Archive for the Why Boycott?! Category

Towards accountability: John Dugard interviewed

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

Adri Nieuwhof, The Electronic Intifada, 5 October 2010

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

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

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

AN: Do states have responsibility towards exercising universal jurisdiction?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Propaganda and Israel/Palestine: The War is On

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

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

Is boycotting Israel anti-Semitic?

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

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

October 7, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BDS Goes South

Posted in Apartheid, International BDS Actions, Why Boycott?!, Zionism on October 3, 2010 by Marcy Newman

PACBI | 29 September 2010

In a landmark event held in New Delhi on 22-23 September 2010, the conference “A Just Peace for Palestine” ended with a clear call for BDS as a strategy for realizing justice for Palestinians. The conference was co-organized by the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), the Committee for Solidarity with Palestine, the All India Peace and Solidarity Organization, and the recently established Indian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, and supported by several organizations, including Focus on the Global South and COVA. The conference ended with a resolution that called upon “the Indian government to end its military ties with Israel and return to its earlier commitment to the cause of the Palestinian people.” The conference also affirmed that “the world must declare that Israel is an apartheid state. It must call for global boycott and sanctions on Israel as long as it continues its illegal occupation of Palestine and its apartheid policies.” The resolution appealed to “people in India to join the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign as a show of solidarity with the Palestine people and their just struggle.” A plan of action was announced, in which several steps to show solidarity with Palestinians were outlined, particularly the launching of BDS campaigns and other measures by people’s action groups in the Asian region.

The BDS National Committee (BNC) was represented by BNC Secretariat member and Stop the Wall director Jamal Juma’, and PACBI founding and steering committee member Lisa Taraki. The Palestinian delegation also included Mustafa Barghouti, Palestinian Legislative Council member and head of the Palestinian National Initiative; and Kenesset member Jamal Zahalqa, leader of the National Democratic Assembly parliamentary bloc. Notable speakers included Richard Falk, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory; former UN General Assembly President Father Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann; Israeli dissident academic Ilan Pappe; Walden Bello, Member of the Philippines House of Representatives; notable Indian academics and writers Aijaz Ahmed, Achin Vanaik, Githa Hariharan and Upendra Baxi; veteran trade union leader from Bangladesh Rashed Menon; the chairman of the Communist Party of Bangladesh Manzurul Khan; Prakash Karat, general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist); Mordecai Briemberg of the Canada-Palestine Support Network; noted Indian journalist Seema Mustafa; member of parliament of Bangladesh, Moinuddin Khan; A.B. Bardhan, general secretary of the Communist Party of India; D.P.Tripathi, general secretary of the Nationalist Congress Party; and several other public personalities from India.

During and after the conference, some of the participants from Palestine went on to speak at a number of Indian universities and colleges, as well as at public meetings and press conferences. PACBI’s Lisa Taraki visited the cities of Calicut and Hyderabad, where she spoke with academics, students, political figures, parliamentarians and the press about BDS as a strategy chosen by Palestinian civil society, focusing on the academic and cultural boycott of Israel.

Of particular note was a meeting with members of the newly-established Indian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel and other Indian academics and cultural activists. A plan of action for activating the academic and cultural boycott in India was developed at this meeting; PACBI looks forward to working with our Indian partners in bringing BDS to India and expanding the reach of the academic and cultural boycott movement.

PACBI is proud to have been involved in this historic conference. Now that the reach of the BDS movement has been firmly extended to West and South Asia, we can expect to see a further enhancement of the global movement in solidarity with the Palestinian people and the launching of boycott campaigns led by Indian and other Global South academics, writers, artists, and intellectuals. The level of support for Palestine in India encountered by the delegation among ordinary people, students, political leaders and people’s movements was phenomenal. We are hopeful that campaigns led by our partners in India will contribute toward influencing the policy of the Indian government, which has been building a military and political alliance with Israel. This is particularly important due to India’s history of fighting colonial rule and leading the nonaligned movement.

It Takes a Cynic: ‘If I Were Not Obama, I Would Be Diogenes’

Posted in Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions, Why Boycott?! on October 3, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Cynics would critically understand the realities of the Palestinian-Israeli crises.

By Dallas Darling

As a lawyer and one time activist, President Barack Obama should not have lashed out at the Cynics when he asked the United Nations General Assembly and the world to back his plan to forge a Palestinian State and a secure Israel. Actually, it is Cynicism itself that is sorely and desperately needed in order for a just and secure Palestinian State and Israeli State to peacefully co-exist and thrive.

It is unfortunate too, that the current meaning of “cynic” is someone who assumes the worst about human nature. However, Cynicism was an Ancient Greek philosophical movement probably founded by Diogenes of Sinope. The Cynics took their name either from their meeting place or from the word kynikos, referring to the free, unfettered-and always questioning-lifestyle mixed with contempt for the established social and political orders of their day.

Cynics continually challenged and rejected the tyrants and tyrannical myths of their day that caged the soul and spirit. They also distinguished between “natural” and “artificial” values and solutions, exalting virtue as the highest good. According to the Cynics, virtue consisted of wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice. Cynics also believed and taught that knowledge of one’s circumstances and surroundings led to correct and right courses of action.

Today, Cynics would critically understand the realities and nature of the Palestinian-Israeli crises, along with its history of repeated injuries and abuses. Cynics would denounce and then confront the 1948 forced removal of thousands of Palestinians into makeshift refugee camps, so as to appease Zionism-a movement to establish an exclusive Jewish State at the expense of others who also claim Palestine as their ancestral lands. Cynics would work for fairness and equal rights for all Palestinians, along with repatriation for stolen lands.

Like Diogenes, Cynics today would have the courage to carry a lamp in broad daylight in search of an honest and just person. This would have included the UN General Assembly and its Security Council, thought to be a democratic body. Like the Athenian Assembly, though, they exclude the majority of people, or non-citizens, slaves, the poor, and, of course, Palestinians. By carrying a lit lamp in broad daylight, the ruling powers and their hypocritical forms of government and governance would be stripped to their naked and shameful essence.

The Cynics temperance would question and challenge America’s disproportional selling and supplying of weapons to Israel. They would stop Israel’s military interventions into Palestinian territories, and its armed invasions into Palestinian mosques and homes. Cynics would boycott Israel’s aggressive settlement expansions into Palestinian lands. Cynicism would apply the same rules to both Israel and Palestine. For Cynics, a fair society can only be maintained when everyone has equal opportunities for education and jobs, and when all have access to housing, clean drinking water, electricity, healthcare, and mobility.

Because of their virtuous poverty and deep sense of equality and justice, Cynics have often sought a more simpler, nonviolent and peaceful society. They have confronted and defied militant and powerful and unjust rulers, including unfair Old and New World Orders. The impulse towards Cynicism has at times been found in humanity. It has also arisen in all historical epochs. Cynics and Cynicism will again help resolve the Palestinian-Israeli crises. Cynics will bring about a more secure and just Palestinian State and Israeli State.

In hindsight, Cynicism has never forcibly relocated, killed or massacred Palestinians, unlike Zionism and U.S. Militarism.Neither has it ever been used for indifference, ignorance and hate, as some have used the Holy Land for their own unholy alliances and political gains and for their ethnocentric schemes. The Cynics “bitter words” have been used to challenge injustices and killing the innocent. The Cynics bombs are “Why?” and “For Whom?”, with regards to historical myths and tyrannical thinking imposed by rulers and their conquerors.

Of interest too is the Cynics disdain of hypocritical and worldly power. It was illustrated in the story of Diogenes’ meeting with Alexander the Great. Having conquered parts of Asia, Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, Alexander was one of the most powerful and greatest rulers of the world. When Alexander asked the sage Diogenes if there was some service he could do him, Diogenes replied, “Stand a little less between me and the sun.” Alexander was then quoted as saying, “If I were not Alexander, I would be Diogenes.”

For Cynics and others who search for wisdom, justice, peace and virtue, then, the question is Zionism or Cynicism? And again: “If I were not Obama, I would be Diogenes.”

– Dallas Darling is the author of Politics 501: An A-Z Reading on Conscientious Political Thought and Action, Some Nations Above God: 52 Weekly Reflections On Modern-Day Imperialism, Militarism, And Consumerism in the Context of John‘s Apocalyptic Vision, and The Other Side Of Christianity: Reflections on Faith, Politics, Spirituality, History, and Peace. He is a correspondent for www.worldnews.com. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Visit: www.beverlydarling.com and wn.com//dallasdarling.

SA university must reconsider Israel ties – Haidar Eid

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

As a graduate of the University of Johannesburg and a resident of Gaza, I find it distressing that the university has signed an agreement with Israel’s Ben Gurion University despite the policy of ethnic cleansing and the latest war crimes committed against the people of Gaza by the nation’s government.

Israeli academic institutions are known to be complicit in Israel’s policy of colonization and apartheid. As such, an agreement with an academic institution goes against the words of Nelson Mandela, who said in 1997:

“It behoves all South Africans, themselves erstwhile beneficiaries of generous international support, to stand up and be counted among those contributing actively to the cause of freedom and justice … we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”

Every day, millions of Palestinians are denied the full right to education in the occupied Palestinian territories and in the refugee camps of the diaspora. Education is denied because of Israeli checkpoints, the siege of Gaza and the apartheid-like discrimination faced by Palestinian students in Israel.

Thousands of Palestinian students and lecturers are in Israeli dungeons often without trial or sentenced by military courts. All credible international human rights and humanitarian organizations have detailed how the Israeli military deliberately targets Palestinian students and schools including UN schools. The recent Goldstone report corroborates these facts.

Palestinians stood with South Africans during the struggle against South African apartheid. We ask you to join us in our struggle against Israeli apartheid. Almost all Palestinian academics and a small but significant number of Israeli academics understand why Israeli institutions must be boycotted in the face of an intransigent, racist and militarized Israeli regime.

It is unconscionable that UJ becomes complicit in Palestinian oppression. I have no doubt that the vast majority of the UJ community based on my experience there, believe in the values of social justice and if they were aware of the appalling
atrocities I have witnessed, would not hesitate to support the petition opposing links with Israeli institutions.

Palestinians are an oppressed people without a state. We increasingly rely on international law and solidarity for our very survival.

Israel with the fourth largest army in the world has violated international law and numerous global conventions. Israel’s latest barbarity is the illegal use of white phosphorus against civilians killing 1,400 people including hundreds of children.

International jurists, including South Africans such as John Dugard consider Israel to have committed war crimes. In a comprehensive and meticulous report, senior researchers from South Africa’s own Human Sciences Research Council consider Israel to be an apartheid state.

The decision of UJ’s management executive committee must be reversed. South Africans, amidst all people, must not be on the “wrong side of history.”

Professor Haidar Eid The author is an independent political commentator and professor in the Department of English Literature at Al-Aqsa University in Gaza.

Eight American Universities Say Yes to Apartheid – An Analysis

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

Lawrence Davidson

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

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

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

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

1. The realm of the bureaucrat

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

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

2. What else is going on?

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

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

3. What comes next?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Conclusion

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

WHY UJ SHOULD SEVER RELATIONS WITH ISRAELI UNIVERSITY

Posted in Apartheid, International BDS Actions, Why Boycott?!, Zionism on September 26, 2010 by Marcy Newman

By Professor Ran Greenstein
Sunday Independent – South Africa – [26_09_2010]

Can one live a normal life in an abnormal society? The anti-apartheid movement believed that you could not, and must not. It set out to disrupt the comfortable lives of white South Africans, to force them to understand that change was necessary. One tactic chosen in this regard was boycotts and sanctions. Other campaigns against oppressive regimes have used similar tactics, selecting targets in order to maximize strategic advantage. The closer the target was to the core identity of oppressive groups, the more likely it was to be effective. Thus, it made sense to boycott South African cricket and rugby teams to disrupt the sense of normality of sports-mad white South Africans. This tactic would not work in, say, Burma or Sudan, whose oppressive elites have limited interest in sports. Using the same logic, it made sense to boycott Chilean wine and Argentinian football, when both countries were under military dictatorships, but not the other way around.

When we consider the campaign against the Israeli occupation and oppression of Palestinians, a careful choice of targets must guide action. While Israeli Jews are not the only ones who violate human rights, as the stronger side they are the chief culprits today. Their greatest source of vulnerability is the obsessive need to feel an integral part of the West and the global community. This feeling is particularly strong among the elites, including academics. It is central to their professional identity and it contributes to a sense of political complacency. With their eyes turned to the West, Palestinians living under conditions of military occupation and suffering from massive violation of human rights have become invisible to them. This is the challenge, then: how to use the quest for normality and legitimacy in order to force ordinary people to move against extraordinary circumstances?

With this in mind, a group of academics at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), with the support of fellow academics elsewhere, have started a campaign to sever UJ’s relations with an Israeli academic institution – Ben-Gurion University (BGU). The campaign calls on UJ to suspend an agreement for scientific cooperation until Israel abides by international law, and the university takes a stand against the occupation.

As one of the signatories to a petition supporting the campaign, I would like to explain some of the reasons behind it (without speaking on behalf of any other signatory). But first, to clarify: the campaign targets relations between institutions. It is not aimed at individual academics of whatever political persuasions. It attacks oppressive practices rather than political views. It seeks to enhance exchanges and debates between different opinions rather than close them up. In other words, it is seen as an educational tool that opens us new opportunities to learn more about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and allow us to make an intervention on the side of protecting and promoting human rights for all.

Why use this particular tactic? There is nothing specific about BGU – it collaborates with the military, it turns a blind eye towards oppressive practices, and it practices discrimination against Palestinian students – but all Israeli academic institutions do the same. In a sense, signing the petition is a way of expressing concern about the broader context of occupation, denial of human rights and political oppression in Israel. It is unlikely on its own to change anything and the chances that BGU would yield to demands to renounce the occupation are extremely low.

At the same time, the potential educational value of this initiative is great, both in relation to South African and Israeli audiences. It sends a clear message that there is strong and growing disapproval of Israel’s practices, which are illegal and immoral, and that those who fight such practices within Israeli universities can expect solidarity from fellow academics elsewhere.

For this to work, it is important that it should not be seen as a punitive and externally imposed measure. Rather, it should be a step towards forging international links of solidarity and activism with Israeli and Palestinian progressive academics. Ideally it would help create a counterweight to the increasing pressure from right-wing forces that seek to silence critical voices at Israeli universities, including BGU.

Ultimately, this may be the most important contribution of the initiative: to side with those fighting for change from within. Local activists in Israel/Palestine – of both national groups – are subject to enormous pressure internally, and the only way they could sustain a campaign for change is by maintaining a constant exchange of information, solidarity, and a flow of moral and material assistance from the outside. It is only in dialogue between all the relevant constituencies that the campaign can move forward.

Israeli ties: a chance to do the right thing

Posted in Apartheid, International BDS Actions, Why Boycott?!, Zionism on September 26, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Sep 26, 2010 12:00 AM | By Archbishop Desmond Tutu

The University of Johannesburg’s Senate will next week meet to decide whether to end its relationship with an Israeli institution, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, on the grounds of that university’s active support for and involvement in the Israeli military. Archbishop Desmond Tutu supports the move. He explains why

‘The temptation in our situation is to speak in muffled tones about an issue such as the right of the people of Palestine to a state of their own.

We can easily be enticed to read reconciliation and fairness as meaning parity between justice and injustice. Having achieved our own freedom, we can fall into the trap of washing our hands of difficulties that others face. Yet we would be less than human if we did so. It behoves all South Africans, themselves erstwhile beneficiaries of generous international support, to stand up and be counted among those contributing actively to the cause of freedom and justice.” – Nelson Mandela, December 4 1997

Struggles for freedom and justices are fraught with huge moral dilemmas. How can we commit ourselves to virtue – before its political triumph – when such commitment may lead to ostracism from our political allies and even our closest partners and friends? Are we willing to speak out for justice when the moral choice that we make for an oppressed community may invite phone calls from the powerful or when possible research funding will be withdrawn from us? When we say “Never again!” do we mean “Never again!”, or do we mean “Never again to us!”?

Our responses to these questions are an indication of whether we are really interested in human rights and justice or whether our commitment is simply to secure a few deals for ourselves, our communities and our institutions – but in the process walking over our ideals even while we claim we are on our way to achieving them?

The issue of a principled commitment to justice lies at the heart of responses to the suffering of the Palestinian people and it is the absence of such a commitment that enables many to turn a blind eye to it.

Consider for a moment the numerous honorary doctorates that Nelson Mandela and I have received from universities across the globe. During the years of apartheid many of these same universities denied tenure to faculty who were “too political” because of their commitment to the struggle against apartheid. They refused to divest from South Africa because “it will hurt the blacks” (investing in apartheid South Africa was not seen as a political act; divesting was).

Let this inconsistency please not be the case with support for the Palestinians in their struggle against occupation.

I never tire of speaking about the very deep distress in my visits to the Holy Land; they remind me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa. I have seen the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks, suffering like we did when young white police officers prevented us from moving about. My heart aches. I say, “Why are our memories so short?” Have our Jewish sisters and brothers forgotten their own previous humiliation? Have they forgotten the collective punishment, the home demolitions, in their own history so soon?

Have they turned their backs on their profound and noble religious traditions? Have they forgotten that God cares deeply about all the downtrodden?

Together with the peace-loving peoples of this Earth, I condemn any form of violence – but surely we must recognise that people caged in, starved and stripped of their essential material and political rights must resist their Pharaoh? Surely resistance also makes us human? Palestinians have chosen, like we did, the nonviolent tools of boycott, divestment and sanctions.

South African universities with their own long and complex histories of both support for apartheid and resistance to it should know something about the value of this nonviolent option.

The University of Johannesburg has a chance to do the right thing, at a time when it is unsexy. I have time and time again said that we do not want to hurt the Jewish people gratuitously and, despite our deep responsibility to honour the memory of the Holocaust and to ensure it never happens again (to anyone), this must not allow us to turn a blind eye to the suffering of Palestinians today.

I support the petition by some of the most prominent South African academics who call on the University of Johannesburg to terminate its agreement with Ben-Gurion University in Israel (BGU). These petitioners note that: “All scholarly work takes place within larger social contexts – particularly in institutions committed to social transformation. South African institutions are under an obligation to revisit relationships forged during the apartheid era with other institutions that turned a blind eye to racial oppression in the name of ‘purely scholarly’ or ‘scientific work’.” It can never be business as usual.

Israeli Universities are an intimate part of the Israeli regime, by active choice. While Palestinians are not able to access universities and schools, Israeli universities produce the research, technology, arguments and leaders for maintaining the occupation. BGU is no exception. By maintaining links to both the Israeli defence forces and the arms industry, BGU structurally supports and facilitates the Israeli occupation. For example, BGU offers a fast-tracked programme of training to Israeli Air Force pilots.

In the past few years, we have been watching with delight UJ’s transformation from the Rand Afrikaans University, with all its scientific achievements but also ugly ideological commitments. We look forward to an ongoing principled transformation. We don’t want UJ to wait until others’ victories have been achieved before offering honorary doctorates to the Palestinian Mandelas or Tutus in 20 years’ time.

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

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

C. Gouridasan Nair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What about the European governments?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I agree.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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