Archive for October, 2010

ملاحظة/Note

Posted in Uncategorized on October 10, 2010 by Marcy Newman

نحن لا نتفق مع كل من العناوين المنشورة أدناه ، ولا سيما تلك التي لا تدعو على وجه التحديد للتحرير الكامل لفلسطين التاريخية ، وتلك التي تساوي ما بين مقاومة حركة حماس وجيش الكيان الصهيوني، بالإضافة إلى تلك التي تؤيد التطبيع. إلا أنّ بعض الأفكار الواردة في هذه المواد عن اتخاذ إجراءات من قبل بعض الناس في أنحاء العالم هي أفكار ملهمة ونعتقد أنّه يمكن وينبغي أن يتمّ تبنّي هذه الإجراءات مع قبل الفئة التي تعمل على حملة المقاطعة وسحب الاستثمارات وفرض العقوبات ضد إسرائيل [BDS] في المنطقة.

We do not agree with all of the posted news items below, particularly those that do not specifically call for the liberation of all of historic Palestine, that imagine Hamas’ resistance is equal to the Zionist entity’s military, that support normalization. However, some of the ideas presented in these articles about actions people are taking around the world are inspiring and we believe can and should be adapted to those working on BDS in the region.

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Alvin Ailey: Don’t Dance Around Israeli Apartheid

Posted in Cultural Boycott on October 10, 2010 by Marcy Newman

PACBI | 9 October 2010

While human beings are being willfully denied not just their rights but their needs for their children and grandparents and themselves, I feel deeply that I should not be sending even tacit signals that [performing in Israel] is either ‘normal’ or ‘ok’. It’s neither and I cannot support it. It grieves me that it has come to this and I pray everyday for human beings to begin caring for each other, firm in the wisdom that we are all we have. [1] – Maxi Jazz (Faithless front-man)

Occupied Ramallah, 9 October 2010 – The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) is deeply disturbed by news reports that your company plans to participate, later this month, in the fourth annual Tel Aviv Dance Festival, an initiative sponsored by the Tel Aviv Municipality and cultural institutions that are complicit in maintaining Israel’s system of colonial oppression.[2] PACBI, supported by an overwhelming majority in Palestinian civil society and, in particular, by almost the entire community of Palestinian dance artists and other cultural workers,[3] views the participation of any international cultural group in this, or any similarly objectionable festival, as a form of complicity in whitewashing Israel’s occupation, apartheid and war crimes. We ask you to cancel your participation and to join the growing ranks of prominent international artists and arts groups who have refused to cross our boycott picket line [4] and have thus evoked the most noble traditions of international solidarity that was manifest in the South African anti-apartheid struggle.

Palestinian artists and boycott activists were particularly disheartened by Alvin Ailey’s plans to partake in this festival, given your group’s record of standing up for human rights and against racist oppression.

In 2008, when you first ignored our pleas and participated in Israel’s “re-branding” propaganda efforts by performing in Tel Aviv, you yourself fell target to Israel’s institutionalized and prevailing racism. Israeli security officers at Tel-Aviv’s Airport forced Alvin Ailey dancer, Abdur-Rahim Jackson, your only African-American member with a Muslim/Arab sounding name, to perform twice for them in order to prove he was a dancer before letting him enter the country with the rest of the company, as reported by the Associated Press then.[5] While still officially illegal in the U.S., ethnic profiling, considered racist by human rights groups, is widespread in Israel. It is seen in such places as entrances to malls, public and private buildings, airports, etc. Israeli citizens and permanent residents with Arab names — or often just “Arab accents” — are commonly singled out for rough, intrusive and glaringly humiliating “security” checks.[6] Even after Mr. Jackson had complied, one of the Israeli officers suggested that he change his name, leaving him humiliated and “deeply saddened,” as your own spokesperson confirmed at the time. In response to your humiliation, you did nothing.

At a time when the Israeli state is besieging and denying basic rights and needs to 1.5 million Palestinians in the occupied Gaza Strip and committing a gradual ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem and the Naqab (Negev), dancing in Tel Aviv is all that more morally repulsive. You shall be dancing at a festival primarily sponsored by the Tel Aviv Municipality, an official Israeli body notorious for its apartheid policies against the indigenous Palestinians. As the seat of Israel’s political and economic power, Tel Aviv houses the institutions that mastermind and oversee the implementation of Israel’s longstanding policies of ethnic cleansing, racial discrimination and military subjugation. It is hence more emblematic of apartheid and colonial rule than any other Israeli city. Tel Aviv is a city in colonial denial. Its very existence and expansion are products of the Zionist project of erasing the physical presence of the Palestinians, their culture, heritage and memory. The adjacent Palestinian city of Jaffa and numerous villages were emptied of their indigenous inhabitants to make way for the “White City.” Performing in Tel Aviv today is therefore equivalent to, if not worse than, performing in Sun City under apartheid South Africa, in violation of the call for boycott supported by the oppressed black majority then.

Two years after the initial 2004 call for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel was issued by PACBI,[7] a large majority of Palestinian artists and cultural workers appealed to all artists and filmmakers of good conscience around the world “to cancel all exhibitions and other cultural events that are scheduled to occur in Israel, to mobilize immediately and not allow the continuation of the Israeli offensive to breed complacency.” As with the past boycott of South African cultural institutions, international cultural workers and groups are urged by their Palestinian colleagues to “speak out against the current Israeli war crimes and atrocities.”

Many world renowned artists and intellectuals heeded the Palestinian appeal for boycott; those included John Berger, Ken Loach, Jean-Luc Godard, the Irish artists union, Aosdana, and Belgian dance companies Rosas and Les Ballets C. de la B. The latter published a statement defending the cultural boycott as “a legitimate, unambiguous and nonviolent way of exerting additional pressure on those responsible.”[8]

Most recently, best-selling US author Alice Walker reminded the world of the Rosa Parks-triggered and Martin Luther King-led boycott of a racist bus company in Montgomery, Alabama during the US civil rights movement, calling for wide endorsement of the Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel as a moral duty in solidarity with Palestinians, “to soothe the pain and attend the sorrows of a people wrongly treated for generations.”[9]

In August, more than 150 (now closer to 200) Irish artists published a pledge to boycott Israeli cultural institutions until Israel complies with international law.[10] A few months earlier, Montreal, Canada, witnessed a most impressive initiative in this respect, where 500 artists issued a statement committing themselves to “fighting against [Israeli] apartheid” and calling upon “all artists and cultural producers across the country and around the world to adopt a similar position in this global struggle” for Palestinian rights.[11]

As to those claiming that a cultural boycott of Israel would infringe on freedom of expression and cultural exchange, we recall the judicious words of Enuga S. Reddy, director of the United Nations Center against Apartheid, who in 1984 responded to similar criticism voiced against the cultural boycott of South Africa saying:

It is rather strange, to say the least, that the South African regime which denies all freedoms… to the African majority… should become a defender of the freedom of artists and sportsmen of the world. We have a list of people who have performed in South Africa because of ignorance of the situation or the lure of money or unconcern over racism. They need to be persuaded to stop entertaining apartheid, to stop profiting from apartheid money and to stop serving the propaganda purposes of the apartheid regime.[12]

Alvin Ailey, and indeed all other artists and cultural entities that uphold human rights and human dignity, surely realize that art and moral responsibility cannot be divorced. In a situation of colonial oppression and apartheid, you cannot simply dance around apartheid; you are called upon to help in ending it.

[1] http://www.wallofsilence.org/news.html

[2] http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3960222,00.html

[3] http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=315

[4] Guidelines for the International Cultural Boycott of Israel: http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1047.

[5] http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/26623540

[6] http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=805

[7] http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=869

[8] http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=85

[9] http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article11319.shtml

[10] http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1328

[11] http://www.tadamon.ca/post/5824

[12] http://www.tcg.org/publications/at/mayjune08/positions.cfm

Towards accountability: John Dugard interviewed

Posted in Apartheid, Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions, Why Boycott?!, Zionism on October 9, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Adri Nieuwhof, The Electronic Intifada, 5 October 2010

Last month, Professor John Dugard, former UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, chaired a meeting on universal Jurisdiction in the Hague. The Electronic Intifada contributor Adri Nieuwhof interviewed Dugard about means of bringing Israel to account for its human rights violations, particularly the legal mechanism of universal jurisdiction.

Adri Nieuwhof: Can you explain the principle of universal jurisdiction?

John Dugard: Essentially, universal jurisdiction means that a state has the power to exercise jurisdiction over serious crimes under international law that were committed outside the boundaries of the state by non-nationals. Normally states have only jurisdiction over crimes in their territory by their nationals.

AN: Do states have responsibility towards exercising universal jurisdiction?

JD: Yes, if states are serious about suppressing international crime and preventing impunity, then there is an obligation to exercise universal jurisdiction. It is important to realize that the International Criminal Court in The Hague has limited universal jurisdiction. If impunity is to be avoided, states will have the obligation to prosecute international crimes themselves.

AN: Can you specify what this obligation of states implies?

JD: They have to institute criminal procedures against persons suspected of international crimes, to investigate and to bring the suspects before their court.

AN: You spoke at the meeting about selectivity in implementing universal jurisdiction. Can you clarify this?

JD: Universal jurisdiction is not very effective at present. There are practical difficulties involved, in particular, the collection of evidence. For example, if the Netherlands prosecuted serious crimes committed in Rwanda, it will have to collect evidence in Rwanda. There is no political will on the part of states to exercise universal jurisdiction, particularly where it concerns Israeli officials. When attempts are made to exercise universal jurisdiction over Israeli officials obstacles are raised by governments or courts find some technical reasons for not exercising universal jurisdiction.

AN: Is there a reason behind this selectivity in universal jurisdiction?

JD: European and American states are reluctant to undermine their relations with Israel.

AN: What needs to be done to reverse this selectivity? Is there a role for civil society?

JD: Civil society can always bring pressure on governments to exercise criminal jurisdiction. It has a role to play in changing public opinion. It will mean that courts will start to exercise universal jurisdiction.

AN: Israel increasingly oppresses human rights defenders and activists campaigning for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS). Can you comment on this development?

JD: It is unfortunate. Israel has been relatively tolerant of dissent in its society. It indicates a new repressive tendency of Israeli society. The effect will be stifled dissent in Israeli society.

AN: Can you comment on the imprisonment of civil society leader and Palestinian citizen of Israel Ameer Makhoul and the reports that he was tortured during the interrogations?

JD: My difficulty is that I have not been in Israel since 2007. I cannot comment on Israel. In the past there were frequent allegations of torture by Israeli human rights activists. That is serious. I am out of touch with recent developments.

AN: Israeli accuses the BDS movement of delegitimizing Israel. What is your reaction to this accusation?

JD: The BDS actions are delegitimizing Israel. There is no question about that. Obviously Israel is unwilling to accept that, similar to apartheid South Africa, which did want to suppress international sanctions. BDS was at that time effective, largely as a result of international advocacy for [boycott, divestment and] sanctions. It delegitimized the state and ultimately led to change in South Africa.

The comparison between Israel and South Africa is important. The situation is very similar at present. The international community is increasingly critical of Israel, advocating for international [boycott, divestment and] sanctions. It is not surprising that Israel is taking steps to prevent them in the same way the South African government did.

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

Propaganda and Israel/Palestine: The War is On

Posted in Apartheid, Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions, Why Boycott?!, Zionism on October 9, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Poor CAMERA…so victimized, so lonely. Tell the President and Provost of Boston University you are alarmed that they are welcoming a group of apologists for Israeli war crimes!

Architects against Israeli occupation

Posted in International BDS Actions on October 9, 2010 by Marcy Newman

With the settlement freeze over, international architects must take action to end illegal construction in the West Bank

o Abe Hayeem
o guardian.co.uk, Monday 4 October 2010 10.01 BST

In deciding to back the boycott of Ariel theatre in the West Bank, Frank Gehry, the Canadian-American architect of Guggenheim fame, joins a growing body of professionals who are making a stand against the illegal settlements. Ariel, a quintessential illegal settlement, is continually expanding to fit the over-generous boundaries staked out over Palestinian land, choking the development of Palestinian villages nearby. Its new state-funded cultural centre, 20 years in the construction, is due to open in November.

Architecture and planning are instruments of the occupation, and constitute part of a continuing war against a whole people, whether as a minority within Israel’s green line, or in the occupied territories. Since this involves dispossession, discrimination and acquisition of land and homes by force, against the Geneva conventions, it can be classified as participation in war crimes.

Arbitrary planning laws are not enforced in the many illegal projects built by settlers, and major development plans are implemented without complete approval. Areas owned by Palestinians are simply declared to be green areas, making their presence there “illegal”.

What can one say about the Israeli architects who follow the state’s policies and aims yet deny that their role is political? Despite all the evidence of illegality under international law and breaches of human rights in the land grabs, house demolitions and evictions, Israeli architects and planners continue their activities. They cannot claim that they do not know: there have been plenty of calls for them to stop.

More of the illegal projects that have been built over the last four decades are ready to go now that the recent settlement freeze has ended – with no sign of resistance or protest from the Israeli Association of United Architects (IAUA). This applies not only to ultra-Zionist architecture firms but mainstream architects of international repute such as Moshe Safdie and Shlomo Aronson. Safdie has been responsible for the now notorious Plan 11555 for the extreme nationalist settler movement Elad that has, in effect, been given control of Silwan, a Palestinian neighbourhood in East Jerusalem.

The International Union of Architects (UIA) has already taken note that Israeli architecture and planning in the West Bank is contrary to its professional ethics and codes of conduct. After Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine raised this issue at the UIA council meeting in Brazil in July 2009, the UIA issued a statement saying:

“The UIA council condemns development projects and the construction of buildings on land that has been ethnically purified or illegally appropriated, and projects based on regulations that are ethnically or culturally discriminatory, and similarly it condemns all action contravening the fourth Geneva Convention.”

With settlers now celebrating the prospect of thousands of new housing units being built in the West Bank, Israeli architects will continue reaping the bonanza of a housing boom that has continued for decades. Writing in Haaretz earlier this month, Esther Zandberg, the paper’s architecture correspondent, said:

“Trends and world-views seep in from the other side of the Green Line and impact on architecture in the rest of Israel more than architects are willing to admit. A protest by established architects within the community, figures with a reputation and influence, could lead to a protest movement that will draw many, restore to architecture its confidence in itself and its values, and may also make its own contribution to the end of the conflict over the land. Architects? Protest? Peace really can happen.”

The international solidarity movement has decided that the best way to change Israel’s behaviour is to take actions against Israeli companies and institutions in order to put pressure on the government there. Last year, as the result of a campaign led by APJP, Pacbi and universities in Europe, Spain disqualified architecture students from the “Ariel University Centre of Samaria” (sic) from a competition to build a solar house in the Solar Decathlon in Madrid. “Spain acted in line with European Union policy of opposing Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land,” a Spanish official said.

Since little seems forthcoming from the Israeli architects’ body, despite appeals over the last decade, the responsibility falls on architects worldwide and the UIA to press for action to end this complicity, and defend the ethics and humanity of their profession.

Is boycotting Israel anti-Semitic?

Posted in Apartheid, Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions, Why Boycott?!, Zionism on October 9, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Sherry Wolf, a member of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, responds to claims from supporters of Zionism that criticism of Israel–and in particular, the movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions against it–is “anti-Semitic.”

October 7, 2010

ISRAEL’S SUPPORTERS wield the accusation that Palestine solidarity activists who support a boycott of Israel are guilty of anti-Semitism.

Sherry Wolf Sherry Wolf is the author of Sexuality and Socialism: History, Politics and Theory of LGBT Liberation and an associate editor of the International Socialist Review. Her writing has also appeared in the Nation, CounterPunch and New Politics. She was on the executive committee of the 2009 National Equality March.

Because this charge is so repugnant to progressives, as Zionists are all too aware, it can have the effect of shutting down any debate about Israel’s crimes. In particular, the charge is leveled at the global movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, which seeks a campaign until Israel “meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with international law,” as stated in the BDS call to action.

The outlandish charges by Israel’s defenders against pro-Palestine activists reach the heights of hysteria on Web sites like BoycottIsrael.org.uk, which falsely poses as “The official boycott Israel site” and is headlined, “The real Palestine story is just anti-Semitism re-branded–instigated and supported by the storm troopers of our time.”

There you have it. According to them, support for a boycott of Israel, which acts in open defiance of international laws and any unbiased person’s moral code, is nouveau-Nazism.

This accusation is not simply an odious lie, it is an attempt to manipulate hatred of anti-Semitism to draw attention away from the ongoing Israeli crimes of dispossession, systematic racism, collective punishment and wholesale warfare on a population guilty of nothing other than their own existence.

It is an old debaters’ ruse that when you don’t have the facts on your side, change the subject. That’s what the charge of anti-Semitism is really all about.

When Zionists claim that acts of anti-Semitism, which are on the rise in some places, are the result of the BDS movement, activists must confidently confront them with reality. The BDS movement has always condemned anti-Semitism in all its forms, and none of its materials nor actions make appeals to anti-Jewish sentiment.

Omar Barghouti, a BDS movement leader, visited Rome last spring, and this is how journalist Max Blumenthal reported on his response to this mischaracterization of the boycott campaign:

Regarding the accusation of anti-Semitism frequently leveled at BDS, he replied that such an accusation is in itself anti-Semitic, inasmuch as it creates an equivalence between all Jews and Israeli policies, implying that Jews are monolithic, and that all Jews should be held responsible for Israel’s actions.

Such generalizations and the idea of collective Jewish responsibility are fundamentally anti-Semitic. He called upon Europeans to stop assuaging their Holocaust guilt by oppressing the victims of the victims of the Holocaust.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

KNOWING THE history of Palestinian oppression is indispensable in combating this myth.

The expulsion in 1948 of nearly 700,000 Palestinians from their homeland as part of a colonial-settler project undertaken by Zionists and supported by the United States is an uncontestable point of history, about which anyone is welcome to their own opinion, but not their own version of the facts. It happened.

As Israeli-born Jewish historian Ilan Pappé writes in A History of Modern Palestine:

Out of about 850,000 Palestinians living in the territories designated by the UN as a Jewish state, only 160,000 remained [by 1949] on or nearby their land and homes. Those who remained became the Palestinian minority in Israel. The rest were expelled or fled under the threat of expulsion, and a few thousand died in massacres.

Palestinians were driven from their land, some by the self-described terrorists of the Zionist Irgun and Stern Gang. Today, most of the world’s Palestinian population lives in exile outside of Israel and in the Palestine Occupied Territories, with no right to return to the land of their ancestors. This refusal of return is in stark contrast to the Law of Return that virtually guarantees citizenship to Jews from around the world–even if they have no family there, have never before visited, nor speak the Hebrew language.

The horrifying conditions of malnutrition, mass unemployment and wholesale deprivation in the Gaza Strip are often detailed by SocialistWorker.org, as are the atrocious facts of life for those Arabs living in the West Bank, where hundreds of miles of separation walls with militarized checkpoints confine the daily lives of every Palestinian.

But less is written about Palestinian citizens of Israel–those who live outside of the Occupied Territories of the West Bank and Gaza, but inside the borders of Israel–who live under a separate set of laws. That is, they live under apartheid conditions. If not for the horrors of the Holocaust, most people would readily agree that a nation with privileges and rights for one ethnic group and not the others is racist. By any objective measure, Israel is, in fact, a racist state.

For example, all residents of Israel must register their ethnicity–Jewish, Arab, Druze–because different rights accrue to different peoples, and all must carry identity cards that have this information at all times. Non-Jews of Israel, of whom there are more than 1 million, are treated more like residents without a nationality or equal rights.

This became shockingly clear in July when a Palestinian Israeli man was convicted of raping a Jewish Israeli woman in Jerusalem even though the couple had consensual sex. Because the man had lied about his nationality and deceived her, he was convicted of rape.

As Jewish Israeli journalist Gideon Levy argued, “I would like to raise only one question with the judge. What if this guy had been a Jew who pretended to be a Muslim and had sex with a Muslim woman? Would he have been convicted of rape? The answer is: of course not.”

Ninety-three percent of the land in Israel is nationalized and controlled by the Jewish National Fund and the Jewish Agency, which denies Arabs the right to buy or even rent land, while Jews can easily do so.

Facts are facts. Israel claims to be a Jewish state that aims to “transfer,” better known as cleanse, Palestinians in order to maintain its demographic Jewish majority. Therefore, it is trying to taint a global justice movement with charges of anti-Semitism so that Israel will not be turned into a pariah state for its apartheid laws and unconscionable war crimes.

That some people in the world might falsely conflate Judaism with Zionism is perhaps because the state of Israel does so itself. That is not a brush Zionists can paint the BDS movement with, however.

Jews such as Pappé, Levy, Blumenthal and a growing army of lesser-known pro-Palestinian Jews, including myself, are willing to call out Israel for its thwarting of international law and basic norms of humanity. And we especially, the children and grandchildren of the Holocaust generation, will not allow accusations of anti-Semitism to muddy the waters.

The BDS movement is a struggle for social, political and economic justice. Join it.

Palestine boycott committee calls on US pension fund to divest from Israel

Posted in International BDS Actions on October 9, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Press release, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee, 5 October 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, calls upon the US non-profit pension fund TIAA-CREF to live up to its motto of providing “Financial Services for the Greater Good” by divesting its funds from companies that profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories and violation of Palestinian rights. As in the struggle to end South African apartheid, divestment from wrongdoing companies is not just a moral obligation; it is a time-honored, particularly effective, non-violent form of pressure that can significantly contribute to ending Israel’s occupation, racial discrimination and denial of refugee rights.

The BNC strongly supports the fast-growing and inspiring campaign initiated by Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and widely endorsed by US solidarity and just peace advocacy groups and coalitions, including the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and Adalah-NY, aimed at pressuring TIAA-CREF to divest from companies profiting from Israel’s occupation and violation of international law. We urge all groups working on boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaigns in the US, especially on university campuses, to endorse this campaign and join it, whenever possible, to amplify its reach and impact across the US.

Investing in companies that profit from Israel’s multi-tiered oppression of the Palestinian people is a form of complicity in this oppression. Israel is methodically and routinely violating international law and Palestinian rights as part of its system of apartheid, colonization and occupation. Israeli colonial settlements in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, continue to grow relentlessly, destroying lives and livelihoods. These settlements are all illegal according to international law, as most recently confirmed by the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in July 2004. The construction of Israel’s apartheid wall has isolated and put at risk of displacement over 250,000 Palestinians from over 75 communities. The immoral and illegal siege of Gaza continues, and the 2008-2009 military aggression campaign known as Operation Cast Lead has been condemned by a UN fact finding mission as constituting war crimes and possible crimes against humanity “in furtherance of an overall and continuing policy aimed at punishing the Gaza population.” Palestinian citizens of Israel face “institutional, legal and societal discrimination,” condemned even in US State Department reports. Over six million Palestinian refugees, the majority of the Palestinian people, are denied their UN-sanctioned right to return to their homes and receive reparations.

Through its investments in companies complicit in Israel’s violations of international law, TIAA-CREF directly profits from and is in turn accountable for these violations of international law:

* Holdings worth $19.24m in Veolia, a company that profits from the construction and expansion of illegal Jewish-only settlements by operating a landfill in the West Bank, collecting rubbish from illegal settlements and being a key partner in a light rail system linking West Jerusalem and illegal Israeli settlements, described by the UN Human Rights Council as a “clear violation of international law”.

* Holdings worth $1.69m in Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest arms manufacturer which provides unmanned aerial vehicles used in the massacre of Palestinian civilians in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead and has been integral in the creation of the apartheid wall across the West Bank that has been ruled illegal by the ICJ.

* Holdings worth $91.75m in Motorola, a provider of equipment and components for military checkpoints, that serve a humiliating and integral part of Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territory, and the Israeli occupation forces.

* Holdings worth $199.06m in Northrop Grumman, a vital supplier of military equipment to the Israeli occupation forces.

* Holdings worth $236.85m in Caterpillar, who supply bulldozers routinely used to demolish Palestinian homes and in the construction of illegal Israeli settlements and supply unmanned bulldozers specially designed for urban warfare that were used in Operation Cast Lead.

* Investments do not exist in isolation from the actions they fund. As holders of pension schemes with TIAA-CREF, over 3.5 million academic, medical, cultural and research practitioners throughout the United States are unwittingly profiting from violations of international law. Israeli impunity relies on the economic and political support gained by such investments; so did apartheid South Africa’s impunity. The BNC was pleased to learn that TIAA-CREF no longer owns shares in Africa-Israel, a company heavily involved in settlement construction. However, the BNC urges TIAA-CREF to ensure that its actions consistently reflect its own public statements about its commitment to “influence positive social change” and to ensure it sells its holdings in all companies that profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory and infringement of Palestinian rights.

In the face of the failure of the international community to hold Israel to account for its violations of international law and its denial of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, and in harmony with the 2005 BDS Call issued by the overwhelming majority in Palestinian civil society, individuals of conscience, trade union and diverse institutions have engaged in campaigns to boycott and divest from companies complicit in Israeli violations of international law.

TIAA-CREF is an institution of great significance and weight and must take its responsibilities seriously. An organization that professes to lead the field in ethical investment and hold progressive principles cannot bankroll and politically bolster Israeli aggression. Nor should individual pension scheme holders have their hard-earned savings ethically tarnished by their investment in Israeli violations of international law. The BNC looks forward to hearing that TIAA-CREF has ended its active complicity with Israeli contravention of Palestinian rights and calls upon board of TIAA-CREF to:

* Immediately divest its shares in all companies actively involved in the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.

* Take steps to ensure that such investments cannot be allowed to re-enter its portfolios.

* Inform all companies whose shares it holds that it will not tolerate involvement in Israeli aggression of any kind.

The BNC also calls upon individuals of conscience, international solidarity groups and academic, labour and student groups in particular to:

* Work closely with JVP, Adalah-NY and the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation to support, enhance and ensure the success of the campaign against TIAA-CREF’s unethical investments.

* Raise awareness of TIAA-CREF’s investments in Israeli violations of international law in their communities, work places and educational establishments.

The BNC views this campaign with utter interest, as it is well justified, well though-out, as well as has every potential to succeed and, as a result, to play a key role in bolstering divestment campaigns across the US. Such prospects should not be taken lightly, given the undeniably great role played by divestment of international banks and corporations, especially the US-based ones, from apartheid South Africa in supporting the struggle for freedom and justice there.

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