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ust as Boycotts Are Making a Difference for LGBTQ People, Some Lawmakers Want to Shut Them Down

Global BDS News - Sun, 05/01/2016 - 13:20

In recent weeks, governors, mayors, major businesses, and entertainers have joined a boycott of North Carolina and Mississippi as a way of protesting new state laws that license discrimination against LGBT people. Similar boycotts of Indiana were threatened or announced last year when that state also passed homophobic legislation. Yet it’s particularly ironic that public and private actors are jumping on the boycott bandwagon to protest laws that deny fundamental civil rights when, at the same time, state legislatures are passing bills that would punish the use of economic boycotts in similar circumstances.

Boycotts are a familiar tool used by public officials and private actors to protest the passage of unjust laws. Almost every social movement has at some point deployedboycotts as a tactic to advance its political goals, along with demonstrations, picketing, strikes, sit ins, and other forms of direct action. In 1792, supporters of abolition of the slave trade in Britain urged a boycott of slave-produced sugar. In 1902, the Chinese boycotted American products to protest the extension of the Chinese Exclusion Act. In 1903, Mohandas Gandhi and other anti-colonial actors in India called for a boycott of British goods, launching the “Swadeshi” (self-sufficiency) movement. In 1955, when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat in the “white section” of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, she sparked the Montgomery busboycott to protest racial segregation in public transportation and began a chain reaction of similar boycotts throughout the South.

In the 1970s and ’80s, prominent politicians on both the federal and state levels strongly endorsed a financial boycott and divestment of public funds from companies that did business in South Africa. These boycott supporters included Rep. Ronald Dellums and Sen. Ted Kennedy, who pushed for tighter economic sanctions through the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act. In New York, supporters included Mayor Ed Koch, Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger, Comptroller Harrison Goldin, union chief Victor Gotbaum, and City Council President Carol Bellamy.

So, the turn to boycotts this month to express a commitment to fundamental civil and human rights is nothing new—except it comes at a time when several states are trying to make boycotts illegal. For example, a bill just passed by the New York State Senate bars any business, organization, or group that supports the boycott of any U.S. ally from bidding on public contracts. Moreover, it requires the state to create and make public a list of their names. If this bill becomes law, a construction company could not bid on road repair projects in New York state if its owner has personally endorsed an economic boycott of Turkey for that government’s repression of dissidents; a florist that supplies flowers to the governor’s office would be blacklisted and have its contract canceled if the owner has vocally supported a boycott of Italy for its refusal to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples; and the Presbyterian Church (USA) would be blacklisted and could no longer run homeless shelters in New York with public money because of its policy of divesting from companies involved in the demolition of Palestinian homes and the surveillance of Palestinians by the Israeli government.

The proposed New York law treats constitutionally protected political activism as treason and is part of a series of similar bills that have been introduced or passed in about two dozen states across the country. What lies behind today’s ill-conceived calls to outlaw boycotts and create what is essentially a public blacklist of groups that turn to boycotts as a political tactic?

The bills in question have been advanced by right-wing supporters of Israel who are responding to a growing grassroots campaign to use economic leverage to draw attention to human rights violations committed by the Israeli government. Israel’s defenders have resorted to anti-boycott and blacklist laws to censure political debate about the Israeli occupation of Palestine. They seek to discredit not only the arguments of their critics, but also the tactics they deploy: namely boycotts, a nonviolent form of direct political action. With a broad brush they portray boycotts as a kind of dirty trick that is subversive, sinister and slanderous in nature.

Defenders of the right to use boycotts as part of movement organizing consider the New York bill particularly worrisome in light of the law’s requirement that the state publish a list every year of organizations that have boycotted allied nations. The list is designed to send the message: “New York State won’t do business with these entities, you shouldn’t either.” For this reason, boycott proponents consider the law to require the creation of a “blacklist”—why other than public shaming would the state be required to publish these names? Through history, blacklists have been generally regarded as a form of political extortion, lying well outside the bounds of legitimate politics. Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s blacklist naming actors, activists, and others who were suspected of harboring Communist sympathies ruined lives and careers and suppressed a wide range of otherwise constitutionally protected speech.

Despite this ugly historical backdrop, lawmakers in New York and other states are itching to get into the blacklisting business. Just as in the McCarthy era, the list they want to set up would call out for sanction and ridicule citizens who engage in a familiar form of constitutionally protected speech and political activity. Under the law just passed by the New York State Senate, unions such as AFSCME, the Manhattan Borough President’s Office, and the New York City Council itself would have been blacklisted for their endorsement of the boycott of South Africa.

The frontal attack on boycotts as a political tactic made by supporters of Israel is truly ironic given the support that prominent Jewish and Zionist organizations have given to boycotts in other contexts. For instance, American Jews convinced the World Jewish Congress to endorse a resolution calling for a boycott of German goods in 1936. And when the Supreme Court considered the constitutionality of black citizens’ boycott of racist businesses in Mississippi in the 1960s, the American Jewish Congress submitted a friend of the court brief arguing that “politically motivated economic boycotts have a long and honored history in our nation,” and that boycotts “are forms of expression undoubtedly protected by the First Amendment.”

Even more ironic is the idea that supporters of Israel would turn to a blacklist, and a state-sponsored blacklist at that, to defend their cause. Blacklists in the U.S. have notoriously done the dirty work of anti-Semites, as the recent award-winning filmTrumbo portrayed so painfully.

Top Comment

I can’t imagine that government punishing people for exercising free speech would survive any court challenge.  More…

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This history teaches us two important lessons: that there is nothing inherently sinister about the use of economic boycotts as a political tactic, and that there surely is something deeply suspect about the government’s turn to blacklists as a tool to punish, shame, and censor citizens who are engaging in important debates about Israel and Palestine.

It is unconscionable that lawmakers in New York and across the country have been aligning themselves with a smear tactic that imperils the reputations and economic well-being of constituents that they’re supposed to be representing. As legislators debate these bills, they should consider whether their moral compasses point in the direction of Joseph McCarthy or Rosa Parks.

Katherine Franke is the Sulzbacher Professor of Law at Columbia Law School and the Chair of the Board of the Center for Constitutional Rights. She is author of Wedlocked: The Perils of Marriage Equality (2015).

Michael Ratner is an attorney and President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Original: http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2016/04/29/a_new_york_bill_penalizing_boycotts_is_a_threat_to_democracy.html

Simone de Beauvoir Institute’s Statement of Feminist Solidarity with the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement

Global BDS News - Sat, 04/30/2016 - 21:46

On February 17, 2016, representatives of the Students, Faculty, Staff, Fellows, and Research Associates of the Simone de Beauvoir Institute (SdBI) voted in unanimous support of the following resolution on the Palestinian call for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement:

As feminist scholars, activists, teachers, and public intellectuals we recognize the interconnectedness of systemic forms of oppression. In the spirit of this perspective, we cannot overlook the injustice and violence, including sexual and gender-based violence, perpetrated against Palestinians and other Arabs in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, within Israel and in the Golan Heights, as well as the colonial displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians during the 1948 Nakba. The discriminatory treatment, exclusion, military siege and apartheid imposed by Israel on its own Palestinian citizens as well as those residing in the occupied territories constitute flagrant breaches of international law, UN resolutions, and fundamental human rights. In the present moment, our counterparts in Palestine face daily violations of their human rights, including their academic rights to free speech, assembly, association, and movement. At the same time, Israeli institutions of higher learning have not challenged, but instead legitimized Israel’s oppressive policies and violations. These violations, which severely impact the daily lives and working conditions of Palestinian scholars, students, and society at large, are also enabled by tax dollars and the tacit support of Western powers, thus making any taxpayer in Canada and the West complicit in perpetuating these injustices. As members of the SdBI who are committed to justice, dignity, equality and peace, we affirm our opposition to the historical and current injustices in Palestine that we view as part and parcel of the multiple oppressions we study and teach about. We also affirm the commitment of the SdBI to principles of human rights, justice and freedom for all, including academic freedom. The SdBI has had a long tradition of welcoming feminists committed to peace. Along the years, the SdBI has organized or sponsored many BDS activities or activities part of Israeli Apartheid week. Therefore, in keeping with the above principles and in line with the SdBI’s history and present commitments, let it be resolved that the SdBI endorses the call by 2 Palestinian civil society for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) of economic, military, academic and cultural entities and projects sponsored by the state of Israel. In doing so, we join the growing grassroots international consensus and add our voices to a large number of academic associations and entities that adopted similar resolutions in recent years.

We add our voices to those who have declared their support for BDS because we believe that boycott, divestment and sanctions are the most effective nonviolent means for achieving justice and peace in the region. The Simone de Beauvoir Institute recognizes that the issue of BDS raises many questions, and sparks heated debate. As feminist educators and students, we promote open dialogue and an educational approach to understanding the issues. In the next pages, we outline some of the key tenets of the resolution and what it implies. We also provide a list of resources for further reading on the topic (see page 12). Simone de Beauvoir Institute Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec April 13, 2016

Shifty antisemitism wars

Global BDS News - Fri, 04/29/2016 - 12:41

In 2005, a draft, working definition of antisemitism was circulated by the European Union’s Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC). To the dismay of its critics, the document confused genuine antisemitism with criticism of Israel, and was repeatedly, and erroneously, promoted by Israel advocacy groups as the EU definition of antisemitism.

By 2013, the EUMC’s successor body, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), had abandoned the politicised definition as unfit for purpose. Just this week, in response to a motion passed at NUS conference, the FRA explicitly denied having ever adopted the definition. Yet on March 30, Eric Pickles, UK Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust issues and chair of Conservative Friends of Israel, revived the discredited definition by publishing it on the government’s website. Why?

Nine days previously, Pickles had spoken at a conference on antisemitism in Berlin, where he described the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign as akin to the Nazi boycott of Jewish goods. “There’s nothing complicated to it,” he told the audience. “It’s the same thing happening 70 years later. It’s the same ideology, it’s the same language, it’s the same threats.”

So what is going on here?

Antisemitism – the socialism of fools

Antisemitism can certainly be found amongst those who claim to be Palestine solidarity activists, though the opportunism of a marginal few has consistently been condemned by mainstream solidarity groups, both here in the UK, and in North America. Twitter, of course, has made it easy for anyone to (anonymously) say whatever they want, and has drawn attention to various forms of bigotry that continue to have currency in the population at large.

More broadly, the presence of antisemites or antisemitic discourse amongst those who identify as being ‘on the Left’ is also real. The reason why antisemitism has been described as the ‘socialism of fools’ is that it purports to offer explanations for problems like inequality or economic instability which are, for many people, pressing concerns. Antisemitism, however, offers conspiracy theories in place of political analysis, and bigoted scapegoating rather than political solutions.

The ‘new antisemitism’ (again)

So what is antisemitism? Brian Klug, an international expert on antisemitism and a Senior Research Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy at St. Benet’s Hall, Oxford, has defined antisemitism thus: “A good, simple working definition of antisemitism, according to a broad consensus of scholars, is this: hostility towards Jews as Jews.” He continues: “It would be more accurate (if cumbersome) to define the word along these lines: a form of hostility towards Jews as Jews, in which Jews are perceived as something other than what they are. Or more succinctly: hostility towards Jews as not Jews.”

This ‘broad consensus’, however, has broken down. When Antony Lerman, Senior Fellow at the Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue in Vienna, first started studying antisemitism 40 years ago, there was, he tells me, “broadly speaking, a shared understanding of what antisemitism was. And Israel was hardly ever mentioned.” Today, he says, “Israel is promoted as the central recipient of antisemitic hate”, constituting nothing less than “a fundamental redefinition of antisemitism” (a topic he wrote about for openDemocracy last September).

This so-called ‘new antisemitism’ was the subject of a searing critique by Brian Klug as far back as 2004, in an important intervention published by The Nation. “The semantic question has been politicized”, wrote the Oxford academic. “This is why the definition matters. It is time to reclaim the word ‘anti-Semitism’ from the political misuses to which it is being put.”

Anti-Zionism is not antisemitism

So why is it wrong to equate anti-Zionism and antisemitism?

First, it is comparing apples and oranges. Indeed, there have always been Jewsopposed to Zionism, for different reasons. See, for example, the current work of the International Jewish Anti-Zionism Network (IJAN), or the new book by US professor Dov Waxman, which, among other things, shows how it was only after the Six-Day War in 1967, “some two decades after Israel’s founding”, that “the American Jewish pro-Israel establishment was built.”

For Rebecca Vilkomerson, Executive Director of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), a group with more than 200,000 online members and 60 chapters across the US, “equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism obscures the long history of Jewish anti-Zionism and diasporism.” According to the UK-based group Jews for Justice for Palestinians, fusing “Jewishness/Israel/Zionism” enables antisemitism to become “a weapon for imposing conformity on dissidents within the Jewish community.”

Chicago-based Rabbi Brant Rosen has described how “growing numbers of Jews” identify as anti-Zionists for “legitimate ideological reasons”, motivated “by values of equality and human rights for all human beings.” His words chime with those of a former President of Edinburgh University’s Jewish Society, who recently wrote of “the growing frustration felt by many millennial Jews about the default positioning that support for Israel receives amongst Jewish civil society organisations.”

But what about the claim that, since Zionism is simply Jewish self-determination, anti-Zionism is anti-Jewish bigotry? This is also misguided; put simply, “self-determination does not equate to statehood.” As legal scholar Michael Kearney has explained, self-determination is “less understood these days as a right to one’s own exclusive state, and more as a right to non-discrimination and to democratic participation in society.”

Israel’s supporters, however, are deliberately conflating terms such as ‘homeland’, ‘home’, ‘state’, and ‘self-determination’. The concept of a Jewish homeland is one thing; the creation and maintenance of a ‘Jewish state’, in Palestine, at the expense of its non-Jewish inhabitants, is another. The right to self-determination is never a right to colonisation, whoever is doing it.

Finally, to maintain that anti-Zionism is antisemitism is to deny the historical and contemporary reality of the Palestinians’ experience, and to dehumanise them as a people. For the Palestinians, Zionism has meant violent displacement, colonisation, and discrimination – are they ‘antisemitic’ for refusing to cheer their own dispossession? By extension, as orthodox Jewish studies and philosophy professor Charles H. Manekin put it recently, labelling Palestine solidarity activists as antisemitic is to imply that “the Palestinians have little justified claim to sympathy.”

The Israeli government’s war on Palestine solidarity

The conflation of anti-Zionism and antisemitism, and the appropriation of the fight against antisemitism as a means of combating Palestine solidarity, is perhaps best embodied by a periodic conference organised by the Israeli government. Convened by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), the Global Forum for Combatting Antisemitism has become a talking shop and strategizing opportunity, in particular, for how to best thwart the growing BDS campaign.

In 2007, delegates discussed topics such as “pre-emptive strategies” against “academic and economic boycotts”, while at the 2009 Forum, a working group was tasked with proposing “imaginative, effective and successful solutions to counter [BDS].” Four years later, in 2013, the conference’s anti-BDS ‘task force’ produced another ‘action plan’, while in 2015, the gathering proposed that activists “pursue legislation at the local, state and federal level to constrain BDS.”

These are not just empty words. In February this year, an Israeli spokespersonadmitted that the government had “stepped up our efforts directly and indirectly, dealing with friends of Israel in a variety of countries in which we have the BDS movement, fighting it with legal instruments.” As a recent AFP report put it, despairing of ever winning “the battle for public support” in many countries, “Israel has instead increasingly focused on measures limiting BDS legally.”

This year, the Israeli government budgeted NIS 100 million to fighting the boycott movement, and has boasted of its plans to use cyber-tech in its efforts to undermine Palestine solidarity activism and BDS. This comes five years after Israel passed a domestic anti-boycott law, described as “the silencing and the restriction of legitimate protest to criticise and act to change Israeli policy.”

Israel’s allies have picked up the baton, including in the UK, where support for BDS and Palestinian rights has grown considerably amongst political parties, trade unions, faith communities, human rights groups, and on campuses. In the Israeli embassy in London, a ‘battle’ map hangs on the wall showing “the deployment of pro-Israel activists and the location of the ‘enemy forces’.”

Willing UK accomplices

The Israeli government’s counter-offensive has found willing accomplices in the Conservative government, with ministers seeking to deter local councils from taking ethical investment and procurement decisions that they are in fact entitled to make. These efforts are the ‘soft end’ of a wave of repression that, as documented by Amnesty International, has seen Palestinian human rights defenders, including BDS activists, threatened and intimidated by Israeli authorities.

In Britain, the target of the current crackdown is broader than just BDS: the very legitimacy of Palestine solidarity activism is at stake. On March 22, the Board of Deputies of British Jews president Jonathan Arkush told the Daily Mail that “this is not about criticism of Israel – every country can be subject to criticism.” This has become a clichéd talking-point by proponents of the ‘new antisemitism’; that mere criticism of Israel does not constitute antisemitism.

Yet a few weeks earlier, Arkush had admonished David Cameron for having issued a very mild rebuke to Israeli settlements, claiming that it had made “many” in Britain’s Jewish community “concerned and uncomfortable.” Last year, as then-vice-president, Arkush had urged another Board official not to even “criticise the government of Israel.”

In other words, this is a much broader assault on political freedoms and the right of Palestinians and their allies to campaign against Israeli violations of international law. ‘Of course, mere criticism of Israeli policies isn’t antisemitic’, say those who never actually criticise Israel, ‘but – why are you singling out Israel?’

Lerman is worried about the impact of this strategy by the Israeli government and its allies. “Given the misery and murder that antisemitism has caused over the centuries,” he notes, “one might expect pro-Israel groups to be more circumspect before using it indiscriminately as a political tool.” According to Lerman, “not everything that offends Jewish sensibilities is antisemitism”, and by labelling BDS as antisemitic, Israel advocates “are draining the word of any meaning.”

Targeting Corbyn’s Labour Party: a convergence of interests

On February 15, the co-chair of the Oxford University Labour Club (OULC)resigned his position, in response to OULC deciding to endorse Israeli Apartheid Week (a telling trigger). Shortly afterwards, and for a period of roughly a month, the media reported a number of cases where Labour members were alleged to have been guilty of antisemitic remarks, predominantly on social media.

Corbyn’s political opponents and their friends in the media, saw an opportunity: the Daily Mail declared Corbyn to be “a long-standing supporter of the terrorist organisation Hamas”, while Boris Johnson urged Londoners to vote Tory in the mayoral contest, citing Labour’s antisemitism “cancer.” In mid-March, The Jewish Chronicle declared that Labour “attracts antisemites like flies to a cesspit.”

The Labour Party has more than 400 MPs and peers at Westminster, in addition to almost 7,000 local government officials and some 390,000 members. The antisemitism ‘crisis’ has involved half a dozen individuals, most of whom have either never held, or no longer hold elected office. Corbyn himself has repeatedly condemned antisemitism since becoming leader, while according to Party General Secretary Iain McNicol, everyone reported for antisemitism has been suspended or excluded.

Getting a problem in perspective is not the same as denying that any problem exists (by definition). As Richard Kuper, spokesperson of Jews for Justice for Palestinians tells me, “there is some antisemitism in and around the Labour party – as there is in the wider society in Britain”, a problem made worse by “increased use of social media.”

However, Kuper said, “there is clearly also a coordinated, willed and malign campaign to exaggerate the nature and extent of antisemitism as a stick to beat the Labour party” under Corbyn. Ian Saville, a founder of the ‘Jews for Jeremy’ Facebook page, agrees, saying he is “disturbed” by the way antisemitism has “been taken up as a proxy with which to attack the left in the Labour Party.”

Conclusion

As Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, member of Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (JBIG), tells me: “This is not about whether we should be dealing firmly with antisemitism – of course we should – but how antisemitism is defined.” This politicised redefining of antisemitism should worry us all: it dehumanises Palestinians and delegitimises solidarity, imperils the fight against real antisemitism, and constitutes a much broader attack on our democracy and political freedoms.

 

Originally posted in: https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/ben-white/shifty-antisemitism-wars

University of Chile’s Law Faculty students vote “yes” for BDS

Global BDS News - Wed, 04/27/2016 - 21:28

In a referendum held on Monday, 64% of the Law students at the University of Chile voted for cutting the university’s ties with Israeli universities involved in violating Palestinian human rights. In addition, 56% of the students voted that activities involving Israeli officials or state funding should not take place at the Law Faculty.

One week after holding a successful Israeli Apartheid Week, BDS UChile – a broad student coalition for BDS at the University of Chile – celebrated the referendum results: “This shows that BDS is right and it has strength, and that our comrades understand perfectly what the Israeli colonization process is and how the Israeli apartheid policies are imposed against the Palestinian people on a daily basis”.

Close to one thousand students participated in the referendum, which took place together with the elections for the Law faculty students’ representatives. Since its foundation in 1842, the University of Chile’s Law Faculty has been among the most prestigious institutions in the country and also a stage for many political and social struggles. In 1987, students led a historic general strike and protests against the dean nominated by the Pinochet’s military dictatorship.

“This vote strengthens the academic boycott to keep pushing  for our home of studies to be free of Israeli apartheid so that we can breathe a clear and democratic air, without segregation, without oppression, without colonization” says BDS UChile.

The Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCABI) welcomed the results of the referendum: “We, Palestinian students, salute our peers of Chile University’s Faculty of Law for their principled position in defense of universal human rights. We are delighted that the majority of students of Chile University’s Faculty of Law voted in favor of the boycott of Israeli academic institutions that are complicit in Israel’s violation of our basic rights. History will have its say the same way it did in South Africa. Only the support of conscientious people, including students in Latin America, did the Apartheid system crumble.”

The academic boycott of Israel’s apartheid and colonization regime has been growing in Latin America. Earlier this year, more than 200 Brazilian professors and researchers declared their commitment to BDS. In Argentina, more than 100 professors, hundreds of students and 11 academic institutions have also signed an academic boycott pledge against Israel’s apartheid. In 2012, the University of São Paulo students’ higher representative congress endorsed BDS.

BNC welcomes Amnesty International position on Right to BDS

Global BDS News - Sun, 04/24/2016 - 16:38

Read our recent statement Israel’s legal warfare on BDS fosters repression and McCarthyism across the world here.

 

Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights defenders are unnerved, but certainly undeterred, by the thinly-veiled threat of physically harming leading BDS activists recently made by Israeli Minister of Intelligence Yisrael Katz.

Katz in his statements, made during an anti-BDS conference organized by a right-wing Israeli daily on 28 March 2016, plays on the official Israeli military term for assassination, “targeted thwarting,” and adds “civil” to it. But nothing “civil” can be expected given the prevalence in Israeli society of almost unprecedented racial and violent incitement against the indigenous Palestinians and the popular Israeli cheering of extrajudicial killings.

Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs and anti-BDS czar, Gilad Erdan, also threatened that BDS activists “will start to pay a price,” without revealing any details. In the immediately following sentence, however, he explained that he did not mean any “physical harm” as these are “sensitive times.” Negating his intention to physically harm Palestinian human rights defenders in this particular context almost certainly normalizes the opposite, that it is conceivable, if not probable, in less sensitive times to physically target BDS activists.

The seriousness of these threats by Katz and Erdan must be seen in light of increased Israeli lawlessness and criminal impunity. Even Zionist Israeli dissenters who dare to reveal some Israeli war crimes are tainted as “traitors” by Israeli officials.

The last time a sitting Israeli prime minister was labelled as such, a fanatic Jewish-Israeli took matters into his own hands and assassinated Yitzhak Rabin.

These vile threats must be exposed to the world and presented in the mainstream as part of Israel’s “serious human rights violations,” including “extrajudicial killings,” that US Senator Patrick Leahy has called on the Department of State to investigate.

Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid should face international sanctions as sweeping as those that were imposed on another lawless regime—apartheid South Africa.

No mafia-like threat from anyone will “thwart” BDS activists from advocating for freedom, justice and equality for the entire Palestinian people, in our homeland and in exile.

Israel is losing the battles for hearts and minds internationally, among major trade unions, churches, academic associations, student governments, artists collectives, LGBTQ networks, among others. Both Israel and the BDS movement can detect the Palestinian “South Africa moment” approaching.

This is why Israel is resorting to fostering a new McCarthyism, intimidating, bullying and threatening those who criticize its apartheid and occupation and those who take effective nonviolent action to end them. Israel is launching a massive, very well-funded campaign in western countries to delegitimize BDS.

The most effective response to Israel’s latest desperate threats against BDS human rights defenders is not to get distracted by them and to intensify academic, cultural, economic and military boycott, divestment and eventually sanctions campaigns against its pariah regime, its complicit institutions and all the banks and corporations that are implicated in it.

The only way to “stop BDS” is to end Israel’s regime of oppression, allowing the Palestinian people to exercise its rights under international law, especially the inalienable right to self-determination. The Palestinian people, like all other peoples around the world, cannot and will not accept anything less than our freedom, justice, equality and dignity in our homeland. No colonial threats or oppression can extinguish a people’s passion for freedom and justice.

Amnesty International’s Position

Criticizing Israel’s intimidation campaign and violent threats against BDS activists, Amnesty International expressed its concern “for the safety and liberty of Palestinian human rights defender Omar Barghouti, and other Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activists, following calls alluding to threats, including of physical harm and deprivation of basic rights, made by Israeli ministers at an anti-Boycott Divestment and Sanction conference in Jerusalem on 28 March 2016.”

The statement said: “[Omar Barghouti] campaigns to hold Israel accountable for human rights and other international law violations and advocates for the use of non-violent means in doing so.”

The BNC warmly welcomes Amnesty International’s defence of the right of BDS activists to advocate for Palestinian rights under international law and calls on all international human rights organizations, particularly in the US and Europe, to unequivocally uphold the same right.

Glenn Greenwald has described the well-orchestrated series of draconian measures taken in France, the US and the UK, among others, against the BDS movement as the “greatest threat to free speech in the West”. Yet Israel’s exceptionalism in some mainstream quarters in the west remains intact.

South African Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has once likened this singling out of Israel’s regime for unconditional military, political and financial support, not to mention protection from accountability, by the US and other western governments to placing Israel “on a pedestal” above every other state. Many people are afraid to criticize Israel’s policies, Tutu argues, because of the exceptionally intimidating methods used by its lobby.

BDS is an inclusive, anti-racist movement that is anchored in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and is opposed on principle to all forms of racism and discrimination, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. The BDS movement is advocating for Israel to be taken off “the pedestal” and held to account like other states committing similar crimes.

It is clear that Israel has been lobbying for and is directly behind these deeply worrying anti-democratic attacks that are intended to criminalize the advocacy of Palestinian rights. But they are also part of a growing trend in western countries of eroding civil liberties in the name of ‘security’, and of governments and unaccountable elites concentrating power in their hands and undermining democratic principles.

EU and US complicity

By not only participating in this Israeli anti-BDS fest of hate and violent threats against a nonviolent human rights movement and its main activists but also keeping silent about these threats, the US Administration and the EU have effectively given a tacit green light to Israel to harm human rights defenders engaged in BDS activism.

The BNC holds both the US and the EU accountable should Israel make good on its threats and harm human rights defenders who are active in the BDS movement, bodily or otherwise.

Like the US government, the EU has always been implicated, albeit to a lesser extent, in enabling and maintaining Israel’s occupation and apartheid. But by sending its Tel Aviv ambassador to join this Israeli war on nonviolent Palestinian, European, Israeli and other human rights defenders it has reached a new low of hypocrisy and complicity.

This hypocrisy is further accentuated by the fact that the EU ambassador’s co-panelists in the conference included the fanatic Israeli settler leader Dani Dayan and a retired Israeli colonel accused of responsibility for horrific war crimes in Gaza.
Read our recent statement Israel’s legal warfare on BDS fosters repression and McCarthyism across the world here.

NYU grad student union overwhelmingly votes to boycott Israel over violations of Palestinian human rights

Global BDS News - Sun, 04/24/2016 - 12:26

Graduate students at New York University have overwhelmingly voted to boycott Israel in protest of its violation of Palestinian human rights.

Exactly two-thirds of voting members of the graduate student union the Graduate Student Organizing Committee, or GSOC-UAW 2110, supported a referendum on Friday that calls for New York University and United Auto Workers International to withdraw their investments from Israeli state institutions and international corporations complicit in violations of Palestinian human and civil rights.

At least 645 union members participated in the vote. An additional 57 percent of voting members pledged to uphold the academic boycott of Israel, refraining from participating in research and academic programs sponsored by institutions funded by the Israeli government.

The union says this “was an unusually large membership turnout, a testament to union democracy.” It explained in a statement that the vote took place after a period of “vigorous debate and engagement with the union among wide layers of graduate workers.”

“After months of mass mobilization and a four-day election, GSOC members have taken a clear stand for justice in Palestine,” explained Shafeka Hashash, a member of the union’s Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or BDS, caucus.

“This historic endorsement of BDS by GSOC at NYU occurs in the wake of growing momentum for the movement across university campuses and labor unions nationwide,” she added.

BDS is an international grassroots movement that uses peaceful economic means to pressure Israel into complying with international law and respecting Palestinian human rights. The campaign was called for by Palestinian civil society and by major trade unions in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The Graduate Student Organizing Committee is a labor union representing more than 2,000 teaching assistants, adjunct instructors, research assistants and other graduate workers at New York University, or NYU. It is the first recognized graduate worker union at a private university in the U.S.

The union says its referendum vote it sets “an important precedent for both solidarity with Palestine and for union democracy.”

“In addition to bringing material gains for their members, NYU graduate students are reclaiming the union as a political platform for social justice causes,” explained Maya Wind, an Israeli activist and Ph.D. student at NYU who is a member of the union.

“Through the recent mass mobilization for justice in Palestine we have taken a stand on one of the defining political issues of our time,” she added. “The referendum success is indicative of the traction the movement is gaining across university campuses, and increasingly among graduate students.”

The referendum also calls on NYU to close its sister program in Israel’s Tel Aviv University, which the union says violates its own non-discrimination policy.

A recent U.S. State Department report acknowledged the “institutional and societal discrimination against Arab citizens of Israel,” as well as the unlawful killings, excessive force and torture people endure at the hands of the Israeli military in the illegally occupied Palestinian territories.

The BDS movement is growing rapidly throughout the U.S. and the world.

In the past week, at least two major graduate student unions voted to endorse a boycott of Israel. The Graduate Employee Organization at the University of Massachusetts Amherst passed a BDS resolution by referendum, as well as the City University of New York Doctoral Students Council, which approved an academic boycott measure overwhelmingly via vote.

“The impact of NYU’s referendum will not only reverberate across private academic institutions where unionization efforts have gained momentum, but across the American academy more broadly,” GSOC said in a statement.

At least eight major U.S. academic associations have voted to boycott Israel in protest of its violation of Palestinian human rights, including the American Studies Association, the American Anthropological Association, the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association and the Association for Asian American Studies. Many of these votes had resounding majorities in favor.

Several national unions have also made similar votes, including the United Electrical Workers union.

Despite the democratic nature of these votes, the efforts have faced huge backlash.

Legislators around the U.S. are proposing bans on boycotts of Israel, which legal experts say is unconstitutional.

When the University of California system’s graduate student union voted to endorse the BDS movement by a landslide in 2014, Salon exposed how the small pro-Israel opposition derailed the democratic process with the help of a prominent law firm that has defended powerful multinational corporations like Wal-Mart, Amazon, Apple and Chevron. Under this pressure, the United Auto Workers International Executive Board nullified the vote, even while admitting that it was thoroughly democratic.

NYU’s graduate student union also says the UAW Local 2110 Executive Board “attempted to interfere with democratic elections to union leadership bodies.” GSOC condemned union executives for having “cracked down on their own membership” in an undemocratic manner.

Ph.D. student and union member Sean Larson told Salon the local executive executive board has disqualified a large number of candidates for the leadership election, “disputing our membership criteria eligibility and the eligibility for candidates to run in both elections.”

GSOC is pushing back against the backlash. “In the fight for social justice and against repression, the BDS movement and union democracy are natural allies,” the union affirmed in a statement.

“By empowering the members themselves to speak, the emerging movement for union democracy among graduate students is helping to lead these efforts. Rank-and-file democracy is the future of the labor movement, and the labor movement can secure a vigorous future for BDS in the United States.”

Ben Norton is a politics staff writer at Salon. You can find him on Twitter at@BenjaminNorton.

Anti-BDS legislation violates free speech

Global BDS News - Sun, 04/24/2016 - 11:14

State legislatures across the country are considering a spate of bills that would blacklist companies (and, in the case of New York, individuals) that support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which tries to impose economic pressure on Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian land.

Such repressive legislation threatens the right of all Americans to engage in boycotts and other economic acts of conscience.

Churches, student and faculty groups, musicians and artists are among the groups legislators seek to silence. The United Methodist Church could find itself on these blacklists. We have advocated for BDS and four years ago our General Conference voted to boycott products made in Israeli settlements built illegally on occupied Palestinian land. Recently, the United Methodist Church divested from two Israeli banks and added three others to a no-investment list due to their ties to settlements.

In May, United Methodists will once again debate a resolution calling for divestment from companies profiting from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands and other human rights abuses. Other denominations, such as the Presbyterian Church (USA) and United Church of Christ, have recently done the same.

According to the nonprofit Palestine Legal, more than 20 state legislatures have introduced bills that would punish persons, organizations and/or companies publicly supporting boycotts related to Israeli human rights abuses.

States such as Illinois, South Carolina and Florida have already passed anti-BDS bills, with Illinois recently becoming the first state to publish a blacklist.

In many cases, these bills also include clauses containing language such as “territories controlled by Israel,” in an attempt to legitimize Israeli settlements built on occupied Palestinian land in conflict with long-standing official U.S. policy, international law and United Methodist Church policy.

Churches have a long history of supporting boycotts and divestment as forms of nonviolent, moral action addressing human rights violations. I have participated in boycott and divestment actions for 40 years: against Nestle’s marketing of infant formula in impoverished communities; against companies exploiting farmworkers and companies using slave labor; against Shell oil for its violations in Nigeria; against companies profiting from apartheid in South Africa; and against companies operating in Israeli settlements. United Methodists and many others have participated in these moral nonviolent movements.

Boycotts, by definition, comprise public campaigns to urge others to join together to change behavior of companies and governments. Any given boycott is only as strong as the number of people supporting it. Boycotts embody the heart of First Amendment rights of free speech and freedom of assembly.

As more people become fed up with expanding Israeli settlements supported by unconditional U.S. military aid, boycotts of Israeli human rights abuses are gaining momentum.

Proponents of the anti-boycott bills recognize that advocating for divestment is a constitutionally protected form of free speech. Yet in a dangerous development, they seek to empower state governments to punish selectively some who exercise their First Amendment rights.

Years ago, Sen. Joseph McCarthy also had a list and sought to punish artists, labor leaders and public officials. Many people lost jobs and had their reputations destroyed by this anti-democratic, repressive fear campaign. The climate of fear, both in McCarthy’s day and today, is sustained primarily by the silence of the majority.

Under the proposed Pennsylvania bill, universities that endorse BDS could lose state funding. And in New York, United Methodist and Presbyterian churches may find they are blacklisted from receiving state funds for food pantries, soup kitchens and homeless shelters because their denominations support a boycott of companies operating in illegal Israeli settlements.

Similarly, people boycotting Turkey for its violations against Kurdish communities would potentially be denied state contracts.

The heart of democracy involves addressing the toughest issues of our day through contentious, sometimes raucous, free speech and not through government-imposed selective intimidation.

Perhaps even more disturbing than actual passage of bills — they are unconstitutional and could be struck down by the courts — is the willingness of many legislators to introduce and push through legislation that creates such chilling effects on free speech. With almost no debate, legislatures are adopting blacklists with the intention of silencing people speaking out for Palestinian freedom and equal rights.

It’s time for legislators to break the silence. My own congressman, Jerrold Nadler, has attacked free speech and tried to intimidate Columbia University faculty and students who advocate for BDS.

To all legislators considering repressive anti-BDS legislation, let me say this: If you insist on creating a blacklist, put my name on it. I stand with all who exercise their free speech through nonviolent actions of boycott and divestment to extend human rights.

We went through the McCarthy era once. Surely, we do not want to re-create those grim days.

(David Wildman is executive secretary of the Middle East, Human Rights and Racial Justice group for the United Methodist Church’s Global Ministries. His views are his own)

 

Petition: civil liberties in Europe under threat with government attacks on BDS

Global BDS News - Sun, 04/24/2016 - 11:08

As Israel is increasingly unable to defend its regime of apartheid and settler colonialism over the Palestinian people and its regular massacres of Palestinians in Gaza, it is seeking supportive governments in Europe and the US to undermine free speech as a way of shielding it from criticism and measures aimed at holding it to account for its gross violations of international law. There is a very coordinated and well-financed campaign led by Israel and its supporters aiming to criminalise political activism against Israeli occupation, based on the particular fear that the worldwide Palestinian-led campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) is succeeding.

At the moment, one of the most significant attacks on the movement is taking place in France. On Sunday the 6th of March, in Paris, a woman demonstrating to defend the rights of women was arrested and held for several hours in a police station. Her crime? Wearing a t-shirt on which was written “Boycott Israel Apartheid – Justice in Palestine”. BDS activists throughout the country face legal retaliation, based on the outrageous so-called “Alliot-Marie Circular”, according to which calling for the boycott of Israeli goods is a form of “racial hatred”. Organisations in France have put together petitions1 contesting this attack on the movement.

On the other side of the Channel, the British government is implementing a new set of rules that will make it harder for local councils and other public bodies including universities to make ethical procurement or investment decisions. Prime Minister David Cameron does not even try to conceal the truth and made very clear that these changes are designed to counter the growing BDS movement. Indeed, his Secretary of State for Justice, Michael Gove, has stated that the BDS movement is committing “a crime worse than apartheid”.

All over Europe, non-violent grassroots human rights activists are under threat.

In addition Israeli Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz said at a large Israeli anti-BDS conference, held on March 28 in Jerusalem, that Israel should engage in “targeted civil eliminations” of BDS « leaders » with the help of Israeli intelligence. That was at the very same conference at which EU Ambassador to Israel was participating alongside settler leaders. It is seriously alarming when government ministers anywhere make such threats against human rights defenders and members of the public.

The European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine calls for an immediate end to the criminalisation of the BDS movement, and strongly expresses its support and solidarity with the activists who work hard to draw public attention to Israel’s repeated violations of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories and within its own 1967 borders.

The struggle for justice in Palestine is gaining ground in European civil society – and so is the fear among the Israeli government and its allies. Their anxiety leads them to desperate moves, such as French Prime Minister Manuel Valls’ recent statement on anti-Zionism being “a synonym for anti-Semitism and the hatred of Israel”.

The BDS movement is anchored in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and rejects, accordingly, all forms of racism and discrimination on the basis of identity, including anti-Semitism.

In order to support the call from the Palestinian BDS National Committee and in solidarity with BDS activists in European countries and all over the world ECCP is launching a PETITION to the European Commission.

Regardless of their position on BDS, human rights organizations and citizens of the world who care about civil rights and human rights have to take a clear stand to defend the right to advocate for BDS as a matter of conscience and free speech and a nonviolent means of civil society to advocate the fundamental rights of the Palestinians. Therefore, we are calling on human rights organisations, civil liberties groups, people of conscience and public figures to sign the petition to the European Commission opposing government-led attacks on free speech and civil liberties that are being implemented in order to undermine civil society’s human rights initiatives in support of the Palestinian people’s struggle for freedom, justice and equality.

We would like to recall the recent statement from the Swedish foreign ministry re-affirming basic democratic principles by saying that BDS “is a civil society movement” and that “governments should not interfere in civil society organization views”.

The ongoing EU’s support to Israel’s violations of international law and continued application of the EU-Israel Association Agreement is fuelling anti-democratic actions in Europe intended to limit civil liberties, including the right to free speech. In order to counter this attacks we need to build a wide coalition which would bring together all forces – citizens’ initiatives, social movements, trade unions and democratic political parties in defence of human rights.

Grassroots activists who responded positively to the call from a wide range of Palestinian civil society organisations – BDS calls for “ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall; recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties” – must be treated with respect and should not be harassed by police or judicial authorities.

We call on human rights organisations, civil liberties groups, social movements, trade unions and democratic political parties to join our call and sign the PETITION to the European Commission. You can do so by filling in THIS FORM

You can read the petition to the European Commission in GERMANSPANISH/ DUTCH

Our call in FRENCHDUTCH/ GERMAN

Alliance of Baptists Divests from Companies Profiting from Israel’s Occupation of Palestinian Land

Global BDS News - Sun, 04/24/2016 - 11:05

During their National Gathering on April 8-10 in St. Louis, the Alliance of Baptists affirmed the use of nonviolent boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) strategies and comprehensive education and advocacy programs to end the 49-year Israeli military occupation of Palestinian land. The Justice in Palestine and Israel Community presented the statement.

Affirming this bold and courageous statement coincided with the 68th commemoration of the Dier Yassin Massacre, which occurred in 1948. The small, ancient Palestinian village of Dier Yassin stood in the path of the charging Zionist militia, led by Menachem Begin, a future Prime Minister of the soon-to-be created State of Israel. The massacre, which killed more than 100 innocent children, women, and men, was one of the first in the on-going ethnic cleansing of Palestinians that continues to the present. On this same day – 68 years later – the Alliance of Baptists said, “That’s enough!”

This has been a slow and intentional effort to following Jesus in working for peace with justice. During their annual gathering in 2013, the Alliance responded to the Kairos Palestine document of 2009 with a statement of support. The Kairos Palestine document, written by Palestinian Christians, invited Christians from around the world to join them in bringing about peace with justice to the Holy Land, by saying:

We, a group of Christian Palestinians, after prayer, reflection and an exchange of opinion, cry out from within the suffering in our country, under the Israeli occupation…. The cruel circumstances in which the Palestinian Church has lived and continues to live have required the Church to clarify her faith and to identify her vocation… Today, we bear the strength of love rather than that of revenge, a culture of life rather than a culture of death.

This statement (enclosed below) is comprehensive in its scope. In addition to calling on the Endowment Committee of the Alliance Board of Directors to divest from companies and corporations that continuously and knowingly perpetuate, support, or profit from human rights violations as part of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, the statement outlines far-reaching efforts, including encouraging Alliance members to begin with prayer. It states that, “We know that war, oppression, and injustice in Palestine and Israel have victims on all sides. The oppressors and the oppressed are both victims of the oppression. We pray for peace with justice in Palestine and Israel for Jews, Muslims, and Christians.” The statement invites Alliance members to “counter the dangerous and growing climate of hatred and hostility toward all Muslims by avoiding stereotyping and publicly challenging all forms of racism and religious bigotry directed against Jews and Muslims.”

The work of the Alliance is another small victory in the persistent efforts of faith-based groups to be God’s hands in bending the long and stubborn moral arc of the universe toward justice. This small victory gives us hope and feeds our determination.

The Alliance of Baptists is a vibrant movement of people, faith communities and ministry partners who are deeply passionate about ecumenism, partnership in mission, relentless hospitality and social justice.

 allianceofbaptists.org
facebook.com/alliancebaptists
twitter.com/alliancebaptist
instagram.com/allianceofbaptists

  

Affirmed 2016 Statement on Palestine/Israel
Submitted by
Justice in Palestine and Israel Community

In 2013 at its Annual Gathering in Greenville, SC, the Alliances of Baptists adopted aResponse to Kairos, initiated by the Justice in Palestine and Israel Community. That statement said, in part:

Even while living under the injustices of the 49-year Israeli military occupation, Palestinians still radiate hope. They continue to seek peace with justice. They continue to cry out to Christians from all corners of the world. Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb, a mission partner with The Alliance of Baptists, is one of the authors of Kairos Palestine – A Moment of Truth: A Word of faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering (2009). This document represents the most prevalent views of Palestinian Christians living in the occupied territories.

We, a group of Christian Palestinians, after prayer, reflection and an exchange of opinion, cry out from within the suffering in our country, under the Israeli occupation…. The cruel circumstances in which the Palestinian Church has lived and continues to live have required the Church to clarify her faith and to identify her vocation… Today, we bear the strength of love rather than that of revenge, a culture of life rather than a culture of death.

The Kairos document goes on to quote Scripture.

You have heard it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven…” [We] endorse nonviolent resistance based on hope and love that puts an end to evil by walking in the ways of justice.

In 2013 Alliance of Baptists heard their cry and took decisive action, seeking to follow the model of Jesus by “speaking truth to power” in Twenty-first Century Palestine and Israel. It is now time to take the next step. In the Kairos document, Palestinians called for a global citizens’ response: to launch broad boycotts, implement divestment initiatives, and to demand sanctions against Israel, until Palestinian rights are recognized in full compliance with international law. These actions give us practical alternatives to violence as a way to bring about change in Israel and the occupied territories. Actions such as these proved effective in the Civil Rights movement in the United States and in the struggle to end Apartheid in South Africa. Ten years of efforts along these lines have been effective in advancing the struggle for justice and peace in Israel and the occupied territories, generating effective and well-funded intense opposition to current practices and policies.

Many Christian fellowships have responded to the Kairos document with different kinds of economic actions to end their complicity and investment in the occupation, including the United Church of Christ, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Methodist Church, the National Coalition of American Nuns, the Mennonite Central Committee, the American Friends Service Committee, the Friends Fiduciary Corporation and others.

The Justice in Palestine and Israel Community proposes that the Alliance support the recommendations of the Kairos document with the following actions:

1.     Direct the Endowment Committee of the Alliance Board of Directors to join many denominations and organizations in divesting from companies and corporations that continuously and knowingly perpetuate, support, or profit from human rights violations as part of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. Investment accounts can be screened with an online tool developed by the American Friends Service Committee:www.afsc.org/investigate. [A complete up-to-date list of all such companies can be seen here: http://investigate.afsc.org/screens/afscdivestment.

2.     Encourage Alliance congregations and individual members to use the tool above to screen their investments.

3.     Encourage congregations and individuals to study the issues blocking justice and peace in Palestine and Israel. Materials are available in the resources section of the Alliance website.

4.     Encourage individual and congregational members of the Alliance to refrain from purchasing consumer products manufactured in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, (For more information, see “The Un-Shopping List” compiled by Joining Hands for Justice in Israel/Palestine: www.JHJIP.org.

5.     Advocate against state and federal laws that would limit free speech about Israel/Palestine or penalize individuals, corporations or institutions that withdraw their support of the Israeli occupation.

6.     Encourage Alliance members to continue the activities that the 2013 Statement directed. Our actions begin with prayer. We know that war, oppression, and injustice in Palestine and Israel have victims on all sides. The oppressors and the oppressed are both victims of the oppression. We pray for peace with justice in Palestine and Israel for Jews, Muslims, and Christians. Our past actions have also included:

a.     Making resources available for the study of the conflict in Palestine and Israel, including instructional materials to study the Kairos Palestine document.

b.     Creating a speakers bureau of Christian and Muslim Palestinians and Israeli and American Jews who are working for peace through justice.

c.     Collecting and distribute personal stories of Palestinians and Jews living with conflict and violence. Note: the newly formed Palestinian Christian Alliance for Peace, along with Jewish Voice for Peace and Friends of Sabeel North America can help congregations and organizations locate speakers for events and conferences.

d.     Advocating with our elected officials for an end to the U.S. government’s economic, political and military support of the ongoing Israeli occupation.

e.     Organizing regular trips to Palestine and Israel to see the religious and historic sites and to meet Palestinians and Israelis working for peace through justice.

f.      Countering the dangerous and growing climate of hatred and hostility toward all Muslims by avoiding stereotyping and publicly challenging all forms of racism and religious bigotry directed against Jews and Muslims.

UNOPS becomes third UN agency in Jordan to drop G4S following campaign

Global BDS News - Mon, 04/18/2016 - 20:45

A new infographic highlighting the role that security company G4S plays in Palestine and across the world. Click here to share this graphic on Facebook.

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  • News comes as BDS movement marks Palestinian political prisoners day with protest actions against G4S in several countries
  • Campaign pressure against G4S set to continue until it completes sale of Israeli business

The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) in Jordan has not renewed its contract with security company G4S following a campaign over the firm’s role in Israeli human rights abuses.

The UNOPS in Jordan contract with G4S was worth more than $50,000 in 2014 but UNOPS has now hired a new security service provider to provide security services at its Amman office.

In light of the ongoing #UNDropG4S campaign, the Jordan branches of UNHCR and UNICEF both recently distanced themselves from G4S.

G4S has a contract with the Israeli prison service to provide services and equipment to prisons where Palestinians are held without trial and subjected to torture. It also helps Israel run checkpoints, security at illegal settlements and a training centre for the Israeli police who controls and oppresses Palestinians in occupied Jerusalem.

Backed by hundreds of organisations from across the world, the #UNdropG4S campaign is urging the UN to drop all of its contracts with G4S. UN’s data shows spent more than $22 million on services provided by G4S in 2014.

With the BDS campaign against it costing it contracts worth millions of dollars, G4S recently announced that it wanted to sell its Israeli business but is still yet to do so.

Guman Mussa, Arab world coordinator with the Palestinian BDS National Committee, the coalition of Palestinian organisations that works to guide and supports the BDS movement, said:

“It’s significant that UN agencies appear to be recognising that having contracts with firms that help Israel to oppress Palestinians like G4S contradicts the UN’s principles. We urge Ban Ki-moon to ban G4S from being awarded any further UN contracts.”

“This year’s Palestinian political prisoners day came as Israel intensifies its use of mass incarceration as a way of deterring Palestinians from resisting its regime of occupation, settler colonialism and apartheid. G4S continues to profit from Israel’s checkpoints, use of torture and mass incarceration.”

“The fact that G4S has announced it wants to sell its Israeli business shows that our campaign is having a huge impact. But the company has a track record of saying one thing and doing another so we have to keep the pressure up until they actually end their complicity in Israel’s human rights abuses.”

“The continued growth of of the G4S campaign in the Arab world and in Latin America will be particularly concerning to G4S as the company has identified both regions as important growth areas in its strategy. G4S’ revenue in Arab countries is five times higher than its revenue in Israel.”

Shahd Al-Hamouri, member of the Jordan BDS movement, welcomed the news:

“This is another positive step but we urge the UN and specifically in Jordan the UNDP, World Food Program and UN Women to follow suit. All UN agencies must end their contracts with G4S due to its continued violation of international law and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.”

Taking action for Palestinian political prisoners day

Actions to pressure G4S over its support for Israel’s imprisonment of Palestinians took place this weekeind in Belgium, Gaza, Ramallah, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco and the UK.

Posted by Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement on Monday, 18 April 2016

The news about UNOPS in Jordan dropping G4S came as BDS campaigners marked Palestinian political prisoners day yesterday by protesting the role that security company G4S continues to play in Israel’s prison system.

Protests against G4S were held in Belgium, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco and the UK.

New campaigns against G4S are currently being launched in Colombia, Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina.

The Palestinian BDS National Committee published an infographic highlighting the track record of G4S in human rights abuses across the world.

A coalition of US social justice organisations has launched a new website called G4S Facts that exposes the company’s abuses in detail.

There are now more than 7,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails including 400 children and 670 people held in administrative detention, a form of detention without trial.

G4S recently announced that it wanted to sell its Israeli business but is still yet to do so. The company has broken its previous pledges to end its involvement in Israeli crimes.

The international campaign against G4S has persuaded the Jordan branches of Unicef and UNHCR, universities, charities and banks to cancel their contract with G4S, costing the company millions of dollars. In 2014, the Bill Gates Foundation sold its shares in G4S following a public campaign.

In April 2012, G4S issued a statement pledging that by 2015 it would exit a number of contracts which involved the servicing of Israeli security equipment at the Wall checkpoints, a prison and a police station in the occupied West Bank. It has failed to implement this commitment.

In June 2014, G4S told shareholders that it “did not intend” to renew its contract with the Israel Prison Service when it expired during 2017. According to research group Who Profits, G4S continues to have contracts with the Israeli Prison Service.

After wins abroad, BDS conference in West Bank sees local traction

Global BDS News - Wed, 04/13/2016 - 17:55

By Allison Deger

Tamam Abdul, 60, sells Israeli goods in her West Bank supermarket, but she would rather not. “All of the products we receive are Israeli, unfortunately,” she said Saturday outside of Ramallah at a fifth conference about the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel, otherwise known by the initials BDS.

Antendee Sana Sharif from Yatta, a town south from Hebron, said, “BDS is a tremendous effort, despite that few people are involved in it. I suggest that it should be part of our civic education.”

“My suggestion is that you could conduct campaigns that raise campaigns of children in school not to buy Israeli products,” Janna Jihad, 10, said in a plenary session.

Ways of increasing boycotts of Israeli goods were on the minds of many.

Over the past few years BDS has proliferated abroad and as a debate inside of Israel. Some multi-national corporations have severed ties with Israel, mainline Christian churches have divested their portfolios citing the plight of Palestinian Christians, and a slew of university campuses and academic association have endorsed BDS. A major sign of BDS’s impact came last month at an Israeli conference on how to deal with it, in which the campaign was described as looming crisis by leading members of the Israel’s government.

“We must distinguish between criticism and delegitimization when we deal with the BDS,” Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin said in an address to the forum, which was hosted by the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot. Rivlin went on: “The claims of the proponents of BDS and the organization’s criticism, is based on a hatred and enmity of Israel, including anti-Semitic elements with regard to the right of Jews to return to their homeland.”

But there is one corner of the world where BDS has only recently gained traction and political leaders still veer from addressing the topic directly, or send mixed signals. Surprisingly it is in the West Bank, the occupied Palestinian territory, where Israeli products are abundant in shops, although many want them gone.

“We have a captive market,” said Mahmoud Nawajaa, the general coordinator of the BDS National Committee (BNC). He explained there are some products in the West Bank where there simply is no alternative other than an Israeli provider. Medication, water and electricity are prime examples.

“Then something ignited in 2014 in the West Bank during the war in Gaza. People started seeing boycott as a tool that they can use to pressure Israel,” Nawajaa said.  At this time restaurants and markets chose to de-shelve Israeli products in an uncoordinated effort and groups of teenagers posted placards in West Bank cities calling on more to rid their stores of Israeli imports. The products were replaced with Palestinian brands.

The pressure has trickled up to the top tier of the Palestinian government in the West Bank.

An effort is underway to expand awareness of BDS in classrooms. Starting this year, the Palestinian Ministry of Education will train 600 teachers on BDS in order to launch curriculums in 25 schools. The program will instruct on the basics—BDS is a grassroots initiative brought about by Palestinian civil society organizations in 2005 who appealed to their supporters abroad to boycott, divest or sanction economic ties with Israel until three core principles are met: the end of the occupation over territories conquered in 1967, equality among all citizens of Israel, and the right of return of Palestinian refugees whose numbers near seven million, primarily scattered across the Middle East.

In 2014 the Palestinian government passed a law banning the sale of products made in Israeli settlements. Two weeks ago, the Palestinian Authority renewed their efforts and called for a boycott of Israeli dairy and meats in response to Israel turning back trucks loaded with similar Palestinian products from the West Bank seeking entry into Jerusalem in March of this year.

But the measures are viewed as half-steps by seasoned BDS activists. Both resolutions were passed without consultation of local BDS organizers (who call for a full boycott of Israeli goods, not only settlement products) and no enforcement mechanism was in place. Moreover, the Palestinian government shares economic ties with Israel. While on the political front there is no movement, with back and forth unanswered invitations to resume talks cancelled in 2014, the two continue meeting on joint industrial ventures across the West Bank in three manufacturing zones.

“We are not surprised,” Nawajaa said of the government boycott, “because we at least when something happens, they adopt our tactics. At least they started to think about boycott as a tactic of struggle and this is good.”

Others were frustrated with what they see as conflicting messages from the Palestinian government, where figureheads are seen both endorsing the boycotts and expanding business efforts with Israeli companies at the same time.

A sore point that was raised repeatedly in the conference is that the head distributor for the Israeli dairy brand Tnuva also serves as the mayor of Beit Jala, a Palestinian town outside of Bethlehem.

“I think the moral responsibility requires that he either stops being their agent—which I prefer—or resigns from his position,” said Mustafa Barghouti, a conference presenter and head of the Palestine National Initiative.

“People are fed up with some elites in Palestinian society,” said Omar Barghouti, a leading BDS organizer and conference founder (and a distant relation to Mustafa Barghouti).

“The criticism of the PA [Palestinian Authority], the president of the PA, the government was really strong,” Omar Barghouti  added of the conference participants, “that reflects at the popular level people are sick and tired, and want to see their supposed representatives do something about actually ending Israel’s injustices rather than moving from one negotiation to another.”

BDS secured one of its biggest boosts, Barghouti said, last fall when the French company Veolia sold its shares of a light rail that runs through East and West Jerusalem. Barghouti estimated the service provider lost nearly $20 billion in contracts due to the BDS campaign launched in 2009 asking businesses and governments to hold off on contracts with Veolia until it disposed of its five-percent ownership of the tram.

Since then, more companies are re-thinking their investments in Israel.

“By this standard if it takes seven years to get one company out you need seven-thousand years to end the complicity of companies, but it doesn’t work like this,” Barghouti went on. “It’s a domino effect.”

“Over the past ten years we have shifted over symbolic and cultural boycotts if you will, to effecting the economy of the regime, of the occupation, of apartheid. So several multinationals are pulling out already,” Barghouti concluded. “We—it’s also Israel—are both starting to see the ‘South Africa’ moment.”

– See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2016/04/after-wins-abroad-bds-conference-in-west-bank-sees-local-traction/#sthash.T04Iw8uS.dpuf

Twenty-two Literary Figures Explain Why They Signed Letter Calling on PEN American Center to Reject Israeli Government Sponsorship of Festival

Global BDS News - Wed, 04/13/2016 - 17:36

April 12, 2016, New York, NY – Twenty-two literary figures who signed a letter calling on the PEN American Center to reject Israeli government sponsorship of its World Voices Festival due to Israel’s human rights abuses have elaborated on their decision in quotes below. The Festival is being held in New York City from April 25-May 1.

The letter, originally signed by 61 writers, was sent to PEN on March 29 by Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign to Boycott Israel. PEN indicated in a reply that they would not drop Israeli government funding. The number of letter signers has since grown to 140 writers and 13 organizations. Among the newer signers is Dr. Cornel West, who joins a number of other prominent writers and public intellectuals, including Angela Davis, Pulitzer recipients Junot Díaz, Richard Ford and Alice Walker, and National Book Award-winning author Louise Erdrich.

The release of the letter to PEN has been covered by a number of media outlets, including: The Guardian,Flavorwire, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Weekly Standard, NY Post, Der Speigel, Alternative Information Center, and the Electronic Intifada.

The 22 signers quoted below include: Susan Abulhawa, Ammiel Alcalay, Russell Banks, Hayan Charara, Linh Dinh,Geoff Dyer, Deborah Eisenberg, Francisco Goldman, Marilyn Hacker, Fanny Howe, Fady Joudah, Laila Lalami,Eileen Myles, John Oakes and Colin Robinson, Dr. Ahmad Qatamash, Sarah Schulman, Kamila Shamsie, Gillian Slovo, Burhan Sönmez, Ahdaf Soueif, and Alex Zucker.

Signers’ Statements

Gillian Slovo, Former President of English PEN 2010-2013
“I watched how the cultural boycott on South Africa successfully put pressure on ordinary white South Africans to think about what their government was doing in their name. This request for solidarity from Palestinians is more sophisticated than the South African boycott ever was: instead of censoring individual artists it asks for a refusal of money from the Israeli state. Let PEN America invite as many Israeli writers as it wants to – just make sure that the people who pay their fare and their living expenses are not part of a state that systematically breaks international laws.”

Deborah Eisenberg, PEN Member, 2015 PEN/Malamud Award, 2011 PEN/Faulkner Award
“Two questions:  Let’s say that A is an institution dedicated to protecting the free expression of writers around the world from governments hostile to minority populations and dissenting voices, and let’s say that B is a government that is under scrutiny for the increasingly violent and even extrajudicial repression of minority populations and dissenting voices.
1) What might B gain from conspicuously contributing sponsorship to A, and what might A lose by accepting such endorsement?
2) How long did it take to answer 1)?”

Francisco Goldman, Featured 2016 PEN World Voices Participant
“I just don’t believe PEN, perhaps the world’s most visible and influential organization that stands for and protects free expression everywhere, should accept money from any state that violently represses human rights, as Israel obviously does.  Of course Israel is far from the only state that does this.  If there were a similar letter circulating on Mexico’s support for World Voices, I would certainly sign that too.  I wish there were such a letter.”

Laila Lalami, PEN Member, 2016 World Voices Festival Participant, 2016 PEN Award Judge
“This is not a boycott of Israeli writers, who can travel and attend the World Voices festival whenever they wish. This is a call on PEN to refuse funding from a government that grants Israeli writers a freedom of movement it denies to Palestinian writers.”

Susan Abulhawa, PEN Member
“No matter what language PEN uses to justify taking money from Israel, their actions amount to a willingness to allow a powerful colonial government to coopt a public U.S. cultural forum in furtherance of an explicit state propaganda campaign. It remains my hope that PEN might still reject funding from Israel’s state propaganda budget. Surely there are other means to fund the travel of individual Israeli writers.” (from April 7 op-ed)

Ammiel Alcalay
“As someone involved in Palestinian issues for more than 35 years, I have found the success of the BDS movement absolutely extraordinary. The range of extreme reactions to BDS is just a marker of its enormous success, particularly since cultural prestige forms such a deep layer of the Israeli state’s obfuscation of its destructive, unjustifiable, and often illegal policies against the Palestinian people, against Palestinian civilians and civic institutions. Unfortunately, PEN has chosen to misrepresent the aims of this particular BDS campaign and the overwhelming response by writers, including many PEN members, in support of our campaign, is an indication that people, and the press, are paying close attention.”

Russell Banks, PEN Member
“I signed the letter because, as a longtime member of PEN American Center, I object to PEN’s acceptance of financial support from any government that restricts or forbids free expression by all of its citizens or by the citizens of any other nation or people. I do not support a cultural boycott as such, which would be to boycott free expression. However, I simply refuse to endorse an organization or public event that accepts financial support from governments that themselves do not permit free expression by their citizens and by people who happen to oppose that government, whether from inside or outside the national boundaries. For the same reasons, I would object to PEN’s acceptance of support from the government of China or North Korea or Azerbaijan.”

Hayan Charara, PEN Member
“If PEN is to remain a meaningful organization, it must advocate for making the lives of all writers freer. At the very least, this means not supporting the actions of a repressive government, which is something that many Israeli poets and writers themselves have argued. It also means that PEN must be honest with itself, its membership, and the wider public. If PEN’s leadership can’t do these things—right now, they are failing badly—then maybe it is time that they step down.”

Linh Dinh, 2016 PEN World Voices Festival Participant
“Americans have blood on their hands when they ignore Israel’s ongoing crimes against humanity, which their tax money supports. History will not look kindly upon this complicity.”

Geoff Dyer, PEN Member
“The Israeli government deliberately uses the arts and culture to divert attention from its repression of the Palestinian people. PEN should state clearly that it will not accept Israeli government sponsorship and serve Israel’s strategy. The participation of Israeli writers is welcome, but without their government’s sponsorship.”

Marilyn Hacker, Recipient, PEN Member, 2010 PEN/Voelcker Award, 2009 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation
“The call for boycott comes from Palestinians seeking a peaceful end to the occupation — and from numerous Israeli peace and pro-Palestinian activists as well. It is a nonviolent way of calling attention to an untenable situation. It is not aimed at Israeli writers, artists, academics, but at the Israeli government’s attempt to coopt their participation, while repressing the voices of Palestinians and dissident Israelis. Why boycott Israel and not numerous dictatorships elsewhere? Because activists on the ground there have called for it… and if they do in Egypt, or Hungary, or China, we will listen to them.”

Fanny Howe, PEN Member
“I signed this letter to PEN in solidarity with Palestinians, Israeli writers, and writers and artists from around the world who find themselves complicit with a government that they distrust.  Their freedom to write and read their work to others has nothing to do with this protest.  We are thinking of decades of oppression and occupation by the Israeli government and are hoping to stall the progress of Israeli policy by refusing to cash in on it.”

Fady Joudah, 2010 PEN Translation Award Winner, Past PEN Award Judge
“It would behoove PEN, in keeping with its mission, not only to refuse and return money from a government engaged in occupation and suppression of freedom of expression (of the people it occupies), but also to denounce and make public the many instances in which Israel blocks writers, especially of its own citizens, mostly Arab, from publication and book distribution, as well as free travel. If PEN is vociferous and fearless in standing up for the rights of imprisoned and blocked writers in the Arab world, for example, as in the recent cases in Gulf states, where worldwide efforts took place in support of such authors, it is then appalling that PEN shirks responsibility from standing up for the rights of Palestinian writers under Israeli occupation and as second class citizens inside Israel. Does PEN pretend not to have an idea of the restrictions on travel and book availability for Palestinians, restrictions imposed first and foremost by Israeli government policies? And top of it all, PEN goes on to accept money from such a government? What collusion, what cooptation and whitewashing of PEN’s purposes is this, and what shameful silence and concealment? This speaks of the disintegration of PEN’s mission. And for PEN to deflect resistance to its behavior with the falsehood that we, writers, aim to boycott individuals is abhorrent. I demand that PEN come clean and public against this so-called donation, and also to speak more consistently on behalf of the plight of Palestinian writers within Israeli borders and under Israeli occupation in Gaza and the West Bank.”

Eileen Myles, PEN Member
“I signed the letter because I am utterly opposed to the inhumane policies of the government of Israel towards Palestine and think that a World Voices festival cannot accept money from that same government because of those same policies and because of the silencing of dissenting voices within both Palestine and Israel by the Israeli government. Also in US political life there is very little bravery among our own political class in speaking out against the policies of Israel towards Palestine and we as artists and intellectual must speak out in protest against that silence and do insist that PEN represent our voices forcefully and strongly without limitation. Financial support of this festival by the Israeli government would represent acceptance of those same policies, politics and public cowardice in the US and abroad in the face of violence and oppression towards the Palestinian people.”

John Oakes (former PEN Board Member) and Colin Robinson, Co-publishers OR Books
“We feel the PEN World Voices Festival a valuable celebration of international writing. We support PEN’s efforts to back freedom of expression and support imprisoned writers around the globe, including in this couny. But we do not understand why PEN feels it necessary to accept funding from a government that promulgates apartheid policies, spurns international law and shows callous disregard for civilian lives. Without Israeli government funding, PEN would continue its good work; the World Voices Festival would continue hosting writers and thrilling audiences. Why allow the Israeli government to sport the badge of honor that is festival sponsorship?”

Dr. Ahmad Qatamash, Palestinian author, and subject of PEN International alert when detained without trial by Israeli government
“I was imprisoned by Israel for eight and a half years without trial under ‘administrative detention,’ as have been thousands of Palestinian detainees, a situation comparable to Franz Kafka’s novel ‘The Trial.’  Accepting any form of sponsorship from Israel is like PEN America Center endorsing such Israeli policies and supporting the theft of Palestinian land and water, which has left Palestinians with access to only 12% of their ancestral home.”

Sarah Schulman, PEN Member
“As a long-term Pen Member, who co-organized a panel of Palestinian writers a few short years ago, I know that Israel has not always been identified as a ‘supporter’ of the conference. This provocative and recent turn of events places all of us who oppose Israel’s violations of international law in an adversarial position to our own organization.”

Kamila Shamsie, Former Vice-President of English PEN
“I understand why a call to boycott individual writers would be troubling to PEN members. This is not what we’re asking for, and it’s not what the wider BDS movement which springs from Palestinian civil society asks for.  We’re asking instead for PEN to refuse sponsorship from the Israeli government – to do otherwise is to become part of the ‘Brand Israel’ strategy which uses cultural events as a PR tool. Surely that isn’t what PEN America and its membership want for their World Voices Festival?”

Burhan Sönmez, 2016 PEN World Voices Participant (in panel sponsored by the Israeli Embassy)
“The dignity of an individual or a nation is essential. everyone needs to respect the other’s existence. We should see that a step towards freedom and equality works in favor of both Palestinian and Israeli people. That is the way a prosperous future for everyone can be secured. We need to pronounce this dream.”

Ahdaf Soueif, PEN Member
“To take the Israeli government’s money, to treat it as a civilised supporter of art and culture, while it kills and tortures and segregates, is to aid and abet it in its crimes. This is not worthy of PEN.”

Alex Zucker, PEN Member
“In light of the Israeli government’s restrictions on freedom of expression — documented not only by PEN International, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and Human Rights Watch, as cited in the March 29, 2016, letter from Adalah-NY, but also by Article 19 and Reporters Without Borders — I believe PEN America and the PEN World Voices Festival should not accept financial support from the government of Israel. At the same time, I am equally concerned that this year’s festival is receiving financial support from the government of Mexico, which ranks even lower than Israel on freedom of expression, not only restricting and detaining journalists but murdering them, for decades. Given that, worldwide, states remain the greatest threat to free expression, I urge PEN America to consider a change in policy to forgo support from any government. As long as it does accept government funding, the organization must put guidelines in place, so that when a decision is made to accept government money, it is clear who is making the decision and on what basis.

After BDS pressure, Brazilian province cancels cooperation agreement with Israel’s Mekorot

Global BDS News - Mon, 04/11/2016 - 13:25
The Brazilian state of Bahia decided on April 2 to end its cooperation agreement with Israeli water company Mekorot. The decision comes after pressure from campaigners from the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which works to end Brazilian complicity with Israel’s violations of international law.

Civil society campaigners and social movements denounced in various occasions the agreement signed in 2013 by Bahia’s two water utility companies, Embasa and CERB, due to Mekorot’s role in denying Palestinians their water rights. Regional legislator Marcelino Galo, vice-president of the state commission on environment, draught and water resources, demanded a revision of the agreement. This process culminated in the announcement giving the Stop Mekorot campaign a boost.

This became the latest in a series of contracts Mekorot lost around the world from grassroots pressure that exposed its role in water apartheid against Palestinians. Pedro Charbel, Latin America campaigns coordinator for the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), the Palestinian leadership of the BDS movement, welcomed the announcement:

“Embasa and CERB did the right thing by ending this cooperation agreement with Israel’s Mekorot: It served to legitimize Israeli water apartheid without even giving any benefits to Bahia. Today, Bahia joins Buenos Aires, Lisbon, the Netherlands and São Paulo in ending ties with Mekorot. We call on all public entities to cut ties with Mekorot and end all forms of complicity with Israeli and international companies profiting from and enabling violations of Palestinians human rights.”

Palestinian groups Stop the Wall Campaign, the Palestinian Farmers Union and the Land Defense Coalition have been working with civil society partners in Bahia to raise awareness about the contract and Israel’s water apartheid since last year. The campaign produced a poster and brochure to explain Israeli violations of the right to water of the Palestinian people and connect it with Brazil’s own legacy of colonialism, genocide and slavery.

Rafat Khandakji, President of the Palestinian Farmers Union,  explains:

“Mekorot and other Israeli water companies and agribusiness export their technologies to Brazil under the myth of water innovation. The reality is very different. Israel’s real “innovation” is its water apartheid that pushes Palestinians off their land to expand illegal settlements. The cooperation agreements Brazil often signs with these Israeli companies serve to whitewash and reinforce these criminal policies.”

The Brazilian Small Farmers Movement (MPA), the Movement of the People Affected by Dams  (MAB), the Popular Youth Uprising, the Pastoral Commission of the Land and the Regional Institute of Small Sustainable Agricultural (IRPAA), had joined Palestinian organizations in an open letter to Bahia’s water companies urging them to cut their ties with Mekorot.

Under the slogan ‘From Bahia to Palestine, we thirst for justice” campaigners joined the annual march for water rights that took place on World Water Day (March 22) organized by the Union of Water, Sewage and Environmental Workers in the State of Bahia and partner organizations. The march is known to be greatest demonstration in defense of the right to water in Latin America. Civil society actors also denounced the agreement during the third Seminar on Water Governance in Bahia.

To learn more about Mekorot’s role in Israeli policies go to www.stopmekorot.orgor read the Amnesty (2009) report “Thirsting for Justice: Palestinian access to water restricted”.

“EU complicit in Israeli war crimes”, says leadership of global BDS Movement

Global BDS News - Mon, 03/28/2016 - 20:42

Responding to comments made today by Lars Faaborg-Andersen, the EU Ambassador to Israel, that “settlement products are welcome on the EU market,” Mahmoud Nawajaa, a spokesperson for the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), said:

“The European Union has once again abandoned its own policies that consider Israel’s settlements illegal. By failing to vote at the UN Human Rights Council for establishing a UN registry of companies implicated in Israel’s occupation regime and by joining the far-right Israeli government’s fight against BDS, the largest nonviolent Palestinian-led human rights movement, the EU is underlining its already well-known hypocrisy and declaring its disregard for human rights.”

Nawajaa added, “This shameless EU complicity in protecting and maintaining Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid confirms the need to intensify grassroots and civil society BDS campaigns against this regime as well as against corporations and institutions that are implicated in its human rights violations. As was the case in the struggle against apartheid South Africa, when governments fail to uphold justice, citizens must act.”

“Europe is complicit in Israel’s serious violations of international law, including war crimes, by continuing its thriving military trade and joint military research with Israel and its import of settlement products that result from Israel’s theft of Palestinian land and resources, a policy the EU says it opposes. The EU has even refused to suspend the EU-Israeli free trade agreement despite Israel’s persistent violation of its human rights clause.”

Commenting on the EU’s participation in the Ynet anti-BDS conference despite Palestinian appeals Nawajaa said:

“The EU has joined the chorus of fanatic Israeli leaders opposing Palestinian rights and BDS, the most hopeful movement working to achieve those rights. Instead of  fighting Israel’s system of injustice, which is the root cause that led to the impressive growth and widespread support for the BDS movement among European citizens, the EU bureaucracy chose to fight the nonviolent resistance to this injustice.”

“We are deeply concerned about statements made by the EU representative at this conference that may lead to further erosion of civil liberties of EU citizens who protest Israel’s policies through BDS action. The EU is playing along in Israel’s war of repression and suppression of free speech,” Nawajaa continued.

Read here the statement issued by the BNC opposing the EU’s participation in YNet’s anti-BDS conference that took place today.

Germany: Do not collaborate in Israel’s Cultural Crimes in regards to the Looted Palestinian Dead Sea Scrolls and respect international law

Global BDS News - Sun, 03/27/2016 - 19:41

Open Letter to the German government and the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities:

Do not collaborate in Israel’s Cultural Crimes in regards to the Looted Palestinian Dead Sea Scrolls and respect international law 

Occupied Jerusalem, March 26, 2016–The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) calls on the German government and the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities to refrain from collaborating with the Israeli government and its complicit institutions in piecing together parts of the Dead Sea scroll. 

The Gottingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities together with the Israel Antiquities Authority, Haifa University and Tel Aviv University are to join efforts in this collaboration in a project funded by the German-Israeli Project Cooperation, a program of the German Ministry of Education and administered by the German Research Foundation.[1] The Dead Sea scrolls, stolen from East Jerusalem during Israel’s 1967 military invasion and occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, are part of Palestinian cultural heritage that Israel has illegally appropriated in the course of its colonial repression of the Palestinian people.

Germany’s government will be in violation of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, which it has signed alongside with Israel.[2] The First Protocol of the Convention obliges Germany to take custody of the scrolls when they enter German soil as per Article 2 of the Convention. Germany is also a signatory to the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (1970). This convention outlaws the import, export or transfer of ownership of cultural property.

As stated by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC): “The obligation to return exported cultural property is also recognized in many official statements, including by Germany in relation to its occupation during the Second World War”[3] Germany has reiterated this principle stating that “thefts and destruction of cultural property by the Nazi regime as well as the removal of cultural property by the Soviet Union during and after the Second World War were breaches of international law”.[4] Israel’s removal of cultural property from the occupied Palestinian territory is in violation of international law.

The German government is also cooperating in this project with the Israeli Antiquities Authorities (IAA) which is based in occupied East Jerusalem. Israel illegally annexed Jerusalem, an act that is not recognized by the UN or the EU, including Germany, imposing its sovereignty on Palestinians and expanding its settlements there. By cooperating with an Israeli government entity with its head office in occupied East Jerusalem Germany is not only failing to comply with its international law obligations not to recognize unlawful acts by the occupying power. It is also betraying its rhetorical opposition to Israel’s occupation and legitimizing Israel’s illegal annexation of Jerusalem and its policies of ethnic cleansing in the city.

Since 1967, hundreds of thousands of precious artifacts have been illegally removed by the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA), Israeli soldiers, and illegally operating antiquities dealers from the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip in violation of international law. The confiscation and theft of Palestinian cultural heritage are part of Israel’s attempts to erase Palestinian memory and cultural identity. Palestinian heritage reflects the identities and beliefs of the various groups who lived on its land over the centuries, including pagans, Muslims, Christians and Jews.

As part of Israel’s attempts to ‘zionise’ the history of Palestine in order to deny that this land was always home to indigenous multicultural and multi-religious groups, it extended its expulsion from Palestinian land and properties, to looting Palestinian cultural treasures, among them books, manuscripts, personal papers, photographs and works of art. Since 1948, there was systematic looting of tens of thousands of Palestinian books in a joint operation by the Haganah – what became the Israeli army – and the Israeli national library.[5] 

As US legal expert David Nersessian notes:

“Cultural genocide extends beyond attacks upon the physical and/or biological elements of a group and seeks to eliminate its wider institutions… Elements of cultural genocide are manifested when artistic, literary, and cultural activities are restricted or outlawed and when national treasures, libraries, archives, museums, artifacts, and art galleries are destroyed or confiscated.”[6]


The Israeli academic institutions participating in this project are deeply complicit in Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights. Haifa University considers itself Proud to Be Academic Home of (Israeli) Security Forces”.[7] The university has an organic partnership with the Israeli regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid against Palestinians. The university has also fiercely repressed its Palestinian students (second-class citizens in Israel) with measures that limit their academic freedom and freedom of expression in conformity with the policies of the state against them.[8]

Under the guise of archaeological digs, Tel Aviv University (TAU) is already active in the plundering and theft of Palestinian cultural heritage in occupied East Jerusalem in cooperation with illegal Israeli settler organizations.[9]Israeli settlers violently harass Palestinian residents of Silwan daily where the digs are taking place, with the backing of the Israeli military intent on expelling them. TAU has not only designed tens of weapons used by the Israeli occupation forces. Its Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) also takes credit for the development of the so-called Dahiya Doctrine, or doctrine of disproportionate force, that is adopted by the Israeli army, and which calls for “the destruction of the national [civilian] infrastructure, and intense suffering among the [civilian] population,” as means of defeating an otherwise “impossible” to defeat non-statal resistance.[10]

By cooperating with these two Israeli academic institutions the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities is giving its tacit approval to their deep complicity in the oppression of Palestinians and outright abetting in the violation of international law for handling the Dead Sea Scrolls stolen by Israel from the occupied Palestinian territory.

We call upon the German government to respect international law and refrain from legitimizing Israel’s theft of Palestinian cultural heritage and falsifying our indigenous history. This collaboration is not only deeply complicit in Israel’s oppression of Palestinians, but also betrays German’s commitment to the return of plundered cultural heritage from occupied territories, a lesson from its Nazi past, and its stated opposition to Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem. We call on the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities to refrain from cooperation with Haifa University and Tel Aviv University, two entities that are deeply involved in laying the scaffolding for Israel’s decades-long and brutal occupation and oppression of Palestinians.

[1] http://www.haaretz.com/jewish/archaeology/1.704987

[2] http://portal.unesco.org/en/ev.php-URL_ID=13637&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html

[3] https://www.icrc.org/customary-ihl/eng/docs/v1_rul_rule41

[4] ibid

[5] http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/watch-great-book-robbery-israels-1948-looting-palestines-cultural-heritage

[6] httphttps://www.carnegiecouncil.org/publications/archive/dialogue/2_12/section_1/5139.html/:pf_printable

[7] http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1274

[8] http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1329

[9] http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/tau-to-take-part-in-east-jerusalem-dig-funded-by-pro-settlement-group.premium-1.472285

[10] http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=2522

UN Human Rights Council votes to establish database of settlement companies

Global BDS News - Thu, 03/24/2016 - 21:34

The UN Human Rights Council has this afternoon voted to “to produce a database of all business enterprises” that operate in illegal Israeli settlements.

The resolution passed with 32 votes in favour and 15 abstentions.

Welcoming the news, Riya Hassan, Europe Campaigns Officer for the Palestinian BDS National Committee, the broadest coalition of Palestinian organisations that leads and supports the BDS movement, said:

“By voting to establish this database, this resolution supports the view of the the BDS movement that companies must be held to account for their participation in Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights and international law.”

“Just as at the height of the boycott of South Africa, the BDS movement is successfully persuading international companies to end their support for Israel’s crimes and we are starting to notice a domino effect.”

French multinationals Veolia and Orange and CRH, Ireland’s biggest company, have all exited the Israeli market in recent months, mainly as a result of BDS campaigning.

“This is a welcome step but the UN Human Rights Council must go further to hold Israel to account for its violations of international law including by supporting a full ban on trade with illegal Israeli settlements and a two-way military embargo.”

“What use are the EU’s regular condemnations of the ongoing expansion Israel’s illegal settlements if they will not support measures aimed at stopping international businesses from supporting their expansion?”

“We urge the UN to lead by example and terminate its contracts with G4S, a private security company that provides services and equipment to Israeli occupation prisons at which Palestinian political prisoners, including children, are held without trial and tortured.”

In recent months, UNICEF in Jordan and a major restaurant chain in Colombia became the latest high-profile bodies to end their contracts with G4S following BDS campaigns.

In January, the United Methodist Church put five Israeli banks from Israel on a “blacklist” due to their complicity in human rights violations, including the financing of illegal Israeli settlements.

A leading France-based Israeli businessman recently told the Israeli media that the growing strength of the BDS movement means that most major European companies now avoid investing in Israel.

According to the  UN’s trade and development agency UNCTAD,  Foreign direct investment in Israel dropped by 46% in 2014 as compared to 2013, partially due to the impressive growth of the BDS impact, as stated by one of the report’s authors.

In January 2016, Human Rights Watch issued a report, Occupation, Inc. urging international businesses to comply with their human rights responsibility and stop operating and servicing illegal Israeli settler colonies.  

EU ambassador to Israel must not speak alongside settler leader Dani Dayan at anti-BDS event

Global BDS News - Wed, 03/23/2016 - 22:04

March 23 2016

Dear EU High Representative Federica Mogherini,

We offer our sincere condolences and thoughts to the people of Belgium during this difficult time.

We are writing to urge the European Union to cancel the participation of Mr. Lars Faaborg-Andersen, head of the EU delegation to Israel, in the Israeli “Stop the Boycott” conference, scheduled to take place in Jerusalem on 28 March 2016. Speaking at this conference, hosted by the right-wing, anti-Palestinian Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, would implicate the EU in the latest phase of Israel’s war on the largest Palestinian-led human rights movement in the world: the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

It is deeply concerning that Mr. Faaborg-Andersen will be speaking alongside Dani Dayan, a key leader of the settler movement who advocates for the expansion of Israeli settlements, all considered illegal by the EU and the entire world community. Brazil has recently turned down Israel’s appointment of Dayan as its ambassador to Brasilia. An official EU representative speaking alongside Dani Dayan sends a clear message that the EU in effect tolerates Israel’s planned continued expansion of its colonial settlements, undermining the EU’s rhetorical opposition to Israel’s recent settlement expansion plans and the EU’s legal obligation to uphold international law in this regard.

Mr. Faaborg-Andersen will also be joined on the same panel, entitled “Combating the boycott through state action”, by a retired colonel accused of responsibility for enabling Israeli war crimes in Gaza.

Regardless of its position on BDS, an inclusive, nonviolent movement for Palestinian freedom, justice and equality, the EU should respect the voice of the absolute majority of Palestinian civil society as well as the voices of a fast growing cross-section of European civil society that stand behind this movement. By sending its Tel Aviv ambassador to speak at this anti-BDS conference, the EU will signal to Palestinians that it has failed, again, to hold Israel accountable for its serious violations of international law and that it is now shamelessly joining Israel in its propaganda war on Palestinian human rights.

The EU would do well to emulate the Swedish foreign ministry’s statement that has re-affirmed basic democratic principles by stating that BDS “is a civil society movement” and that “governments should not interfere in civil society organization views”.

Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid and its supporters are working hard to persuade European governments to implement anti-democratic attacks on political freedoms of European citizens in order to shield Israel from criticism and effective accountability. In particular, these attacks are focused on BDS.

In France, an arbitrary interpretation of a Court of Cassation ruling is being used to falsely claim that all activities in support of BDS are “illegal”, and there have since been a number of attempts by police to prevent demonstrations in support of BDS from taking place. In early March, a solidarity activist was reportedly arrested simply for wearing a T-shirt supportive of BDS. More than 30 activists have faced criminal prosecution simply for urging their fellow citizens not to buy Israeli products.

Leading intellectuals in France have condemned this “scandalous” suppression of free speech and upheld the right to boycott Israeli companies and products over human rights concerns.

The government of the UK is seeking to restrict local democracy by attempting to intimidate local councils and other publicly funded institutions and prevent them from supporting BDS initiatives.

These actions undermine freedom of expression and the fundamental right to protest. They should be of grave concern to all those who value democracy and freedom of speech.

This high-profile participation by the EU in Israel’s largest anti-BDS conference to date will undoubtedly entrench Israeli impunity, further the ongoing attacks on democratic freedoms taking place in Israel and in Europe, at Israel’s behest, and undermine the EU’s remaining credibility in the eyes of most Palestinians, Arabs and people of conscience worldwide.

We urge the EU to end its “Israel exception to free speech” and to adopt the principled stand of a leading UN official regarding Palestinian rights who confirmed as early as 2011 that “Calling for or participating in a boycott is a form of expression that is peaceful, legitimate and internationally accepted.”

South African Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has once likened singling out Israel’s regime for unconditional military, political and financial support, not to mention protection from accountability, by the US and other western governments to placing Israel “on a pedestal” above every other state. The BDS movement is advocating for Israel to be taken off “the pedestal” and held to account like other states committing similar crimes.

We urge the EU to cancel the participation of Mr. Lars Faaborg-Andersen in the “Stop the Boycott” conference, to take steps to end government repression of the BDS movement, and to meet its legal obligation to end all forms of aid and assistance for Israeli violations of international law.

Best wishes,

Aneta Jerska
ECCP Coordinator

Mahmoud Nawagaa
BNC General coordinator

 

 

 

 

 

 

Israel’s legal warfare on BDS fosters repression and McCarthyism across the world

Global BDS News - Thu, 03/17/2016 - 20:46

Occupied Palestine, 17 March 2016 — The global movement supporting the Palestinian people’s right to freedom, justice and equality has taken impressive steps into the political mainstream in recent years. Efforts by the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement to hold Israel accountable for its serious violations of international law and to end international complicity in these violations are more widely supported and impactful than ever before.

Israel’s current government, its most racist ever, has dropped all pretences of “enlightenment” and “democracy”. This has helped to expose Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid to world public opinion like never before. In this context, and given the fast spread of BDS in recent years, Israel has tried hard but failed to slow down its gradually intensifying international isolation in the academic, cultural, sports and, to a lesser extent, economic sphere.

As a result, Israel, its lobby groups and its right-wing supporters have launched an unprecedented, well-funded global campaign to silence Palestinian narratives and criminalize BDS advocacy, especially in western countries. Israeli-induced attacks on free speech and civil rights in Europe, the US and Canada, among others, are fostering an ominous environment of bullying, intimidation and repression that has all the hallmarks of the era of McCarthyism in the US and the worst days of the apartheid regime in South Africa.

In a desperate attempt to suppress BDS from above, after losing many battles for the hearts and minds at the grassroots level, Israel and its pressure groups, including anti-Palestinian billionaires, are pressuring governments, legislatures and officials in the west to implement patently anti-democratic measures that threaten civil liberties at large. This should deeply concern not just activists supporting Palestinian rights, but all those who value civil liberties as well as progressive movements struggling for racial, gender, social, economic, indigenous and environmental justice.

The authoritarian measures adopted against BDS so far include the prosecution of BDS activists in France, like the recent arrest of an activist for wearing a BDS t-shirt; proposals to exclude organisations that support BDS in the US from public funding or contracts; the Canadian parliament’s condemnation of BDS and threats against Palestine solidarity groups; and the British government’s intimidation of local councils that have voted to support BDS measures, among other attacks on local democracy in the UK (more details on all these below).

Glenn Greenwald has described this well-orchestrated series of draconian measures as the “greatest threat to free speech in the West”. Yet Israel’s exceptionalism in some mainstream quarters in the west remains intact.

South African Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has once likened this singling out of Israel’s regime for unconditional military, political and financial support, not to mention protection from accountability, by the US and other western governments to placing Israel “on a pedestal” above every other state. Many people are afraid to criticize Israel’s policies, Tutu argues, because of the exceptionally intimidating methods used by its lobby.

BDS is an inclusive, anti-racist movement that is anchored in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and is opposed on principle to all forms of racism and discrimination, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. The BDS movement is advocating for Israel to be taken off “the pedestal” and held to account like other states committing similar crimes.

It is clear that Israel has been lobbying for and is directly behind these deeply worrying anti-democratic attacks that are intended to criminalize the advocacy of Palestinian rights. But they are also part of a growing trend in western countries of eroding civil liberties in the name of ‘security’, and of governments and unaccountable elites concentrating power in their hands and undermining democratic principles.

The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), the broadest coalition in Palestinian society that is leading the global BDS movement, stands in full solidarity with BDS activists in France and elsewhere who are facing witch-hunts and persecution for their principled advocacy of Palestinian human rights.

While they may succeed in chilling freedom of expression at first, anti-democratic legislation and legal bullying cannot possibly hide or make more palatable Israel’s crimes against the indigenous Palestinian people. Ultimately, a fast increasing number of progressives and liberals around the world are learning about and condemning Israel’s ongoing siege of the occupied Gaza Strip, its incessant theft of Palestinian lands and resources, and its ongoing ethnic cleansing of entire Palestinian communities, especially in and around the Jordan Valley, East Jerusalem and the Naqab (Negev).

No Israeli propaganda or lawfare can whitewash its incarceration of millions of Palestinians in racially segregated ghettos, surrounded by walls, military watchtowers and checkpoints, its system of apartheid, or its denial of the UN-stipulated right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes of origin.

We are encouraged by the Swedish foreign ministry’s statement re-affirming basic democratic principles by stating that BDS “is a civil society movement” and that “governments should not interfere in civil society organization views”. Sweden is now the first western country to openly break away from Israel’s incessant bullying and has taken a courageous step that other governments should follow.

We urge civil liberties groups, human rights organizations, people of conscience and public figures to join us in condemning and opposing government-led attacks on free speech and civil liberties that are being implemented in order to undermine civil society’s human rights advocacy initiatives on behalf of the Palestinian people.

We reiterate the call of the Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council on governments to respect and protect the civil and political rights of their citizens and to meet their legal obligations in order to bring Israel’s violations to an end, instead of colluding with Israel and muzzling their own citizens in order to shield it from criticism and accountability.

We urge human rights organisations and other civil society entities worldwide, irrespective of their own views of BDS, to adopt the principled position of defending the right of people and organizations to engage in BDS campaigns.

BDS is inspired and inspiring. It is a movement that is inspired by our people’s long heritage of non-violent popular resistance, the South African anti-apartheid movement and the US Civil Rights movement, among others. It is in turn inspiring a whole generation of Palestinian and international activists, academics, artists, feminists, racial and social justice movements, LGBTQ advocates, and others, to speak truth to power in the pursuit of our respective inalienable rights. United, we shall overcome.

Palestinian BDS National Committee Secretariat
17 March 2016

 

Summary of current anti-democratic measures targeting the BDS movement

France

In 2010, then justice minister Michèle Alliot-Marie issued an instruction to state authorities that “Article 24, line 8 of the 1881 law on the press allows the punishment of citizens or organizations who call for the boycott of goods from a country whose policies they criticise” on the grounds that such a call constitutes discrimination. Since then, more than 30 activists have faced criminal charges over their participation in nonviolent BDS advocacy.

In October 2015, the Court of Cassation, France’s highest appeals court, issued a ruling stating that the call to boycott Israeli products on the basis of their “origin” is illegal. BDS calls for the boycott of Israeli products on the basis of complicity, not identity. Israeli companies are complicit in violating international law, and trade with Israel while it maintains its system of oppression against the Palestinians, as was the case with apartheid South Africa, is a form of support for its regime’s human rights violations.

Regardless, nearly all forms of BDS activism is France are focused on activities other than calling for a boycott of Israeli products and cannot in any way be considered illegal.

Using a false and arbitrary interpretation of the Court of Cassation ruling to claim that all activities in support of BDS are illegal, there have since have been a number of attempts by the police to prevent demonstrations in support of BDS from taking place. In early March, a solidarity activist was arrested simply for wearing a tshirt supportive of BDS, as was reported.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls recently stated that he would speak with the Ministry of Interior to discuss what further measures could be taken to repress BDS activism.

The Paris city council has passed a resolution condemning the BDS movement which also uses a false interpretation of the Court of Cassation ruling.

Despite all of this state-backed repression, the BDS movement in France continues to mobilise wide support, including through street demonstrations, for the end of international complicity with Israeli apartheid and settler colonialism.

US

According to the new Right to Boycott website, anti-BDS bills or resolutions have been introduced in 21 different states and in the US Congress.

On July 23, 2015, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed the country’s first explicitly anti-BDS state law. This new law requires the creation of a state-run “blacklist” of foreign companies that heed calls for boycotting Israel and compels the state’s pension fund to divest from those companies.

The Combating BDS Act of 2016 introduced into the US Congress seeks to authorize state and local governments to divest assets from and prohibit investment in any entity that “engages in a commerce or investment-related boycott, divestment or sanctions activity targeting Israel.”

Bills introduced in Congress, New York, Illinois, and Maryland sought to defund or reduce government funding to colleges and universities that fund or subsidize activities and participation in groups, including the American Studies Association, that endorse academic boycotts of Israel.

In June 2015, President Obama signed the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) into law. This broad free trade law included provisions opposing BDS and making it a principle trade objective during negotiations with the European Union for the United States to discourage “politically-motivated actions to boycott, divest from, or sanction” Israel and “Israeli-controlled territories”.

In reassuring BDS activists across the US, the legal advocacy group Palestine Legal affirms, “Boycotts have long played a significant role in U.S. history, and the Supreme Court has held that boycotts to effect political, social, and economic change are protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution. The call for a boycott of Israel is based on Israel’s human rights violations, and is intended to effect social and political change. The Constitution is the ‘law of the land,’ so federal, state, and local laws cannot take away your constitutional rights.”

UK

In October 2015, a governing Conservative party press release announced that the government would take steps to “prevent town hall boycotts” and prevent local councils and other public bodies from supporting the BDS movement or measures aimed at companies that participate in Israeli violations of international law.

The UK government press release announcing the measures included a number of smears against the BDS movement, falsely claiming that it calls for a boycott on the basis of ethnic identity. Justice Minister Michael Gove made similar smears during a recent speech.

The UK government’s measures have advanced through a policy note on public procurement and proposed changes to local government pension scheme regulations.

Public procurement: On 17 February 2016, the Cabinet Office published a Procurement Policy Note (PPN)1 that restates existing legal obligations regarding public sector procurement processes. It uses World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules to argue that public bodies cannot refuse to deal with a company because of its “country of origin”. However, the WTO Public Procurement agreement does allow for any measure enacted in order to “protect public morals”.

The government document is clearly designed to have a chilling effect and to intimidate councils into falsely thinking that they are no longer allowed to exclude companies that violate human rights from tender exercises. However, the document does not introduce new legal obligations or requirements for public bodies. Nor does the policy guidance note prevent local councils from excluding companies from tendering processes due to their role in human rights violations, confirmed to be perfectly legal by the previous government.

Local government pensions: On 25 November 2015, the government launched a consultation regarding new regulations for how local government invest pension funds. This includes a proposal to give the Secretary of State veto power over local authority investment decisions and states that the government will publish additional guidance making clear that investment decisions “should not pursue policies which run contrary to UK foreign policy”. That guidance has not yet been published.

These steps fatally undermine the government’s stated commitment to transfer power to local government and communities. They also represent a serious attack on local democracy and civil rights.

Canada

The Canadian parliament, led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s party, recently voted to condemn the global BDS campaign. The motion was put forward by the opposition Conservative Party but backed by most members of Trudeau’s governing Liberals.

The motion “calls upon the government to condemn any and all attempts by Canadian groups or individuals to promote the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, which it describes as promoting the ‘demonization and delegitimization’ of Israel.”

This motion is the latest in a string of government-backed attacks on the BDS movement and infringements on free speech that have also seen government politicians condemning campus activism and smearing BDS as “anti-Semitic” and the signing of a cooperation agreement with Israel that included a specific commitment to fight the BDS movement.

Background analysis: PACBI’s boycott call of International Network of Genocide Scholars 2016 conference

Global BDS News - Wed, 03/16/2016 - 21:13

The below is a background analysis of PACBI’s boycott call of the International Network of Genocide Scholars 2016 conference taking place at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. For the text of the call please click here

BDS and Academic Boycotts

Inspired by the successful academic and cultural boycott of apartheid South Africa, and supported by key Palestinian unions and cultural groups, in 2004, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) issued a call for the academic and cultural boycott of institutions involved in Israel’s system of occupation, colonialism and apartheid.

The Palestinian call appealed to the international academic community, among others, to “refrain from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions”. The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, of which PACBI is a key member, was launched in 2005 by the largest coalition in Palestinian civil society as a reaction to Israel’s ongoing policies of occupation, displacement, and racism towards Palestinians, including the denial of Palestinian refugees their fundamental right to return to their homes, as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

The movement calls on people of conscience to treat Israel the same way South Africa was treated during the apartheid era – or indeed any other state that legislates and practices apartheid. No business as usual can be done with Israel’s institutions until they end their complicity in Israel’s regime of oppression. Only then can Palestinians hope for a just peace based on international law, respect for human rights, and, more crucially, on the fundamental principle of equality for all, irrespective of ethnicity, religion or other identity considerations.

Complicity of Israeli academic institutions

The Israeli academy is complicit in planning, implementing, justifying and whitewashing Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid against the Palestinian people. Also, no Israeli university or academic union has ever taken a public position against the occupation, let alone against Israel’s system of apartheid or the denial of Palestinian refugee rights.

Hebrew University specifically, is partially built on stolen Palestinian land and has an army base on its campus; its complicity in Israeli violations of international law are well documented. Hebrew University stood by the Israeli army during the massacre in Gaza in the summer of 2014; a notice circulated at the university announced a collection of goods including hygiene products, snacks and cigarettes “for the [Israeli] soldiers at the front according to the demand reported by the IDF [Israeli army] units.”

Hebrew University also maintains close ties to the Israeli military industry and collaborates with the Israeli army in training officers and recruits. Further, staff from the Hebrew University take part in the supervision and promotion committees of students and staff at the colony-college of Ariel, which was established on confiscated Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank.

To give another example, Tel Aviv University (TAU), which has not only designed tens of weapons used by the Israeli military in enforcing the occupation and apartheid regime, but houses the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) that takes credit for the development of the so-called Dahiya Doctrine, or the doctrine of disproportionate force, that is adopted by the Israeli army, and which calls for “the destruction of the national [civilian] infrastructure, and intense suffering among the [civilian] population,” as means of defeating an otherwise “impossible” to defeat non-statal resistance, which was used in Israel’s most recent attacks on Gaza in 2008 and in 2014.

Israel’s Suppression of Palestinians’ Right to Education and Academic Freedom

Another important factor behind the academic boycott of Israel that Palestinian civil society has called for is the fact that Israel’s relentless and deliberate attack on Palestinian education, which some have recently termed scholasticide, goes back to the 1948 Nakba, the wave of systematic ethnic cleansing of a majority of the indigenous Palestinians to establish a Jewish-majority state in Palestine.

An Israeli researcher’s dissertation reveals that in that period tens of thousands of Palestinian books stolen from homes, schools and libraries in Jerusalem, Jaffa, Haifa, Safad and elsewhere were destroyed by Israel.

In the first few weeks of the first Palestinian Intifada (1987-1993), Israel shut down all Palestinian universities, some, like Birzeit, for several consecutive years, and then it closed all 1,194 Palestinian schools in the occupied West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza. Next came the kindergartens, until every educational institution in the occupied Palestinian territories were forcibly closed. This prompted Palestinians to build an “illegal network” of underground schools.

Palestinian scholars and students are methodically denied their basic rights, including academic freedom, and are often subjected to imprisonment, denial of freedom of movement, even violent attacks on themselves or their institutions. If exercising the right to academic freedom is conditioned upon respecting other human rights and securing what Judith Butler calls, the “material conditions for exercising those rights,” then clearly it is the academic freedom of Palestinian academics and students that is severely hindered, due to the occupation and policies of racial discrimination, and that must be defended.

Israel’s Education System: Apartheid under Guise

Structural racism pervades the Israeli educational system, affecting Palestinian students and scholars who are citizens of the state.  According to Human Rights Watch:

“Discrimination at every level of the [Israeli] education system winnows out a progressively larger proportion of Palestinian Arab children as they progress through the school system—or channels those who persevere away from the opportunities of higher education. The hurdles Palestinian Arab students face from kindergarten to university function like a series of sieves with sequentially finer holes.”

Palestinian citizens of Israel are the indigenous Palestinians who succeeded in remaining steadfast in their homeland during the well planned and brutally executed campaigns of terror and ethnic cleansing by Zionist militias, and later the state itself, during the 1948 Nakba. Living under a regime of racial discrimination that is institutionalized and legalized by more than 50 racist laws, and that therefore meets the UN definition of the crime of apartheid, Palestinian citizens of Israel have no choice but to utilize whatever services they can obtain from the state and its organs. The fact that they are citizens and taxpayers entitles them to these services as a right, not a charity from the state.

Israel’s War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity in Gaza

The United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza conflict has gathered substantial information pointing to Israel’s possible commission of war crimes.

During the summer of 2014, Israel committed a massacre against the besieged Palestinians, killing more than 2,168 Palestinians, including over 500 children. Entire families were annihilated in their homes, and all what remains of them are the official records documenting that they ever existed. Hospitals, ambulances, UN schools, rescue workers, mosques, churches and even shelters for disabled persons were not spared by Israel’s high-precision missiles and artillery shells. Israel’s assault led to the forcible displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian civilians in Gaza.  

A racist Israeli fanatic-right chant mocked the hundreds of Palestinian children murdered by Israel during its massacre in Gaza: “Tomorrow there’s no school in Gaza, they don’t have any children left.”

Israel’s crimes and the UN definition of genocide

Many legal scholars and human rights advocates have debated whether the UN’s definition of the crime of genocide applies to Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians. While many scholars dismiss the charge due to the lack of intent, a key condition for genocide, others argue that the duration of the crimes, policies adopted by Israel that led to them and the general atmosphere of racist incitement in Israeli society and in the army in particular may prove the intent.

Reporting on Israel’s assault on Gaza in 2008-09, for instance, the Independent Fact Finding Committee on Gaza, led by the prominent South African jurist John Dugard, rejected Israel’s claim of acting in self-defense but reached the following conclusion:

“The Committee found Israel’s actions met the requirements for the actus reus of the crime of genocide contained in the Genocide Convention, in that the IDF was responsible for killing, exterminating and causing serious bodily harm to members of a group – the Palestinians of Gaza. However, the Committee had difficulty in determining whether the acts in question had been committed with a special intent to destroy in whole or in part a national, ethnical or religious group, as required by the Genocide Convention.”

Professor William Schabas, an international authority on the crime of genocide under international law has written in his book, Genocide in International Law: The Crime of Crimes, that the United Nations General Assembly “addressed the issue of genocide for the first time in 1982, when it qualified the massacres at Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut, Lebanon as genocide”.

Israel Charny, director of the Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide in Jerusalem and a former editor of the Encyclopedia of Genocide, acknowledges that Zionists committed “genocidal massacres” and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, like the Israeli massacre of over 100 Palestinians in Deir Yassin on April 9, 1948.

Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights in the US, argues, “It’s been going on for a long time, the killings, the incredibly awful conditions of life, the expulsions that have gone on [since 1947], when 700 or more villages in Palestine were destroyed, and in the expulsions that continued from that time until today. It’s correct and important to label it for what it is.” That label, Ratner says, is “genocide.”

Israel’s hermetic siege of Gaza, systematic denial of basic needs to its 1.8 million Palestinian inhabitants and repeated massacres have been described as “incremental genocide” by the prominent Israeli historian Ilan Pappe.
Whether Israel’s decades-old crimes against the Palestine people meet the UN definition of genocide or not, they should make any honest scholar think twice before participating in a conference on genocide organized by Israeli universities on occupied Palestinian land.

 

BDS: compañía de seguridad G4S anuncia planes de retirarse del mercado israelí

Global BDS News - Thu, 03/10/2016 - 22:36

  • G4S ha perdido contratos por millones de dólares en más de una docena de países a raíz de las campañas de BDS denunciando su rol en las prisiones, colonias y puestos de control israelíes
  • La campaña contra G4S sigue siendo de “alta prioridad para el BDS” hasta que la venta concluya
  • El BDS continúa apoyando el boicot a G4S por su rol en el encarcelamiento masivo en el mundo

La mayor compañía de seguridad del mundo, la británica G4S, ha respondido a cuatro años de campaña global del movimiento BDS en protesta por su participación en las violaciones de los derechos humanos palestinos por parte de Israel, anunciando ayer que venderá su filial israelí en los próximos “12 a 14 meses”.

Al analizar la decisión, el Financial Times informó que G4S estaba “retirándose de actividades perjudiciales para su reputación”.

Desde 2010, G4S ha perdido contratos por millones de dólares en muchos países, debido a la presión del movimiento BDS para que ponga fin a su complicidad en las prisiones israelíes donde las y los palestinos son torturados y mantenidos sin cargos ni juicio, así como en los puestos de control, en las colonias y en un centro de entrenamiento policial. Entre los clientes que la empresa perdió hay compañías privadas, universidades, sindicatos y organismos de la ONU.

En 2014, la Fundación Bill Gates retiró inversiones en G4S por valor de 170 millones de dólares, tras las protestas frente a sus oficinas en Seattle, Londres y Johannesburgo.

Recientemente, la sede de UNICEF en Jordania y una importante cadena de restaurantes de Colombia se convirtieron en los últimos clientes de alto perfil en cancelar sus contratos con G4S debido a las campañas de BDS.

“Al igual que durante el pico del boicot internacional al apartheid en Sudáfrica, la presión del BDS está haciendo que algunas de las más grandes corporaciones del mundo entiendan que lucrar con el apartheid y el colonialismo israelíes es malo para los negocios”, dijo Mahmud Nawajaa, vocero del Comité Nacional de BDS palestino, la más amplia coalición de la sociedad civil palestina, que lidera el movimiento de BDS.

“Los administradores de fondos de inversión están reconociendo cada vez más que su responsabilidad fiduciaria les obliga a retirar sus inversiones de los bancos israelíes y de compañías que están implicadas en las graves violaciones de derechos humanos cometidas por Israel, como G4S y HP, debido al alto riesgo que conlleva. Estamos empezando a notar un efecto dominó”, agregó.

Las multinacionales francesas Veolia y Orange, y la mayor compañía irlandesa: CRH, se han retirado del mercado israelí en los últimos meses, fundamentalmente como resultado de las campañas de BDS.

En enero, la Iglesia Metodista Unida puso a cinco bancos israelíes en una “lista negra” debido a su complicidad con las violaciones de derechos humanos, incluyendo la financiación de las colonias israelíes ilegales.

La abogada palestina Sahar Francis, directora de la Asociación de derechos humanos y apoyo a prisioneros, Addameer, comentó: “Esta última noticia sobre G4S es bienvenida, pero no tiene ningún efecto inmediato en la situación de quienes hoy están sufriendo graves violaciones de sus derechos humanos dentro de las prisiones israelíes”.

“En momentos en que Israel está intensificando su campaña de encarcelamiento masivo como forma de reprimir a la sociedad palestina, G4S debería terminar inmediatamente su participación en el infame sistema de prisiones israelí, así como en la seguridad de los puestos de control y las colonias ilegales”.

Nawajaa dijo: “Estamos agradecidos hacia todas las y los esforzados activistas de base de todo el mundo que están trabajando en solidaridad con el pueblo palestino para alcanzar la libertad, la justicia y la igualdad. Pero G4S es famosa por romper las promesas de poner fin a su complicidad con los crímenes israelíes”.

“El boicot a G4S seguirá siendo una de las principales prioridades del movimiento BDS hasta que veamos que la compañía se retira efectiva y totalmente del régimen de ocupación, colonialismo y apartheid israelí”.  

G4S también tiene un largo y documentado historial de participación en abusos contra los derechos humanos y los derechos laborales en otras partes del mundo, especialmente en las prisiones y centros de detención de migrantes que la compañía ha administrado en Estados Unidos, el Reino Unido y Sudáfrica.

Nawajaa comenta: “También celebramos la noticia de que G4S está liquidando sus negocios en la operación de centros de detención juveniles en Estados Unidos y en el Reino Unido, ya que ambos lugares han sido palco de campañas contra G4S por sus prácticas abusivas y por formar parte de sistemas de encarcelamiento profundamente racistas”.

“De Estados Unidos a Palestina, de Sudáfrica al Reino Unido, G4S está fuertemente involucrada en proyectos de encarcelamiento masivo y racista. Seguimos comprometidos a trabajar de cerca con nuestros aliados para hacer que G4S rinda cuentas por su complicidad en las violaciones de derechos humanos”.

Nawajaa agregó: “Al no poder detener el impresionante crecimiento del BDS en reclamo de libertad y justicia, Israel está tratando desesperadamente de ensuciar y deslegitimar nuestro movimiento no violento. Esto incluye impulsar leyes anti-democráticas en Europa y EE.UU., dirigidas a silenciar la disidencia y a suprimir nuestra libertad de expresión”.

“Creemos firmemente que nuestro enfoque ético y nuestra causa justa prevalecerán, como muestra este reciente anuncio de G4S.”

En septiembre de 2015, el gigante corporativo francés Veolia vendió todos sus negocios en Israel. Esto fue el resultado directo de una campaña de siete años contra su participación en proyectos de infraestructura para las colonias ilegales israelíes, que le costó a la empresa más de 20 mil millones de dólares en licitaciones y contratos perdidos.

Recientemente un destacado empresario israelí residente en Francia dijo a los medios israelíes que la creciente fuerza del movimiento BDS implica que ahora muchas de las principales compañías europeas evitan invertir en Israel.

Según un informe de la ONU, en 2014 la inversión extranjera directa en Israel cayó un 46% en comparación con 2013, debido en parte al impresionante aumento del impacto del BDS, según afirmó uno de los autores del informe.

PRINCIPALES HITOS DE LA CAMPAÑA CONTRA G4S

En 2013 G4S anunció que para 2015 terminaría su involucramiento en las colonias ilegales, en los puestos de control  y en una cárcel israelí, pero no implementó la retirada. En 2014 anunció que “no tenía intención de renovar” su contrato con el Servicio de Prisiones de Israel cuando el mismo terminara en 2017, pero todavía hay que implementar la decisión.  

Febrero 2016: Una importante cadena de restaurantes en Colombia ha decidido terminar un contrato con G4S luego de una campaña de BDS de más un año en el país

Marzo 2016: UNICEF en Jordania termina su contrato con G4S tras una campaña BDS.

Noviembre 2015: El partido Laborista del Reino Unido vota terminar el contrato con G4S para la seguridad de su conferencia.

Abril 2015: Más de 20 empresas en Sudáfrica terminan sus contratos con G4S, haciéndole perder a la compañía más de 500.000 dólares.

Noviembre 2014: La municipalidad del condado de Durham, en Carolina del Norte (EE.UU.), termina su contrato con G4S tras una campaña de activistas locales de Voces Judías por la Paz.

Mayo 2014: La Fundación Bill Gates terminó su participación en G4S,  en valor de 170 millones de dólares, tras una campaña internacional que incluyó una petición lanzada por 100 organizaciones de todo el mundo y manifestaciones ante las oficinas de la Fundación Gates en Johannesburgo, Londres y Seattle. La Iglesia Metodista Unida de EE.UU. también retira todas sus inversiones en G4S (de su fondo de inversión de 20.000 millones de dólares).

Enero 2014: El gremio estudiantil de la Universidad de Kent (en el sureste de Inglaterra) vota por terminar su contrato con G4S, tras una enérgica protesta por su complicidad con los abusos de derechos humanos en Palestina. Más tarde otros gremios estudiantiles en el Reino Unido votan para tomar medidas similares. Las universidades de Southampton y King’s College London deciden no renovar sus contratos con G4S debido a la presión estudiantil.

Diciembre 2012: Como resultado de una intensa campaña estudiantil, la Universidad de Oslo anuncia que terminará su contrato con G4S, afirmando que no desea “apoyar compañías que operan en un terreno ético gris”. Más tarde las universidades de Bergen (Noruega) y Helsinki (Finlandia) anuncian medidas similares.

Abril 2012: En la víspera de una histórica huelga de hambre de más de 2000 presos políticos palestinos, 13 organizaciones palestinas de derechos humanos y apoyo a los prisioneros lanzan una campaña para hacer rendir cuentas a G4S por el rol que desempeña en mantener el sistema israelí de prisiones, donde prevalece la tortura.

Ver la cronología completa en inglés: http://bdsmovement.net/g4s-timeline

 

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