Archive for the BDS Success Category

PRESS RELEASE – SA UNIVERSITY: Conditional termination with Israeli institution

Posted in BDS Success, International BDS Actions on October 3, 2010 by Marcy Newman

29 September 2010

This afternoon, after what was described as a “most tense” Senate

meeting, UJ’s highest academic body voted to conditionally end its

Apartheid-era relationship with Ben-Gurion University (BGU). A

fact-finding investigation conducted by the University confirmed BGU’s

links with the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) and complicity in the

Israeli occupation.

Against the backdrop of a significant public campaign, these findings

confirm the facts presented in a nationwide academic petition, which

has been supported by over 250 South African academics

( The petition has been backed by Vice-Chancellors

from four universities, and prominent leaders such as Breyten

Breytenbach, John Dugard, Antjie Krog, Barney Pityana, Kader Asmal and

Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

The overwhelming support of respected South African voices has

highlighted the structural complicity of Israeli universities in the

occupation and, as a result, the decision by UJ emphasises the

necessity for South African universities to reconsider their

affiliations to Israeli institutions.

Accepting the recommendations of the report, UJ has committed itself

to end any research or teaching relationship with BGU that has direct

or indirect military links; or in instances where human rights abuses

are identified. If BGU violates any of the conditions agreed on by

Senate or UJ’s stated principles, which include “solidarity with any

oppressed population”, the relationship will be terminated

automatically after 6 months. Further, Senate has recognised the

necessity for the University to engage with Palestinian universities

and has made this a requirement for interaction with the Israeli


Whilst the decision marks an unprecedented development towards the

complete boycott of Israel by South Africa, UJ’s decision goes only

part of the way in meeting the demands raised by the petitioners –

which was to insist that Israel must abide by international law and

that BGU terminates all privileges extended to the IDF. With this

milestone in the academic boycott of Israel, the campaign for boycott

will persist in taking these gains forward.


Coordinator: Media Relations

Division of Marketing and Communication

Tel +27 11 559 6653

Cell +27 72 129 0777

Media release:


The Senate of the University of Johannesburg (UJ) has voted not to
continue a long-standing relationship with Ben Gurion University (BGU)
in Israel in its present form and has set conditions for the
relationship to continue.

The conditions are that the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)
governing the relationship between the two institutions be amended to
include Palestinian universities chosen with the direct involvement of
UJ. These universities are to be consulted on the terms of the amended
MoU and UJ will consider their views.

Additionally, UJ will not engage in any activities with BGU that have
direct or indirect military implications, this to be monitored by UJ’s
Senate Academic Freedom Committee.

The UJ Senate also requests BGU to “respect UJ’s duty to take
seriously allegations of behaviour on the part of BGU’s stakeholders
that is incompatible with UJ’s values” and calls on BGU to respond to
reasonable requests from UJ seeking more information about “BGU’s
formal policies and informal practices”.

Should the conditions imposed by UJ not be met within six months, the
MoU between the two institutions will automatically lapse on 1 April

It will also lapse if there are any violations of UJ’s stated
principles, which the Senate task team outlines as “solidarity with
any oppressed population” and that UJ’s engagement with BGU and other
institutions in the region must “encourage reconciliation and the
advancement of human dignity and human solidarity”.

The Senate vote still has to be ratified by the Council of the
University, but BGU and its advocacy group in South Africa will be
notified of the task team’s findings and the Senate vote by Professor
Ihron Rensburg, Vice-Chancellor of UJ.

The Senate action is the result of findings by a task team established
at a special meeting of the university Senate on 17 May where some
members of the University’s highest academic body proposed to sever
the current Memorandum of Understanding between UJ and BGU because of
alleged incompatibility between BGU’s practices and UJ’s central

After hearing representations, the Senate decided to form a task team
that would put its mind to the issues raised and make a recommendation
to the Senate on how to respond to the proposal to sever links with

The committee, which was headed by Professor Adam Habib,
Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Advancement at UJ, was
evenly divided between advocates for termination of links and those in
favour of continued conditional engagement.

“The committee met five times with a view to finding a principled
common ground on which a recommendation to Senate could be advanced,”
says Professor Habib. “In developing this recommendation we were
mindful that our recommendation would need to be consistently applied
in other similar contexts where UJ’s central values were not upheld
and where human rights abuses were identified.”

South Africa Champions the Academic Boycott of Israel

Posted in BDS Success, International BDS Actions on October 3, 2010 by Marcy Newman

PACBI | 30 September 2010

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 behooves 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

Occupied Ramallah, 30 September 2010 — PACBI welcomes the decision [1] yesterday by the Senate of the University of Johannesburg (UJ) “not to continue a long-standing relationship with Ben Gurion University (BGU) in Israel in its present form” and to set conditions “for the relationship to continue.” The fact that the UJ Senate set an ultimatum [2] of six months for BGU to end its complicity with the occupation army and to end policies of racial discrimination against Palestinians is a truly significant departure from the business-as-usual attitude that had governed agreements between the two institutions until recently.

If the Senate decision was a commendable first step in the right direction towards ending relations with Israeli institutions implicated in apartheid policies and support for the occupation, the real victory lies in the intensive mobilization and awareness raising processes by key activists and academics in South Africa that indicated beyond doubt the groundswell of support for Palestinian rights in the country and that played a key role in influencing the UJ Senate vote. A petition urging UJ to sever links with BGU remarkably gathered more than 250 signatures of academics from all academic institutions in South Africa, including some of the most prominent figures. The mainstream media attention, in South Africa and the West, to the facts about BGU’s complicity and the heavy moral burden placed on the shoulders of South African institutions, in particular, to end all forms of cooperation with any Israeli institution practicing apartheid has been unprecedented, with views favorable to justice and upholding international law gaining wide coverage.

The UJ Senate has requested BGU to “respect UJ’s duty to take seriously allegations of behaviour on the part of BGU’s stakeholders that is incompatible with UJ’s values” and to provide more information about “BGU’s formal policies and informal practices.” Explaining this aspect of the ultimatum, Adam Habib, UJ’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor, told Aljazeera [3]:

[W]e know that the BGU has collaborative projects with the Israeli army and we also know that the university implements state policy which invariably results in the discrimination of the Palestinian people. Crucially, there can be no activities between UJ and an Israeli educational institution that discriminated against the Palestinian people.

Salim Vally, a senior researcher at the UJ Faculty of Education and spokesperson for the Palestinian Solidarity Committee (PSC), welcomed the decision saying: “While the PSC supports an unequivocal and unambiguous boycott of all Israeli state institutions, this is a move in the right direction and we are confident that it would lead to a more comprehensive boycott of Israel in the future.” [4]

Regardless of all concerns about the details of the decision, a predicted outcome of a delicate balance of forces in a university that is still dealing with its own apartheid past, it cannot but be viewed as a triumph for the logic of academic boycott against Israel’s complicit academy, as consistently presented by PACBI and its partners worldwide, including in South Africa. It is, indeed, as a significant step in the direction of holding Israeli institutions accountable for their collusion in maintaining the state’s occupation, colonization and apartheid regime against the Palestinian people. As former South African cabinet minister and ANC leader Ronnie Kasrils wrote in the Guadian, “Israeli universities are not being targeted for boycott because of their ethnic or religious identity, but because of their complicity in the Israeli system of apartheid.” [5]

PACBI warmly salutes all those who worked on and who endorsed the campaign to cut links with BGU. The precedent-setting petition, endorsed by the heads of four South African universities and prominent leaders such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Breyten Breytenbach, John Dugard, Antjie Krog, Barney Pityana, and Kader Asmal, does not mince words in calling for severing links with BGU and, it implies, with all Israeli institutions complicit in violations of international law [6]:

While Palestinians are not able to access universities and schools, Israeli universities produce the research, technology, arguments and leaders for maintaining the occupation.

Archbishop Tutu defended the call to sever links with complicit Israeli institutions saying [7], “It can never be business as usual. Israeli Universities are an intimate part of the Israeli regime, by active choice.” Reiterating his unwavering support for the Palestinian-led global campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, he eloquently adds:

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.

While challenging BGU’s complicity, the UJ Senate decision does not fully heed the call by Archbishop Tutu or the 250 South African academics. It makes problematic assumptions and reaches, in part, conceptually and morally flawed conclusions.

First, by conditioning the continuation of links with BGU, among other conditions, on including a Palestinian university in a three-way collaboration, the UJ Senate decision indirectly assumes “parity between justice and injustice,” which Mandela cautioned against, and balance between an institution that is in active partnership with the system of apartheid and occupation and another university that is suffering from this same system. This position is morally untenable, especially when espoused by an academic institution that is transforming itself from an apartheid university to one committed to equality and social justice.

Furthermore, this attempt to cover up an essentially immoral relationship with BGU — that was forged during apartheid at the height of Israel’s partnership with the racist regime in South Africa — by suggesting a Palestinian fig leaf is in direct violation of the long standing position by the Palestinian Council for Higher Education which has consistently called on all Palestinian academic institutions not to cooperate in any form with Israeli universities until the end of the occupation. [8] It is also in conflict with the Palestinian Call for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel [9] and the Guidelines for the International Boycott of Israel,[10] both widely supported by Palestinian civil society, particularly by the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees (PFUUPE), representing the academic and support staff in all Palestinian universities and colleges. Does enticing the victim of a criminal to “partner” with that criminal make the latter less so?

Second, the statement that “UJ will not engage in any activities with BGU that have direct or indirect military implications” is quite troubling in its logic, if taken literally, not as interpreted by Prof. Habib above. It basically says that it is acceptable to do business with a criminal entity so long as the particular business done with it is above suspicion. Had this logic been applied to a South African apartheid institution at the height of the international academic boycott, it would have meant continuing business as usual with that racist institution so long as the specific project conducted with it was not directly or indirectly implicated in apartheid policies. The fact that the institution as a whole is guilty of complicity in apartheid would have been deemed irrelevant.

BGU as an institution is guilty of complicity in the Israeli occupation and apartheid policies; nothing can make any “environmental” or “purely scientific” project it conducts with UJ morally acceptable until it comprehensively and verifiably ends this complicity. The culpability of the entire institution in violations of international law and human rights cannot be washed away by narrowing the focus or diverting attention only to details of the project with UJ.

As Archbishop Tutu said:

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.

A post-apartheid South African university that is in the process of transforming itself to a truly democratic institution cannot possibly complete this necessary transformation while maintaining a partnership with an apartheid institution elsewhere. We sincerely hope that UJ will continue on the path it has taken, by completely severing its links with BGU and any other Israeli institutions complicit in violating international law and human rights.



[1] Media release issued by the UJ Division of Marketing and Communication on 29 September 2010.


[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.




[8] The Palestinian Council for Higher Education, composed of heads of Palestinian universities and representatives from the community, has, since the 1990’s, adhered to its principled position of rejecting “technical and scientific cooperation between Palestinian and Israeli universities” until Israel ends its occupation; this position was reiterated in a statement of thanks to the UK academic union NATFHE for adopting the academic boycott of Israel in 2006:



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

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).

BDS Campaign – Boycott Israel Movement Grows

Posted in BDS Success, Cultural Boycott, International BDS Actions on September 22, 2010 by Marcy Newman

By Eric Walberg

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign moves ahead in Washington, California, British Columbia, Harvard and Brown Universities, and the Netherlands, notes Eric Walberg

In July, in Rachel Corrie’s hometown of Olympia, Washington state, the popular Food Co-op announced that no Israeli products would be sold at its two grocery stores. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a principal endorser of this new Israel Divestment Campaign, issued a statement endorsing the boycott. “The Olympia Food Co-op has joined a growing worldwide movement on the part of citizens and the private sector to support by non-violent tangible acts the Palestinian struggle for justice and self-determination.”

In a surprise move in August, Harvard University divested itself of all its Israel investments, almost $40m worth of shares, including Pharmaceutical Industries, NICE Systems, Check Point Software Technologies, Cellcom Israel and Partner Communications. Initially, Harvard gave no explanation for its actions to the SEC. John Longbrake, spokesman for Harvard, maintained that Harvard has not divested from Israel, that these changes were routine and did not represent a change in policy. But was Harvard in fact caving under BDS calls and trying to do so as quietly as possible to avoid a Zionist backlash? In the past, Harvard has divested from companies for purely political reasons, but they did so publicly. For instance, five years ago, Harvard divested from PetroChina in order to protest China’s actions in Sudan.

In Vancouver, Canada, port truck traffic slowed to a crawl in late August as a group of about 50 protesters approached drivers with leaflets asking them to observe the world boycott campaign against Israel, and in particular to refuse to unload the Israeli container ship Zim Djibouti, one of the largest in the world, that had landed in Vancouver harbour. “This action was part of the growing international campaign to pressure Israel to comply with international law and stop killing innocent civilians,” said Gordon Murray, spokesperson for the Boycott Israeli Apartheid Coalition (BIAC). “Workers in South Africa, Scandinavia, the United States, Turkey and India have already responded to the Palestinian call for action,” said BIAC spokesman Mike Krebs. “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.”

In an interview with the Christian Science Monitor earlier this year, Jonathan Ben Artzi, a PhD candidate at Brown University and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s nephew, made clear his belief that equality and social justice will prevail in Israel when the government and people of the United States adopt a no-tolerance stance toward Israel’s abuse of Palestinians. Ben Artzi, whose family has lived in the region for nine generations, and who’s seen a lifetime of Israel’s abuse of Palestinians, declared: “Sometimes it takes a good friend to tell you when enough is enough. As they did with South Africa two decades ago, concerned citizens across the US can make a difference by encouraging Washington to get the message to Israel that this cannot continue.” His reference to South Africa was to the protests, boycotts and divestment actions in the US between 1984 and 1989, which ultimately forced the white minority South African government to relinquish control over its oppressed Black majority. Ben Artzi served 18 months in prison for refusing his mandatory service in Israel’s military.

The California Israel Divestment Campaign launched a campaign on 8 September for a California ballot initiative in November requiring public employee and teacher pension funds to divest from business activities in Israel. Said local campaign organiser Sherna Gluck, a member of the Public Employee Retirement System: “Our public retirement systems have more than $1.5 billion invested in at least eight companies that provide war materials and services used in violation of internationally recognised human rights, including support for the illegal Israeli settlements and the Separation Wall.” Archbishop Tutu told the Californians: “We defeated apartheid nonviolently because the international community agreed to support the disinvestment in apartheid campaign. A similar campaign can help to bring peace in the Middle East and do so nonviolently.”

This is the just the first divestment launch in California. Similar launches in other California cities are soon to come. With this divestment campaign, Californians are poised to spark a state-by-state divestiture movement to parallel the anti-Apartheid campaign that helped defeat the oppressive rule in South Africa.

The Dutch government too has set an important precedent for European and indeed world governments. It dropped a bomb this week when the Foreign Ministry cancelled a tour of mayors from Israel planned for October. The forum is funded by the Joint Distribution Committee, a Jewish-American charity, and the participant list included representatives from West bank settlements Efrat and Kiryat Arba in “Judea” and “Samaria”. The Israeli Foreign Ministry harrumphed: “This is undoubtedly useless and harmless politics, and we hope that this is not the final word on the topic.”

Well, I hope it is. The Netherlands has become notorious for the Islamophobia whipped up by Dutch politician and filmmaker Geert Wilders, who proudly says “I hate Islam,” calls the Quran a “fascist book” and the Prophet Mohamed “the devil”. He argues that Muslim immigration is a “Trojan Horse”. His words are being echoed by Israeli politician Aryeh Eldad, who condemned the boycott move: “The Dutch surrender to the Arabs reflects their surrender to the Muslim minority.” This principled move by the Dutch, clearly an attempt to fight the negative image of the Netherlands, will give pause for thought to all governments. Israel Local Council Chairman Shlomo Buchbut rightly concludes: “The decision by the Netherlands puts the [Israeli-Arab] conflict before anything else.”


Eric Walberg writes for Al-Ahram Weekly You can reach him at

Celebrities cultural boycotting Israel

Posted in BDS Success, Cultural Boycott, International BDS Actions on September 22, 2010 by Marcy Newman

The issue of Israeli settlements has captured attention far beyond the arena of international politics.

Several celebrities have now thrown their weight behind what is being termed a “cultural boycott” against further building on Palestinian land.

But with Israel’s construction freeze due to expire at the end of the month, there are doubts that these efforts will make any impact.

Al Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros reports.

Boycott Israel and make a difference

Posted in BDS Success, Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions on September 22, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Dutch rejection of colony ‘mayors’ is part of a worldwide refusal to tolerate Tel Aviv

The Dutch government should be strongly congratulated on standing up for international law, and stopping five ‘mayors’ of illegal Israeli colonies on the West Bank from joining other Israeli mayors in taking part in a professional study tour in the Netherlands in October. All 40 mayors have since cancelled their trips. The Dutch approach is logical: these colonies are illegal and the authorities who oversee them are breaking international law and taking part in the continuing brutal occupation of Palestine. They should not be included in the accepted international network of communities.

Such checks to Israeli arrogance may seem small, but thousands of such actions will add up to a ringing international condemnation of terror. Israel has become accustomed to being the supreme military power in the region: its forces act without restraint; it arrests whoever it wants with little reference to law; and it continues programmes of collective punishment on the Palestinian civilian population with horrifying consequences. It feels that it can do what it wants without fear of retribution or consequence.

As part of this arrogance, the Netanyahu government has a policy of continuing to support the illegal colonies. As it goes through the motions of the direct talks with the Palestinians, it is not talking of withdrawing from any Palestinian land, nor is it talking of knocking down any buildings. In fact, it is talking of ending the moratorium and starting to build yet more colonies.

In response to this situation, 180 Palestinian organisations and unions have called for a campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Apartheid Israel. This BDS movement deserves widespread support and all people should be encouraged to join in. The Trades Union Congress in Britain passed some powerful motions in support of the BDS movement at its annual meeting this week. Around the world, people in all walks of life have the opportunity to show they reject Israel’s occupation.

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