Archive for the Normalization Category

Statement on Jihad al-Murr’s Lawsuit against BDS Organizers in Lebanon

Posted in Actions in Lebanon, Arab Complicity, Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions, Normalization, Take Action on October 24, 2011 by Marcy Newman

You may have heard of the Jihad Al-Murr lawsuit against the organizers of the boycott of the 2010 Placebo concert in Lebanon. If not, here’s a quick recap:

Samah Idriss, director of Dar al-Adab publishing house, received a court summons [recently] from Beirut’s commerce court. Idriss is implicated in a lawsuit for his involvement in a Lebanese boycott campaign against the British rock group Placebo last year. Jihad el-Murr, who heads the company that organized the event, filed the suit on 10 July 2011.

El-Murr is suing Idriss, as well as three other groups involved in the campaign: the Aidoun Refugee Rights Center, the Campaign to Boycott the Supporters of Israel in Lebanon, and the Global BDS Campaign in Lebanon. El-Murr, a self-described famous businessman from a prominent family, is demanding US$180,000 compensation for his company’s financial losses allegedly caused by the boycott campaign.

Jihad el Murr is suing these four organizations/campaigns on the grounds that, because we called for the boycott of Placebo’s concert in Lebanon because they had just performed in Israel, we are thus financially responsible for the smaller turnout at this 2010 concert than the number that went to the 2004 Placebo concert in Lebanon. The lawsuit may have been inspired by the recent anti-boycott law passed by Knesset – which can hold individuals/organizations that call for boycott to be financially responsible for any losses endured by a company/other even without that company proving that the statements have resulted in the loss. The lawsuit may also have been inspired by potential future plans by Jihad el Murr. Either way, the intent is clear: to silence the boycott movement, and to muzzle free speech.

So:

Are you opposed to this anti-boycott lawsuit?
Are you opposed to this attempt to stifle free expression?

If so, please read the statement below. If you agree to this statement, please sign your full name, address, profession, and organization (if any). Please sign your name either in the “comment” section below or email it directly to me at rania.z.masri[at]gmail.com

Note: if you live in Lebanon, you may choose to sign a statement declaring that you are a member of the Campaign to Boycott Zionist Supporters in Lebanon. If so, please state as such in your email or in your comment.

We, the undersigned, attest that we are members of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. We attest that, consequently, we are defendants in the lawsuit against us by To You To See, represented by its manager Mr. Jihad Al-Murr, on the basis of our support for the boycott of the Placebo concert in June 2010 due to Placebo’s insistence on performing in Israel on the eve of the massacre against the Freedom Flotilla.

We, the undersigned, further declare our full stance in solidarity in the defense against this lawsuit. We shall regard this lawsuit as another platform and a new opportunity to consecrate our campaign to boycott supporters of zionist oppression and racism, and to emphasize our right to express what we see as just in the pursuit of this human right. We also stand in solidarity with all the other defendants in this case, including Samah Idriss of the Al-Adab magazine, the Refugee Rights Center – Aidoun, and the Campaign to Boycott Supporters of Israel in Lebanon.
Sometimes the justice system is used to oppress free voices and to strengthen certain power structures. In this lawsuit,the justice system shall be first and foremost a platform to empower the values of justice and freedom in resisting injustice and oppression.

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

Unease over Jordan-Israel trade

Posted in Apartheid, Arab Complicity, Normalization, Profiting from Zionism on September 20, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Suha Philip Ma’ayeh, Foreign Correspondent

* Last Updated: September 19. 2010 10:49PM UAE / September 19. 2010 6:49PM GMT

ZARQA, JORDAN // Israel’s announcement last week that it planned to export 50,000 used cars to Jordan and Iraq created unease among Jordanian second-hand car dealers while advocates against normalising relations with Israel stepped up calls to boycott Israel-made goods and business dealings.

Since 2006, Jordan has imported nearly US$10 million (Dh36.7m) worth of earth-moving equipment, road-construction equipment, new lorries and cars from Israel, Nabil Romman, president of Jordan Free Zones Investors Commission, said. Each year the Zarqa Free Zone (ZFZ), the largest of five public duty-free zones in the country, imports an average of 120,000 used cars, 40,000 of which are sold to the local market.

But Badi Rafayaa, the head of the Professional Associations’ anti-normalisation committee, said Israel wants to dump old cars, which pollute the environment and cause traffic accidents.

“The move is a clear sign of the Zionist entity’s devious intentions towards Jordan and Iraq … We will cooperate with civil-society institutions and will prevent those plans,” he said.

Among some local dealers, concern about Israel’s intentions were of a monetary nature.

“They are going to be 50,000 cars, a hard blow to my business and to the market,” said Mohammad Kabaireh, general mamager of Al-Safa Car Trading at the ZFZ, which imports used cars from South Korea. “In the past five years, we used to sell up to 50 cars in two months, and now I have cars [stuck] in the showrooms from the past seven and eight months. Any cars that enter Jordan are bound to create competition.”

Kamil Nino, an American-Jordanian investor, has sold luxury cars imported from the United States in the ZFZ since 2007.

“If the cars compete with my cars as a line, this would result in an unfair competition,” he said. “Definitely the prices will fall especially since shipping costs are much lower because of the proximity between Jordan and Israel. We pay an average of $2,000 to ship a car from California to the ZFZ, but shipping from Israel will be a fraction of the price. This would kill our prices … For now, I have just asked my brother in the US to put the car exports to Jordan on hold.”

However, other car dealers shrugged off concerns about competition. “Imports of older cars manufactured before 2009 would not affect our business,” said Ahmad, who did not want to reveal his last name. He sells cars in Jordan and also exports them to Libya, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. “In fact, we export to Arab-Israeli car dealers. Just two months ago, we exported 200 Hyundai cars there,” he said.

Mohammad Bustanji, another car dealer, said he doubted used-car imports from Israel would affect his business since he also deals with mostly with new cars and late-model used ones. He added that he thought the cars from Israel would not make their way to many showrooms because of political reasons.

“I doubt any car dealer would dare to purchase the cars,” he said. “Once the cars enter the market from Israel, it would be difficult for customers to tell where they come from, but it will not be difficult in the zone to find out who would purchase these cars. In this case dealers would not even greet him. We are against the move, first and foremost because the cars would come from Israel.”

Mr Romman of the investors commission said cars imported from Israel would not then be shipped to Iraq because they will be older models. Four years ago, Iraq started requiring imported used cars to have been manufactured within two years.

“While Israel places higher specifications on cars, the ones that enter the zone can be of better quality and would present a business opportunity for many dealers here,” he said.

smaayeh[at]thenational.ae

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.

TEDx: Equating the Colonizer and Colonized

Posted in Apartheid, Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions, Normalization, Zionism on August 30, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Besieged Gaza,
29 August, 2010

Palestinians Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCABI)
University Teachers’ Association in Palestine

It has come to our knowledge that TED, a non-profit organization carrying the slogan “Ideas Worth Spreading” has started a program called the “TEDxHolyLand.” This is supposed to be an experience which seeks to “bring together the people of Palestine and Israel who do not ordinarily meet to share a half day together hearing and discussing TED talks on a wide range of topics of common interest.”[1] The Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic boycott of Israel and University Teachers’ Association in Palestine consider this an act of normalization that violates the boycott guidelines issued by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)[2]. TED seems to be unaware of the fact that the reason why “the people of Palestine and Israel” cannot get together is because the former are colonized and the latter are settler colonists. It also ignores the fact that Israel is an apartheid state, as former American president Jimmy Carter and anti-Apartheid activist and Nobel Laureate Desmund Tutu called it; a state that discriminates against more than 1.2 million Palestinians living in it as second class citizens.

The Israeli partner in this program is Liat Aaronson who is the executive director of an entrepreneurship program at the Interdisciplinary Centre (IDC) at Herzliya University. The program describes the Palestinian and Israeli organizers as coming from a background “that defines them as enemies” and seeks to allow them to “challenge each other, understand each other, and empower each other.” Before we get carried away by the seemingly false utopian aura of the program and its poetic tinge, we ought to ask if the Israeli participant will be willing to admit to her Palestinian counterpart that the creation of the state of Israel was responsible for the (continuing) ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people since 1948? That it illegally occupies the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and racially discriminates against the 1948 Palestinians in what the United Nations Special Rapporteur John Dugard described as the only remaining case after South African Apartheid fell, “of a Western-affiliated regime that denies self-determination and human rights to a developing people and that has done so for so long.”? A state responsible for ongoing house demolitions, illegal settlement expansions and the building of a monstrous Apartheid Wall—not to mention the collective punishment of 1.5 million Palestinians of Gaza, who are subjugated to a brutal, medieval siege entering its fourth year?

We wonder how Aaronson will remember the 413 children killed by Israel in the last genocidal war against the Palestinians of Gaza. Will that also be squeezed into the falsely beautified and ambiguous slogan of “let’s stop the violence?” Unless this is a reference to the violence of the colonizer; the fourth largest army in the world with hundreds of nuclear heads?

Where are the “two sides” of this “conflict?” This is an issue of injustice around continuous dispossession and subjugation of one people by another people. Do we understand from the organizers of TED that there was a “conflict” between the native Blacks of South Africa and the White supremacists of the apartheid regime?

If “challenging” the Palestinian partner in the program means that Aaronson will admit to these atrocities committed by her own state, as a group of courageous Israeli activists from Boycott From Within and BOYCOTT!! have done, then perhaps we can reconsider our position.

This initiative is one more arrogant attempt to equate between; colonizer and colonized; oppressor and oppressed ;victim and executioner. The mere fact that TED’s Palestinian partner is unable to confront Aaronson with the reality of her displaced people is proof enough of the inequality and bias this program is based upon.

Once again, we would like to call on the Israeli partner, who is in a privileged position, to consider joining hands with the conscientious Israeli Boycott from Within anti-apartheid activists. Then, perhaps the “vision” of the TED experience and the “Ideas Worth Spreading” would involve spreading the voices of the marginalized, suppressed, and silenced Palestinians in the impoverished and crowded refugee camps, in the Gaza concentration camp, and in the Bantustanized West Bank, promoting their right to self-determination and the right of return of all those displaced and forcefully removed throughout Israel’s occupation and colonization of Palestinian lands in accordance with International Law.

We, therefore, consider this project a continuation of a campaign of normalization that aims at whitewashing Israel’s tarnished image and does nothing but falsely creates the facade that there are actually two equal sides to “the conflict.”

Besieged Gaza,

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCABI)
pscabi[at]gmail.com

University Teachers’ Association

[1] http://www.tedxholyland.com/?page_id=228
[2] http://pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1108

Survey concerning Haifa University and its treatment of the Palestinian Students: A chronicle of discrimination and racism

Posted in Apartheid, Normalization, Palestinian Education, Why Boycott?!, Zionism on August 12, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Baladna Association for Arab Youth | August 2010

SUMMARY

The reality of Haifa University is significantly remote from that of a campus based on values of academic freedom and action. The fact that in many cases the University acts as the extension of Israeli policy when addressing the Palestinian people as a whole indicates that the freedom of action is consciously limited, foremost when it comes to Palestinian students within the campus. This policy is expressed not only in issues relevant to freedom of action and expression but also in the processes for enrollment to universities, scholarship granting procedures as well as in the lectures themselves. In all of these cases it becomes clear that the general discriminative policy of Israeli governments can be identified with the decision-making procedure implemented by the University authorities.

University authorities, especially those of Haifa University, covering the highest number of Palestinian students, should hold immediate deliberation to lead to a new vision of the account of freedom of expression in Israel as well as the obligations of a campus in a multinational society. The indifference of Haifa University’s administration of the tense atmosphere within its campus, fully created under their responsibility, has come to destroy the value of freedom of speech. There is definite reason for serious concern that we will be facing a reality in which it will be too late to find a suitable solution.

This reality has dominated organizations of social change and human rights in Israel, especially Palestinian organizations. These organizations were apathetic to the human right violations of the Palestinian students especially when political parties like Beytenou felt the urge to implement their radical policies. Applying Lieberman’s policy is in fact a strike against universal values, the basis of civilized societies. This fact should trouble the Jewish population just as much as the continuation of integrating radical values into Jewish communities in Israel which has shown signs of failure in international politics.

Baladna’s Association for Arab Youth has been formulating a plan for the creation of a new discourse in all of the covered issues such as freedom of speech and action on campuses in Israel as well as prohibiting all forms of discrimination existent in the academic sphere. This discourse will be created together with Palestinian political groups within the campuses that work closely with promoting the rights of Palestinian students as well as the protection of Palestinian people’s rights.

To download the full report, click here.

Words without Borders “dialogue” violates Palestinian boycott call

Posted in Apartheid, Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions, Normalization, Zionism on August 10, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Haidar Eid, The Electronic Intifada, 9 August 2010

An initiative recently launched by the prestigious online literature magazine Words without Borders entitled “Cross-Cultural-Dialogues in the Middle East,” rings alarm bells in light of the Palestinian civil society call for boycott divestment and sanctions (BDS) on Israel.

The initiators of this series of articles are Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi, who describes herself as being of Iranian Muslim background, and Chana Morgenstern, an Israeli fiction writer, who met as graduate students at Brown University in the United States. Van der Vliet Oloomi and Morgenstern are now in Jerusalem undertaking to travel around “crossing borders,” and opening “dialogue” with persons from many different cultural and political locations.

In their statement of purpose, Van der Vliet Oloomi and Morgenstern explain that: “We are hoping to gain a broader perspective on the ways in which contemporary Palestinian cultures negotiate the region’s complex and hybrid social landscape.”

They add, “The series, as we foresee it, will cover emerging guerilla poetry movements, collaborations between Israeli and Palestinian intellectuals and writers, interviews with international and local film makers, reviews of the Jerusalem Film Festival, as well as an overview of various grassroots cultural organizations in the West Bank” (“New Blog Series: Cross-Cultural-Dialogues In the Middle East,” 29 July 2010).

Though this statement of purpose may be intentionally vague, it is important for anyone who wishes to engage in serious “dialogue” in this area to be aware that a condition of utmost serious conflict exists between a colonial, apartheid occupying power — Israel — and the indigenous people. As part of a strategy for nonviolent resistance, the Palestinians have issued an international call for BDS against Israel until it complies with international law and respects the universality of human rights.

Briefly stated, the BDS call sets out the following demands: Israel must end its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantle the West Bank wall declared illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004; recognize the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and respect, protect and promote the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194 (“Palestinian Civil Society Calls for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel,” 9 July 2005).

Is the Israeli partner in this project going to acknowledge the horror inflicted on its Palestinian counterpart? There are no two “equal” parties here: there is one side that has colonized both history and the land, ethnically cleansed most of the natives, and has been discriminating racially against the 1.5 million Palestinians who remain inside Israel as nominal citizens, as well as the millions more in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the diaspora. Is this proposed dialogue going to “speak truth to power” and take cognizance of the three demands endorsed by the overwhelming majority of Palestinian civil society organizations?

Indeed, the guidelines issued by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), explicitly warn against events or projects that promote “false symmetry or balance.” PACBI condemns initiatives “based on the false premise that the colonizers and the colonized, the oppressors and the oppressed, are equally responsible for the ‘conflict,'” as “intentionally deceptive, intellectually dishonest and morally reprehensible” because they often seek “to encourage dialogue or ‘reconciliation between the two sides'” without ever acknowledging basic injustices and power imbalances. Thus, such initiatives serve to “promote the normalization of oppression and injustice.”

Under these guidelines, all “events and projects that bring Palestinians and/or Arabs and Israelis together, unless framed within the explicit context of opposition to occupation and other forms of Israeli oppression of the Palestinians, are strong candidates for boycott” (“Guidelines for Applying the International Cultural Boycott of Israel,” 20 July 2009).

In discourse with those living in Palestine/Israel, it must be borne in mind that Israel holds thousands of political prisoners, among them many children. Millions of displaced Palestinians reside in refugee camps under conditions of deprivation in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt, and many others are scattered all over the world. When the United Nations recognized Israel it was on condition that the refugees be allowed to return, a condition that, though promised by Israel’s tearful representative Abba Eban, has never been fulfilled.

The Gaza Strip, where I live, remains under a stifling siege notwithstanding international demands that the siege be lifted. International shipments of vitally needed medical supplies, food, clothing, and building materials have been systematically diverted by Israel using pirate-like raids against ships in international waters, as well as overland caravans. The last attack resulted in the massacre of nine peace activists and the injury of several dozen others aboard the Mavi Marmara when Israel attacked it and other vessels in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in May.

Because I am a Palestinian, I do not have the option of “crossing borders” like Van der Vliet Oloomi and Morgenstern. Along with the other 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza, my horizons are confined to this narrow strip of land. If we in Gaza were Jews, then under Israel’s racist system, we would not only be invited back to our homes throughout historic Palestine, but provided all sorts of subsidies, housing and support. This mass imprisonment of 1.5 million human beings, most of us refugees, just because we are the “wrong” religion, finds precedents only in the darkest chapters of human history.

Not only are we imprisoned, but we are subjected to regular attack. During its 23-day long assault on Gaza starting in December 2008, Israel killed more than 1,400 Palestinians. The UN-commissioned Goldstone Report as well as numerous local and international human rights organizations documented illegal use of weapons such as white phosphorus and cluster bombs. Of the thousands of homes, schools and businesses intentionally destroyed or seriously damaged by Israeli bombing and bulldozers, only a fraction has been rebuilt, since Israel uses the pretext of “security” to prevent the shipment of cement and other building materials into Gaza.

But the situation of Palestinians in the West Bank is also dire. The gigantic apartheid separation wall cuts Palestinians from their social, economic and cultural centers and prevents them from working their land. Hundreds of checkpoints prevent normal travel including visits to hospitals for essential medical care and attendance at schools and universities for both students and teachers or just to maintain normal family and social life.

A new report by the British-based Save The Children non-governmental organization documents that in certain places in the West Bank, malnutrition is even worse than in Gaza: 61 percent of children in Gaza are seriously malnourished, but up to 79 percent of children in “pockets of poverty” in the West Bank are malnourished as well. In both Gaza and the West Bank, “targeted killings” — extra-judicial executions — are a common Israeli practice.

Unless the well-meaning bloggers and Words without Borders are prepared to take into account this climate of colonial-settler oppression, it is doubtful that their ministrations can bear fruit. An appeal can be made to Israeli individuals and institutions to join the boycott — and some courageous Israelis have indeed done so — like members of the group Boycott from Within.

How do Palestinians negotiate this “hybrid social landscape?” By raising their own and others’ consciousness that we are under a state of siege, facing the daily threat of extermination, and using all means in our power to resist and to preserve our communities and our culture.

Unfortunately the Words without Borders initiative appears oblivious to these realities and speaks about Palestinians and Israelis in a language that obscures vast power differences that must be at the center of any serious, engaged and principled inquiry or action.

Given these realities and the fact that this project is a blatant violation of the boycott guidelines endorsed by most Palestinian intellectuals, it is unlikely that many Palestinians will choose to participate. Those who do participate will not be members of the University Teachers’ Association in Palestine, or the Palestinian Writers’ Union, or even most Palestinian universities. Indeed, the choice is clear to the vast majority of Palestinians, and intellectuals must recognize that true “cross-cultural dialogue” is impossible when one voice is being stifled, silenced and erased by another.

Dr. Haidar Eid is an associate professor of Cultural Studies at Gaza’s Al-Aqsa University and on the steering committee of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.

Al-Quds University flouts own academic boycott

Posted in Apartheid, Normalization, Palestinian Education, Why Boycott?!, Zionism on August 7, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Jillian Kestler-D’Amours, The Electronic Intifada, 6 August 2010

Al-Quds University is maintaining a joint Israeli-Palestinian master’s degree program with Haifa, Hebrew and Tel Aviv universities, despite a decision taken by its own University Council in February 2009 to distance itself from Israeli academic institutions.

“[The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, PACBI] views this joint Palestinian-Israeli academic project as a clear violation of the Palestinian criteria for the academic boycott of Israel, which are widely supported by Palestinian civil society,” Omar Barghouti, a founding member of PACBI and the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign, told The Electronic Intifada.

“PACBI also believes that the timing of this announcement can only confirm the suspicion that it is intended to relieve Israel’s increasing isolation — after its criminal attack on the Gaza-bound Freedom Flotilla,” Barghouti explained.

Supported by the UN’s agency for education and culture, UNESCO and the Italian Development Cooperation (DGCS) in Jerusalem, the program in question is the third round of a joint master’s degree that would allow 20 Israeli and Palestinian students to study in Italy and learn about “cooperation, humanitarianism, peace and cultural preservation.” It is coordinated by Rome’s La Sapienza University.

This program is the result of the Declaration of Principles of Palestinian-Israeli International Cooperation in Scientific and Academic Affairs, which was signed in May 2004 by the Rector of the University of Rome La Sapienza and the Rectors and Presidents of five Israeli universities (Haifa University, Tel Aviv University, Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and the Weizmann Institute of Science) and four Palestinian institutions (Al-Quds University in Jerusalem, Bethlehem University, Hebron University and the Palestine Polytechnic Institute) (download the Declaration of Principles [PDF]).

According to Hasan Dweik, Al-Quds University’s executive vice-president, shortly after the declaration was signed in 2004, all other Palestinian universities withdrew their cooperation in line with the academic boycott.

“At this time, we said that we, as Al-Quds University, would take the responsibility of running this course,” Dweik told The Electronic Intifada, from the university’s campus in Beit Hanina, occupied East Jerusalem.

“Now, and after the Israeli attack on Gaza [in winter 2008-09], my university took a position that we should stop and re-evaluate our cooperation projects with Israel because the horrible thing that took place in Gaza cannot pass like that. We said, ‘We need to stop and boycott the Israeli academic institutions,’ not because we wanted to boycott them but because we wanted to give a message to the Israeli public and to the international community,” Dweik said.

Indeed, on 2 February 2009, Al-Quds’ University Board voted to cut all forms of academic cooperation with Israeli academic institutions.

The board explained that the Israeli attack on Gaza, during which more than 1,400 Palestinians were killed (including more than 300 children), combined with settlement expansion in East Jerusalem and the intensification of restrictions in the rest of the West Bank, fueled the decision to gradually phase out the programs.

“It’s just basically to put some pressure on NGOs [non-governmental organizations] and academic institutions both in Israel, the United States and Europe, to pressurize Israel to bring about peace in our area. This was our intention,” Dweik said.

Still, he explained that while Al-Quds University will no longer enter into new academic initiatives with Israeli universities, it would not restrict extensions or the continuation of existing projects, such as the joint master’s program in Rome.

“Any program that started a few years ago will continue. It will not stop,” Dweik said, adding that the university chose not to impose a complete boycott on its faculty and staff because it wants to preserve “academic freedom.”

According to Barghouti, however, the academic freedom argument does not hold water. Instead, he said that joint Israeli-Palestinian academic programs legitimize Israeli colonial policies.

“Joint projects help provide Israeli universities with a crucial fig leaf to undermine the boycott. We often read a recurring theme in Israeli criticism of British and other academic unions that support the boycott: ‘Why are you trying to be more Palestinian than the Palestinians? If Palestinian academics themselves are cooperating with the Israeli academy, why do you want to boycott it instead of promoting joint collaborations and the free flow of ideas?'” Barghouti stated.

“This was the exact same — flawed and distinctly deceptive — logic used by South African apartheid in rebuking international boycotters, particularly in the academic and cultural fields.”

A history of collaboration

The official Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) was launched in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank in April 2004.

Since that time, nearly 60 Palestinian civil society organizations have signed onto the PACBI boycott initiative, including the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees, the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions and the General Union of Palestinian Women, among others.

The Palestinian Council for Higher Education, a group established in 1977 with the mandate of coordinating between, and representing, Palestinian higher-learning institutions, has also repeatedly reaffirmed that it is against cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian academic institutions.

Still, in May 2005, Al-Quds University President Sari Nusseibeh continued to ignore the growing call for an academic boycott, as he and Hebrew University of Jerusalem President Menachem Magidor released a joint statement denouncing the British Association of University Teachers’ (AUT) decision to boycott Israeli academic institutions.

“Cognizant of the moral leadership universities should provide, especially in already turbulent political contexts, we … have agreed to insist on continuing to work together in the pursuit of knowledge, for the benefit of our peoples and the promotion of peace and justice in the Middle East,” the statement read.

The statement added: “Our disaffection with, and condemnation of acts of academic boycotts and discrimination against scholars and institutions, is predicated on the principles of academic freedom, human rights and equality between nations and among individuals.”

According to Anan Quzmar, the Coordinator of Birzeit University’s Right to Education Campaign, which demands “the right to education and unimpeded access for all Palestinians to their educational institutions,” all forms of cooperation with Israeli academic institutions should be severed.

“We simply cannot support Palestinian universities working with Israeli institutions under any circumstances while those same institutions either endorse of fail to condemn the ongoing denial of Palestinians’ basic human rights,” Quzmar said.

He added that Palestinian students are strongly in favor of the academic boycott, and are working on campaigns to gain international support.

“Recently a statement against any form of normalization was signed by all student councils in universities in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and all major Palestine student and youth organizations around the world,” Quzmar said.

“Palestinian students have long supported an academic boycott on Israeli academic institutions and stood against any collaboration between Palestinian academic institutions and Israeli ones. I would go as far as saying that the academic boycott is the most widely supported form of boycott in the Palestinian society.”

Complicity in the occupation

According to 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,” “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.”

The report found that all main Israeli universities are involved in supporting the occupation through various means.

For instance, the three universities involved with the joint master’s program with Al-Quds University — Tel Aviv, Haifa and Hebrew University — 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. Indeed, a report released by a student group at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies demonstrated Tel Aviv University’s “deep investment in the facilitation and prosecution (at both the material and conceptual level) of what amount to war crimes” (“Study: Tel Aviv University part and parcel of the Israeli occupation,” SOAS Palestine Society, 9 July 2009).

Dweik told The Electronic Intifada that Al-Quds University is presently involved with about ten joint Israeli-Palestinian projects, and that university faculty members, researchers and administrators will meet to re-evaluate these existing projects every two to three months.

This review will include the Israeli-Palestinian Master’s program in Italy, which Dweik said will almost certainly go ahead despite the destructive influence he readily admitted such projects have on the lives of Palestinians under Israeli occupation.

“If you look at all the environment now, it does not help at all having cooperation with the Israelis,” he said. “I think the Israelis use [joint academic programs] in the media to say that things are normal and we are cooperating. I think it helps them internationally.”

According to Quzmar, all Palestinian universities must take a stand against joint academic initiatives, especially when it is clear how such projects legitimize Israel’s systematic violations of Palestinian rights.

“Palestinian universities and students are suffering every single day from the abuses of an absurd occupation,” he said. “To object to the collaboration with those who support this occupation is a very small step and simple step, especially that such collaboration can be so dangerous in allowing Israeli academia the opportunity to whitewash its support to the very same occupation Palestinian academia suffers under.”

Originally from Montreal, Jillian Kestler-D’Amours is a human rights activist and multimedia journalist currently based in occupied East Jerusalem.

Israel-Turkey axis turned on its head

Posted in Apartheid, Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions, Normalization, Profiting from Zionism, Why Boycott?!, Zionism on July 21, 2010 by Marcy Newman

By Chris Zambelis

For many observers, the long-term implications of Israel’s deadly May 31 assault against the MV Mavi Marmara, the Turkish flagship that was part of the Gaza Freedom flotilla, on Israeli-Turkish relations are unclear.

The attack left eight Turks and one Turkish-American dead and scores more wounded. The flotilla set off to break Israel’s illegal blockade of Gaza and to raise global awareness of the suffering endured by the 1.5 million Palestinians living in what is widely described as the world’s largest open-air prison.

While acknowledging the growing rift between Israel and Turkey that began amid Israel’s December 2008 invasion of Gaza, as evidenced by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s clash with Israeli President Shimon Peres during a dialogue about Gaza at the World Economic Forum summit in Davos, Switzerland, in January 2009, many point to the tradition of strong ties enjoyed by Israel and Turkey as proof that the current crisis in Israeli-Turkish relations represents a temporary setback as opposed to a permanent realignment of the regional order.

Business as usual?

Based on the track record of Israeli-Turkish relations, it would seem logical to conclude that the confluence of mutual interests will transcend the bilateral crisis. Israel and Turkey have cultivated a strategic partnership over the years spanning the political, economic and military realms.

Although Turkey has announced that it will review its military relationship with Israel, including current and future arms purchases of Israeli weapons platforms and other forms of cooperation, the ongoing spat has not precluded the scheduled delivery of Israeli-made Heron unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and supporting technology as part of a US$190 million deal.

A Turkish military delegation arrived in Israel in late June to test the UAVs following Israel’s decision to recall its military personnel from Turkey following the diplomatic row. On the trade front, consumer boycotts by Israelis targeting the Turkish economy and similar moves by Turks to single out the Israeli economy have already contributed to a decline in the bilateral trade volume that normally totals around $3 billion annually.

Thousands of Israeli tourists, for instance, heeded the advice of their government and canceled planned vacations to Turkey in 2010. Many Israeli stores have also emptied their shelves of Turkish products. Likewise, a number of Turkish firms have dropped out of plans to enter into joint ventures with Israeli companies. A host of construction and energy projects involving Turkish firms dealing with Israelis, for instance, have been suspended until further review or cancelled outright. Despite these actions, there are signs that business dealings overall between Israel and Turkey will, for the most part, remain largely unaffected.

Leaked reports of secret talks between Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Israeli Industry, Trade, and Labor Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer in Brussels in late June were also interpreted as a sign that national interests and pragmatism would win out over a continued deterioration of relations.

Looks can be deceiving

Tangible signs of a looming reconciliation between Israel and Turkey aside, there are also indications that tensions will continue to degenerate.

Turkey’s recall of its ambassador to Israel and its threat to sever relations over its refusal to apologize for the deadly raid against the flotilla and accept an independent international inquiry into the incident, reflect the extent to which relations have deteriorated, as do Israeli threats to recognize the Armenian Genocide of 1915 perpetrated by the Ottoman Turks and ramped up efforts among Israel’s supporters in the US to do the same in Washington – a red line that cannot be crossed as far as Turkey is concerned. Turkish military and government officials have also accused Israel of providing support to militants from Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan (the Kurdistan Workers’ Party – PKK) , including during a May 31 attack against a naval base in Iskandirun that left seven servicemen dead and six more wounded.

The PKK attack occurred just hours before Israel’s assault against the flotilla. In this context, Israeli support for the PKK would appear to represent a form of retaliation for Turkish support for the Palestinians. No evidence has emerged to substantiate Turkish claims of an Israeli hand behind the PKK attack at Iskandirun. Israel does maintain close contacts with various factions in Iraqi Kurdistan – a launching pad for PKK operations against Turkey – where it is known to have an intelligence presence. Israeli companies also have extensive business interests in the Iraqi province.

There are also indications that future crises revolving around flotillas are in the offing, and it is likely that Turks will once again figure prominently in such efforts. Meanwhile, the Israelis have called for the formation of an Israeli-led flotilla that would embark for Turkey to protest over the plight of its ethnic Kurdish community as well as Ankara’s positions on the Armenian genocide and Northern Cyprus. The organizers of the Gaza Freedom flotilla are also planning additional missions to break the siege and deliver humanitarian aid in the coming months. A number of independent activist groups have also set off on their own missions to Gaza.

Demise of Israel’s ‘periphery strategy’

Important shifts in the respective strategic outlooks and societies in Israel and Turkey also suggest that hostilities in Israeli-Turkish relations will not go away anytime soon.

A consideration of Israel’s “periphery strategy” is critical to understanding the current state of Israeli-Turkish ties. The strategy has served as a guiding principle of Israeli foreign policy since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.

Israel sought to cultivate formal as well as covert alliances with non-Arab countries and ethnic and sectarian minorities around its periphery to outflank the surrounding Arab states hostile to it – in particular Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Sudan and the Palestinian national movement – and to counter the influence of pan-Arab nationalism.

As the first Muslim nation to recognize Israel in 1949, Turkey was an essential part of the periphery strategy, along with Iran under Reza Shah Pahlavi, Ethiopia under Haile Selassie, Kurdish nationalists in Iraq, Maronite Christians and Druze in Lebanon, Christians in southern Sudan, and Jewish communities across the region.

Given its traditionally pro-Western and staunchly secular orientation, its status as a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and aspirations of gaining entry into the European Union (EU), Israel’s ties with Turkey developed into one of the region’s most dynamic relationships.

The significance of Israeli-Turkish relations increased dramatically after the Iranian revolution of 1979 toppled the shah. Therein lies the significance of the rift in Israeli-Turkish relations; Israel’s attack against the flotilla signaled its abandonment of its strategic alliance with Turkey. Israel also seemingly went to great lengths to humiliate Turkey in the process, a reality that will surely not be forgotten in Ankara anytime soon.

Turkey’s star is rising

Much has been said of Turkey’s rise as a regional power and its improved standing in the greater Islamic world. Turkey is indeed relishing its position as a symbol resistance and advocate for the Palestinians in the eyes of Arabs and Muslims across the Middle East.

Long excluded from the EU and having felt betrayed by its ally the United States for its backing of Kurdish political aspirations in Iraqi Kurdistan – a development it saw as setting a dangerous precedent to be emulated by Kurdish nationalists on its own soil – an increasingly confident and assertive Turkey has set off on a new foreign policy course that departs from its prior role as a reliable and predictable friend of Washington and Brussels.

Elements of political theater are certainly at play in Turkey’s attempt to fashion itself as a regional leader and champion of the Palestinian cause. Moreover, despite the noticeable shift in Ankara’s rhetoric and actions, Turkey remains a valuable and close ally of the United States and NATO, as well as a committed EU aspirant.

At the same time, buoyed by an increasingly stable domestic political scene and an expanding economy that continues to trend upward even amid the global economic downturn, the transformation of Turkish foreign policy under the leadership of Erdogan’s moderate Islamist-oriented Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi (Justice and Development Party – AKP) in recent years reflects a fundamental shift in Turkey’s outlook.

Turkey is also asserting itself amid a decline of American power in the Middle East and beyond and the appearance of a new multi-polarity characterized by the ascent of regional powers capable of projecting their influence on the global stage. While it preserves its Western orientation, Turkey today also openly embraces its Islamic heritage and Muslim neighbors, including former enemies such as Syria that it now counts as a strategic partner.

Driven by its philosophy of “zero problems with neighbors”, Turkey, in essence, sees no contradiction with maintaining a firm foothold in the West while re-establishing close economic, diplomatic, cultural and increasingly, military ties, with the countries situated in its former sphere of imperial influence around its southern and eastern frontiers.

Changes in Turkish society characterized by the growing sense of collective Muslim identity have also impacted the recalibration of Turkish foreign policy. The rise of the AKP is a key aspect of this trend. Popular opinion among Turks tends to reflect a deep-seated sensitivity to the suffering of the Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation. As a result, Ankara’s stance on the flotilla attack and evolving approach to its dealings with Israel and the Palestinians must also be considered as a product of public opinion; an important point that should not be discarded considering Turkey’s democratic landscape.

In contrast to the sclerotic authoritarian regimes such as those in Egypt and Jordan that meet popular expressions of support for the Palestinians and other forms of activism with oppression, Turkish democracy, for all of its flaws, must cater to public opinion. Israel – increasingly isolated in the Middle East and in the international arena – may come to rue the day it dumped Turkey. In the strategic realm, Israel today (and down the line) needs Turkey far more than the other way around.

Conclusion

The crisis in Israeli-Turkish relations is not over. In fact, it may have just begun. Bilateral ties will continue on multiple levels, especially in the economic sphere. The United States will also devote a great deal of effort to help both countries reconcile.

At the same time, the strategic military aspect of the Israeli-Turkish axis – the most crucial facet of the relationship – has suffered irreparable damage. As the relationship between the US and China demonstrates, strong trade ties and other critical links can coexist alongside serious rifts and disagreements over a host of strategic military issues.

A regional force in its own right that enjoys seemingly unconditional support from Washington, Israel has grown accustomed to dealing with weak and generally compliant neighbors that have allowed it to shape events in its environment to its advantage. Turkey now appears capable and intent to steadily challenge this status quo.

Chris Zambelis is an author and researcher with Helios Global, Inc, a risk management group based in the Washington, DC area. He specializes in Middle East politics. The views expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Helios Global, Inc.

Palestinian students, teachers condemn Italian university’s normalization project

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

Statement, Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel, University Teachers’ Association in Palestine, 7 July 2010

The following statement was issued on 6 July 2010 by the Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel and University Teachers’ Association in Palestine:

Over and over again, champions of the boycott movement have condemned cooperation with apartheid Israel in acts of normalization. We, the Palestinian Students Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel and the University Teachers’ Association in Palestine, have adamantly and insistently written to artists, musicians, writers and student bodies urging them to cancel concerts, refuse prizes and divest from companies cooperating with Israel’s racist institutions and government.

Not more than a week ago, it came to our attention that the Italian Development Cooperation (DGCS), with the support of UNESCO, engineered the partnership of three Israeli universities with that of Al-Quds University in the Occupied Palestinian Territories in a masters program that allows 20 Israeli and Palestinian students to participate in learning about “cooperation, humanitarianism, peace and cultural preservation” amongst other things. The program is to be coordinated by La Sapienza University in Rome.

We are appalled that this project is being carried out in spite of Israel’s indiscriminate killings of civilian Palestinians in Gaza 2009 in acts of “war crimes and crimes against humanity” and in spite of Israel’s destruction of Palestinian universities in Gaza, its military occupation of the West Bank and its policy of racial discrimination against the indigenous population of Palestine 1948.

Most Israeli academic institutions, including the Hebrew University, Haifa and Tel Aviv University are built on stolen land; they don’t recognize the Palestinian Nakba of 1948, and are complicit in the apartheid policies of the state of Israel against the 1948 Palestinians — not to mention the siege on Gaza and the occupation of the West Bank.

In sending Palestinian students over to Italy in order to have them learn about “peace making and cooperation” with a state that killed their grandparents, ethnically cleansed the land of their forbearers and demolishes their houses is an insult to the Palestinian struggle against Israeli apartheid and occupation. This act of normalization aims to blur the boundaries between oppressor and oppressed, colonizer and colonized, occupier and occupied, executioner and victim, and ultimately aims at whitewashing Israel’s war crimes, the last of which was committed in the high seas against international peace activists on their way to break the deadly hermetic siege of Gaza. The projected program speaks about “peace and cooperation” without mentioning Israel’s gross violations of human rights, and deals with the Palestine question as one of conflict, rather than one of colonization and apartheid. It does not mention Israel being the only nuclear power in the region, owning the fourth strongest army in the world. It claims to be about “peace and humanitarianism” without a mention of justice and accountability. Therefore, it is a sham, an insult to the spilt blood of tens of thousands of murdered Palestinians, including students, since 1948.

On another note, we, as Palestinian students and teachers, would accept this course only if it does not include cooperation with Israeli universities. We ask: is the Israeli historian Ilan Pappe’s book about the 1948 Nakba The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine an essential course text book in this MA program? Is there a course about the end of apartheid in South Africa and lessons that students can learn from the South African experience? Does the program include a discussion of Palestinian right of self-determination and right of return?

Israel must abide by international law and end its policy of occupation, colonization and apartheid. That is our understanding of peace with justice.

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