Collaboration with videographer Jihane al Quds and Harlem Anti-Wall Chorus, “Bricks From the Wall,” urging pension giant TIAA-CREF to divest from companies profiting from colonialism and ethnic cleansing by Israel in Palestine.
We don’t need no occupation (Divest! Divest!)
We don’t need no swat patrol (Divest! Divest!)
Cat’s bulldozing West Bank classrooms (Divest! Divest!)
That’s not for the greater good
Elbit Systems, Caterpillar, G4S, Hewlett Packard, SodaStream
Hey, T-Cref, leave them kids alone!
All in all we’re gonna tear those bricks from the wall
All in all we’re gonna tear those bricks from the wall
We don’t need no Northrop Grumman (Divest! Divest!)
Death and mayhem from above (Divest! Divest!)
Motorola’s no Solution (Divest! Divest!)
For Palestine let’s show some love
Northrop Grumman, Veolia, Sodastream, Elbit Systems, Caterpillar
Hey, T-Cref, your dollars flatten homes!
All in all we’re gonna tear those bricks from the wall
All in all we’re gonna tear those bricks from the wall
We don’t need Veolia Light Rail (Divest! Divest!)
Seizing East Jerusalem (Divest! Divest!)
Divest from Elbit’s ammunition (Divest! Divest!)
And yes they helped to built the wall
Hewlett Packard, Northrop Grumman, Elbit Systems, Caterpillar, G4S
Hey, T-Cref, look how apartheid’s grown!
All in all we’re gonna tear those bricks from the wall
All in all we’re gonna tear those bricks from the wall
Professor Haidar Eid, steering committee member with the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, writes for the Socialism and Democracy journal on strategies of solidarity.
The Palestinian boycott divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement has recently generated unprecedented international attention — and opposition — including from US, European and Israeli officials. How much do you know about its origins?
I interviewed Adnan via Skype to get his views on how this movement has developed, almost nine years later.
He also speaks about the history of BDS, underscoring an important and often overlooked point: the movement was conceived and founded by Palestinians, in Palestine.
Now, he says, it is bringing results far beyond early expectations.
Adri Nieuwhof: What were the main reasons you helped design and launch the BDS call?
Adnan Ramadan: We met when you were organizing a workshop for the Occupied Palestine and Golan Heights Advocacy Initiative (OPGAI) where we discussed the call for BDS.
At that time I coordinated this network and I was the manager of the Joint Advocacy Initiative of the YMCA and YWCA. Based on this, I am a co-founder of the BDS campaign and I served in the secretariat of the campaign for several years.
There was a lot of discussion among Palestinian civil society organizations and others in Palestinian society about how we can give the solidarity movement a solid tool with a clear vision based on a deep analysis of the conflict between Palestine and the Israelis. We found the experience of South Africa very inspiring.
So there was the opinion of following that experience of the people of South Africa. Especially because the governments at that time were far away from putting any kind of pressure on Israel.
We decided to address civil society organizations all over the world with a unified call and a strategy. We asked an international donor organization to support a workshop with people from South Africa and the international solidarity movement with South Africa. So we invited you and Bangani Ngeleza from South Africa to come to Beit Sahour.
The outcome of our workshop was to send out the call for BDS. We coordinated with Palestinian networks to send the call together with the Palestine Non-Governmental Organizations Network, Ittijah — the umbrella of Palestinian civil society organizations in historic Palestine, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, OPGAI and Stop the Wall.
The call was signed later by different organizations, mainly Palestinian grassroots organizations in Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank, Gaza, and many parts of the Palestinian community.
AN: What were your expectations? Were they fulfilled?
AR: Our expectation was that at least there would be a unified call from the Palestinian community. Many of our friends and people who sympathized with us or were convinced of our rights were confused by the many calls that came from different parts of our community.
By unifying our expectations as Palestinians we gave the international solidarity movement something clear. Some people said that the call was very extreme because many groups would refuse to describe Israel as racist or as a discriminatory system, or to compare it with South Africa — while the facts on the ground in Palestine go beyond this.
So we decided to go on, and we found a lot of support — more than 170 Palestinian organizations signed the call. The BDS movement is now the biggest network in Palestine.
The success of the call on the international level was beyond our expectations, especially after the war on Gaza in 2008-2009. It is a tool for people to participate in many ways. It gives the opportunity to explain and reveal the truth about what is going on.
In 2005, there was a lot of confusion made by us, the Palestinians, in the way we were representing our cause to the international community. By sending a call based on international law, UN resolutions, on an analysis of the situation, it was a way to return to the roots of the conflict.
The BDS campaign could open opportunities for political change, not just a way of expressing solidarity and exerting pressure on political decision makers. It opened opportunities for change in the power relation between Palestine and Israel, and also at the internal level.
AN: Can you explain how this worked?
AR: The official political process and approach was mainly through negotiations. Israel used the negotiations to say there is a Palestinian state, a Palestinian political system and economy.
Everything is there and it is their problem if they fail to develop the system. At the same time they were marketing that the Palestinian people are a threat to Israeli society, to the state. The reason for all their measures was “security.” The negotiations were a kind of umbrella to legitimize the marketing of these kinds of ideas.
The other voice was not listened to, the voice of the Palestinian people who are living in this complicated situation, who are suffering and losing every day. The BDS call was sending this alternative voice with an alternative analysis and showed Israel as it is. Not as a democratic state, like they are saying.
The BDS call created a new political discourse because it was not part of the national political system or political factions.
The civil society organizations involved in the call worked in many areas, they had partners and friends all over the world. There was more credibility for such a call because it came from grassroots organizations who know their partners.
The call for BDS also opened a new way of thinking inside the Palestinian community. It showed that there are new nonviolent tools to struggle that could have a serious impact.
Violence was one of the most important issues discussed at an international level, because Israel succeeded in marketing the Palestinian struggle as a violent struggle. The BDS call could show a different image of the Palestinians.
AN: Would you say that the BDS call empowered the Palestinians?
AR: Sure. When I talked with international friends and partners about the situation, they asked “what exactly do you want from us?” They told me that they received contradicting calls and requests from Palestinians. In general it strengthened us to have this solid and clearly defined call.
Secondly, as Palestinians who are involved in BDS, it gives us the opportunity to think, to act in a different way among ourselves. The experience of BDS work was positive by creating the secretariat and having communications on a daily basis, not by being physically near but through other means, by the group leadership.
There was a lot of sensitivity on how would we lead this; would we fall back on individual influences, or the political agendas of different groups?
The BDS work gave a new model of group decision-making, of dealing with issues with an open mind, giving opportunities for creative ideas. BDS offered Palestinians for the first time to present their leaders. Before that there were only the political parties.
AN: Some people say the BDS campaign should focus on settlements? What is your response?
AR: Talking about the boycott of settlements is returning back to confusion. For us, the Palestinians, Israel is one state. It is not a state for settlers and a state for others. The political system is one, the security system is one, the economic system is one.
All is linked, representing the same policy and mentality. Let’s return to the main source of conflict: the Zionist movement wants to show that this is a land without a people for a people without land, denying the existence of the Palestinian people and their rights.
They bring in people from all over the world if they are Jewish and settle them here.
When we talk of boycotting Israel, we talk of boycotting a system of ruling, a way of thinking and behaving, that denies the existence of the Palestinian people and their rights.
Unfortunately, the Palestinian Authority (PA) — based on their agreements and their mentality — has called for a boycott only of settlement products.
This can create some small problems for some small industries here and there. It does not give opportunities for real political solutions and change inside the Israeli community.
The PA tried in this way to contain the whole BDS campaign and take the successes. Their approach created a lot of obstacles in different countries. There have been a lot of confrontations between BDS activists and people who represent the official policy of the PA.
For me the call from Palestinian civil society is clearly about boycotting Israel and calling for sanctions against Israel. But everybody can decide — based on his analysis, circumstances and sometimes the laws — how to respond to the call.
For example the people in the Netherlands may want to focus on a boycott of settlement products. The important thing is that they are responding to our call.
AN: When is the BDS movement no longer needed? When is our job done?
AR: There is no longer a need for BDS when we have achieved our demands, which are ending the occupation, the return of the Palestinian refugees to their lands and equality for the people who are living in Israel and Palestine.
BDS is important because the walls are closed for other approaches. The change that is taking place inside the Israeli community is very serious and dangerous, reflecting a racist and discriminatory mentality: to take lands from the Palestinians or to kill them or to send them to other countries.
It comes on a daily basis from the political leadership and government in Israel. The facts on the ground are that we see how circles of settlements surround the inhabited areas of Palestine, we see the political and economic pressure on the Palestinian people to leave this land, to make them desperate, to make them very weak.
Israel seeks to take their resources, not just the land but also the water and other resources, and to control every element of their lives.
It is part of a comprehensive program and the negotiations are part of it. The necessity of the call for BDS is becoming more and more important. With BDS we see results. We need more results. It will give us more encouragement.
Palestinian human rights organisations have criticised Bill Gates after it emerged that his charitable foundation is heavily invested in G4S, a private security company that helps Israel run prisons at which Palestinian political prisoners are held without trial and subjected to torture.
In an open letter to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation published today, Palestinian human rights groups argued that the foundation was undermining international law and its stated commitment to human rights with its $170m investment in the company that makes it one of the company’s biggest shareholders.
British security company G4S has a contract with the Israeli Prison Service to run and install security and management systems at six prisons Palestinian political prisoners, including children, are routinely subjected to torture, according to human rights organisations.
“It is completely unacceptable for a charitable foundation to be investing in a company that participates in gross human rights violations against Palestinian political prisoners. The Gates Foundation talks about every life having equal value, but what about the political prisoners, are their lives not of equal value?” said Sahar Francis, director of Palestinian prisoner and advocacy organisation Addameer.
More than 500 children are ‘are arrested, detained and prosecuted in the Israeli military detention system each year’, according to Defence for Children International – Palestine. Three out of every four of child detainees face physical violence during detention and interrogation, much of which takes place in facilities G4S helps to operate.
Palestinian student and father-of-two Arafat Jaradat died in custody last year after being tortured in Megiddo Prison, a facility that G4S helps to operate.
“Bill Gates is the richest man in the world, why does his charity have to fund itself by profiting from the torture of children and the use of detention without trial?” Francis added.
Israel illegally transfers prisoners from the occupied Palestinian territories to inside Israel despite this being prohibited by Article 76 of the Geneva Convention. Campaigners argue that G4S is complicit in this violation of international law.
G4S has already lost contracts worth millions of dollars as trade unions and universities and other public bodies in Europe and South Africa cancel their contracts over concerns about the firm’s role in Israel’s prison system.
Hollywood actor Scarlett Johansson was embroiled in controversy and was eventually forced into resigning her role as an Oxfam ambassador earlier this year after she endorsed SodaStream, an Israeli company that manufactures drinks machines in an illegal Israeli settlement. Celebrities including Pink Flyod’s Roger Waters, Massive Attack’s Robert del Naja and Maxi Jazz from Faithless have backed a cultural boycott of Israel.
In April 2012, more than 2,000 Palestinian political prisoners went on hunger strike to protest conditions in Israel’s jails and the use of administrative detention, a form of detention without trial. There are currently three prisoners who remain on hunger strike, two of whom have gone without food for almost 80 days.
Palestinian human rights groups say that Israel uses mass incarceration to dissuade Palestinians from protesting against Israel’s occupation and apartheid policies. Israeli military orders make a whole range of activities illegal, including joining a political party or organising a demonstration.
There are more than 5,000 Palestinian political prisoners currently held in Israeli jails, including 183 children and 175 held under administrative detention, a form of detention without trial that Israel uses to hold Palestinians on secret information indefinitely.
Sign the petition here: http://www.addameer.org/gatesdivest
British private security company G4S helps the Israeli government to run prisons at which Palestinian political prisoners are detained.
Right now, there are more than 5,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails, including 183 children. Human rights organisations have documented widespread torture, including of children, and Palestinians are often held without trial indefinitely.
In June 2013, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest private foundation in the world, purchased shares in G4S worth $172m, making it one of the company’s biggest shareholders.
Through its holdings in G4S, the Gates Foundation is legitimising and profiting from Israel’s use of torture, mass incarceration and arbitrary arrest to discourage Palestinians from opposing Israel’s apartheid policies.
Please share widely using #StopG4S
This statement was issued for Archbishop emeritus Tutu by Oryx Media
I am writing today to express grave concern about a wave of legislative measures in the United States aimed at punishing and intimidating those who speak their conscience and challenge the human rights violations endured by the Palestinian people. In legislatures in Maryland, New York, Illinois, Florida, and even the United States Congress, bills have been proposed that would either bar funding to academic associations or seek to malign those who have taken a stand against the Israeli Occupation of Palestine.
These legislative efforts are in response to a growing international initiative, the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, of which I have long been a supporter. The BDS movement emanates from a call for justice put out by the Palestinian people themselves. It is a Palestinian-led, international non-violent movement that seeks to force theIsraeli government to comply with international law in respect to its treatment of the Palestinian people.
I have supported this movement because it exerts pressure without violence on the State of Israel to create lasting peace for the citizens of Israel and Palestine, peace which most citizens crave. I have witnessed the systematic violence against and humiliation of Palestinian men, women and children by members of the Israeli security forces. Their humiliation and pain is all too familiar to us South Africans.
In South Africa, we could not have achieved our democracy without the help of people around the world, who through the use of non-violent means, such as boycotts and divestment, encouraged their governments and other corporate actors to reverse decades-long support for the Apartheid regime. My conscience compels me to stand with the Palestinians as they seek to use the same tactics of non-violence to further their efforts to end the oppression associated with the Israeli Occupation.
The legislations being proposed in the United States would have made participation in a movement like the one that ended Apartheid in South Africa extremely difficult.
I am also deeply troubled by the rhetoric associated with the promulgation of these bills which I understand, in the instance of Maryland, included testimony comparing the boycott to the actions of the Nazis in Germany. The Nazi Holocaust which resulted in the extermination of millions of Jews is a crime of monstrous proportions. To imply that it is in any way comparable to a nonviolent initiative diminishes the horrific nature of that genocidal and tragic era in our world history.
Whether used in South Africa, the US South, or India, boycotts have resulted in a transformative change that not only brought freedom and justice to the victims but also peace and reconciliation for the oppressors. I strongly oppose any piece of legislation meant to punish or deter individuals from pursuing this transformative aspiration. And I remain forever hopeful that, like the nonviolent efforts that have preceded it, the BDS movement will ultimately become a catalyst for honest peace and reconciliation for all our brothers and sisters, both Palestinian and Israeli, in the Holy Land.
One year ago, the Israel lobby’s global strategy of “lawfare” suffered a significant defeat in a British court. A sprawling case against the University and College Union for “institutional anti-Semitism” was comprehensively blown away by an Employment Tribunal.
The 49-page ruling stated in no uncertain terms that the mammoth litigation was “devoid of any merit” and that such cases should never waste the time of the tribunals service again.
Although ostensibly championed by semi-retired maths teacher Ronnie Fraser and his tiny “Academic Friends of Israel” grouplet, the case was backed to the hilt by the UK’s diffuse network of pro-Israel lobbying organizations. The lobby was furious that its attempts to dissuade the UK’s trade unions from dropping the movement to boycott, divest from and sanction (BDS) Israel was unsuccessful.
But one year on, pro-Israel organizations around the world have not lost their taste for litigation.
With their case becoming more and more fanatical and right-wing, it is becoming more and more difficult for the lobby to win arguments. So Israel’s defenders are increasingly resorting to legal intimidation.
But how successful have such tactics been in shutting up Palestine solidarity campaigners?
With the end of the long-running war of lawyers against the University and College Union, the focus of Israel’s “lawfare” strategy has shifted to Australia, France and a smattering of cases in the United States.Australia
Two academic supporters of the boycott of Israel in Sydney University’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies are being sued under Australian law designed to combat racist discrimination.
Their alleged infringement? Refusing to sponsor the application of an Israeli academic from Hebrew University for a fellowship, due to his position as a representative of an official Israeli institution. (Hebrew University’s Jerusalem campus is built on occupied Palestinian land, and the institution has deep links to the Israeli military.)
The case went to court in February. Lawyers for academic Jake Lynch have described it as full of “pumped-up claims,” and have called for the case to be thrown out due to lack of specifics.
Reports on the case from last month hit a farcical note, with Shurat Hadin reportedly complaining in their claim of “racism” that “BDS deprived them and their wives of the chance to see Elvis Costello perform in Israel, after the singer cancelled a 2010 concert citing the boycott.”
According to the Guardian, Lynch’s lawyer in contrast argued based on the facts: “What are the primary facts that link these artists not performing in Israel with Jake’s conduct?”
Shurat Hadin’s lawyer argued that “one doesn’t have to plead out every element” of the case in court. But judge Alan Robertson reportedly sounded unconvinced, replying: “You’ll have to do a lot of work to persuade me of the correctness of that position.”
The case is expected to return to court on 24 April.France
French courts have been a major venue for pro-Israel lawfare. In January, for example, a Paris court ruled that the French Palestine Solidarity Association (AFPS) could no longer use the words “illegal” or “fraudulent” to describe the “Made in Israel” labeling of products manufactured in Israeli settlements.
Writing for The Electronic Intifada, Adri Nieuwhof emphasizes that, even after the ruling, “nothing prevents BDS campaigners from stating that SodaStream’s products from Mishor Adumim are ‘illegitimate’ instead of ‘illegal.’”
Crucially, she emphasizes, “AFPS was not ordered to end its boycott campaign against SodaStream, but to remove specific claims from its website.”
Lawfare suffered a bigger setback in France’s highest criminal appeals court in November, which affirmed the earlier acquittal of an activist calling for the boycott of Israeli goods. Prosecutors had charged Olivia Zémor with “incitement to discrimination … [against] the Israeli nation” after her group posted online a video of a 2009 protest against Israeli goods in a supermarket.The US
The most recent venue for lawfare has been the United States. A wave of recent votes by student and academic groups in favor of BDS has led to all kinds of spluttering legal threats.
After the American Studies Association in December voted to endorse an academic boycott of Israel, Shurat Hadin threatened to sue. The ASA responded that it would “not be intimidated,” and the Center for Constitutional Rights said the boycott represented “speech that is fully protected by the First Amendment” of the US Constitution.
Shurat Hadin has has yet to make good on its threat, but it seems it need not bother.
Since the ASA vote, there have been several measures aimed at punishing academics for their BDS stance which have been introduced in US state legislatures – and, at the urging of the Israeli ambassador to the US, in Congress.
The latest measure has been slipped into the budget of the state of Maryland, the Electronic Intifada’s Ali Abunimah reported yesterday.
But the crude lawfare measures have been so hastily assembled, they are already facing problems – chiefly stemming from the fact that they are attempting to crush First Amendment-protected speech.
This slipshod manner of conducting lawfare and the very limited results it is bringing for Israel’s supporters is in some ways reminiscent of the Fraser vs. UCU debacle. That defeat was years in the making, and its repercussions are still being felt.
One powerful pro-Israel, anti-BDS British lawyer slammed the case as “a legal and public relations disaster,” conceding that that tribunal’s ruling had been “impeccably written and all too compelling.”
Princess Diana’s divorce lawyer Anthony Julius, who worked pro bono on the case for Fraser, seems to have kept a lower profile ever since. He has left his role as the chair of the Jewish Chronicle (which coincidentally, in its silly coverage, was Fraser’s greatest champion – until he lost).
Julius’s firm, Mishcon de Reya, has for years had strong links to the Israeli government. The firm was reported to be leading another lawfare case, that of Lt. Colonel (res.) Moty Cristal, an Israeli army negotiator, against the National Heath Service and Unison, the public sector union.
He brought the case to court in London in September, but little has been heard about it since.
Moty Cristal did not reply to an email asking whether the case had been quietly dropped.The UK
The UK’s pro-Israel lobby emphasized that it was “liaising closely” with the Israeli government on Cristal’s case. But with the hash they made of the Fraser case, it seems possible the Israeli government decided its interests might be better served by more closely linked proxies such as Shurat Hadin and StandWithUs.
The latter is involved in the latest UK lawfare attack on King’s College London Students Union’s democratic vote in favor of BDS, as Hilary Aked reported for The Electronic Intifada yesterday.
But the Fraser case is still not closed. In November, the UCU took Fraser back to courtin order to recover its legal costs – which I imagine are extensive.
The following statement was published on the website of the People’s Books Cooperative in Milwaukee
The People’s Books Cooperative in Milwaukee, Wisconsin recently decided to engage in a consumer and cultural boycott of Israel. See their statement on their website.
“People’s Books Co-op has voted to join the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement against Israel, instituting a consumer, cultural and academic boycott of the Israeli state due to significant human rights concerns involved with Israel’s policies against the Palestinian community. [read more]”
In a letter sent to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, 35 members of the European Parliament have called EEAS (European External Action Service) to take action to discourage European businesses from doing business with illegal Israeli settlements.
Private european businesses play a major role in funding, facilitating and supporting Israeli violations of international law and illegal Israeli settlements by:
providing products and services that facilitate the existence of illegal settlements
importing and selling goods produces by companies operating in illegal Israeli settlements
investing in settlement companies and projects
In their letter to Ashton 35 Members of the European Parliament stated that:
“There are several examples of the many ways in which European businesses contribute to the existence and expansion of the settlements. Through their activities, they make direct and on-going contributions to Israeli violations of international law and to human rights abuses associated with the settlements.
The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which were endorsed by the EU, make it clear that governments have an obligation to ensure that businesses domiciled in their territory do not contribute to human rights abuses in their overseas operations, including by providing advice and guidance. In cases where businesses are operating in conflict areas, the Guiding Principles urge governments to provide “adequate assistance to business enterprises to assess and address the heightened risks of abuses”.
We urge the EEAS to publish guidance discouraging European firms from maintaining economic relations with the settlements. Furthermore, the EU should use its presence in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories to educate European businesses about the problems and risks associated with such relations and to encourage Member States to take similar action.”
Read the full letter here
After an intense, hours-long debate, watched by thousands of people, the University of Michigan student government last night defeated a motion calling for divestment from companies profiting from Israeli occupation and human rights abuses.
Just hours earlier, the student government at Loyola University Chicago passed a divestment bill for the second time, following a heated debate that pro-Israel students had demanded.
The motion calls, among other things, for the boycott of “products, companies and institutions that profit from or are implicated in, the violation of Palestinian rights” and for divestment from “corporations complicit in the violation of Palestinian human rights.”
The King’s College London administration issued a statement affirming that the college “does not support or engage in boycotts of academic institutions” and emphasizing that the student union “is constitutionally separate from, and independent of, King’s College London.”Record turnout at Michigan
The Michigan vote – taken by secret ballot – was not close: nine student representatives voted for the divestment bill, while 25 opposed it and five abstained.
But the vote came after another night of extraordinary scenes and record turnout and mobilization by supporters of divestment at the university’s Ann Arbor campus.
The sit-in was to protest an 18 March decision by the CSG to “indefinitely postpone”consideration of the divestment bill.
Last night’s CSG meeting was once again held at a massive ballroom in the Michigan Union building packed to capacity with an estimated 500 people.
With hundreds more watching by video in overflow rooms and a video livestream that had at one point more than 2,000 viewers, representatives acknowledged it as the largest such meeting they had ever witnessed.
While the CSG voted to reverse its decision not to consider divestment, the deck was stacked against divestment supporters, despite dozens of speeches for and against.
History professor Victor Lieberman was allowed to give a lengthy speech, which journalist Max Blumenthal, who was present at the meeting, called “a shockingly Israelicentric history of ‘the conflict’ ” that “tell[s] Palestinians their own history.”
CSG vice president Bobby Dishell gave an impassioned speech claiming that there had been threats of violence and invoking the Holocaust and Nazi violence against Jews to tar supporters of divestment. Dishell has previously spoken to the Israel lobby group AIPAC.
CSG president Michael Proppe was more reserved but said he didn’t think there was a “consensus” for divestment.
No student government executives spoke for the motion.
The divestment resolution itself was ably presented by University of Michigan students Suha Najjar, Bayan Founas, Yazan Kherallah and Farah Erzouki, who, with the help of law student Andrew Dalack, fielded questions from representatives before the vote.Following the defeat of the divestment bill, students rallied outside the union. Loyola wins again
Loyola University Chicago’s student senate has passed a divestment resolution for the second time Tuesday evening.
Twelve senators voted in favor of the divestment bill, ten voted against, and nine abstained.
One week ago, campus group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) introduced a bill that urged the university to divest from corporations profiting from Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories. (Read our coverage here.)
The resolution initially passed on Mar. 18 with 26 student government senators voting in favor of the bill, zero voting against, and two choosing to abstain.
However, students opposed to the divestment measure pressured the student government into reconsidering the senate’s decision on the bill. A hearing, to be followed by a revote, was promptly scheduled for the following Tuesday, Mar. 25.
The second vote was preceded by almost five hours of discussion and debate. Campus police were stationed at all possible entrances into the discussion room and attendees were requested to turn off their WiFi connections and to shut down their electronics, including phones and laptops.
The tense atmosphere culminated with the final vote shortly before 9 pm. The results of the revote mark the second time SJP’s proposed bill has been passed by the student senate.
The divestment bill must be passed by another branch of the student government before it can be put into effect.
Campaigners from around the world are taking part in a week of action against Israeli national water company Mekorot, the main agent of Israeli water apartheid against Palestinians. The week launches on 22 March, World Water Day, and lasts until 30 March, when Palestinians mark Land Day in protest of Israeli systematic land and resource theft. The mobilizations come in response to a call from Palestinian organizations PENGON/Friends of the Earth Palestine, the Palestinian BDS National Committee and the Land Defense Coalition.
Denouncing Mekorot’s Water Apartheid
The Stop Mekorot campaign emerged out of citizen action in countries where Mekorot attempted to establish a presence through lucrative contracts often connected to water privatization drives. Mekorot claims to sell its “expertise” on water but hides its role in the persistent denial of water to Palestinians, including collusion with the Israeli military to destroy Palestinian water infrastructure, while providing unlimited amounts to Israelis. Mekorot’s practices have been denounced by the UN and human rights groups yet governments have dealt with the company with a business as usual approach. However there are signs of change. In the Netherlands, Vitens the largest water supplier in the countries, ended an agreement with Mekorot just days after it signed an agreement citing Mekorot’s involvement in Israel’s military occupation of Palestinians. In Argentina campaigners were successful in suspending a major multi-million dollar government contract with Mekorot to build a wastewater treatment plant.
For basic 6 reasons to boycott Mekorot see: http://stopmekorot.org/6-reasons-to-boycott-mekorot/
Stopping Mekorot’s water apartheid from going global
The Stop Mekorot campaign aims to denounce partnerships with Mekorot and hold it accountable for its complicity with violations of international law and the abuse of human rights of Palestinians. To launch the week on World Water Day, campaigners have organized:
- a Thunderclap on twitter to raise public awareness about Mekorot at 6 pm GMT. Over 250 people have signed up to the Thunderclap with a social reach of over 300 000.
- The makers of the series “Apartheid Adventures” have contributed with a YouTube video that satirizes Mekorot’s claims vs the brutal reality of occupation, the video can be found here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xunD5IgGFyc (available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and French)
- Across the world campaigners are organizing actions to mark the week:
- In Portugal, the first country to launch a campaign in 2009, activists will gather in Lisbon’s main square to call for EPAL, Lisbon’s water utility company, not to renew its MoU with Mekorot, up for renewal again in the summer. This follows efforts in the Portuguese parliament to denounce the contract this week. In Italy, a ‘water checkpoint’ will be presented with a street theatre performance in protest of the cooperation agreement signed between Rome’s water company Acea and Mekorot.
- A series of events and discussions will be held in Argentina, the US, Greece, Uruguay.
- In a dozen countries in Europe, the Americas and Asia, media initiatives and awareness raising efforts are taking place.
The full calendar can be found on stopmekorot.org website.
To take part on the activities for the week see: http://stopmekorot.org/take-action
The banning of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at Northeastern University in Boston on March 7, along with a university threat of disciplinary measures against some of its members, replicates sanctions being imposed against numerous student Palestinian rights groups across the country. The attacks, and the disturbingly similar forms of punishment, appear to be part of a coordinated effort by the Israeli government and the Israel lobby to blacklist all student groups that challenge the official Israeli narrative.
Northeastern banned the SJP chapter after it posted on campus replicas of eviction notices that are routinely put up on Palestinian homes set for Israeli demolition. The university notice of suspension says that if the SJP petitions for reinstatement next year, “No current member of the Students for Justice in Palestine executive board may serve on the inaugural board of the new organization” and that representatives from the organization must attend university-sanctioned “trainings.”
In 2011 in California, 10 students who had disrupted a speech at UC Irvine by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren were found guilty, put on informal probation and sentenced to perform community service. Oren, an Israeli citizen who has since been hired by CNN as a contributor, has called on Congress to blacklist supporters of the campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel and to prosecute those who protest at appearances by Israeli officials. Some activists at Florida Atlantic University were stripped of student leadership positions after they walked out of a talk by an Israeli army officer and were ordered by school administrators to attend re-education seminars designed by the Anti-Defamation League. Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine (CSJP) was abruptly placed on suspension in the spring of 2011 and barred from reserving rooms and hosting events on campus. The university administration, before the ban, had a practice of notifying the campus Hillel in advance of any CSJP event. The suspension was eventually lifted after a protest led by attorneys for the CSJP.
Max Geller, a law student and a SJP member at Northeastern whom I reached by phone in Boston, accused the university of responding “to outside pressures,” including that of alumnus Robert Shillman, who is the CEO of Cognex Corp., and hedge fund billionaire Seth Klarman, both supporters of right-wing Israeli causes.
“To prohibit students from holding leadership roles and student groups simply because they engaged in a peaceful political protest is antithetical to the university’s mission to educate students,” he said. “It erases any pedagogical value disciplinary process might seek.”
“In the last year,” Geller went on, “I have received death threats, been publicly and unfairly maligned, and have been threatened with disciplinary measures. This has made engaging in speech about an issue about which I care deeply, both as a Jew and an American, a fear- and anxiety-causing prospect.”
Israel’s heavy-handed reaction to these campus organizations is symptomatic of its increasing isolation and concern about waning American support. The decades-long occupation and seizure of Palestinian land and the massive military assaults against a defenseless population in Gaza that has left hundreds dead, along with growing malnutrition among Palestinian children and enforced poverty, have alienated traditional supporters of Israel, including many young American Jews. Israel, at the same time, has turned into a pariah in the global community. If it were to become devoid of American support, which it largely buys with political campaign contributions funneled through groups such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Israel would be adrift. There are a growing number of banks and other companies, especially in the European Union, joining the boycott movement, which refuses to do business with Israeli concerns in the occupied territories. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking before AIPAC on March 4, surprisingly devoted much of his talk to attacking the nascent BDS movement, which he said stood for “Bigotry, Dishonesty and Shame.” He called for BDS supporters to “be treated exactly as we treat any anti-Semite or bigot.” He warned that “naive and ignorant” people are being recruited as “gullible fellow travelers” in an anti-Semitic campaign.
Israeli officials are also apparently attempting to infiltrate the BDS movement and are using subterfuge to link it to Islamic extremism, according to The Times of London. The Israeli government in addition is pushing censorious, anti-democratic bills in the state legislatures of New York, Maryland and Illinois that would impose financial sanctions on academic organizations that boycott Israeli institutions. Meanwhile, the United States and others enthusiastically impose sanctions on Russia for an occupation that is much less draconian than Israel’s long defiance of international law.
The ADL-designed indoctrination classes for university activists are, according to those who have been required to take them, shabby attempts to equate any criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism.
“Myself and two other members of SJP were forced to attend the ADL-sponsored ‘diversity training’ course or we would have violated the terms of our probation and in turn we would be suspended and/or expelled,” said Nadine Aly, a Florida Atlantic student activist who with other activists walked out of a lecture given at the university by an Israeli army officer, Col. Bentzi Gruber, who had helped devise the rules of engagement for Operation Cast Lead, the horrific attack on Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009. I reached her by phone at the Florida campus. “The very idea that the administration is implying that it is racist to criticize Israeli policy is ludicrous. We were put on ‘indefinite probation,’ banning us from holding leadership positions in any recognized student organizations, including student government, at the university until our graduation. I was stripped of my position as president of SJP as well as a student senator, and the former vice president of the SJP lost her position as a Student House representative. It is a shame that this university, like most universities, bows to the pressure of the Zionist lobby and wealthy Zionist donors, when they should be protecting the rights of their students.”
The persecution of scholars such as Joseph Massad and Norman Finkelstein who challenge the official Israeli narrative has long been a feature of Israeli intervention in American academic life. And the eagerness of university presidents to denounce the American Studies Association call for an academic boycott of Israel is a window into the insatiable hunger for money that seems to govern university policy. The current effort to shut down student groups, however, raises traditional Israeli censorship and interference to a new level. Israel seeks now to openly silence free speech on American college campuses—all of these student groups have steadfastly engaged in nonviolent protests—and has enlisted our bankrupt liberal elites and college administrators as thought police.
The failure among academics to stand up for the right of these student groups to express dissenting views and engage in political activism is a sad commentary on how irrelevant most academics have become. Where, in this fight, are the constitutional law professors defending the right to free speech? Where are the professors of ethics, religion and philosophy reminding students about the right of all to a dignified life free of oppression? Where are the Middle Eastern studies professors explaining the historical consequences of Israel’s violent seizure of Palestinian land? Where are the journalism professors defending the right of dissidents and victims to a fair hearing in the press? Where are the professors of queer and gender studies, African-American studies, Native American studies or Chicano studies acting to protect the voices and dignity of the marginalized and oppressed?
This assault will not end with groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine. The refusal to hear the cries of the Palestinian people, especially those 1.5 million—60 percent of them children—who are trapped by the Israeli military in Gaza, is part of the wider campaign by right-wing operatives like Lynne Cheney and billionaires such as the Koch brothers to stamp out all programs and academic disciplines that give voice to the marginalized, especially those who are not privileged and white. Latinos, African-Americans, feminists, those in queer and gender studies also feel this pressure. Under a bill signed by Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, books by leading Chicano authors have been banned from public schools in Tucson and elsewhere in Arizona on the ground that such ethnic studies promote “resentment toward a race or people.” It is language similar to what Ambassador Oren has used to justify his call for criminal prosecutions of BDS activists—that they are advancing “bigotry.” The neoconservatism that grips Israel has its toxic counterpart within American culture. And if other marginalized groups within the university remain silent while Palestine solidarity activists are persecuted on campuses, there will be fewer allies when these right-wing forces come for them. And come they will.
Those of us who denounce the suffering caused by Israel and its war crimes against the Palestinians and who support the BDS movement are accustomed to sleazy Israeli smear campaigns. I have been repeatedly branded as an anti-Semite by the Israeli lobby, including for my book “War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning.” That some of these dissident voices, such as Max Blumenthal, who wrote “Goliath: Fear and Loathing in Greater Israel,” one of the best accounts of contemporary Israel, are Jewish does not seem to perturb right-wing Israeli propagandists who see any deviation from the Israeli government line as a form of religious heresy.
“I have been on tour discussing my book, ‘Goliath,’ since October 2013,” said Blumenthal, with whom I spoke by phone. “And on numerous occasions, Israel lobby groups and pro-Israel activists have attempted to pressure organizations into canceling my events before they took place. I have been slandered by teenage pro-Israel students, prominent magazine columnists and even Alan Dershowitz as an anti-Semite, and my family has been attacked in right-wing media simply for hosting a book party for me. The absurd lengths pro-Israel activists have gone to stop my journalism and analysis from reaching a wide audience perfectly illustrate their intellectual exhaustion and moral poverty. All they have left is loads of money to buy off politicians and the unlimited will to defend the only nuclearized apartheid state in the Middle East. As young Arabs and Muslims assert their presence on campuses across the country and Jewish Americans reel in disgust at Netanyahu’s Israel, we are witnessing pro-Israel forces wage a fighting retreat. The question is not whether they will win or lose, but how much damage they can do to free-speech rights on their way towards a reckoning with justice.”
“It would be heartening if prominent liberal intellectuals would agree with all of my conclusions, or would accept the legitimacy of BDS,” Blumenthal went on. “But the only reasonable expectation we can hold for them is that they speak up in defense of those whose free-speech rights and rights to organize are being crushed by powerful forces. Unfortunately, when those forces are arrayed in defense of Israel, too many liberal intellectuals are silent or, as in the case of Michael Kazin, Eric Alterman, Cary Nelson and a who’s who of major university presidents, they actively collaborate with fellow elites determined to crush Palestine solidarity activism through anti-democratic means.”
Hillel chapters, sadly, often function as little more than Israeli government and AIPAC campus outposts. This is true at Northeastern as well as at schools such as Barnard College and Columbia. And university presidents such as Barnard’s Debora Spar see nothing wrong with accepting Israel-lobby tours of Israel while Palestinian students must risk imprisonment and even death to study in the United States. The launching of campuswide defamation campaigns from supposedly religious houses is a sacrilege to the Jewish religion. In seminary I read enough of the great Hebrew prophets, whose singular concern was for the oppressed and the poor, to know that they would not be found today in Hillel centers but would instead be protesting with SJP activists.
The campus Hillel centers, with lavish budgets and gleaming buildings on campuses often situated in centers of urban blight, offer running events, lectures and programs to promote official Israeli policy. They arrange free trips to Israel for Jewish students as part of the “Taglit Birthright” program, functioning as an Israeli government travel agency. While Jewish students, often with no familial connection to Israel, are escorted in these well-choreographed propaganda tours of Israel, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who remain trapped in squalid refugee camps cannot go home although their families may have lived for centuries on what is now Israeli land.
Israel has for decades been able to frame the discussion about the Palestinians. But its control of the narrative is coming to an end. As Israel loses ground it will viciously and irrationally attack all truth tellers, even if they are American students, and especially if they are Jews. There will come a day, and that day will come sooner than Israel and its paid lackeys expect, when the whole edifice will crumble, when even students at Hillel will no longer have the stomach to defend the continuous dispossession and random murder of Palestinians. Israel, by ruthlessly silencing others, now risks silencing itself.
Chris Hedges will deliver a lecture sponsored by the Northeastern University Political Economy Forum at 6 p.m. March 25 at West Village F, 20, 460 Parker St. in Boston.
The Council of the Royal Institute of British Architects has voted to call on the International Union Of Architects to exclude the Israeli Association of United Architects over its refusal to oppose Israel’s construction of illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian territory.
Abe Hayeem, RIBA member and chair of Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine, said:
“This motion sends a clear message that there is a price to pay for Israel’s decades long impunity in pursuing these apartheid policies, and that the humane principles of our profession cannot be ignored. One small step by the RIBA Council in supporting this motion – one landmark leap for ethics, justice and integrity for our profession.”
Responding to the news, Rafeef Ziadah, a spokesperson from the Palestinian BDS National Committee, the coalition of Palestinian trade unions, campaigns, NGOs and political parties that works to lead and support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, said:
“Architects and planners are central to Israel’s colonisation of Palestinian land and the forced displacement of Palestinian people. Given the complicity of the Israeli Association of United Architects in Israel’s construction of illegal Israeli settlements, it is only right that it is excluded from international forums.
“Following on from major pension funds divesting from Israel and mainstream artists joining the boycott, the RIBA vote shows how the boycott of Israel has entered the mainstream. Congratulations to Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine and RIBA for their principled stance.”
After a tough and passionate Council debate on 19 March 2014, the pillar of the UK’s architects’ professional association, the RIBA , passed the motion supporting action that should be taken by the International Union Of Architects’ to suspend the Israeli Association of United Architects (IAUA) from the world body of architects, the UIA. The Motion was passed by 23 votes to 16 with 10 abstentions. The vote follows a similar motion earlier in the week by the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS).
“Since the Israeli Association of United Architects (IAUA) has paid no regard to the UIA resolution 13 of 2005 and 2009, the RIBA calls on the UIA, as the international guardian of professional and ethical standards in our profession, to suspend the membership of the Israeli Association of United Architects, until it acts to resist these illegal projects, and observes international law, and the UIA Accords and Resolution 13,” the RIBA motion reads.
The campaign initiated and worked for over seven years by Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine (APJP) was brought to fruition by great teamwork and by the courageous action of the RIBA’s past President Angela Brady and active Council members George Oldham and Owen O’Carroll who tabled the motion signed by many RIBA members and registered architects including leading lights in the profession that included Charles Jencks, Ted Cullinan , Will Alsop, Peter Ahrends and Neave Brown.
The building of illegal settlements against Article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention which prohibits the transfer of a civilian population into territory occupied by force is considered a serious breach and thus as war crimes in which Israeli architects are closely involved. This settlement expansion has resulted in the forced removal or thousands of Palestinians and expropriation of their homes and land, and the erasure of their culture and history that has been going on since 1967 with impunity despite repeated world wide condemnation.
APJP’s persistent prompting of the UIA to take action on these breaches of human rights and the ethical codes of practice in the UIA Accords resulted in ‘Resolution 13’ being confirmed in 2009 to condemn such illegal projects. This met with complete detachment and refusal to act on or condemn by the Israeli Association of United Architects IAUA who insisted they were only concerned with design and not the political actions of its members. Yet the whole real-estate enterprise is closely tied in with Israel’s political and military agenda to grab and hold as much land as possible, denying a fully sovereign Palestinian state.
2013 was record year in new settlement construction, and the 2014 rate is already higher, seeing the construction of 2534 housing projects, with over 550,000 Jewish Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank. Meanwhile Palestinian live in tightly controlled enclaves enclosed by the illegal Separation Wall and segregated roads, denied permission to build and instead having their houses taken over or demolished -all reminiscent of Apartheid South Africa.
Not to have acted would have made the RIBA silent and condoning this grave misconduct of their professional associates. By sending a clear message to the IAUA, and UIA, the RIBA and the RIAS strike a blow for the integrity and ethical practice of our profession, and supports the Palestinian civil society call for sanctions against the impunity of Israel.
The following motion was passed by the Royal Institute of British Architects on March 19 2014.
Continue to Condone?
As seen in the world media in the past few months, there is increasing concern and condemnation worldwide over the illegal settlement-building by the Israelis to house nearly 600,000 Israeli settlers on Palestinian land, against international law.
There is mounting pressure for us not to continue to condone what we as a profession find unacceptable, where projects are being created on occupied land that defy the rights and international agreements made between Israel and Palestine since Oslo in 1993, and passed in numerous UN Resolutions since 1967.
Israel’s colonial settlement policy, has continued relentlessly over the last 5 decades in the Occupied Palestinian Territory including East Jerusalem. The active collaboration of architects and planners has been central to the creation of hundreds of illegal settlements in serious breaches of the 4th Geneva Convention which prohibits a state from moving its civilians into territories it occupies. Further, ‘Judaisation’ projects within Israel itself, in the Negev desert and Galilee involving the dispossession of thousands of Palestinian citizens -including Bedouin, to create new Jewish settlements, are now being implemented against vociferous public protest. All of these projects involve Architects, Planners and Construction team to create them.
Worst Years of Abuse
2013 has been declared one of the worst years in human rights abuses and violence against the Palestinian people under Israel’s military rule. Amnesty International’s latest report documents Israel’s killings and brutalization of Palestinians in the West Bank over a three-year period, during peaceful protests against the illegal Separation Wall and the expropriation or their village land to expand Israeli settlements.
UIA’s Resolution 13 passed at Istanbul in 2005 and re-confirmed at Brazil in 2009 states that “The UIA Council condemns development projects and the construction of buildings on land that has been ethnically purified or illegally appropriated, and projects based on regulations that are ethnically or culturally discriminatory, and similarly it condemns all action contravening the fourth Geneva Convention”.
Many representations concerning these projects, involving discriminatory Israeli law, have been made to the Israeli Association of United Architects (IAUA), which has detached itself from it’s members’ continuing activities against professional ethics and the UIA Accords. The RIBA await acknowledgment of our letter of 28 Feb 2014. In fact the illegal settlement policy has accelerated in defiance of peace talks, severely compromising any possibility of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state. The UIA, having made its position clear, must now act on the violation of it’s code of ethics and defiance of it’s resolution.
Since the Israeli Association of United Architects (IAUA) has paid no regard to the UIA resolution 13 of 2005 and 2009, the RIBA calls on the UIA, as the international guardian of professional and ethical standards in our profession, to suspend the membership of the Israeli Association of United Architects, until it acts to resist these illegal projects, and observes international law, and the UIA Accords and Resolution 13.
- La Plata contract loss follows similar boycott by Dutch firm Vitens
- European construction firms and pension funds abandon Israel
- Student and youth unions continue to throw weight behind BDS
- YWCA-YMCA in Norway adopt BDS
In the latest success for the growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, authorities in Buenos Aires have suspended a proposed $170m water treatment plant deal with Israeli state water firm Mekorot. The decision came after a campaign by local trade unions and human rights groups that connected Mekorot’s role in Israel’s theft of Palestinian water resources with evidence that the project did not meet Argentinian standards and necessities.
Campaigners argued that Mekorot was attempting to export the discriminatory water policies it has developed against the Palestinian people to their country.
This victory largely contraddicts Israeli claims, last expressed during Netanyahu’s speech at the AIPAC, that the global south, eager for Israeli technology, are uncontested growing markets.
Mekorot illegally appropriates Palestinian water, diverting it to illegal Israeli settlements and towns inside Israel, and imposes severe obstacles to Palestinians accessing their own water. Amnesty International has accused Israel of depriving Palestinians of their access to water “as a means of expulsion”. A French parliamentary report accused Israel of imposing a system of “water apartheid” in the occupied Palestinian territory.
The Buenos Aires provincial government approved a drinking water plant project deal with a consortium led by Mekorot following a visit to Israel by state governor Daniel Scioli in 2011, but protests and lobbying have persuaded local authorities to suspend the project.
The large Dutch water utility Vitens suspended a cooperation agreement with Mekorot on the grounds that the relationship violated its “commitment to international law” in a high profile announcement in December.
“After investigating, we concluded that Mekorot came to Argentina with the intention to repeat what they are doing in Palestine. Water is a right for all and no company should be able to provide water in a discriminatory way,” said Adolfo, an engineer and a representative of the CTA/ ATE Hidráulica trade union in Buenos Aires that campaigned against the Mekorot plant.
“We fought in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for justice, liberation and return and we won a battle not only against Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people but as well for the right to water here in Argentina,” said Tilda Rabi, president of the Federation of Palestinian-Argentinian Organisations.
Campaigners understand that the decision was made in December 2013 but were only able to verify the news on March 7.
Friends of the Earth Palestine and a range of BDS partners are calling for a week of action against Mekorot during the last week of March.
Campaigners are viewing the Buenos Aires decision as the latest sign that the international BDS movement is increasingly isolating Israel and having serious economic impacts on its regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid.
On Thursday, students at the National University of Galway in Ireland voted to endorse BDS in a campus wide ballot, following on from a similar referendum success for BDS activists at the University of Windsor in Canada. National and local student unions across Europe and North America have now voted to support BDS-related measures.
Israeli media reports attributed the recent withdrawal of two leading European construction firms from the bid to build seaports in Israel to boycott fears, and a third firm only agreed to go ahead with similar plans after being allowed to submit a bid under a different name.
It emerged last month that Luxembourg’s state pension fund has excluded nine Israeli banks and firms over their role in illegal Israeli settlements, following on from similar decisions in recent months public pension funds in Norway and the Netherlands and Danske Bank, Denmark’s largest bank.
A recent solidarity conference organized by South African members of parliament and civil society groups issued the Cape Town Declaration endorsing BDS and accusing Israel of the crime of apartheid.
The Norwegian branch of the YMCA-YWCA movement recently announced its support for an economic boycott of Israel.
“Israel’s attempts to smear the BDS movement are failing; Israel is increasingly being isolated as people of conscience around the world take action to support Palestinian rights and as investors realise that there are serious economic and reputational risks associated with doing business with Israel,” said Zaid Shuaibi, a spokesperson for the Palestinian BDS National Committee, the largest Palestinian civil society coalition that leads the global BDS movement.
“Boycott is becoming an increasingly powerful and empowering way for ordinary people to support Palestinians in their struggle to end the occupation and Israel’s apartheid policies and for the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes,” he added.
CHEVY CHASE, Md. — The United Methodist General Board of Church & Society (GBCS) has issued a call to boycott SodaStream, a countertop carbonation device produced illegally in the occupied West Bank of the Palestinian Territories. The decision to engage in the boycott of SodaStream was overwhelmingly endorsed by the agency’s Board of Directors during its spring meeting here this month.
SodaStream is among 23 “Products of the Year” announced last month by Parade Magazine. The company is Israeli-owned, but its main factory is in Mishor Adumin, an industrial zone in the illegal Israeli settlement of Maale Adumin in the Palestinian West Bank.
In calling for the boycott, the agency’s work area on Peace with Justice and International Affairs emphasized that it is doing so in compliance with United Methodist Church resolution #4011, “Guidelines for Initiating or Joining an Economic Boycott.”
“The United Methodist Church does not support a boycott of products made in Israel,” pointed out Mark Harrison, GBCS director of Peace with Justice. “Our opposition is to products made by Israeli companies operating in occupied Palestinian territories.”Disregard of laws
The SodaStream boycott, which has already begun by a coalition of Christian, Jewish and Muslim organizations, stems from the company’s disregard of both international and workers’ rights laws, including those of Israel itself.
The SodaStream factory reinforces the illegal settlements, according to GBCS. Its taxes support the settlement and the Israeli government. No taxes are paid to the Palestinian Authority.
Despite the fact that it manufactures in the largest settlement by land area in occupied Palestine, SodaStream’s products are mislabeled “Made in Israel.”
United Methodist resolution #6111, “Opposition to Israeli Settlements in Palestinian Land,” asks all companies that profit from and/or support settlements “to stop any business that contributes to serious violations of international law, promotes systemic discrimination or otherwise supports ongoing military occupation.”Workers’ rights ignored
Furthermore, the Israeli Supreme Court has ruled that Palestinians working in occupied Palestinian territory are entitled to the same labor protections as Israelis. But workers in SodaStream’s facility are expected to work regular 12-hour shifts and 60-hour weeks. Israeli labor law limits the work day to eight hours and the work week to 45 hours. Night shifts and overtime are paid at the standard rate, not at the legally required bonus pay.
Action against SodaStream’s product, which allows users to create carbonated drinks, has already begun by the Interfaith Boycott Coalition. Supporters include United Methodist Kairos Response, the Israel Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA), American Friends Service Committee, Jewish Voice for Peace, Episcopal Peace Fellowship’s Palestine Israel Network, Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East, Friends of Sabeel North America, United Church of Christ, Church of the Brethren, American Muslims for Palestine, and members of the Catholic, Lutheran, Mennonite and Quaker traditions.
The Interfaith Boycott Coalition operates as a network of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, a coalition of nearly 400 U.S. organizations including the General Board of Church & Society, General Board of Global Ministries, United Methodist Women and the Methodist Federation for Social Action.Boycott justified
GBCS said the boycott is “justified and will serve to further the peace process between these people in conflict.” The boycott will last until SodaStream ceases production in the occupied West Bank, according to GBCS.
A successful boycott of SodaStream not only has the power to change that company’s business practices GBCS emphasized, but sends an important message to other companies profiting from the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
The General Board of Church & Society is one of four international general program boards of The United Methodist Church. Prime responsibility of the board is to seek implementation of the Social Principles and other policy statements on Christian social concerns of the General Conference, the denomination’s highest policy-making body. The board’s primary areas of ministry are Advocacy, Education & Leadership Formation, and United Nations & International Affairs. It has offices on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and at the Church Center for the United Nations in New York City.
You can download “A Call to Boycott SodaStream” from the GBCS website. It explains the rationale, decision-making process and includes pertinent United Methodist statements on the Israel-Palestine situation.
In another effort to secure Israel’s image as a leader in technology and “green” industries, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week visited Silicon Valley to sign a cooperation agreement with Jerry Brown, the governor of California.
The agreement describes its purpose as “establishing a formal relationship” between the two regions — which traded over $4 billion in 2013 — and which US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro introduced as “the world’s leading centers of innovation.”
While there is no dollar amount pinned to the agreement (formally known as a “memorandum of understanding”), it is being touted as a “boost” to cooperation and a way to “build their respective strengths in research and technology to confront critical problems we both face, such as water scarcity, cybersecurity and climate change.”
“What a wonderful furthering of the deep connections that Israel has — not just with America — but with California in particular, and Silicon Valley is a very important example of all that,” Brown stated at the signing ceremony.
After the two leaders signed the accord, Netanyahu commended Brown for divesting California pensions from Iran and “investing in Israel.”
The growing boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement has defined the animus for Netanyahu’s five-day visit to the US, timed to correspond with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) annual policy conference in Washington, DC.
On Tuesday, Netanyahu devoted the last quarter of his keynote speech at the conference to casting aspersions on the movement — insisting BDS was fated to fail and equating it with modern-day anti-Semitism.Bigger than boycotts?
Less than two weeks prior to this speech, Netanyahu revealed the source of his confidence in the ultimate doom of the BDS movement, crowing that “the capacity to innovate is a great treasure of profound economic value in today’s world… And that is something that is bigger than all these boycotters could possibly address” (“Netanyahu says Israeli hi-tech stronger than boycotters,” Reuters, 17 February 2014).
Netanyahu’s trip comes on the heels of several key victories claimed by BDS supporters. In late February, Amnesty International published its most condemnatory report on Israel to date, and called on all governments to cease the sale or transfer of weapons to Israel’s military.
Amnesty’s report came not long after the dispute between Oxfam and Scarlett Johansson over the Hollywood star’s lucrative advertising deal with SodaStream, a company making fizzy drink machines in an illegal Israeli settlement in the occupiedWest Bank.
The two-page agreement between Israel and California states that both will focus on water conservation, alternative energy and cybersecurity.
Unveiling no specific projects, the signing ceremony — held in the heart of Silicon Valley at the Computer History Museum — served as a showy opportunity for Netanyahu to shore up his country’s ailing reputation.
The collaboration will be facilitated through California’s Innovation Hub (iHub) program.
Brian Peck, an iHub representative, told The Electronic Intifada that his office and the two governments had been preparing the agreement for the last couple of months and that it was “mutually initiated.”
Governor Brown hinted at the possibility of this agreement earlier this year, when he spoke to the American Jewish Committee in Los Angeles, stating: “We’re going to make another initiative, on alternative energy, on electric batteries, on cars. There’s a lot of things that California and Israel can lead together, in a partnership for creative change for a sustainable future” (“Gov. Brown: ‘California and Israel can lead together,” Jewish Journal, 30 January 2014).Hoary tropes
Despite the hype produced by the memorandum of understanding (MoU), it is unclear what it will achieve.
“The MoU does not launch a specific project, it is a commitment by both governments to create opportunities and to encourage businesses and collaboration from both countries,” Peck said.
Israel already has a strong presence in Silicon Valley, with as many as 150 start-ups.
The agreement espouses several hoary tropes of Israeli propaganda, including its identity as a “start-up nation,” its status as leader in “green” and “clean” tech, and as an innovator in water conservation — the last holding particular sway in parched California, a state that is experiencing its driest year in recorded history.
“Israel doesn’t have a water problem,” Netanyahu boldly stated on Wednesday, “and you may ask how is that possible. It’s because we’re the number one recycler of waste-water in the world — more than 90 percent of our water — because we have drip irrigation, we prevent leakage in our pipes, because we have desalination.”
When discussing Israel’s “innovative” use of water, rarely does the media mention the state’s exploitation of Palestinian land and its seizure of water resources.
The Oslo accords enabled Israel to exploit 80 percent of water collected from drilling, agricultural wells, springs and rainfall in the West Bank, and selling the remaining 20 percent back to Palestinians at full price (“The Israeli ‘watergate’ scandal,” Haaretz, 16 February 2014).
Furthermore, in more than 60 percent of the West Bank — a zone known as Area C that includes Israel’s main settlement blocs — Israel prevents Palestinians from building water-collecting facilities, including rainwater cisterns.Promoting falsehoods
California has already partnered with Israel to pursue “green alternatives” to energy. Two Israeli firms, Solel and BrightSource (now based in Oakland), were contracted to build record-breaking giant solar energy parks in California’s Mojave Desert.
However, the once-vaunted technology has failed expectations. The solar panel technology has been outmoded by cheaper and better alternatives.
In addition to being built on Native peoples’ land, BrightSource’s solar energy panels in the Mojave desert are killing birds, including protected species such as golden eagles.
“The BrightSource system appears to be scorching birds that fly through the intense heat surrounding the towers, which can reach 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit,” The Wall Street Journal has reported (“The $2.2 billion bird-scorching solar project,” 12 February 2014).
The Israeli government’s Economic Mission to the West Coast played a strong role in arranging the memorandum. That office actively promotes Israeli business in California.
Next week it will host the “Cleantech Forum” in San Francisco.
Outside Wednesday’s meeting in Mountain View, a number of protesters gathered with signs and Palestinians flags.
“The main point of the protest is to tell [Governor] Jerry Brown not to sign this deal with Israel,” Donna Wallach, a Palestine solidarity campaigner based in San Jose, told The Electronic Intifada.
“Israel commits war crimes on a second-by-second basis, and any company that does business with the government of Israel is complicit in war crimes.”
Charlotte Silver is a journalist based in San Francisco. Follow her on Twitter@CharESilver.
March 12, 2014, Occupied Palestine – The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), the largest coalition of Palestinian civil society unions, political parties and organisations, calls on people of conscience around the world to take concrete measures to boycott and/or work towards divestment from US footwear manufacturer New Balance and hotel chain Crowne Plaza until such time as they end their involvement in the so-called “Jerusalem Marathon” as well as in any other Israeli events that similarly serve to whitewash Israel’s violations of international law and ethnic cleansing in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.
The route of the “Jerusalem Marathon,” which is organized by the Jerusalem Municipality in partnership with Israeli government ministries, entities that are deeply complicit in the oppression of the Palestinian people and the denial of their rights, passes through occupied East Jerusalem. In addition, the marathon is used to cover up Israel’s image around the world while acting as a smokescreen to its illegal annexation of and gradual ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the occupied city.
New Balance and the InterContinental Hotels Group, of which Crowne Plaza is part, ignored calls last year to withdraw sponsorship for the marathon and are again lending their names to the event.[i] The growth of the BDS movement worldwide shows that corporations can no longer enable and profit from the decades-long violations of Palestinian human rights without paying the costs for their complicity. International BDS campaigns have led corporations to lose lucrative contracts and to suffer reputational damage for association with Israel’s three-tiered regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid. Corporations are gradually realizing that Israel’s persistent violation of international law makes doing business with it fraught with risks, and many, particularly in Europe, are taking proactive steps to “clean” their investments from complicity with Israeli violations of international law.[ii]
Adidas, a sponsor of the Jerusalem marathon in previous years, was forced to end its involvement after the Arab Youth and Sports Council of Ministers committed to exclude the company from contracts in the region, where Adidas has substantial interests.[iii]
Sponsorship of the marathon by New Balance and Crowne Plaza plays into the official Israeli propaganda. The official publicity for the marathon touts Jerusalem as a tourist destination, rich in cultural diversity and in history. Not mentioned are Israel’s efforts to consistently, systematically, and quite blatantly “Judaize”[iv] Jerusalem through policies of ethnic cleansing directed at the indigenous Palestinian population to change the demographic reality of the occupied city, in contravention of the Fourth Geneva Convention and international human rights law.
According to UN Rapporteur for Human Rights in the OPT Richard Falk Palestinians in Jerusalem are “subject to a gradual and bureaucratic process of ethnic cleansing.” Since 1996, an estimated 11,023 Jerusalem Palestinians have lost their resident status and banned from entering the city. During the period 2004–2013, Israel demolished 492 houses of Palestinians living in the city, displacing 1,943 people.[v] Falk concludes that businesses profiting from Israel’s colonial activities ought to be boycotted for the role they play in enabling Israel’s abuses.[vi] Furthermore, a report by European Union Heads of Mission in Jerusalem stated that “the continued expansion of [colonial] settlements, restrictive zoning and planning, ongoing demolitions and evictions, an inequitable education policy, difficult access to health care, the inadequate provision of resources and investment and the precarious residency issue have not only serious humanitarian consequences, they undermine the Palestinian presence in East Jerusalem.[vii]”
Accusing Israel of a “strategy of Judaization” in East Jerusalem and elsewhere, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, Raquel Rolnik, wrote in 2012: “From the Galilee and the Negev to east Jerusalem and the West Bank, the Israeli authorities promote a territorial development model that excludes, discriminates against and displaces minorities, particularly affecting Palestinian communities, side by side with the accelerated development of predominantly Jewish settlements.”
The Jerusalem Municipality, the party responsible for the implementation of these policies, is a key node in the official Israeli structure of colonialism and apartheid and a leading violator of Palestinian human rights. Since its inception, it has been a major instrument in the colonization of Israeli-occupied Jerusalem. It is particularly notable for its role in promoting and deepening one of the starkest cases of urban apartheid in the world. The municipality continues to be actively involved in the illegal gradual ethnic cleansing of Palestinians out of Jerusalem, the demolition of Palestinian homes and destruction of property, and the sustained suppression of development in the Palestinian neighborhoods as a matter of policy.[viii]
The marathon is part of an ongoing process to institutionalize Israel’s hold on the occupied city. Israel militarily occupied the western part of Jerusalem in 1948, after depopulating 38 Palestinian villages and appropriating the lands and properties of its residents, rendering them refugees and denying them reparations, including their UN-sanctioned right of return. The world community does not recognize any part of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, particularly because under UN General Assembly resolution 181 (1947) Jerusalem was established as a corpus separatum under a special international regime. The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People confirmed that city’s status remains such.[ix] In 1967, Israel occupied East Jerusalem, unilaterally annexing it as part of its “united capital.”
Due to these factors combined, governments have refrained from recognizing Israel’s actions in the city, including the racist manipulation of its demographic composition, one that limits the number of Palestinians in favor of Israeli Jews.[x] The UN has maintained several times that “any actions taken by Israel, the occupying Power, to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the Holy City of Jerusalem are illegal and therefore null and void and have no validity whatsoever, and calls upon Israel to cease all such illegal and unilateral measures.”[xi] The partnership with the Jerusalem Municipality, on east or west of the city, violates these long held precepts of international law.
Furthermore, the organizers of the marathon make no secret that the event is to be used to rebrand Israel’s image abroad. Runners will pass through Jerusalem’s key sites and through occupied east Jerusalem. Its other partners include the Ministry of Tourism and the Israeli security establishment responsible for war crimes.
Condemned as a state that is practicing occupation, colonization and apartheid by a 2009 authoritative legal study in South Africa[xii], Israel prevents millions of Palestinians who live just minutes away from their capital to access Jerusalem, as part of its regime of separation, including the wall, declared illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004, and a strict regime of residency permits. According to the 1985 International Convention Against Apartheid in Sports, “sports contact with any country practicing apartheid in sports condones and strengthens apartheid.”[xiii]
It is thus not surprising that the Jerusalem marathon website refers to East Jerusalem as “mostly the home of former Jordanian citizens,”[xiv] painting Palestinians as foreigners instead of the indigenous people of the land. This attitude is consistent with Israel’s ongoing erasure of Palestinian historical presence in the city, including the ongoing wave of demolitions of Palestinian homes in Silwan to turn the area into an “archeological park” and “tourism center”[xv] for extremist settlers at the expense of the local Palestinian population who live in fear of constant violent harassment[xvi].
UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk said of the plan that “international law does not allow Israel to bulldoze Palestinian homes to make space for the mayor’s project to build a garden, or anything else,” adding that the plan “should be seen within the context of Israel’s persistent, systematic approach to driving Palestinians out of East Jerusalem.” This comes after decades of Israeli crimes including the erasure of over 500 Palestinian villages in 1948, the willful destruction of the Moroccan Quarter in the old city of Jerusalem in 1967, and the more recent desecration of the historic cemetery of Ma’man Allah (“Mamilla”) in West Jerusalem, for the purposes of building a so-called “Museum of Tolerance,” all sites marathon runners will pass through.
In light of the warnings given to New Balance and InterContinental Hotels Group, of which Crowne Plaza is part, and their repeated sponsorship of the “Jerusalem Marathon” this year underlines their insistence on profiting from human rights violations. The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) calls on people of conscience worldwide to boycott and divest from New Balance and Crowne Plaza Hotels, and launch concerted and well coordinated campaigns in that direction, to hold them accountable for their complicity with Israel’s grave breaches of international law.
- BNC Secretariat
[iv] See, for example, UN SpecialRapporteur, Prof. John Dugard, Human Rights Situation in Palestine and other Occupied Arab Territories (A/HRC/7/17,January 2008).
[viii] The policies of the Jerusalem Municipality are widely documented. For one example see: www.alhaq.org/pdfs/Report%20-%20The%20Jerusalem%20Trap.pdf
[xv] Why 88 Arab homes received eviction notices http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2009/0226/p04s01-wome.html
[xvi] The dig dividing Jerusalem http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/may/26/jerusalem-city-of-david-palestinians-archaeology
The Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) has welcomed the passing of motion calling on the National University of Galway (NUIG) Students’ Union to actively participate in the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel until it ends the occupation of Palestine and complies with its obligations under international law.
The motion, which reads in full “That NUI Galway Students’ Union actively supports the campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against the State of Israel.” was passed by an almost 2 to 1 margin (1,954 to 1,054 votes) during a student referendum held on March 6th. NUIG Students’ Union becomes the first student’s union in Ireland to adopt such a motion in support of Palestinian rights, and joins campuses all over the world in rejecting Israeli Apartheid.
Chairperson of the IPSC, Martin O’Quigley, welcomed the motion saying, “This is an historic victory for those who stand in solidarity with Palestinians living under the heel of Israel’s racist, apartheid system of occupation and colonisation. The IPSC salutes all those students who stood with the oppressed on the right side of history and endorsed this measure, despite a stream of venomous anti-Palestinian propaganda and dirty tricks being injected into the debate from off-campus forces, including the Israeli Embassy in Ireland’s failed attempts at using social media to influence the outcome.”
“Particular credit is due to the NUIG Palestine Solidarity Society whose hard work lay behind the tabling and passing of the motion. We hope other universities and ITs in Ireland will now follow suit in establishing such Palestine solidarity societies and seeking to table similar motions. We cannot think of a better way to round off this year’s Israeli Apartheid Week in Ireland,” Mr O’Quigley said.
Fionnghuala Nic Roibeaird, Auditor of the NUIG PSS, said in a statement: “This is a landmark victory in Ireland for the growing international campaign to boycott Israel until it complies with international law and ends its illegal occupation of Palestine, and no doubt NUIG SU is just the first of many SUs in Ireland to endorse such a campaign.”
“NUIG Students decided that, in the footsteps of the successful international boycott campaign against South Africa’s apartheid regime in the past, we will not be silent towards international racism and colonialism in our own time. Alongside promoting awareness of the BDS movement more broadly, NUI Galway SU will now stand unambiguously against instances of institutional collusion between NUI Galway and Israeli oppression, such as NUI Galway’s use of G4S, the international security company notorious for its provision of security and incarceration ‘services’ to Israel’s inhumane prison regime,” Ms Nic Roibeaird said.
The global movement for a campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law and Palestinian rights was initiated by Palestinian civil society in 2005, and is coordinated by the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), established in 2007. BDS is a strategy that allows people of conscience to play an effective role in the Palestinian struggle for justice.
The BDS campaign is shaped by a rights-based approach and highlights the three broad sections of the Palestinian people: the refugees, those under military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and Palestinians in Israel. The call urges various forms of boycott against Israel until it meets its obligations under international law by:
The BDS call is endorsed by over 200 Palestinian political parties, civil society and church groups, trade unions and movements. The signatories represent the refugees, Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories, and Palestinian citizens of Israel.
This vote follows on from the Teachers Union of Ireland’s 2013 endorsement of an academic boycott of Israel, and the recent launch of a pledge by Academics for Palestine signed by over 150 academics who will not “engage in any professional association with Israeli academic, research and state institutions and with those representing these institutions, until such time as Israel complies with international law and universal principles of human rights”.
The Palestine Solidarity Committee in India supports the first international Week Against Mekorot and says NO to water apartheid
Mekorot is Israel’s state-owned water company responsible for implementing “water apartheid” on Palestinians, including the international crime of pillage of natural resources in occupied territory, discrimination against the Palestinian people as an ethnic group and vital support for the illegal settlement enterprise. (See http://stopthewall.org/week-action-against-mekorot)
In 2005, Mekorot established a business arm to begin a process of international expansion. Among the countries where it has signed lucrative contracts is India. The Haryana Government last month signed an MOU with Mekorot for the joint development of a dual pipeline project. (See http://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/haryana-govt-signs-mou-with-israel-govt-company-114022601120_1.html)
[ Image credit: via http://www.stopthewall.org ]
This is Mekorot’s record:
It is clear that all cooperation with Mekorot inherently benefits from or contributes to the illegal settlement enterprise.
Campaigns have been established to kick Mekorot out in Argentina, Italy, Greece and Portugal. In Argentina, activists recently announced they succeeded in suspending the construction of a US$170 million water regeneration plant – a project which would have financed not only water apartheid in Palestine but exported it transforming access to water in Buenos Aires from a human right to a luxury item for the rich.
By doing business with Mekorot, India would, in effect, be supporting its illegal and unjust practices with regard to water against the Palestinian people.
The Palestine Solidarity Committee in India demands that the government and business establishment in India eschew business as usual with Israel and support the international movement to exclude Mekorot from public contracts and hold the company accountable for its water apartheid. The First International Week Against Mekorot is between 22 March 2014, World Water Day, and 30 March 2014, when Palestinians mark Land Day.
The Palestine Solidarity Committee in India appeals to all Indians of conscience to take a stand for water justice and support the International Week against Mekorot, 22-30 March 2014.
Palestine Solidarity Committee in India
Subhashini Ali (President, AIDWA), Shyam Benegal (Filmmaker), Syeda Hameed (Member, Planning Commission), Githa Hariharan (Writer), Meena Menon (Activist), Saeed Mirza (Filmmaker), Maimoona Mollah (Janwadi Mahila Samiti), Seema Mustafa (Journalist), Saeed Naqvi (Journalist), Anand Patwardhan (Filmmaker), Prabir Purkayastha (DSF), Annie Raja (General Secretary, NFIW), D. Raja (Member, Rajya Sabha and National Secretary, CPI), N. Ram (Journalist), Nayantara Sahgal (Writer), Pallab Sengupta (AIPSO), S.P. Shukla (Former Secretary, Min. of Finance), Vivan Sundaram (Artist), Achin Vanaik (Academic), Sitaram Yechury (Member, Rajya Sabha and Member, CPI-M Politburo)