Archive for September, 2010

BNC welcomes cancellation of visit by settlement mayors to Netherlands

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

Occupied Palestine, 23 September 2010 – The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), on behalf of its constituent organizations and unions representing the majority of Palestinian civil society, warmly salutes the decision taken by the Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNG), in consultation with the Dutch Foreign Ministry, to cancel a visit by Israeli mayors due to the fact that six members of the proposed delegation are leaders of illegal Jewish-only Israeli colonial settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territory.1

There are now over 150 settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, housing 475,000 settlers and covering more than 40% of the West Bank. The settlements are deliberately constructed in order to place essential Palestinian agricultural and water resources in Israeli control.2 Israel’s colonial settlement enterprise destroys Palestinian lives and livelihoods and results in the expropriation of Palestinian private and public land and the illegal annexation of territory to Israel. All of these are illegal under international law and prevent the achievement of just peace.

Under the IV Geneva Convention, Israel’s transfer of its own civilians into the Palestinian territory it occupies constitutes a war crime. The United Nations has consistently and repeatedly affirmed that the Convention applies to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory.3 Due to the fact that Israel applies its own domestic civil law to the illegal settlements whereas the occupied Palestinian population is subjected to Israel’s military orders, these settlements also entrench an apartheid regime which is a crime under international law.4 The International Court of Justice in its 2004 advisory opinion, moreover, has reminded states of their obligation to ensure Israel’s compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law and to not render aid or assistance in maintaining the unlawful situation created by Israel.5 The BNC therefore welcomes the decision taken by the VNG to uphold this obligation.

At the same time, the BNC is concerned about the fact that the VNG says it has taken this decision based on its desire to maintain “neutrality”, because neutrality is an inappropriate response to serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Illegal Jewish-only settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territory are but one part of Israel’s system of occupation, colonisation and apartheid over the Palestinian people. This system persists in a large part due to the failure of the international community to take the steps necessary to pressure Israel to cease its transgressions of Palestinian rights. In response to this failure Palestinian civil society issued in 2005 a call for a campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel until it complies with international law– a call that has been heeded by people of conscience all over the world, not least in the Netherlands.

Citizens and state bodies in the Netherlands and throughout Europe played a vital role in the end of apartheid in South Africa with concrete steps of solidarity.

It is worth mentioning that the South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) in South Africa has recently launched a campaign to rid local municipalities of contracts and products that support Israeli impunity – we call upon the VNG to investigate the possibility of implementing a similar campaign in the Netherlands, focused on settlements as one of the most obvious and ongoing Israeli violations of international law. In effect, with its latest decision, the VNG has upheld the morally and legally sound principle that if an Israeli delegation refuses to exclude representatives of illegal institutions it should not be welcome in the Netherlands, Europe or anywhere else.

This same logic has been used by some supermarket chains applying ethical guidelines in regard to
Israel’s illegal settlements specifically, whereby they have stopped stocking all Israeli products because Israel has consistently refused to properly and adequately label settlement products. It is now well documented that Israel has done everything in its capacity to deceive Dutch and European consumers by obfuscating or twisting facts about the origin of various products, thereby violating EU laws and regulations. Especially after the ruling by the European Court of Justice in the Brita case that Israeli goods produced in the Palestinian territories cannot benefit from EU trade privileges,6 it should be completely unacceptable for European states and municipalities alike to continue allowing all Israeli products that may include settlement products or components to enter European markets, enjoy tax breaks under the EU-Israel Association Agreement (despite Israel’s violation of its human rights clauses), and compete unfairly against local products. Israeli produce grown on stolen land and irrigated with stolen water should simply not be allowed into the markets of any state that claims the most basic adherence to international law and human rights.

We call on the VNG and Dutch civil society to implement “Israeli settlement product free zones” and to investigate what other steps can be taken to hold Israel accountable to international law and support the Palestinian struggle for justice and self determination.

The BNC further calls upon the VNG to thoroughly examine its relationship with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the organisers of the delegation,7 and the relationships with Israeli municipality associations it says it maintains.8 Given the inclusion within, and active support of, illegal Israeli settlements maintained by these organisations, any links with them are an active endorsement of Israel’s settlement project in much the same way as accepting the proposed delegation would have been.

Once again, the BNC warmly salutes the principled decision taken by the VNG. We hope that it can be built upon by further actions in support of freedom, justice and equality.

BNC Secretariat

4 1973 Convention against Apartheid; 2002 Rome Statute of the ICC. For more on the applicability of the crime of Apartheid to Israel see

BDS France calls for demonstrations of support for French activists facing repression

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

Colonization, apartheid, refugees

It is Israel that is breaking the law

It’s Israel that should be brought to justice!

In Bordeaux, Perpignan, Mulhouse, Paris and Pontoise, certain activists are soon to
appear in court due to their participation in the citizen and non-violent Boycott,
Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) Campaign.

“We have filed a total of 80 charges concerning similar incidents, all over France”,
declared the president of the National Office of Vigilance against Anti-semitism
(BNCVA) to the press.

These charges echo exactly the deceitful statements about BDS uttered by Prime
Minister Fillon and the minister of the interior Hortefeux, as well as the instructions
recently issued to magistrates by the minister of justice Alliot-Marie.

This is an unprecedented attack on the BDS campaign hatched by pro-Israel agencies
in collusion with the Sarkozy government, whose racist measures against the Roma
people have outraged Europe.

To cap it all, these charges, based on a law of 29 July 1881, attack BDS activists for
“… discrimination, hate or violence against a person or group due to their origin or
due to belonging or not belonging to a specific ethnicity, nation, race or religion”.

We want to ask:

Who, with total impunity, is practicing violence and discrimination on a daily basis
in the Palestinian Occupied Territories?

Who, with total impunity, enacts apartheid legislation against their own Palestinian
fellow citizens?

Who, with total impunity, commits war crimes, and slaughters and persecutes the
civil population in the West Bank and Gaza?

Who, with total impunity, is violating international law by colonizing and exploiting
the resources of the Occupied Territories?

Who, with total impunity, has imposed for the past 5 years a murderous siege of the
Gaza Strip?

It is Israel that is violating international law :

occupation, colonization, apartheid, war crimes,

denying the rights of prisoners, the rights of refugees…

It’s Israel that should be charged in court !

The aim of the BDS campaign is to compel Israel to respect the rule of

Why would the French legal system condemn citizens who carry out
peaceful actions in order that the law be respected and applied?

French citizens who call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel are
driven by the urgent necessity to end the systematic violation of the law by Israel and
the impunity unswervingly granted to it by the French government.

This is a matter of vital urgency for both the Palestinian and Israeli populations.

The BDS France Campaign calls for a wide demonstration of support to
all those, without exception, who are being prosecuted because of their
boycott actions and it demands that Israel be indicted.

The BDS France Campaign urges that support committees be established and
developed throughout the country.

The BDS France Campaign is putting its legal team at the service of those being
prosecuted and of all BDS activists.

From now on, the campaign to promote BDS and indict Israel must be further
reinforced. We must use these forthcoming trials as opportunities to demonstrate in
large numbers!

BDS France Campaign

Members of the BDS France Campaign: Abna philistine, Alliance for freedom and
dignity, Alternative libertaire, Américains contre la guerre, Américains pour la paix et
la justice- Montpellier, Association des Palestiniens en France, Association des
travailleurs maghrébins en France, Association des tunisiens en France, AURDIP,
CCIPPP, Collectif des féministes pour l’égalité, Collectif judéo arabe et citoyen pour
la paix, Collectif des musulmans de France, Comités palestiniens pour le Droit au
retour, Comités BDS France Clichy Palestine, BDS France Montpellier, BDS France
Paris nord est, Orne Palestine, BDS Mulhouse, AFPS Gennevilliers, AFPS
Montélimar/cruas, BDS France Ardèche- méridionale, CNT, CAPJPO-europalestine,
Coordination inter-associative pour la Palestine, Coordination pour l ‘action non
violente de l’arche, Fédération artisans du monde, Fédération des Tunisiens pour une
citoyenneté des deux rives, Fédération pour une alternative sociale et écologique,
Forum social des quartiers populaires, General Union of Palestinian Students,
Génération Palestine, La guerre tue – Toulouse, Parti des indigènes de la république,
Mouvement des objecteurs de croissance, Mouvement des quartiers pour la justice
sociale, Mouvement immigrations banlieues, Mouvement pour une alternative non
violente, NPA, Participation et spiritualité musulmanes, Réseau juif international
antisioniste (IJAN), Respaix, Réveil des consciences, Stop apartheid Toulouse, Une
toile contre le mur – Annemasse, Union syndicale solidaires, Union des travailleurs
immigrés tunisiens, Union juive française pour la paix.

Open letter to OECD regarding decision to host tourism conference in Jerusalem

Posted in Apartheid, International BDS Actions, Take Action, Why Boycott?!, Zionism on September 25, 2010 by Marcy Newman

18 September 2010

Your Excellency Angel Gurría

SecretaryGeneral of OECD

Cc:OECD Member States

The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), a broad coalition of the largest civil society political parties, mass organizations, networks,and trade unions, strongly condemns the decision by OECD to hold its annual Tourism Committee Conference in October in Jerusalem-the first time the conference is held outside Paris. The conference comes at a time when Israel is gradually ethnically cleansing the Naqab (Negev) desert, the Jordan Valley, and occupied East Jerusalem, as in the neighborhoods of Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan,and continuing its construction of its illegal colonial settlements and wall on occupied Palestinian land. Holding the conference in Jerusalem, in spite of this reality of Israel’s grave violation of international law, will be regarded by an overwhelming majority of Palestinians, and people of conscience around the world as a decisive and far-reaching act of complicity in rewarding and perpetuating Israel’s occupation, colonization and apartheid against the Palestinian people. It will further entrench the culture of impunity that has enabled Israel to escalate its commission of war crimes and what is described by some leading international law experts as a prelude to genocide against Palestinians in the illegally besieged and occupied Gaza Strip. The BNC, therefore, calls upon the OECD Tourism Committee to respect international law and relocate the conference out of Israel.

Condemned as a state that is practicing occupation, colonization and apartheid by a recent authoritative legal study in South Africa supervised by international law expert and former UN human rights rapporteur, Prof. John Dugard, Israel is not in compliance with international law and OECD standards and benchmarks.Israel has yet to comply with the recommendations of the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict and investigate and prosecute where needed those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity that resulted in the death of more than 1,400 Palestinians, most of them civilians, in the winter of2008/9. Israel has yet to lift its illegal blockade of the occupied Gaza Strip which has brought to the brink of starvation almost 1.5 million Palestinians,most of whom are refugees Israel had displaced and dispossessed during the 1948Nakba. It has yet to dismantle its illegal Wall in the occupied Palestinian West Bank in accordance with the 2004 International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion. Israel has yet to end its 43-year-old occupation of the West Bank,including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, reverse its colonial enterprise and release Palestinians detained and imprisoned. It has yet to transform its political and legal system in order to provide reparation for millions of Palestinian victims, including return for the refugees, and allow full and equal rights for its Palestinian citizens. Only then can Israel be treated as a pluralist democracy, like other OECD states.

Israel’s ongoing blockade of essential food, health, educational and construction supplies is not only immoral; it is a severe form of collective punishment, a war crime that is strictly prohibited under Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. It is inducing mass poverty, water contamination, environmental collapse, chronic diseases, economic de-development and hundreds of deaths.

This three-year old illegal siege against 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza has been squarely condemned by leading legal experts, including UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the oPt, Prof. Richard Falk, who described it as constituting”slow genocide.”

Israelis blatantly working to “Judaize”[1]Jerusalem through policies of ethnic cleaning, including home demolitions, residency permit revocation, settler takeovers of Palestinian housing, restrictions on freedom of movement and forced fragmentation through the Apartheid Wall, permit systems, illegal settlement construction and land confiscation. Rather than condemning such illegal practices under international law, the OECD conference will cement Israel’s hold on occupied Jerusalem, and will be perceived as as tamp of approval of Israel’s violations of international law in Jerusalem and elsewhere.

Internationally, tourism is overtly deployed by Israel to ‘rebrand’ the state as an attractive holiday destination, and to cover up its occupation, colonization and apartheid policies. Last June, Israeli authorities handed demolition orders to 22residences in the Silwan neighborhood in East Jerusalem as part of a wider scheme to demolish houses and turn the area into an “archeological park” and“tourism center”[2].Extremist settler organization El Ad, supported by Israeli Antiquities Authorities, has exploited — unscientific — archeology to lay claim to the area and now promotes tourism for religious Jewish settler fanatics at the expense of the local Palestinian population who live in fear of constant violent harassment[3].UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk said of the plan that “international law does not allow Israel to bulldoze Palestinian homes to make space for the mayor’s project to build a garden, or anything else,” adding that the plan”should be seen within the context of Israel’s persistent, systematic approach to driving Palestinians out of East Jerusalem”. Not only so, but in February, Israel defied world opinion and international law, declaring two Palestinian sites in the West Bank as “national heritage” as part of its unilateral strategy to annex them to Israel[4]. These Israeli cultural crimes must be understood in the context of decades of Israeli crimes including the erasure of over 500 Palestinian villages in 1948, the destruction of the Moroccan Quarter in the old city of Jerusalem in 1967, and the more recent desecration of the historic cemetery of Ma’man Allah (“Mamilla”) in West Jerusalem for the purposes of building a so-called “Museum of Tolerance”.

Israeli Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov said “Israel’s joining the OECD is of great importance in terms of building a positive image for the country, the positive image gained will have an effect on the tourist’s choice to visit Israel, and it will attract foreign investors to the country,including, among others, investors in tourism.[5]”The OECD showed that it is willing to turn a blind eye to Israeli war crimes,bend its own rules and ignore international law when it accepted Israel as a member last May[6].Organizing this tourism conference in Israel sends once again a strong signal that OECD members are perfectly willing to be complicit with Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and actively support Israel’s PR efforts to whitewash its colonial and apartheid policies.

The OECD ought to respect its own obligations under international law and relocate this ill-conceived conference out of Israel. Failing to do so will further undermine the organization’s already dismal respect for human rights and the international rule of law.

In deep concern,

The Palestinian Boycott,Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC)

[1] See, for example, UN Special Rapporteur, Prof. John Dugard, Human Rights Situation in Palestine and other Occupied Arab Territories (A/HRC/7/17,January 2008).

[2] Why 88 Arab homes received eviction notices

[3] The dig dividing Jerusalem

[4] West Bank sites spark heritage row

[5] OECD selects Jerusalem to host its tourism conference


Israel’s settlement industry under boycott pressure

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

Report, The Electronic Intifada, 23 September 2010

Palestinian activists in the occupied West Bank have called for the boycott of the popular Rami Levy Israeli supermarket chain which has several stores inside Israel’s illegal settlements. Activists say they will call on fellow Palestinians to “avoid supporting the occupation and settlements’ economy by boycotting Israeli goods and settlement stores.”

A vigil was to be held today outside the Rami Levy store inside the Sha’ar Binyamin settlement south of Bethlehem, along Route 60 which connects Jerusalem to settlement blocs in the southern West Bank. Activists with the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee (PSCC) said in a press release that the chain is “popular among some Palestinian shoppers, attracting its clientele through cheap pricing” (“Palestinians to Call for Boycott of Israeli Goods in front of Settlement Supermarket,” 22 September 2010).

In its press release, the PSCC stated that “demonstrators will also remind Palestinians that Rami Levy, the owner of the supermarket chain, is a member of the Jerusalem municipality, and as such is directly complicit in Jerusalem house demolitions and city-sponsored settler takeovers of Palestinian homes.”

Mohammed Khatib, a PSCC organizer from the West Bank village of Bilin, said in the release that “the Palestinian market is one of the main export markets for Israel. It is absurd for us to support our own repression in this way, especially when viable alternatives exist. Every shekel to Rami Levy is a shekel to the continuation of the occupation. This must stop.”

Cultural figures pledge to boycott settlements

Meanwhile, a growing cultural boycott movement against the settlement industry by Jewish and Israeli artists and actors is gaining international support. World-renowned architect Frank Gehry and composer Daniel Barenboim have signed on to the boycott statement, which was written by a group of Israeli actors who last month publicly refused to perform in a new center for performing arts located inside the Ariel settlement (“Israeli actors say no to normalizing settlements,” 27 August 2010 [PDF]).

Drafted by US group Jewish Voice for Peace, the statement has already been signed by “over 200 theater and film professionals representing some of the most respected and renowned artists in theater and film — including Oscar, Tony, Grammy and Pulitzer prize-winner Stephen Sondheim, Julianne Moore, film director Mira Nair, Sex and the City’s Cynthia Nixon, Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Tony Kushner, 21-time Tony winner Harold Prince, star of the film Yentl, Mandy Patinkin, Fiddler on the Roof star and Cameri co-founder Theodore Bikel, Jennifer Tilly, Harry Potter’s Miriam Margolyes, Ed Asner, Wallace Shawn and Focus Films’ James Schamus among many others,” JVP stated in a press release (“Breaking: Architect Frank Gehry supports Israeli settlement boycott,” Jewish Voice for Peace press release, 20 September 2010).

JVP reported that earlier this year, Frank Gehry stepped down as the architect for the Museum of Tolerance in West Jerusalem, which is being funded by the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center. The Museum is being built atop the ancient Muslim cemetery of Mamilla, where graves are being regularly destroyed as museum construction pushes forward.

JVP’s Deputy Director Cecilie Surasky said, “It is particularly critical for architects to speak out against the ongoing construction of Jewish-only communities on Palestinian land. Architects and planners are the key implementers of the Israeli policy of taking and brutally occupying Palestinian land in violation of international law. For Mr. Gehry to take such a moral stand once and for all ends the mythical firewall between architecture, policy and human rights. We hope Israeli architects will be inspired to launch their own campaign to refuse to work in the settlements.”

US grocery boycott proposal thwarted

Also this week, United States boycott activists in Port Townsend, Washington, reported that on 21 September the Board of Directors for a local food co-op had rejected a proposal to pull Israeli products from its shelves. The decision followed an intervention from the Israeli Deputy Consul for the Pacific Northwest earlier in the week (“Port Townsend Food Co-op rejects proposal to boycott Israel on technicality,” JeffCoWA BDS press release, 21 September 2010).

On 19 September, Israeli Deputy Consul Gideon Lustig, who is based in San Francisco, traveled to the city in an attempt to pressure the co-op into rejecting the growing call for boycott. Lustig reportedly met privately with board members to explicitly discuss the boycott campaign. Organizer Dena Shunra commented after the decision by a vote of 4-2 against the boycott, “In five, ten, or fifteen years, when the full impact of what happens in Gaza, the West Bank, and in Israel becomes as known to the world as earlier crimes, I want to be able to look my daughter in the eye and say we did everything we could to stop the killing.”

According to the Jefferson County boycott group, five member-owners of the food co-op presented a proposal to the board of directors “asking the store to pull seven products from its shelves until Israel complies with UN decisions regarding occupied territories and lifts both the siege on Gaza and apartheid on Palestinians.” Supporters of the boycott move have gathered hundreds of signatures in support of the proposal, the committee added in a press release earlier this week (“Israel’s Consul-General interferes in boycott process,” 20 September 2010).

The Port Townsend Co-op’s boycott initiative follows a groundbreaking move by the Olympia Food Co-op, also in Washington state, earlier this summer. Olympia Food Co-op board members voted to pull Israeli-made items from store shelves and refused to meet with the Deputy Consul General in private after his attempt to do so. Boycott organizers in Port Townsend say that despite their co-op’s decision against the boycott proposal, the “momentum will continue.”

Boycott momentum grows in US and UK

In California, the Israeli Divestment Campaign ( launched a ballot initiative on 8 September which would require public and state agencies, including teachers’ investment funds, to divest from Israeli companies that violate Palestinians’ human rights. Organizers say the initiative “prohibits state retirement funds from investing in companies engaged in certain business activities in Israel,” and that “public pension funds in Norway and Sweden have already divested from one of the companies identified by the initiative organizers.”

The US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) meanwhile announced that more than 500 academics have signed on as endorsers to its initiative. “When originally founded in 2009, only a handful of academics called for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel,” USACBI said in a statement (“Over 500 academics have endorsed USACBI,” 20 September 2010). Referring to Gerald Steinberg, professor of political science at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University and co-founder of the anti-boycott International Advisory Board for Academic Freedom, USACBI stated: “The call was dismissed as having little to no significance and was reflected in the statement from Gerald Steinberg. For Steinberg and others, the power of an academic and cultural boycott would be achieved with a critical mass of 500 endorsers.”

After the US academic boycott initiative began with 15 signatories of academic and cultural workers, Steinberg told the New York-based Jewish Daily in February 2009 that “the danger is not these 15; the danger is if the [boycott] becomes 500.”

“This is a major victory for the growing academic and cultural boycott of Israel,” USACBI said. “There is a growing shift in the tide of public opinion in the US which has only swelled in the wake of Israel’s massacre of international activists and relief workers on humanitarian aid flotillas off the coast of Gaza in international waters on 31 May.”

Additionally, in the United Kingdom, trade unions have “thrown their weight” behind a broad-based divestment and boycott campaign from companies which profit from the Israeli occupation ( Organizers said in a press release on their website that “trade unions voted unanimously [on 14 September] at the Trade Union’s Congress (TUC) annual conference for a motion put forward by the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association, seconded by the General, Municipal, Boilermakers and Allied Trade Union, and supported by [trade union] UNISON, the Public and Commercial Services Union, and the Fire Brigades’ Union.”

Organizers added: “the motion called for the General Council to work closely with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign to actively encourage affiliates, employers and pension funds to disinvest from, and boycott the goods of, companies who profit from illegal settlements, the Occupation and construction of the Apartheid Wall.”

And finally, internationally-renowned folk musician and social justice activist Pete Seeger is being pressured by global boycott groups to cancel a planned appearance for 14 November — over the Internet — during a virtual event coordinated by an Israeli environmental group, the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies. Billing the event as a “rally for a better Middle East,” Arava has been identified as an organization in partnership with the Jewish National Fund. In a press release directed at the boycott initiative, Arava stated that Seeger is “absolutely committed to his participation in the virtual rally.”

The Israeli activist organization Boycott From Within drafted a public letter to Seeger appealing to him to cancel his appearance and involvement with the event: “It is clear that you believe you are heading to an event that will be promoting peace,” the letter stated. “This ‘virtual rally for a better Middle East’ will be promoting a mainstream Israeli institution that claims to promote cooperation and peace. However this is done in a non-political context while ignoring the imbalance of power and the daily injustice the Palestinians are enduring. Just very recently in the Negev, Israeli Bedouins had been evicted by force from their lands to make room for whatever seems best to the Jewish majority and authority. This is sadly a common event, one of many faces of the Israeli Apartheid,” the statement added (“Boycott!’s letter to Pete Seeger,” 30 August 2010).

Boycott Israel? The Big Story Special On The Global BDS Movement [Press TV]

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

Copenhagen city council set to vote on divestment

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

Adri Nieuwhof, The Electronic Intifada, 22 September 2010

On 23 September, Denmark’s Social Democrat party will have a decisive influence on a Copenhagen city council vote on whether the municipality should divest $2.3 million from companies involved in the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The divestment measure was already voted on earlier this month, when on 7 September the City of Copenhagen’s financial committee rejected mayor of social affairs Mikkel Warming’s proposal to divest from the 13 companies profiting from the occupation. Copenhagen has a system of governance lead by committees; the finance committee and six other standing committees each have its own mayor and area of responsibility. The committees make decisions relating to their area, but the mayor of the committee can in exceptional cases overrule the committee’s decision and take a proposal to the city council. The Lord Mayor of Copenhagen, or the head of city council, is Social Democrat Frank Jensen who also serves as mayor of the financial committee.

The city council investments in question are made through Danske Invest, a fund managed by Danske Bank. The bank states on its website that it holds investments to standards of social responsibility and “are made only in securities issued by companies that do not violate the standards for human rights, arms, working conditions, environment and anti-corruption.”

However, data from the Israeli group Who Profits from the Occupation? reveals that Danske Invest holds shares in several companies involved in the occupation, many of which have been reported on previously by The Electronic Intifada: Veolia Environnement, Alstom, Assa Abloy, Caterpillar, Dexia Group, Cement Roadstone Holdings (CRH), Heidelberg Cement, Hewlett Packard, Motorola, Unilever, and Volvo Group.

Warming’s proposal comes after a broad coalition of Danish organizations put pressure on Copenhagen to divest from these companies. The Israeli Coalition of Women for Peace and Jamal Juma’, coordinator of the Stop the Wall campaign, have publicly supported the Danish coalition’s call in interviews in the Danish press.

The divestment debate received national attention after the Danish newspaper Politiken published on 16 August 2010 an article arguing that Copenhagen municipality should apply principles of social responsibility to its investments.

The authors, representing the Danish international cooperation organization MS-Action Aid, the Danish United Nations Association and the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network, highlight that half of the $2.3 million in question is invested in Veolia Environnement. Veolia Transport, a subsidiary of the French transportation giant Veolia, is involved in the construction of the Jerusalem light rail project that links West Jerusalem with Israel’s illegal West Bank settlements.

Veolia has come under international pressure for its role in the light rail project, which activists call a “fact on the ground” designed to serve the needs of Israeli settlers. Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank and its annexation of East Jerusalem are illegal under international law. Activists say that Veolia is directly implicated in maintaining this illegal situation and the Palestine Liberation Organization has taken the company to court.

The call for Copenhagen to divest from the Israeli occupation received a boost when Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs Lene Espersen stated in a 10 March 2010 press release: “Denmark’s position is very clear: [Israel’s West Bank settlements] are illegal under international law and constitute an obstacle to peace” (“Danmark fordømmer israelske planer,” Informacion, 10 March 2010).

The Danish coalition’s divestment call was further affirmed by Esben Rahbek Pedersen, an associate professor at Copenhagen Business School and an expert in corporate social responsibility. He criticized Copenhagen’s disputed investments when he told the Danish daily Berlingske Tidende: “If you say you are critical of the settlements in the Palestinian territories, it is obviously problematic when you support companies that profit from settlements. Ultimately it is about consistency between what you say and do” (“Eksperter kritiserer investeringer,” 7 September 2010).

Meanwhile, the vote of the Social Democrats in Copenhagen city council will be decisive, because they are the party with most representation, holding 17 out of 55 seats. If the Social Democrats join the progressive parties and vote in favor of the proposal, Copenhagen municipality has to divest from companies profiting from the occupation.

However, how the Social Democrats will vote is not guaranteed. The spokesperson of the Danish Social Democrats and member of parliament, Jeppe Kofod, is outspoken on the matter and publicly denounced Copenhagen’s investments in the occupation when he was asked for comment by Berlingske Tidende. Kofod told the newspaper that the investments are contrary to Denmark’s official policy of not supporting the illegal occupation of the West Bank, adding that if Danske Bank is not willing to solve the issue, the City of Copenhagen should look for another financial investment manager. However, first vice-chair on Copenhagen city council, Social Democrat Jesper Christensen, expressed a different view when he told Berlingske Tidende that the municipality can not be held hostage by any foreign policy issue.

No matter the outcome of the vote, the campaign of the Danish coalition to put pressure on Copenhagen municipality to divest from companies profiting from the occupation is another clear indicator of the strength of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement in Europe.

Adri Nieuwhof is a consultant and human rights advocate based in Switzerland.

Letter from Gaza Academics and Students: Eight American Universities Normalize Occupation, Colonization and Apartheid!

Posted in Apartheid, Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions, Normalization, Take Action on September 25, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Besieged Gaza,


At a time when the Israeli ongoing crimes against us the Palestinians are at their most visible, their most documented and their most condemned by civil society around the world, we were shocked to learn of the plans by the Universities of Harvard, Columbia, Michigan, Maryland, Florida, Washington, Miami and New Jersey City to offer semester long free programs to American students in Israel at the Jerusalem Hebrew University, Haifa University, The Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center and Carmiel.[1]

Where do we Palestinian students fit into these plans? How are we supposed to believe that such reputed US academic institutions abide by their own codes of conduct when they embrace Israeli academic institutions that contribute on various fronts to the ongoing injustices committed against us each day? The very institutions that remained quiet while their government for three weeks over the New Year of 2009 dropped white phosphorous bombs over us in Gaza, killed over 1443 civilians, including 430 children, bombed our hospitals, roads and bridges and violently attacked an array of our own educational institutions?

Facts speak for themselves: more than 37 primary and secondary schools including 18 schools serving as shelters for the internally displaced were hit, the American International school was turned to rubble, and four buildings of the Islamic University of Gaza (IUG) demolished.[2] Israeli claims that the IUG’s science laboratories were used “to make weapons” was categorically refuted by forensic evidence. There is on the other hand no dispute about the American origin of the F15s, F16s, and Apache helicopters used to bomb and kill the 1443 Palestinians, the vast majority civilians according to the UN Goldstone report [3] and every other human rights report. No dispute on the use of white phosphorous, ‘flechette’ nail bombs and tungsten, all deemed illegal by International Human Rights law and the Geneva Conventions. The Goldstone report listed count after count of international law contraventions, Israeli “war crimes” and “possible crimes against humanity,” not that we should need such a qualification given the horrific numbers of children and women slaughtered in the attack, or crippled thereafter.

Moreover, the collaboration between Israel’si academy and its military and intelligence services has now reached the point of establishing strategic studies institutions, think tanks and entire security studies departments and institutes, many of which are located at or affiliated with the universities involved in this collaboration.

This might explain why Israeli academic Institutions have for so long remained silent on the crimes their state is committing. A report released by the Alternative Information Center in October 2009 titled “Academic Boycott of Israel and the Complicity of Israeli Academic Institutions in Occupation of Palestinian Territories”[4] concludes that, “Israeli academic institutions have not opted to take a neutral, apolitical position toward the Israeli occupation but to fully support the Israeli security forces and policies toward the Palestinians, despite the serious suspicions of crimes and atrocities hovering over them.”

All the Israeli universities were found to be involved in supporting the illegal occupation of East Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank in a myriad of ways. The report describes how 2 of the potential partner institutions to the 8 US Universities; Haifa and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, have sponsored various academic programs for Israeli military reserves, granted scholarships to students who served in the Israeli attack on Gaza, and maintain ties to leading Israeli weapons manufacturers. One of the two campuses of the Hebrew University was built in occupied East Jerusalem, in direct violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

In contrast, the ongoing Israeli siege has shattered Gaza’s education system. There is a dire shortage of books and educational equipment, prevented from entering the Gaza Strip. Students awarded scholarships to universities abroad continue to be blockaded within the strip turning their deserved prospects of academic achievement into a lost dream. Within Gaza, those seeking an education are limited by increasing poverty rates and a scarcity of fuel for transportation, again direct results of Israel’s medieval siege.

Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestinian lands is the most enduring since WWII. The Israeli Occupation Forces have demolished over 24,000 Palestinian homes [5] since 1967 and continue this policy in the name of expansion of Jewish neighborhoods at the expense of the local Palestinian Arab population. Israel is in full violation of UN Security Council resolution 242[6] by occupying Palestinian lands, UNSC resolution 194[7] by denying the 7 million Palestinian refugees their right to return to their homes, the Geneva Conventions Article 49[8] by settling these occupied lands and article 33[9] through its current collective punishment of 1.5 million Gazans placed under a siege denounced by the European Union, the United Nations and all Human Rights groups, but ongoing nevertheless. Since the United Nations in 1948, dominated by the colonial powers of the era, agreed to Israel’s founding on the ruins of Palestinian refugees and the destruction of 531 Palestinian towns and villages[10], Israel has since violated more United Nations Resolutions than any other UN member state.[11]

Most recently the UN Human Rights Council’s fact-finding mission on the Freedom Flotilla raid[12] has concluded that Israel’s naval blockade of the Palestinian territory was unlawful due to the humanitarian crisis there and that during and after the raid, Israeli forces committed, “a series of violations of international law, including international and human rights law,” including, “willful killing and torture”. The report concluded that, “The conduct of the Israeli military and other personnel toward the flotilla passengers was not only disproportionate to the occasion but demonstrated levels of totally unnecessary and incredible violence. It betrayed an unacceptable level of brutality.”

The U.S. in theory has some of the strictest arms export laws. On arms and human rights, Section 502B of the Foreign Assistance Act[13] mandates that “no security assistance may be provided to any country the government of which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.” Yet the US continues to give 6 billion $ of aid and weapons grants to Israel every year, more than is received by the entire continent of Africa.

In light of these ongoing, yet unanswered crimes and in the immediate aftermath of Operation Cast Lead, the United States Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USCABI)[14] was launched. Based on the 2004 call issued by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)[15], and the Palestinian Boycotts Divestment (BDS) call of 2005[16], the movement has grown relentlessly. Today, over 500 US-based academics have endorsed their call for boycotts Writers such as Johan Berger, Archbishop Desmund Tutu, Arundhati Roy, Ahdaf Soueif, universities, trade unions, companies, and international artists including Elvis Costello, Gil Scott-Heron, the Pixies, Carlos Santana, Ken Loach and Massive Attack have all joined the BDS movement.

This boycott, modeled upon the global BDS movement that put an end to South African apartheid, is to continue until Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law by:

1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;

2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality;

3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

We demand boycotts of Israel until it complies with international law, and until justice and accountability are reached. Like the Blacks of South Africa and African Americans, we can never accept compromise on basic human rights.

The history of American academic institutions against apartheid is telling. During the South African divestment efforts, Columbia University disinvested from the Apartheid regime as early as 1978 after a major student mobilization. Harvard University on the other hand did not disinvest until the final year of Apartheid in 1989. The consensus since has fortunately proved that until the last the latter institution stood on the wrong side of history. There is now an opportunity to cut all ties with Israeli academia, to join the call for boycotts of what the United Nations Special Rapporteur John Dugard described as the only remaining case after South Africa, “of a Western-affiliated regime that denies self-determination and human rights to a developing people and that has done so for so long.”[17]

Given Israeli academia’s entrenched involvement in such a long-running subjugation of a people along medieval lines of race and religion, we would expect the US institutions and all those around the world to follow the call of Archbishop Desmond Tutu; to Boycott, Divest and Sanction Israeli Academic Institutions. Normalizing and accepting another apartheid regime and Israel’s full spectrum of well documented crimes against humanity is a threat to justice anywhere, and another wretched endorsement of denying basic human rights from us, the expelled, imprisoned, and still grieving Palestinians. We hope that these institutions will reconsider their decision.

Besieged Gaza,

University Teachers’ Association in Palestine (UTA)

Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCABI)



















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