The department store chain Macy’s has stopped carrying Israeli settlement products of SodaStream, according to the Wall Street Journal. Macy’s has been targeted the past year by pro-Palestinian activists, who have called on it and other major chains to stop carrying the SodaStream home carbonation system and soda flavourings due to the company’s role in the military occupation of Palestine.
This news comes amidst sinking share prices of the company, which earlier this month announced preliminary results for the fourth quarter. It projected $125 million in revenue in the quarter and operating income of $8.5 million. That’s well short of the $154.4 million of revenue and $17.6 million in operating income expected by analysts. In the third quarter of last year, the revenue was about the same, but operating income of $18 million was more than double what it expects this year. Its shares have dropped by 45% so far this year.
Jim Charnier, an analyst at Monness Crespi Hardt, told the Wall Street Journal that he had been expecting a poor quarter when he learned early in September that Macy’s had stopped carrying SodaStream and saw other negative figures from the market.
Macy’s did not respond to questions by North American activists concerning SodaStream.
For more than a year, religious and human rights organizations throughout the United States have urged Macy’s, Target and other corporations to de-shelve SodaStream products because of the company’s complicity with Israel’s occupation and settlements. SodaStream products are largely manufactured in the West Bank Mishor Adumim settlement industrial zone.
“We are very disappointed in our recent performance,” said Daniel Birnbaum, Chief Executive Officer of SodaStream. “Our U.S. business underperformed due to lower than expected demand for our soda makers and flavors which was the primary driver of the overall shortfall in the third quarter. While we were successful over the last few years in establishing a solid base of repeat users in the U.S., we have not succeeded in attracting new consumers to our home carbonation system at the rate we believe should be achieved. The third quarter results are a clear indication that we must alter our course and improve our execution across the board. We have already begun a strategic shift of the SodaStream brand towards health & wellness, primarily in the U.S., where we believe this message will resonate more strongly with consumers….”
SodaStream states that calls for boycott are indeed a “risk factor” and a cause for “rising political tensions and negative publicity”, although this official notice makes no mention of boycott. However, the company has declared in the past that moving its factory out Mishor Adumim would require the expenditure of resources and, more importantly, “limit certain of the tax benefits for which we are currently eligible.” These benefits stem from the fact that the Israeli government provides economic incentives, including tax deductions, for businesses operating in West Bank settlements.
John Lewis in the UK had been the latest retailer to stop stocking SodaStream products and protests forced a SodaStream store in Brighton, UK, to close recently. SodaStream also had to deal with a public relations headache early this year when the U.K. charity Oxfam criticized its brand ambassador Scarlett Johansson for working with the settlement company. Johansson stepped down from her role with Oxfam and defended the company.
Soros Fund Management, the family office of the billionaire investor George Soros, also sold its stake in SodaStream this past August.
“Soros Fund Management does not own shares of SodaStream,” Michael Vachon, a spokesman for the fund, told The National, declining to comment further on when and why it sold the shares.
In a May filing with the US markets regulator, the fund said it had bought 550,000 shares of SodaStream during the first quarter. Bloomberg reported that the fund acquired the shares for $24.3 million, with the new holding making up 0.3 per cent of the fund’s $9.3 billion stock portfolio.
“After pressure from Soros partners in the region and the world, they dropped SodaStream and promised, in private letters so far, to issue guidelines similar to those adopted by the EU to prevent any investment into companies that sustain the Israeli occupation and settlements in particular,” said Omar Barghouti, the Palestinian activist and co-founder of the BDS movement.
The activist group Adalah-NY continues its campaign against SodaStream following the decision by Macy’s, and at the end of October will visit New York stores that stock and sell SodaStream, letting owners and managers know why they should stop. Adalah-NY notes that this planned week of visits will be used to develop its future NYC-based campaign against SodaStream.
Mount Horeb, Wisconsin — Bonnie Block, Jim Murphy, Lars and Patty Prip, Mary Beth Schlagheck, and I were at Rest Area 10 along I- 90/94, about 5 miles south of Mauston, from 10:00 am – noon on Thursday October 9, 2014. We had a model drone and a stack of flyers “6 Things You Should Know About Drones” to help us in reaching the public and so they can learn more about what is going on just up the road at Volk Field Air National Guard Base. We were there in solidarity with others around the country as part of “Keep Space for Peace Week” and global days of actions against drones sponsored by Code Pink, Know Drones, and other groups.
We chose to leaflet at this particular rest area because it is the closest one to Volk Field Air National Guard Base, about 20 miles south of the base. We, as Wisconsin Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars, have been vigiling outside the gates of Volk Field for almost three years, protesting the training there of pilots who operate the Shadow Drones. We are at the base with our signs every 4th Tuesday of the month from 3:30-4:30. At 4:00 pm around 100 cars leave the base and drive right past us and so we have a lot of exposure.
Jim has been urging us to try leafleting at the rest area for a couple of years and it turned out to be an excellent opportunity for public education. We were able to connect with a real cross-section of middle America and we had a chance to hand out our leaflets and talk to people about what is going on at Volk Field, as well as in the drone wars overseas. A fair number of people were very supportive and engaged with us. Quite a few seemed like they did not have a lot of feelings about drone warfare one way or the other. There were a small number of people who were very unhappy to see us there and let loose with some pretty unfriendly language.
Shortly after we arrived at the rest area and began setting up the drone, the manager of the rest area came out and told us we would have to pack up and leave. We said we were on public property and that we planned to stay there until noon. We also told her that we would not block anyone or act threatening, and we gave her a flyer. She became upset and angry when we told her this and she said that if we didn’t leave she would have to call the State Patrol and she didn’t think that we would want it to go that far. We responded that we would like her to call the State Patrol because we knew we had the right to be there. She left in a huff.
It was 15 minutes or so before a plain clothes officer dressed in a suit with a neat crew cut and a badge around his neck approached us. He said that he had been told there was a disturbance, and he asked us if there was a disturbance. Jim responded by asking if it looked like there was a disturbance. The officer angrily replied that he would be asking the questions and we would answer.
We explained to him what we were doing, that we were on public property and it was our constitutional right to be there. We told him we were not blocking anyone and if they didn’t want a flyer we didn’t push it.
At that point a uniformed State Patrol officer arrived at the scene. The officer we were talking to said that the uniformed officer would be taking over. After the two of them talked for several minutes, the uniformed officer came over and we told him what we were doing. He told us that some people might not appreciate our position, and he said that if they started saying things we didn’t like we should turn the other cheek. We told him we practice nonviolence and are good at de-escalating those kinds of situations. He told us to have a good day and walked away. It felt like this was a small win for us. It is not often that the police are called and they end up telling us to go ahead and keep doing what we are doing.
Several minutes later a Juneau County Sheriff car pulled into the rest area and parked. He didn’t talk to us, but spent several minutes talking to someone in an unmarked police car before they both drove away. Citizen activism seemed to have won out for the day.
I want to relate a story about one man I talked to. As I handed him a leaflet, he said he was supportive of what we are doing. But, he said, his grandson was in the military and operated a camera for the drones and he didn’t kill children. (One of our signs said “Drones Kill Children”.) I replied that there are many innocent people, including many children, who are being killed by drone attacks in countries overseas. He said again that his grandson didn’t kill children. I told him that we had a list of names of many of the children who have been killed. He said again that his grandson was a family man with four children and he wouldn’t kill children. He added that he had been a nurse assisting in surgery with children for many years and he knew what it was like for traumatized children and his grandson would not kill children.
This story really illustrates the disconnect and denial going on in our society, about how much we want to believe that we are the good guys, that we wouldn’t hurt others. Yet, people are dying all around the world as a result of our government’s policies. It seems like there are not enough people speaking out against what is going on because so many people refuse to really look at the death and destruction our military is leaving all around the globe. It is so much easier to close our eyes. I think this was a genuinely good man that I talked to, and there are so many good people like him. How do we get these good people to wake up and join the fight, to be able to admit to and take responsibility for the horrors that our government, and we, are perpetrating around the world?
All six of us who were there felt like it was a successful venture and we all agreed that we need to go back to the rest area where we can reach people who would otherwise not be reached. It is impossible to know what kind of impact we may have had, but we are hopeful that we touched a few people.
Please consider rest areas near you as a possible place for demonstrations. We no longer have town squares. It is illegal, at least in Wisconsin, to protest at shopping malls because they are privately owned. It is not always easy to find a public space where there are a lot people, but this was a good test today and we discovered that the police will not try to prevent us from demonstrating at a rest area in Wisconsin. But then again, who knows what may happen the next time. All I know for sure is that we will be back.
|This photo was taken in a supermarket in Gilo – an illegal Israeli settlement in occupied East Jerusalem – by an activist who documented the sale of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in the settlements of Gilo (pop. 28,980), Pisgat Ze’ev (pop. 39,748) and Ma’ale Adumim (pop. 35,673), and in the industrial park of Mishor Edomim, which services Ma’ale Adumim.|
Ben & Jerry’s Caters to Illegal Israeli Settlements
In August, 2011, an Israeli Jewish activist working with us contacted Ben & Jerry’s factory in Israel, by e-mail and telephone, and confirmed that the company delivers ice cream to Israeli settlements in the occupied territory. Here is an e-mail communication, translated into English, between an employee at the factory and the Israeli activist, discussing arrangements for an ice cream cart to travel to the Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumim:
B&J Employee: Thanks for writing. Our ice cream cart comes with 5 flavors to choose from, glasses, wafers, ice cream toppings, 2 stewards and all accessories. The cost for 250 people (free distribution); 3,500 [NIS (Israeli Shekels), or $919 US] including VAT. Attached is a list of flavors. I’ll be happy to answer any questions.
Activist: Is there an extra cost that relates to the distance of your factory to the location of the party? i.e., is there an extra cost because the event is held in Ma’ale Adumin? I’m sorry about the need for detail but it’s necessary for our accounting department.
B&J Employee: Yes, the cost of transportation is 250 [NIS (Israeli Shekels), $65 US]. This is because we come from Be’er Tuvia (near Kiryat Malachi) to Ma’ale Adumim.
Israeli Settlements are Illegal Under International Law
Israel’s settlements in the Palestinian Territory violate Article 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which declares that “the Occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” The commentary to the Convention states that this provision was intended “to prevent a practice adopted during the Second World War by certain powers, which transferred portions of their own population to occupied territory for political and racial reasons or in order, as they claimed, to colonize those territory. Such transfers worsened the economic situation of the native population and endangered their separate existence as a race.”
Transfer of settlers to occupied territory by an occupying power is also an international war crime under Article 8(2)(b)(viii) of the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Moreover, the UN Security Council and General Assembly, the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and most legal scholars have concluded that Israel’s settlements in the oPt contravene international law. The International Court of Justice declared in a 2004 decision that “the Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (including East Jerusalem) have been established in breach of international law.”
Ben & Jerry’s business in illegal Israeli settlements also violates its obligations under the U.N.’s “Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises,” which asserts that corporations “shall not engage in nor benefit from war crimes, [or] crimes against humanity…” nor take actions that obstruct or impede economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights.
[Citations for the references above are in Our Report on Ben & Jerry’s business practices in the occupied Palestinian Territory.]
|The Israeli supermarket chain Shufersal distributes Ben & Jerry’s ice cream at stores both in Israel and in illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian Territory.
The map at left, with dots denoting the locations of their stores, was displayed in their store in Mishor Adumim (an industrial zone that services one of Israel’s largest settlements, Ma’ale Adumim). Notice that it depicts Israel and occupied Palestine as one state. Palestinians under occupation are not allowed to enter most Israeli settlements, so the supermarkets in those places only sell Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to Jewish settlers.
Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel Calls on Ben & Jerry’s to:
Until Israel ends its occupation and colonization of Palestinian lands in compliance with international law:
- End the marketing, catering and sales of Ben & Jerry’s products in Israel and Jewish-only settlements in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
- Stop manufacturing ice cream in Israel.
- Issue a statement (a) calling on Israel to end its occupation and settlement enterprise and (b) appealing directly to other socially responsible companies to do likewise and to cease business operations in Israel and its illegal settlements.
Click here to send a message to
Ben & Jerry’s headquarters in Vermont.
Tell Ben & Jerry’s that its complicity in Israel’s military occupation and illegal settlements is wrong and must stop!
Boycott Divestment & Sanctions:
In Solidarity with the Palestinian People
Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel’s opposition to Ben & Jerry’s business practices in Israel and occupied Palestine is motivated by the grave human rights abuses being committed by the State of Israel. We are are also aware that in 2005 Palestinian civil society called for an international campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with three rights codified in international law.
- End Israel’s occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantle its separation wall;
- Recognize the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
- Respect, protect and promote the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in United Nations Resolution 194.
|Ben & Jerry’s CEO, Jostein Solheim, said in an interview:
“My mantra that I’ve repeated a hundred times since starting at Ben & Jerry’s is: ‘Change is a wonderful thing,’…. The world needs dramatic change to address the social and environmental challenges we are facing. Values led businesses can play a critical role in driving that positive change. We need to lead by example, and prove to the world that this is the best way to run a business. Historically, this company has been and must continue to be a pioneer to continually challenge how business can be a force for good and address inequities inherent in global business.”
Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel agrees: The world – including Israel-Palestine
Street Demonstrations In 21 European Countries Held To Protest Against TAFTA/TTIP; Another ACTA Revolt Brewing?
Last month, the European Commission refused to accept a request to allow an official EU-wide petition called a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) to take place. This was a curiously maladroit move by the Commission: it would have been easy to allow the petition against TAFTA/TTIP and CETA to proceed, thank the organizers once it was completed, file it away somewhere and then ignore it. Instead, by refusing to allow it to take place, the European Commission has highlighted in a dramatic manner the deeply undemocratic way in which so-called trade agreements are conducted.
Moreover, those making the request have simply gone ahead anyway, launching what they call the “Self-organised European Citizens’ initiative Against TTIP and CETA“. Even though this was only launched last week, it has already collected over 600,000 signatures from European citizens at the time of writing, and there is every indication that it will go well past the nominal one million signatures that the ECI would have required. The European Commission’s refusal to allow the official petition was doubly stupid, since it came shortly before a Europe-wide day of action against TAFTA/TTIP that took place last Saturday, and doubtless encouraged people to take to the streets in order to make their views felt:
On October 11, 2014, tens of thousands of people and hundreds of organisations in 21 countries are organising actions to reclaim democracy, and stop the negotiations on three far-reaching trade agreements: the EU-US deal (TTIP), the EU-Canada deal (CETA) and the trade in services deal (TiSA).
This decentralised European Day of Action — consisting of over 300 actions, marches, meetings and flash mobs — is being organised by an unprecedented alliance of civil society groups and individuals, social movements, trade unions, rights defenders, farmers and grassroots activist groups.
Reporting on the event, Euractiv.com wrote:
Some 400 activist groups marched all over Europe on Saturday (11 October) in protest against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), as the EU-US trade deal crystallises opposition to a wide variety of issues — from shale gas to corporate finance.
That last point is important. Euractiv.com goes on to explain:
The opposition to TTIP has many faces however, and seems to embody a wide variety of concerns. In France, many small demonstrations focused on opposition to shale gas, especially in the South of France, while in Berlin protesters were worried that TTIP would weaken the powers of the German regions, or Länders.
Potentially, that could make the European opposition to TAFTA/TTIP even broader-based than it was to ACTA, where people were largely concerned about a single issue — digital rights. And just as the ACTA demonstrations started off small scale, but grew to hundreds of thousands of people before ACTA was rejected by the European Parliament, so the anti-TTIP movement in Europe could easily swell larger still. Especially if the European Commission continues to conduct the negotiations in secret and without any input from its citizens.
There is good news and bad news of late for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. On the one hand, companies such as Veolia, willing partners in the occupation, are losing out on mega-contracts. Despite plans to withdraw from Israel, the French company just lost a $750 million contract to provide waste management services to Kuwait City. Pleasing for BDS was the explicit reference to Veolia’s association with Israel and a head nod to their campaigning efforts. It comes on top of nearly $24 billion in lost contracts, seemingly over support for Israel.
Likewise G4S are suffering setbacks. Earlier this year, Bill Gates announced a massive divestment, while a report over the summer (by the Financial Times) suggested they would soon end their activities in Israel. Campaigners are rightly cautious – the company have gone back on their word in the past.
Companies like G4S and Veolia are the traditional bogeymen of leftist, progressive, anti-war or anti-globalisation movements. They are big targets, household names, transnational corporations that everyone can relate to – and when I say everyone, I mean the general public, not activists.
I can go down to my local train station and see a G4S security van parked outside. I see a Veolia truck pass my house once a week to collect my rubbish. Companies like Hewlett Packard advertise on television.
With such high profile and controversial brands, in some ways – isn’t this the easier end of the campaign?
After all – how many households would sign a petition against Serco? Quite a few, most people have heard of them.
But what then? There are thousands of British companies trading with Israel. Their names, headquarters and management are constantly changing – the past 12 months alone saw 37 acquisitions, mergers and IPOs of those companies. There are hundreds of thousands more trading from other countries. A tiny proportion are household names.
Raising awareness of each of these companies requires disproportionate effort by a small number of time poor activists.
The BDS movement has put itself into a massive fight. And though there are some successes, figures released this week show that UK-Israel trade actually grew by 28 per cent year-on-year in the first half of 2014, now amounting to £2.5 billion. There may be successes here and there, but the machine of modern commerce is an extremely hard one to slow.
And despite the popular narrative of “well, it worked in South Africa”, the uncomfortable truth is that many economists and historians disagree.
“Perversely, South African businesses reaped at least $5 billion to $10 billion in windfalls as Western firms disinvested at fire sale prices between 1984 and 1989,” noted Thomas W. Hazlett, now at George Mason University. The political effect of the sanctions movement saw the white power elite retrench. Apartheid policies worsened – the police and military cracked down even harder.
In truth, the collapse of Soviet Communism, populist black movements in South Africa, white supremacists working with blacks rather than oppressing them, just to keep their families fed – led to the fall of apartheid. It’s nice to think the West played the lead role, but in truth, South Africa did a lot of it itself. Its role is, somewhat patronisingly, rarely acknowledged.
As the BDS movement has grown stronger – the domestic politics of Israel is tipping to the hard right. Attacks on Gaza are becoming more frequent. Knesset hard-liners have advocated genocide against Palestinian mothers, or published detailed plans on their Facebook pages about how the entire population of Gaza should be deported. Attacks on journalists, artists and pro-war activists by far right extremists are on the increase. The Israeli media propagates an us-and-them attitude to not only the Arab world, but also their detractors in the West. Are we already seeing what really happened in South Africa play out? Are the worst parts of Israeli society becoming stronger?
The campaign has some positives with regards solidarity, it contributes to educating the public – but ultimately, we don’t know whether it will make things worse and, as a pro-sanctions or boycott movement, it doesn’t yet have a successful precedent or contemporary model for success – just look at North Korea, Iran, Russia or indeed the porous Arab boycott against Israel.
But aside from the uncertain and potentially dangerous side-effects of BDS, we are ignoring the bigger problem. The crux of bringing the Israeli hawks to heel isn’t so much about corporate investments – it’s about political money, dripping from the campaign coffers of Western politicians bribed and briefed by Jerusalem cronies.
The funding is mysterious, ambiguous and seemingly unimpeachable, protected by anti-Semitism laws which forbid honest discussion of it, or by hasbara attack dogs who discredit any journalist or academic who speaks out.
But imagine the tabloid outcry if hundreds of millions in “Muslim” donations began pouring in to Western politics, Muslims with strong interests in the domestic or foreign policies of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia or Iran.
You don’t have to imagine – last month Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (and Norway) were caught funding influential foreign policy think tanks in Washington. And there was an outcry.
But many feel uncomfortable taking on the Israeli lobby – because it’s scary. It comes with great risk – people have lost their jobs, careers and reputations. Nobody likes to be labelled an anti-Semite, which is their preferred mode of attack.
Assuming for a moment that South African white supremacists had actually wanted to continue with apartheid, if they had had the financial resources and strategic nous to invest millions into Washington and Westminster, a boycott campaign would have stood almost no chance of success.
Campaigning against corporate involvement in morally dubious interests should not be stopped. I wouldn’t feel comfortable if Western corporations, pension funds, or governments invested in arms deals with dodgy regimes, or became complicit in mass human rights abuses, and nobody knew about it.
But we should recognise the limits of the BDS movement – both by recognising that the “low-hanging fruit” of corporate targets – international corporations who are already disliked by the public, may only be the warm-up, by better understanding what really happened in South Africa, and by asking – are we really attacking the root of the problem?
BDS, in some ways, detracts from directly dealing with the real problem: the foreign policy of the West has been seriously corrupted by Israeli influence, almost wherever you look.
Dismantling “the Israel lobby” is a tougher fight, but it’s a far more important one.
If we are over-awed by the challenge, or if indeed the BDS movement was itself a function of an inability to crack the lobby directly, there may still be cause for optimism. Removing big money from politics, in general, is an extremely populist movement.
There are very few Westerners who want the status quo to continue, for big corporations and foreign interests to hold such sway on our democracies – on any issue. You don’t have to be pro-Palestinian to recognise this.
A broader coalition of groups, from charities, to environmental campaigners, to trade unions, to newer organisations like Change.org and 38 Degrees could be the key. The influence of the Israel lobby isn’t a unique problem. Perhaps by looking to other marginalised groups who face similar challenges, the pro-Palestinian campaign can find yet more life.
Baby Doc is Dead But His Shadow Lingers Over Haiti
The October 4 death of former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier in Port-au-Prince has justly garnered world-wide attention. But too much about current Haitian politics has been left out of this round of media coverage.
Duvalier’s father Francois, nicknamed Papa Doc, died in 1971 after years of brutal repression of anyone not in Duvalier Senior’s inner circle. When Papa Doc died in 1971, his 19-year-old son (aka Baby Doc) was soon declared the new President for Life. The elder Duvalier had maintained power in no small part by successfully currying power with Washington, and his son did an even more impressive job of winning essential economic, political, and military support from the U.S. In his essential volume Damming the Flood, historian Peter Hallward explains that in return for that backing, Duvalier “…[provided] the sort of investment climate his patrons had come to expect – minimal taxes, a virtual ban on trade unions, the preservation of starvation wages, the removal of any restrictions on the repatriation of profits.”
But Duvalier’s iron-fisted rule, in which many thousands of people were slaughtered, broke down in the face of a courageous popular uprising of the downtrodden poor masses. This grassroots opposition was largely nurtured by community-based church groups, called ti legliz in Haitian kreyol, which were inspired by liberation theology and its focus on a “preferential option for the poor.”
With the help of the U.S. government, Duvalier and his wife fled with hundreds of millions of dollars for exile in Paris.
Duvalier’s return to Haiti in 2011 was met with gasps of horror from most of the populace but celebrated by his friends in the ruling elite, including the current president Michel Martelly. Duvalier retained a passionate hatred for Lavalas, the movement of the poor majority. Lavalas (which means “flood” in kreyol) was and still is led by former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. It was created to help the poor rise “from misery to poverty with dignity.” Aristide was elected president twice by large majorities but forced from office by U.S.-orchestrated coups in both 1991 and 2004. After a seven year global campaign of pressure combined with sustained grassroots activity in Haiti, Aristide and his family returned to their homeland in March of 2011.
Unlike the chill that greeted Baby Doc’s return, Aristide arrived home to throngs of many thousands of jubilant supporters who lined the road from the airport to his house and filled its courtyard, singing and chanting for hours. Though frequently described in the corporate press as inactive, since 2011 Aristide has thrown himself into promoting education, a key priority of his two presidencies. He has overseen the reopening and expansion of the University of the Aristide Foundation (UNIFA), which welcomed another group of incoming students this week. UNIFA includes a medical school, a nursing school, a law school, and a school of physical therapy (designed to assist victims of the 2010 earthquake).
Though Duvalier has died, his influence remains strong in Haiti. It extends into the current government of Michel Martelly, which came to power in a flawed U.S.-backed election in which fewer than 20% of Haitians turned out to vote. After Duvalier’s death, Martelly eulogized him as “a true son of Haiti.” Duvalier’s son Nicolas is an adviser to Martelly. Other Duvalier supporters include the Interior Minister and the Public Works Secretary of State.
True to its orgins, the Martelly government is currently engaged in a series of attacks on Aristide which have raised concerns in Haiti and throughout the world.
A recent open letter initiated by the Haiti Action Committee and Global Women’s Strike and signed by hundreds of individuals and organizations denounced these attacks: “On Aug. 21, Haitian police wearing black masks and carrying heavy arms appeared in front of the home of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide as a Haitian judge issued calls to arrest him. Hundreds of people courageously surrounded the house to protect him.
“One week before, President Aristide was summoned to court on false corruption charges. This is the fourth time since his return to Haiti in 2011 that he has been the target of a politically motivated legal case. (Previous charges were dropped before he could even challenge them in court.) The judge in this case, Lamarre Bélizaire, has been suspended for ten years from practicing the law by the Port-au-Prince Bar Association for using the court to persecute opponents of the present regime. His suspension is due to begin once he steps down as judge.”
Representatives Maxine Waters and Luis Gutierrez have also written open letters to Secretary of State John Kerry expressing their grave concern for Aristide’s safety.
President Aristide’s lawyer, Ira Kurzban, has warned, “The escalation of events against President Aristide are viewed as efforts to see how far Martelly can push without response from the international community. If a loud chorus of disapproval is not heard against the tactics of the Martelly government, both Aristide’s life and the future of democracy in Haiti are at risk.”
To that end activists throughout Haiti demonstrated on Tuesday, September 30 in support of Aristide’s right to continue his work without harassment from the Martelly regime. Thousands marched in Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haitien. In the Port-au-Prince demonstration, police cracked down on peaceful protestors. As Maxine Waters pointed out in an October 2 letter to Kerry, police used water hoses and tear gas on the thousands of marchers who were attempting to walk to Aristide’s home. Waters wrote, “These confrontational tactics were used despite reports that the demonstrators were peaceful. It has also been reported that police blocked the route along which the demonstrators had planned to march.”
Speaking to me at a San Francisco rally in support of the marches in Haiti, Robert Roth, co-founder of the Haiti Action Committee, noted: “Despite all the attacks against President Aristide and the Lavalas movement, the UNIFA opened its doors once again this week to 1,000 students. And the people took to the streets in large numbers to let it be known that they will defend the first democratically elected president in Haiti’s history and that they will defend their movement.”
Roth continued, “Little of this has been covered in the U.S. press, so it’s important that we get the word out. If a demonstrator is attacked in Hong Kong, the New York Times runs a front page story. If a demonstrator protesting the Martelly government is attacked by water hoses in Haiti, it doesn’t even make the news. If you read the mainstream press, it never happened. The police tactics being used right now in Haiti harken back to the days of Duvalier. That’s why we have to raise our voices and expose the dangerous level of repression in Haiti right now.”
Ben Terrall can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
South Africa’s largest trade union federation, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), has joined with health sector unions to demand the expulsion of the Israeli Medical Association (IMA) from the World Medical Association (WMA).
COSATU, along with NEHAWU (National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union), DENOSA (Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa), as well as the SA Medical Association (SAMA), issued the joint call earlier this week. Organisers will protest outside the WMA today, Friday 10 October, supported by campaign groups like BDS South Africa.
In issuing the call for expulsion, COSATU claimed that the IMA “has never denounced or seriously confronted the Israeli government on its shameless use of torture”, and has “shown blatant disregard for the ethical issue of medical neutrality.”
The South African trade unions also accused the IMA of having “stood silently in the face of…the killing, harassment and wounding of Palestinian health professionals on duty; and the destruction of the Palestinian health systems.” They note that “direct appeals to the IMA [over many years] have been unavailing.”
COSATU was one of the first trade unions in the world to endorse the Palestinian-led, international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign. Citing the struggle against South African apartheid, COSTAU is urging the expulsion of the IMA from the WMA, until the Israeli body “unequivocally condemns, distances and actively counter’s Israel’s torture, occupation and apartheid policies.”
The 2nd conference “New Horizon: the International Conference of Independent Thinkers” was held in Tehran, September 29–October 1 2014, including over 30 journalists, writers and academics from around the world presenting papers and arguing issues of world geopolitics, with a focus on the Middle East. I came from Canada, along with University of Lethbridge Globalization Studies Professor Anthony Hall, author of Earth into Property: Colonization, Decolonization, and Capitalism (2010). It was greeted in western media by hysterical denunciations; firstly, by the American Jewish Committee which accused it of “promoting hatred of Jews and Israel”, and the Anti-Defamation League which accused it of “promoting anti-Semitic propaganda”. The conference almost didn’t take place at all, having been officially cancelled, supposedly as a gesture to the West, after the new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was elected last year. But after a flood of criticism on Iranian websites sympathetic to the organizers, the Iranian Foreign Ministry reversed itself. Nader Talebzadeh, the principle organizer, had had to lobby hard to reinstate the conference, calling the cancellation of the conference “a major mistake on the part of our government”.
“Have our leaders given in so much to the world that they are even afraid of a conference that might hurt Mr Obama’s feelings?” asked one blogger sarcastically.
The 1st New Horizon Conference in September 2012 was denounced in the West when it was addressed by the previous president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, probably best remembered in the West for his 2005 soundbyte that Israel should be “wiped off the map”, referring to Ayatollah Khomeini’s prediction that “the regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time.” The translation of the Persian text was later corrected but this was ignored in the West, where Ahmedinejad was further accused of “holocaust denial” for suggesting the figure of six million as the number of Jews who died in the holocaust was exaggerated, and he was mocked for suggesting that 9/11 was a conspiracy.
Indeed, most Iranians see 9/11 as involving some degree of conspiracy by the US and/or Israel, but then so do, for instance, 55% of Egyptians. So, not surprisingly, prominent at the New Horizon Conference this year was the world’s leading 9/11 conspiracy theorist, France’s Theirry Meyssan, who in 2002 published what is still considered the classic work on the topic, 9/11: The Big Lie (L’Effroyable imposture), translated into 28 languages, arguing that the attacks were organized by a faction of “the US military industrial complex in order to impose a military regime.” Meyssan also argues that the attack against the Pentagon was not carried out by a commercial airliner but by a missile. Also present was American filmmaker Art Olivier, who produced the feature film Operation Terror (2012), whose scenario followed Meyssan’s.
In a YouGov poll last year, 60% of Americans rejected the official explanation as published in the 9/11 Commission Report (2004), so Meyssan’s call for a UN investigation of 9/11 and the recent petition signed by 100,000 New Yorkers for an investigation of the collapse of World Trade Center building 7 are surely legitimate, though they have been blocked by politicians as “absolutely ridiculous” and “wild fantasies”.
Iran’s current President Rouhani was not associated directly with this year’s conference. Instead he was embroiled in a controversy with UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who both extended his hand in friendship to Rouhani at the UN General Assembly in a “historic meeting”, and then slapped him in the face from the UN General Assembly podium, attacking Iran for its “support for terrorist organizations, its nuclear program, its treatment of its people”, calling it “part of the problem in the Middle East”.
“On the contrary,” said a peeved Rouhani in his address to the UN, blaming the West and Saudi Arabia for sowing the seeds of extremism in the Middle East with “strategic blunders” that have given rise to the Islamic State and other violent jihadist groups. He also criticized the West’s sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program and reiterated his government’s desire to resolve the dispute, stating that no cooperation with the West against ISIS is possible until the sanctions are lifted. He called Cameron’s comments at the UN “wrong and unacceptable.”
Appropriately, the New Horizon Conference opened with the book launch of the Persian edition of US journalist Gareth Porter’s Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare (2014). Porter told me:
Through painstaking checking with experts and an IAEA official, I discovered that the documents submitted to the IAEA, which supposed showed Iranian plans to put nuclear warheads on their missiles, were fabricated by the terrorist group People’s Mojahedin of Iran and were passed on the IAEA by Mossad. They were contradictory—clearly doctored blueprints for an obsolete missile system.
Porter was awarded the UK Gellhorn Prize for investigative journalism in 2012 for exposing official lies concerning US policies in Afghanistan and Pakistan. With this latest expose, Porter did for the Iranian nuclear dossier what he and others did after 2003 in exposing the lies that prompted the US invasion of Iraq.
The sessions were varied. “The Gaza War and the BDS Movement Strategies” was addressed by Code Pink activist Medea Benjamin, who has been arrested dozens of time for her plucky protests at Congressional hearings against the war in Iraq, and who famously interrupted a speech by President Barack Obama in May 2013 protesting his continued use of drones against civilians. (She is barred from entering Canada.) Benjamin suggested a new project to highlight illegal Israeli settlements: activists hope to target one of the largest US-based real estate firms, RE/MAX, which “operates in over 90 countries, including Israel, where it sells homes complete with swimming pools in the West Bank to Israeli settlers in defiance of international law.” Every Sunday tens of thousands of “open houses” are held by RE/MAX around the world. Benjamin hopes activists will picket these open houses to embarrass RE/MAX into ceasing their West Bank activities. A session on Islam and the West, “Postsecularism and its Discontents”, emphasized the importance of ethics in Islamic civilization which makes subservience to market diktat unacceptable, and is a major stumbling block to understanding between the West and the Muslim world. “There is no teleology in western society, no guiding morality, only an obsession with materialism, with logos,” argued organizer Arash Darya-Bandari. “We believe it is necessary to control the negative tendencies in culture, such as pornography, alcohol, drugs, prostitution, to strive towards a more moral and justice society.”
“The ‘Islamic’ State Meme, its Precursors, and the US-Israel-Saudi Triangle” heard frontline reports from Meyssan and others about the intentional destruction of the Iraqi and Syrian states by the invasion of Iraq and ongoing western and Israeli support for insurgents in Syria, directly resulting in ISIS’s phenomenal success. “The West has abetted Sunni-Shia differences in the process to keep Muslims divided and allow continued western penetration and control of the growing chaos there,” charged Meyssan. Rouhani’s comment at the UN—“Certain intelligence agencies [who] have put blades in the hands of madmen, who now spare no one,”—is hard to argue with.
In the session “The Israeli Lobby in England”, Stephen Sizer, Anglican vicar and author of Christian Zionism—Road Map to Armageddon? (2004), explained that the vast majority of Zionists are not Jewish, but Christian. This prompted him in 2006 to draft what became known as the Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism, signed by four of the Heads of Churches, declaring Christian Zionism a heretical belief, both immoral and a contradiction of faith. The rector of the University of Middlesex was pressured to rescind Sizer’s PhD but the examination committee wouldn’t budge. Nor has Sizer been cowed by constant harassment, including a break-in and the theft of his computer. At the same time, on his visits to Tehran, Sizer lobbies on behalf of Iranian religious minorities and always brings Persian-language New Testaments as “gifts”. “My intent is to show the Iranians that genuine Christians are not a threat to anyone, but bring the message of peace and love.”
Contrary to the shrill cries in the western media that the conference was anti-Semitic, it was unique in my experience in addressing Zionism and US imperialism forthrightly and intelligently, without a hint of racism. The issue of anti-Semitism was addressed and dismissed, as “There is no issue with Jewish people or the Jewish religion,” explained Darya-Bandari, “but rather with Zionism, that secular distortion of Judaism that itself is racist, and has been used as a pretext to dispossess and kill Palestinians.”
The American Defense League loudly attacked the conference for focusing on Zionist control of western media and the outsize influence of the Zionist Lobby in the US and around the world. So what’s wrong with that? There is more than enough documented proof of this, as I discover when I researched Postmodern Imperialism. The ADL labelled several of the delegates as anti-Semitic, including ex-US Marine Ken O’Keefe, who has led several relief convoys to Gaza, has appeared several times on BBC’s Hardtalk in support of Gaza, and famously renounced his US citizenship in view of US crimes around the world. It should be remembered that the ADL was successfully sued in the 1990s for false accusations of anti-Semitism.
The conference issued a resolution condemning ISIS, Zionism, US unconditional support of Israel, Islamophobia, and calling for activism locally to boycott Israeli goods and to promote understanding between the West and the Muslim world, and to fight sectarianism. “This was a great opportunity to meet anti-imperialist activists from around the world, to bring Russians, Poles, western Europeans, North Americans together with Iranians and other Muslims, both Sunni and Shia, in a forum without sectarianism, truly supporting peace and understanding,” said delegate Mateusz Piskorski, director of the European Centre of Geopolitical Analysis in Warsaw and former MP in the Polish Sejm.
More than 500 anthropologists have publicly joined an academic boycott of Israel initiated by the American Studies Association,The Washington Post reported, with another 77 joining anonymously.
In February, the American Studies Association voted “to endorse a boycott of Israeli academic institutions to protest the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.”
Since then, the campaign attracted hundreds of anthropologists who voiced their opposition to “the ongoing Israeli violations of Palestinian rights, including the Israeli military occupation of the Gaza Strip, West Bank, and East Jerusalem.”
Driven by their commitment to promote and protect the rights of people with full realization of their humanity, the signatories said in a statement that “acting in solidarity with Palestinian civil society is a disciplinary tradition of support for anti-colonial and human rights struggles, itself an important departure from anthropology’s historical complicity with colonialism.”
The statement added that Israeli academic institutions are “complicit with the occupation and oppression of Palestinians.” The boycott means that signed members will not “collaborate on projects and events involving Israeli academic institutions,” teach at or attend conferences at those institutions, and publish in academic journals based in Israel.
The signatories demanded an end to the siege of Gaza and to the occupation of territories taken in the 1967 Six Day War and a dismantle of the settlements and walls.
They also called for an Israeli recognition of “the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel and the stateless Negev Bedouins to full equality; and respect, protect, and promote the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.”
The academic boycott of Israel not only attracted the American Studies Association (ASA) — the oldest and largest association devoted to the interdisciplinary study of American culture and history — but also the Association for Asian American Studies and the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association.
This anti-Israel academic boycott is a groundbreaking victory for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement (BDS), launched eight years ago to oppose Israel’s discriminatory policies towards Palestinians and its illegal occupation and settlement building.
Hundreds of American protesters, angered by Israel’s recent deadly assault on the Gaza Strip, gathered at the Port of Oakland to block an Israeli ship from unloading its cargo.
Workers with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) refused to unload the Zim Shanghai as about 200 activists picketed outside several of the port’s gates on Saturday morning.
The cargo ship is managed by Israel’s largest shipping firm, Zim Integrated Shipping Services.
About 50 police officers were also present at the port.
The protesters said they would continue with their “Block the Boat” campaign.
They said Israeli authorities must be held responsible for the deaths of more than 2,100 Palestinians during the recent 50-day war on Gaza.
“I think it was a big victory today for those who are opposed to the policies of Israel in Gaza,” said Steve Zeltzer, an organizer of the protest.
Similar actions were taken in August, when protesters blocked Israeli-owned ship Zim Piraeus for five days, forcing it to leave for Los Angeles with most of its cargo unloaded.
Longshore workers refused to cross picket lines to unload Zim Piraeus in August.
Protesters on Saturday said they hoped to achieve the same outcome.
“We ask the ILWU to carry on its long historical tradition of opposing injustice and honoring community picket lines. Let’s keep the pressure on and continue this tradition of labor blockades against oppression,” the “stop ZIM action committee” said in a statement.
Block the boat protest. (FightBack!News/Staff)
Tampa, FL – 70 Palestine solidarity activists filed into the intersection of Maritime and 20th Street here to protest the docking of the ZIM Alabama, a container ship carrying Israeli goods. The Tampa Port Authority was woken early in the morning of Sept. 21 by protesters opposing the importation of Israeli goods. Israeli companies super-exploit Palestinian labor, paying very low wages.
Protesters were hoping to catch the attention of dockworkers arriving for work. Some members of the International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1402 waved and honked in support.
“It was really great to see dockworkers showing interest and support for our cause. There was a real sense of solidarity from the workers themselves,” said Caroline England, a member of Tampa Students for a Democratic Society (SDS).
After gathering at the intersection, protesters marched to the port itself. Upon approaching the security checkpoint at the port, police surrounded the protesters, attempting to cut them off from both the port and incoming workers. Police threatened to arrest a Palestinian American woman. However fellow protesters were able to get the police to back off. The rally continued until 8:00 a.m., when it was announced that International Longshoremen’s Association workers would not be entering the port until 1:00 p.m. due to an unspecified delay. Protesters retreated in order to rest and organize reinforcements for later.
The protesters gathered again at noon with a larger crowd than the morning. They conducted another march on the port, slowing traffic that was attempting to enter. Police stood by as protesters entered the port and protested the docking of the ZIM Alabama from Israel.
The action is part of the Block the Boat movement to place economic pressure on Israel to stop killing and oppressing Palestinians. There is a growing movement of students participating in the Boycott, Divest And Sanction (BDS) campaign.
Sam Beutler of Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of South Florida said, “Every little action on our part counts. The BDS movement was integral to the destruction of the South African Apartheid regime and can play a similar role in dealing with Israeli apartheid today – whether it be not buying Sabra hummus, HP computers, or attempting to stop a boat containing Israeli goods from docking. Each action moves towards the ending of the Israeli occupation of Palestine.”
This is the second protest of the ZIM Alabama in Tamp; there was another Aug. 30. Another Block the Boat rally is being organized to oppose the return of the ZIM Alabama.
The Union of European Football Associations has rejected an Israeli bid to host games during the 2020 European Championships. The decision follows a campaign by Palestinian sports teams and campaign groups and activists across Europe.
The Israeli Football Association bid to host games in Jerusalem as part of the UEFA 2020 tournament that will take place across 13 cities, but UEFA announced on Friday that Jerusalem was not one of the successful bidders.
75 Palestinian football teams and NGOs wrote to UEFA president Michel Platini arguing that holding the UEFA 2020 games in Jerusalem would be tantamount to “rewarding” Israel for its massacre of more than 2,100 Palestinians, including over 500 children, during its recent 52-day assault on Gaza.
Campaigners across Europe pressured UEFA and national football associations not to accept the Israeli bid. Sit-ins were held by Palestine solidarity activists at the headquarters of French and Italian football associations.
Abdulrahman Abunahel, the coordinator in Gaza with the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee said:
“Given that awarding Israel the right to host the games would have been a sign of support for Israel’s massacre in Gaza and its war on Palestinian football, UEFA has made the only sensible decision.
“We thank all those who joined us in opposing Israel’s bid to host games in Jerusalem, a city from which Israel is ethnically cleansing Palestinians. Our online campaigning and the occupations of football association buildings in France and Italy undoubtedly played a role in persuading UEFA to to make the right choice.”
“Israel has launched a war on football in Palestine: footballers have been killed, stadiums bombed and players have been refused permission to travel to matches. UEFA must suspend the membership the Israeli Football Association if it continues to maintain its links with the Israeli state that practices occupation, colonisation and apartheid.”
Thousands of people participated in a Twitter storm action on Tuesday to tell UEFA that awarding Israel the right to host UEFA 2020 tournament games would amount to a message of approval for its massacre in Gaza.
Among those killed in Israel’s recent massacre in Gaza were Ahmad Muhammad al-Qatar and Uday Caber, two 19-year-old football players at the start of their careers, and 49-year-old Ahed Zaqout, a footballing legend in Palestine known as “the voice of football” for his live commentaries. 32 sports facilities and around 500 athletes’ houses were also damaged.
Palestinian groups also warned that hosting games in Jerusalem would legitimise Israel’s forced displacement of Palestinians from occupied East Jerusalem, which is recognised as occupied Palestinian territory by the EU and UN.
Israel recently announced plans to further expand illegal Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem, a step that the UN and other agencies have warned will lead to further expulsions and forced evictions of Palestinians from their homes.
In a public letter protesting against UEFA’s decision to allow Israel to host the Under 21 tournament in 2013, more than 50 footballers including Didier Drogba and Frederik Kanoute called the Israeli-hosted tournament “a reward for actions that are contrary to sporting values”.
In 2010, UEFA president Michel Platini said: “Israel must choose between allowing Palestinian sport to continue and prosper or be forced to face the consequences for their behavior”.
Campaigners are now planning to intensify the pressure on Platini to live up to his promises and suspend the Israeli Football Association.