Part I – Norman Finkelstein’s Predictions
Much has been made of the rising influence of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. Indeed, there is a growing sense that the boycott power of civil society, particularly as it is manifesting itself in Europe, is on track to repeat history—to do to Israel what it once did to South Africa. Simultaneously, there is the persisting assumption that the latest effort at negotiating a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, now being managed by Secretary of State Kerry, will go down the same ignoble path as all its predecessors.
However, not everyone agrees with this. In an interview given to the New Left Project, posted on-line on 11 January 2014, Norman Finkelstein (a well published critic of Israel) presents a different scenario. Finkelstein firmly believes that Kerry’s efforts will bear fruit and thus, before the end of President Obama’s term in office, Israel and the frankly unrepresentative Palestine Authority (PA) will come to terms.
Finkelstein explains that the classic debate over Israel’s illegal settlement blocs is over and, on this issue, Israel has won. It will be allowed to absorb the major settlements and thus render any Palestinian entity geographically dubious. The right of return so dear to Palestinian refugees will also be abandoned by the PA.
As a consequence, what is now being “negotiated” are the Israeli demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a “Jewish state” and the final status of the Jordan Valley. Finkelstein predicts that the first issue will be solved by describing Israel as “the state of the Jewish people and its citizens,” thus affording alleged legal protection to Arab-Israelis, and correspondingly, Palestine will become “the state of Palestinians and its citizens.” As to the Jordan Valley, Israel will slowly withdraw from the area. Finkelstein’s comment on this is that “Israel is adept at ‘conceding’ things to which it has no title in the first place.”
Finkelstein describes the “Palestinian leadership” as “irredeemably corrupt, incompetent and stupid.” He is only slightly kinder in his description of “Palestinian supporters abroad,” who, he says, are “not acting smartly.” He discounts boycott achievements in the U.S. and believes that those in Europe should be thought of as pressure tactics in support of Kerry’s efforts. Palestinian solidarity groups “carry on as if the Kerry process is a meaningless sideshow, something that can safely be ignored.” He thinks that this is a big mistake and that the possibility of real Palestinian self-determination will be gone before these supporters know what has hit them.
Part II – What If He Is Right?
Whatever one might think of Norman Finkelstein and his prognostications, it would be wise for those supporting BDS and Palestinian rights to consider how they might react if, against all odds, Secretary of State Kerry succeeds. So let’s think about this.
Such a settlement (at least as described by Finkelstein) would transform a good part of the West Bank’s occupied territory into “sovereign” Israeli land and set up a truncated Palestinian entity to which Palestinian refugees could “return.” Some might question whether there would remain a rationale for continuing to boycott Israel. The BDS movement could lose steam, at least temporarily. However, would it and its goals dissipate all together?
Probably not. What would ultimately save the BDS movement is Israel’s leadership itself, driven as they are by the inherently racist nature of the Zionist ideology. In other words, Israel’s policy makers can be safely relied upon to be true to character. Take the “politically moderate” finance minister Ya’ir Lapid ,who recently told an Israeli audience, “the issue [is] we need to get rid of the Palestinians. It threatens us, it chokes us.” As a result of this commonly shared attitude, the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians (and other non-Jews such as asylum seekers from East Africa) within Israel’s territory will continue apace. To put it another way, the 67-year-old effort to harass most non-Jewish citizens and residents out of the country will greatly intensify. The BDS campaign conducted against South Africa was a reaction against that society’s racist culture and policies. There is no reason why a powerful BDS movement cannot be sustained against Israel on the same basis.
Part III – What If He Is Wrong?
However, Norman Finkelstein may be wrong. It might be that the well-informed journalist Jonathan Cook is correct when he observes that “despite outward signs … [Israeli Prime Minister] Netanyahu [is] far from ready to compromise.” Cook claims that Netanyahu has “the bulk of the Israeli public behind him. … But most importantly he has a large chunk of the Israel’s security and economic establishment on his side too.” As a result, “These negotiations may not lead to an agreement, but they will mark a historic turning-point nonetheless. The delegitimization of Israel is truly under way, and the party doing most of the damage is the Israeli leadership itself.”
Part IV – The Fate of the Movement
I think that the BDS movement, and more generally the movement for Palestinian rights, should be able to survive either way. If Cook is right, not only survival but rapid growth of the movement can be expected. If Finkelstein is correct, the situation will prove more complicated. Cook is certainly right about one thing: we are at a crossroads. Where exactly the situation might lead us is not as clear as either he or Finkelstein make it out. This means that those who support the Palestinians no matter in what format should think about these possibilities. There is as yet lead time to formulate suitable contingencies. Let’s make the most of it.
A decade ago, I wrote a commentary for the International Herald Tribune (now the International New York Times) arguing that Israel’s wall that was then just starting to be built in the West Bank was really a land grab. Difficult to believe now, but in those days that was a controversial opinion.
The paper then received the “largest postage in our history”, as an editor told me – possibly not surprising as the Anti-Defamation League, a Zionist organisation, had urged its followers to complain and had even published a template letter of condemnation on its website to help them. The result: the paper published a whole page of letters attacking me and dropped me as a writer.
So it is with some pleasure I see that the same paper has again been overwhelmed with letters following three recent articles on BDS in both the NYT and INYT : Omar Barghouti making the case, and Jodi Rudoren and Roger Cohen attacking it, the former implicitly and the latter explicitly.
What’s so different this time is that the INYT’s letters page is dominated by readers backing Barghouti and attacking Rudoren and Cohen. Not only that, but the arguments used to support BDS are intelligent and well-informed, while the few letters attacking BDS sound tired and formulaic.
The fact that the NYT has allowed the BDS debate into its pages is a triumph for the cause. That its international sister publication (and the NYT website) has then allowed its letters page to be dominated by BDS supporters is another small landmark.
We can mark a further victory when the NYT itself publishes a page of such letters. The time cannot be far off.
Should Oral Historians Meet in an Occupied Land in 2014?
A standard argument against BDS – the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against the Israeli occupation – and especially the academic boycott- has been the “‘need to engage” with Israelis. In fact, during the 46 years of the occupation, numerous efforts to ‘engage’ have been made repeatedly, all of which are warmly embraced by Israel and its academic institutions.
The most recent example is an “International Oral History” conference being organized by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, featuring renowned Italian oral historian Alessandro Portelli. The conference topics included trauma studies, holocaust studies and conflict studies and assiduously avoiding any reference to the Nakba.
Such typical elision has become an iconic political battle-zone between the supporters of Palestinian rights and pro-Israelis, who promote ‘dialogue’ and ‘engagement’; Nor is it surprising that the Hebrew University avoids the topic, given its own complicity in the ongoing Palestinian trauma. The recently passed Nakba Law in Israel bans even the commemoration of the Nakba, so this avoidance is part of a larger project of Israeli denial.
Private efforts to dissuade the two scheduled speakers failed, and it became clear that they firmly subscribed to the value of ‘engagement,” even with an institution like Hebrew University whose complicity in the violation of Palestinian rights and international law we fully documented. Following this exchange, the original webpage for the conference was replaced, and an elliptical reference seemed to open the door for some discussion of the unmentioned Nakba.
The issues involved in this planned conference go beyond the ill-informed and misguided participation of the featured speakers; A public call to boycott the conference signed by 72 international academics was issued in August. Now, in just over a month, there are more than 250 signatories, of whom one third are oral historians from 19 countries, including South Africa, Brazil, Spain and India.
Because the further discussion of boycott was shut off on the US listserv where the conference was initially announced, a message posted by the conference organizer was the last substantive comment on the issue. In it, she claims boycotting the Hebrew University “only serves as a disservice to many individuals, organizations and communities who dedicate their professional and personal life to finding a just resolution to the conflict.” [i] Thus, the argument for “engagement” was permissible, but the US academic community was denied access to the compelling evidence for boycott. In effect, they were given a response to a question not yet publicly debated.
The dispute playing out among academics, and the timidity of those in the US compared to other internationals, is not new. Furthermore, it represents a conflict that goes much deeper, touching on the very question of “engagement”.
The Folly of Engagement
Academics have been going to conferences in Israel, especially in Jerusalem, for five long decades of occupation, engaging with their Israeli counterparts. It’s bad enough that these engagements have resulted in nothing positive, but to make matters worse, they have become part and parcel of Israeli political strategy: more engagement, discussions, meetings, negotiations between the sides ad infinitum. The current phase of such fruitless exercises recently initiated by US Secretary of State John Kerry will likely join the others in the dustbin of history
Worse yet, under the guise of continuing discussions and negotiations – a delaying tactic developed by PM Shamir in the 1980s – Israel has managed to add 700,000 illegal settlers in the Occupied Territories of Palestine and Syria. This is almost the number of Palestinian refugees who were forcibly driven out of Palestine in 1948 by the Israeli forces and never allowed back, despite numerous UN resolutions.
In over six decades of its existence, Israel has defied the UN on the most crucial resolutions passed on the rights of the Palestinians; it illegally settled the territories it occupied; it defied the Geneva Convention on numerous counts, including its failure to look after the population under occupation. Among other things, it has refused to grant Palestinian universities a license to operate, and closed the existing institutions for long periods. During this time, not once did Israeli faculty unions or the university senates call for reopening of Palestinian universities, or for the restitution of academic freedom in Palestine. Israeli universities have themselves been directly complicit in Israel’s violation of Palestinian human rights and international laws, and all have collaborated in some way with the military occupation, including assisting the military-security-industrial complex.[ii] In the case of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, its Mt. Scopus campus was expanded onto illegally occupied and confiscated land.
Yet, in contrast to South African apartheid, most academics throughout the world remained silent for years, mounting little opposition to Israel’s crimes. Only in 2005, following the PACBI call for an academic boycott, did the BDS and academic boycott campaign start in earnest in the UK. Since then, BRICUP (British Committee for Universities in Palestine) has been involved in numerous successful actions, including the recent withdrawal of leading physicist Stephen Hawking from the Presidential conference of 2013 – an action that galvanized scientists and academics elsewhere[iii].
Four years after the founding of BRICUP, and in response to Operation Cast Lead, campaigns in both the US (USACBI) and France (AURDIP) were initiated. [iv] While short of the success of Hawking’s repudiation, both campaigns have been very active. In the US, perhaps the most significant success on the academic front was the passage of an academic boycott resolution at the Asian American Studies Conference in May 2013. AURDIP, while being severely hampered by the repressive policies initiated by Sarkozy, fully applied under Hollande, remains an important clearinghouse on the academic boycott, regularly using public events showcasing cooperation between French and Israeli academic institutions as a platform to promote BDS.
Today, there are active boycott campaigns in Spain (PBAI), Berlin (BAB) and India (IncACBI), all of which were initiated in 2010[v], and in Ireland – AFP (Academics for Palestine) was created in 2012[vi]. Perhaps the most important development was the development of a BDS movement inside Israel – Boycott from Within. Recently, these boycott campaigns have garnered increasing support, often from some of the most notable scholars in their countries, like Josep Fontana, the prestigious Spanish (Catalan) historian. The boycott groups in Spain, India and the US are currently organizing against partnerships being forged with Israel’s Technion. Even in Germany, where any criticism of Israel is highly suspect, the BAB is challenging a funded cooperation agreement between the Free University and the Hebrew University.
Quite obviously, the message is spreading, gradually penetrating academic institutions everywhere. In response, Israel and the Zionist movement have devoted tremendous efforts to counter the boycott campaign, funded by government Ministries. The long-term policy that was devised initially prioritized the UK. A number of Israeli task forces drawn from Israeli universities, arrived in Britain to ‘explain’ the need for ‘engagement’ and ‘dialogue’. The same professors who for years disengaged from any support of the human and civic rights of Palestinians, including their right to education, were now globe-trotting in support of the ‘real victim’ – Israel – promoting ‘engagement’ with the occupation forces under the banner of dialogue. The latest, but surely not last iteration, is the government campaign to use Israel’s students against the boycott. Recent revelations exposed the creation of covert units at Israeli universities, designed to work with the Israeli National Student Union, using social media.
Whatever else one might think about Israeli universities, they could never be accused of being liberal or supportive of human rights. A few months before the Gaza incursion in December 2008, a petition for academic freedom in the Occupied Territories was circulated to over 10,000 Israeli academics. This mild petition, merely requesting the government to allow Palestinians the same freedom enjoyed by Israeli academics, was signed by only 407 Israeli academics – 4% of the total. The Academic Staff unions in Israel never even discussed or acted on the matter. Although Tel Aviv University is by far the most ‘liberal’ of all, with 155 faculty signing the said petition, in 2012, Shlomo Sand felt compelled to castigate his colleagues in the history department for concealing the problematic history of their own university, built on the former Palestinian village of Sheikh Muwanis[vii].
Israeli academics continually ignore calls of Palestinian civil society for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel’s aggressive occupation, arguing instead for ‘dialogue’ with Israeli colleagues. In fact, the Hebrew University conference is promoted as a “participatory site in which ‘difficult dialogues’ on memory and perspectives will be discussed.” As usual, instead of promoting dialogue with Palestinian academics, the best that the conference organizers can muster is a reference to “the issues that this country and region face.” One wonders – is the occupation such an issue?
What could possibly be wrong with dialogue, you might ask? Instead, perhaps the appropriate question might be: “is it moral to collaborate with a militarized, racist, colonial state, in order to cleanse its crimes?” Doesn’t this mean that crimes continue and newer ones are perpetrated? Indeed, evidence clearly demonstrates that continuing ‘engagements’ have not led to resolution, but instead served to numb the sensibilities of international academia to the realities of occupied Palestine. In the case of South Africa, it was clear to all academics that there was no way to ‘engage’ with apartheid by speaking to its representatives; the only way to deal with apartheid was to oppose it – to boycott, divest and apply sanctions; to deny South African institutions any support and dialogue; and to follow the advice of the ANC.
Though not yet on the same scale as the South African campaign, the BDS campaign has been successful. Many academics worldwide are now sensitized to becoming complicit in Israel’s illegal occupation, its settler-colonial policies and its apartheid practices and have stopped participating with Israeli institutions. The campaign to boycott the Hebrew University “international” oral history conference is part of the growing world wide effort to honor the Palestinian call for an academic boycott of Israel.
Because so many oral historians view their work as a means of giving voice to the oppressed and silenced, boycotting this conference should be a no-brainer. Indeed, for the internationally-minded oral historians, it is just that, even as so many US practitioners have basically buried their heads in the sand, following their government’s lead.
We wonder what the two advocates of engagement solicited for keynotes will do, and especially how the Hebrew University will respond. Will it, for instance, throw generous travel stipends to participants, rendering them party to the Israeli propaganda machine? We hope, instead, that oral historians around the world will heed the call not to cross the Palestinian picket line, thereby honoring the basic ethical/moral foundation of the historian’s work. [viii]
Haim Bresheeth and Sherna Berger Gluck are part of an international group that initiated this boycott campaign and which includes Sami Hermez, Nur Masalha, Ilan Pappe, Rosemary Sayigh and Lisa Taraki, among others. Bresheeth is Professor of Film Studies at SOAS London and active in BRICUP; Gluck is Director Emerita of the Oral History Program at California University, Long Beach and one of the founders of the US Academic and Cultural Boycott Campaign of Israel
[i]Dr. Sharon Kangisser Cohen posted on HOralHIST listserv August 5, 2013: http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse.pl?trx=vx&list=H-Oralhist&month=1308&week=c&msg=29F8Sr%2BcGUQuYBM5ggshvw.
[ii] Keller, U. (2009) the Academic Boycott of Israel and the Complicity of Israeli Academic Institutions in Occupation of Palestinian Territories. The Economy of the Occupation: A Socioeconomic Bulletin: Alternative InformationCentre. http://www.alternativenews.org/images/stories/downloads/Economy ofthe_occupation_23-24.pdf
[iv] AURDIP – Association Universitaire pour le Respect du Droit International en Palestine
[v] PABI – La Plataforma para el Boicot Académico a Israel; BAB – Berlin AB; InCACBI – Indian Campaign ACBI
[vi] Started with the successful passage on November 9th, 2012, of an Academic Boycott motion at the academic union TUI (Teachers Union of Ireland), in early 2013, see “TUI Dublin Colleges Branch AGM passes motions in support of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions; recognises Israel’s apartheid nature”
[vii] Sand, S in concluding chapter of The Invention of the Land of Israel: From Holy Land to Homeland, Verso, London, (2012) pp. 259-281
[viii] The letter in English, French, Portugese and Spanish can be accessed at: http://www.aurdip.org/Call-to-Boycott-the-Oral-History.html and usacbi.org
This is not a general petition but is intended as an open letter to international academics and oral historians. If you fit this bill, please send your relevant information to: hebrewUconferenceboycott@gmail.com
Partial List of NGOs Involved in BDS and Their Funders
(Originally produced Apr 7 2010, updated Jul 14 2011)
||Primary Funders||Funding Amount||Central Involvement|
||Signatory to 2005 BDS call (http://www.bdsmovement.net/)|
|Al Haq||Holland||$426,201 (funding ceased in 2008)||Signatory to 2005 BDS call (http://www.bdsmovement.net/)|
|Norway||$156,163 (2009, funding ceased)|
|Ford Foundation||$600,000 (2009-10)|
|Al Mezan||Sweden||€105,000 (2007-9)||Signatory to 2005 BDS call (http://www.bdsmovement.net/)|
|Norway, EU||funding not transparent|
|Alternative Information Center||Belgium||funding not transparent||”Yes to Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Against Israel“|
|Sweden (via Diakonia)||164,225NIS (2009)|
|Spain and the Basque gov’t (via MUNDUBAT)||711,182NIS (2009)|
|Catalan gov’t (via Sodepau)||173,271NIS (2009)|
|Alternatives (Montreal)||Canada||$2,000,000CAN (2008-10) (unclear if ceased)||Signatory to 2005 BDS call (http://www.bdsmovement.net/)|
|Applied Research Institute Jerusalem (PA)||EU||€374,174 (2009-11)||Signatory to 2005 BDS call (http://www.bdsmovement.net/)|
|Switzerland||funding not transparent|
|Badil (PA)||NDC*||$575,000 (2010-12)||Leader of BDS movement|
|Christian Aid||Ireland, EU||24,521,692£ (2009-10)||“Partner supporting” calling for BDS and “pursuing parastata Zionist orgs”|
|Coalition of Women for Peace||EU||€247,954 (2005-7)||Runs “Who profits?” website, which is central in the Norwegian BDS campaign|
|NIF||$294,129 (2006-9)(funding ceased 2011)|
|Defence of Children International – Palestine Section||Sweden (via Save the Children)||459,000SEK (2009-11)||Signatory to 2005 BDS call (http://www.bdsmovement.net/)|
|European Union||600,000€ (2009-12)|
|Diakonia||Sweden||$52.7 million (2009)||Advocates for divestment strategy against Israel, lobbies against EU-Israel upgrade|
|Human Rights Watch
||Soros’ Open Society Institute||$2,353,895 (2007-8)$100,000,000 (2010-20)||Supported Caterpillar boycott, Call for cuts in U.S. foreign aid to Israel|
|Ford Foundation||$445,000 (2009-11)|
|Netherlands via Oxfam-NOVIB||$987,818 (2007-8)|
|Israel Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD)||Spain||€105,000 (2009)||Leader in BDS activism|
|NDC*EU||$76,000 (2010-12)€169,661 (2010-12)|
|KAIROS||Canada – funding was halted in 2009||$1,575,966 (2008)||Main supporter of church divestment campaign|
||EU||€251,650 (2007-2010)||Norwegian Pension Fund divestment campaign|
|Miftah||EU||$79,906 (2010)||Signatory to 2005 BDS call (http://www.bdsmovement.net/)|
|AustriaNDC*||$60,624 (2010)$110,000 (2010-12)|
|Mossawa||NIF||$517,642 (2006-8)||Norwegian Pension Fund divestment campaign|
|UK||funding not transparent|
|Norwegian Association of NGOs for Palestine (incl. Norwegian People’s Aid)
||Norway||€57,000 (2008)||Coordinates Norwegian Boycott Israel Campaign|
|Sweden, Netherlands||funding not transparent|
|Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO)||NDC*||$130,000||Leader of BDS movement|
|Received France’s Human Rights Prize|
|Sabeel||Sweden||€76,000 (2006-8)||Leader of global church divestment movement|
|Trocaire||Ireland||€23,499,837 (2008)||Supports BDS movement, lobbies against EU-Israel upgrade, calls for review of arms export licenses|
|War on Want||UK||€256,000 (2008)||Advocates for sanctions, including arms boycott|
|Palestinian Center for Human Rights (Gaza)||NDC*||$425,000 (2010-12)||Leader of BDS movement|
|EU, Holland, Ireland, Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden||funding not transparent|
*The NDC mechanism is the Human Rights and Good Governance Secretariat, established and funded by Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands, and managed by the NGO Development Center in Ramallah. Governmental funding provided in 2008-2013.
BDS, For Whose Sake?
Our concerns with organizations like BDS is not mainly because of what they say or what they do or the kind of affiliations they have. Our concern is that BDS and EI and other organizations as well are speaking in the name of the cause and acting on behalf of Palestinians to the point of preventing others from having a say in the matter. In other words, BDS wants to solve the Palestinian problem in its own way and has embraced for this reason anti Apartheid policies under the attractive label of Boycott, Divest and Sanction, trying to suggest that these policies that were presumably successful regarding the Apartheid state of South Africa could also reap the same success on the Palestinian front. We will not discuss the success of these policies in South Africa and whether the goals of the revolution were attained, but we will shed a light on the implications of such endeavor on behalf of BDS on the Palestinian Cause itself in terms of internationalization and globalization of the cause, something that Arabs and Palestinians always feared. This is due to the involvement of such NGOs like BDS and its like in global policies and World Order agendas, due to the financing they get from European governments and other institutes, which make them serve the World Order at the expense of Palestinians. Our conclusion is that because of its financial affiliations BDS does not qualify to solve the Palestinian problem, because one cannot serve the World Order and Palestine at the same time. This, not to speak of the fact that Israel is not an Apartheid and Palestinians do not suffer from segregation alone. Palestinians need to go back to their homes and retrieve their land, they need to get in possession of what is theirs and whoever thinks that this thing can be achieved by economic pressures and anti racist policies alone must be an ignorant or a fool. This is Israel, my friend, this is not Apartheid and there is nothing like it. This is not some elephant that has gone mad, this is madness itself. This is the usurping state of Israel, the most advanced military base of the criminal World Order, this is all predator countries joined together from Europe to the New continent, this is a state that orders the United Nations and many other Nations as well, the country that kills and slaughters and never fears sanctions, that commits genocides without hesitation, that wants to kill each and every Palestinian and each and every Arab who will not normalize or recognize. This is Ariel Sharon and Golda Meir and Tsipi Livni, this is not Apartheid. This has no other label in all seasons and instances other than that of criminal. This is the criminal state of Israel and is supported by the whole world order and will outwit and outsmart Barghouthi and Abunimah and all NGOs joined together.
Let us assume that BDS is working earnestly for Palestinians and conducting these activities for the sake of the cause, at the exclusion of others, and in order to solve the Palestinian issue as it pretends, what has it achieved on the ground for Palestinians since its foundation in 2005? Has it stopped the expansion of Israel in any way? Has it stopped the colonization and the proliferation of settlements? Has it stopped the eviction of Palestinians and demolition of their houses? Has it freed the prisoners from their prisons? Has it relieved Gaza from its siege? Has it done away with the wall of segregation? Has it stopped the flow of weapons and money destined to Israel? Has it worked against normalization? Has it retrieved any of Palestinian rights? Has it protected Jerusalem? Has it improved in any way the lives of Palestinians? The answer to all this is NO. BDS has not achieved anything of this and has not harmed in the least Israel’s economy or welfare. This is what speaks volumes for BDS. If one wants to rejoice over the boycott of such and such company or of such singer and dancer, or over boycotting West Bank dates, one can do that and one can boycott if one wants and this does not need BDS, this needs personal commitment on one’s behalf. Boycott is good but Boycott cannot retrieve Palestine, nor defeat Israel, nor bring back the people to their land and to pretend otherwise is to cheat people. BDS should be exposed for what it is: A World Order Organization financed by the World Order and working under the banner of Palestine, pretending to be in charge of the cause while achieving nothing for Palestinians. The merit of such organization, and other NGOs as well in the eyes of the World Order, lies in giving up the armed Resistance as a choice and a means for liberation and in alienating the Arab masses and people from the victories achieved by this Resistance. This attitude of shunning the victorious Resistance that defeated Israel benefits Israel in the first place and sheds a light on whom BDS really serves. Meanwhile Israel is given enough time to recover from its two consecutive defeats and to figure out and plan its next scheme of occupation expansion and extermination. THANK YOU BDS!
People following BDS activities and functions should be informed about the latest innovation of the BDS movement (BOYCOTT DIVEST SANCTION) whereby the BDS has adopted two different versions of its amendment, one in English and one in Arabic, and the funny thing is that they say two different things: the one in English calls for ending occupation of the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967, and the one in Arabic calls for ending occupation of the Palestinian territories full stop. It is important to say that BDS boasts about grouping 170 organizations and Palestinian movements and is supposed to be accountable before them. Instead, it has adopted a different English version from the original one, in which it recognizes the legitimacy of Israel within the 67 borders and asks Israel to withdraw only from the land occupied in 1967 and this without informing the organizations that work with it about this change. The original text in Arabic though that asks for ending the occupation of all Palestinian territories remained unchanged for some mysterious reason. BDS is required on the spot to explain this duplicity and why it has adopted two versions of the same thing in two different languages and two radically different stands? Why is it addressing the Arab public in one way and foreigners in another recognizing Israel in one instance and calling for ending occupation in the other? What is the goal behind this misleading policy of adopting two antagonistic stands and whom is this supposed to serve? Or are they both fake and meant to mislead people? Either BDS is betting on the ignorance and the stupidity of people which is stupid and ignorant or it is working on a separate agenda that does not give importance to these “Palestinian” details?
BDS, Boycott The Armed Struggle
The birth of the Boycott movement that started the PCACBI happened at a crucial moment in year 2002, after Israel has been defeated and its vulnerability exposed due to losing the first war since its foundation. The Resistance had triumphed and succeeded in liberating Lebanon and called Palestinians to get inspired from the Lebanese victory and resume the struggle in Palestine to achieve a similar result. It is around this time some strange hybrid started taking birth in the West Bank under the name PCACBI, which is a boycott campaign following the South African model. Not only PCACBI never related to this victory over Israel, but broke suddenly with a whole tradition of armed resistance that marked the Palestinian struggle. Recognizing the right of Israel to exist, the PCACBI asks for withdrawal to the 67 borders and dismantling of settlements and for the right of return of refugees, and calls for application of boycott policies, namely cultural and academic, against the Apartheid state of Israel. Mind you, this boycott called for by the PCACBI never followed the usual channels of Boycott as prescribed and carried on by the Arab League and applied by Arab governments. Who ever wants to consider the birth of such a movement, that took place in the West Bank, as a natural birth must check himself and ask himself why this movement has broken with the Palestinian armed struggle in general and why, instead of getting inspired from the first military victory achieved over Israel, endorsing it, investing in it and identifying with it, chose to travel to South Africa and draw parallels with the previous Apartheid state and project this Apartheid on the Palestinian condition. Founded by a handful of Palestinian academicians and intellectuals, some of them living abroad, the boycott movement does not seem to represent Palestinians in general, but seems to be removed from the Palestinian social and cultural reality and connected to foreign groups instead, mostly located outside. The public addressed by this movements is not native Palestinian, and no refugee living in camps can identify with this anti Apartheid trip. This has a foreign audience, no doubt, that includes Jews as well. The actual BDS movement that is a product of the PCACBI is oriented the same way towards foreigners, and even if it is endorsed by Palestinian societies, these societies are mostly NGOs with foreign affiliations. So we are at the same point we started from. BDS came to add more confusion to the whole thing and while the PCACBI was clear in its objectives regarding the recognition of Israel within the 67 borders, the BDS remains indecisive as to what territories Israel is supposed to withdraw from, whether the 67 or the whole Arab land, sometimes being specific sometimes not. This fluctuation may be due to a fluctuating agenda that wants to cater to all tendencies and affiliations. As for the refugee issue, it is being stated in confusing terms, whereby the issue is to be promoted, protected and respected instead of being enforced on Israel. In what way this whole boycott trip is beneficial to the cause we don’t know. Certainly it is beneficial to Israel to become recognized so broadly as a legal state. Because of this, the whole Apartheid story seemed to be one of the designs of the enemy as a means to acquire recognition and as an alternative to the military option that has failed drastically in Lebanon and, finally, what is left to be known is whether this boycott is as harmful to Israel as is to Palestinians the forsaking of the armed struggle. What BDS wants to boycott, finally, under the attractive label of boycott, is the armed struggle itself.
Is Palestinian Solidarity An Occupied Zone?
BDS OR RESISTANCE / THE LESSON THAT WAS OMITTED
The BDS was born in a hybrid womb, that is not an Arab womb but an Israeli foreign womb, after Sayyed Hassan Nasrullah celebrating the liberation of the South in year 2000 stood in Bint Jbeil in south Lebanon in the proximity of occupied Palestine and addressed the Palestinians thus, offering them the victory over Israelis, saying: “People of Palestine, your way to Palestine and to liberty is the path of resistance and insurrection, which means a serious resistance and a real insurrection rather than the insurrection in the shadow of Oslo or in the service of the concessive negotiation in Stockholm. You should take the path of the insurrection and the resistance that only accept the perfect right, as Lebanon has done, whereby the whole Lebanese people refuse to keep a small part of their land occupied. Hence, we offer this noble Lebanese model to our people in Palestine.” This happened in Year 2000, in the glorious victory over the Israelis after 18 years of occupation. Sayyed Hassan Nasrullah added, addressing Palestinians: “To free your land, you don’t need tanks, a strategic balance, rockets, and cannons; you need to follow the way of the past self-sacrifice martyrs who disrupted and horrified the coercive Zionist entity. You, the oppressed, unarmed, and restricted Palestinians, can force the Zionist invaders to return to the places they came from. Let the Falasha go to Ethiopia, and let the Russian Jews return to Russia. The choice is yours, and the model lies right in front of your eyes. An honest and serious resistance can make the freedom dawn arise. Our brothers and beloved Palestinians, I tell you, ‘Israel’, which owns nuclear weapons and the strongest war aircraft in the region, is feebler than a spider’s web. I swear to God.” Two years after this fiery speech was born the Boycott movement in the West Bank, where the whole achievement of the Lebanese Resistance was overlooked and their addressing on behalf of Sayyed Hassan totally ignored and his invitation to copy the successful model of the Resistance totally discarded. The answer to Sayyed Hassan invitation was the Boycott movement whereby, instead of turning to Lebanon and getting inspired from the Lebanese victory, the Boycott turned to South Africa to copy the anti Apartheid model replacing the real with the unreal and the resistance by surrender, If this is not an Israeli scheme, then what is it? The whole speech of Sayyid Hassan in English:
Partial List Of Endorsers And Financers Of BDS
BEFORE YOU EMBARK ON AN ENDEAVOR SEE WHO SITS IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT
The enemy nowadays is coming dressed in many garbs. He has been acquainted with our ways and learned about our tastes. This whole Arab spring was possible because the enemy knew how to cater to our tastes. He knew about our longings and he addressed them. Thus, the whole Arab Spring was a deceit. It turned into a shabby winter, into instability and chaos and social unrest. In Syria it turned bloody and destructive and is still going on causing more bloodshed and more destruction. The enemy knows how to cater to our tastes, and we should not fall an easy prey to its schemes and designs. Look at the international solidarity movement around Palestine and the role of internationally affiliated NGOs. Look at how the cause is being slowly and surely liquidated in a process of total globalization. Look at the attractive labels used by these NGOs of Boycott and Protests and Dismantle of the wall and Freedom for prisoners and Jerusalem and Apartheid and you name it. What is happening in Palestine is NGO work and supporters of the cause are falling for them. The Palestinian Organizations and factions whose emblem is armed struggle have lost their role in favor of NGOs and are losing slowly their say in many matters related to Palestinians. What can NGOs do to the cause? What are NGOs doing? Are they progressing with the cause? Are they improving the living conditions of Palestinians? What are their achievements on the ground? Do they carry exclusively a Palestinian agenda or they carry different ones? In order to answer this question about NGOs and whether they qualify to lead the Palestinian cause, as they claim, there is but one way and it is to look at how they are financed. Tell me who funds you and I will tell you who are, the money one gets will decide for the orientation of the whole endeavor, I think we all agree on that. Please find in this partial list the financers of the endorsers of the Boycott movement called BDS which is waging for anti Apartheid policies, see if the financers are real supporters of the cause or whether they support something else, like Israel for example, and decide for yourself whether BDS and other NGOs qualify to lead the cause.
Come Join The Apartheid Show My Friend!
Palestine has become an entertainment, if you are not aware. The plight of the people, the suffering, the homelessness, the abuse, the violations, the massacres and the incarcerations, the shelling, the siege and the occupation have become source of entertainment funded by Soros and company. And this has acquired a new name and is no more Palestine. It has become Apartheid, if you know what Apartheid is. So now when you think Palestine you ought to think Apartheid. Thus you have to remove yourself from the Arab and Palestinian Reality to the magic land of Apartheid, the fictitious place called Apartheid where you are no more yourself but a magic character in one of Soros’ fairy tales. Apartheid is the Disneyland Soros has especially designed for Palestinians with its full show of BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanction) conducted by Palestinian NGO Omar Barghouthi who refuses to apply the rules of Boycott himself since he is a registered student at Tel Aviv University. The circus is then running and the show designed for Palestine is the Apartheid Show. And it is Soros who is funding the show so that, when you boycott, it is on behalf of Soros that you are boycotting, and when you divest or sanction it is on behalf of Master Soros that you are doing so. This is how Palestinians can at last make a living, by handing their cause to Master NGO. From One city to another the Apartheid Show seems flourishing and is organizing a week in Beirut, and Soros will be speaking and performing and exhibiting through many people, artists and poets and speakers some of them notorious fighters for the cause like Leila Khaled herself. Bravo Apartheid! And it sounds so well, “Apartheid”, especially when one has grown tired of repeating uselessly the same old words of occupation and violation and massacres and extermination. Apartheid comes in handy; one can figure oneself in some Hollywood production, in an altogether different story and setting that will appeal to many people.
And the foreigners can now join in and jump in the Apartheid boat, as they jumped previously in great numbers in the Flotilla boats, without succeeding in lifting the siege from Gaza. Now, in the Apartheid boat, they can show their solidarity to the Palestinian Cause, which they could never show to the successful armed Resistance or to the victorious Hizbullah of Lebanon who defeated Israel and liberated the land without concession. But it is too costly to salute the Armed Resistance and to embark on a strange trip to a strange land, a Muslim land. And who knows if one will not end up in Iran, for example, in “theocracy” land with hateful Mullahs all over the place, or in HAMAS land. This Apartheid thing is much safer and not too costly for Israel. With Apartheid one can identify, and see in it the continuation of the premises of peace as introduced by Gandhi and his likes and embraced by most westerners worried more about Israel’s safety than about Palestinians’ rights. Apartheid is the Model and the parallel that the World Order has projected on the Palestinian Cause, not in order to solve it according to the South African model, but in order to leave it pending with no solution, because Israel is not an Apartheid. All this turbulence of boycotting dancers and singers and musicians and boycotting companies and academicians and students is but a maze that will lead to nowhere and definitely not to the liberation of Palestine or to the restitution of any of the Palestinian rights. This is nothing but blurring the vision and giving Israel more time to continue its scheme of occupation and domination. By the time Palestinians finish their performance in the West Bank streets and finish coloring and dancing in front of the wall of separation, Israel would have finished carrying on its evil schemes of hegemony and expansion. This is the Apartheid show, nourished by the World Order, after the Arafat show nourished by oil money, and it will bear the same bitter fruits in terms of recognition and normalization with the enemy and liquidating the cause itself.
The Undefined Purpose Of BDS
Let’s read thoroughly the Arabic BDS text which is the original text as it was written in year 2005. The text says literally that Israel should submit to the International Law and this in:
- Ending the occupation and colonization of ALL Arab land and dismantling the wall.
- Recognizing the fundamental right of Arab Palestinian citizens to full equality.
- Respecting, protecting and promoting the right of the Palestinian Refugees to return home as stipulated in UN resolutions.
This is the original version, which is a confusing version, because it gives the impression that Israel is to withdraw from all Arab land, and if it were to withdraw from all Arab land, to where would it withdraw? To the sea? To Europe? While in fact what is meant is that it will withdraw from certain Arab territories, probably those that will be decided upon by the world order or the peace talks. The territories to be evacuated turned out to be the lands occupied in 67, but if withdrawing from all Arab land was meant in the first place, then also the 2nd and 3rd amendment would be irrelevant. This means that the BDS is not a serious movement with precise goals and objectives, and the Recognition of Israel within its 1948 borders goes back to the foundation of the BDS movement in 2005, because the withdrawal from the 67 occupied land that showed up 8 years later in the English version was already implicit in the original version even if not clearly expressed. What remains to be known is why BDS has chosen to be explicit about this matter in the version addressed to its foreign audience at this time precisely, while the Arabic text retained its original confusing statement of ending occupation of all Arab land. BDS had nothing precise in its mind, no position and no ideology, which is quite surprising for a liberating movement that wants to retrieve Palestinians’ rights. BDS is waiting for others to determine their position and then take a stand accordingly. For this BDS cannot lead nor speak for the Palestinian Cause because it has no authority or independent position.
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.