Archive for the Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions Category

Eight American Universities Say Yes to Apartheid – An Analysis

Posted in Apartheid, Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions, Why Boycott?!, Zionism on September 28, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Lawrence Davidson

A letter from Gaza appeared on the Web dated September 24, 2010. It was from a group of Gaza academics and students and sought to publicize the fact that eight American universities have recently signed agreements with various Israeli universities to offer U.S. students free semester long programs in Israel. Among the American universities participating in this venture are Harvard, Columbia and Michigan.

The Gaza academics and students expressed shock at this turn of events. And so they might given the fact that they are sitting in an outdoor prison of Israeli making and have seen their educational institutions both starved of resources by an Israeli blockade and literally bombed to rubble by Israeli warplanes. The situation in Gaza is but the worst of a bad situation for all Palestinians, including those in the West Bank and Israel proper. When it comes to education in all of these locales apartheid policies are in place to interfere with Palestinian students and teachers and minimize the educational experience. Actually, this is part of an unspoken strategy of cultural genocide. Such policies are directly or indirectly supported by the Israeli academic institutions to which the participating American universities now want to send their students.

How can these U.S. universities do this? This is certainly a legitimate question in an age when discrimination and racism are, supposedly, no longer socially or politically acceptable. After all Harvard, Columbia, Michigan, etc. are institutions of higher learning housed in a country that prides itself on broad civil rights laws and all of them adhere to social equity rules. Yet here they are climbing into academic bed, so to speak, with a state that practices apartheid against its non-Jewish minority and is attempting to ethnically cleanse the indigenous population of the Occupied Territories.

Well, there are any number of scenarios that might lead them to this sort of hellish arrangement and here I offer only one possibility. It assumes an “Adolf Eichmann context.”

1. The realm of the bureaucrat

The people in control of American universities (and perhaps all universities) are mostly bureaucrats. Some of them are trained in the specialty field of higher education administration, some are professors who have crossed over to an administrative career line, and some are just folks hired from the general population pool to run sub-departments such as public relations and accounting. They are all trained to pay lip service to various sorts of mission statements and assessment markers, however their lives are really very insular and their goals narrow and short term. For instance, even at the highest level, say the office of the university president, there are usually but a few major goals, and the main one in this case is to raise money.

Somewhere in the organizational chart is an office of overseas programs (or some similar title). It is usually a small operation with a director and a secretary. Their job is to set up exchange programs. What they are looking for are programs at overseas schools that are roughly similar in quality to the courses their own institution offers. That way the credits can be legitimately transferred back home and stand in for some of their student’s degree requirements. The people who are arranging these exchanges usually know little or nothing of the social or political situation in the overseas institution’s country. And, they are not likely to educate themselves on these subjects beyond some assurance that the place is relatively safe for the students that will be participating in the exchange. It may be hard for those of us who are so focused on Israeli apartheid to accept this, but for most of the folks in these little offices, Israel has about the same cachet as the Czech Republic or maybe Ireland. There is a lot of ignorance at his level.

2. What else is going on?

Of course, that is not the end of the story. There are other folks out there, most of whom are indirectly associated with the university in question. These people know that there is a war going on against apartheid Israel, and they are not on our side. They want to counter the increasingly effective process of “chipping away at Israel’s legitimacy.” They also have deep pockets and lots of influence. These folks may be big donors to these universities and some of them may well sit on the institution’s board of governors/regents.

When the president or his representative goes out to raise money these donors have what appears to be innocuous conditions for their gifts. So they say to president x or y, “sure we will give you half a million dollars for that new sports complex you so covet, but in return we want you to create this exchange program with Hebrew and Haifa U.” The president thinks that this is little enough to ask for such a generous gift, and his friend on the board of governors/regents seconds the motion. A telephone call is made to the director of overseas programs who is given a contact name and number at the Israeli embassy to get things rolling. And that is how it happens.

3. What comes next?

Soon enough this arrangement becomes public. You have to figure if they know about it in Gaza, they know about in Cambridge, Ann Arbor and upper Manhattan. Given the times there will probably be some sort of public protest, but the ensuing struggle will not be easy for the following reasons:

a. The university position will almost certainly be that to shun Israel is a violation of academic freedom, free inquiry, and the essential non-political status of learning. This sort of argument is age old. The U.S. universities were making it when they were asked to divest from apartheid South Africa and stop research funded by the “Defense” Department during the Vietnam war. One can never lay this argument to rest in any final way because it represents a cherished, if somewhat unreal, ideal.

So you point out for the one thousandth time that there is an inherent contradiction when you take this position relative to Israeli universities just because they do not promote these academic ideals. They are destroyers of free thought and free inquiry as far as Palestinian rights (and particularly the right of education) are concerned. And so if the ideal of a non-political status for learning exists anywhere in the real world, it ain’t in Israel. The whole Zionist academic setup has been criticized by international as well as Israeli human rights organizations for these anti-educational activities. And finally, you try to tell the university decision makers that there is precedent for universities taking a stand against apartheid practices. At this point you notice that they have, figuratively, clicked on their I-pods and are no longer listening.

b. Next you go to the professors of the institution and try to explain the same thing. That is when you come to the stomach wrenching realization that most of them do not care. Most academics are as specialized as the bureaucrats, and live their lives in just as insular a world. They know a lot about their sub-field and very little beyond it. They are dedicated to their families and their local communities and are, on the whole, decent people, but they are not interested, nor are they going to hit the street, for oppressed people far away. This is particularly true when their local news sources have been systematically libeling those people for sixty plus years. They too will hide behind the idea of academic freedom.

It should be noted that this is not quite the same thing as Julien Benda’s “treason of the intellectuals.” There is very little spouting of national chauvinism or the racism of Islamophobia (except for the Zionists professors among them). No, it is just co-option into the system. It is just natural localism–I really just want to live my life and work in my lab or library cubicle, etc. I am reluctant to get too annoyed at my fellow academics for this attitude, because theirs is the immemorial stance of all ordinary folks everywhere.

c. So that leaves the students, and here there is a much better chance to gather a crowd and take a stand. There is always a socially conscious group among the youth who are willing to fight for a good cause and risk defying the powers that be. This is because they have yet to become ensconced in the system, bogged down with career, family, mortgage and the like. In other words, some of them have not yet shrunk into an insular world of very local interests and goals. And those are the people who will protest, if anyone will, at the ivy towers of Harvard, Columbia, Michigan and the five other schools which have willed their own corruption.

4. What are the odds of victory?
Whether anyone will listen to the protesters depends on how many there are, how loud they protest and how far they are willing to go with it. Are they willing to go into the dormitories and spread the word? Are they willing to picket not only the ordinary centers of power on campus, but also the admissions office when prospective students come to visit, or demonstrate on home-coming day and at all the football games? Are they willing to hunt for donors who might say they will not give if their institution partners with Israel? Are they willing to occupy the president’s office and thereby risk arrest? Are they willing to keep all of this up for weeks on end? It might take all of these sorts of activities to even have a chance at winning this contest.

And even so the odds are not good. Essentially, you have to create such a cost to the institution in trouble and bad publicity that it outweighs that donor’s half a million dollars and/or the anger of the fellow on the board/regents. If in the end you do not win, you have to understand that it is not wholly a defeat. After all, you have certainly raised consciousness. In other words, you have set the stage for the next battle and made that one a little easier to win. So you have to have the energy to fight again and again. It is a scenario wherein youth is a definite plus.

There is another way in which the mounting a serious protest at any of these schools must constitute a victory. And that is the fact that such a protest will demonstrate to the academics and students in Gaza and the rest of Palestine that the world has not abandoned them, that they have allies and their struggle is now a worldwide one. In the short run, that might be the most important victory of all.

In Conclusion

Here is quote from the American academic Richard Hofstadter, “A university’s essential character is that of being a center of free inquiry and criticism–a thing not to be sacrificed for anything else.” If this so (and all the leaders of the institutions involved in these exchanges will undoubtedly agree) then why are these eight universities sending their students off to Israeli schools that cooperate with state policies that deny just these sacrosanct pursuits to persecuted Palestinians? Why are they sending their students to a country that seeks to silence, at all levels of society, any free inquiry and criticism of its racist and oppressive national ideology? Why are they cooperating with institutions that have state dictated policies (for instance, admissions policies) that would be illegal in the United States? Do they condone such behaviors? If they go through with these exchange programs the answer is, for all intents and purposes, yes, they do. Essentially, they now lend themselves to the destruction of the very educational virtues they claim to cherish.

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

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

C. Gouridasan Nair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What about the European governments?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I agree.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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,

24.September.2010

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)

References

[1] http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3955118,00.html

[2] http://jordantimes.com/?news=14035

[3] http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/specialsession/9/docs/UNFFMGC_Report.pdf

[4] http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article10945.shtml

[5] http://www.icahd.org/?page_id=76

[6] http://daccess-ods.un.org/TMP/4559531.html

[7] http://daccess-ods.un.org/TMP/6654234.html

[8] http://www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/WebART/380-600056

[9] http://gisha.org/UserFiles/File/publications/GazaClosureDefinedEng.pdf

[10] http://www.ifamericansknew.org/history/ref-nakba.html

[11] http://www.asiantribune.com/news/2009/09/26/israel-nation-has-violated-more-un-resolutions-all-other-countries-mid-east-put-toge

[12] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/sep/23/un-panel-israel-war-crimes

[13] http://www.amnesty.org.uk/news_details.asp?NewsID=18136

[14] http://usacbi.wordpress.com/?ref=spelling

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

[16] http://bdsmovement.net/?q=node/52

[17] http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article6602.shtml

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.

Israeli Beauty Products Company Ahava Complicit in the Sins of Occupation

Posted in Apartheid, Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions, Profiting from Zionism, Zionism on September 20, 2010 by Marcy Newman

By Alex Kane, AlterNet
Posted on September 18, 2010, Printed on September 20, 2010

Walk into any Ricky’s store, a beauty shop chain in New York, and you will find a shelf filled with Ahava products. For $28, you can buy mineral toning cleanser; for $22, Dead Sea liquid salt; and for $9, purifying mud soap. The products made by Ahava (which means “love” in Hebrew) seem innocent enough, perfectly enticing for anyone fond of beauty products.

But looks can be deceiving. As activists from the peace group CodePink’s Stolen Beauty campaign are fond of chanting at protests, Ahava can’t hide its “dirty side.”

For nearly two years, an international campaign spearheaded by Palestine solidarity activists has targeted Ahava and the various stores that carry its products, including Ricky’s, calling for a boycott. The boycott campaign has heated up recently, eliciting push-back from Jewish organizations around the country and a response from the CEO of Ahava.

While Ahava labels its products “made in Israel,” they are actually manufactured in a settlement in the Israeli-occupied West Bank in Palestine. According to the Web site Who Profits?, a project of the Israeli anti-occupation group Coalition of Women for Peace, the company exploits Palestinian resources from the Dead Sea.

Under the Geneva Conventions, and various United Nations resolutions, all of Israel’s settlements–which house about 500,000 settlers–are illegal, as is excavating natural resources in an occupied area. Israel has occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip since the 1967 Six-Day War. The settlements are widely seen as an obstacle to the creation of a viable and contiguous Palestinian state.

“[The boycott] is about a just peace for Israelis and Palestinians,” said Nancy Kricorian, CodePink’s coordinator for the Stolen Beauty campaign. “The situation on the ground there is dehumanizing and demoralizing and terrible.”

Ahava, which rakes in profits of nearly $150 million a year, according to a Dec. 2009 CNN report, is owned by entities deeply involved in Israel’s settlement project in the occupied West Bank. According to Who Profits? 37 percent of the company is owned by Mitzpe Shalem, an illegal settlement located in the eastern West Bank; another 37 percent by the private investment fund Hamashibr Holdings, which also is a major shareholder in two companies that export produce made in settlements; 18.5 perent by the U.S.-based Shamrock Holding, owned by the Roy E. Disney family of Walt Disney fame, and which is a shareholder in a company that manufactures electronic detection systems that are used on the West Bank separation barrier; and 7.5 percent by the West Bank settlement of Kalia.

In an interview, Kricorian acknowledged that Ahava is a huge target, and likened the Stolen Beauty campaign to a “game of whack-a-mole,” as new places where Ahava products are sold pop up frequently. But Kricorian says it isn’t just about hurting the company’s sales.

“A boycott campaign is strategic, and it’s a long-term thing,” she said. “It’s not just about hurting the company’s sales. It’s also about educating the public about, in this particular case, the company’s illegal practices and sullying the company’s name and reputation.”

The campaign to boycott Ahava, in both the United States and around the world, has racked up some important victories. In August 2009, activists successfully pressured Oxfam International to drop Sex and the City star Kristin Davis as a spokeswoman because she was also working with Ahava. In November 2009, the Dutch Foreign Ministry agreed to investigate Ahava’s manufacturing and labeling practices. Costco, a large U.S. retailer, was pressured into halting the sale of Ahava products at its stores in January 2010. The Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank, has included Ahava products in its boycott of settlement products campaign, confiscating and destroying products made in West Bank settlements. Recently, four activists in London were acquitted on charges of trespassing after direct actions in 2009 in which they locked themselves onto oil-filled drums inside an Ahava shop.

AHAVA did not respond to inquiries for comment.

The Stolen Beauty campaign, which began in the aftermath of the brutal Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip in 2008-’09, is part of the larger boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement that grew out of a 2005 call by a vast swathe of Palestinian civil society groups for BDS against Israel. Modeled on the anti-apartheid movement that targeted South Africa, the Palestinian-led BDS movement demands that Israel withdraw from the occupied Palestinian territories, implement equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel and recognize the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees and their descendants who fled or were expelled from Palestine during the1947-’49 Arab-Israeli war.

“The BDS campaign has become the most effective, morally consistent, nonviolent form of solidarity with the colonized Palestinians against Israel’s apartheid and colonial rule,” Omar Barghouti, a founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, wrote in an e-mail. “The Stolen Beauty Campaign against Ahava, led by our partner CodePink, is a truly inspiring BDS campaign, as it is creative, focused, well-researched and very effective in conveying the message across to and, more crucially, in mobilizing BDS action in a wider, more mainstream audience.”

The Israeli government has taken notice of the growing BDS movement. The Israeli Knesset recently passed a preliminary reading of anti-boycott legislation that would impose fines on Israeli activists promoting boycotts of Israel. A February 2010 report by the Reut Institute, an Israeli think-tank with close ties to Israel’s government, identified the BDS movement as an threat to the state.

In the United States, the BDS movement, and the campaign against Ahava, has also generated controversy. After a Washington, D.C.-based group protested in July 2010 against Ahava products being sold in Ulta, a beauty store, the Jewish Community Relations Committee of Greater Washington urged supporters to buy Ahava products.

Brooklyn’s Ricky’s shop has also become the epicenter of a dispute over the Boycott Ahava movement. After a July 9 protest outside the store led by CodePink’s Stolen Beauty and Brooklyn for Peace, which signed onto the campaign in May, a group of rabbis in Brooklyn drafted a letter in response, urging people to buy Ahava products and denouncing the campaign. The rabbis’ letter claimed that “CodePink ignores the history and legal status of Mizpeh Shalom” because it is located in “‘Area C’, a huge section of the West Bank over which Israel, again by joint agreement, was granted full control, except over Palestinian civilians.” (The Area C designation comes out of the 1993-era Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Area C incorporates all West Bank settlements.)

“Local Jewish leaders find the idea of a boycott of Israel to be a misguided and one-sided approach to a complex and deeply troubling conflict,” said Rabbi Andy Bachman, a signatory to the letter and a member of the liberal group J Street’s Rabbinic Cabinet. “The problem with a boycott is there’s one side that’s all right and another side that’s all wrong. If that’s what the boycotters think, then there really is nothing to discuss. But if not, then why not boycott Palestinian business for years of rejecting peace accords?”

So far, Ricky’s has not budged, and continues to sell Ahava products. Dominick Costello, the president of the store, refused to comment.

The relentless targeting of Ahava hasn’t gone unnoticed by the company. A letter that has recently been circulated by Ahava to its business partners states that “our company and products have been the subject of unfortunate, ugly and clearly politically motivated smear attacks” that are being pushed by a “couple of small radical fringe organizations, which are part of a larger and more insidious campaign aimed against the State of Israel.”

The surge in attention to the boycott campaign is a sign that “we’ve gotten attention to issue of settlements like we never got before,” said Naomi Allen, an activist who sits on Brooklyn for Peace’s board and is involved in the group’s Israel/Palestine committee. Beginning this month, Brooklyn for Peace plans to hold protests outside the Ricky’s shop in Brooklyn on the last Tuesday of every month.

“This is not an argument that we’re going to lose, because [what’s] right and international law are on our side,” Allen said. “The issue of Ahava is a clear-cut issue. There’s no excusing the fact that this is occupied territory which is being stolen from the rightful owners and exploited for profit that isn’t being shared with the rightful owners.”

Alex Kane is a student, journalist and blogger based in New York City. He is a writer for the Indypendent and a frequent contributor to the blog Mondoweiss. His work has also appeared in Salon, Electronic Intifada, Common Dreams, Palestine Chronicle, Gotham Gazette and Extra! He blogs at alexbkane.wordpress.com, and you can follow him on Twitter.

© 2010 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/148214/

Press Release: USACBI Announces Over 500 Academics Have Endorsed the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel

Posted in Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions on September 20, 2010 by Marcy Newman

The US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI)

http://usacbi.wordpress.com/

Over 500 academics have endorsed USACBI!

“We have to be careful not to over-exaggerate on this, but we also have to be careful not to ignore it,” said Gerald Steinberg, a political science professor at Bar-Ilan University and co-founder of the International Advisory Board for Academic Freedom. “It is a festering wound and it needs to be countered, not ignored.”

“The danger is not these 15; the danger is if it (the USACBI) becomes 500,”

From the New York Jewish Daily, Wednesday, February 4, 2009

When originally founded in 2009, only a handful of academics called for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel. 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. The USACBI is pleased to announce that we have reached that critical number. Endorsements by US academics and scholars recently crossed 500, and there are now 150 cultural workers who have also endorsed USACBI! This is a major victory for the growing academic and cultural boycott of Israel, and for the movement for justice and equality in Israel, as defenders of the status quo in Israel have repeatedly observed that the legitimacy of the state of Israel in the global court of public opinion is threatened by the boycott movement.

There is a growing shift in the tide of public opinion in the U.S. which has only swelled in the wake of Israel’s massacre of international activists and relief workers on humanitarian aid flotilla’s off the coast of Gaza in international waters on May 31. More people are realizing the urgent need for the international civil society to challenge the siege of the 1.5 million people imprisoned by the U.S.-backed Israeli blockade of Gaza and the exceptional impunity of Israel. The presence of Palestinian Israeli MP Haneen Zoabi on board the ship also sheds light on the state of apartheid in historic Palestine, an issue that has long been suppressed but is increasingly drawing attention. The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) has called on people of conscience around the world to pressure Israel to comply with international law by joining the growing boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. As PACBI reports, ‘Alice Walker has reminded the world of the . . . boycott of a racist bus company in Montgomery, Alabama during the civil rights movement, calling for endorsement of BDS against Israel as a moral duty.’

USACBI was formed during the war on Gaza in early 2009 and our list of endorsers has grown steadily. USACBI is linked to the larger BDS movement that is expanding across the U.S. This past year has seen Hampshire College’s successful drive to divest from Israel spread to campuses across the U.S. On the cultural front, artists such as Elvis Costello, Gil Scott-Heron, and the Pixies, have cancelled shows in Israel as a sign of principled solidarity with the Palestinian people, similar to the cultural boycott of apartheid South Africa. Labor organizers and churches have also taken a moral stance by engaging in BDS campaigns. In Oakland, activists united with dock workers to prevent the unloading of Israeli Zim line ships in response to the flotilla massacre.

USACBI calls on academics, students, and cultural workers (artists, filmmakers, writers, journalists, poets) to (1) endorse our call for academic and cultural boycott, if they have not done so already, by sending an email to uscom4acbi[at]gmail.com, and invite as many others as possible to do so (see our website for more information); and (2) join us in mobilizing with the expanding boycott and divestment movement in the US. There are several ways in which you could support the campaign! If you would like to get involved, please write to us at uscom4acbi[at]gmail.com. To see who is currently on our Organizing Collective or Advisory Board, check out our website.

Gaza deaths protest comes under heavy live fire from Israeli snipers

Posted in Apartheid, Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions, Why Boycott?!, Zionism on September 18, 2010 by Marcy Newman

15 September 2010 | ISM Gaza

Over 100 rounds of live ammunition were fired at peaceful protesters in a Tuesday demonstration in the Gaza strip. The protest at the Erez border area near Beit Hanoun yesterday included Palestinian activists from the Local Initiative group, local residents and 4 members of the International Solidarity Movement who marched into the site of the recent fatal Israeli incursion. The demonstrators had a view of the area where only a few days earlier, a Grandfather Ibrahim Abu Sayed and his 17 year-old grandson were killed by Israeli tank shelling.

The peaceful demonstration was joined by several young Palestinians, who were also protesting their right to their land, much of which is now lost or out of bounds by the Israeli imposed “buffer-zone.” This buffer-zone is 300 metres wide and stretches along the entire border fence on the frontier with Israel. According to the recent United Nations Report “Between the Fence and a Hard Place” the violence used to restrict Palestinians from accessing their land covers areas up to 1500m from the border fence, meaning that over 35% of Gaza’s most agricultural land is in a high risk area causing severe losses of food production and livelihoods.

On a previous demonstration, the activists had managed to partly remove a barbed wire fence, which had prevented them from entering their own farm land. This was met by an Israeli incursion days later, in which tanks and bulldozers unearthed a huge trench in front of the fence, about one kilometre long, three meters deep and two meters wide.

Having marched to the wire fence, 100 metres from the border wall, the demonstrators chanted and waved flags, planting one Palestinian flag beyond the wire fence. They had brought shovels and begun to refill the trench, when the Israel army suddenly opened fire around them. Under heavy shooting with life ammunition, the participants stood their ground, communicating through a megaphone, some crouching low for cover amidst the gunfire that came within 5 metres.

“We attend these demonstration because of the huge border area that takes Palestinian land”, eighteen year-old Hussam told us. “We don’t want it to be separated from our own land, it’s farmland and people are killed for trying to harvest it. Because of that we came to make them feel secure again.”

The shooting created an atmosphere of terror and fear among the demonstrators, as they had no safe place to hide around in the forcibly neglected area. Nevertheless they managed to hold up their message to the world: “Boycott Israel”. The ongoing attacks against civilians in the buffer zone, destroying livelihoods and wiping out land, have continued for too long despite the awareness of the criminally silent international community.

“We call upon the International community not to stay idle any more, but to take their responsibility to stop the ongoing crimes against humanity, and the violation of International law”, Saber Al Za’anin, the General Coordinator of the Local Initiative stated.

The security situation in the area has been deteriorating. The three innocent civilians were murdered about 700 meters away from the fence while doing their daily check on their land and animals which graze next to the remains of his former home. They were killed instantly, Ibrahim suffered severe shrapnel injuries to his face, chest and stomach and his grandson Hossam had the back of his head blown away.

The Abu Sayed family had been victims of the violent attacks in the “buffer-zone” for decades, culminating in their death. The last decade had been the hardest as their house was destroyed in 2000 by Israeli bulldozers and their rebuilt house destroyed in the 3-week Israeli war on Gaza over the New Year of 2009 that killed a further 1400 Palestinians.

While all the inhabitants of Gaza are victims of Israel’s ‘collective punishment’, a crime against humanity according to article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention (of which Israel is a signatory), these people are the latest to be murdered with complete impunity.

Today’s demonstration, met with the same violence, was a message to the world which shows the unbreakable public resistance. “We will keep supporting the farmers here, who are suffering from ongoing attacks on their land, olive trees, thyme and lives, despite the terrorist power we are facing”, announced Saber Al Za’ain.

“We are going to return back to our farms and hold on to our rights on this land.”

By Colonial Design

Posted in Apartheid, Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions, Why Boycott?!, Zionism on September 18, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Ann Laura Stoler | 10 September

As someone who has worked for some thirty years as a teacher and student of colonial studies– on comparative colonial situations, colonial histories, and the violent and subtle forms of governance on which colonial regimes rely, it would be difficult not to describe the Israeli state as a colonial one. It would be difficult not to recognize Israel’s past and ongoing illegal seizure of Palestinian land, the racialization of every aspect of daily life, and the large-scale and piecemeal demolition of Palestinian homes, destruction of livelihoods, and efforts to destroy the social and family fabric, as decimation by concerted and concentrated colonial design. These are the well-honed practices of regimes that define colonialisms and have flourished across the imperial globe. As with other colonial regimes, the Israeli state designates and redraws geographic borders, suspends Palestinian civil rights and arbitrarily transgresses what for Israelis are recognized and guarded as private space.

Israel is particular but it is not unique. Its techniques of occupation are based on unfounded uses of the legal apparatus of Israeli law. These are the practices of a colonial state committed to replacing and displacing a Palestinian population, and committed to its own expansion. That expansion is persistent, both surreptitious and blatant everyday: room by room in the old city of Jerusalem, house by house in the spread of settler communities, meter by meter as the placement of the Wall in the name of “security” cuts through homes and fields, and divides neighborhoods while it infringes further into legally recognized Palestinian territories. At issue is both a confiscation of history and a confiscation of the future possibilities of those who today find their bedding thrown on the streets in the middle of the night by Israeli settlers.

If democracy is defined, as Hannah Arendt did, by “the right to have rights” for an entire population within the state’s jurisdiction, the Israeli state cannot be considered a democratic one. Nor can a democracy be founded on the principle of expulsion and the creation of a diasporic population shorn of its land, belongings and citizenship – a principle avidly embraced by Israel since l948. For these reasons, I confirm my support for the BDS international boycott of those Israeli institutions that actively or passively accept a status quo that condones and expands the occupation, violates international law, enforces military control and denies Palestinian rights to self-determination.

Ann Laura Stoler
Willy Brandt Distinguished University Professor
Of Anthropology and Historical Studies
The New School for Social Research
New York, New York 10003

10 September 2010

An Open Letter from Besieged Gaza to Pete Seeger: Don’t Legitimize Apartheid

Posted in Apartheid, Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions, Cultural Boycott, Zionism on September 15, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Besieged Gaza,

15 September, 2010

Dear Mr. Seeger,

We, the isolated and evidently still forgotten Palestinians from the Gaza Bantustan, are astonished and upset to learn that someone who in the past has shown solidarity with our millions who lost their houses to Israeli ethnic cleansing, now plans to join an initiative from a group that has facilitated these enormous injustices against us.

You plan to perform at the “With Earth and Each Other”: Virtual Rally for a Better Middle East, ‘Doublespeak’ for an initiative whose only outcome will be to compound the misery of so many Palestinian mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers who are the direct victims of the organizations with which you will be involved.

You have worked to ban nuclear weapons, been a tireless civil rights campaigner, an advocate for environmental responsibility, and a steadfast opponent of South African Apartheid. You used your music, unique and inspiring, to give hope to those who were worse off than you. It is for this that we ask you not to turn your back on us, the besieged and grieving Palestinians of the Gaza Strip, the cantonized and colonized Palestinians of the West Bank and the millions more made refugees around the world, still violently deprived of their right to return home.

You might be unaware of the harm committed by the very groups you plan to perform for, but as Palestinians we have to be aware, because it is only by looking at the root causes that we can see from where originate the decades of injustice and imprisonment.

This ‘Virtual Rally for a Better Middle East’ is backed by the ‘Jewish National Fund’ (JNF), which more accurately would be called the ‘Expel the Local Palestinian Population to Expand Israel Fund’. The principal activity of the Jewish National Fund has been the illegal and racist cleansing of an undesirable ethnic group (i.e. us) from their land.

In the 1948 Nakba, the Jewish National Fund provided political, financial and intelligence support for the Zionist forces as they massacred and expropriated Palestinian village after village. They actively participated in the physical destruction of many of the erased 531 Palestinian villages, the ruins of which are still in the hearts and minds of the vast majority of the Gazan population, most of us registered refugees from these areas. The United Nations Resolution 194 calling for our right to return does not seem to count when these enormous crimes that made us refugees were carried out by Israel.

Erasing our heritage and ties to the land continued thereafter. The Jewish National Fund’s Canada Park, for example, was built over the ruins of the Palestinian villages Imwas, Yalu, and Beit Nuba, from whence the Israeli army forcibly removed the inhabitants and bulldozed the houses during the 1967 war.

Today the JNF controls over 2500 sq. km of Palestinian land which it leases to Jews only, covering vast properties belonging to millions of Palestinians. It has created over 100 parks on Palestinian land. The Arava Institute, its partner organization involved in the virtual rally you plan to attend, has said nothing about these atrocious actions and discriminatory policies. Most recently you will have been informed of its expulsions of entire villages in the Negev, obscured under the guise of ‘forestation’.

As part of the 2005 Palestinian Civil Society Call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS), and inspired by the boycott of apartheid South Africa, we have asked and been responded to by international artists like Elvis Costello, Gil Scott-Heron, the Pixies, Carlos Santana, many writers, universities and companies to join the BDS movement. Just as the global BDS movement made way for the collapse of apartheid in South Africa, we demand boycotts of Israel until it complies with international law, and until justice and accountability are reached. Participation in “With Earth and Each Other” occurs in violation of BDS guidelines and the Palestinian civil society consensus behind them.

Pete,

We are writing to you from under the 4 year long brutal and medieval siege imposed on us, a unique savagery the Israeli academic Ilan Pappé described as, “slow motion genocide”. We lost over 430 of our children in Israel’s 3 week air and ground attack over the New Year of 2009 that killed over 1430 of our citizens already living in the world’s largest open-air prison. When valiant defenders of human rights tried to reach us and break the siege by sea, 9 of them were shot dead.

According to the Geneva Conventions, United Nations Resolutions and the UN Goldstone report, all of these acts constitute crimes against humanity, as does the continuous and violent expelling of Palestinians from their homes and land. Anti-Apartheid heroes Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Ronnie Kassrils have all described Israel’s system of racial oppression as Apartheid. There was no negotiating with such race-based oppression – there was only one word, BOYCOTT. We now urge you to join the countless other artists and musicians making the biggest statement about the Israeli regime’s brutal and racist policies here in Gaza, the West Bank and against the Palestinian Israeli citizens. Many times you have taken a stand with the colonized, the imprisoned and the racially discriminated throughout your long life of noble and worthy endeavours. Please do not turn your back on us now by agreeing to perform at the “With Earth and Each Other”: Virtual Rally for a Better Middle East”.

PSCABI

Besieged Gaza,

Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU)
Palestinian Network of Non-Governmental Organizations
University Teachers’ Association in Palestine (UTAP)
Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCABI)
The Union Os Palestinian Women’s Committees
Association of Al-Quds Bank for Culture and Information
General Union of Public Service and Commercial Workers
General Union of Health Service Workers
General Union of Agriculture Workers
General Union of Food Production Workers
General Union of Petrochemical and Gas Workers
Progressive Trade Union Front in Palestine
General Union of Municipality and Local Councils Workers
General Union of Tourism Workers
Arab Cultural Forum
One Democratic State Group (ODSG)
Society Friends for Rehabilitation of Visually Impaired

Palestine’s Gain is Lebanon’s Pain

Posted in Apartheid, BDS Success, Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions, Cultural Boycott, Why Boycott?!, Zionism on September 15, 2010 by Marcy Newman

by Greg Felton / September 13th, 2010

The greatest effects of the Cast Lead massacre and the murders aboard the aid ship Mavi Marmara have been the confirmation of Israel as a criminal state, and the outpouring of overwhelming support for Palestinians as victims of Jewish fascism.

The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement has become so successful that its effects have been felt in the Jewish colonies and the foreign companies that trade with Israel. Perhaps most important is the BDS cultural component. Most recently, 150 Irish artists announced a boycott of Israel; 53 Israeli actors, playwrights and directors pledged not to perform in Ariel, the largest illegal Jewish colony; and more than 150 U.S. actors and actresses endorsed the Ariel boycott.

Because of the massive political damage “Cast Lead” and the Mavi Marmara attack have done to Israel and its hasbara industry, large-scale violence against Palestine is off the table, as shown by Israel’s resort to more phony “peace” talks as a form of damage control.

All of this should be great news for Palestine, but the civilized world’s crippling, irrational fear of Israel and The Lobby inhibits it from helping Palestinians translate these victories into the defeat of the zionist entity (best case) or a single ‘bi-national’ state (slim possibility). (The idea of a two-state peace treaty is a moral obscenity.)

World support is vital not just because it’s the legally and morally right thing to do, but it is needed to prevent Israel’s aggression against Palestine from spilling over into neighbouring countries.

If history is any guide, the next war to sabotage peace efforts will take place in Southern Lebanon, which today plays unwilling host to 400,000 Palestinian refugees.

2010

In early August, Israel and the Lebanese army got into a shooting match over a tree along “the technical fence,” which forms an ill-defined unofficial border near the village of Adaisseh. The UN demarcated Blue Line forms the de facto border, but it was never breached.

Who started the shooting depends on the source. According to Robert Fisk, Israel brought a crane to rip out a spruce tree because its foliage was blocking a security camera, but where the tree stood is a matter of conjecture:

“No one is exactly sure where the Israeli-Lebanese border is,” wrote Fisk. “The moment the crane’s arm crossed the ‘technical fence’—and here one must explain that the ‘Blue Line’ does not necessarily run along the ‘fence’—Lebanese soldiers opened fire into the air. The Israelis, according to the Lebanese, did not shoot in the air. They shot at the Lebanese soldiers.”

In all, three Lebanese soldiers were killed as well as a Lebanese journalist and an Israeli lieutenant-colonel. Fighting briefly escalated, but died down quickly, though it could easily have sparked another war.

Fisk makes the point that the border has been tense and potentially explosive since the end of the 2006 war against Hizbullah, the guerrilla militia that has become the de facto political power in the region. Because it is Shi’a Muslim with ties to Syria and Iran, it is easily misrepresented as a threat to be used as a pretext to launch a large scale bombardment.

2006

The first attempt to use Hizbullah to start a war occurred in July and August when Israel inflicted gratuitously disproportionate suffering and destruction on Lebanon in a failed aggression against Hizbullah. The war was a standard Israeli provocation.

Israel claims it began when Hizbullah crossed into Israel and captured two soldiers, but the area where they were captured, Ayta al-Chaab, lies within Lebanon. To add credence to the provocation, media reports were altered to conform to Israeli propaganda.

Hizbullah fought Israel to a standstill, and inflicted significant damage on one of the world’s most modern militaries. Israel was humilliated, and sought a UN ceasefire after only 33 days of fighting.

1982

Hizbullah is a direct product of Israel’s first anti-peace proxy attack on Lebanon in June 1982. The similarities with Cast Lead almost 26 years later are unmistakable, as can be seen from Dr. Norman Finkelstein’s summary of events:

“In August 1981, Saudi Arabia unveiled, and the Arab League subsequently approved, a peace plan based on the two-state settlement. Israel reacted in September 1981 by stepping up preparations to destroy the PLO.…Israeli strategic analyst Avner Yaniv reported that Yasser Arafat was contemplating a historic compromise with the ‘Zionist state,’ whereas ‘all Israeli cabinets since 1967’ as well as ‘leading mainstream doves’ opposed a Palestinian state.

“Fearing diplomatic pressures, Israel…conducted punitive military raids ‘deliberately out of proportion’ against ‘Palestinian and Lebanese civilians’ in order to weaken ‘PLO moderates,’ strengthen the hand of Arafat’s ‘radical rivals,’ and guarantee the PLO’s ‘inflexibility.’… To fend off Arafat’s ‘peace offensive’—Yaniv’s telling phrase—Israel embarked on military action in June 1982. The Israeli invasion ‘had been preceded by more than a year of effective ceasefire with the PLO,’ but after murderous Israeli provocations, the last of which left as many as 200 civilians dead (including 60 occupants of a Palestinian children’s hospital), the PLO finally retaliated, causing a single Israeli casualty.

“Although Israel used the PLO’s resumption of attacks as the pretext for its invasion, Yaniv concluded that the ‘raison d’être of the entire operation’ was ‘destroying the PLO as a political force capable of claiming a Palestinian state on the West Bank.’”

In early March this year, Lebanon’s Defense Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Elias Murr told Press TV that Israel conducts near daily violations of Lebanon’s airspace, and has committed more than 6,500 overflights in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 war.

Another diversionary war is inevitable because Israel cannot long affford to cede the moral and political high ground to Palestine and the world anti-fascist movement, especially concerning illegal colony expansion. Even though Hizbullah is more of a match for the mighty IDF than unarmed villagers are, it’s the most convenient and politically sellable target. The fact that such an attack would constitute yet another war crime is a lesser risk for an illegitimate political entity that must kill to exist.

Greg Felton is an investigative journalist specializing in the Middle East, Canadian politics, the media, and language. He holds a Master’s Degree in political science from the University of British Columbia and speaks French, Russian, and Mandarin. He is author of The Host and The Parasite: How Israel’s Fifth Column Consumed America. Read other articles by Greg, or visit Greg’s website.

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