Archive for April, 2010

UC Berkeley Student Senate Fails to Override Veto of Israel Divestment Measure

Posted in International BDS Actions on April 30, 2010 by Marcy Newman

The student senate at the University of California–Berkeley has failed to override a veto of a bill calling on campus officials to divest from companies that supply weapons the Israel uses in its occupation of the Palestinian territories.

AMY GOODMAN: As we wrap-up now with student activism. The student senate at the University of California-Berkeley has failed to override a veto of a bill calling on campus officials to divest from companies that supply weapons that Israel uses in its occupation of the Palestinian territories. The measure targeting weapons manufacturers United Technology and General Electric initially passed on a 16 to 4 vote in March. But later, UC-Berkeley student president, Will Smelko vetoed the measure. Three senators reversed their positions, and a final attempt to override the veto failed in a 13 to 5 vote early on Thursday morning. The case drew international attention drawing support from prominent figures including Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu and independent Palestinian lawmaker Mustafa Barghouti. Meanwhile, at the University of California in San Diego, a student council voted to delay its final decision on divestment. John Hamilton of KPFA filed this report from Berkeley.

JOHN HAMILTON: It was nearly midnight on Wednesday before campus police secured a room large enough to accommodate the hundreds of people hoping to address the UC-Berkeley Student Senate in a debate that stretched nearly till dawn.

SPEAKER: As Jews we support this bill because it’s the right thing to do, the moral thing to do, the non-violent and just thing to do.

SPEAKER: Divesting from Israel will only cause further harm.

SPEAKER: If divestment is hostile, then where do we begin to describe the hostility of a military occupation?

SPEAKER: The ASUC has become a platform from which to preach how evil Israel is.

SPEAKER: The whole world is watching you and waiting for you to make the right decision. If you don’t, you will be remembered as a student senators who knew the occupation was immoral and illegal and still chose to stand idle and silent.

JOHN HAMILTON: Students and community members were given ninety seconds each to address senators in a debate that often grew testy.

SPEAKER: Ask those to promote the measure and those who are here supporting it whether they want to see peace between a Jewish state of Israel and an Arab state of Palestine and then decide whether you want to side with those who really want peace or with those who use methods like divestment to promote the same goal as Hamas and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a world without Israel.

JOHN HAMILTON: Opponents of divestment spoke of the bill’s divisiveness and questioned charges that Israel has committed war crimes.

SPEAKER: If you buy into the allegation that Israel has committed war crimes, you are siding with the Palestinians on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There’s just no question about it. There has been no proof, no proof of these war crimes.

SPEAKER: The co-writer of the bill said “These war crimes are real. They are well documented.” Oh really? Is that why every democratic nation, both of our houses of parliament, and our President rejected the Goldstone Report upon which the bill is based?

SPEAKER: A substantial majority of those gathered at the Senate hearing pressed for divestment. Leading the effort was the bill’s author and Berkeley graduate student, Emiliano Huet-Vaughn.

EMILIANO HUET-VAUGHN: The issue under debate is our university’s investments aiding war crimes and other human rights abuses committed by the Israeli military. And some critics of this bill continue to call into question the existence of these war crimes, ignoring the opinion of every major human rights organization out there. They use words like “alleged war crimes” and they encourage their speakers to ignore substantive debate of the issue at hand and instead resorting to emotional appeals. But these war crimes are real. They are well-documented and his body needs to come face-to-face with them.

SPEAKER: My name is Layla [Inaudible]. I am twenty-three years of age-

JOHN HAMILTON: Senators heard a direct appeal from Palestinian university students in the West Bank, including Anan Quzmar, a campaigner at Birzeit University.

ANAN QUZMAR: Some would argue it might alienate some students. In fact your university has taken a side already. They are supporting the side of the oppressor. It has invested in a company that is supporting the Israeli occupation and this must end. That is a neutral position. Your current position is not neutral. You’re on the side of the oppressor. I urge everyone to vote in favor of this motion and I hope that many universities will follow.

SPEAKER: Be brave, you’re here to make a decision-

JOHN HAMILTON: As the clock ticked towards four AM, senators launched into a final debate over the divestment measure.

SPEAKER: I am, however, disappointed in the ASUC for considering an issue that is so complex and multifaceted that even the senators that began researching the context of this bill are not even scratching the surface of its meaning.

SPEAKER: I’m kind of surprised because we go to Berkeley, we’re supposedly the number one public university. We have all these classes and it teaches us to engage in these complex issues. And so I don’t know what you’ve been doing, but maybe you can come to class with me tomorrow.

SPEAKER: I believe we need to divest, and that we need to divest from these two companies because it’s peaceful, but it’s still economically aggressive.

SPEAKER: Divisiveness is necessary in this case to pass this bill. Therefore, tonight, I choose to sustain the veto because there must be another way to have all stories included in our victory.

SPEAKER: Being a first generation American on my mother’s side and a Jewish student with a family of Holocaust survivors, I am blessed in being given the chance to do right by my ancestors and my communities tonight to do the least that is asked of me to stand up for rights of the oppressed when I see the opportunity, and to vote to divest once and for all. Thank you.

SPEAKER: By a vote of 13 to 5, this motion to override the veto fails and the veto is sustained.

SPEAKER: I want to thank you first of all for coming out and showing us support and-

JOHN HAMILTON: After their efforts to override the presidential veto fell one vote short, senators led the crowd from the room in a silent protest. Organizers say it’s only a matter of time before UC-Berkeley and other universities divest from companies that arm Israel in the commission of war crimes. They point to a similar bill under consideration at UC-San Diego and other efforts on campuses across the country. For Democracy Now!!, I’m John Hamilton at the University of California at Berkeley.

AMY GOODMAN: This is “Democracy Now!,”, the war and peace report. And in our last minute, I have asked Professor Clayborne Carson of Stanford University, who has actually recently returned from the West Bank, to describe what you found there and why you went.

DR. CLAYBORNE CARSON: Well, I went there to meet with Palestinian non-violent activists. I’m interested in, obviously, non-violent movements around the world who are caring on the King and Gandhi tradition and I think the most vibrant right now is in the West bank. So I was in Ramallah, Hebron, Jerusalem, obviously, and I had a video conference with activists in Gaza since I was not allowed to enter Gaza.

AMY GOODMAN: And is there a boycott movement here at Stanford as there is at UC-Berkeley?

DR. CLAYBORNE CARSON: Yes, there is. I think that this is part of that educational work of this- the movement that’s going on is one of the most important non-violent movements going on in the world and yet news about it is not getting to the United States. And I think is part of the effort to make it more visible.
>> Professor Clayborne Carson, thank you very much for being with us as we wrap-up our broascast today as we leave Stanford University. I will be speaking tonight at the University of California at Davis at 8:00pm.

Council Delays Decision On Human Rights Violations – UCSD Guardian

Posted in International BDS Actions on April 30, 2010 by Marcy Newman

After emotional public input and a complete rewrite of the divestment resolution, proponents plan to reintroduce original language next week.

Posted on 29 April 2010 by Angela Chen
John Hanacek/Guardian

Hundreds of students gathered at the A.S. Forum last night to watch the council debate a controversial resolution calling for the University of California to stop investing in companies providing military technology to Israel. The resolution identified the Palestinian territories as being occupied by a military force guilty of committing human rights violations against the Palestinian people. The council ultimately voted 13-10-4 to create a committee to further discuss the resolution.

The resolution, which was modeled after a similar effort at UC Berkeley, called for the UC Board of Regents to divest endowment funds from corporations such as General Electric and United Technologies. According to the resolution, these companies manufacture technology used in military weapons and vehicles, such as helicopters, used in war crimes in the Middle East.

According to Associate Vice President of Enterprise Operations Rishi Ghosh — who helped draft the document — the resolution is not the first of its kind. However, Ghosh said, if it had passed, it would have been the first recognition of Israel’s war crimes to be approved at a public university. Hampshire College, a private college in Massachusetts, has already divested entirely from the state of Israel. (The resolution considered by the council last night only advocated a break from corporations said to profit from Israel’s alleged war crimes.)

The bill drew students from campus groups such as Tritons for Israel and Students for Justice in Palestine, who spoke during the public input period at the beginning of the meeting.

Campuswide Senator-elect Elizabeth Elman said the resolution encouraged the university to adopt a neutral stance in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by divesting from companies that support Israel’s actions in the conflict.

“I’ve heard that passing this resolution will divide our UCSD community on an issue that is far removed from this campus,” she said. “I would argue that we are already divided. I believe that discussing this resolution is the first step in reuniting our community. This resolution divests from American companies whose business solely benefits the war efforts of one side in this conflict will help restore the neutrality that our student body so vocally desires.”

However, Tritons for Israel President Dafna Barzilay argued that the legislation was biased and that passing it would alienate the pro-Israel community on campus. She said that the pro-Israel committee had been unfairly excluded from the drafting of the resolution and that the pro-Israel community had only three days to formulate a response before the vote at last night’s A.S. Council meeting.

“My community is feeling threatened, and we’re feeling unsafe,” she said. “One thing I would like to urge is that this is not a pro-peace resolution. It is marketed to be one — however, I would like to maintain that peace incorporates talks, negotiations and respects from both sides of any conflicted forces and this kind of movement should not be one that’s done overnight.”

According to A.S. Director of Policy Initiatives Mac Zilber, the money invested into G.E. and United Technologies does not come from tuitions or student fees — as the resolution states — but instead is derived from private donations. In addition, he said that the investment money supporters the capital unit of G.E., which is a commercial leasing unit of the company and is not involved in providing military technology overseas.

Following public input, councilmembers began to discus whether the resolution was an appropriate topic to discuss. A motion by Campuswide Senator Katie Hall to table the motion indefinitely failed 13-16-2 with 13 members voting in favor of tabling, 16 voting against and 3 abstaining.

Vice President of Student Life Ricsie Hernandez proposed that the original version of the resolution be amended and instead be replaced with a version created by Campuswide Senator Tobias Haglund. Haglund’s version removes all mention of Israel or Palestine and instead states that the council does not condone the financial support of companies that invest in military occupation in any country.

Ghosh said he would support the amended version of the resolution.

“That version was terribly watered down and a lot of people in our community weren’t happy with it, but I would have voted for it,” Ghosh said.

The amendment passed, but the issue was eventually voted to be discharged into a committee chaired with Speaker James Lintern, who resigned from the position at the end of the meeting.

“I didn’t volunteer for this position and this committee is going to fail in a big way,” he said. “I didn’t have good experiences with the council on this last year, and nothing’s going to happen with it.”

Hall, who voted for the issue to be discharged, argued that the debate should be resolved only once both groups have had equal input into the resolution.

“My problem is that there are members of Students for Justice in Palestine on this council, but there are hardly any members of Tritons for Israel on this council to have their voices be heard on this resolution,” Hall said.

Ghosh said that he was disappointed with the outcome since the original resolution had already been so radically altered.

“The last compromise really could have been passed, it was very transparent,” he said. “They knew it was about to pass so they voted it into committee where people can keep bringing up new things.”

Ghosh said that he would bring up the resolution again at the 2009-10 council’s final meeting of the year, which will be held next week.

“Next time I won’t bring up the compromised document but instead the original document,” he said. “I’m just going to keep bringing it up again and again and it might take 10 years, but divestment will pass.”

Readers can contact Angela Chen at shchen[at]

With Roundabout Politics in Play, No One Leaves Happy

Posted in International BDS Actions on April 30, 2010 by Marcy Newman

After six hours of back-and-forth emotion on a controversial resolution to acknowledge Israeli war crimes, the A.S. Council did nothing but waste an opportunity to promote awareness.

Posted on 29 April 2010

By Editorial Board

As much as we rag on our student leaders for wasting valuable floor time making empty statements — aka resolutions, or press releases proclaiming the student body’s stance on a major issue — we do admit there are certain moments at which they are not entirely worthless.

Seeing as the A.S. Council isn’t in the position to do anything concrete about global problems (besides maybe allot $370 to InterVarsity to throw a Haiti fundraiser), its greatest power in affecting change might be turning a few more heads to a cause — a cause greater than fighting the unjust confinement of the Sun God Festival to RIMAC Field.

For example, the A.S. movement to divest university money from South Africa in 1986 was a clear statement the students could make to push international injustice into public discourse. In the end, the university did withdraw $3 billion from investments in South Africa — partially due to the will of its student government.

Just a week ago, though, an especially contentious resolution hit the A.S. listserv: the Resolution in Support of Peace and Neutrality Through UC Divestment From U.S. Corporations Profiting From Occupation. In other words: the resolution to withdraw UC funds from two large U.S. companies that sell military technology to Israel.

Though the document would have — like another resolution to divest from Sudan in 2005 — taken a daring stance against financial support for oppressive violence, it specifically targeted (yet simultaneously avoided the specific mention of) Israel, which was blatantly implied to be the occupier in question.

The UC investment in Israel is especially roundabout; General Electric and United Technology provide hundreds of other services and products within our own country, and the university does invest anywhere that could fund Israeli weaponry in particular (nor in the form of student fees). For that reason, the divestment would be very symbolic — the symbol being that we condemn Israel for its wartime actions, and anyone who supports those actions. Thing is, many students do not see the issue quite so black-and-white; that’s where the A.S. Council’s constituents are divided, and have been for years.

The council tried to pass a clearer version of this resolution last year; it didn’t pass, because of a similar divide on whether wartime crimes are indeed being committed (or at least whether that fact should be amended by Israel’s reasons for violence). But if the resolution’s only hope to pass is with its clear objective masked in “evil corporation” language, it is divisive. If it had been voted through council last night in its current form, it would not have represented the interests of the student body.

When an elected student council (mostly made up of students most invested in controversial issues like these — though their political stances are rarely clear to voters throughout the campaign) makes a decision still so contended by its constituents, it’s a false statement, and devalues the resolution as a form of mass speech. It is a room of 20-odd students stating their opinion like it matters more than the rest of ours.

We do not so much mean to say that maintaining a pristine campus climate should be the priority; there are always two sides when it comes to war, and the tension is justified. Instead, the A.S. Council should strive for complete honesty in its resolution language and a maximum effort toward education. The best thing we can do for either Israel or the Palestinian people is alert those around us to exactly what is going on in that region.

Whether or not it is in self-defense, the United Nations and Amnesty International have both recognized that Israel is indeed committing human-rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The sentiment that a resolution stating as much would make members of the pro-Israel community feel “unsafe” is overstated. Criticizing a government for committing war crimes is a far cry from criticizing a people, or even a country. The terrorist acts committed by the Palestinian side are widely condemned; however, because the Jewish homeland has always been a fragile topic — and a country we’re tied to in more ways than one — the U.S. is among the last countries in the world to recognize those crimes.

But there are two sides, and both need to be heard. The council should have at least sent out the resolution over the all-campus listserv before considering it in a room with extremists from both sides. So, in a way, as boring and half-assed a decision it was to push the resolution back to be revisited next week, it’ll make us keep considering the facts. Even if the resolution must be re-proposed each quarter, we hope its language can become clear enough to address the true wrongdoings in question — which belong more to a government than a weapons manufacturer — and promote teach-ins, Library Walk info booths and enough open-air hubbub to foster the kind of informed interest this topic deserves.

UC Berkeley Divestment on Flashpoints

Posted in Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions on April 30, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Ali Abunimah and university student organizers talk about last night’s vote at UC Berkeley to uphold the veto on divestment, we’ll discuss the technical defeat but the moral victory of the vote and the growing boycott, divestment and sanctions movement across the country and across the world.

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Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada

Shoaib Kamil, UC Berkeley Task Force on Divestment

Loubna Qatami, Palestinian Youth Network

Caterpillar equipment used in extrajudicial killing near Hebron

Posted in Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions, Profiting from Zionism on April 30, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Press release, Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, 29 April 2010

The following press release was issued by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights on 26 April 2010:

On Monday 26 April 2010, Israeli occupation forces killed a Palestinian man, Ali Ismael Ali Swaiti, 45, in Beit Awwa in the West Bank district of Hebron, after demolishing a house while he was inside. Israeli occupation forces claim that Ali Swaiti had been wanted for several years. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) condemns this crime — which constitutes an extrajudicial execution — and calls upon the international community to work towards bringing to trial those Israeli politicians and commanders suspected of committing war crimes.

According to investigations conducted by PCHR and eyewitness testimony, Israeli occupation forces entered Beit Awwa town in the far south of Hebron at approximately 3:00am on Monday 26 April 2010, supported by military armored vehicles, a bulldozer and a Caterpillar digging vehicle. Israeli forces surrounded the house in which Ali Swaiti was located, using sound bombs. The home belongs to Mahmoud Abdul Aziz Swaiti and is located in Khellet al-Foulah, in the north of the town. During the operation, Israeli soldiers broke into numerous other houses in the area and turned them into observation points and firing posts.

After some minutes, Israeli occupation forces (IOF) evacuated at gunpoint the family living in the targeted one-story house as well as a family living in another two-story house, which belongs to the family of Ahmed Abdul Aziz Swaiti. The two families were detained outdoors for some time before they were taken to an adjacent house belonging to Abdul Jalil Swaiti. They were detained there with other families, all of whom were interrogated regarding the whereabouts of the targeted person.

At approximately 5:40am, an Israeli bulldozer began to destroy the fences surrounding the targeted house. It progressed towards the house and started to demolish it, but it retreated as it was fired at from inside the house. Israeli forces stationed in the neighboring houses opened fire at the house for 15 minutes from all sides before an explosion took place inside the house. Residents of the area reported that the explosion resulted from the shelling of the house.

At approximately 6:00am, the Caterpillar vehicle began to drive into and destroy the fences of the targeted house. After that, a digging vehicle continued demolishing the house, and then retreated to allow the renewed advance of the bulldozer and the search for the body of Swaiti.

At approximately 7:00am, the bulldozer lifted the body of Swaiti out of the rubble and dropped it onto a road close to the demolished house before moving it another 10 meters away. At approximately 7:30am, an Israeli soldier fired at least two shots at the body of Swaiti from a distance of three meters. At approximately 8:00am, Israeli occupation forces left the homes in which they had taken position.

In the meantime, Palestinian civilians had left their homes and many of them hurried towards the area of the attack. They carried Swaiti’s body to take it indoors. However, some people clashed with Israeli forces as they withdrew. Israeli occupation forces fired at those people using rubber-coated metal bullets, wounding five Palestinians including a boy and a young woman. The wounded are as follows:

1. Mohammed Mahmoud Masalmah, 23, wounded by a bullet to the head;
2. Baha Mohammed Akimi al-Amareen, 20, wounded by two bullets to the legs;
3. Hussein Yusuf Swaiti, 18, wounded by a bullet to the leg;
4. Hammam Ismael Masalmah, 17, wounded by two bullets to the legs; and
5. Asma Murshed Swaiti, 19, wounded by a bullet to the right shoulder.

The IOF spokesperson said that Swaiti had been wanted by the Israeli Security Service for eight years, as he was held responsible for carrying out a number of shooting attacks against Israeli targets near Hebron, including opening fire near the Ethna-Tarqumiya intersection on 26 April 2004, i.e. exactly six years prior to yesterday’s killing of Swaiti. The said attack resulted in the death of an Israeli soldier and the injury of two others.

PCHR reiterates its condemnation of such acts and:

1. Confirms that this act constitutes part of a pattern of Israeli war crimes perpetrated in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), which reflect Israeli occupation forces disregard for the lives of Palestinians and for the requirements of international law.

2. Reiterates its condemnation of the illegal policy of extrajudicial executions carried out by IOF against Palestinian activists. It also confirms that this policy raises tension in the area and increases the likelihood of civilian victims among the Palestinian population.

3. Calls upon the international community to immediately intervene to stop these crimes which constitute violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.

4. Calls upon the international community, particularly the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, to fulfill their obligations under Article 1 of the Convention to ensure respect for the Convention in all circumstances, and their obligation under Article 146 to search for and prosecute those responsible for committing grave breaches of the Convention. PCHR also calls on the High Contracting Parties to uphold their responsibilities as signatories to the protocol Additional to the Convention, such as breaches, which constitute war crimes according to Article 147 of the convention.

UC Berkeley Students Argue in Favor of Divesment from War Crimes

Posted in International BDS Actions on April 30, 2010 by Marcy Newman

After the UC Berkeley Senate voted 16-4 to divest from companies complicit in war crimes committed by Israel during operation Cast Lead (General Electric and United Technologies) the bill was vetoed by President Will Smelko.

After two nights of lengthy debate and incredible external pressure the veto was upheld, but the attention the bill attracted and the coming together of so many different communities in favor of the bill makes this a victory for Students for Justice in Palestine and their supporters.

UC Berkeley Students for Justice in Palestine have provided an impressive example of how to divest from companies who profit from the suffering of oppressed people in Palestine and around the world.

“Seeds of the new movement”: US Campaign Steering Committee member Sophia Ritchie reports from UC Berkeley

Posted in International BDS Actions on April 29, 2010 by Marcy Newman

The following report on the divestment vote at UC Berkeley is shared by US Campaign Steering Committee member and UC Berkeley alum Sophia Ritchie:

I am here again for another late night ASUC hearing, at my alma mater UC Berkeley, surrounded by hundreds of students and community members, most of who are here supporting the overturn of Will Smelko’s veto on SB118. It is the same place that we met two weeks ago, but this time it’s a bit more claustrophobic not only because they’ve cut the room in half, but also everyone’s speaking time.

My head spins – as speakers rush through their prepared statements in the allotted minute and a half. I strain to hear them as they are left at the end attempting to continue and complete their points when their sound is cut.

The anticipation is thick. People are nervous. We just want a decision; didn’t they vote 16-4 to pass this resolution already? That vote feels so long ago.

By now we all know the outcome of last night: the veto was not overturned.

I could focus on a lot of things: the weak arguments that proponents of the veto used and everything I heard that was presented to challenge their claims, but I think the videos of personal stories and testimony that will be online soon will say better what I could repeat here.

I want to write about something else – on what happened after we heard that the veto was sustained and on what is happening at this moment.

The now ubiquitous green stickers that read “Another (fill in the blank) for Human Rights. Divest from the Israeli Occupation” were taken off of shirts, coats and purses and placed instead over our mouths. A room full of people whose views and experiences and struggles have been silenced by this outcome.

Senator Patel takes a moment to address the room. He directs those of us who support the resolution to raise our right fist, hundreds of arms stay raised in the air as he passionately talks about the “seeds of a new movement”.

The seeds have been planted, our roots are deepening and we are growing. That to me is the most important outcome of this entire process. Something has shifted – in the discourse, in the sheer numbers of people who are concerned, in the solidarity work and coalition building amongst a broad and truly diverse range of student and community groups, in the energy around Palestine– that cannot be ignored. In this way, we are winning.

After Senator Patel speaks we walk out collectively, silently. Outside, on the steps to the building, we stand around for a bit when someone starts the familiar “Free, Free Palestine” and the response echoes across Sproul Plaza, the home of so many demonstrations and pivotal historical moments, bounces off buildings, and settles deep in my heart. An elder from the Palestinian community addresses the crowd. Beautiful, poignant, raw and wise – he reminds us that this fight is not over. That truth and justice will prevail, even if it takes many more years.

The continued chants of “When Palestine is under attack, what we do? Stand up, fight back” feed a growing circle of people on Sproul at 4:30am. It is a chilly bay area night, but I feel warmed and energized by the people, both friends and strangers, surrounding me – by their determination and by their love. More and more people address the crowd – youth, professors, Palestinian students and community members. I see many of the senators who spoke in favor of the resolution join the circle.

I think these recent weeks have shown something – Palestinians and those who stand in solidarity with their struggle for justice, equality and freedom, are no longer willing to be silenced. It also shows that more people are hearing what we have to say. More and more of us are raising our voices. Palestine is in the vocabulary of more people. No, we’re not going to shut up and we’re not going away – in fact, we’re getting louder and stronger. As long as the Occupation continues and our tax dollars feed it, as long as there are massacres of innocent Palestinian civilians, as long as Palestinian land continues to be stolen, as long as Palestinian children are being held in Israeli jails without trials, as long as the madness continues we have no choice, but to speak out and work for justice.

Alice Walker completes her new essay “Overcoming Speech-lessness: A Poet Encounters the Horror in Rwanda, Eastern Congo and Palestine/Israel,” by writing, “The world is, at last, finding its voice about everything that harms it…Though the horror of what we are witnessing in places like….Palestine/Israel threatens our very ability to speak, we will speak. And, because almost everyone on the planet acknowledges our collective slide into global disaster unless we profoundly change our ways, we will be heard.”

This is an analysis, but more importantly it is also a call to each and every one of us. Are we listening?

Israeli companies interested in joint ventures with Indian firms

Posted in Profiting from Zionism, Take Action on April 29, 2010 by Marcy Newman

V. Sridhar

Bangalore: Israeli companies with expertise in niche areas are looking to develop ties with Indian firms to exploit markets in third world countries. Speaking to The Hindu, Orna Sagiv, Consul-General at the Israeli Consulate in Mumbai, said: “Israeli companies need not be seen as competitors to Indian companies but as complementing them by providing expertise in key areas.”

Although Ms. Sagiv acknowledged that most of the technological expertise in several fields was a spinoff from defence and security applications developed by Israeli companies, the expertise is by now means confined to these areas alone. Information technology, telecommunications, automotives, renewable energy agriculture, water use and management and biotechnology are some of the areas in which Israeli companies are interested in developing partnerships with Indian companies. Another significant area of collaboration relates to aerospace and avionics, but Ms. Sagiv said she would rather speak about civilian cooperation.

The two-way trade between India and Israel increased from $ 200 million in 1992, when diplomatic relations were established, to $4 billion in 2008. Ms. Sagiv said although Israeli IT companies were much smaller than their Indian counterparts, “They are well equipped to offer firewall solutions, for instance.”

Ms. Sagiv said solutions for dryland farming practices developed by Israeli scientists, working in collaboration with farmers and Israeli companies, could be deployed in India. “Israel has much more to offer than drip irrigation, which was developed in the 1960s,” she remarked. Israel, which has always faced a shortage of water, does not grow water-intensive crops such as rice and cotton, but focusses attention on other crops which can be cultivated without wastage of precious water, she said.

“The trick is to supply produce during the off-season to markets in advanced countries such as in Europe in order to ensure better prices,” she remarked. For instance, Israeli farmers grow and supply strawberries in the winter, which at that time get far higher prices in Europe, she said.

The average annual milk yield from a cow in Israel is about 12,000 litres, which Ms. Sagiv claimed was among the highest in the world. This was because the entire production process is managed scientifically, she added.

Israel recycles about three-fourths of the water that is consumed. “In two years, we want to increase this to 95 per cent,’ Ms. Sagiv said. “Although the recycled water is fit for human consumption, for psychological reasons, we use it for agriculture.” A lot of the drinking water comes from the desalination plants, which are among the biggest in the world, she added.

Asked if Israeli companies would be participating in the Global Investors’ Meet scheduled in Bangalore in June, Ms. Sagiv said she is not aware of it. There are about 100 Israeli companies in India. Among the active companies in Bangalore is a real estate company, Elbit Imaging, which has interests in real estate, hospitals and now agriculture and dairy.

From Arizona to Palestine: Documentation, Deportation, and Boycott

Posted in Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions on April 29, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Tell me if this sounds familiar:

A new order allows enforcement officials to stop anyone who “looks illegal” (read: has brown skin) and demand that they produce documents proving their right to be in a place they call home. Failure to produce such documents can lead to fines, jail time, or deportation. Widely seen as a violation of basic rights, this new order leads to widespread calls for boycott.

I’m speaking, of course, about Arizona’s new racist law, SB1070–but I could just as easily be talking about Palestine.

If you haven’t heard, SB1070 effectively mandates racial profiling by giving local police officers the right to demand immigration documentation from anyone they think might be in the country without documents. Here’s the Washington Post summarizing the new law (and insisting on calling human beings “illegal”):

“The law gives local police broad authority to stop and request documents from anyone they reasonably suspect is an illegal immigrant. It calls for aggressive prosecution of illegal immigrants, and officers can be sued if they do not enforce the law.”

SB 1070 is so racist and over the top that it has led to a wave of outrage around the country, including condemnation from a wide spectrum of faith leaders and President Barack Obama. Many organizations and individuals have called for a boycott of Arizona, including Arizona Member of Congress Raul Grijalva and Washington Post columnist Robert McCartney.

I support these calls, just as I support efforts to oppose so-called “Secure Communities” initiatives that would require local law enforcement to work with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in a manner sure to promote racial profiling and ruin community policing efforts.

I have to wonder, though, how calls to boycott Arizona–including sports boycotts and boycotts on travel to the state–are so easily endorsed in the Washington Post (McCartney: “I like the idea of a boycott because it’s so all-American”), while calls to boycott Israel for its consistent violations of Palestinian human rights and international law are deemed “controversial.”

The connections are eerie: earlier this month, a new Israeli military order came into effect in the Palestinian West Bank, which would allow the military to demand that any Palestinian, anytime, produce proof of their right to be in a place they call home. According to the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz:

“A new military order will take effect this week, enabling the army to deport tens of thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank and prosecute them on infiltration charges, which carry long prison terms….The order’s vague language will allow army officers to exploit it arbitrarily to carry out mass expulsions, in accordance with military orders which were issued under unclear circumstances. The first candidates for expulsion will be people whose ID cards bear addresses in the Gaza Strip, including children born in the West Bank and Palestinians living in the West Bank who have lost their residency status for various reasons.”

Sound familiar? And yet where was the Washington Post call for boycott?

There’s more: The Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israeli violations of international law came one year after the International Court of Justice ruled against the Israel’s “Separation Barrier,” which annexes massive sections of East Jerusalem and the West Bank. That “Barrier” (read: apartheid Wall) is being built, in part, by Elbit, an Israeli military contractor that also has half of the contract on the U.S./Mexico Border Wall.

And SB1070 is likely to lead to the type of checkpoints and arbitrary “searches” and arrests that have been daily reality for West Bank Palestinians for decades. The West Bank currently has over 500 checkpoints, roadblocks, and closures–in an area the size of Delaware, not Arizona.

Of course, in Arizona and in Palestine/Israel, many of the people affected by racist laws and policies can trace their ancestral connection to the place back well before the current (predominantly white-skinned) regimes making such racist laws came into power. That’s how colonialism and occupation works. And as Jewish Israeli Assaf Oron writes at DailyKos, racial profiling linked to ID documents is a fact of life for Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel as well.

So here’s what I’m saying: all those calling for boycotting Arizona because of a racist “documentation and deportation” law–I’m with you. And everyone who supports the Palestinian BDS call should be with you too. But we’re asking you to support boycotts targeting such racist laws, mandating displacement and ethnic cleansing, that are supported by U.S. policy and U.S. corporations, no matter where these “laws” are being made.

And yes, that includes you, faith leaders who have rightfully condemned SB1070. The Palestinian Christian community is asking you for your support, too.

Now is the time. It’s the right thing to do. And it just makes sense.

For more information on how you can get involved with boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS), check out the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation’s BDS resources. And check out the following video from Al Jazeera for more on the new Israeli military order that could lead to the displacement of thousands of Palestinians from their homes in the West Bank:

To put things like profiling, ethnic cleansing, and deportation in perspective, check out singer-songwriter M.I.A.’s new “Born Free” video, although viewer discretion is advised–it’s intense and graphic:

Zio-hummus alert: boycott

Posted in Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions, Profiting from Zionism on April 29, 2010 by Marcy Newman

The company Sabra Dipping Company, LLC is selling a huge quantity of hummus, babaganoush, “Moroccan matbucha” and other middle eastern/Arabic recipes throughout the U.S.A. through Costco, Ralphs, Vons and many large grocery chains. Currently, the container of the Sabra brand products says it is made in the USA by Sabra Dipping Company, LLC out of Astoria, N.Y, although not long ago, the reference of the manufacturer on the container was Blue and White Foods, from Astoria, NY. According to the company profile on Sabra’s web site (, the huge conglomerate Pepsico and major food distributor Strauss-Elite formed a joint-venture partnership in March 2008 that operates under the name of Sabra Dipping Company, LLC. According to their web site ( ): “Sabra is also a leading importer of snacks and foods from Israel.” Actually, the Sabra hummus has a good texture, but it is full of preservatives that permeate the taste of the hummus. An alternative, at least at Costco, is Waleeds hummus.”

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