Archive for September, 2010

Israeli ties: a chance to do the right thing

Posted in Apartheid, International BDS Actions, Why Boycott?!, Zionism on September 26, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Sep 26, 2010 12:00 AM | By Archbishop Desmond Tutu

The University of Johannesburg’s Senate will next week meet to decide whether to end its relationship with an Israeli institution, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, on the grounds of that university’s active support for and involvement in the Israeli military. Archbishop Desmond Tutu supports the move. He explains why

‘The temptation in our situation is to speak in muffled tones about an issue such as the right of the people of Palestine to a state of their own.

We can easily be enticed to read reconciliation and fairness as meaning parity between justice and injustice. Having achieved our own freedom, we can fall into the trap of washing our hands of difficulties that others face. Yet we would be less than human if we did so. It behoves all South Africans, themselves erstwhile beneficiaries of generous international support, to stand up and be counted among those contributing actively to the cause of freedom and justice.” – Nelson Mandela, December 4 1997

Struggles for freedom and justices are fraught with huge moral dilemmas. How can we commit ourselves to virtue – before its political triumph – when such commitment may lead to ostracism from our political allies and even our closest partners and friends? Are we willing to speak out for justice when the moral choice that we make for an oppressed community may invite phone calls from the powerful or when possible research funding will be withdrawn from us? When we say “Never again!” do we mean “Never again!”, or do we mean “Never again to us!”?

Our responses to these questions are an indication of whether we are really interested in human rights and justice or whether our commitment is simply to secure a few deals for ourselves, our communities and our institutions – but in the process walking over our ideals even while we claim we are on our way to achieving them?

The issue of a principled commitment to justice lies at the heart of responses to the suffering of the Palestinian people and it is the absence of such a commitment that enables many to turn a blind eye to it.

Consider for a moment the numerous honorary doctorates that Nelson Mandela and I have received from universities across the globe. During the years of apartheid many of these same universities denied tenure to faculty who were “too political” because of their commitment to the struggle against apartheid. They refused to divest from South Africa because “it will hurt the blacks” (investing in apartheid South Africa was not seen as a political act; divesting was).

Let this inconsistency please not be the case with support for the Palestinians in their struggle against occupation.

I never tire of speaking about the very deep distress in my visits to the Holy Land; they remind me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa. I have seen the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks, suffering like we did when young white police officers prevented us from moving about. My heart aches. I say, “Why are our memories so short?” Have our Jewish sisters and brothers forgotten their own previous humiliation? Have they forgotten the collective punishment, the home demolitions, in their own history so soon?

Have they turned their backs on their profound and noble religious traditions? Have they forgotten that God cares deeply about all the downtrodden?

Together with the peace-loving peoples of this Earth, I condemn any form of violence – but surely we must recognise that people caged in, starved and stripped of their essential material and political rights must resist their Pharaoh? Surely resistance also makes us human? Palestinians have chosen, like we did, the nonviolent tools of boycott, divestment and sanctions.

South African universities with their own long and complex histories of both support for apartheid and resistance to it should know something about the value of this nonviolent option.

The University of Johannesburg has a chance to do the right thing, at a time when it is unsexy. I have time and time again said that we do not want to hurt the Jewish people gratuitously and, despite our deep responsibility to honour the memory of the Holocaust and to ensure it never happens again (to anyone), this must not allow us to turn a blind eye to the suffering of Palestinians today.

I support the petition by some of the most prominent South African academics who call on the University of Johannesburg to terminate its agreement with Ben-Gurion University in Israel (BGU). These petitioners note that: “All scholarly work takes place within larger social contexts – particularly in institutions committed to social transformation. South African institutions are under an obligation to revisit relationships forged during the apartheid era with other institutions that turned a blind eye to racial oppression in the name of ‘purely scholarly’ or ‘scientific work’.” It can never be business as usual.

Israeli Universities are an intimate part of the Israeli regime, by active choice. While Palestinians are not able to access universities and schools, Israeli universities produce the research, technology, arguments and leaders for maintaining the occupation. BGU is no exception. By maintaining links to both the Israeli defence forces and the arms industry, BGU structurally supports and facilitates the Israeli occupation. For example, BGU offers a fast-tracked programme of training to Israeli Air Force pilots.

In the past few years, we have been watching with delight UJ’s transformation from the Rand Afrikaans University, with all its scientific achievements but also ugly ideological commitments. We look forward to an ongoing principled transformation. We don’t want UJ to wait until others’ victories have been achieved before offering honorary doctorates to the Palestinian Mandelas or Tutus in 20 years’ time.

Full text of the interview with Richard Falk, U.N. Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Israeli-Occupied Territories of Palestine

Posted in Apartheid, Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions, Why Boycott?!, Zionism on September 25, 2010 by Marcy Newman

C. Gouridasan Nair

Interview with Richard Falk, U.N. Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Israeli-Occupied Territories of Palestine

Richard Falk, the United Nations Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Israeli-Occupied Territories of Palestine, is sceptical whether the negotiations between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, guided by the U.S., would produce results, unless the Hamas is taken on board and Israel returns to the pre-1967 position. The best hope for Palestinians is a ‘legitimacy war’ similar to the campaign that undermined the apartheid government in South Africa, says the Professor Emeritus of international law and practice at Princeton University. The text of an interview he gave The Hindu in Thiruvananthapuram, while in Kerala’s capital city for a conference on climate change:

Although you’ve been functioning as the U.N. Rapporteur to the Occupied Palestinian Territories since 2008, you’ve not been allowed to enter Israel or the Israeli-occupied areas of Palestine. How, then, do you propose to deliver on your mandate?

The U.N. is not regarded by Israel as a critical voice. They feel that they can ignore or refuse to cooperate with the U.N., even though as a member they are legally obligated to cooperate. They’re backed almost invariably by the U.S. government. So they feel diplomatically secure in being defiant towards the U.N. and the international community. This issue has become more pronounced in the last two-three years because of the Gaza war, which has led to a lot of international criticism and a sense of outrage about the degree to which Israel had used its military superiority against an essentially defenceless people who had no capacity really to fight back. It was more like a massacre than a war, in that sense.

Then the recent incident of the flotilla in the Mediterranean again showed that Israel feels it can act without regard to international law and to use its aggressive military style in international waters to interfere with a humanitarian mission that was trying to bring food and medicine and reconstruction materials to the people of Gaza that had been under a blockade for three years. So you have that basic relationship. And then, you have the somewhat troubled relationship between the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people, that of the people of Gaza not being really represented by the Palestinian Authority because Hamas is their elected government and they’ve been excluded from any kind of participation at the international level.

Then there’s also this sense that the Palestinian Authority is kept in power by U.S. and Israeli money and influence rather than by the will of the people on the West Bank and East Jerusalem. So it’s a very difficult set of circumstances. Then, on the Israeli side, you have this very extreme right-wing government that seems to want everything for itself that is supposed to be the subject of international negotiations. So one wonders what a peace process can achieve if the Israeli government is clear about its commitment to maintain and expand the settlements on the West Bank and East Jerusalem, to continue to occupy the whole of Jerusalem to re-establish borders that take away from the Palestinians their land. It’s now only 22 per cent of the historic Palestine. And if the present settlement boundaries and the security walls and the roads connecting the settlements are all taken into account, the Palestinians would lose 38 per cent of the 22 per cent they have. So they would have no land sufficient for a genuine Palestinian state.

And, finally, you have inside pre-1967 Israel, 1.3 million Palestinians who live as second class citizens in a self-proclaimed Jewish state and have been denied all kinds of rights. The international community has more or less forgotten them. And then, finally, you have the problem of four to five million exiled refugee Palestinians living outside the territory of the occupied Palestine, but still living in a condition that results from their expulsion from their homeland way back in 1948 or later in 1967. So those are the basic conditions. So, one has to wonder: why are these international negotiations taking place? It doesn’t seem to be the preconditions for negotiations. There’s the problem on the Palestinian side of representation, and on the Israeli side there’s the problem of the substantive position: do they really want to give up what they now possess?

I’ve just made a report to the U.N. which argues that the prolonged occupation combined with the expansion of the settlements amounts now to de facto annexation. There’s no longer just temporary legitimate occupation after 43 years. Israel has been establishing more or less permanent settlements throughout the whole of occupied Palestine. It is more realistic to look at it as a situation of de facto annexation, de jure occupation. So you have this tension between what is the factual reality and what is the supposed legal situation. At the present time I’m very sceptical [whether] inter-governmental diplomacy can achieve any significant result. And the best hope for the Palestinians is what I call a legitimacy war, similar to the anti-apartheid campaign in the late-1980s and 1990s that was so effective in isolating and undermining the authority of the apartheid government. I think that is happening now in relation to Israel. There’s a very robust boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign all over the world that is capturing the political and moral imagination of the people, the NGOs and civil society and is beginning to have an important impact on Israel’s way of acting and thinking. And Israel says itself, what they call the de-legitimisation project is more dangerous to their security than the violence on the part of Palestinian resistance. So it’s a big change that way in the overall situation.

Does this have any impact on the actions of Western governments?

It’s disappointingly ineffective in changing in any fundamental way the European or the North American approach to this issue, particularly in the U.S. where the Israeli lobby is so strong. President Obama, who came to Washington with a commitment to be more balanced in the conflict, has disappointed many people because he seems unable to resist the domestic pressures to always support Israel, no matter what they do, and to give continuous large-scale military and economic assistance to Israel. The United States gives half of its economic assistance worldwide to Israel. It has been doing that for many years, as you know. It’s a very distorted situation. Actually, American public opinion is ready to shift to a more balanced position, but the opinion in Washington, in Congress, in the so-called American think tanks, around the government and in the White House itself, is much more frozen in the past on this one-sided Israeli position. Basically, that’s the diplomatic situation at the present time, I think.

What about the European governments?

The European governments are partly following the U.S. leadership. And it is a sense, particularly during the economic recession, that they don’t want to have additional political friction. The public opinion in all of these European countries would favour a more balanced approach. Some of the important countries like Germany are very sensitive about the accusation of anti-Semitism. That probably plays a role in the European thinking of a false equation between being critical of Israel and being anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic. That’s used very much by Zionist pressure to make people believe that if you criticise Israel you are basically endorsing anti-Semitism, and anti-Semitism leads indirectly to an endorsement of Nazi policies and the Holocaust and all of those things in the historical past.

What do you expect the U.N. to do on the report that you’ve submitted?

As I said, I’m very sceptical that the U.N. as an inter-governmental body will be responsive to a political and legal analysis of the existing realities of the occupation. And my analysis, I think, is widely shared by independent opinion that has examined these issues; by the reliable NGOs that are active in the region and so on. It’s an intensely politicised issue at the inter-governmental level, and even within the U.N. bureaucracy. Ironically, even though Israel is very defiant towards the U.N., the U.N., in its bureaucracy, is quite deferential to Israel, partly through the U.S. influence within the organisation. So you’ve this double reality, that on the one side Israel makes a great public display of things saying that the U.N. is biased against it, and on the other side, it joins with the U.S. in manipulating the U.N. to do very little, if anything, that is effective in supporting the implementation of international law with respect to the occupation of the Palestinian territories. And this situation is accentuated by the degree to which the Palestinian Authority will not take any position that is deeply opposed by the U.S. or Israel. So you don’t have adequate representation for the Palestinian struggle within the U.N. system.

That seems to be a very crucial issue. You spoke about apartheid and the global legitimacy war that was fought against apartheid, successfully, by Nelson Mandela and others. But we don’t see that happening at the global level now. Isn’t that a little distressing?

Yes. Of course, one would love to have a ‘Palestinian Mandela.’ [The] Palestinian leadership has been disappointing, particularly after the death of [Yasser] Arafat. Israel is partly responsible for that. They’ve assassinated and imprisoned the most qualified Palestinians to be leaders. And they’ve deliberately either repudiated the kind of leadership that Hamas offers, or they’ve co-opted the kind of leadership that the Palestinian Authority offers. So one has a leadership vacuum that’s damaging in a legitimacy war because a legitimacy war really depends on gaining and holding the high moral ground, the way the Dalai Lama has done for the Tibetan people in their efforts to get more independence within China. The Palestinians don’t have that capability right now, but they do have a lot of public support around the world. It’s an important symbolic moral and political issue for many people, even in the United States. And in that sense they’re all having an effect… on boycotting products, especially those that come out of the settlements and the West Bank. I think there’s an effect. Cultural figures like musicians and artistes are refusing to perform in Israel.

You do have some of the same symbolic and substantive patterns of rejection of Israeli policies, like you had in the late-1980s and early-1990s for South Africa. But how this will play out in the future is very uncertain. As you say, although there are some similarities because… Since the occupation has many of the characteristics of apartheid, separate roads where only Jews are allowed to travel, passes that restrict the mobility of Palestinians, they can’t go even from one part of the West Bank to the other without passing through very difficult check-points. They can’t go to Gaza without a permit that is not restricted. They can’t leave the territory for education and other reasons. So there’s a kind of apartheid system there. But Israel is much more diplomatically capable so long as it has this U.S. backing, which is crucial to its taking the position that it has taken.

Then in its own internal politics it has moved farther and farther to the right. So it has a very extremist government in power, and even the Opposition is quite extreme. So you’ve a situation where the Israelis themselves are now talking about a one-state solution where Palestinians in the so-called occupied territories would be given Israeli citizenship, but it all would become a Jewish state. Palestinians, on their side, are saying that the settlement process is going too far and that the only thing that would work would be a single Palestine that is a secular democratic state where no religious identity would be given a privileged position. The idea of a Jewish state is an anomaly in the 21st century. It does not fit in the modern world where states have to accept the fact that there are different ethnicities, different religions and each is entitled to equal protection of human rights and participation in society. Israel is not set up that way. It is set up in such a way that the Jewish majority has formal and informal privileges and rights that the Palestinians and the Christian minorities do not possess.

Your position on the Palestinian question has been very clear. In fact, one would say your loyalties have been very clear. You’ve come under attack from the time of your appointment as U.N. Rapporteur, both from Israel and from the U.S., both within and outside the U.N. And also, your conceptualisation of the legitimacy wars has come under attack. Your comments on the Goldstone report too have come under attack. Now, how do you take these attacks?

I view them as part of this unbalanced approach. I think that if you look at the reality and say how my report has been accurate, or is it objectively the case that I’m reporting in a one-sided way, I believe that it would be clear that I’ve been objective and truthful. I’ve a Jewish background myself and I’d like to see a future in which both the peoples live in peace and justice. I don’t think you can find such a solution without justice for the Palestinian people, and on justice I’m critical often of the U.S. government, my own government. It doesn’t mean that because I’m critical of Israel I’m anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic. Some people accuse me of being a self-hating Jew. You know that it just isn’t true, it’s just propaganda. You’ve to live with that kind of criticism if you’re trying to be objective and professional within this territory. It’s a dirty game. And Goldstone himself, who I know quite well, is a life-long Zionist.

I’m not a Zionist. I don’t believe in the idea of a Jewish state, or any kind of state where a person has to take a religious stand. But he’s a life-long Zionist and when he made a report critical of Israel’s behaviour in Gaza, they attacked him more than me. They called him a self-hating Jew and all of those things. He had his family there. He had been on the board of the Hebrew University. He had much closer connections. So, if he could be attacked in this way, anyone on the planet can be attacked. He was the most pro-Israel person who had international credibility that you could have found in the world. I cannot think of anyone else. And yet he came under attack. Anyone with a fair mind would come to the same conclusion. In fact, it is better for Israel if someone like myself who has been critical for a long time, they can at least attack as biased. If I had had no past background, it would’ve been a little difficult for them to criticise. So they should be happy with me because I’m a better target for this kind of propaganda.

You’ve not been allowed to enter Israel since your appointment as U.N. Rapporteur. Then how were you able to prepare your report?

Well, there are a lot of people outside the country who come from there. There are very good NGOs that are reporting on different aspects of the situation, like the health conditions and the employment conditions there. It would not be anything that I could get if I were to go there myself. Anyway I would have to rely on the collection of data and information. Then the U.N. itself has offices in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza and they prepare very good reports on the conditions that exist there. So I have the information, and the patterns of behaviour are more or less matters of public record. The real challenge is to interpret the information that’s available or, in other words, to convert the information into knowledge. That’s really the challenge that I found as Rapporteur.

Coming to the Abbas-Netanyahu negotiations sponsored by the U.S., there’s the accusation that the Hamas is trying to torpedo the negotiations by mounting repeated attacks on Israel and Israelis… How do you respond to that accusation?

I think the Hamas has made it clear that unless it is included in the process of negotiations, it will repudiate the process, and it is acting in such a way as to show that. Without bringing them into the process, no negotiation can succeed. I don’t agree with the tactics of killing civilians and terrorist tactics. Of course, the armed settlers are an ambiguous category…

There were 37 reported incursions into Palestinian areas too in the last week of August…

You’ve to see what’s happening on both sides. There’s a tendency in the Western press to just look at Hamas’ violence and never look at the Israeli violence in the same way. And so, in all of these situations I think one needs a balance between the criticism of terrorism by those organisations of Hamas and state terrorism being organised on behalf of the government.

There was a time when Palestine was a very major foreign policy issue as also a domestic policy issue for governments in India. There is this accusation within this country, particularly from the Left, that of late there is a definitive pro-Israeli shift in the Indian stand…

I think there is no question that there has been a shift in the position. It has partly to do with the changing role of India within the world system. Its search for nuclear technology and its counter-insurgency warfare related to the Kashmir issue and the Naxalite issue have led India, I think, into a position almost quite supportive of Israel. And Israel, of course, has tried very energetically to promise that it can do things that would be useful for India and can help India with its problems. So you have a mixture of considerations that has led a more globalised India and left India more concerned with economistic criteria of statehood and progress than was the case with the Nehru era, which was more concerned with its moral standing in the world and its political relations with all the countries in the South, the Non-Aligned Movement, etc. India has moved away from that identity as far as I can tell.

It’s a loss for the world because India played a unique role in the Nehru era, creating a kind of moral voice in international affairs. You’re going back to the Gandhi legacy but Nehru carried it forward into the inter-governmental sphere. It’s missing now. Nothing has taken the place of India, either in the South or with the decline of social democracy in the North — Europe, Sweden, Scandinavia and so forth. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, you don’t have this moral voice in international affairs. Part of the problem of the Palestinians… diplomatically is that they don’t have the kind of strong governmental support that they used to enjoy in the South any longer. And, of course the Arab world is very conflicted itself [on] how to address the Palestinian issue. Their worries about political Islam, the connection of Hamas with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt… There are many problems, of course very complicated.

And the attempt to link it with the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran by the U.S… Isn’t this complicating matters quite a bit?

It’s complicated. But there would be a way of making it much simpler if you did not have this one-sided policy towards Israel. For instance, the larger good thing for the region is to establish a nuclear-free zone that would include Iran and Israel. But Israel persuades the U.S. to act as if it can keep the weapons, and no one else in the region is allowed to acquire it. It’s an unacceptable world where you have two types of countries — those that can have the weapons and those that are not allowed to have them. Going back a little, India always rejected a proliferation approach on this basis. They were prepared to join the nuclear disarmament process but not a proliferation regime. And I think that’s a correct view. You’ve to treat equals equally. You can’t have this discriminatory regime. So if you want peace and security in that region, including Iran, you’ve to create a regional security solution and you’ve to be just and fair towards the Palestinians. Those two shifts in policy seem to be the simple and larger goal if it wasn’t for this political inhibition that you can’t go against the political vision of the Israeli lobby and the Israeli government.

What could be driving the Obama administration into these sponsored negotiations? Is it just a sham dialogue where President Obama is trying to brush up his image, or is there some other motive as in the link-up with Iran?

I think it’s all of those. I think he came to Washington with the idea that he could show that he’s a different kind of leader. And one way of showing that was by being active in trying to solve the Israel-Palestine problem. From the beginning of his Presidency, from his Cairo speech of 2009, [he] seemed to open a new path. But then there was the backlash from the Israeli lobby in the United States and the government in Tel Aviv, and he backed down — which reinforced the image that the U.S. is more subject to Israeli influence than Israel is subject to U.S. influence. And now I think he wants to show he’s dedicated to peace, that he has done all that is possible, and that it’s the fault of the Palestinians that they’re not willing to accept what Israel has to offer. And generally I think there’s very little serious expectation that these talks would come to any meaningful result.

Talks’ve been on for the last 20 years. You’ve said in your report that Palestine is in a state of annexation. That is a fundamental issue here.

I agree.

Given that, how can there be a negotiated settlement unless Israel agrees to go to the 1967 borders…?

Yes, I think that the only negotiated settlement that would work in this time in history is a single democratic secular state. But that would require a Zionist government to abandon Zionism — which is not going to happen. So if you think a negotiated settlement has to produce a two-state solution, then there is no prospect that can come about through these kinds of negotiations.

How can anybody trust Mr. Netanyahu? His own government is divided. Mr. Lieberhman is totally against this. Mr. Netanyahu himself has always been against the Palestinians. So what’s the point?

The point is [the] public relations of Israel, the domestic politics of the U.S. It’s all a kind of cosmetic diplomacy to show a nicer face. The reality is quite ugly. Underneath all of this is the ordeal of the Palestinian people living under this prolonged occupation, who have been living under this prolonged occupation. Living 43 years under occupation is something unthinkable for those of us that have lived in open societies. I’ve met people in Palestinian refugee camps that are fifth-generation refugees. And you’ve no idea, the conditions have been very bad in Gaza. They are poor, too crowded. The addition of [the] blockade has made it a prison camp, with the guards on the borders and the internal prison conditions handled by the prisoners. Even British Prime Minister David Cameron used that terminology when he visited the region.

Do you think that your role as the U.N. Rapporteur, and the U.N. intervention, can at some point of time, may be not tomorrow or in a year, make a difference for Palestine? What can make a difference for Palestine?

I think there’s no one thing [that can by itself make a difference]. I do think that the struggle for the high moral ground is on in the U.N. The U.N. is an important arena of that struggle and my report, and the general debate within the U.N., is one battlefield within the legitimacy war. And it’s a place where, with all its limitations, the approach or the consensus in world public opinion can be registered and has been registered.

One of the reasons that Israel feels so vulnerable to criticism from the U.N. is that the U.N., despite the U.S. influence, still reports the reality. And it’s reality that they don’t want. They’re not afraid of anti-Israeli bias. They’re afraid of truth-telling. That’s what they want to oppose and resist. And so long as the U.N. is a place where you have some opportunity to report the reality as it is, it’s one way that the international community gets information and knowledge and forms its judgment and determines its policy. Churches and other groups are increasingly talking about divesting from companies that do business with Israel, that sell weapons to Israel, or that give them bulldozers for the demolition of houses. There’s a lot of that activity now going on, even in the United States.

CEO of TIAA-CREF confronted by shareholder-activists at UMass Boston

Posted in International BDS Actions on September 25, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Pro-divestment activists from the UMass faculty and student body brought their concerns to TIAA-CREF CEO Roger Ferguson as he delivered a convocation in September, 2010. Jewish Voice for Peace (a member group of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation) has launched a national campaign specifically at TIAA-CREF, to divest from several companies who are clearly profiting from Israeli occupation and apartheid. At TIAA-CREF, even its “socially responsible” line of investment products contains Caterpillar Corporation, one of the longest-standing targets of boycott-divestment activism against the destruction of Palestinian property and livelihood.

Fashion Week soiree hosted by Israeli settlement builder draws protest

Posted in Cultural Boycott, International BDS Actions on September 25, 2010 by Marcy Newman

For Immediate Release

September 21, New York, NY – More than a dozen human rights activists surprised an end of New York Fashion Week shindig hosted at the Madison Avenue diamond boutique of the notorious Israeli settlement builder Lev Leviev. Acting on an anonymous tip, activists from Adalah-NY gathered outside Leviev’s store shortly after highly-coutured guests began arriving. Oscar de la Renta was rumored to be among fashion bigs attending. Well-coiffed fashionistas clutching champagne flutes nervously drew away from the second-floor window of the boutique upon noting the full-throated chanting of the activists. Two glitterati who arrived in a limo returned to their vehicle, joining others, and left after seeing the protesters, who bore signs decrying Leviev’s construction of Jewish-only settlements on Palestinian land in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. One limo driver, after discharging his passengers who were escorted inside by Leviev’s security men, gave the protestors an enthusiastic thumbs up before driving away.

Heard among the protesters’ chants: “Fashionistas and socialites, Leviev denies human rights.”

“It’s a shame that high-profile designers would want to associate with a known human-rights abuser,” said Adalah-NY’s Alexis Stern. “Don’t their PR people know how to search his name on the web?”
Lev Leviev and his associated companies, including Africa-Israel, have been the target of a growing international boycott due to their settlement activities. The Norwegian government announced on August 23rd that it was divesting from Africa Israel Investments and its subsidiary Danya Cebus. UNICEF and Oxfam renounced donations from Leviev, the British government refused to rent space for their new Tel Aviv embassy from Africa-Israel, celebrities have distanced themselves from him, and a Danish Bank has blacklisted Africa-Israel.

From 2000 -2008, Danya Cebus, the construction subsidiary of Leviev’s Africa-Israel company, built homes in the settlements of Har Homa, Maale Adumim, Adam, and Mattityahu East on the land of the West Bank village of Bil’in. Africa-Israel owns a percentage of the Alon Group, which has facilities and supermarkets in a number of Israeli settlements through the company Blue Square. Another Leviev-owned company, Leader Management and Development, owns and operates the expanding settlement of Zufim, built on the land of the West Bank village of Jayyous. Leviev has also been a donor to the Israeli groups the Land Redemption Fund and the Bukharan Community Trust, both of which have been involved in expanding settlements in the West Bank.

For pictures of the protest: http://picasaweb.google.com/JusticeME/LevievFashionWeekSurprise2010

New Yorkers call for boycott of Israeli dance troupe Batsheva

Posted in Cultural Boycott, International BDS Actions on September 25, 2010 by Marcy Newman

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

New York, NY, September 22, 2010 – About 40 protesters gathered this evening to call upon New Yorkers to boycott the Israeli dance troupe Batsheva Dance Company during their performances at the Joyce Theater in Manhattan. Backed by the music of the radical marching band, Rude Mechanical Orchestra, demonstrators handed out programs to dancegoers and pedestrians explaining the reasons for the boycott. At least one dance patron heeded the call, giving his ticket to a protest organizer saying he was no longer comfortable seeing the performance.

In an open letter addressed to the dance company, protest organizers explain:
We are a group of New York-based human rights activists and artists calling for a boycott of your performances at the Joyce Theater in New York City due to your collaboration with the Israeli state and its Brand Israel campaign. Launched in 2005, Brand Israel is a government public relations initiative which uses cultural productions to distract from Israel’s daily human rights violations. In 2009 Arye Mekel of Israel’s Foreign Ministry stated, “We will send well-known novelists and writers overseas, theater companies, exhibits… This way you show Israel’s prettier face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war.” While efforts to promote a positive image of Israel abroad persist, Palestinians continue to suffer from Israeli state policies.

The letter goes on to point out that Batsheva’s performances at the Joyce are co-sponsored by Office of Cultural Affairs, Consulate General of Israel in New York and that they receive money from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Joyce Theatre website describes Batsheva as “Israel’s national dance company.”

The boycott of Batsheva is a response to the Palestinian civil society call for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel which is part of the growing Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement calling for a boycott of Israeli institutions and companies until demands for equality are met, including the end to the military occupation of Palestinian land, equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel, and the right of return for refugees, which is guaranteed by UN resolution 194.

Tonight’s demonstration comes as growing number of musicians, such as Elvis Costello, Carlos Santana, the Pixies, and Gil Scott-Heron have refused to play concerts in Israel, and just after a group of Israeli actors recently refused to perform in illegal Jewish-only West Bank settlements.

Batsheva is scheduled for a two week engagement at the Joyce from September 21 – October 3 and protest organizers say they will continue to flier outside the theater as long as Batsheva is performing. Riham Barghouti, an organizer with Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel, commented, “instead of concealing the ‘ugly’ side of Israel, artists should be protesting it. Groups like Batsheva conceal the harsh reality of Israeli Apartheid. New Yorkers should know that they are paying money to support a dance troupe that is attempting to whitewash Israel’s image, which makes them complicit in the ongoing violations of Palestinian human rights.”

A report on the two day conference on “A Just Peace for Palestine” held on 22-23 September 2010 at New Delhi.

Posted in International BDS Actions on September 25, 2010 by Marcy Newman

“Just Peace for Palestine”
Fri, 2010-09-24 15:07 — Dhananjay

Day 1

Noted academics, political leaders and activists from the different parts of the world gathered today for a two day Conference in New Delhi on ‘A Just Peace for Palestine’. The Conference was jointly organised by the Committee for Solidarity with Palestine, Palestine BDS National Committee, All India Peace and Solidarity Organisation and other like-minded organisations. All the speakers emphasised that until the Israeli oppression of Palestine people ends, the much sought after ‘two-state solution’ will never get realised. The Conference gave a united call for academic and cultural boycott of Israel.

Father Miguel Brockmann, former President of the UN General Assembly, while addressing the gathering emphasised that Palestinians live under the conditions of apartheid, whereby their basic livelihood rights are brutally curtailed by the Israeli authority. Israeli oppression is in complete violation of the UN Human Rights Charter. He emphasised that the explicit recognition of Israeli oppression by the international community is a prerequisite to any genuine peace process in the conflict ridden region of West Asia. He further said that the MDGs set by the UN are bound to fail because they are set as ‘goals and targets’ and not ‘rights’, and nobody is held accountable for failing the targets. He emphasised that recognition of basic rights of Palestinian people is essential.

Jamal Zahalka, a member of the Israeli Knesset (parliament), pointed out that Palestine is the only nation in the world which is geographically segregated and in each of the segregated part of the nation, Israeli authority exerts varying forms of oppression to assert its hegemony. He vehemently opposed Israel’s claim to be recognised as a Democratic Jewish state. He explained that Israel wants to establish the Jewish state by physically eliminating the Palestinian people living in Israel. This is fundamentally contradictory to the notion of democracy. Any formal recognition of Israel as a democratic state would firmly establish Zionist hegemony and delegitimize the struggle of Palestinian people, he said.

Professor Aijaz Ahmed said that the resolution of the Palestine issue is central to lasting peace in West Asia. He pointed out how the position of the leadership of the Indian National Congress on Palestine has changed over the decades. Gandhi had unambiguously recognised the rights of Palestinian people on their land, a view which was later championed by Nehru and his followers in the Non-Aligned Movement. However, the official Indian position has shifted since the 1990s towards closer ties with Israel. He linked the shift with the emergence of Hindutva and neo-liberalism and fall of the socialist block.

Professor Richard Falk of Princeton University sarcastically termed India’s lack of voice on Palestinian cause as ‘geopolitical laryngitis’ at a time when India enjoys greater geopolitical significance. He emphasised that self determination of Palestine can be achieved only through political struggles. He explained the need for soft power instruments against the hard power dominance of the Israel and US combine, drawing inspiration from the non-violence movement of Gandhi.

Professor Falk and Professor Aijaz Ahmad opined that unless an objective assessment of historical events of 1948 and 1967 are done and the crimes committed against the Palestinian people are recognised, the present problem cannot be resolved.

Day 2

The first session of second day was on an Asian response to the Palestinian peace issue and it was chaired by Professor Upendra Baxi. As the first speaker of the session, Prof. Achin Vanaik of Delhi University said that we have to provide a critical but unconditional support to Hamas. He focused on the US geopolitical strategies in West Asia to maintain its domination through supporting Israel. Prof. Vanaik cautioned against over-dependence on Turkey as it is one of the member-countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation aspiring as well to join the European Union. Exposing the irrational demands of the US, Prof. Vanaik said that it is an imperialist country which had invaded Iraq and Afghanistan recently. A country with imperialist designs will never attempted to find a solution for Palestine, he asserted. He also said that civil society resistance to American imperialism is intensified in the recent past and we should strengthen it further. He suggested the organisation of another flotilla with US citizens on the board and to have an international musical concert supporting the Palestinian cause, in one of prominent US cities.
Mustafa Barghouti , a candidate for the Presidency of the Palestinian Authority, described the specificity of empire building in the region. According to him peace initiatives will fail because it is aimed at domestication of Palestinian political process and issues. The peace process cannot take place without acknowledging the suffering of the Palestinian people. With the help of maps and illustrations, Mustafa Barghouti explained how Israeli settlement in Palestinian territory has slowly increased recently. Earlier areas belonging to the Palestinian settlement was 45% of the total land, which had now shrunk to 11 percent. The peace process must focus on settlements, he argued while asserting that Israel had a vested interest in delegitimising the democratic process in Palestine. Mr. Barghouti appealed to the Indian people to support the Palestinian cause. He reminded that India had stood steadfastly against the apartheid regime of South Africa. Today Israel is the biggest violator of international law and Israel is the instrument of all imperialist design providing enough reason to oppose Israel.

Walden Bello , Co-Founder of Focus on Global South, talked about the unity of the people of different regions supporting the Palestinian cause He said the insincere peace talk will strengthen Israel and that US pressure on Israel is important but it is not doing the needful. The American propaganda of democracy in west Asia is a farce because Iraq and Afghanistan are still under its occupation. American policies are responsible for all the mess and we need a multipolar world order, he asserted. Mr. Bello also emphasised the crucial role of Turkey and said the President Barack Obama of the US has to implement his promises. He said that we have to strengthen the civil society movement against Israel.

Ilan Pape, professor of history in the University of Exeter, has said that is wrong to assume the US to be a homogenous country and that there are different voices within the American political mainstream. Recently, there is an assertion of progressive Churches, Jews’ organisations and student movements. Today Israel is scared of this growing resentment against its policies in the US and this is time for us to ally and lobby against Zionist rule, he said. Strengthening the Boycott, De-invest and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel is the best strategy and we should support it, he argued.

The second session of the day was on an Action Plan for Ending the Apartheid and was chaired by Prof. Richard Falk. The first speaker of the session Ms. Lisa Taraki a sociologist at Birzeit University of Palestine said that BDS must be intensified and cautioned against the brand Israel campaign. The Israeli academic and cultural institutions are major instruments of Zionist propaganda, he mentioned.

Dr. Mordecai Briemberg, also emphasized on spreading the information about the BDS campaign in countries like Canada and Europe so that people could be mobilised in favour of the movement. Thomas Sommer- Houdeville, who was the part of the Freedom Flotilla narrated his experiences. He said that there were three reasons why Israel conducted the attack. Firstly, it is a military state and did not know of any other way to respond. Secondly, the Flotilla was breaking the silence on the blockade. Thirdly, Israel continues to fear any pro-active effort against the blockade or its policies. Thomas said that they are preparing another Flotilla involving people from all parts of the world and the attack has not deterred their spirit.

Concluding session – Speaking for Palestine

The concluding session was chaired by senior journalist Seema Mustafa. As the first speaker, veteran trade union leader from Bangladesh Rashed Menon said that the people of Bangladesh stood in support of the Palestinian people. The chairman of the Communist Party of Bangladesh, Manzurul Khan said that the history of Israel is the history of violence and violations of human rights. He asserted that the people of the world were for peace in Palestine and these voices needed to be strengthened. President of the Jatiya Samaj Kranti Dal and member of parliament of Bangladesh, Moinuddin Khan said that Israel is a ZIonist state and a stigma in the face of humanity and that the subcontinent can do a lot for Palestine; India should take a bold stand for Palestine and that India can lead the world through the force of its moral power and not its might.

Mustafa Barghouti argued that there had to be peace or settlements would continue in Israel. In 1947, Palestinian settlements amounted to 45% of the total land, which had reduced to merely 11% in 2005. There was no scope for peace until Israel halted settlements and construction of the apartheid wall. The military arms that Israel was supplying India, were tested on the Palestinian people in Gaza, he said. India was the largest buyer of Israel arms and the BDS campaign would not succeed unless a strong people’s movement in India was not launched.

Prakash Karat, general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), said that the Indian people were concerned as to how to extend solidarity to the Palestinian people and the central issue was the change in the position of the Indian government vis-a-vis the Palestinian issue. In the last one and a half decade, successive governments in India have tried to forge close alliance with the Israeli regimes. The Indian government has condemned the attack on the flotilla but did not mention the name of Israel. There is an impression that Israelis are advising the Indian government in Kashmir. We have to look into the huge multi-billion defence deals between these establishments and the corruption involved. Unfortunately in the Parliament, there is no voice articulating such concerns and the Palestinian peoples’ voices. The defence issue has to be taken up by Parliamentary standing committee and we should get trade unions to participate in the BDS campaign, he asserted. We should also get port and dock workers’ unions to agree not to unload Israeli goods, he argued.

Mani Shankar Aiyar, member of parliament of the Rajya Sabha said that in 1947, India was the only country which stood against the Partition of Palestine. Gandhiji had said that Palestine belonged to Palestine, as much as England belonged to the English and France to the French. The Indian democracy has demonstrated with its plurality that unity is possible through diversity. Yet, today’s Indian establishment is opposed to what India has historically stood for, vis-a-vis the Palestinian issue.

Jamal Juma, co-ordinator of Stop the Wall campaign, questioned why India needed weapons from Israel. He exhorted the Indian establishment to support peace and human rights in Palestine. India was the second largest market for Israeli products and that is why India was so important for the Palestinian in the BDS campaign against Israel.

D.P.Tripathi, general secretary of the Nationalist Congress Party, said that every person who believes in democracy and against apartheid should support Palestine. There is a continuous social, economic and psychological blockade of the Palestinian people by Israel and that a new flotilla from India involving south Asian people for Palestine had to be initiated.

A.B.Bardhan, general secretary of the Communist Party of India, said that if the peace process is only to legitimise Israeli authority, he was opposed to it. He asserted that solidarity with the Palestinian people had no meaning unless there was a concerted opposition to the military alliance with Israel. He argued that Indian intelligence was in cahoots with Israeli intelligence and that Indian democracy was under threat because of this.

Jamal Zahalka, member of the Knesset representing the Balad party, said that all those who were responsible for the killings on the flotilla off the Gaza coast, should be tried and brought to justice. He argued that racism is not merely a domestic issue of Palestine and that it must be defeated globally. The Palestinian people were challenging the Israeli regime and will continue to do so, he asserted.

BNC Event: “South African anti-apartheid strategy and BDS, then and now”

Posted in Apartheid, International BDS Actions on September 25, 2010 by Marcy Newman

The Palestinian Boycott Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) cordially invites you to
a public presentation entitled(الدعوة العربية في المرفق)

“South African anti-apartheid strategy and BDS, then and now”

by
Professor Patrick Bond

Political economist and professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal School of Development Studies in South Africa. Professor Bond authored/edited more than a dozen policy papers from 1994-2002, in service to the new South African government. He was active in the South African anti-apartheid movement and the US student and community movements, and is currently active with the Palestinian BDS movement.

Time: Sunday, 26 September 2010, 6:00 pm
Place: Friends Meeting House
Main Street in Ramallah, across from Rukab
Ice cream parlor

Please confirm your attendance by email: info[at]BDSmovement.netor by phone at: 0599837796 or 02-2975320/1.

BNC-invite-to-Seminar-by-Patrick-Bond-on-26-9-2010.pdf

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