Global BDS News
Kuwait’s Public Institution for Social Security (PIFSS) Divests its Funds from Global Security Giant G4S Following Sustained BDS Pressure
The Public Institution for Social Security (PIFSS) in Kuwait has decided, as reported in the Kuwaiti media, to divest its funds from G4S, a company that is profiting from the Israeli occupation and has a notorious record of human rights abuses. The decision comes following calls from BDS Kuwait and the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), the largest coalition in Palestinian civil society, on PIFSS to divest from G4S.
Earlier in May, a parliamentary inquiry by Kuwaiti MP Faisal Al-Duwaisan directed to the Ministry of Finance was submitted raising questions about the nature of the shares that PIFSS held in G4S, a company that is profiting from Israeli international law violations committed against the Palestinian people. In his response to the parliamentary inquiry, the Kuwaiti Minister of Finance, who is also the Chairman of the Board of Directors for the PIFSS, confirmed that PIFSS has sold all its shares in G4S.
Guman Mussa, BDS Campaigns Coordinator in the Arab World, welcomed the new victory against G4S saying: “The decision of PIFSS in Kuwait to respond to a call made by Palestinian civil society and BDS Kuwait affirms that the Palestinian cause is part and parcel of the consciousness of the Kuwaiti people. Kuwait shines a glimmer of hope against normalization with Israel’s regime of occupation and settler-colonialism”.
G4S, a British-Danish security company that operates in more than 125 countries around the world, had announced in March its intention to exit the Israeli market following mounting global pressure and financial losses incurred as a result of BDS campaigns. Nonetheless, the company has gained an ill-famed reputation not only due to the human rights abuses in which it is involved but also for repeatedly contradicting its promises to divest from the Israeli occupation. This has led BDS campaigners to accuse the company of dishonesty and deception. Since the March announcement, BDS campaigns against G4S have been escalating globally, not least in the Arab world.
Mussa added: “We shall continue with our campaigns against G4S both globally and in the Arab world due to its complicity in crimes committed by the occupation, knowing that BDS activists – from Kuwait, Lebanon and Jordan to Egypt and Morocco – are escalating the pressure against the company.”
“G4S clients in the region are responding positively to the campaign. Many have assured us that they are seriously exploring the possibility of severing their relationship with G4S due to its role in Israeli violations of Palestinian rights.”
Commenting on the news, BDS Kuwait stated: “Kuwait has always been and still is at the forefront of supporting the Palestinians in their struggle for freedom, justice and self-determination. The decision by PIFSS rightly distances Kuwait from any suspicion of involvement with companies profiting from occupation and reaffirms Kuwait’s commitment to the rights of the Palestinian people as well as our responsibility as Kuwaitis to combat normalization”.
Mussa concluded: “G4S claimed it was withdrawing from Israel ‘for entirely commercial reasons’, but that is the very logic of the BDS campaigns for corporate accountability. As was the case at the height of the international boycott of apartheid South Africa, BDS pressure, as this latest success in Kuwait shows, is making some of the world’s largest corporations realize that profiting from Israel’s regime of oppression is becoming commercially untenable”.
– G4S announced in March 2016 that it will end all its contracts with the Israeli military, prison services, police and settlements. The Financial Times reported that G4S was “extracting itself from reputationally damaging work.”
– If BDS compels G4S to follow through with its announcement by ending all forms of complicity in Israel’s violations of international law, G4S would become the fourth multinational to abandon the Israeli market, in less than a year, due to heavy losses and/or reputational risk.
– In September 2015, French corporate giant Veolia set the trend by selling off all of its businesses in Israel after losing tenders and contracts worth billions of dollars following a seven-year BDS campaign against its role in illegal Israeli settlement projects.
– French telecommunications giant Orange announced earlier this year the termination of its franchise relationship with Israeli Partner Communications, after intense BDS pressure in France and Egypt.
– In a related major development, the $20-billion pension fund of the United Methodist Church declared in January 2016 the five largest Israeli banks off limits for investment and divested from the two that it held in its portfolios.
– The Israel Export Institute has revealed that Israel’s exports in 2015 have dropped by 7% over 2014.
– Foreign direct investment in Israel dropped by 46% in 2014 as compared to 2013, according to a UN report. One of the report’s authors admitted that BDS played a key role in this sharp drop.
– Moody’s, a leading credit ratings agency, warns: “the Israeli economy could suffer should BDS gain greater traction.”
– In addition to abandoning its Israeli contracts, G4S announced in March it was selling its mass incarceration businesses that operate youth detention centers in the UK and the US. It is accused by campaigners of involvement in racist and abusive practices.
It was October 2012. Roei Elkabetz, a brigadier general for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), was explaining his country’s border policing strategies. In his PowerPoint presentation, a photo of the enclosure wall that isolates the Gaza Strip from Israel clicked onscreen. “We have learned lots from Gaza,” he told the audience. “It’s a great laboratory.”
Elkabetz was speaking at a border technology conference and fair surrounded by a dazzling display of technology—the components of his boundary-building lab. There were surveillance balloons with high-powered cameras floating over a desert-camouflaged armored vehicle made by Lockheed Martin. There were seismic sensor systems used to detect the movement of people and other wonders of the modern border-policing world. Around Elkabetz, you could see vivid examples of where the future of such policing was heading, as imagined not by a dystopian science fiction writer but by some of the top corporate techno-innovators on the planet.
Swimming in a sea of border security, the brigadier general was, however, not surrounded by the Mediterranean but by a parched West Texas landscape. He was in El Paso, a 10-minute walk from the wall that separates the United States from Mexico.
Just a few more minutes on foot and Elkabetz could have watched green-striped US Border Patrol vehicles inching along the trickling Rio Grande in front of Ciudad Juarez, one of Mexico’s largest cities filled with US factories and the dead of that country’s drug wars. The Border Patrol agents whom the general might have spotted were then being up-armored with a lethal combination of surveillance technologies, military hardware, assault rifles, helicopters, and drones. This once-peaceful place was being transformed into what Timothy Dunn, in his book The Militarization of the US Mexico Border, terms a state of “low-intensity warfare.”
The Border Surge
On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced a series of executive actions on immigration reform. Addressing the American people, he referred to bipartisan immigration legislation passed by the Senate in June 2013 that would, among other things, further up-armor the same landscape in what’s been termed—in language adopted from recent US war zones—a “border surge.” The president bemoaned the fact that the bill had been stalled in the House of Representatives, hailing it as a “compromise” that “reflected common sense.” It would, he pointed out, “have doubled the number of Border Patrol agents, while giving undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship.”
In the wake of his announcement, including executive actions that would protect five to six million of those immigrants from future deportation, the national debate was quickly framed as a conflict between Republicans and Democrats. Missed in this partisan war of words was one thing: the initial executive action that Obama announced involved a further militarization of the border supported by both parties.
“First,” the president said, “we’ll build on our progress at the border with additional resources for our law enforcement personnel so that they can stem the flow of illegal crossings and speed the return of those who do cross over.” Without further elaboration, he then moved on to other matters.
If, however, the United States follows the “common sense” of the border-surge bill, the result could add more than $40 billion dollars worth of agents, advanced technologies, walls, and other barriers to an already unparalleled border enforcement apparatus. And a crucial signal would be sent to the private sector that, as the trade magazine Homeland Security Today puts it, another “treasure trove” of profit is on the way for a border control market already, according to the latest forecasts, in an “unprecedented boom period.”
Like the Gaza Strip for the Israelis, the US borderlands, dubbed a “constitution-free zone” by the ACLU, are becoming a vast open-air laboratory for tech companies. There, almost any form of surveillance and “security” can be developed, tested, and showcased, as if in a militarized shopping mall, for other nations across the planet to consider. In this fashion, border security is becoming a global industry and few corporate complexes can be more pleased by this than the one that has developed in Elkabetz’s Israel.
The Palestine-Mexico Border
Consider the IDF brigadier general’s presence in El Paso two years ago an omen. After all, in February 2014, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agency in charge of policing our borders, contracted with Israel’s giant private military manufacturer Elbit Systems to build a “virtual wall,” a technological barrier set back from the actual international divide in the Arizona desert. That company, whose US-traded stock shot up by 6% during Israel’s massive military operation against Gaza in the summer of 2014, will bring the same databank of technology used in Israel’s borderlands—Gaza and the West Bank—to Southern Arizona through its subsidiary Elbit Systems of America.
With approximately 12,000 employees and, as it boasts, “10+ years securing the world’s most challenging borders,” Elbit produces an arsenal of “homeland security systems.” These include surveillance land vehicles, mini-unmanned aerial systems, and “smart fences,” highly fortified steel barriers that have the ability to sense a person’s touch or movement. In its role as lead system integrator for Israel’s border technology plan, the company has already installed smart fences in the West Bank and the Golan Heights.
In Arizona, with up to a billion dollars potentially at its disposal, CBP has tasked Elbit with creating a “wall” of “integrated fixed towers” containing the latest in cameras, radar, motion sensors, and control rooms. Construction will start in the rugged, desert canyons around Nogales. Once a DHS evaluation deems that part of the project effective, the rest will be built to monitor the full length of the state’s borderlands with Mexico. Keep in mind, however, that these towers are only one part of a broader operation, the Arizona Border Surveillance Technology Plan. At this stage, it’s essentially a blueprint for an unprecedented infrastructure of high-tech border fortifications that has attracted the attention of many companies.
This is not the first time Israeli companies have been involved in a US border build-up. In fact, in 2004, Elbit’s Hermes drones were the first unmanned aerial vehicles to take to the skies to patrol the southern border. In 2007, according to Naomi Klein in The Shock Doctrine, the Golan Group, an Israeli consulting company made up of former IDF Special Forces officers, provided an intensive eight-day course for special DHS immigration agents covering “everything from hand-to-hand combat to target practice to ‘getting proactive with their SUV.'” The Israeli company NICE Systems even supplied Arizona’s Joe Arpaio,”America’s toughest sheriff,” with a surveillance system to watch one of his jails.
As such border cooperation intensified, journalist Jimmy Johnson coined the apt phrase “Palestine-Mexico border” to catch what was happening. In 2012, Arizona state legislators, sensing the potential economic benefit of this growing collaboration, declared their desert state and Israel to be natural “trade partners,” adding that it was “a relationship we seek to enhance.”
In this way, the doors were opened to a new world order in which the United States and Israel are to become partners in the “laboratory” that is the US-Mexican borderlands. Its testing grounds are to be in Arizona. There, largely through a program known as Global Advantage, American academic and corporate knowhow and Mexican low-wage manufacturing are to fuse with Israel’s border and homeland security companies.
The Border: Open for Business
No one may frame the budding romance between Israel’s high-tech companies and Arizona better than Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild. “If you go to Israel and you come to Southern Arizona and close your eyes and spin yourself a few times,” he says, “you might not be able to tell the difference.”
Global Advantage is a business project based on a partnership between the University of Arizona’s Tech Parks Arizona and the Offshore Group, a business advisory and housing firm which offers “nearshore solutions for manufacturers of any size” just across the border in Mexico. Tech Parks Arizona has the lawyers, accountants, and scholars, as well as the technical knowhow, to help any foreign company land softly and set up shop in the state. It will aid that company in addressing legal issues, achieving regulatory compliance, and even finding qualified employees—and through a program it’s called the Israel Business Initiative, Global Advantage has identified its target country.
Think of it as the perfect example of a post-NAFTA world in which companies dedicated to stopping border crossers are ever freer to cross the same borders themselves. In the spirit of free trade that created the NAFTA treaty, the latest border fortification programs are designed to eliminate borders when it comes to letting high-tech companies from across the seas set up in the United States and make use of Mexico’s manufacturing base to create their products. While Israel and Arizona may be separated by thousands of miles, Rothschild assured TomDispatchthat in “economics, there are no borders.”
Of course, what the mayor appreciates, above all, is the way new border technology could bring money and jobs into an area with a nearly 23% poverty rate. How those jobs might be created matters far less to him. According to Molly Gilbert, the director of community engagement for the Tech Parks Arizona, “It’s really about development, and we want to create technology jobs in our borderlands.”
So consider it anything but an irony that, in this developing global set of boundary-busting partnerships, the factories that will produce the border fortresses designed by Elbit and other Israeli and US high-tech firms will mainly be located in Mexico. Ill-paid Mexican blue-collar workers will, then, manufacture the very components of a future surveillance regime, which may well help locate, detain, arrest, incarcerate, and expel some of them if they try to cross into the United States.
Think of Global Advantage as a multinational assembly line, a place where homeland security meets NAFTA. Right now there are reportedly 10 to 20 Israeli companies in active discussion about joining the program. Bruce Wright, the CEO of Tech Parks Arizona, tells TomDispatch that his organization has a “nondisclosure” agreement with any companies that sign on and so cannot reveal their names.
Though cautious about officially claiming success for Global Advantage’s Israel Business Initiative, Wright brims with optimism about his organization’s cross-national planning. As he talks in a conference room located on the 1,345-acre park on the southern outskirts of Tucson, it’s apparent that he’s buoyed by predictions that the Homeland Security market will grow from a $51 billion annual business in 2012 to $81 billion in the United States alone by 2020, and $544 billion worldwide by 2018.
Wright knows as well that submarkets for border-related products like video surveillance, non-lethal weaponry, and people-screening technologies are all advancing rapidly and that the US market for drones is poised to create 70,000 new jobs by 2016. Partially fueling this growth is what the Associated Press calls an“unheralded shift” to drone surveillance on the US southern divide. More than 10,000 drone flights have been launched into border air space since March 2013, with plans for many more, especially after the Border Patrol doubles its fleet.
When Wright speaks, it’s clear he knows that his park sits atop a twenty-first-century gold mine. As he sees it, Southern Arizona, aided by his tech park, will become the perfect laboratory for the first cluster of border security companies in North America. He’s not only thinking about the 57 southern Arizona companies already identified as working in border security and management, but similar companies nationwide and across the globe, especially in Israel.
In fact, Wright’s aim is to follow Israel’s lead, as it is now the number-one place for such groupings. In his case, the Mexican border would simply replace that country’s highly marketed Palestinian testing grounds. The 18,000 linear feet that surround the tech park’s solar panel farm would, for example, be a perfect spot to test out motion sensors. Companies could also deploy, evaluate, and test their products “in the field,” as he likes to say—that is, where real people are crossing real borders—just as Elbit Systems did before CBP gave it the contract.
“If we’re going to be in bed with the border on a day-to-day basis, with all of its problems and issues, and there’s a solution to it,” Wright said in a 2012 interview, “why shouldn’t we be the place where the issue is solved and we get the commercial benefit from it?”
From the Battlefield to the Border
When Naomi Weiner, project coordinator for the Israel Business Initiative, returned from a trip to that country with University of Arizona researchers in tow, she couldn’t have been more enthusiastic about the possibilities for collaboration. She arrived back in November, just a day before Obama announced his new executive actions—a promising declaration for those, like her, in the business of bolstering border defenses.
“We’ve chosen areas where Israel is very strong and Southern Arizona is very strong,” Weiner explained to TomDispatch, pointing to the surveillance industry “synergy” between the two places. For example, one firm her team met with in Israel was Brightway Vision, a subsidiary of Elbit Systems. If it decides to set up shop in Arizona, it could use tech park expertise to further develop and refine its thermal imaging cameras and goggles, while exploring ways to repurpose those military products for border surveillance applications. The Offshore Group would then manufacture the cameras and goggles in Mexico.
Arizona, as Weiner puts it, possesses the “complete package” for such Israeli companies. “We’re sitting right on the border, close to Fort Huachuca,” a nearby military base where, among other things, technicians control the drones surveilling the borderlands. “We have the relationship with Customs and Border Protection, so there’s a lot going on here. And we’re also the Center of Excellence on Homeland Security.”
Weiner is referring to the fact that, in 2008, DHS designated the University of Arizona the lead school for the Center of Excellence on Border Security and Immigration. Thanks to that, it has since received millions of dollars in federal grants. Focusing on research and development of border-policing technologies, the center is a place where, among other things, engineers are studying locust wings in order to create miniature drones equipped with cameras that can get into the tiniest of spaces near ground level, while large drones like the Predator B continue to buzz over the borderlands at 30,000 feet (despite the fact that a recent audit by the inspector general of homeland security found them a waste of money).
Although the Arizona-Israeli romance is still in the courtship stage, excitement about its possibilities is growing. Officials from Tech Parks Arizona see Global Advantage as the perfect way to strengthen the US-Israel “special relationship.” There is no other place in the world with a higher concentration of homeland security tech companies than Israel. Six hundred tech start-ups are launched in Tel Aviv alone every year. During the Gaza offensive last summer, Bloombergreportedthat investment in such companies had “actually accelerated.” However, despite the periodic military operations in Gaza and the incessant build-up of the Israeli homeland security regime, there are serious limitations to the local market.
The Israeli Ministry of Economy is painfully aware of this. Its officials know that the growth of the Israeli economy is “largely fueled by a steady increase in exports and foreign investment.” The government coddles, cultivates, and supports these start-up tech companies until their products are market-ready. Among them have been innovations like the “skunk,” a liquid with a putrid odor meant to stop unruly crowds in their tracks. The ministry has also been successful in taking such products to market across the globe. In the decade following 9/11, sales of Israeli “security exports” rose from $2 billion to $7 billion annually.
Israeli companies have sold surveillance drones to Latin American countries likeMexico, Chile, and Colombia, and massive security systems to India and Brazil, where an electro-optic surveillance system will be deployed along the country’s borders with Paraguay and Bolivia. They have also been involved in preparations for policing the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. The products of Elbit Systems and its subsidiaries are now in use from the Americas and Europe to Australia. Meanwhile, that mammoth security firm is ever more involved in finding “civilian applications” for its war technologies. It is also ever more dedicated to bringing the battlefield to the world’s borderlands, including southern Arizona.
As geographer Joseph Nevins notes, although there are many differences between the political situations of the US and Israel, both Israel-Palestine and Arizona share a focus on keeping out “those deemed permanent outsiders,” whether Palestinians, undocumented Latin Americans, or indigenous people.
Mohyeddin Abdulaziz has seen this “special relationship” from both sides, as a Palestinian refugee whose home and village Israeli military forces destroyed in 1967 and as a long-time resident of the US-Mexico borderlands. A founding member of the Southern Arizona BDS Network, whose goal is to pressure US divestment from Israeli companies, Abdulaziz opposes any program like Global Advantage that will contribute to the further militarization of the border, especially when it also sanitizes Israel’s “violations of human rights and international law.”
Such violations matter little, of course, when there is money to be made, as Brigadier General Elkabetz indicated at that 2012 border technology conference. Given the direction that both the US and Israel are taking when it comes to their borderlands, the deals being brokered at the University of Arizona look increasingly like matches made in heaven (or perhaps hell). As a result, there is truth packed into journalist Dan Cohen’s comment that “Arizona is the Israel of the United States.”
Todd Miller, a TomDispatch regular, is the author of Border Patrol Nation: Dispatches From the Front Lines of Homeland Security. He has written on border and immigration issues for the New York Times, Al Jazeera America, and NACLA Report on the Americas and its blog Border Wars, among other places. You can follow him on twitter @memomiller and view more of his work at toddwmiller.wordpress.com.
Gabriel M. Schivone, a writer from Tucson, has worked as a humanitarian volunteer in the Mexico-US borderlands for more than six years. He blogs at Electronic Intifada andHuffington Post’s “Latino Voices.” His articles have appeared in the Arizona Daily Star,the Arizona Republic, StudentNation, the Guardian, and McClatchy Newspapers, among other publications. You can follow him on Twitter @GSchivone. To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.com
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Original piece http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/01/us-mexico-border-gaza-israeli-tech-wall%20
Several commentators and politicians have rushed to utilize the appointment of Professor Michael Karayanni to the deanship of Israel’s Hebrew University’s Law School to bolster the “bridging the gaps” narrative. To them, this appointment is a refutation of the BDS movement. Opposition leader Isaac Herzog, for instance, tweeted that this is a “historic step that breaks another glass ceiling for Israel’s Arabs”.
Yet, Karayanni’s well-deserved appointment does not lend support to these arguments. In fact, it supports the opposite conclusions. Like in previous cases, the prevailing discourse inverts the relation between the exception and the rule — the exception is deployed to conceal the rule rather than to prove it. The achievement itself becomes evidence of the rule, whereas the arduous process Karayanni and Arab citizens go through recedes from view.
Should we not ask: Why did it take so long for an accomplished Arab jurist like Karayanni to become dean of an Israeli law school? Why do so few tenured Arab professors teach in Israeli academia? Are a handful of individual success stories enough to break the ceiling, as Herzog would have it? Will they magically solve inequalities in infrastructure, education, and zoning plans? Will they provide redress to unrecognized villages, discrimination in land allocation, and segregation in housing? Instead of spotlighting exceptional stories and individuals, should not Israeli society address the structural and collective impediments that make those elevating stories the exception, rather than the rule?
Karayanni’s appointment illustrates Israel’s Arab citizens’ double bind more than it does the breaking of any ceiling: every time an individual Arab in Israel secures a professional achievement, she becomes proof of Israel’s goodness (to the moderate right-wing), or its progressive evolution (to the center-left).
In this Israeli self-serving discourse, lack of qualifications explains the absence of Arabs from leading positions. In other words, structural racism has nothing to do with it. If, on the other hand, the individual Arab is successful, it confirms the openness of the system.
It thus proves an already existing thesis: that the system works well by allowing for individual success. The individual’s qualifications become incidental to her success. Either way, this discourse does not seriously question the socio-political system that institutionalizes discrimination against Arab citizens. It does not refute the analogy to South Africa’s apartheid. Karayanni’s success is despite Israel’s system, not because of it.
What are the implications of Karayanni’s appointment to the current debate on the legitimacy of the BDS movement, which includes the boycott of Israeli academic institutions? The BDS movement calls for boycotting institutions, not individuals, due to their complicity and contribution to the oppression of the Palestinian people. This ranges from discriminatory student admissions and staff hiring policies to complicity, and often direct support, to the longest military occupation since World War II.
Karayanni’s appointment should highlight what is missing in the fierce debate about the legitimacy of BDS, namely, the underlying goals of the campaign against Israel. Most BDS discussions are focused on ending the brutal military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. However, this is only one of three goals of BDS. The other goals highlight the denial of the Palestinian refugees’ right of return to their homeland, and ending the institutional discrimination against the Palestinian minority in Israel.
Instead of seriously reflecting on whether and why BDS is necessary or valuable, Israel and its supporters are diverting the conversation by focusing on whether it is legitimate or legal to engage in a form of protest rooted in nonviolence, grassroots organization, and civic mobilization. They obfuscate the issues by outlawing BDS calls, demonizing the movement, and falsely accusing its supporters of anti-Semitism and even terrorism.
The anti-BDS efforts clearly aim to silence any debate concerning Israel and its policies in historic Palestine. They seek to have a chilling effect on the freedom of speech and civil society activism not only in Israel, but now increasingly in North American and European countries. Governor Cuomo of New York’s recent order to blacklist companies and institutions that support BDS is only a recent example. Despite these misguided efforts, the BDS movement has experienced great success in moving the international dialogue and shifting the burden of proof onto Israel to prove that it is a democracy for all its citizens and that it respects the human rights of Palestinians and their right to self-determination.
Ultimately, the prevailing self-serving discourse is as untenable as the general politics of defenders of Israel, a politics grounded in the stubborn denial of facts and realities. It will not be able to credibly reconcile supporters of Israel’s oppressive policies with their complicity in Israel’s crimes and violations of international law indefinitely.
An individual success story cannot justify all of this and erase everyone else’s reality. Karayanni deserves his appointment and that it be an ordinary recognition of an accomplished individual who is treated as an equal to his Jewish peers. Palestinians have the right to end their oppression and to be treated equally and with dignity. Until that happens, we will continue to support BDS.
Jamil Dakwar, is a human rights lawyer and adjunct lecturer at John Jay College, New York. This piece is submitted in his personal capacity and not as an ACLU staff member.
Nimer Sultany, is a lecturer in law in the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.
Hundreds of New Yorkers gathered outside the office of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday, protesting a new pro-Israel policy that legal groups warn is “McCarthyite” and unconstitutional.
Cuomo signed an executive order this weekend that punishes institutions and companies that support a boycott of Israel on behalf of Palestinian human rights.
The New York Civil Liberties Union said the executive order establishes a discriminatory “blacklist” that “raises serious First Amendment concerns.”
Baher Azmy, legal director at the Center for Constitutional Rights, called the new policy “plainly unconstitutional in its McCarthyist vision.”
More than 300 protesters joined the demonstration on Thursday, calling on Gov. Cuomo to rescind the executive order.
Jewish Voice for Peace, a social justice group that co-organized the protest, blasted Cuomo’s executive order as an unconstitutional “attempt to repress the growing movement for Palestinian rights.”
“The overwhelming turnout for this protest speaks to the fact that our political leadership is increasingly out of touch with its constituents,” Beth Miller, an activist with the New York City chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace, or JVP, told Salon.
“The sidewalks and streets were packed with hundreds of people, standing literally toe-to-toe, to send the clear message that we refuse to be silenced,” she added.
“Gov. Cuomo’s executive order does not change the fact that it is our constitutional right to boycott, and it does not change the fact that it is right to boycott Israel until it respects and upholds Palestinian rights,” Miller stressed.
A dense crowd of protesters lined downtown Manhattan’s 3rd Ave. on Thursday evening.
They carried an array of signs and banners. Many expressed solidarity with past struggles.
One man held a sign that read, “Boycott worked in Montgomery and South Africa, and it will work in occupied Palestine.” Montgomery refers to a city in Alabama where a 1955 bus boycott helped kick off the civil rights movement.
JVP stresses that the “Palestinian-led civil society BDS movement is modeled on the global campaign that helped bring an end to apartheid in South Africa.”
BDS refers to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, an international grassroots movement that promotes nonviolent economic means to pressure Israel to comply with international law and cease its violations of Palestinian human rights. The global campaign was called for by Palestinian civil society in 2005.
Many veteran leaders in the struggle against U.S.- and Israel-backed apartheid in South Africa have endorsed BDS.
“The signs we held and messages we wanted to convey — such as ‘We will continue to boycott for justice until Palestinian refugees can return to their homes and land’ — reflect the many ways Israel is violating basic principles of human rights and international law,” said Donna Nevel, an activist with Jews Say No!, another group that helped organize the demonstration.
These are “the reasons that the BDS movement is so critical,” Nevel told Salon, stressing that BDS can help pressure Israel to change its illegal policies.
Gov. Cuomo’s Executive Order No. 157 declares that “the State of New York will not permit its own investment activity to further the BDS campaign in any way, shape or form, whether directly or indirectly.”
The new order, in its own language, establishes “a list of institutions and companies that… participate in boycott, divestment, or sanctions activity targeting Israel, either directly or through a parent or subsidiary.”
Cuomo summarized the new policy: “If you boycott Israel, New York will boycott you.”
JVP Executive Director Rebecca Vilkomerson published an op-ed in The New York Daily News on Thursday warning that Cuomo’s executive order will “set a dangerous and likely unconstitutional precedent for governments to deny groups financial opportunities and benefits because of their exercise of First Amendment-protected political speech.”
“When a chief executive unilaterally signs an executive order declaring that the state blacklist and divest from companies and organizations with a particular political view, we usually call that state repression,” she said.
At the protest outside Gov. Cuomo’s office, activists articulated many of the important reasons that a boycott is necessary. They carried a large banner that read “We will continue to boycott for justice until…”, which was accompanied by smaller signs that listed reasons for boycotting Israel.
Some of these reasons included: “until Israel respects Palestinian human rights,” “until the brutal occupation of Palestine ends,” “until Israel stops demolishing Palestinian homes,” “until Israel absolishes segregated schools,” “until Palestinian refugees can return home,” “until the siege of Gaza ends” and “until Palestinians have freedom.”
“Despite being planned at a very short notice, the protest had a robust turnout and a powerful presence by hundreds of outraged human rights advocates,” said Hani Ghazi, a member of Adalah-NY, the New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel, the third group that co-organized the demonstration.
Ghazi, a Palestinian American activist, told Salon, “We expect the governor to be democratic and to protect our right to free speech and to practice honorable and nonviolent activism.”
“We expect him to side with his constituents, the people of New York, and not with wealthy corporations that profit from, and institutions that comply with, Israel’s human rights abuses, international law violations and other apartheid policies,” he added.
One protester even donned an enormous papier-mache head that looked like Cuomo’s.
For months, the New York legislature unsuccessfully tried to pass anti-boycott legislation. Cuomo circumvented this legal process completely on Sunday, June 5, signing the surprise executive order.
Dima Khalidi, the founder and director of nonprofit legal advocacy organization Palestine Legal and a cooperating counsel with the Center for Constitutional Rights, blasted Cuomo’s executive action.
“Gov. Cuomo can’t wish away the First Amendment with an executive order,” she told Salon on Monday. “It’s clear that Cuomo is bypassing the legislative process in order to muzzle morally-driven positions protesting systemically discriminatory state policies and a military occupation that is 49 years old this week.”
“As with the constitutionally faulty legislation that was pending in Albany, this Executive Order may not infringe — directly or indirectly — on the rights of New Yorkers to engage in constitutionally protected boycotts to effect economic, political or social change,” she added.
Palestine Legal issued a statement calling the executive order “a blatantly unconstitutional attack on freedom of speech [that] establishes a dangerous precedent reminiscent of McCarthyism.”
Riham Barghouti, another activist with Adalah-NY, accused Cuomo of acting undemocratically in order to implement an unpopular pro-Israel policy.
“Like other politicians, Gov. Cuomo is finding that blind support of the Israeli apartheid state requires repressive, undemocratic measures,” Barghouti said. “He is attempting to silence the growing number of morally conscientious individuals and organizations that support freedom, justice and equality for Palestinians.”
“We, along with our allies, demand that Gov. Cuomo rescind this order punishing supporters of Palestinian rights and BDS,” she added.
Anti-boycott legislation has been introduced in more than 20 states throughout the U.S. Bills that are likely unconstitutional have been passed in nine states.
Sen. Chuck Schumer heaped praise on Cuomo for his executive order. The New York senator said he is “looking at introducing a federal law to do the same thing” across the country.
Activists say Thursday’s protest was the first action in a new campaign to pressure the governor to repeal the order.
“This is a new low for the state-sanctioned backlash against the movement for Palestinian human rights,” Nic Abramson, an activist with Jews Say No!, said in a statement.
Abramson emphasized that the Palestinian solidarity movement “is growing and strengthening daily.”
JVP stands by the BDS movement. Vilkomerson, the executive director, defended BDS in Salon in February, warning that she and her organization were on the verge of being blacklisted.
“We act in solidarity with the Palestinian call for international grassroots pressure on Israel until it complies with international law and ends its ongoing repression of Palestinian rights,” explained JVP activist Gabrielle Spears in a statement.
She emphasized, “We will continue to boycott Israel until Palestinian children can live without fear of imprisonment and torture, until there are no longer separate roadways for Israeli Jews and Palestinians, until Israel stops bombing and killing Palestinians, and until the checkpoints and apartheid wall are dismantled.”
Ben Norton is a politics staff writer at Salon. You can find him on Twitter at@BenjaminNorton. Original article: http://www.salon.com/2016/06/10/shame_on_cuomo_new_yorkers_protest_mccarthyite_blacklist_of_supporters_of_israel_boycott_movement_bds/
We are Israeli citizens, active against Israel’s occupation and violations of international law. We would like to express our support of Omar Barghouti’s right to freedom of speech and assembly as the co-founder of the BDS campaign.
In doing so, we join numerous individuals and organizations across the world:
1. Academic BDS, Argentina
2. Sydney Staff for BDS, Australia
3. Belgian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (BACBI), Belgium
4. Faculty for Palestine, Canada
5. College and University Workers United (CUWU), Canada
6. Association des Universitaires pour le Respect du Droit International en Palestine (AURDIP),
7. Indian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (InCACBI), India
8. Academics for Palestine, Ireland
9. Stop Technion Campaign, Italy
10. Akademisk og Kulturell Boikott av Staten Israel (AKULBI), Norway
11. Pakistanis for Palestine, Pakistan
12. Action Group at KTH för Boycott of Israel (PSABI), Sweden
13. British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP), UK
14. Artists for Palestine, UK
15. Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine, UK
16. US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI), USA
It should be noted that several European governments have recently announced that a call forBDS is protected under the right to freedom of speech and assembly. Our protest resonates with governments and citizens, speaking out for the right to call for BDS. For example:
Dutch foreign minister says BDS “protected by the freedom of expression”.
Irish foreign minister says BDS is a “legitimate political viewpoint” and that his department is monitoring Israel’s repression of BDS movement co-founder Omar Barghouti.
352 European bodies call on the EU to support right to boycott.
23,000 people appeal to UN on the #RightToBoycott
Many of us support the BDS campaign, and those of us who are privileged Jewish Israeli citizens, are free to travel abroad and advocate for this cause. Targeting Omar Barghouti by the Israeli government shows that Palestinians have no right to free speech and free movement, as far as this government is concerned. We intend to continue our efforts for the attainment of justice and equality in Palestine/Israel.
Nabila Espanioly on behalf of Al-Tufula Pedagogical Center and Multipurpose Women’s Center in Nazareth
BOYCOTT! Supporting the Palestinian BDS call from within!
Coalition of Women for Peace
Anti-apartheid veteran Ronnie Kasrils finds attempts to outlaw boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) activism against Israel “absolutely ludicrous” and activists should resist such efforts. Last month, I interviewed Kasrils about his views on BDS and apartheid on his visit to Amsterdam.
For decades, Kasrils fought against apartheid as member of the African National Congress (ANC) and the Communist Party. He participated in operations of the ANC’s military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe. After the fall of apartheid, he served as (deputy-)Minister in several governments.
Kasrils was born in Johannesburg in 1938 as the grandson of Jewish immigrants from Lithuania and Latvia who fled for the Czarist pogroms to South Africa at the end of the 19th century.BDS contributed to change
“It worked brilliantly,” Kasrils quickly responds to my question if BDS against the South African apartheid regime made an impact.
“BDS made the whites in South Africa very angry. But you wear them down with BDS. It got to a point that they could not bear it anymore and then they wanted to see a change.”
A member of the ruling National Party told Kasrils that Barclays decision – after a presence of over 150 years – to withdraw from South Africa in 1988 “was the last straw that broke the camel’s back.” He recalls that international BDS activism started with a consumer boycott of South African fruit like Outspan oranges, grapes and apples. In the 70’s, Peter Hain in Britain started to disrupt sports games. With a group, he went down to the tennis court in Bristol and stopped the South African team. “It caught on like wildfire and reached other countries.” The boycott was open to creative interpretation and became an important way of reaching out and pulling people in.
Then pension schemes of churches and trade unions around the world began to divest from South African companies or companies that invested in South Africa. It had a big effect.
In 1985 in America, Kodak workers became aware of the extent to which black South Africans were suffering. The African-American people became instrumental in the anti-apartheid mobilization. Through their senators and representatives in congress, the black lobby began to apply huge pressure against companies and banks. Chase Manhattan was the first bank to break ties with South Africa.Prohibiting BDS is ludicrous
Kasrils says that he supports BDS activism against Israel a hundred percent. Attempts to outlaw BDS in the United States, Canada, France and the UK must be resisted, he adds.
“It is absolutely ludicrous that governments should use legislation to close down the right to freedom of speech of people who believe that BDS is a peaceful way to provide assistance and solidarity to the Palestinian people.”
“These governments should be assisting the whole process. Then there will be greater calm and peace for people in Palestine and Israel and the whole Middle East. Israel is a nuclear power with a considerable number of nuclear weapons and with extreme right wing people ruling it. The population is begging for blood, not just Palestinian blood but also from people in the region, and from people like Omar Barghouti who simply are talking about the right to BDS.”
“Israel is a country which exhibits the worst forms of injustice, of killings that we have seen for a very long time. Countries which incidentally are often referred to as fascist.”Worse than apartheid
Kasrils visited Israel and Palestine several times. When I ask him about his experiences, he answered: ”there are definitely similarities.” In 1984, the Security Council endorsed the definition adopted by the General Assembly in 1966 that apartheid is a crime against humanity. The Apartheid Convention does not say “South African apartheid”, it was made broader, Kasrils observes.
The definition of apartheid mentions inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them. You have to apply that definition to establish if Israel is practicing apartheid.
Any South African who has been involved in the freedom struggle and visited Palestine and Israel says “this is just like apartheid,” Kasrils continues. “The separation of people, the measures being used, those queues at the checkpoints, the humiliation are like apartheid.”
Archbishop Desmond Tutu and numerous other people say it is actually worse than apartheid.
“We seldom saw apartheid dropping bombs on people or entering townships with tanks and firing heavy artillery as in Gaza. In South Africa, we have seen atrocious massacres and we had occasions where the state of emergency was declared, the movement of black people controlled, sieges on townships like Soweto. It lasted a few weeks. Not year after year like in the West Bank or Gaza,” Kasrils recalls.Change will come
Many people doubt that Israel will change and respect the rights of the Palestinian people.
However, Kasrils is certain that it will change: “Israel is an example of the remaining colonial state, it seized the land from the Palestinian people, it dispossessed them of land and rights, used the most appalling methods throughout Israel’s history. We, South Africans, went through an agonizing process under apartheid. We recognize what is happening to the Palestinian people. We stand full square behind them in solidarity and call on governments to abide by United Nations resolutions. That means: the end of occupation, the end of the siege of Gaza, the right of the refugees to return. The only way in which the Jews of Israel can be guaranteed to live in security is by recognizing the rights of their fellow human beings, the Palestinian people.”
There was a time when people felt that there could be no end to apartheid in South Africa, Kasrils continues. The white state was very strong. It had huge resources and it had backing from the West, including the same countries that are supporting Israel today.
It came unstuck, because the people in South Africa were determined. For making a change one needs unity, determination, good leaders, the correct strategy, a vision for the future. In the end, the outcome for a just course is certain, no matter how long it takes. South Africa proved that.
The struggle against the movement to boycott Israel has sunk to a new low – criminalization. From now on it’s not just a propaganda campaign against BDS (which only made it stronger), not the usual victim-like behavior, not the colonialist fibs about the boycott’s harming Palestinian laborers. It’s not even the demonization, which includes accusing anyone who dares support the boycott of anti-Semitism, the mother of all accusations.
No, from now on the boycott is a crime. It’s a crime to boycott the criminal. A crime to avoid buying goods produced on territories of crime. A crime to avoid supporting a crime factory. A crime to fight violation of international law.
The powerful Jewish-Israeli lobbying is scoring more achievements. The go-ahead was given by none other than France’s Supreme Court, which ruled last year that boycotting Israel is, incredible as it may sound, a “hate crime.” Not the settlements or the executions at checkpoints, not the settlers’ violence and not the mass arrests – no, it’s the boycott against them that’s a crime.
America wasn’t far behind, of course. It will never miss an opportunity to cultivate, finance and encourage the occupation. Twenty states have enacted, or are about to enact, amendments against the boycott on Israel. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo even went as far as announcing this week that he signed an administrative order under which his state will boycott any organization or company that dares to take part in the boycott. “We want Israel to know we’re on its side,” said this pseudo Israel lover at a Jewish conference in Manhattan. “If you boycott Israel, New York will boycott you,” he tweeted.
Thank you, New York. Thank you governor. Your move has proved that New York stands on the occupiers’ side, on the side of crime. Again you’ve proved how unworthy the United States is of the title “leader of the free world.” Again you’ve proved that when it comes to Israel all your declared values are abruptly distorted. Could anyone have imagined issuing a similar order against the international movement against apartheid in South Africa? Can anyone imagine criminalizing the sanctions against Russia following its invasion of Crimea?
It’s not obligatory to support the boycott. It’s OK not to believe in its effectiveness. But it must be admitted that it’s impossible to be a person of conscience and buy the settlements’ products. Just as a law-abiding person won’t buy stolen property, we must not buy goods manufactured on stolen land. It’s obligatory to exhort people against this. It’s permitted to urge people to boycott such products. And it’s very difficult, in fact impossible, to separate between the settlements and Israel, which has erased the Green Line.
Israel is invested in the occupation project in its entirety and there is no longer any distinguishing between them. Is there a bank without accounts from the West Bank? Is there a health maintenance organization without a branch in Ariel? Is there a supermarket chain without a supermarket for settlers?
But even those who don’t believe in the boycott, or think there are better ways to fight the occupation (such as?) cannot go along with this crushing criminalization. The boycott is a legitimate, non-violent means that has and is being used by numerous states, including Israel.
What are the international sanctions on Hamas, with Israel’s encouragement, if not a boycott? What about those on Iran? Hasn’t Israel violated international law as well?
Israeli propagandists are delighting in the achievements against BDS. The struggle’s commander, Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon, last week held a propagandists’ conference in the UN building, where his forces briefed some 1,500 gullible Jewish students to recite: “Every other word that comes out of your mouths must be ‘peace.’”
That is moving, of course, to the point of tears. But the hour of truth will come, and then all those who acted to criminalize the boycott will have to answer honestly: Who is the criminal here, what is the real crime and what have you done against it?
In 2005 the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israeli apartheid, occupation and colonialism started with a call by Palestinian civil society. The initiative is based on the understanding that once the profits Israeli economy reaps from the occupation, a new process of resistance and of change will have started. The Palestinian National Boycott, divestment and Sanction Committee (BNC), a wide coalition of the largest Palestinian organisations, trade unions, networks and NGOs, is the national and international reference body for the global BDS movement that has developed over the last decade. Its board is made of 32 members, which represent the different grassroots movement, associations and NGO network.
The call for BDS is in the first place a call for global solidarity action but as well the Palestinian people under occupation are engaging in ever more effective BDS and anti-normalization campaigns. In fact, boycotts have been since the beginning of the Zionist efforts to colonize Palestine until today a constant part of Palestinian popular resistance. For the Ramadan period in 2016, starting on June 6, the BNC has been working to launch a unified boycott campaign in the occupied Palestinian territories. Stop the Wall has interviewed Mahmoud Nawajaa, the general coordinator of the BNC to know more about the campaign.
Mahmoud, what kind of campaign have you prepared for Ramadan and why is it important to have one in this moment?
The boycott campaign that we are launching for Ramadan has been prepared over a year in meetings with local groups and national organizations. It has been officially launched on the first day of Ramadan, June 6. It is a big chance to involve more people and enlarge our outreach, stressing how unifying the Palestinian People regardless of their parties’ affiliation on the basis of a joint struggle for justice, freedom and equality is at the heart of the BDS movement. With this campaign we are targeting those products that are commonly bought specifically during Ramadan, which differ from those we normally consume. The campaign is intended at raising awareness among the people that buying Palestinian products rather than Israeli ones can have a political impact and encourages the Palestinian public to make a conscious choice of popular resistance during their Ramadan shoppings. Israel since time has realized that it can profit from the Palestinian Ramadan celebrations by offering the relevant products.
Palestinian living in the OPT buy every year Israeli products worth 14 billion shekels. Israel is working hard to ensure we are living in a captive market and are forced to depend on many Israeli products but a good part of them do actually have alternatives. We have worked on studies that have shown that out of these products, there are alternatives available for sales worth 7 billion shekels. This means with an effective boycott campaign Israel would lose 50% of its exports to the OPT. At the same time this would create 140 thousand job for Palestinians.
We want people to stop buying products of four specific companies: Tnuva, Yafoora, Osem and Strauss. Only the Israeli dairy company Tnuva sells products worth 18 million NIS every year to the Palestinian market. While in the West Bank we have still alternatives, Israeli military aggressions and demolitions have helped to ensure that in Gaza Tnuva has an almost complete monopoly of sales. In 2009/2010, the Israeli occupation destroyed the Palestinian Dalloul factory that was providing milk and cheese on a daily basis at cheaper prices than Tnuva was able to do. Today, Tnuva has no local competitor anymore and, in contrast to outside companies, it faces much less difficulties to ensure its products enter Gaza.
Osem, another Israeli company that profits from the Palestinian captive market, has factories on the lands of Palestinian destroyed villages, such as the town of Najd, Tantura or Iraq Mansheya. These companies are all actively support the Israeli military with parts of their profits.
This year, we want to ensure that Muslim Palestinians when they break their fast every evening during Ramadan, will as well contribute to breaking their ties with the occupation.
How are you going to convince people not to buy Israeli products?
The campaign strategy is multifaceted. We have divided the West Bank according to its ten districts. Each district is in charge of a specific campaign and a specific target. Considering the activities, they are all aimed at raising awareness among people on how they can support the Palestinian popluar resistance by embracing BDS. We are working to ensure a strong media coverage, from TV to radio programmes, we are holding workshops, targeting trade unions, teachers’ unions and women’s coalitions. We are organising demonstrations against the companies I mentioned before on a weekly basis.
During Ramadan we will work on many different levels. In order to launch the campaign, we held three demonstrations, in Bethlehem and Beit Jala, where the two Palestinian Company hosting Tnuva, and Ya’fura. The next phase is to galvanize campaigns in the various West Bank districts. Supported by the media campaign, we will launch the campaign in Nablus, Ramallah, Bethlehem and Tulkarem.
We are going to be present in all those public spaces where people gather, pass by or do their shopping, such as supermarkets, markets, schools and hospitals. We give much importance to speaking with the people and making them aware of how there is a direct connection between buying Israeli products and supporting Israeli violations of our human rights and how stopping to buy a specific product means fighting against the occupation. People in fact do not tend to relate products to human rights violations and that choosing not to buy Israeli products means supporting the resistance.
This point is very interesting. The fact that you are working on creating awareness among people that there is a direct relation between economy and resistance, and between economy and human rights violations, is an issue that can potentially be an overall strategy to advocate and take action for human rights uniting people around the world.
Yes, I do think this is one of our main challenges and one of the most effective ways in which we can affect Israeli apartheid and occupation and force them to reconsider their policies. In the last 10 years, BDS has achieved significant results. The movement has a strong international outreach, and I think it has been so successful because it is very easy to act accordingly. The hardest part though, as I mentioned, is creating the cognitive relation between the product and the human rights violations. Even Palestinians themselves often don’t link the two issues, unless major events take place.
During the war on Gaza for example, a lot of Palestinians instinctively stopped buying certain Israeli products. The problem of such episodes though is that those are not linked to a fully fledged, effective strategy, but rather a reaction to particularly brutal Israeli attacks. It is important instead to stop being reactive, but to be proactive. We have to develop strategies that allow us to keep on resisting the occupation while continuing our lives and even during times of ‘ordinary occupation and repression’.
People should not surrender to a life under occupation and apartheid. This is not a normal life. Their limitation to movement, discrimination, queues at checkpoints are not normal. Is just that we are used to it. You have to bear in mind that Israel works not only to colonise our land but as well our minds and culture and that this colonisation has been going on now for almost 70 years. Colonisation does not only limit our daily life, but also occupies your mind. One aspect is that you get used to live a life where your dignity is daily undermined. It means as well that you develop a sense of inferiority towards the one who exercises violence against you and dominates you and you start believing that they can produce better products and be better than you. This, of course, is one of the major Israeli propaganda tools since the birth of their state. It is the colonial ideology that considers ‘Arabs’ as an inferior culture, incapable of modernisation and of the technologies of Western culture. Israel depicts itself as the only western, and hence superior, culture in the Middle East. This is reflected in their marketing strategies, which present their products as better, tastier and more convenient. Most of the times this is not true. Of course, the Israeli industry supported by the state that colonizes us in certain aspects is able to make better offers than our companies, but generally Israeli products are more expensive and due to the industrialised mass production in their food industry, Israeli products are normally less tasty and healthy than the Palestinian ones.
Nevertheless, there is a continuous effort developed by the occupation to push our people to keep on buying their products, considering those as better. Our challenge during Ramadan is to convince the people of how effective their commitment to BDS will be and how strongly it would impact Israel, by impacting their economy. The local BDS campaigns also counteract the colonisation of our culture and of our minds, reminding people that we can choose and we can choose justice, hope and self-determination, especially when our capacity of action is so widely constrained.
This Sunday marked the 49th anniversary of the 1967 war, when the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem began. It was on this day, as the occupation entered its 50th year, that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo decided to cast his lot firmly in support of perpetual occupation.
He did so by issuing an executive order that will blacklist organizations for their political views—specifically, entities that advocate or practice boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel because of its denial of fundamental Palestinian rights. The order requires all state agencies and funds to divest from any organization that supports BDS. It is the sort of thing that invokes McCarthyism and makes you wonder if the governor will move next to establish a House Un-Israeli Activities Committee.
Cuomo would do well to remember that unlike Israel—where there is no Constitution guaranteeing the equal rights of people regardless of race, creed, or opinion—we do have a Constitution in the United States, and this order flies in the face of its First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech.
BDS is nonviolent and follows in the tradition of many other social-justice movements.
The global movement for Palestinian rights has responded to the call of Palestinian civil society to boycott, divest from and sanction the State of Israel until it complies with international law and respects the human rights of Palestinians. These tactics are nonviolent and follow in the tradition of many other social-justice movements. From the Montgomery bus boycott of the civil rights era to the divestment movement against apartheid in South Africa, BDS tactics have a rich history of propelling social change in this country and beyond. Now Governor Cuomo wants the State of New York to oppose such efforts.
Beyond the constitutional concerns, including the chilling effect on free speech and legitimate political advocacy, this order highlights the governor’s blatant hypocrisy. It was earlier this year when he, along with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, banned non-essential employee travel to North Carolina because of that state’s anti-LGBT law. It seems Governor Cuomo is a BDS proponent when the rights being defended are not those of Palestinians. And he isn’t alone in this double standard; others who supported the use of BDS tactics in the civil rights struggle or who support it today to advance LGBT rights or fossil-fuel divestment now oppose the use of such tactics to advance Palestinian rights. Why are the human rights of Palestinians less worthy of defense than the rights of others?
The governor’s actions are also counterproductive. For years, the international community, in particular the United States, has called on Palestinians to abandon violence. Now, as a nonviolent movement sparked by Palestinian civil society gains steam, leaders like Cuomo are telling Palestinians that nonviolent resistance to abusive and discriminatory Israeli policies is also illegitimate. Distilled, the message to Palestinians is clear: No resistance to the denial of your human rights is legitimate, because you have no legitimate claim to human rights. It is a fundamentally racist message. Cuomo, and others in his position, should know that Palestinians and their supporters around the world will never submit to this implied inferiority. Attempts to close off avenues of nonviolent resistance will only create incentives for violent alternatives.
In his announcement on Sunday, Governor Cuomo suggested that nonviolent BDS activism for Palestinian rights is tantamount to armed resistance, claiming that it is “in many ways more frightening” than Hamas’s use of tunnels. This disturbing attempt to smear nonviolent activists could encourage violence against them, and is unbecoming of leaders in an ostensibly liberal society.
While Cuomo’s attack on the movement for Palestinian rights is wrongheaded and immoral, it is also a sign of just how much the movement has grown and how much its opponents are willing to destroy the values they claim to uphold to attack it. The executive order started out as a bill in the New York State Legislature, which stalled after a public outcry exposed its suppression of free speech. Cuomo—perhaps pushed by pro-Israel groups fearful of the optics of such legislation not passing in New York—decided he didn’t want to wait for the legislative process to play out, and acted on his own. This underscores the extent to which right-wing efforts in support of Israeli apartheid have lost the American grassroots, who are increasingly less likely to accept the legitimacy of a system that denies millions of people basic rights. Perhaps the pro-apartheid camp can circumvent the will of Americans and buy themselves some more time in defense of the indefensible, but ultimately freedom, justice, and equality will come to Israel-Palestine. It’s a matter of time—the arc of the moral universe is already bending toward justice.
So if Governor Cuomo wants to create a list of those nonviolently demanding accountability for Israel’s denial of basic Palestinian rights, please sign me up. One day, when the system of imposed inequality ends in Israel-Palestine, this resistance to it will be looked back on as a badge of honor. I, along with an ever-growing number of Americans, want to be counted among those who stood on the right side of history.
ONE OF THE greatest free speech threats in the West is the growing, multi-nation campaign literally to outlaw advocacy of boycotting Israel. People get arrested in Paris — the site of the 2015 “free speech” (for Muslim critics) rally — for wearing pro-boycott T-shirts. Pro-boycott students on U.S. campuses — where the 1980s boycott of apartheid South Africa flourished — are routinely sanctioned for violating anti-discrimination policies. Canadian officials have threatened to criminally prosecute boycott advocates. British government bodies have legally barred certain types of boycott advocacy. Israel itself has outright criminalized advocacy of such boycotts. Notably, all of this has been undertaken with barely a peep from those who styled themselves free speech crusaders when it came time to defend anti-Muslim cartoons.
But now, New York’s Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo (above, in the 2016 Celebrate Israel Parade) has significantly escalated this free speech attack on U.S. soil, aimed at U.S. citizens. The prince of the New York political dynasty yesterday issued an executive order directing all agencies under his control to terminate any and all business with companies or organizations that support a boycott of Israel. It ensures that citizens who hold and express a particular view are punished through the denial of benefits that other citizens enjoy: a classic free speech violation (imagine if Cuomo issued an order stating that “anyone who expresses conservative viewpoints shall have all state benefits immediately terminated”).
Even more disturbing, Cuomo’s executive order requires that one of his commissioners compile “a list of institutions and companies” that — “either directly or through a parent or subsidiary” — support a boycott. That government list is then posted publicly, and the burden falls on them to prove to the state that they do not, in fact, support such a boycott. Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, told The Intercept: “Whenever the government creates a blacklist based on political views it raises serious First Amendment concerns and this is no exception.” Reason’s Robby Soave denounced it today as “brazenly autocratic.”
To read the relevant provisions of Cuomo’s order is to confront the mentality of petty censoring tyranny, flavored with McCarthyite public shaming, in its purest form. See for yourself:
Making matters worse still is the imperious nature of Cuomo’s order. As Salon’s Ben Norton noted, “The New York legislature has unsuccessfully tried to push through anti-boycott legislation for months.” So instead, Cuomo just unilaterally decreed this punishment of boycott advocates.
New York’s Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer wasted no time, now demanding a federal statute that tracks Cuomo’s order. Hillary Clinton, last July, wrote a public letter to her (and the Democratic Party’s) billionaire supporter, self-described Israel fanatic Haim Saban, endorsing the core principle of this censorship effort — that boycotting Israel is a form of anti-Semitism — and did so again in her March speech before AIPAC. Numerous Republicans support similar measures.
Beyond the McCarthyism and profound free speech threat, the stench of hypocrisy of Cuomo and Democrats is suffocating. Just over two months ago, Cuomo banned state officials from traveling to North Carolina in order to support the boycott against that American state in protest over its anti-transgender law. That pro-boycott executive order from Cuomo began by proclaiming that “New York state is a national leader in protecting the civil rights and liberties of all of its citizens” and thus barred “publicly funded travel” to North Carolina.
But in justifying this punishment for Israel critics, Cuomo’s counsel told the New York Times: “It’s one thing to say I want to engage in political speech. It’s another thing to say I’m going to sanction you or penalize you for engaging in commercial activity.” But that — “I’m going to sanction you or penalize you for engaging in commercial activity” — is exactly what Cuomo did just two months ago by boycotting North Carolina. Think about how warped that is: To the governor of New York, it’s not only permissible but noble to boycott an American state, but it’s immoral and worthy of punishment to boycott Israel, a foreign country guilty of a decadeslong brutal and illegal occupation. Questions submitted by The Intercept to Cuomo were not answered as of publication.
More ironic still is that Cuomo, in imposing a boycott of North Carolina, said he was doing so because in “a free society the equal rights of all citizens … must be protected and cherished” — exactly the principle that the boycott of Israel is seeking to fulfill by ending oppression and discrimination against Palestinians. But even if you disagree with the Israel boycott itself, no rational person should want Andrew Cuomo and other elected officials to have the power to dictate which political views are acceptable and which ones result in denial of state benefits.
The free speech hypocrisy on the part of all sorts of people here is obvious. In 2012, conservatives were furious when Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that he would block the restaurant chain Chick-fil-A from expanding in the city as punishment for its owner’s anti-gay activism, depicting this move as a grave threat to free speech (a position we shared). Throughout 2015, pundits such as New York’s Jonathan Chait wrapped themselves in the free speech flag when it came time to defend racist and anti-gay speech on campus, insisting that all forms of speech, even “hate speech,” should be protected (positions we also share).
Yet now, a systematic, international campaign — fully bipartisan in the U.S. — is being implemented to abuse state resources and the force of law for a full-frontal assault on free speech and free assembly rights, and virtually none of them is objecting because it’s all in service of protecting Israel from criticism. It’s bizarre enough that someone gets elected as governor of New York and then believes it’s part of his job to shield Israel from criticism. That he does so by assaulting the free speech rights of citizens of his own country — just weeks after imposing a boycott on another American state — tells you all you need to know about the role Israel continues to play in American discourse and the willingness of people to stomp on free speech principles the moment doing so benefits their political goals.
PACBI writes to UN genocide prevention chief over complicity with Israel’s ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem
Note: Mr Adama Dieng has ignored PACBI’s appeal and his talk at Israel’s settlement university, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, continues advertised at the website of INoGS.
H.E. Adama Dieng
Special Advisor for the Secretary-General
On the Prevention of Genocide
Friday, May 20, 2016
Re: Participation in the International Network of Genocide Scholars (INoGS) Conference in Occupied Jerusalem
We are writing to express our deep concern at your scheduled participation in the International Network of Genocide Scholars (INoGS) conference in Jerusalem next month. The conference will take place in at Hebrew University, which operates facilities in an illegal Israeli settlement. The sponsoring five Israeli universities are deeply complicit in serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.
Participating in this conference undermines the mandate of the office of the Secretary General’s Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide. Your participation would further fuel the culture of impunity encouraging serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law perpetrated against Palestinians. It is for this reason that we urge you to withdraw your participation.
Israeli universities sponsoring this conference are profoundly complicit in justifying the ongoing colonization of Palestinian land. Such justifications are active contributions to legitimizing Israel’s unlawful policies of forcible population transfer, house demolitions, the routing of the Wall and its associated movement restrictions. These policies are orchestrated to facilitate the systematic forced removal, of the indigenous Palestinians [occupied population] for the purpose of building and expanding illegal Israeli exclusively Jewish settlements in the occupied territory.
These institutions actively rationalize the gradual ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinians. They have also actively participated in developing weapons systems and military doctrines, including the Dahiya and Hannibal Doctrines that closely resemble the banned scorched earth policy, deployed in Israel’s recent wars against Lebanon and Gaza. In addition, these institutions actively provided moral justifications for willful killings and other forms of indiscriminate attacks against civilians and civilian objects; to name a few of the many implicit and explicit violations of international human rights and international humanitarian law.
Furthermore, Israeli universities systematically discriminate against “non-Jewish” students in admissions, housing eligibility, financial aid, and impose restrictive processes aimed for the systematic exclusion of Palestinian students from academic life.
This conference has been called for at a time when new repressive and discriminatory Israeli laws and a dominant culture of racism and intolerance that has been instilled over decades is more apparent than ever. This has enabled Israel’s occupation forces to adopt a shoot-to-kill policy against Palestinian child and youth protesters in situations where they pose no serious threat. A report by the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor has detailed some of the “arbitrary killings” carried out by the Israeli military, calling on the UN to immediately investigate them.
Encouraged to do so by the racial incitement of Israeli leaders (see here and here), large numbers of ordinary Israelis are increasingly praising and calling for attacks and killings of Palestinians (here and here). Recently, an Eritrean asylum seeker at an Israeli bus stop was mistaken for a Palestinian assailant and subsequently shot and beaten to death by an Israeli “lynch mob” in full sight of Israeli soldiers.
The UN Secretary-General, the Human Rights Council, and the General Assembly of the United Nations for Israel have repeatedly demanded that Israel immediately halt violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. Despite continuous calls to do so, Israel refuses to adhere to its legal obligations towards the occupied Palestinian population. Israeli academic institutions, including the ones hosting and sponsoring this conference, continue to be heavily complicit in these violations.
Participating in this conference jeopardizes the crucial role of your office and undermines its credibility, as your mandate requires the monitoring of “massive and serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law of ethnic and racial origin that, if not prevented or halted, might lead to genocide.”
Your participation in this conference with its existing organizational structure would be seen, by the Palestinian civil society and the international human rights advocates community, as an encouraging reward of the ongoing serious violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law – fueling the toxic environment of impunity in Israel.
Based on the above, we urge you to withdraw your participation from the INoGS conference, and to instead report the complicity of Israeli academic institutions in violations of international humanitarian law.
We look forward to hearing from you by Friday, May 27, 2016.
Resolution to Boycott Israeli Academic Institutions at the American Anthropological Association Nearly Wins, Shows Rising Tide of Support for Palestinian Rights
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) salutes all the members of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) who voted in favor of a resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions. The resolution was narrowly defeated by a margin of 39 votes, 2,423:2,384.
Prof. Haidar Eid, a PACBI Steering Committee member who teaches literature in Gaza, said: “This statistical tie, with a negligible difference of 0.8%, exposes Israel’s weakness in combatting the BDS movement. All of Israel’s intimidation, smearing, and well-oiled lobbying could hardly blunt the rising tide of support for Palestinian freedom, justice and equality.”
“At a time when New York Governor Cuomo is passing anti-democratic, McCarthyite executive orders to ban boycotts of Israel, and the Democratic Party presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is making pronouncements against the movement, the high support for the academic boycott of Israel at the AAA shows that supporters of Palestinian rights are not deterred and no longer afraid to speak out publicly. The tide is clearly turning.”
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement was launched in 2005 by the overwhelming majority in Palestinian society to build grassroots pressure on the Israeli government until it complies with with its obligations under international law, by ending its occupation, apartheid and denial of Palestinian refugee rights.The BDS movement is rooted in a long heritage of Palestinian popular resistance and inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement and the US Civil Rights movement. Despite numerous efforts to silence Palestinian rights advocates, Americans are growing more aware of Israel’s human rights abuses, and the BDS movement is gaining support in the United States.
At the latest AAA conference, 88% voted for the boycott of Israeli academics institutions over their “complicity in planning, implementing, justifying and whitewashing Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid,” as PACBI commented at the time.
Prof. Samia Botmeh, a PACBI Steering Committee member who teaches economics at Birzeit University, commented: “PACBI wishes to acknowledge, with gratitude, the determined efforts of all the academics who diligently and strategically worked on and endorsed this resolution in this prevailing climate of intimidation, both in the US academy and by branches of the US government. They have paved the way for a discussion on Israel’s violations of international law and have exposed the taboo surrounding criticism of Israel.”
“The AAA results are rejuvenating and are cause for all BDS supporters to redouble efforts as we see the rising support for Palestinian rights.”
The BDS movement was launched in 2005 by the overwhelming majority in Palestinian society to isolate Israel’s regime of oppression in order to bring about its compliance with its obligations under international law, by ending its occupation, apartheid and denial of Palestinian refugee rights.
Rooted in a long heritage of Palestinian popular resistance and inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement and the US Civil Rights movement, BDS calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel in all fields.
PACBI, the part of the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) tasked with overseeing the academic and cultural boycott aspects of BDS, has since 2004 advocated for a boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions.
Liberté d’expression et d’opinion
Alors que le mouvement BDS prend de l’ampleur, il est de plus en plus attaqué et accusé, afin de le discréditer, de promouvoir la discrimination ou l’antisémitisme. Les attaques de ce genre ne font que s’intensifier .
En réponse à ces mises en cause de la légitimité du mouvement, le Rapporteur spécial des Nations unies sur la liberté d’opinion et d’expression, lorsqu’il s’est rendu en Israël, après les avoir analysés, a considéré que les boycotts étaient des actions « pacifiques, légitimes et acceptées sur la scène internationale », et que ces actions étaient protégées par la liberté d’expression. En tant que telles, des manifestations d’opinion critiquant le gouvernement d’Israël pour ses manquements ne relèvent pas des exceptions, limitées, à la liberté d’expression reconnues par l’article 19 du Pacte international relatif aux droits civils et politiques . Une telle acceptation internationale de boycotts est démontrée et confortée par l’existence de boycotts tout au long de l’histoire, dans le but de manifester une opposition politique ou pour promouvoir des changements politiques .
Aux yeux du Bureau International, le mouvement BDS vise les politiques d’occupation illégale et de discrimination à l’encontre des Palestiniens menées depuis longtemps par le gouvernement d’Israël, notamment en soutenant l’occupation et en s’en rendant complice. Dans ces conditions, des personnes doivent avoir le droit de participer pacifiquement et d’appeler à des mesures BDS pour protester contre de telles politiques. Ces droits sont tout aussi légitimes, légaux et valides que dans le cas des exemples historiques de boycotts ; il convient donc de mettre en garde contre des efforts ou des initiatives visant à restreindre les droits à la liberté d’expression, d’opinion, d’association et d’assemblée, notamment en criminalisant l’exercice de ces droits pour des raisons discriminatoires, portant notamment sur des opinions, politiques ou autres.
Il est clair que la logique des mesures BDS repose sur l’opposition à l’occupation militaire par Israël et ses politiques mises en œuvre dans les territoires palestiniens occupés. Dans ces conditions, nous exprimons notre soutien au droit de participer et à appeler à des activités BDS dès lors qu’elles sont conformes à l’interdiction du racisme et de la discrimination sous toutes ses formes, notamment pour des raisons de race, couleur, origine nationale ou sociale, langue, religion, opinion politique, sexe, identité de genre, orientation sexuelle ou handicap.
Une pratique reconnue par les Nations unies
Les sanctions économiques sont également conformes à l’esprit et aux objectifs de la Charte des Nations unies, et ont été appliquées dans de nombreuses situations, notamment par le Conseil de Sécurité. Une telle pratique est admise en droit international des droits humains, à condition que les sanctions ‘exercent une pression politique et économique sur l’élite dirigeante du pays visé pour l’amener à se conformer au droit international’, en ayant conscience de ‘leurs effets indirects, à savoir les souffrances infligées aux groupes les plus vulnérables de ce pays’, et le cas échéant en prenant des mesures pour les atténuer, comme reconnu par le Comité des droits économiques, sociaux et culturels des Nations unies .
Le Bureau International souligne le soutien historique apporté dans d’autres contextes par les Nations unies et la communauté internationale aux mesures BDS, et exprime sa grave préoccupation devant la multiplication de mesures législatives nationales visant à criminaliser et à réduire au silence des militants BDS. Les droits humains universels, comme la liberté d’expression, doivent être respectés en toute impartialité ; une application partiale et partielle des normes du droit international ne fera que perpétuer le statu quo, en Israël comme en Palestine, et en d’autres zones de conflit.
Les Défenseurs des droits humains
Appalled by the state-led bullying against non-violent resistance, the undersigned “wish to underscore a basic truth which seems to escape the current Israeli administration and its apologists: international citizens’ boycotts against ongoing abuse of international law are a legally-protected and fundamental civil right. Civil boycotts are a key means of non-violent protest. They cannot, precisely, be interdicted, made illegal or punishable.”
So far, signatories of the petition include: Jewish peace organizations from the USA, Canada, UK, Ireland, Germany, France, Italy; as well as a hundred distinguished Jewish activists, such as Noam Chomsky, co-founder of Code Pink Medea Benjamin, former South African government minister Ronnie Kasrils, former Israeli human-rights lawyer Felicia Langer, the Israeli filmmaker Eyal Sivan and laureate of the Sakharov Prize for Human Rights Nurit Peled-Elhanan.
Yossi Bartal, on behalf of Jewish Voice for Just Peace, Germany mail@juedische–stimme.de
Attached: Petition text and signature list
House of Representatives and Congress of the United States of America
European Commission, European Parliament
Governments and Parliaments of Canada, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Ireland, Spain, South Africa, Sweden and UK
Jews Worldwide in Solidarity
with Omar Barghouti and BDS activists
We, the undersigned Jewish organizations and individuals from various countries all over the world, call upon all governments as well as upon international bodies to use all their available means of diplomacy and power to compel the Israeli government to immediately halt its intimidation campaign against Omar Barghouti and the Palestinian-led BDS Movement.
Israel has officially declared its determination to use everything in its power to intimidate and supress the leaders and supporters of the international BDS movement—including the usage of targeted actions by intelligence agencies . Israel’s Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked instructed the international department of her ministry “to prepare a plan of legal steps” in order to “move from defence to offence” against the BDS movement  already a year ago, with the full backing of the Israeli government, to run a massive campaign aimed at criminalizing the internationally-growing BDS movement, and at silencing any protest against the ongoing Israeli occupation.
Meanwhile Aryeh Deri, Israel’s Interior Minister personally took efforts to revoke the permanent residency status  of Mr. Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the BDS movement. He has been barred from leaving the country ever since. His life and well-being have been threatened by Israeli officials repeatedly.
As Jewish organizations and individuals committed to human rights, to democracy and to the rule of law, we speak out against the widespread attacks by the current Israeli government against the BDS movement. Appalled by this state-led bullying against non-violent resistance to the illegal Israeli occupation, we wish to underscore a basic truth which seems to escape the current Israeli administration and its apologists:
International citizens’ boycotts against ongoing abuse of international law are a legally-protected and fundamental civil right. Civil boycotts are a key means of non-violent protest. They cannot, precisely, be interdicted, made illegal or punishable.
In steadfast defence of accepted universal human rights and established standards of international law and decency, we therefore demand:
- The end to Mr. Barghouti’s residency restriction and the reinstatement of his right to free movement 
- The guaranteeing of Mr. Barghouti’s and all other Palestinians’ freedom of movement , of political expression  and of assembly 
- The immediate cessation of all political and legal attempts to criminalize support for BDS and the recognition and restitution of the inalienable right to non-violently resist unjust state actions like occupation and apartheid
Signing Organizations:Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians (ACJC) Canada Code Pink USA European Jews for a Just Peace (EJJP) Europe Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) Canada Independent Jewish Voices(IJV) UK International Jewish Antizionist Network USA (IJAN USA) USA It’s Kosher to Boycott Israeli Goods (Jews4Big) UK Jewish Socialists’ Group (JSG) UK Jewish Voice for a Just Peace (Juedische Stimme) Germany Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) Ireland Jewish-Palestinian Dialogue Group Germany Jews for a Just Peace North Carolina (jfajpNC) USA Jews for Justice for Palestine (jfjfp) UK Rete’ Ebrei contro l’Occupazione (Network of Jews against Occupation) Italy union juive française pour la paix (ujfp) France
 Art. 15 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
 Art. 12 International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Art. 13. UHRD
 Art. 19 ICCPR
 Art. 21 ICCPR
President and CEO of Newseum
May 31, 2016
Re: Newseum event with former Israeli army spokesperson Avital Leibovich
Dear Dr. Herbst,
The Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate is writing to you to express our shock that you are hosting Avital Leibovich, a former spokesperson of the Israeli occupation forces for an event at Newseum on June 7 . We urge you not to provide a platform to someone who has justified, on record and to a world audience, Israel’s grave violations of international law and war crimes, and in particular attacks against journalists and press freedoms.
We are concerned that by enabling Leibovich’s impunity, when serious charges of war crimes are hanging over her, Newseum will directly undermine our ability as journalists to conduct our professional duties without fear from fatal attacks. We call on you to cancel Leibovich’s invitation as it starkly contradicts your organization’s mission to uphold free expression and a free press.
Leibovich has defended during Israel’s 2012 brutal assault on Gaza the Israeli army’s intentional  targeting and murder of journalists, among them Hussam Salama and Mahmoud al-Kumi, both on Newseum’s online memorial. Leibovich wrote at the time in the New York Times:
“Such terrorists, who hold cameras and notebooks in their hands, are no different from their colleagues who fire rockets aimed at Israeli cities and cannot enjoy the rights and protection afforded to legitimate journalists.” 
Her conclusion, in direct conflict with international law, was that Palestinian journalists in Gaza “cannot enjoy the rights and protection afforded to legitimate journalists.” Human Rights Watch said that Leibovich’s statements “are evidence of war crimes because they show intent”. 
The Committee to Protect Journalists condemned Leibovich’s statements:
“Alarmingly, [Israeli army] spokeswoman Leibovich seeks to erase the crucial legal distinction between armed combatants and journalists covering the perspective of an adversary. … All journalists, whether local or foreign, regardless of the perspective from which they report, are afforded the same civilian protections under international law. The Israeli government does not have the right to selectively define who is and who is not a journalist based on national identity or media affiliation.” 
As Palestinian journalists, we are on the frontlines of Israel’s attacks on a daily basis. Israel is currently holding ten Palestinian journalists in jail, six of them without charge.  Omar Nazzal, a member of the board of the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate, was arrested without charge on April 23 on his way to a gathering of the European Federation of Journalists in Bosnia.  Earlier this year journalist Muhammed Al-Qiq was on a brink of death having been on a hunger strike for 94 days fighting his illegal detention without charge. Rights organizations such as Reporters Without Borders  and the International Federation of Journalists  have consistently denounced the Israeli attacks that Leibovich has enthusiastically and unashamedly defended.
The announcement for this event states that Leibovich “has served as the face of the IDF to the international community during critical events”.  Among the “critical events” you refer to is Israel’s 2008/9 assault on the besieged Gaza strip when Israel banned international journalists from entering the territory, preventing them from witnessing first-hand the atrocities it was committing against Palestinian civilians, as confirmed by a subsequent UN commission of investigation.  The Foreign Press Association in Israel denounced the ban as a “severe violation of press freedom”. 
We urge you to withdraw your invitation to Avital Leibovich. Inviting a suspected war criminal like her shows contempt for Palestinian human rights and indeed Palestinian lives, including those of journalists.
Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate
[3 ] https://www.hrw.org/news/2012/12/20/israel/gaza-unlawful-israeli-attacks-palestinian-media
 See for example https://rsf.org/en/news/rwb-condemns-air-strikes-news-media-gaza-city
 See for example http://www.ifj.org/nc/news-single-view/backpid/1/article/west-bank-israeli-forces-close-down-television-and-arrest-3-media-workers/
- Technical report: recent relentless cyber-attacks on BDSmovement.net website show complex and coordinated attacker
- Israel announced in January 2016 plans to use cyber war against BDS
- Israel’s well-funded cyber war on BDS reflects failure to stop movement’s mainstream growth in recent years
A technical report issued today by eQualit.ie, a non-profit online security service, uncovers important evidence that the Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks carried out on the main website of the BDS movement and websites of other groups critical of Israel’s occupation and violations of human rights are complex and highly coordinated.
The advanced technology used in the attacks and the size of the botnets involved may show that Israel was directly involved. Israel has previously stated that it plans to use cyber warfare to undermine the BDS movement.
The websites of around 6 BDS organizations in North America and Europe also faced denial of service attacks during February and March, at the same time as the BDSmovement.net website was attacked.
Mahmoud Nawajaa, general coordinator of the Palestinian BDS National Committee, the broadest coalition in Palestinian society that leads the global BDS movement, reacted to the report saying:
“These latest cyber-attacks against BDS seem to be part of a full-fledged Israeli war on the movement that includes McCarthyite legal repression, use of intelligence services and yet more funding for ‘brand Israel’ propaganda. These attacks smack of Israel’s despair at its growing isolation around the world, after failing for years to stem the growing support for the nonviolent BDS movement as a strategic and effective means to achieve Palestinian rights under international law.”
“We’re very grateful to the support provided by our technology partners Deflect and MayFirst whose tireless work has ensured that we continue to stay online and communicate about the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality.”
A recent Associated Press report shows to what extremes the Israeli government has gone in its desperate attempts to fight BDS in cyberspace in light of its dismal record in undermining the movement’s growth in academic, cultural and increasingly economic spaces. The director general of Israel’s Ministry for Strategic Affairs, which is in charge of coordinating government efforts in fighting BDS, is quoted by AP addressing Israeli tech developers at a forum held in January 2016: “I want to create a community of fighters.”
Leading figures in Israel’s intelligence community, including the Mossad, and its hi-tech industries are teaming up in this effort, which aims to, among other tactics, “flood the Internet” with Israeli propaganda and “dismantle the infrastructure” of human rights groups that campaign for Palestinian rights through applying pressure on Israel, admitted a founder of an Israeli intelligence analysis company. He added, “It’s the kind of thing that, if you want to do it in the future … you can’t work in the open.”
A spokesperson for eQualit.ie said:
“Since joining the Deflect service, the bdsmovement.net website has been one of the most frequently targeted domains in our portfolio. Now that we have developed infrastructure and tooling to capture and analyze cyber-attacks targeting our clients, we hope to reduce the impunity currently enjoyed by those aiming to silence online voices.”
Mahmoud Nawajaa added:
“For all its financial clout, Israel may have shot itself in the foot by launching this all-out war of smearing, demonization and criminalization against BDS. In the last few months, three European governments and an array of the world’s largest human rights organizations — including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) — have defended the right to advocate and campaign for Palestinian rights through BDS.”
Further exacerbating Israel’s frustration is the fact that indicators of the growing impact of BDS have piled up at a higher rate in 2016 than at any comparable period since the movement was launched in 2005 by the absolute majority in Palestinian civil society.
In the first week of January 2016, the $20-billion Pension and Health Benefits Fund of the United Methodist Church declared the five largest Israeli banks off limits for investment and divested from the two that it held in its portfolios.
Also in 2016, Irish building materials corporation CRH and French telecoms giant Orange announced their withdrawal from Israel following effective BDS campaigns against them. Coming on the heels of the decision by Veolia, another large French company that ended its involvement in Israeli projects that violate international law, these exits have been hailed by BDS activists as a start of a “domino effect.”
The Brazilian state of Bahia decided on April 2 to end its cooperation agreement with Israeli water company Mekorot, and more than 27 local councils in Spain have declared themselves “Israeli Apartheid Free Zones” over the last few months.
Support for Palestinian rights has grown impressively in the US. A recent Pew poll reveals that the number of liberal Democrats who say they sympathize more with Palestinians is now higher than it has been at any point in the last 15 years (40%), and support for Palestinian rights among millennials has tripled over the last 10 years (to 27%).
A 2014 poll of conducted by an Israel lobby group shows that 46% of non-Orthodox Jewish American men under 40 support a full boycott of Israel in pursuit of Palestinian rights.
Mahmoud Nawajaa explains:
“Israel today admits that it has failed to stop the impressive growth of BDS in mainstream circles, mainly due to the inspiring collective action of thousands of dedicated, conscientious activists and organizations around the world. But Israel’s shift to the racist far-right, dropping its mask and revealing its true face as a regime of occupation, colonization and apartheid like never before, has certainly accelerated BDS support worldwide.”
A staunch anti-Palestinian director of a New York-based multinational advertising agency recently admitted, “BDS is driving the conversation, and the anti-BDS side is reactionary. Ours is a negative message, just not that inviting. We look like a corporate brochure. So we have a problem, my friends.”
Nawajaa concludes, “Israel seems to be losing its plot and resorting to extreme measures in fighting BDS not just because the movement is effective and strategic. Trying to sell its system of occupation, settler-colonialism and institutionalized racism is not easy at all, as the former apartheid regime in South Africa had found out.”
356 European human rights organisations, church groups, trade unions and political parties call on the EU to support their right to boycott
More than 300 human rights and aid organisations, church groups, trade unions and political parties from across Europe have called on the EU to uphold its legal responsibilities and hold Israel accountable for its violations of international law and to defend the right of individuals and institutions to take part in the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for justice and equality.
Signatories to the letter called on the EU commission to “introduce the human rights guidelines guaranteeing freedom of speech and right to boycott and to use all other means you have in your disposal to support European citizens in their struggle to uphold basic human rights.”
Having failed to stop the growth of the BDS movement, Israel has launched an unprecedented attack against the BDS movement for Palestinian freedom, justice and equality.
The 356 strong list of signatories includes: Transform! Europe – a european network of 28 European organizations from 19 countries, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, The Norwegian United Federation of Trade Unions, Parti de Gauche in France, Podemos in Spain, Norwegian Church Aid, major Belgian NGO coalition CNCD 11.11.11, Defence for Children in Belgium, the international catholic peace movement Pax Christi International in Belgium and France and major French Catholic NGO Terre Solidaire. See here for letter and full list of signatories.
At Israel’s request, European governments including the UK and France are introducing anti-democratic legislation and taking other repressive measures to undermine the BDS movement. In France, one activist was arrested simply for wearing a BDS t-shirt.
The EU envoy to Israel was criticised recently for participating in an anti-BDS conference in Jerusalem at which Israeli government ministers threatened BDS activists.
Israel has also imposed an effective travel ban on BDS movement co-founder Omar Barghouti, following thinly-veiled threats of physical violence against him by Israeli government ministers that prompted Amnesty International to express concern “for the safety and liberty of Palestinian human rights defender Omar Barghouti”.
Israeli state repression against human rights defenders and the BDS movement is designed to shield it from being held accountable for its violations of international law. Israel has openly boasted that it is spying on international BDS activists.
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:
“Rather than helping Israel to repress the BDS movement, it is time for the EU to meet its obligations under international law and hold Israel accountable for its violations of international law. The EU must uphold the right of European, Palestinian and Israeli citizens to uphold human rights and take part in the nonviolent BDS movement.”
Aneta Jerska, the coordinator of the European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine (ECCP), one of the organisations that has signed the statement, said:
“It is empowering to see so many European civil society organisations and representative bodies publicly declaring their support for the right to participate in the BDS movement that aims to hold Israel accountable for its violations of international law and human rights.
“This is a powerful sign that European public opinion is increasingly viewing BDS as an act of free speech. We will continue to fight to bring an end to Israel’s unjust system of oppression over the Palestinian people.”
More than 23,000 people have signed an appeal urging the UN to take measures to protect the rights of Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights defenders who campaign nonviolently for Palestinian rights, including through the BDS movement.
The appeal is organised by the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), the broadest coalition of Palestinian civil society organisations that leads and supports the BDS movement. It will be sent to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in the coming few days.
The appeal urges UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein to publicly state his opposition to Israel’s ongoing efforts to criminalize and demonize the BDS movement, pressure governments to protect the right of activists to campaign for Palestinian rights through BDS tactics, activate relevant UN mechanisms to defend BDS human rights defenders everywhere.
The appeal is in response to Israel’s legal attacks on BDS that have led governments in the UK, France, Canada and state legislatures across the US to introduce anti-democratic legislation and taking other repressive measures to undermine the BDS movement. Israel has also admitted that it is using its intelligence services to spy on BDS activists overseas and is attempting to revoke the residency of BDS movement co-founder and human rights defender Omar Barghouti.
The appeal follows positive news that the Irish, Dutch and Swedish governments have spoken out in support of the right to advocate for BDS.
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) yesterday joined Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch in issuing a public statement in support of the right to “participate in and call for” BDS.
FIDH is a federation of 178 of the world’s most respected human rights organisations from 120 countries.
“Individuals calling for Israel to respect international law, using peaceful means to do so while respecting others’ rights, are human rights defenders. As such, they must be protected,” the statement explains.
Riya Hassan, Europe Campaigns officer with the BNC, said:
“We’re hugely grateful to each of the 23,000 people who signed our appeal urging the UN to protect our right to campaign for Palestinian rights, and we’re more optimistic than ever that Israel’s desperate legal, spying and propaganda war on our human rights movement will ultimately fail.”
“Israel’s attacks on our movement appear to be backfiring as they have led to European governments and some of the world’s most famous human rights organisations and political organisations across Europe and the world speaking out in defence of our right to engage in BDS. Israel’s lawfare against BDS has been dealt a very serious blow.”
The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), the broad coalition of Palestinian civil society that leads the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement for freedom, justice and equality of the Palestinian people, is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of life long social justice advocate and freedom fighter Hedy Epstein on May 26, 2016. We wish to send our deep condolences to her family and friends.
Throughout her 91 years Hedy not only spoke out on behalf of the poor and oppressed but consistently took action and risked her own life to build a better world. As a 14 year-old she was made a refugee, fleeing the brutal Nazi regime in Germany, the country of her birth. Her parents, grandparents and much of her extended family, unable to escape, perished in the Holocaust. Hedy did not surrender to despair by this horrific experience at such a young age but instead chose to dedicate her life to working for justice for all people.
Eventually settling in St. Louis, Missouri in the U.S., Hedy continued to work for justice throughout her life. Whether educating young people about the horrors of the Holocaust and why we must never allow fascism and the forces of hatred to come to power anywhere in the world, working for housing integration in St. Louis, speaking out against the U.S. invasion of Vietnam and bombing campaign in Cambodia, standing up for Palestinian human rights or most recently protesting the police murder of unarmed black teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri (for which she was arrested at the age of 90) Hedy never stopped working for a more just world.
Hedy visited Palestine several times. She took nonviolent direct action to resist occupation in the West Bank with the International Solidarity Movement. She attempted to break the brutal Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip by sea as part of the Freedom Flotilla as well as by land with the Gaza Freedom March. Hedy founded the St. Louis chapter of the Palestine solidarity organization Women in Black and later the St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee where she was active in Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns. For these actions and many more too numerous to list here, the Palestinian people, and indeed all freedom loving people around the world owe Hedy a debt of gratitude.
All of us here at the BNC draw deep inspiration from Hedy’s lifelong dedication to struggle on behalf of the oppressed. Her dedication, her resilience and her tirelessness are things we all aspire to. Hedy’s entire life truly embodied Gandhi’s famous quote “Be the change you wish to see in the world”. She will be remembered. She will be missed.
- Dutch foreign minister says BDS “protected by the freedom of expression”
- Irish foreign minister says BDS is a “legitimate political viewpoint” and that his department is monitoring Israel’s repression of BDS movement co-founder Omar Barghouti
- 352 European bodies call on the EU to support right to boycott
- 23,000 people appeal to UN on the #RightToBoycott
The Dutch and Irish governments have publicly stated that calls for a boycott of Israel are legitimate, with the Dutch foreign minister saying that advocating and campaigning for Palestinian rights through the nonviolent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel are “protected by the freedom of expression”.
The statements dealt a serious blow to Israel’s relentless war of repression that has led governments in the UK, France, Canada and state legislatures across the US to introduce anti-democratic legislation and taking other repressive measures to undermine the BDS movement. Israel has also admitted that it is using its intelligence services to spy on BDS activists overseas.
Irish foreign minister Charles Flanagan responded to a parliamentary question by Deputy Paul Murphy on Israel’s attacks on the movement saying that BDS is not supported by the Irish government but that it is a “a legitimate political viewpoint”.
In response to a question regarding Israel’s travel ban and attempts to revoke the residency of BDS movement co-founder and human rights defender Omar Barghouti, Flanagan said that the Irish foreign ministry “will monitor the ongoing developments” and that “I do not agree with attempts to demonise those who advocate this [BDS] policy”. The Irish Congress of Trade Unions had called on the Irish government to pressure Israel to respect the rights of Palestinian human rights defenders.
Israel has imposed a travel ban on Omar Barghouti, who lives in Acre in present day Israel with his family, and seems intent on revoking his residency to punish him for his BDS advocacy.
In response to a similar question by Green Left MP Rik Grashoff, the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bert Koenders, said that “Statements or meetings concerning BDS are protected by the freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, as enshrined in the Dutch Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.”
Revealing that Israel regularly raises the topic of BDS in bilateral meetings with the Dutch government, Koenders reiterated his government’s opposition to the boycott of Israel but insisted that “endorsing BDS falls under freedom of expression.”
Riya Hassan, Europe coordinator for the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), the broadest coalition in Palestinian civil society that is leading the global BDS movement, said:
“With the Netherlands and Ireland joining Sweden in defending the right to advocate and campaign for Palestinian rights under international law through BDS, Israel’s attempt to get BDS outlawed in Europe and to bully its supporters into silence have been dealt a serious blow.”
In March 2016, the Swedish foreign ministry reaffirmed basic democratic principles by stating that BDS “is a civil society movement” and that “governments should not interfere in civil society organization views.”
More than 350 European human rights organizations, trade unions, church groups and political parties, some of whom do not yet endorse BDS, have called on the European Union to support the right to boycott Israel in response to its occupation and violations of Palestinian rights. Similar statements have been made by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
Riya Hassan added:
“Israel’s attacks on our movement appear to be backfiring as they have led to European governments and some of the world’s most famous human rights organisations and political organisations across Europe and the world speaking out in defence of our right to advocate BDS.”
“Across European civil society, there is a fast spreading recognition of the BDS movement as a legitimate form of nonviolent, grassroots human rights advocacy for the UN-stipulated rights of the Palestinian people.”
More than 23,000 people have signed an appeal urging the UN to take measures to uphold and protect the rights of Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights defenders who campaign nonviolently for Palestinian rights, including through the BDS movement. The appeal will be sent to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in the coming few days.
Hassan added: “We’re hugely grateful to each of the 23,000 people who signed our appeal urging the UN to protect our right to campaign for Palestinian rights, and we’re more optimistic than ever that Israel’s desperate legal, spying and propaganda war on our human rights movement will ultimately fail.”
The impressive growth in recent years of support for the BDS movement in mainstream trade unions, churches and pension funds, as well as among student governments, academic associations, anti-racist movements, LGBTQ groups and artists across the world, has prompted the Israeli establishment to admit the strategic impact of BDS.
The fact that large European companies such as Veolia, Orange and G4S are abandoning or announcing plans to leave the Israeli market following BDS campaigns is also particularly worrying for Israel.
Israeli-induced attacks on free speech and civil rights in Europe, the US and Canada, among others, are seen by BDS campaigners as 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”.
More information: bdsmovement.net/righttoboycott