Archive for the Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions Category

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.

Academic research collaboration emboldens Israeli apartheid

Posted in Anti-Normalization, Apartheid, Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions, Normalization, Why Boycott?!, Zionism on September 15, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Diane Shammas, The Electronic Intifada, 14 September 2010

In July, Donna Shalala, the president of the University of Miami and former United States Secretary of Health and Human Services during the Clinton administration, joined a 13-member delegation of American university presidents to Israel. The delegation’s main objective was to discuss opportunities for academic collaboration with Israeli universities and reciprocal exchange programs for student and faculty. The majority of these Israeli universities, if not all, have been implicated in war crimes and other human rights violations against Palestinian and Lebanese civilians (“Academic boycott against Israel? Umberto Eco misses the point,” Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, 10 July 2010). Prior to the delegates’ arrival in Israel, they drafted and sent individual letters to their executive counterparts at the Israeli universities, stating that they “clearly denounce[d] the boycott of Israeli academics” (“Shalala among delegation of university presidents to visit Israel,” University of Miami news release, 2 July 2010).

The karmic twist to Shalala’s visit to Israel was that in spite of her obsequious endorsement of the anti-boycott stance, she was not spared from a three-hour, humiliating interrogation and detainment upon her departure from the Ben Gurion Airport. Israel’s Ynet News reported that she was detained because of her Arabic surname (“American VIP humiliated at airport,” 6 August 2010). When later interviewed by the Miami Herald, Shalala dismissed the inconvenience of her detention as purely security protocol to ensure traveler safety. Leaving aside all speculations as to why Shalala, an Arab-American, did not speak out against the indignity of her treatment at the airport, the larger conversation should be the strategic marketing and funding of research partnerships between American and Israeli universities.

Research and development collaboration between higher education institutions amount to billions of dollars annually. In 2008, the federal government alone funded $31 billion for academic research and development expenditures of which $1.6 billion were passed through to other university sub-recipients, domestic and foreign (National Science Foundation). Apart from the steady growth of research collaborations with “Asian 8” countries, such as South Korea and Taiwan, the research partnerships between American and Israel universities have been consistently strong and significant.

Large corporate donors, like Coca-Cola Company and Quaker Oats, a division of Pepsi-Cola, subsidize many of these collaborative research projects between US and Israeli universities, due principally to their robust ties with the American-Israel Chamber of Commerce (“American Israeli Chamber of Commerce promotes academic and research exchanges between University of Minnesota and Israeli educational and research institutions,” American-Israel Chamber of Commerce press release, 10 August 1998).

While the actual number of US-Israeli research partnerships is not readily available, a proxy indicator is the annual percentage of collaborative science and engineering articles between the two countries. Israel has the third-highest percentage of co-authored articles, 52 percent, with American researchers, after South Korea (54 percent) and Taiwan (53 percent). It is important to point out here if the percentage of co-authorship for Israel appears inflated, it is because their co-authorship output with the US is greater than their considerably smaller educational infrastructure. Therefore, the National Science Foundation has corrected for the infrastructural disparities by placing Israel’s rate of co-authorship with US at 1.21, qualitatively speaking, “higher than expected,” along with similar rankings for South Korea and Taiwan. Shalala’s delegation specifically expressed an interest in collaborating with Israeli universities on the application of technological research to the manufacturing of marketable products.

Israel aggressively courts research partnerships with American universities by hosting academic delegations. For example, Project Interchange, an educational organization of the American Jewish Committee, sponsored Shalala’s delegation to participate in their week-long program. A brief portrait of Project Interchange will illustrate that these academic delegations are political-educational junkets, which subliminally promote a Zionist ideology along with coordinating potential partnerships with Israeli universities.

Project Interchange regularly sponsors academic delegations and conducts programs in a seminar format. According to their website, Project Interchange customizes the theme of the seminar to each group’s interest, but all seminars are framed within the broader discourse of Israeli culture, society and politics — with a predominant focus on Israeli foreign policy.

Project Interchange identifies itself as “non-partisan,” “apolitical” and [[an]] “educational organization.” If one carefully deconstructs the language that Project Interchange uses on its website to describe its seminars — “challenging and promoting dialogue” and “offering multiple perspectives on complex issues” — it feigns a non-partisan and apolitical agenda by reducing the Palestinian struggle against occupation and dispossession to mere differences of opinion among ostensibly rival equals — Palestinians and Israelis. The message conveyed, therefore, is deceptive, because it completely denies the existence of the relationship between the colonizer — Israel — and the colonized, the indigenous population. The subordinate reference to “also meeting with Israeli Arabs and Palestinians” blatantly exposes Israel’s relegation of the indigenous population to second class citizens.

Another component of Project Interchange’s seminar program is coordinated site visits to the Israeli and Arab/Palestinian communities. In July, The Chronicle of Higher Education published an account of one site visit by a member of Shalala’s delegation, a president from an elite East coast university, who lauds the multi-cultural efforts of the Jerusalem International YMCA Peace pre-school:

“‘Boker tov!’ ‘Sabaah al-khayr!’ ‘Good morning!’ The excited voices of the kindergarten students and their tri-lingual teachers make us all smile as our group of American academic leaders visit the International Jerusalem YMCA peace pre-school … In the preschool, which serves an equal number of Arab (Christians and Muslims) and Jewish students, young people don’t seem to know they’re from different backgrounds and they are supposed to hate each other but they are friends” (“What we can learn from Children,” 16 July 2010).

Even though the delegate acknowledges the preschool’s diversity, his latter remark about the surprising amity among Arab and Jewish children and declaration that “they do not seem to know that they’re from different backgrounds” demonstrates his racial and religious blindness. He blissfully dismisses this purported hatred between Jews and Palestinian Arabs as if it originates from a historical rivalry on equal footing rather than a deep-rooted power imbalance between occupier and occupied.

Moreover, what is astonishingly naive about his comment is that, as a university president, he is (or should be) cognizant of the racial tensions among minority student populations, and yet, he seems to be taken in by the artificial democratic setting of the Israeli preschool, which is precisely the falsely egalitarian image of Israel that Project Interchange is endeavoring to promote by their site visits.

In the final analysis, Project Interchange’s objective is to transform a research collaboration initiative into a commodified, politicized and hegemonic project that is an extension of the Israeli state apparatus. To this end, American universities’ collaboration with Israel’s educational institutions is complicit in the occupation.

The portrait of Project Interchange lends insight into how a United States-Israeli global network intercedes on behalf of US academic leaders to establish strategic research partnerships with Israeli universities. Because Israeli universities mirror the racist institutional structure of the Israeli government and the US enables the Israeli occupation, it is highly unlikely in the present political environment that any research collaboration between American and Israeli universities would comply with the guidelines outlined by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI).

In recent months, global boycott, divestment and sanctions have made enormous strides and have reported several victories in the areas of economic and cultural boycotts. To that end, American and Israeli university partnerships merit closer scrutiny in particular, as well as the intermediary organizations and the large corporate and private donors and binational foundations that annually fund billions of dollars to them (e.g., Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation (BIRD), Binational Science Foundation (BSF) and Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund (BARD)).

Diane Shammas is of Lebanese/Arab American heritage, and holds a Ph.D in International and Urban Education and Policy, with a specialization in Arab American Studies. She currently teaches a course on social construction of race and citizenship. She recently lived in Gaza City for three months, taught at Al Azhar University (Gaza), and passed through the West Bank on her return to the United States.

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