislation in the Cultural Property Export and Import Act, which makes it a criminal offense, for example, to import cultural property in violation of the conventions.

By exhibiting the Dead Sea Scrolls the ROM is complicit in the theft of Palestine’s cultural heritage that continues to take place regularly through Israel’s military occupation and apartheid system with the unlawful removal of approximately 200,000 artifacts annually from the occupied territory since 1967.

International Journalists Union Expels Israel

Posted in Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions on July 28, 2009 by Marcy Newman

21 July 2009 | Posted in Boycott, Palestine

The expulsion of an Israeli journalists’ union from the International Federation of Journalists is mired in a murky cocktail of politics and money.

The Israeli group –— the National Federation of Israel Journalists — was ousted June 7 in a unanimous vote of the international union’s executive committee. The vote immediately raised the specter of another effort by international unions to boycott Israel for political reasons; recently, a number of academic unions around the world have voted to boycott Israeli professors.

In this case, Aidan White, general secretary of the international journalist union, told the Forward that the decision was purely financial, pointing to the fact that the Israeli union has not paid membership dues in four years.

But the dispute has a distinctly political edge to it, because of the international union’s criticism of the Israeli government. After the recent conflict in Gaza, for instance, the international union published a report criticizing the Israeli government for endangering journalists and keeping them out of Gaza. The report pointed to the number of journalists who were injured or killed during the conflict.

Haim Shibi, a member of the Israeli union’s board of directors, said that the report was an unfair attack on the Israeli government.

“I’m not expecting anyone to sing songs of praise, but I expect fairness,” he said. “If I see a precooked report, I recognize this.”

Shibi said that relations between the international union and the 800-member Israeli union have been tense for several years. The “turning point” came, he said, when the international union condemned the Israeli government’s July 2006 attack on Al-Manar, the Lebanon-based TV station of Hezbollah. More recently, Shibi said it had been a problem that the international union had not consulted the Israeli union before publishing its report on Gaza.

“The relationship is getting sour because of politics, not because of money,” Shibi told the Forward.

White said that in his 22 years on the job, the international union has published reports about numerous countries, including Israel, and the Israeli union had never complained. On the Gaza report, White said that input from Israeli journalists was not relevant, because the international union has affiliates in Gaza and the West Bank.

Whatever the politics, both sides agree that the Israeli union has not paid its dues. It has asked to pay the reduced rate offered to unions in neighboring nations such as Jordan, rather than the higher rate paid by unions in European nations. The international union has offered to forgive the Israeli debt and require a slightly reduced rate in the future, but the Israeli union has not agreed to the offer.

“Many of our unions would like to pay less fees,” White said. “If we bow to this intransigent position… it seems to me it would make our position untenable with our other members.”

A June 19 letter to the Israeli organization outlined the international union’s position: After a year of unsuccessfully trying to negotiate a payment plan for the piled-up arrears, the Israelis were being expelled.

Shibi acknowledged that his union was facing financial difficulties, but he said that the financial hesitation from the Israeli side also arose out of a sense that the international union had treated the Israeli government unfairly.

“When we are expected to automatically pay for anti-Israel campaigns, we don’t see why we should pay for this pleasure,” he said.

Though the Israelis have the opportunity to appeal the international union’s decision at the group’s next major meeting, to be held in Spain in May 2010, Shibi said his group will not be pursue that option.

“I don’t think we’re going to act as a guilty party and appeal,” he said. “If they don’t want us, they don’t want us.”

Email exchanges between Ken Loach, Paul Laverty, Rebecca O’Brien and the Melbourne Film Festival organizers

Posted in Cultural Boycott on July 28, 2009 by Marcy Newman

PULSE Exclusive

As you may have heard by now, British film legend Ken Loach has pulled out of the Melbourne Film Festival because the organizers’ refusal to observe the cultural boycott of Israel. Following is an exchange of letters that took place between Loach, long-time co-writer Paul Laverty, co-producer Rebecca O’Brien and Richard Moore, the director of the MFF. Recall that earlier Ken Loach had drawn hysterical responses from the media when he pressured the Edinburgh Film Festival to return the funding they had received from the Israeli embassy.

Letter to the Director of Melbourne Film Festival 2009
13th July 2009

Dear Richard Moore

Sadly, we learn that your festival is sponsored in part by the State of Israel.

As you are no doubt aware, many Palestinians, including artists and academics, have called for a boycott of events supported by Israel. There are many reasons for this; the illegal occupation of Palestinian land, destruction of homes and livelihoods, the massacres in Gaza, all are part of the continuing oppression of the Palestinian people.

We have no alternative but to respond to their appeal for help.

The Israeli poet, Aharon Shabtai, has said “I do not believe that a state that maintains an occupation, committing on a daily basis crimes against civilians, deserves to be invited to any kind of cultural event.”

This is not a boycott of independent Israeli films or filmmakers but of the Israeli state.

We hope you can reconsider accepting Israel as a sponsor. If not, then we feel obliged to withdraw our film, Looking For Eric, from the festival.

Yours sincerely,

Ken Loach – Director
Paul Laverty – Writer
Rebecca O’Brien – Producer

Sixteen Films

Reply from Richard Moore
14th July 2009

Dear Rebecca,

Thank you for your letter and for informing me of your concerns.

I’m replying to inform you that the State of Israel has been a sponsor of the festival for a few years now, including last year when we played Mr Loach’s film ITS A FREE WORLD . Their sponsorship – like that of the British Council , the Goethe Institute , the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office , the Korean Ministry of Culture ,Sports and Tourism et al – is provided free of conditions and is , I believe , one of the many forms of cultural assistance they offer to Australian arts organisations – including the Adelaide film Festival , The Sydney Opera House et al , and indeed the Sydney Film Festival ( in past years) , which opened with LOOKING FOR ERIC this year .

As a festival we have a long tradition of programming films that present and examine various points of view on the Middle East including on the so called Israel Palestinian question.

This year such films include AMREEKA – a drama that outlines the difficulties that a contemporary Palestinian family faces adapting to life in mid west USA : YOUNG FREUD IN GAZA – the efforts of a young Palestinian psychiatrist to deal with psychological problems faced by Palestinians living under occupation and also forced to deal with internecine Palestinian power struggles.

In 2008 MIFF programmed a small programming stream called BORDER PATROL showing films that dealt with the Israel Palestinian question – Eran Riklis’s award winning THE LEMON TREE about a Palestinian woman’s fight for justice to stop the Israeli army destroying her lemon grove : THE SALT OF THE SEA – a Palestinian drama centred around a Palestinian’s attempts to reclaim their original home : WALTZ WITH BASHIR – a personal autobiographical account of an Israeli soldier and his involvement in one of Israel’s entries into Lebanon , ending with footage of the Shabra/ Shatilla massacres. and STRANGERS – a romantic liason between a Palestinian and an Israeli shot in and around the world cup finals in Germany .This small sample is illustrative of our wider concern to show films that deal with contemporary political issues and to allow audiences to judge these films on their own merits . We try to adhere to a policy of open dialogue in our dealings with all agencies ,embassies and cultural entities who offer to support our independent non profit organisation.

I understand that this issue is a particularly emotional one for people but we will not participate in a boycott against the State of Israel , just as we would not contemplate boycotting films from China or other nations involved in difficult long standing historical disputes.

I trust you will respect this decision.

Your sincerely

Richard Moore
Executive Director

2nd Letter/Reply Sent to Richard Moore
14th July 2009

Dear Richard

Thank for your email.

We understand that Israel is and has been a sponsor of many festivals, including some which have shown our films. However, situations change. It is the Palestinians themselves, writers, artists, academics, people from all walks of life who are calling for our support. We are forced to make a choice by those who are suffering such intolerable oppression.

The boycott of apartheid South Africa suffered similar criticisms to the ones you now make. But who would now say it was wrong?

Film festivals will reflect many points of view, which are often radical and progressive. It is also true that there are many brutal regimes and many governments, including our own, which have committed war crimes. But the cultural boycott called for by the Palestinians means that remaining sympathetic but detached observers is no longer an option. You either support the boycott or break it.

For us the choice is clear.

Yours sincerely

Ken Loach
Rebecca O’Brien
Paul Laverty

Boycott Elbit Systems!

Posted in Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions, Profiting from Zionism on July 28, 2009 by Marcy Newman

Elbit Systems is one of the largest Israeli security and defense firms, specializing in military electronics, surveillance systems, UAVs and homeland security systems. The company provides both UAVs and other military technology for Occupation forces as well as security systems for the Wall and settlements.

Like all Israeli firms operating in the military technology sector, endless war and occupation create valuable marketing opportunities. Elbit UAVs, for instance, can be sold on the global market as “battle tested” devices, increasing their appeal and leading to their adoption by a number of international militaries.

Elbit has major subsidiaries across the globe, and any BDS campaign against arms trade must take the company into account.

Download the fact sheet here.

Britain revokes arms licences for Israeli navy guns

Posted in BDS Success on July 28, 2009 by Marcy Newman

Exports of spare parts halted in response to Gaza Strip attacks in December-January

* Ian Black, Middle East Editor
*, Monday 13 July 2009 17.54 BST

Britain has revoked export licences for weapons on Israeli navy missile boats because of their use during the offensive against the Gaza Strip.

The licences apparently covered spare parts for guns on the Sa’ar 4.5 ships, which reportedly fired missiles and artillery shells into the Palestinian coastal territory during the three-week war, which started in late December.

Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, shrugged off what he called one of “many embargoes”. The foreign office in London insisted the rare move did not constitute an embargo but was the application of normal UK and EU export licensing criteria. Still, it linked the decision directly to Operation Cast Lead – the Israeli codename for the attacks – and described it as similar to action taken against Russia and Georgia after their conflict last year.

A spokesman for Amnesty International, citing the “weight of evidence” that Israel had committed war crimes in Gaza, said: “It’s a step forward but it doesn’t go nearly far enough.”

Israel’s defence ministry made no comment but Lieberman told state radio: “We’ve had many embargoes in the past. This shouldn’t bother us.”

Israel gets the bulk of its military requirements from the US, more than 95% according to some estimates. The UK accounts for less than 1% or about £30m worth of exports a year.

The decision came after a review of UK defence exports to Israel announced in April by David Miliband, the foreign secretary. Israel’s London embassy ascribed the revocation of the licences to pressure from MPs and human rights organisations, the Ha’aretz newspaper reported.

Israeli officials confirmed the UK had reviewed 182 export licences, including 35 for exports to the navy. It decided to cancel five, all relating to spare parts for Sa’ar weapons. The arms involved include anti-ship and surface-to-air missiles, cannons and heavy machine guns.

Israel launched its Gaza attack after the expiry of a ceasefire put in place to halt the firing of missiles into Israel, and as part of a strategy to weaken the Islamist movement Hamas. More than 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed.

Ha’aretz said the British decision was not expected to have any impact on the navy’s operational capability. But it added: “It has great political significance and could encourage other countries to halt defence exports to Israel. The country considered most likely to be next is Belgium, which sells Israel equipment used to disperse demonstrations.”

Amnesty had previously highlighted Britain’s role in supplying engines for Hermes drone aircraft. In another report this month, it detailed how Israeli forces killed hundreds of unarmed Palestinian civilians and destroyed thousands of homes in attacks that breached the laws of war.

“Amnesty has uncovered evidence of war crimes committed by both sides in the conflict,” it said. “We are calling on all countries to suspend all transfers of military equipment, assistance and munitions, to Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups until there is no longer a substantial risk that it will be used for serious violations of human rights.

“We will also be monitoring closely to ensure that the UK does not renege on its promises. In the past we have seen a tightening of restrictions against Israel in the wake of a major offensive, only for them to be loosened again once the issue falls out of the public eye.”

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