In Australia there are 30 Max Brenner shops providing funds for the Strauss Group that filter towards the maintenance of the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine. Another Brenner outlet is ‘coming soon’ to the campus of The University of New South Wales (UNSW), the site of the present Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) protest organised by Students for Justice in Palestine.
Spin-doctors against the BDS action, present the issue as an unjustified anti-Semitic attack against an innocuous chocolate shop, however the Max Brenner company and its supporters have direct and indirect vested interests in the Zionist enterprise that brutally, to this day, has destroyed the political and human rights of the indigenous people of Palestine.
Max Brenner is owned by the Strauss Group which, closely connected with the Israeli military and armament industry, provides care rations to the vicious Golani and Givati Brigades to ‘sweeten their special moments’. These units perpetrate, in their special moments, war crimes and crimes against humanity against Palestinians.
In the 1982 Lebanon War, Golani soldiers lit flares to assist the Phalangist death squads to massacre Palestinian men women and children in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps deemed an act of genocide by the UN. The Golani Brigade led a vicious offensive against the Jenin refugee camp in 2002 demolishing hundreds of homes while burying some Palestinians alive and killing terrified residents.
In 2004 a Givati commander callously murdered 13 year old Iman Darweesh Al Hams by firing two bullets at her head from close range while she was lying wounded on the ground. To verify the kill, the commander emptied his entire magazine into her little body. He was charged, exonerated and promoted.
The Givati Brigade led the ground offensive against unarmed Gazan families in the 2008-9 Operation Cast Lead for which the UN Goldstone Report accused Israel of war crimes.
Chairperson, Ofra Strauss also sits on the board of HESEG, which provides scholarships for ‘lone soldiers’, along with General (Res.) Yitzhak Eitan: Chief Commander of the Israeli military in Gaza and the West Bank, and Head (GOC) of the IDF Central Command during the years 2000-2003; Shabtai Shavit: Head of Mossad (the Israeli foreign intelligence) 1989-96 and the controversial Major General (Res.) Doron Almog who was Commander of the IDF’s Southern Command from 2000-2003. In 2005, he evaded a warrant issued in the UK for his arrest on suspicion of war crimes for ordering the demolition of 59 houses in Rafah, occupied Gaza; an act of illegal collective punishment under international law and on 22 July 2002, for ordering a one-ton bomb to be dropped on a home in Gaza to assassinate Salah Shehadeh killing 15 people, including 9 children.
Doron Almog is also Executive Chairman and Member of Investment Committee of Athlone Global Security Ltd. which he co-founded in 2007 providing specialised military and surveillance training equipment and services for the illegal Annexation wall and checkpoints. The Athlone team includes Moshe Horev, who headed the Israel Ministry of Defense R&D Division, the Avionics and Armament Division and the Guided Weapon system program office of the Israeli Air force. He is a former CEO of Hewlett Packard and is currently the CEO of Oracle Systems Israel Ltd which has a longstanding strategic partnership with the IDF as one of the IDF’s main suppliers of computer solutions.
Ofra Stauss also sits on the executive of The Jewish Agency which was established by the World Zionist Organisation (WZO) in 1929 founded to take over the whole of Palestine. On behalf of the government, it assigns stolen lands to its 400,000 illegal Jewish colonists in Palestine. Chairperson of the JNF Board of Governors is American billionaire James S Tisch who is also president of the Jewish Communal Fund which channels donations to violent settler militias that oppose the return of land captured in 1967 and promote the “transfer” of all Palestinians to neighbouring countries.
Thus, associating Brenner chocolate with war crimes is a no-brainer, nevertheless Australian apologists for Israeli war crimes roll over and go brain dead at the whiff of BDS. Politicians, journalists, commentators try to out-tourette each other’s idiotic assertions that BDS activists are anti-Semitic: Ex-PM-ex-FM-ex-rational Kevin Rudd pompously spluttered, ”As an individual citizen – that is me, K. Rudd – I am here because I object to the boycotting of Jewish businesses”; Gerard Henderson blurted, “Then there are the historical parallels. In the mid-1930s, Sir Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists used to go on rampages outside Jewish-owned shops in London’s East End – some were boycotted, others smashed up.”; Senator Stephen Conroy blabbered, “The Gillard Government remains concerned by any groups advocating a boycott of Israeli products or services or Jewish businesses and business people like Frank Lowy and Revlon’s chairman, Ronald Perlman, who is a trustee of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre,”
Ironically and gratefully, the sound bites of the anti-BDS spinners on mainstream media have boosted awareness of the BDS matter and given activists voice to justify their actions.
UNSW’s unconscionable support of the opening of the Max Brenner campus shop makes sense considering chancellor David Gonski and vice-chancellor Fred Hilmer have a tweedledum and tweedeldee relationship: both are Jewish, both have sat on the boards of Coca-Cola Amatil, Westfield Group, ( and John Fairfax Holdings). Consequently both have career long affiliations with Israel’s interests.
Coca-Cola Amatil is the Australian subsidiary of the Coca-Cola Company. In 2002, the parent company announced the proposed building of a plant on stolen Palestinian land at Kiryat Gat, in return for millions in incentives from the Israeli government. The land, Kiryat (Qiryat) Gat, has an industrial park built on the lands of the villages of al-Faluja and Iraq Al Manshiya. which were ethnically cleansed and demolished in 1949 in hasty contravention of an agreement between Egypt and Israel and of International Law. Coca-Cola Israel also directly owns dairy farms in the illegal Israeli settlements of Shadmot Mechola in the Jordan Valley and a plant in the industrial zone of Katzerin in the occupied Golan Heights. Coca-Cola Israel also supports the Jewish National Fund.
In 2004, Coca-Cola merged with Neviot Water which takes its waters from the Ein Zahav springs in Kirat Shmona built on the village of al-Khalisa after its 1500 villagers were ethnically cleansed and from wells dug by Mekorot. Mekorot, the Israeli national water company has been accused of crimes against humanity for its theft of Palestinian water and discriminatory water shortages for Palestinians while illegal Israeli settlements enjoy a constant supply of water.
In 2009 a Coca-Cola sponsored award went to Israel’s Lobby AIPAC for its successful lobbying of the Senate to reject of the UN call for “immediate ceasefire” and endorse the continuation of the Israel military assault on Gaza.
Gonski and Hilmer are ex directors of Westfield Holdings. Westfield owner, billionaire Frank Lowy, is a Czech Jew who served as a commando in the Haganah and later in the Golani brigades during the Nakba; the ethnic-cleansing of Palestine. He spends 3 months of the year in Israel. Through tax evasion, Lowy cheated the Australian people of $68m. SMH reports that Lowy said ‘he had given the money to Israeli charities and insisted he had met all his tax obligations’. In 2003 he set up the Lowy Institute for International Affairs ‘which promotes Israel and US foreign policy’. In 2005, Lowy was implicated in the corruption charges against his longtime friend, Ehud Olmert in the Bank Leumi affair. Lowy also set up the Institute for National Security Studies, attached to the University of Tel Aviv. ‘ As its chairman, Lowy has gathered some of the most influential policymakers in Israel and wealthiest international benefactors to sit on its boards.’ (Koutsoukis SMH 2008)
Gonski is chairman of Investec Australia part of the Investec banking group, founded in South Africa, Gonski’s birthplace. Investec SA has strong Zionist affiliations. In February 2013, it hosted an event featuring avowed Zionist Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein, a zealous public defender of Israel’s policies.
In 2004, due to the economic downturn, Investec divested its Israel operations of which Maj. Gen. (Res) Danny Rothchild was a director. In the 80’s, he was Commander of IDF Units in Southern Lebanon and later became Israeli Defense Force Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories and Deputy Director of Military Intelligence & Chief of Intelligence Research and Analysis enforcing Israel’s illegal occupation. He now owns and runs an Israeli-based security company, Netacs (Security) Ltd.
Avron Kregel, legal advisor to Investec is Chairman of the South African Zionist Federation. He negotiated to bar Judge Goldstone from attending his grandson’s bar mitzvah. It was the UN Goldstone Report that accused Israel of war crimes in its 2008/9 war against unarmed Gazan families. Zionist pressure on Goldstone led to his unethical retraction, in 2011, of the claim that Israel intentionally targeted Palestinian civilians. His 3 co-authors rejected outright any nullification, “We consider that calls to reconsider or even retract the report, as well as attempts at misrepresenting its nature and purpose, disregard the right of victims, Palestinian and Israeli, to truth and justice.”
Investec CEO, Stephen Koseff, a recipient of Israel’s highest tribute- the Jubilee Award, is a trustee of the King David Schools Foundation. The schools’ Zionist vision states ‘We recognize that Aliya is the ultimate expression of Zionist and Jewish identity. Our students are encouraged to develop a commitment to the centrality of Israel, an understanding of its history and present reality and identification with its future.’ Aliya is the right of Jews anywhere in the world to make their home in Israel while simultaneously Israel forbids all Palestinians their right of return under international law.
Gonski is a board member of Ingeus Ltd owned by Therese Rein, wife of the grand poobah of BDS opposition, Kevin Rudd. Ingeus also operates in Israel.
Gonski is also a recipient of the Richard Pratt Business Leadership Award. In the 90s, Fred Hilmer had a lucrative consultancy with Visy Industries, owned by the late Richard Pratt who paid a $38m fine for fixing prices. His Pratt Foundation (PF) still supports charitable programs in Israel some of which channel funds to the Jewish Agency. The PF funds The Park of the Australian Soldier in the Negev affiliated with the Jewish National Fund (JNF) notorious for its theft of ancestral lands of the impoverished Bedouins.
Hilmer, a rigid business automaton, apart from his directorships of Coca-Cola Amatil and Westfield Holdings was made, in 1998, CEO of Fairfax media which is curious given his dismal record that “cost NSW taxpayers at least $48 million’ when he was chair of Pacific Power ‘when it entered into the series of flawed electricity supply contracts with a Victorian distributor Powercor.’ The 1997-98 financial report of Pacific Power, showed their profits dropped from $552 million in 1996/97 to $43.8 million in 1997/98. (Electricity Week,1999)
Hilmer’s tenure at Fairfax was similarly lacklustre particularly when he “decided not to invest in fledgling internet site Seek.com.au. James Packer didn’t make the same mistake, turning a $33 million investment into a $400 profit (which much of that profit coming at the expense of Fairfax)… “With Fairfax sacking 2000 workers and radically reducing its commitment to journalism, the blame lies clearly at the feet of Fred Hilmer, David Kirk, Brian McCarthy, Ron Walker, Dean Wills, Roger Corbett and the slew of highly paid executives and directors who have mismanaged one of Australia’s great companies through not one, but a series of inexcusable blunders.’ (Schwab, Crikey 25-6-13)
Now, as vice-chancellor, Hilmer is hell bent on further corporatising UNSW by pushing for universities to set their own fees. According to Prof. Stuart Rees, ‘The characters setting the fees would presumably be the same invisible, unaccountable managerialists who have already contributed to the financial woes of Sydney University and UNSW, among others.’
Key stakeholders of UNSW, its staff and students, should well take heed of Kerry Packer who “once said of Fred Hilmer, the McKinsey consultant who went on to head Fairfax Media Ltd: “I wouldn’t hire him as a fxxx sweeper. For Fairfax to be run by a management consultant I think is just an act of stupidity. I think it’s ridiculous … He came from McKinsey and he has never run a business in his life.” (Knox, The Monthly, June 2010)
The drama of the UNSW Max Brenner protest, like Star Wars, is the archetypal clash between the Dark Side and the Light: the DeathVaders of government, business and mainstream media aligned to ruthless power versus The Force championed by the Students for Justice in Palestine defending the political and human rights of the Palestinian people as set out in the UN Charter and the Geneva Conventions; legal obligations that the Empire has shamefully abrogated along with its humanity.
- Dr. Vacy Vlazna is Coordinator of Justice for Palestine Matters.
- Reporting tips for Murdoch’s Australian over Palestine, BDS and Gaza (antonyloewenstein.com)
- Memo to Murdoch/Zio lobby; BDS grows while occupation deepens (antonyloewenstein.com)
On January 5th, to everyone’s surprise, noted American jazz/jazz fusion guitarist and pianist Stanley Jordan posted this news that was music to the ears of BDS activists everywhere: “My performance at the Red Sea Jazz Festival has been cancelled. I apologize for any inconvenience to anyone.” Those who had been tracking the debacle will know that this is a reversal of his earlier decision, one in which he had announced he would go forward with his gig. Although he did not say why, or even attribute his own agency in his new announcement, the backlog on Facebook is telling.
On Dec. 24th, Jordan posted this update on his Facebook page explaining that he had “received several messages from people requesting that I cancel my performance at the Red Sea Jazz Festival in Israel,” for which he was billed as the headlining artist for the Israeli festival (his image was used to create publicity posters in Hebrew for the state-funded event). In that initial post, he wrote:
“I’ve received several messages from people requesting that I cancel my performance at the Red Sea Jazz Festival in Israel. I promised a detailed response, so here it is. I would like to start a dialog right here to discuss this topic. Next to global warming the Middle East conflict is the biggest issue of our time, and it’s too important for black-and-white responses that ignore the nuances. And we truly need an open dialog with a spirit of mutual compassion for everyone involved. For my part, I want to use my talents and energies in the best possible way for the cause of peace. This purpose is deeply ingrained in my soul’s code, and I’ve known it since childhood. So the only remaining question is: How can I best accomplish this goal? I invite you all to weigh in. I’d like to start the discussion by recommending a wonderful book called, “Embracing Israel/Palestine: A Strategy to Heal and Transform the Middle East,” by Rabbi Michael Lerner. I’ve been reading a lot on this topic but this book stands out for me because it resonates with my own feelings. I encourage everyone to read it as background for our discussion. And please keep your comments clean and respectful. Let’s model the type of dialog that will eventually lead to a solution.”
His invitation came on the heels of an unsuccessful attempt to secure the compliance of the academic and cultural boycott by another jazz musician, Native American poet Joy Harjo who rejected the call and went ahead with her performance at Tel Aviv University. In that case, the “dialogue” was derailed from the get go by both her obvious disingenuous claims to solidarity with the Palestinian people and the persistent efforts of Zionist trolls that ended up colonizing her Facebook timeline. As such, Jordan’s announcement posed a challenge for all BDS supporters, especially those who work in concert with the Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI). Like Harjo, Jordan – as his subsequent Facebook comments revealed – had cited the spirit of his art and higher consciousness as a major reason for not honoring the international boycott.
The ensuing discussion on Jordan’s Facebook page was a remarkable drama for two reasons. For one thing, the hasbara trolls, who had plagued the discussion with Harjo, were nowhere to be found until after (indeed, immediately after) Jordan announced his decision to cross the picket line. That announcement came on January 1st in a status update that read:
“Our discussion revealed a crisis whose depth was even far greater than I had known, and I felt compelled to help. Like many others, I am deeply dedicated to the cause of world peace, and this situation goes against everything anyone with a heart could ever condone. However, after much consideration I concluded that the best way I could serve the cause would be to do my performance as scheduled, but separately organize an event in a major city in the United States to raise funds and awareness of the plight of the Palestinian people.”
Only after close to 600 comments (out of over 800 on that one thread) were posted by activists seeking to educate Jordan on all aspects of the plight of the Palestinians and the nature and objectives of the BDS appeal did the artist reveal that individuals from the Zionist contingent were in fact pressing their case with Jordan via private messages, out of the sight of the BDS activists.
Second, the absence of (overt) trolling allowed for an exemplary demonstration of what well-informed, dedicated BDS advocates can do with a thread if they are not constantly fending off accounts spouting Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs talking points. The result was passionate well-reasoned and forceful advocacy for the Palestinian cause from a diverse group of people on several continents, many of whom were unconnected with one another or had just become Facebook friends as a result of the virtual encounter. Palestinians, Jews, Arabs, Christians, Muslims, Israelis, European-American settlers, Australians, Native Americans, and many others took part in the discussion which continued throughout New Year ’s Eve across various time zones on the globe.
It is worth asking why Jordan, who once publicly endorsed the cultural boycott of apartheid South Africa, was ultimately not convinced by the extensive discussion in which he actively participated, and what, if anything, it tells us about the efforts of PACBI supporters. One also wonders what it was that made Jordan reconsider. It would be really useful if he were to make a full clear statement of support for BDS in the future.
The ebb and flow of the discussion, in what eventually turned out to be a long thread of over 800 posts, shows how well the activists’ comments elaborated on and complemented one another. One person would drop an idea out there, and someone else would pick up on it. Great care was taken to remain respectful, as people tried to understand Jordan’s frame of reference and engage him meaningfully within it without patronizing him. One turning point in the discussion was an explanation of what constitutes being “in solidarity” in the human and civil rights movements. “Being in solidarity,” wrote Adrian Boutureira Sansberro, “entails being able to take direction from those one claims to be in solidarity with. Learning how to take direction, as to what is it that those we are in solidarity with wish us to do, is a huge aspect of shifting the relationships of power between the oppressed and the oppressor. It is also a way to really come face to face with our own true commitment and power issues.”
One of the many things on which Jordan was called up is the claim that he had no prior political involvement as a musician. It became apparent, however, that he had, in fact, made very clear, public, and political statements on the subject of playing Sun City with fellow artists in 1987. At the time, Jordan had supported the spirit of the boycott but was never put to the test. But in the discussion thread, he waived off the contradiction between the principled stand he took then (and his position in support of various other human rights causes) on the one hand, and his reluctance to take a comparable stand on the boycott calls on the other. At that point in time, he appeared to want to have it both ways.
After Jordan made his January 1st decision not to support the boycott, some suggested that the entire dialogue was intended to provide cover to a decision Jordan never intended reconsidering. Others have pointed to the difficulty of responding to arguments one cannot see. I believed that, although he did come to see the justice of the Palestinian cause and even to sympathize with it, Jordan simply did not wish to let go of his gig for financial reasons (what he described as “the reality of my situation”). At one point in the discussion Jordan asked Israeli boycott supporters, “why should we outsiders bare [sic] the economic brunt of the boycotts? You want me to quit my job, so then shouldn’t you be quitting yours too? After all, any economic activity aids Israel and can be seen as de facto normalization.” In answer to that, people, of course, pointed out that being asked to cancel a gig is not the same as quitting a job.
Anyone who studies the thread can easily see that, throughout the discussion, Jordan and his publicist (who eventually jumped into the discussion in his stead) were searching for a line that would validate his strong desire to keep the gig but that would also allow Jordan to sympathize or “ally” himself (as opposed to being in solidarity) with the Palestinian people (hence, the charity concert that would follow in the United States). At that time, Jordan kept insisting that, as a musician he had no political role to play (even as it was made crystal clear to him that he himself was, in fact, being played by Israel’s politicians). He was just a guitar player. He felt his music went “to the heart of the subjective, interior dimension, and the world of all things spiritual” and had the power to “influence humans to be more humane”, so he just wanted to perform and to leave it up to his Israeli audience to “decide for themselves how to use the inspiration”.
Once his first frame of reference as represented by Lerner’s book was summarily critiqued, Jordan kept introducing into the discussion therapeutic frameworks, such as Neuro-Linguistic Programming, the study of the structure of subjective experience. He ultimately turned away from Ali Abunimah’s vision in One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse, which posits that a principled and sustained campaign to impose a cost for Israeli government abuses of Palestinians would, in fact, ease tensions. As Abunimah puts it, once “freed from the hardships of occupation, discrimination, and exile, and engaged by Israeli counterparts genuinely interested in building a tolerant, multicultural, multireligious society, the Palestinian majority would gladly, forgivingly, and open-mindedly choose the same course.” To Jordan, it seemed that would never happen, unless people were “getting along first” – a catch 22.
Jordan’s initial inability to grasp even rudimentary facts about the campaign turned his statement, “You’re also educating me so that I can hopefully someday speak intelligently on this matter” into a farcical proposition. The Palestine Chronicle published an article I wrote after the January 1st announcement he would play, “Stanley Jordan: You Don’t Get to Peace without Real Solidarity”, in which this point was made: “Jordan is now trying to justify his decision by expressing inchoate beliefs about the power of his art to achieve “world peace” by “changing consciousness” while propounding the notion that the boycott undermines the freedom of the artist and limits the transformative power he possesses over his audience.”
Now, in light of Jordan’s January 5th announcement that he will not play, he has demonstrated his decision to stand on the right side of history. Still, it would be ideal if he would issue a statement that explains what finally lead him to respect the boycott. But regardless, BDS activists who worked tirelessly to educate Jordan can claim this a victory – and we can all surmise that it was his conscience that prompted him to do the right thing.
- Rima Merriman is a faculty member in the English department, Al Quds University in the occupied West Bank.
- South Africa’s ruling ANC officially endorses Palestine’s boycott movement (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- BDS activists call on Joy Harjo to cancel Israel performance (bikyamasr.com)
South Africa’s ruling party has officially endorsed Palestine’s Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign against Israel, making it the first major non-Muslim political faction to throw its weight behind the nonviolent resistance movement.
The African National Congress issued a resolution in support of the boycott campaign making it a part of its official policy, and specifically called for “all South Africans to support the programmes and campaigns of the Palestinian civil society which seek to put pressure on Israel to engage with the Palestinian people to reach a just solution.”
A press release issued by activist group BDS South Africa called the move “the most authoritative endorsement of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel campaign.”
Previous moves to support Palestine’s nonviolent resistance movement from state actors have restricted their backing to the boycott of Israeli settlements, shying away from targeting the Jewish state. In September, the Irish parliament voted to ban Israeli settlement imports. Earlier this month, an Israeli newspaper reported that the EU was looking into boycotting settlement goods, after Israel defied calls to stem construction of the illegal houses.
Another clause of the resolution lashed out at Israel’s mistreatment of Africans, which culminated in the mass deportation of South Sudanese this year: “The ANC abhors the recent Israeli state-sponsored xenophobic attacks and deportation of Africans and request that this matter should be escalated to the African Union.”
The move is the latest in a series of actions by the ANC to pressure Israel into ending the Jewish state’s racist policies, particularly against indigenous Palestinians.
This August, South Africa’s Deputy Foreign Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim advised South Africans not to travel to Israel “because of the treatment and policies of Israel towards the Palestinian people.”
Palestine activists have long worked to draw attention to parallels between South Africa’s apartheid period and Palestinian repression under Israel’s ethno-religious-exclusive government system. Palestine’s BDS movement is said to be largely inspired by South Africa’s own boycott movement, which is credited with playing a major role in dismantling apartheid in that country in 1994.
South African Apartheid was declared official policy in 1948, the same year the state of Israel was created and thousands of Palestinians were expelled or put under martial rule.
In 2005, Palestinian civil society issued a call for a campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel until it complies with international law and Palestinian rights. The launch followed a historic ruling at the International Court of Justice that Israel’s apartheid wall, which greatly restricts movement in the West Bank and expropriates large swathes of Palestinian land, be demolished.
The BDS movement has garnered support from activists and labor unions worldwide, as well as from a growing list of artists, including Roger Waters, Elvis Costello, Santana, Cat Power and the late Gil Scott Heron.
Full BDS South Africa Press release
MEDIA RELEASE: S. Africa’s ruling party, the ANC, reaffirms boycott of Israel resolution
South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), at its 53rd National Conference, reaffirmed a resolution supporting the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel campaign.
In October 2012, the ANC’s International Solidarity Conference (ISC) declared its full support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel campaign (ISC Declaration, page 2, point 10).
Today, Lindiwe Zulu (member of the ANC’s International Relations Sub-Committee and special advisor to President Jacob Zuma) announced at the ANC’s 53rd National Conference plenary session, the ANC’s official endorsement, as captured in Resolution 39 (b), of the ANC’s October International Solidarity Conference (ISC) and all its resolutions, which includes a resolution on BDS. Giving muscle to resolution 39 (b), the ANC has committed to set up a steering committee to implement these ISC resolutions.
In addition, the ANC adopted resolution 35 (g) that specifically called for “all South Africans to support the programmes and campaigns of the Palestinian civil society which seek to put pressure on Israel to engage with the Palestinian people to reach a just solution.” In 2005 Palestinian civil society issued a call to the international community for a program and campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) to be applied against Israel as a way to pressure Israel to end its violations of international law, respect Palestinian human rights and engage in fair negotiations for a just peace.
Mbuyiseni Ndlozi of BDS South Africa welcomed today’s decision: “This reaffirmation by the ANC’s National Conference, its highest decision making body, is by far the most authoritative endorsement of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel campaign. The ANC has now taken its international conference resolutions, and officially made it the policy of the ANC. We look forward to working with the ANC and specifically the ISC steering committee to expedite its implementation.”
Another hard-hitting decision on Israel that was adopted by the ANC was resolution 35 (j): “The ANC abhors the recent Israeli state-sponsored xenophobic attacks and deportation of Africans and request that this matter should be escalated to the African Union”. In June this year Israeli anti-African protests turned into full-fledged race riots. Israeli racism and xenophobia against Africans is shared and even encouraged by Israeli politicians including the Israeli Prime Minster, Benjamin Netanyahu, who has said: “If we don’t stop their [African immigrants’] entry, the problem that currently stands at 60,000 could grow to 600,000, and that threatens our existence…and threatens the social fabric of society.” Israel’s Minister of Interior, Eli Yishai, has said that African immigrants “think the country doesn’t belong to us, the white man.” And the Israeli parliamentarian, Miri Regev, has publicly compared Sudanese people to “a cancer”.
Finally, in a blow to the Israeli lobby, the ANC also adopted resolution 35 (c) stating: “The ANC is unequivocal in its support for the Palestinian people in their struggle for self-determination, and unapologetic in its view that the Palestinians are the victims and the oppressed in the conflict with Israel.” In the build up to the ANC’s National Conference the Israeli lobby, including the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, demanded a “balanced” and “nonpartisan” rather than a decisive and solidarity role by the ANC in the Palestinian-Israeli issue.
ISSUED BY MBUYISENI NDLOZI FOR BDS SOUTH AFRICA
Introduction by Gabi Weber
Paul Larudee, the co-founder of Free Palestine Movement and one of the leading Pro-Palestinian activists in America, posted the following text on Al Awda list. It seems as if BDS has given up on the most essential Palestinian principles.
While BDS was initially defined as opposition to colonisation of all Arab land, the current BDS statement merely opposes only the colonisation of Arab land occupied in 1967.
The following text raises serious questions. Perhaps one of our readers can provide the answers.
It is with great sadness that I must propose withdrawal of al-Awda endorsement from the BDS Campaign led by the BNC until the change in its mission statement has been corrected and until a public explanation is provided for the reasons for the change as well as the procedure by which the change was implemented. A more transparent public explanation of BNC finances is also recommended.
Obviously, this is not a proposal to stop boycott, divestment and sanctions. However, BDS actions and practices do not require endorsement of a particular movement. Everything that undermines the racist Zionist state deserves our support. Nevertheless, under no circumstances can we support any statement or action that legitimates such a state, which is the problem with the BNC-led BDS Campaign.
As I reported on July 10, the original BDS mission statement reads:
“1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall”
In fact, it still reads that way on one part of the website: http://www.bdsmovement.net/call. Unfortunately, that part of the website is historical, and reports what the original mission statement was when it was issued in 2005 (when al-Awda endorsed it), and not what it is today, which is found at http://www.bdsmovement.net/bdsintro, which reads:
“1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall” (emphasis added)
When did this wording change? By what procedure was it amended? Were endorsers like al-Awda consulted or even notified about the change? What was the reason for the change?
1. When did the wording change?
Sorry, but I have no idea about this, and I doubt that anyone else on this list does, either. This is problematic. How can a change of this magnitude be made without the permission of its endorsers? How can endorsers be made to say something that they never endorsed? This is deception at its worst.
2. By what procedure was the statement amended?
One would think that such a change would require a proposal to and ratification by the governing committee of the BNC. However, there is no evidence that such a procedure was observed. Lacking evidence to the contrary, we must conclude that it was amended unilaterally by someone with control over the website.
3. Were endorsers like al-Awda consulted or even notified about the change?
Again, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, it appears that the change in language was introduced in the most surreptitious way possible, so as to avoid notice. One is reminded of the way the British territory of Gibraltar was enlarged by moving the boundary stones at night.
4. What was the reason for the change?
This is the most troubling part of the problem. A clue may be found in the following video, posted by Gilad Atzmon:
Another clue comes from BDS Campaign founder Omar Barghouti’s book, Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights. In the introduction, Barghouti describes the goal as widows: 2; word-spacing: 0px;”> text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: 2; word-spacing: 0px;”> “>”ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands [occupied in 1967] and dismantling the wall” (p. 6). On page line-height: normal; orphans: 2; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: 2; word-spacing: 0px;”> font-weight: normal; letter-spacing: normal; line-height: normal; orphans: 2; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: 2; word-spacing: 0px;”> “>49, Barghouti says that “BDS calls for ending Israel’s 1967 military occupation of Gaza, the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), and other Arab territories in Lebanon and Syria.”
Obviously, Omar Barghouti is entitled to his views. Perhaps he “is genuinely convinced that the ‘Zionist colonization’ of ‘all Arab Land’ applies only to land invaded in June 1967. However, is he the one behind the unauthorized changes in the BDS mission statement? This is a question that needs to be answered, and I believe that the similarities between his statements and the amendment of the BDS mission statement justify the asking of that question without prejudice to the possibility that a satisfactory explanation might exist. Justice must presume innocence until proven otherwise.
Finally, according to Gilad Atzmon, some Zionist right wing sources name George Soros and his Open Society Institute as helping to fund BDS and some of its member organizations. We know that Soros is a “soft” Zionist and wants to preserve a Jewish state. Is his funding or that of any other funding organizations a reason for the change in the mission statement? A full disclosure of funding sources and amounts, as well as any and all conditions of funding is needed. In addition, the use of those funds, including line item amounts, is needed in order to demonstrate accountability.
I again wish to express my sorrow at bringing these matters to your attention. I hope that my concerns are unjustified. However, I also hope that you will agree that this is an issue that must be addressed.
- Short moving video about Al-Awda’s 10th Annual International Convention & Right of Return (windowintopalestine.blogspot.com)
The student body of an American university has become the latest Western institution to back divestment from companies involved with the Israeli army.
Arizona State University’s student union unanimously passed a bill demanding the university divest from and blacklist companies that continue to provide the Israeli army with weapons and militarized equipment.
Among the companies that work with the Israeli army are Boeing, Motorola, United Technologies, Petrochina, Sinopec, and Alstom.
A statement from the university’s student body said the decision was part of a wider movement to encourage Western companies to stop supporting the occupation of Palestinians.
“This announcement, coming on the last day of the 2012 school year, is another victory in the global call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) on Israel as well as other global solidarity movements calling for the end to human rights violations.”
“Arizona State University, a university with an endowment of over US$735 million, aspires to be the ‘New American University’ with globally engaged students. We, students, at ASU want our university to make socially responsible investment decisions; we also want ASU’s investments to reflect its values as an institution.”
Omar Barghouti, a human rights activists and co-founder of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, hailed the decision as the beginning of a wider anti-Israel campaign at US universities.
“This qualitative BDS victory is truly inspiring as it opens the door to similar measures across US and possibly European campuses,” he said.
“As the BDS movement has shown in the cases of Veolia, Alstom, G4S and Adidas, the price of corporate complicity in Israel’s grave and persistent violations of international law is steadily – and rapidly – going in one direction: upward.”
The BDS campaign has been targeting institutions and companies directly involved with Israel’s occupation, which many activists consider as apartheid, for a number of years.
Inspired by the international boycott of apartheid in South Africa, BDS aims to mimic a similar worldwide movement to pressure the Jewish state to end its oppression of indigenous Palestinians.
- South Africa university pulls plug on Israeli Embassy (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- UKZN cancels Monday’s Israeli lecture by Israeli’s deputy ambassador to South Africa in Support of BDS against Israel (windowintopalestine.blogspot.com)
South Africa’s University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) has pulled the plug on the Israeli deputy ambassador to South Africa, Yaakov Finkelstein. This is yet another blow to Israel-South Africa relations that have recently become tense.
Finkelstein was due to speak at UKZN later on today, Monday (21 May 2012), but yesterday afternoon, UKZN’s Deputy Vice Chancellor, Professor Joseph Ayee, sent an email informing his staff that he has cancelled the lecture:
“I have re-considered the sensitivities that the visit of the Israeli Deputy Ambassador have generated. Given the negative publicity that the visit will give UKZN, I hereby cancel the visit and the lecture by the Israeli Deputy Ambassador scheduled for tomorrow, Monday, 21 May 2012….[the Israeli ambassador will bring] likely reputational damage for the institution [which] is not in the interest of all of us.”
Professor Ayee’s announcement came after the university was called on by students and staff to cancel the hosting of Finkelstein as it would have violated the “academic boycott” of Israel. Palestinians issued a call to the international community in 2005 for a program of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel until Israel abides by international law and basic human rights.
Early last year, another SA University, the University of Johannesburg, became the world’s first university to impose an academic boycott on Israel by ending its institutional relation with Israel’s Ben-Gurion University. In addition several student movements, including the South African Students Congress (SA’s largest and oldest studdent body), have publicly backed the academic boycott and BDS call.
UKZN School of Social Sciences senior lecturer, Dr Lubna Nadvi commented:
“This is a positive and encouraging move by UKZN. Israel is fast becoming a pariah state, like Apartheid South Africa did, that no one really wants to be associated with – including academics and students. It can be safe to assume that UKZN’s cancellation represents the general sentiment among students and staff”.
- South African Artists Against Apartheid a Declaration (windowintopalestine.blogspot.com)
Palestine human rights campaigners today welcomed news that the UK’s fifth biggest food retailer, The Co-operative Group, will “no longer engage with any supplier of produce known to be sourcing from the Israeli settlements”.
The Co-op’s decision, notified to campaigners in a statement, will immediately impact four suppliers, Agrexco, Arava Export Growers, Adafresh and Mehadrin, Israel’s largest agricultural export company. Mehadrin sources produce from illegal settlements, including Beqa’ot in the Occupied Jordan Valley. During interviews with researchers, Palestinian workers in the settlement said they earn as little as €11 per day. Grapes and dates packaged in the settlement were all labelled ‘Produce of Israel’.
Mehadrin’s role in providing water to settlement farms and its relationship with Israeli state water company Mekorot makes the company additionally complicit with Israel’s discriminatory water policies. Other companies may be affected by the Co-op’s new policy if they are shown to be sourcing produce from Israel’s settlements in the Occupied Territories.
Hilary Smith, Co-op member and Boycott Israel Network (BIN) agricultural trade campaign co-ordinator, said “we welcome this important decision by the Co-op to take steps toward fully realising their policy of support for human rights and ethical trading. The Co-op has taken the lead internationally in this historic decision to hold corporations to account for complicity in Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights. We strongly urge other retailers to follow suit and take similar action”.
The announcement by the Co-op came just before their Regional AGMs, due to take place over the next two weeks, and where motions on this issue have been submitted for discussion. For months Co-op members have been highlighting their concerns about trade with complicit companies through co-ordinated letter-writing and discussions with local offices.
A spokesperson from the Palestinian Union of Agricultural Work Committees, which works to improve the conditions of Palestinian agricultural communities, said:
“Israeli agricultural export companies like Mehadrin profit from and are directly involved in the ongoing colonisation of occupied Palestinian land and theft of our water. Trade with such companies constitutes a major form of support for Israel’s apartheid regime over the Palestinian people, so we warmly welcome this principled decision by the Co-Operative. Other European supermarkets must now take similar steps to end their complicity with Israeli violations of international law. The movement for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law is proving to be a truly effective form of action in support of Palestinian rights”.
Campaigners say that this widening of the Co-op’s human rights and trade policy represents a victory for the BDS campaign, called for in 2005 by over 170 Palestinian civil society organisations. Actions across Europe to highlight the issue of complicit agricultural trade companies have included co-ordinated popular boycotts, pickets of supermarkets, lobbying and blockades of company premises.
Last year Agrexco, formerly Israel’s largest agricultural goods exporter, was ordered into liquidation after posting record losses and failing to pay its creditors. Shir Hever, Israeli economist and commentator who researches the economic aspects of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, said that one factor was “the fact that Agrexco has been the target of an international boycott campaign, in protest at its role in repressing Palestinians”.
All other major supermarkets in the UK continue to trade with the companies that are now barred under the Co-op’s human rights and trade policy.
A legal fight is underway in Minnesota over the state’s investment in Israeli bonds that are used to support settlements and other Israeli actions in the West Bank deemed illegal under international law. Sylvia Schwarz, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, explains why she’s demanding the state’s divestiture.
“I do not think this is a radical call,” says Ronnie Barkan, of Boycott From Within (BFW), an Israeli human rights group that advocates boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) of Israel until it complies with international law and human rights consensus.
“Simply by investing in the State of Israel, Minnesota inadvertently supports the criminal policies of the State [of Israel], which are detrimental to both the Palestinians and the Israelis.”
Boycott From Within is one of three organizations and 24 individuals listed as plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the State of Minnesota for illegally investing in Israel bonds, bonds which are used to fund projects such as the Separation Wall (ruled illegal in 2004 by the International Court of Justice) and illegal settlement construction and infrastructure (a violation of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Minnesota is one of more than 75 state and municipalities which holds Israel bonds. Most of these bonds were purchased in the last decade, when the Development Corporation of Israel made a major sales push.
The Minnesota State Board of Investment (SBI) is a state agency which is charged with investing state retirement and pension funds. The SBI members are Gov. Mark Dayton, State Auditor Rebecca Otto, State Attorney General Lori Swanson and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie.
Boycott From Within members are all Israeli citizens living in Israel. They have publicly and enthusiastically endorsed the 2005 Palestinian civil society call for BDS against Israel to force the state of Israel to comply with international law. For this act of free speech (recognized under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights), they face lawsuits and civil penalties under Israel’s recent “anti-boycott law.”
Minnesota Break the Bonds Campaign (MN BBC), which also endorses the Palestinian call for BDS, was formed in 2006 in response to that request for international solidarity. Made up of a diverse group of people from varying occupations, histories of activism, and levels of involvement with the Palestine/Israel issue, members of MN BBC all agreed that providing accurate information to the public was a major obstacle in ending Israel’s colonialism and oppression of the Palestinians.
In every respect, the news media, schools and universities, and even culture and entertainment have, until recently, ignored the Palestinian side of the issue. Palestinians, when portrayed in the media at all, have been demonized, equated with terrorists, and dehumanized.
Few stories of Israeli violence against Palestinians are reported in the media, while reports of Palestinian violence against Israelis are repeated over and over again, giving the impression that the latter occur more often than the former. (The UN Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs website shows accurate statistics. See a report comparing incidents of violence versus the number of reports in the mainstream media.)
Three Main Goals
MN BBC has three main goals. The first is to persuade Minnesota to divest from its Israel bonds investments. The second goal of MN BBC is to educate every Minnesotan about the state’s involvement in the human rights abuses in Palestine. Since every Minnesota taxpayer pays for the SBI’s investments, every Minnesotan is actively involved in the international law violations committed by the Israeli government.
The third goal is to serve as a model for organizations in other states and municipalities that are attempting to divest of Israel bonds. MN BBC is one of the first organizations that have targeted these investments and a vast amount of knowledge and experience has been accumulated within the group.
In early 2011 it became clear to the legal minds in MN BBC that the State Board of Investment had invested in Israel government bonds in violation of Minnesota statutes, which allow investment in government securities of only one foreign country: Canada, and then only with certain restrictions.
Although this seems like an unexciting legal technicality, it is actually a stunning discovery. From available records it appears that the SBI broke the Minnesota law for Israel alone, in order to show solidarity with Israel and to single it out for special favored treatment.
Regardless of the human rights and international law violations that the money buys, regardless of the international community’s disapproval of the financing of these crimes, and regardless of the prohibition under Minnesota’s own statutes, the SBI showed its favoritism towards Israel by its zeal to invest Minnesota taxpayer funds in a clearly illegal enterprise.
Minnesota has trade relationships and commercial partnerships with many other countries, but in no case (until this lawsuit was filed) did the SBI break Minnesota law to invest in non-Canadian foreign government bonds, except for Israel bonds.
Israel defenders often ask why we single out Israel for condemnation. Other countries have equally poor human rights records. Why not decry China’s or Iran’s abuses? But for which other country are our own state’s laws broken to make Minnesota taxpayers complicit in these human rights violations?
We repeatedly demanded that the State Board of Investment divest from Israel bonds on moral and legal grounds but it refused and even purchased more bonds. Because the law prohibits this type of foreign government investment, we filed a lawsuit. The lawsuit has three counts.
The first count states that the investments are illegal according to Minnesota statutes. The second count states that by investing in activities which are clearly illegal according to international law, the State Board of Investment is acting contrary to the U.S. and Minnesota Constitutions which state that international treaties and conventions signed and ratified by the United States, like the Geneva Conventions, are laws of the land.
The third count states that these investments expose the SBI and the Minnesota taxpayers and pensioners, who would foot the bill, to lawsuits brought against them by individuals who have been harmed by Israeli policies under the Federal Alien Tort Statute. In other words, the investments are supplying material support for oppression and Minnesota could be liable for these damages.
It is important to understand how these investments are used. The Bil’in Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements, another plaintiff on the lawsuit, is a direct victim of investments made in Israel Bonds.
Since 2004 the Bil’in Popular Committee, which is comprised of villagers from the West Bank town of Bil’in, has been holding weekly non-violent demonstrations to protest the illegal annexation of the village land by Israel for illegal settlements and an extension of the separation wall.
The annexations began in the early 1980s and now more than 60 percent of Bil’in’s arable land and several water wells have been confiscated to make way for the wall and Israeli settlements. Although the protests are non-violent, they have been met with extreme violence from the Israeli Defense Forces.
Several demonstrators have been killed (including Bassem Abu Rahmah who died when Israelis fired a tear gas canister directly at his chest, and his sister, Jawaher, who died from inhalation of tear gas). Many injuries have resulted from IDF violent responses to these non-violent protests, and many people, including children, have been arrested and held without charge or trial in “administrative detention.”
The confiscation of Palestinian land and resources and the movement of Israeli civilians into occupied territory are clear violations of international law. This is undisputed and acknowledged by the U.S. State Department and when U.S. loan guarantees were given to Israel between 1992 and 1997 to settle immigrants from the Soviet Union, they were expressly forbidden to be used to fund settlement activity in the West Bank.
When Israel violated this provision, the loan guarantees were cancelled. In other words, the U.S. acknowledges that Israel violates international law.
The Geneva Conventions were signed and ratified by the United States. Under the Supremacy Clause, Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution, Minnesota, as well as every other State, is obligated to uphold international treaties ratified by the federal government.
Since the money invested in Israel bonds finances projects which are in violation of a signed and ratified convention, the investments violate both the state’s and the U.S. Constitution. Again, Israel is favored for special treatment. Minnesota would violate a provision of the U.S. Constitution for no other country.
The Fourth Geneva Convention is not the only international law which Israel violates. Israel was admitted to the UN by Resolution 273, which called for the implementation of Resolution 194, including the return of (or compensation to) the 750,000 refugees who had been ethnically cleansed from their homes within Israel between 1947 and 1949.
The call for the return of the refugees has been reaffirmed many times within the U.N. and by human rights organizations. The personal right to return to one’s home is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Yet Israel has never allowed any of the expelled refugees to return. This is an enormous unhealed personal and national wound for Palestinians which is expressly written into the Israeli system of law (Israel has no constitution) in order to create and maintain a Jewish majority.
A Palestinian Refugee
One of the 750,000 refugees from 1948, and another plaintiff on the MN BBC lawsuit, is my husband, Nadim Shamat. After growing up in Beirut, Lebanon, and attending the American University of Beirut, he immigrated to the United States, where I met him. As a former employee of a state agency, he is a recipient of pension funds managed by the State Board of Investment.
When Nadim was born, in 1945, my maternal grandmother was being liberated from Bergen Belsen, the Nazi concentration camp, after two horrific years of slave labor and starvation. She and my mother, the only survivors in her family, spent the next few years trying to salvage what was left of their former lives and finally made their way to British Columbia, where my parents met.
Understanding the personal and family trauma through which my family lived makes me very aware of the pain of unhealed traumas.
Because of Israel’s racist laws granting special privileges to Jews and denying those privileges to non-Jews, I have the “right” to “return” to Israel any time I want (even though my background is European and the most recent of my ancestors to live there were there at least 2,000 years ago) and take citizenship there.
I can purchase property managed by the Jewish National Fund and held for Jews only. I can live in a Jewish-only community within Israel, the West Bank, or the Golan Heights. But my husband, who was born in Jaffa, who left involuntarily, who lost all his possessions, and the community that would have supported him as he grew up, is not allowed to return to his actual homeland. Before funding Israel’s racist and colonialist policies, Americans should consider the fundamental unfairness of this situation.
Each of the 27 plaintiffs on the lawsuit against the SBI gives a unique reason for the state to divest from Israel bonds (see some of the stories here.) The judge, however, has only to rule on one count in our favor: the mundane legal technicality that foreign government securities are illegal investments according to Minnesota law, and order the SBI to divest from its Israel bonds.
It appears to be such a clear legal case, and if it were any other country, it would never have required a lawsuit. But this is Israel, the country to which the U.S. gives military aid of more than $3 billion per year, more than any other country in the world.
This is Israel, whose international law violations the U.S. upholds and protects in the UN Security Council. This is Israel, to which the I.R.S. grants tax-exempt charitable status to finance ethnic cleansing through the Jewish National Fund . This is Israel, whose prime minister received overwhelming applause and 29 standing ovations in Congress that were, in the words of Thomas Friedman, “bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.”
So this lawsuit, though clear and solid in its legal foundation, might not win in court. Judges are elected in Minnesota. They are subject to the same types of pressures as other elected officials. But we don’t believe that a loss in court is necessarily a setback. We have made enormous strides in educating people around the state and the country about Israel and Palestine.
Our membership is growing and we have even had a presence in the mainstream media. We believe our goals of reaching out across the state and the country and bringing forth the Palestinian side of the story can only be furthered by this effort. We are committed to justice, freedom, and equal rights for all and we believe our efforts will bring Palestinians closer to this goal.
Sylvia Schwarz is a member of the Core Team of Minnesota Break the Bonds Campaign and a plaintiff on the lawsuit against the State. She is married with two children and works as an engineer in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Student solidarity groups from more than twenty UK universities held Israeli Apartheid Week events last week, raising awareness of the apartheid analysis and building boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) on campus. Coming towards the end of an academic year that has seen students’ unions across the country and the National Union of Students move to support BDS initiatives and many successful BDS campaigns, the week has been hailed as having taken the UK student movement for Palestine to new heights.
The week kicked off on the Monday with a national day of action, with campuses across the country organising mock checkpoints, street theatre and supermarket actions.
Focus on youth
Organisers chose to bring young activists from Palestine and South Africa as visiting speakers, resulting in energetic and action-focused panel discussions and providing students with the opportunity to hear about the latest developments in the Palestinian and South African youth movements.
In Scotland, five universities hosted talks by Adameer activist Murad Jadallah and Wassim Ghantous, a Palestinian youth activist currently active in the Belgian BDS movement. With students in Scotland especially active in organising solidarity for Khader Adnan, Murad’s talks on the work Adameer had been doing to support him were particularly well timed. The announcement that Adnan was to be released came shortly before one of the biggest public events was due to start.
Yara Sadi from the Who Profits from the Occupation? project spoke alongside local activists in Leicester, Leeds and Sheffield and Israeli BDS activist Leehee Rothschild visited the universities of Sussex, Warwick and Essex.
In London, the main panel discussion featured film maker Eyal Sivan, Palestinian BDS National Committee secretariat member Rafeef Ziadah, journalist Ben White and South African student leader Mbuyiseni Ndlozi. Mbuyiseni spoke passionately of the “potent gift of international solidarity” that contributed to the downfall of South African apartheid and must be developed further to support the Palestinian struggle against Israeli apartheid.
Mbuyiseni also spoke in Nottingham and alongside Ewa Jasiewicz at a meeting at Manchester Metropolitan University that launched a campaign against the university’s ties with Veolia, the French multinational that provides services to Israel’s illegal settlements.
At the University of Liverpool, the Guild of Students voted to adopt a range of policy motions in support of campaigns following presentations earlier in the week by the Corporate Watch research group about their newly released BDS book Targeting Israeli Apartheid.
On Friday, the week was rounded up with a series of social events. In London, a Beats Against Apartheid event was attended by over 600 students. It was the perfect energetic ending to an inspiring week with performances from hip-hop artists Lowkey, Mic Righteous, Awate and spoken word performers Rafeef Ziadah and Jody Mcintyre among many others.
Opposition and repression
Despite much fanfare in the Israeli media, the official ‘Voices for Israel’ delegation made little impact. Bizarrely, meetings at which they spoke were poorly publicised and there was almost no visible presence on campuses from the official delegation.
In contrast, local pro-Israel student activists attempted to intimidate IAW organisers, with students at LSE being pelted with water balloons as they staged a mock check point on campus and there were reports of confrontational behaviour in Birmingham, Nottingham and elsewhere.
Regardless of these attempts at intimidation, Israeli Apartheid Week has been widely successful and has continued its consistent growth across the UK. Indeed, the failure of pro-Israel activists to detract from our activities in any meaningful should be seen as a further sign that the debate on UK campuses is now happening very much on our terms.
For information on the Israeli Apartheid Week events that will take place elsewhere in the world in the coming weeks, check out the official Israeli Apartheid Week website.
- Israel student society attacks peaceful Palestine protest with water bombs at London School of Economics (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Apartheid conference goes ahead in Paris despite university ban (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Mbuyiseni Ndlozi – Israeli Apartheid Week | Stop the Wall (aboriginalpress.wordpress.com)
- Transforming Finkelstein BDS attack into opportunity (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- This year, another U.S. media blackout of “Israeli Apartheid Week” (dangordonreporting.wordpress.com)
Right of return is a central demand of the Palestinian liberation movement. (Abed Rahim Khatib / APA images)
There have been a number of thoughtful and incisive rebuttals to the recent video interview in which Norman Finkelstein absurdly calls the growing boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against apartheid Israel a “cult,” and admonishes Palestinians to limit their struggle to the “two-state solution” (“Video: Arguing the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign with Norman Finkelstein (interviewed by Frank Barat),” 9 February 2012).
However, Finkelstein’s attack on the BDS movement is not, as some of his critics have suggested, merely an indication of personal demoralization, faulty legal analysis, or political shortsightedness. Rather, it reflects a stubborn attempt to rationalize his rejection of Palestinian demands — especially full equality and refugee rights — that challenge the legitimacy of a “Jewish state.”
“What is the result [if the BDS demands are satisfied]?” Finkelstein rhetorically asks in the interview. “You know and I know what the result is. There’s no Israel!”
This existential defense of Israel is hardly new. Despite his ferocious criticism of the 45-year-long occupation, Finkelstein has long represented those non-Palestinians in the solidarity movement who see the “two-state solution” as necessary to ensure Israel’s survival as a “Jewish state,” a means of reconciling their altruism with their political comfort zone.
Not only is this unjust on its own terms, but it places Finkelstein squarely at odds with a grassroots Palestinian movement demanding an end to all the apartheid structures without which the “Jewish state” could not exist.
Finkelstein denounces those BDS demands as a “clever” attempt to hide their anti-Zionist logic. But the real problem is that he and his allies often become alienated, if not hostile, when called upon to acknowledge — much less confront — more than a century of the Zionist colonialism, particularly the ethnic cleansing of 1948 (the Nakba).
In 2009, for example, Finkelstein condemned the Gaza Freedom March for merely referencing refugees’ right of return, with little critical response from solidarity activists (“Why I resigned from the Gaza Freedom March Coalition,” September 2009).
This time, however, something is different. Instead of passing unnoticed, Finkelstein’s attack on BDS has triggered push-back support for the campaign, another reflection of its growing success in building uncompromising support for Palestinian rights.
An important opportunity
Finkelstein’s interview is an important opportunity — particularly for those of us who are Jewish — to affirm our unequivocal support for those rights. This both undermines false charges that BDS is anti-Semitic, and promotes a broad-based, international movement committed to ending not only the occupation, but the entire apparatus of colonialism and apartheid throughout historic Palestine.
Perhaps it will also convince Finkelstein, who has courageously exposed Zionist hypocrisy in the past, to support the BDS campaign’s comprehensive demands, or at least refrain from undermining those who do. Regardless, response to his attack shows that a growing part of the solidarity movement is willing to stand up — as it did in the struggle against apartheid South Africa — for the entire range of rights to which every oppressed people is entitled.
David Letwin is a Palestine solidarity activist who works with Al-Awda NY: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition. He participated in a 2007 delegation of lawyers and activists to the West Bank and 1948 territories, and was a member of the 2009/2010 Gaza Freedom March, where he co-authored the Cairo Declaration.
- In flinching move, Finkelstein slams boycott movement (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Two critiques of Norman Finkelstein’s recent appearances (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Supporters of the Olympia Food Co-op before a court hearing on Monday, 27 February. (TESCDivest)
In a major setback for Israeli efforts to suppress the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement in the United States, a judge in Olympia, Washington today dismissed a lawsuit designed to force the Olympia Food Co-op to rescind its boycott of Israeli goods.
The judge ruled that the lawsuit, brought by opponents of the boycott, violated a Washington State law designed to prevent abusive lawsuits aimed at suppressing lawful public participation. The court said it would award the defendants attorneys’ fees, costs, and levy sanctions against the plaintiffs.
While the lawsuit was brought by several individuals against present and former members of the Olympia Food Co-op Board, it was planned in collusion with StandWithUs, a national anti-Palestinian organization, working with the Israeli government, an Electronic Intifada investigation revealed last September.
“SLAPP” lawsuit designed to chill free speech
The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), whose lawyers acted for the Olympia Food Co-op argued that the lawsuit was an example of “SLAPP” – Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation. In a statement this afternoon, CCR explained:
SLAPPs are lawsuits that target the constitutional rights of free speech and petition in connection with an issue of public concern Although many cases that qualify as SLAPPs are without legal merit, they can nonetheless effectively achieve their primary purpose: to chill public debate on specific issues. Defending against a SLAPP requires substantial money, time, and legal resources, and can divert attention away from the public issue and intimidate and silence other speakers. Washington State’s Anti-SLAPP statute was enacted in 2010 to deter such lawsuits.
Today, Thurston County Superior Court Judge Thomas McPhee told a packed courtroom he agreed with that analysis and dismissed the lawsuit, ordering the StandWithUs-backed plaintiffs to pay court costs and legal fees.
The judge also also upheld the constitutionality of Washington’s anti-SLAPP law, which the plaintiffs had challenged, CCR noted. Each of the defendants in the case could be entitled to receive up to $10,000 from the plaintiffs in addition to legal fees.
“We are pleased the Court found this case to be what it is – an attempt to chill free speech on a matter of public concern. This sends a message to those trying to silence support of Palestinian human rights to think twice before they bring a lawsuit,” CCR quoted Maria LaHood, a senior staff attorney as saying.
BDS is a national movement, judge finds
In attempting to overturn the Olympia Food Co-op’s boycott of Israeli goods, the plaintiffs had argued that the Co-op could only observe “nationally-recognized” boycotts, and that BDS did not fit that description.
According to live tweets of the judge’s statement by Anna-Marie Murano, on behalf of the Palestine Freedom Project the judge found that BDS was “nationally recognized.”
- BDS movement’s strength shown by pro-Israel groups launching defensive “BUYcott” days (alethonews.wordpress.com)
DaitoCrea, Japanese agent of the Israeli cosmetics firm, AHAVA, announced on their Webpage that it has ended all sales of AHAVA products for what it attributed to “financial reasons”. The Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement said that decision is the outcome of direct action and protests.
The company stopped all AHAVA sales starting on January 31, 2012. The victory was that of the persistent efforts of a 2-year campaign conducted by the BDS movement that calls for boycotting all Israeli products made in Israel’s illegal settlements in occupied Palestine.
The Forum added that its activists informed the firm, by direct action and advocacy, of the illegality of AHAVA goods and the suffering it inflicts on the Palestinian people.
An Executive at the DaitoCrea told the Palestine-Forum campaign that the company had no idea about the background of AHAVA when they started dealing with them, and had no idea about the location where AHAVA products are made.
AHAVA – Israel products are made in a settlement in the occupied Palestinian West Bank; settlements are illegal under International Law.
AHAVA uses Dead Sea minerals and resources while the Palestinians are kept out of the Dead Sea area due to Israel’s illegal policies.
The campaign informed the distributor that AHAVA labels their products as “Made In Israel” while in fact it is made in an illegal Israeli settlement in the occupied territories.
In May 2010, the campaign held a meeting with officials of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and they stated that in is not appropriate for AHAVA to labels its goods as made in Israel while they are made in a settlement.
In 2010, the MUJI beauty products in Japan decided to cancel its plans to open stores in Israel for what they described as “financial reasons”. The BDS movement said that the decision was made after a seven-month campaign against opening the store.
THE BDS movement in different parts of the world is active on different levels, including the boycott of Israeli settlements goods, information about the illegal Israeli occupation, and on cultural and intellectual levels to raise awareness on the Israeli violations against the Palestinian people.
These violations affect every aspect of the life of the Palestinians, and deprive them from their rights in their homeland and their right to their natural resources.
- Israeli SodaStream: Maybe Green, Definitely Not Clean (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- BDS movement’s strength shown by pro-Israel groups launching defensive “BUYcott” days (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- There’s no beauty at this exhibition (londonbds.org)
- A visit to London’s World Travel Market (londonbds.org)
- London BDS 2011 year in review (londonbds.org)
- The INDEPENDENT: Natural History Museum attacked over links to ‘illegal’ Israeli company (londonbds.org)